Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hidden Van der Graaf Generators ..

So after watching the usual tonsil-tickling couples hanging around the gare the other night I'd had my full of fun, and anyway my train had just pulled up, and it was as I was waiting to get on that I was reminded of Ambrose Bierce's definition of a garter, as "intended to keep a woman from coming out of her stockings and devastating the country".

I say this with no malice, it's just that it was brought forcefully to mind as off the train hopped a tight-fitting young blonde slightly too big for her clothes, with breasts that did indeed look as though they were in some danger of bursting loose and doing considerable damage to the surroundings and any innocent bystanders.

Now despite what some people might think, it is not all la grande cuisine around the Bimler household. Case in point: got home from the market and then fiddling around with Stacey's PC under a grey drizzling sky, and found I had some basse côte sitting in the fridge, some pears, some pastry and some mascarpone. So it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea, once having got the poele underway (for it is starting to get chilly around these parts), to get the wok out.

First thing to be organised was the pear tart: line a pie dish (I do like the ones with a removeable base, makes things so much easier afterwards), peel and slice the pears and arrange them on the pastry, then beat up the mascarpone with a couple of eggs, some sugar, powdered almonds if you happen to have them, and a few drops of pure lemon oil. Pour that lot over the pears, and into the oven with it.

As to the basse côte, I rather like it with sauce aurore, which is nothing more than a béarnaise with a bit of tomato concentrate in it, and as I happen to be the one doing the cooking that's what it gets served with.

So, into the pan on the poele to get seared on both sides, along with a coupe of halved tomatoes, well-peppered and with a few slivers of parmesan on top, before taking it out, cutting into slices against the grain, and serving. Along with the frites, which is where the wok comes in. (I knew you were wondering about the wok. I like it because I can shallow-fry, which uses a damn sight less oil, and with the triple burner on the stove I can get up to temperatures that our certifiably geriatric deep-fryer can only dream of, plus it's a hell of a lot easier to empty the oil out into a clean bottle when all is done.)

So, a typical Saturday night dinner chez les Bimler: steak and chips. I guess I really should have fried myself an egg as well, but that might have been a bit over the top.

Mind you it wasn't easy getting in to the kitchen and thinking of cooking, due to a plague of lighthouse-keepers maggots. Stumbled blearily in (I know, I am not really a morning person, don't think anyone around here is really) one morning, looking for coffee: luckily I was just awake enough to see one wiggling around the edge of my mug before I filled it. OK, gross, but so what ...

The morning after there was one in Margo's cup, and one on the benchtop: right, definitely time to get serious here. So we spent a happy time pulling units away from the walls, marvelling at the years of accumulated grime lurking behind them and destroying with a stroke of a Janola-soaked floor-cloth ancient bacterial civilisations, then finally took the time to actually have our respective coffees. Happy, as it were, in the knowledge of a job well done.

Sadly, the next day, one of the little buggers was waving at us from inside the microwave, which is not only unhygienic but also downright insulting (also terminal, for it), at which point Margo got all mediaeval ... which resulted in quite a lot of rather périmé foodstuffs being chucked out, including a large, opened but untouched packet of Chocolate-Coated Sugar Bombs or whatever that had once belonged to Jeremy but had been adopted by a large family of bugs.

So cleaning behind the cupboards turned out to have been superfluous, which is a shame as I hate wasted effort, but never mind, the place is clean now at least.

Completely unrelated: must get around to organising some sort of central address repository around here. Currently we have a little white book, rather ragged around the edges these days after some twenty years of service: as people shift the Tippex gets called into service and hopefully-accurate versions of new phone numbers and addresses replace the old.

Sadly there's no system for pruning the dead wood out, so we still have the address for Ikea in Rennes somewhere in there: still, at least that's unlikely to have moved so it might well still be accurate, even if not of much use. Also, some pages are actually running out of room (problem with having so many friends/acquaintances whose surnames start with, let's say, "K"), so some new or updated entries get written down on scraps of paper and taped in, usually somewhere near the front but often enough sort of randomly.

I just mention this because I had occasion the other night to phone Jean to wish her a happy birthday and proudly dialled the most recent looking entry under V for Vickridge, only to find myself apologising to a rather confused woman who seemed convinced that I was some chap called Guy having a joke at her expense. At least I got through to the right country.

Also, I has done kulcha. Having worthier things to do Friday night, I naturally accepted with alacrity when Stacey rang to ask if I wanted to go see a theatrical number at Montmelian, and duly turned up at 7pm kind of expecting the worst. I suppose you could say I was disappointed: the sketches which comprised the first half were actually quite clever, and the second half was a delight.

Had you asked me before whether I liked George Brassens I would doubtless have responded with a resounding non!, but that would have definitely been a case of chauvinistic ignorance. It is true that your French has to be pretty good and your knowledge of some of the more - um, obscene's not quite the word I'm looking for here, let's say robust - synonyms should be extensive, but if that's the case then you could very well heartily enjoy his songs. Sadly, I rather doubt that they would survive translation - certainly not at my hands.

So anyway, headed off to the market as usual, camera slung around my neck and basket in hand, only to discover, rather to my dismay, that the first time I wanted to use it the camera wouldn't turn on. Bugger, quoth I, only with rather more feeling than that, and as I happened to be just outside the FNAC I popped in there (looking, I admit, a bit out of place with all the fruit and vegetables doing their best to spill out on the escalator) to see if, by some chance, they happened to have a battery - just in case that was the problem. Although I'd only charged it a couple of weeks back, so I wasn't too hopeful ...

Of course the guy sucked his teeth rather mournfully and replied in the negative: but rather to my surprise he very helpfully suggested that I whip past 1001 Piles, which is a sort of specialty shop that sells nowt but batteries. "It's really your best bet, squire ..."

And oddly enough, they did indeed have a battery that fit, and I was very pleased to stick it in and see the flashy little animation that the E-500 does when it comes to life. Guess I can't really complain: the first battery was the original, and after five years or so I suppose it was a bit tired. But it was definitely a relief, I'd half-feared that it was the electronics that had died, and having just shelled out €400 for a new lens that would have seriously pissed me off.

To celebrate I headed off to the Beer Tree, and had my first-ever encounter with one of those Orwellian black Opels that get the raw material for Street View. And feeling recursive, I snapped a photo of it photographing me: I do hope that this does not result in some sort of temporal singularity, for that would be a shame. Also, quite possibly embarrassing.

Sadly neither Bryan nor Beckham were present: he had a rendezvous with a bottle of champagne (some confused story about apologizing for missing someone's wedding, I guess maybe they gave him the champagne as some sort of payoff for not turning up and frightening all the other guests) and she, as is about par for the course, was sleeping off a hangover.

Be that as it may, I had a tin of foie gras sitting around, and some muffins, so it seemed only fitting to make decadent eggs Benedict for a lovely sunny afternoon. Brunch is such a good meal.

You know these, I hope: toast muffins, fry bacon, make béarnaise or hollandaise sauce, poach eggs ... then assemble. (Incidentally, warming drawers were invented for just this sort of meal. Because unless you have one of those handy little multiple egg-poaching devices which seem not to exist any more, not to mention a toaster that will happily toast X muffins at one time, for a given value of X, you are very unlikely to be able to have all the ingredients ready at the same time.)

Whatever, the only difference between the standard version and my decadent (and, in my humble opinion, much better) variety is the inclusion of a slab of foie gras in there, between the bacon and the poached egg. Whichever you prefer, do not have a light hand with the chives.

And something that goes surprisingly well with these is a decent coleslaw, proper American job with apples and raisins and grated carrot in with the sliced cabbage, marinated for a couple of days in that sweet condensed-milk and vinegar dressing. Just in case you were wondering.

Bootnote: on the front page of one of those celebrity lifestyle/voyeuristic titillation magazines that the French love was this magnificent headline: "L'histoire fabuleuse du clitoris". I don't think you need to rush off to Google Translate to get the picture.


  1. I can attest that you can still get those multi-egg poachers, cos I have one. Which means that Barry & I can enjoy our poached eggs together. At the same time. Effectively simultaneously.

  2. We had an attack of what were apparently Indian meal worms (or some such) in our previous place - endless lines of grubs marching across the ceiling. Took some time to trace them to an infested bag of flour hidden on a top shelf.

    By the way, many happies for today, Mr B.