Monday, August 3, 2015

Mostly Dead Sheep ...

So, let me tell you about lamb ham. It's not something that seems to happen in France, poor benighted folk that they are, so effectively one is obliged to make one's own. Fortunately, the procedure is remarkably simple.

Some would start with a leg of lamb but unfortunately I have nowhere suitable to put one whilst it's curing: a cool airy cellar would be ideal, but I don't have one. Not, at anyrate, one that is inaccessible to cats. So I started out with a shoulder of lamb and boned it: removed the shoulder-blade and the top leg bone, leaving only the shank in. (If you've not done it before, boning can be a tedious and occasionally bloody process but persevere, it's not really that difficult. And think of the anatomy lesson you're getting.)

This will leave you with a shank, attached to a large square of flesh and skin. Stick it into a large ziplock bag (because believe me, it's a damn sight less messy that way) and get the cure ready: mix three tbsp of kosher salt, three tbsp of brown sugar, a quarter tsp of saltpetre and herbs or spices of your choice in a bowl. (I like to use crushed and chopped juniper berries at least, and the saltpetre is optional. Yeah, it's toxic in large doses, but it does help give a nice pink colour to the meat.)

Then add three tbsp or more of molasses or treacle, mix well, and rub well into the meat, paying special attention to the ends of the shank bone because we wouldn't want it to go all mouldy and gross, now would we? Close the ziplock bag, put it onto a tray (because the little buggers always develop a leak somewhere), stick it into the fridge for ten days or so and forget about it. (Well, flip it over once every couple of days, but that's hardly onerous.)

At the end of that time take it out, wash it well and dry it, roll and tie it ... you now have two options. You could wrap it in muslin to keep the flies off and hang it for a couple of weeks in that cool airy cellar of which I spoke, or you could do what I do, which is stick it into an oven at 90° for an hour or so, until the internal temperature gets up to about 58°. Or, if you have one, use a smoker. (Do you have any idea, by the way, just how difficult it is to find an oven that gives you the option of 90°? Mine certainly doesn't.)

The advantage of the second method is, of course, that you get to eat the stuff much sooner: always a bonus for those of us with zero patience. (Also, as good manners demand that one presents only perfect thin round slices to one's guests, one is obliged to trim off the scrappy caramelised bits immediately after baking, and eat them hot and crispy.)

I have recently spent more time than I care to think about delving into the Bluetooth layers of Linux. Think of it as a learning experience: like most such it is not necessarily pleasant. I have learnt about the driver layer which manages the hardware (and good luck with that if your chipset is not supported), and the userspace hcid layer which goes on top, and the bnep layer which goes on top of that ... there are so many layers to this damn thing that it looks as though a demented patissier started work on a fĂ´ret noire and found himself unable to stop.

And then, of course, all this is wrapped up in a package called BlueZ, which was started off by a couple of hobbyists in a basement and supported ever since in a sporadic manner, with occasional bursts of enthusiasm, by a small team of two men and a cat who get together twice a year for a beer. The package is more or less essential, because no-one in their right mind would start again from scratch (possibly adding comments to the code) so basically you live with what you get.

And I can indeed live with that, it's just that when the cat decided to move to version 4 they had possibly had a few too many beers and decided to completely change the API and - here's the cunning bit - not document the new one. Or if they did, grudgingly, put up a single web page, they took care to ensure that it is misleading at best, wildly inaccurate at worst. On the grounds, I guess, that anyone who really wants to know what's going on will just read the bloody source.

So you start on your quest for knowledge thinking "Hey! This is going to be easy! Look at all those examples on the innertubes ..." and it is not until things stubbornly refuse to work as they are supposed to and clients start getting itchy that you begin to realise that the examples out there are all for version 3, and you are on your own, boyo.

This is the dark side of Linux, the foetid underbelly of open source software. Take my advice, do not go there.

Whatever, twenty km or so south of Perpignan there is a little village, Palau del Vidre, which has the distinction of harbouring a couple of dozen artisans verriers - glass-blowers, stained-glass makers, people that make pretty glass dolphins ... it also has a rather interesting church, if you happen to be into that sort of thing. Would have been nice to go in and take a look around 'cos I guess the stained glass would've been fantastic, but being a Sunday the place was closed.

As it happens, it's the 22nd Foire International de Verre down there, and despite it's being another bloody black weekend on the roads due to the juilletists heading home and the aoutards leaving (and why can't the buggers just stay put in Paris for the duration, where god put them, and evidently intended them to be) we headed off down to take a look. So that you don't have to.

Start with the bad news: there was folk dancing. On the brighter side, that was towards the middle of the afternoon, we'd been around most of the place and we were sitting at a bar nursing cold (and bloody expensive) drinks and were feeling tolerant. So you'll be pleased to know that no-one got hurt, not even the little children.

Although it did remind me a lot of that scene from Spinal Tap, you know, the one where they've got this song about ancient mystic powers and so they have dwarves dressed as leprechauns dancing around the great monoliths of Stonehenge only it's a two-foot tall scale model in polystyrene, and the dwarves keep tripping over it? Yep.

And there was sort-of Morris dancing, with people hitting other people on the head with sticks whilst wearing stockings and bells, and inexplicably missing ... a lot of the glass was extremely beautiful.

But I checked down the sides of the sofa before we left, and did not find three or four thousand euros sitting there forgotten, so we came home empty-handed, without so much as a glass harp to our names. Maybe next year, if I work a bit harder, and manage to hide some of it from the taxman ... mind how you go, now.

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