Saturday, March 3, 2012

On Sanctity ... and Food ...

The Roman Catholic church is truly a wonderful thing, offering to all a state of grace, escape from eternal damnation, and a wide choice of saints to suit all occasions.

A rapid (crueller souls would say "superficial") tour of Wackypedia leaves me none too enlightened as to the origins of Epurus: the single (fictional) entry I found stated that he was a 3rd century Roman legionary of Greek origin, who chose martyrdom by prolonged immersion in the sewers of his adopted city in preference to being devoured by enraged budgerigars in front of a paying audience. 

(Rome, in the 3rd century, had become somewhat decadent, not to mention penurious. Buying off barbarians had become a major drain on the public purse, a situation made worse by the fact that the Caesars themselves made no great distinction between public and private. So long as "private" was definitely theirs, they were happy to leave "public" with a rather ambiguous status. Mind you, they were tyrants, so that's alright then. Had they behaved correctly they'd not have been half as popular.)

Anyway, even if we accept the cause of death as given, there's still no hint as to why, not to mention by which impecunious pope, this humble victim of primitive sanitation was beatified. Nor, come to that, are there any particularly trustworthy records (unless you count Sir John Mandeville as a person worthy of trust, which I personally do not) as to miracles performed either by him in life, or by his intervention after it.

Unless you accept one apocryphal story, dubiously attributed to an early, esoteric, version of the Decameron, which involves, amongst other things, a cess-pit and what could best be described as miraculous multiplication. And a humorous nun, but we'll not go there: look it up yourself.

So there remains this nagging doubt as to his actual historical authenticity, and one might think that, in its drive to reform, modernise, rationalise and generally out-source where possible, retaining only the core competences required for fulfillment of its mission statement, the church could well have struck him off the register with an act of desanctification.

But being an - let's say, ossified - organisation, she feels incapable of moving faster than her adherents, and as he has become the semi-official patron saint of dunnykin and other public workers occupied in the less appetising side of infrastructure, we seem to be stuck with him.

Even in rigorously secular France, you'll not go past a single sewage treatment station without spotting a little roadside sign to St. Epuration in his honour.

Before we get onto cooking corner, especially for Malyon who asked so nicely, the search terms hall of infamy continues with:
      brazilian threadworm
you're such a percy
chartreuse pipe cleaner
latex/leather in the 80's
and my personal favourite
eating wet pussy

But I do have to admit that, given a choice, I would in fact use Chartreuse (green or yellow, both ghastly) to clean out drains rather than a pipe, or anything else that I might put in my mouth come to that.

So anyway, for honey chili chicken I use the recipe from those ancient Australian Womens' Weekly cookbooks, which are not, honestly, too bad. I suppose at the time they must have been the epitome of adventurous cuisine, with the added salacity of being foreign and exotic. I'm still surprised that anyone bothered looking up from the barbie.

Basically you take a decent cleaver and chop a few chicken thigh+leg into more-or-less bite-sized pieces, toss those in flour, deep-fry until crispy and drain. I'm willing to bet that at this point you could substitute tofu for the chicken, and otherwise carry on as normal.

Once that's done and you've discreetly poured off most of the rancid oil down a storm-water drain or something, you need to have a glass or two and then peel and finely chop (or grate, if you had a microplane grater, about which no-one around here seems to be able to take a hint for birthdays and such, just saying) a thumb-sized hunk of fresh ginger (but do not mistake your thumb for the ginger, that would hurt) and fry it up in the remaining oil with a chopped spring onion or two.

Then add two tbsp of honey, let that melt, and add 2 tsp cornflour mixed with a half cup of water, a half cup of lemon juice, some soy sauce and as much chinese chili sauce as you feel necessary. (Personally, I feel you can't have enough of the stuff, but I do hedge my bets and use half-and-half sweet chili sauce and the proper burny stuff.) Bring it to the boil to thicken, then chuck the chicken pieces back in to heat through while you have another glass.

And as for satay beef, that comes from the same source. They call for fillet which seems a shame to me, I use my favourite hampe and no-one's yet dared to call me out on it. Whatever you prefer, cut it into fine slices and stick them to marinate in a bowl  with soy sauce, cornflour, water and sesame oil. This leaves you a good half-hour of free time which you could either use to get everything else ready or, more profitably, have a drink.

I know which I prefer.

Anyway, at some point you really will need to put the glass down and coarsely chop an onion (just to be clear, that does not mean you need to swear whilst doing it) and crush a clove or two of garlic before sautéing the lot in a little oil.

For the rest, I buy saté powder, which is not really so much a powder as fine gravel, of which 2 tbsp goes into a mortar with 2 tsp of decent curry powder, cornflour and a sugar lump and the lot ground together and mixed with a half cup of water and some soy sauce.

And now that everything is ready, turn the heat up high (this is where a triple couronne comes in handy, I am so happy I have my stove) and add the marinated meat: it should do no more than brown on each side. Pour in the sauce, bring to the boil, and let thicken for a couple of minutes before serving to general applause.

Happy, Mal?

To the market, as usual: I took the back roads again, to avoid the autoroute which was as clogged as one might expect but it still took me half an hour to get in to the dump. Still, I must have some good karma or something, for the guy at the place where I usually buy the weekly 20l of wine gave me a present: a bottle of 2004 Australian "Roadkill" chardonnay. Which is currently sitting in the fridge downstairs, waiting for the next barbecue. Which will probably not be roadkill, unless I come across a half-ripe badger.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe
And of top of it it's been wonderful weather: the biting cold has gone, hopefully for good, and it was bright, blue and above all 20° as I sat out at under the sun in the place de l'Hotel de Ville with a well-earned glass of macon blanc and toasted everything in sight.

Alone, unfortunately, for Bryan wasn't answering his phone - quite possibly hasn't worked out exactly how to do so yet - and Beckham, when I rang, turned out to be in Avignon, which is a bit far to go just for a glass. On top of which it wasn't really the weather for a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape, excellent though it is. And to make matters worse, the boulangerie had no more pains au chocolat aux amandes, which was a right bugger 'cos I'd rather had my heart set on one. Life can be such a bitch sometimes.

So having nothing better to do, and as Jeremy goes off to Blackpool for five weeks on Monday (via Zurich and Manchester, godnose why), I headed to Nature & Decouvertes to get a universal power plug adaptor so that he will at least be able to charge his phone and MP3 player or whatever.

Where I discovered that not only do they sell extremely expensive little phials of essential oils to people who don't know how to cook, and that their power adaptors are not particularly cheap, their corporate symbol is a huge tortoise apparently humping the planet.

I find the idea disturbing, and I must admit that it kind of puts me off ecology.


  1. I would like to point out that no hints or even outright asking has been done concerning one of those slicer thingys that reduce your fingers down to nubbins. Know we know at least we finally have something other than socks to buy you for the next Bday/xmas/ whatever

  2. I bought a mandoline the other day. Barry doesn't trust it not to reduce his fingers to nubbins. (Not too much chance of that as I do most of the cooking, lol)