Sunday, October 24, 2010

The week that was ...

Definitely autumn: a grey, dismal day until the clouds finally pissed off around 18:30, just in time for the sun to go down. Not my favourite season - not by a long shot - and knowing that there's another four months of crap weather to follow, doubtless involving snow at some point, really doesn't help.

No wonder the Scandinavians all either become alcoholics or top themselves over the winter. An eternal diet of grain alcohol and pickled herring can do that to you.

Still, at least there's still food. And, of course, wine.

Margo's not a great fan of veal chops - she doesn't actively dislike them, but they just don't tick her boxes - but unfortunately for her I am (a fan, that is). Especially when crumbed and fried just right, and served with sauce gribiche, which is the main attraction for Margo. Sauce gribiche is an odd mayonnaise (in that it's made with hard-boiled eggs, rather than raw ones) and it's the traditional accompaniment to such culinary delights as tête de veau, which is - yes - a cooked, boned, stuffed, rolled calf's head. Need a good sauce with that - not that you're likely to find me eating it. It takes me an hour or so to summon up the courage to eye a croissant in the face, let alone the rather quizzical look of a recently-departed calf.

Anyway, first hard-boil an egg. I'm assuming you're capable of this without further instructions on my part: should I be mistaken, feel free to leave now. When that's done (the boiling), slice it around the middle (I personally find this much easier when it's shelled, but you may have other ideas), stick the yolk in a small bowl and put the white somewhere you won't forget it, because you'll need it soon.

Now use the back of a spoon to mash the yolk with a good dose of Dijon mustard (don't know why, but cookbooks always specify a wooden spoon. Can't think why that should be, it's not as though it adds any flavour or anything), and when that's well incorporated start beating in some olive oil - bit by bit, until you think you've got as much as it will take. (You'll know when you've gone too far. It will separate and look very sad, and you'll have to start again. Although you could try energetically whisking in a tsp of water - it may work.)

Once you've got it to the right point, add obscene amounts of chives, chopped capers, parsley - whatever takes your fancy, really - the finely chopped egg-white, and a dribble or two of decent vinegar. Mix well, and serve. Excellent with cold meats, or boring old veal chops.

Speaking of vinegar, I know I've spoken of the chili vinegar I make, by the simple expedient of leaving little langue d'oiseau chilis to soak in good cider vinegar for a month or so, after which it's fit to go into Magali-dressing. There is a little Health & Safety advisory to go with that, which is, quite simply - do not let some of the little buggers slip into the vinaigrette along with the vinegar. Sophie got one with a mouthful of rabbit-food last weekend, and damned-near choked. I think she's forgiven me. Suppose I was lucky she didn't find the other two I spotted lurking under a lettuce-leaf at the bottom of the salad bowl, and manage to dispose of quietly.

Jerry's on holiday - again. The fact that school's out for two weeks has also put a dampener on the strikes; after all, who wants to protest out in the cold leaving the kids warm at home? Last week was apparently quite chaud, as they say: the proviseur of Lycée Monge apparently got truncheoned by the CRS when he went to deny them entry to the school (as he has every right to do), there've been a few cars and many rubbish bins torched, and Bryan was moaning today about being evicted from one of his favourite bars at 8pm on Thursday, being as there was a manifestation taking place. All good stirring stuff, almost makes me want to sing the Marseillaise under the shower.

But what I really started out to say was that when Margo brought him home on Friday night, he casually tossed her a bit of paper: turned out to be the results of his last maths test. He only got 20/20: it would be an understatement to say that that's a bit of an improvement on last year. Don't know what happened, but something certainly seems to have. Shan't complain.

On the other hand, I would like to moan about the fact that nothing seems to be delivered with paper manuals these days. Yes, I'm sure it's very ecobloodylogical, but it's also a right pain in the proverbials. Case in point: last Saturday night Sophie tried to take a photo with my camera, and must have pressed some buttons. So wandering about Chambéry today, I discovered to my horror that instead of the full-screen view of the shot I'd just taken I got a useless thumbnail with all sorts of histogram information, about which I do not care. So I had to wait until I got home and fired up a computer so that I could look at the bloody PDF to find out that I just had to push the INFO button repeatedly in playback mode until I got the display back the way I like it.

Bloody marvellous. At least the old Nikon F401 came with a hefty honest-to-god paper booklet (still in the camera bag, by the way) detailing everything you might ever want to know about its care, feeding and operation, and all you needed to consult it was a pair of glasses (for the typeface was, let it be admitted, pretty miniscule).

Which reminds me that I read an interesting article the other day in The Economist, on preserving digital documents. Not only, as they pointed out, does the physical medium present problems (anyone still have a reliable 5" floppy disk reader? Or an MO drive, with working SCSI-I interface that'll fit into a PCI-Express slot? Thought not) but the actual file formats themselves are problematic. Especially when proprietary (as they all were) and from companies that've long since ceased to exist and whose documentation, such as it was, paid a visit to the dumpster years ago.

Whatever. We're all still alive - although technically speaking I can't be certain about Jeremy, because he still hasn't emerged from the Nest he calls a bed. Smart lad. Margo's off to another salon next week, up at Nantes, passing by Lyon and the south of Paris to pick up her new toy - a long-arm sewing machine conceived with only one purpose in mind, quilting quilts (which sounds a bit oxymoronic, but I can't help that). We shall have to find a place for it to live when it arrives here.

And that"s pretty much the week that was. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to try and find some pickled herrings somewhere.

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