Archive for January, 2011

Hearty vegetable stew and dumplings

January 30, 2011

It was my turn to cook Sunday lunch today. I made a hearty vegetable stew with parsley dumplings. I chopped the parsley with the mezzaluna that I was given as a present at Christmas time.

Chopping parsley with the mezzaluna

The meal was very straightforward to make. I cooked the dumplings in a separate pan, in boiling water that had a vegetable stock cube crumbled into it. I had put some pearl barley in with the vegetables but I needed to thicken the stew towards the end. I know some folk don’t like using corn flour, but I think it works just fine.

Vegetable stew and parsley dumplings

Last night I enjoyed playing my gig at Helles Angels in SL. Not a lot has been happening lately in first life. I am ploughing on with my autobiography and have been working on the period when I went to Leicester university in my mid-20s.

Speak to you later.

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Garlic bagels

January 27, 2011

Today I made a batch of garlic bagels. The poaching of the dough rings, followed by the baking in the oven, is perhaps a bit of a palaver but the end result is delightful. I ate mine with smoked salmon and cottage cheese, although I believe New Yorkers take cream cheese.

Home-made garlic bagels

While things seem to be going ok in the kitchen that is far from the case with regard to my piano playing, about which I have not one single good word to say at present. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Birthday G&T

January 19, 2011

It is 4.45 pm and I am waiting for the sun to drop below the yard arm. Except I am not on a boat, it is winter, and more or less dark anyway. I am to be taken out for a meal as a birthday treat; an annual event that becomes incrementally filled with foreboding, as the years tick on by. I always have a couple of G&Ts before I go out for my birthday meal. Always. Habit, tradition, call it what you will, it is an essential ritual. Today, regretfully, there is not a single lemon in the house. Lemons can sit in my kitchen for weeks on end, being of bugger-all use to anyone, but the very day I want one there is none.

My daughter, who last autumn went to live in another country, sorted out shipping for a stack of belongings she put into boxes when she visited at Christmas. Today, the shippers delivered their cartons to my house and I have packed them. Somehow, the passage of stuff out of the house makes it feel permanent, makes it definite. To be honest, it makes me feel old. Its impact is heavier and deeper than the mere occurrence of another birthday. It provides a physical marker of a new personal era, a next step along the path of life. It gives rise to a pause for thought, a moment to consider intimations of mortality more broadly.

I feel this all the more keenly because for the past six months I have been writing my autobiography. At first it was a half-hearted attempt which I thought I would tire of quickly. I didn’t really believe I would seriously address the task, but I have done so. I am now so far sucked into it I have to keep going until I finish. In my manuscript I am at the point where I have left school and have been working in various jobs for several years. I am in my early 20s and about to get married. I don’t want to speak about personal details relating to my first wife and our marriage, but I have to find ways to talk about that period of my life and clearly she did feature in it. It presents a very interesting challenge in terms of writing the book. Writing an autobiography is very similar to writing fiction; the only difference is that the plot has its feet in history and real life, whatever that might be. However, the final manuscript will be merely one way of telling the story of my life; there could be many variations in the tale. Just as in classical music, the main events provide the notes and pattern of the theme, but I could embellish that theme in many ways, messing with cadences, emphases, tempo and crescendo. In music, silence can be extremely telling and important. In my autobiography, I choose those things about which I shall remain silent. In part, my decisions about what not to say will affect the temperature of the prose. I could decide to blurt out a lot of stuff and produce a vitriolic tome, or I could ease back and offer an altogether gentler tale. My inclination is to do the latter. By definition, it is the case that I shall be the hero (obviously I shall in my autobiography). I have to decide how I wish to portray my hero. Do I allow myself to boast a little? Should I avoid being too self-deprecating? These are fascinating questions.

I would like to say a few words to my Second Life blogophiles who come to my shows… let me reassure you that I am hoping to extend my repertoire over this coming year in 2011. It was one of my new year’s resolutions. I am hoping for a minor breakthrough with my piano playing. I do work hard at it. Paradoxically, I feel it is my guitar playing that is improving, yet I do much less work on that! I have been satisfied the way the gigs have been going though. I know my music is not to everybody’s taste and some feel that it is a bit of an acquired taste. Still, I feel I have made progress over this past year. I have now played around 650 gigs in Second Life over the past three years, so I definitely have a reasonable amount of experience. I’m looking forward to the coming year. I have a feeling it could be good, musically speaking. Ok. Talk to you later, and bye for now 🙂

Wood pigeon and a medley of vegetables

January 17, 2011

I am now writing a daily quota of words for the first draft of my autobiography. I don’t want my blog to go dead but it may mean that I can no longer postlong entries here.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to cook something new each week. Yesterday I made a Sunday lunch with wood pigeon and a medley of vegetables. I cut the breasts from the birds and pan fried them, last thing. I made a casserole of the vegetables with stock flavoured with a few bits of the pigeon carcass. I also shredded some English greens and wilted them with butter in the same way that I do spinach. I boiled some waxy potatoes, sliced them after they had cooled a little, and then fried them, too. I should say that the meal was a success.

Wood pigeons to be pan fried

The finished dish

I am getting on less well with my resolution to sketch something each day. I have interpreted this to include drawing from reference pics and I shall be happy to do the sketching either on paper or using the computer to draw digitally on the Wacom pad. If I am to illustrate my autobiography, I must practice, to keep my hand and eye in training. I seem to have the equivalent of writers block as far as my art work is concerned, and so far I have not been able to get through it. Hopefully, things will improve soon. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

More thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions

January 12, 2011

This will have to be a short blog because I have to get ready to play an internet gig in about 10 minutes time. I went to Newcastle today and returned some library books to the Lit & Phil. I didn’t take any more out because I don’t want to have to trape over there if it snows again. I’ll wait until the spring and meanwhile read some classics on my Kindle.

I managed to buy a couple of good metal pencil sharpeners at the art store. It is amazing but I have found it extremely difficult to get good ones in my city and the ones I got from W.H.Smiths I just did not like.  I then had a great cup of coffee in Cafe Nero and a wonderfully tasty apricot croissant – mmmmm….

I have been thinking some more about the filme Julie and Julia. It obviously got under my skin. I have devised a way of combining my New Year’s Resolutions into one over-arching framework and I am going to bring all the different threads from food, music and art into on place. To this end I bought a very nice diary for 2011. The main problem is that if you make things too complicated, you just get fed up with it and don’t bother any more. That was the beauty if Julie’s scheme… 524 recipes, all specified in the Julia Child book, in 365 days; neat and simple. My scheme is like a cross between a wiring diagram and a bowl of spaghetti. Still, I have started to break things down and make some notes in the diary.

I am out of time. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Julie and Julia

January 10, 2011

It is now around 1 a.m. and I have been asleep for a few hours. In fact, I just woke up. Yesterday was my birthday and as part of my enjoyment(s) – I do put them in the plural – I watched a DVD version of the Meryl Streep and Amy Adams film, Julie and Julia.

This film is about the life of the American, Julia Childs, and her obsession with French cooking while she lived in Paris in the late 1940s. Julie is an American who subsequently cooks the 524 recipes of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in 365 days, this being the entire contents of Julia Child’s masterpiece. The point of the film is that Julie writes up her culinary experiences in a blog.

My blog often contains entries on food, and my experience of cooking it. I also wrote a book (The Psychology of food and eating), although this was an academic monograph. In my book, I did write up some of my experiences of cooking. I just want to say that I have never been influenced by the Julie/Julia film. Of course, I cannot guarantee that I shall not be in the future.

I suppose I feel a little pissed off by that film. I am obsessively engaged in various projects, some of which include cooking. I have, in the past, set myself goals to do recipes covering the various aspects of cooking, such as eggs, bread, meat, fish, soups, sweets, etc. I have had goals to work through new recipes within each category. But I have never done anything as focussed as cooking my way through a specific cook book.

The reason why I am talking about this is that the Julie/Julia thing sounds like a New Years Resolution, and we have just been making those things. My problem is that I am split across several domains,not just the culinery. I have resolutions relating to my autobiography, my song writing, my guitar and piano playing, and my sketching (whether digital or not). And, of course, I want to keep the house and garden in good order. I have some resolutions about taking photos, too.

I do share Julie’s early fears that I am putting all this out onto the Internet and maybe nobody is reading it. But then, that has always been a possibility, even back in my early blogging days for the Sunderland Echo newspaper. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Vegetable cobbler

January 6, 2011

I seem to have been rather busy over the festive season but things are settling down now. Today I spent some time making a vegetable cobbler. I can assure you that it tasted a lot better than it looks here. I think it will take a while to get the blog momentum moving properly, but at least this is a step in the right direction for 2011.

Vegetable cobbler

I was saddened to learn of the death of scum threebeards, the barman at the Ragged Edge venue in Second Life. I shall be playing a gig there tonight, as usual on Thursday, and I shall miss having a chat with him while I set up on stage. Of course, I never knew him in First Life. She-who-must-not-be-mentioned suggested it might be similar to when you feel sad about a character in a novel dying. I suppose there is something in that, although in Second Life you know that there is a real person playing the SL character; in a novel there is no such person in First Life. A slightly closer analogy might be to learn of the death of a stage or screen actor who one only knows through the roles they play. Be that as it may, I shall try and sing a song in his memory tonight. Somehow, I think Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing‘ might be a good one.