Friday, 29 January 2010

Blobfish - New Life for an Old Meme

Blobfish


A fortnight ago, my husband was looking up Noel's House Party on the internet (don't ask). This in turn led to him doing an image search for "Mr Blobby" (really don't ask).

In amongst the pictures of the yellow-spotted pink abomination nestled an even greater insult to nature - the feller above, Latin name Psychrolutes marcidus, common name "Blobfish". No, seriously.

Slightly over-excited at this discovery and wanting to share the love, I immediately went on Twitter and posted a link.

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It got retweeted a couple of times by the Twitterverse. And then I thought nothing more of it.

Until a couple of days ago, I opened up my copy of Metro and found this staring back up at me:

metroblobfish



Coincidence, much? I went back on Twitter to share my concerns.

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And got this response:

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And indeed the Mirror had also written about our friend, the blobfish.

This was getting ridiculous.

I think the height of newfound blobfish hysteria was finally reached when Mr Blobfish featured in the Daily Telegraph of all places, and a Twitter friend in Vietnam posted a link to the article.

A mutual friend expressed her dismay thus:

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Don't get me wrong, the cult of the blobfish has been around for ages - just google its name and you'll find countless motivators have already been made, all extolling the virtues of our lumpy friend.

But I can't help thinking that I kick-started this revived interest and thus even raised awareness that the blobfish is facing extinction. And of this I am proud.

meemalee's kitchen - Breathing life into old memes since 2010.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Happy Birthday Mr Mike Patton

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Dearest Mister Mike Patton, many happy returns on this your 42nd birthday.

Age cannot wither you, nor custom stale your infinite variety.




(cartoon by Brian Walsby)

("Reunited" video from the Faith No More Reunion at Brixton Academy)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

With Apologies to Wogan

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Without wishing to offend the myriad fans of the marvellous Sir Terry Wogan aka his TOGS (Terry's Old Geezers and Gals), I kind of wish this headline wasn't just metaphorical.

(More on Terry Wogan versus Chris Evans here
)

Making a Miele of It

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When my husband and I moved into our marital home, some previous occupants had no intention of leaving. The intruders were welcome to stay though, as one was a man-sized freezer and the other a man-sized fridge.

I’ve no idea how old they are, but the make is Husqvarna who only seem to make lawnmowers these days so I’m guessing they’re pretty elderly.

I don’t think I could cope without my chocolatey twins. I know they’ll be past it one day, but I have cherished every moment with them, so much so that I recently removed all the rude magnetic poetry for fear of disrespect.

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Last weekend though, the unthinkable happened - I contemplated cheating on my gorgeous Husqvarnas. The new object of my desire? A Miele MasterCool fridge freezer - the size of a walk-in wardrobe and just as alluring.

And where did I find this eye candy? Abingdon, Oxfordshire - the home of the Miele Experience Centre where you can literally try before you buy, as they run MasterClasses (ie cookery courses) to demonstrate how to get the best out of their products.

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Miele (pronounced Mee-luh) was founded in Germany in 1899 - a family-owned and run company whose first products were a cream separator, a butter churn, and a tub washing machine.

Their motto is “Immer Besser” which is snappier than the English “Forever Better”, and to test this out, I was invited with a bunch of other bloggers to attend a “Let’s Do Lunch” day.

To get to Abingdon, you need to go to Didcot Parkway Station. I do believe that the most interesting thing in Didcot is this:

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The Didcot Totem

Although I may be wrong. I may have also dicked with the colours a bit.

We started the day with a talk about coffee from Kirsty, our friendly Miele demonstrator. I learnt two interesting things about the hallowed bean:
  1. Espresso isn't the most caffeinated coffee you can get. Caffeine levels get higher the longer the coffee is exposed to water. So when you leave it sitting in a cafetiere it reaches nuclear levels, whilst the posh Miele coffee machines force the water through thus making it less dangerous. Although maybe that's less fun.
  2. Coffee goes off really, really quickly. Which is why those sexy little pods peddled by George Clooney are actually quite useful and not just a fancy gimmick.
Then we had a go at making our own coffees to order. I especially liked the caffe latte machine which creates a beautiful, trippy, three-layered drink.

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After having fun with the swanky coffee machines, it was time for us to go to the kitchens to play with the bigger toys.

We split into teams (I was with BribedwithFood) and went to our workstations which each had various hobs and appliances and four different ovens. Of course, four ovens is nothing when you think that Dave, the speccy one from the Hairy Bikers, kitted his whole place out with Miele ware - basically his kitchen looks like this:

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Anyway, each team worked on different meals, following set instructions to test out the numerous functions of each Miele appliance.

I say "instructions" rather than recipes, because they seemed quite clinical to me (press "Automatic moisture mode", type in "200 degrees" etc), but it was still fun to fiddle with the knobs and, as it was all very straightforward and convenient, I can see how this particular workshop might appeal to those who aren't confident cooking or who simply don't have much time.

I loved most of the appliances though, especially the dinky steam oven which managed to boil 30 eggs at the same time.

And hey, I baked my first ever cake - look at the glossy peaks on that:

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My favourite gizmo by far was the cast-iron open grill - essentially a stovetop barbecue.

True, the smoke nearly choked us all to death (I'd recommend opening the windows), but ye gods, it was fun and just look at the stripes on that pineapple.

The salamander broiler which rose up from the worktop was also cool, steely and suitably James Bond-esque.

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After we'd finished cooking, we adjourned for a buffet lunch which comprised everything we'd just made. Thankfully, BribedwithFood and I didn't poison anyone with our offerings.

Another coffee and then time for a whistlestop tour of the other Miele appliances available.


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I was tickled that the Miele dishwashers have a cutlery shelf instead of a rack, which means more surface area is exposed for cleaning and also means you're less likely to jab yourself with a knife.

Mind you, when they told us that their washing machines have a handwash cycle so gentle you can wash fresh roses and have them come out intact, I thought "Chinny reckon". Well, apparently I was mistaken.

Anyway, we walked around the corner and then I saw it. My new love. The Miele MasterCool F1811. Although Chocolate Guide, that hussy, managed to get to it first:

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Apart from being enormous and beautiful, the MasterCool has four independent cooling zones which means fruit, veg, dairy and meat can be put in different sections optimized to keep each as fresh as possible.

There are also halogen lamps throughout the interior which illuminate every corner, so you'll no longer lose that bottle of ketchup.

The best thing though is an in-door ice cube dispenser. Crushed ice on tap!

I want one.

Eventually the Miele folk managed to drag us away for a briefing on the other MasterClasses available.

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As well as the Let's Do Lunch day which we'd just taken part in (and wasn't really appropriate for your average foodie), there are also full-day courses which sound a bit more interesting. These are:
  • Introduction to Italian Cooking (including pasta making and knife skills)
  • Fish School (scaling, gutting and filleting as well as making dishes such as Baked Sea Bass, Linguini Vongole and Tempura Prawns)
  • Men’s Cook School (for the reluctant male chef)
  • Bread Making (where apparently you leave with two big bags of bread you've made yourself).
You can book online for any of these Miele MasterClasses - and you wouldn't want to disappoint Mr Miele now, would you?

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Herr Miele


My blogging compadres for the day were:
Thank you to Claire, Roxy and Cherry from Forever Better and Kirsty, Alicia and Cass from Miele for hosting us.

Monday, 18 January 2010

St John's PigFAIL 2010

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We came. We saw. We ate pig.


Last Friday, 16 of London's finest female foodies descended on St John Restaurant, Smithfields, to take part in Ladies' PigFest 2010. It's been a life-long dream of mine to ravage a whole wild boar Obelix style, so this was one step closer to fulfilling that dream - for our group of girls were about to dine on suckling pig.

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Kill the pig, cut his throat, bash him in ...

Our pre-booked, pre-paid piggy feast was composed as follows:

Ladies' PigFest 2010

Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad
Whole Crab & Mayonnaise

Whole Roast Suckling Pig, Potatoes & Greens

Eccles Cake & Lancashire Cheese
Spotted Dick & Custard

Sounds bloody brilliant, doesn't it? We gathered beforehand at Smithfield Tavern for a drink, but spurned their enticing scotch eggs and sausage rolls in anticipation of the ensuing piggery. I'd made badges and A Scot in London brought crowns - what could possibly go wrong?

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It was my very first time at St John's, but I'd longed to go for ages. I mean, Fergus Henderson is the doyen of nose-to-tail eating and I can think of nothing finer - I'd even bothered recreating his most infamous recipe (the bone marrow) at home. That very morning, Tim Hayward, Guardian writer, had announced that Henderson be given a Nobel Prize for food, so my excitement was palpable.

You want your first time to be special, right? Well, on entering the restaurant, we walked slap-bang into a heaving crowd of braying youths. A bad start - I immediately felt overwhelmed and unwelcome.

Fighting our way through, we were shown to the stark private dining room where the staff brought us wine, water, bread and butter and then left us there.

For fifty minutes.

So we got raucous. With our hats and our badges, we looked like a typical hen party anyway, so if they were going to ignore us, we might us well live up to it.

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Eventually, after asking, the starters arrived - pretty shocking considering we'd pre-booked our choices.

The bone marrow was velvety goodness, and the parsley salad pleasingly zingy (although honestly I think mine was better), but the serving was a tad parsimonious, especially considering bones and parsley cost eff all. More heinous was the dearth of toast - there wasn't even enough for one slice each - I resorted to sucking the marrow off my spoon.

The crab though - what flavour, what texture! The white meat was sweet and briney, and the creamy brown meat so brimming with umami it reminded me of sea urchin. I ended up scraping the shell to retrieve as much as possible.

Of course, these were just the warm-ups, we were there for the headlining pig. And so we waited.

And we waited.

Look at our little faces waiting.

I was beginning to wish I'd succumbed to the Scotch eggs earlier.

su-lin pigfest picture 1
(photo copyright sulineats)


We asked for more water and wine to tide us over, but maddeningly these did not come till we asked twice again.

Finally, finally the star of the show appeared. By then we were (a) starving again and (b) over-excited, so you can't blame us for rushing to pap the pig.


Listen to me cackling


The waiter decapitated the beast and put its head on a platter, and naturally we all wanted a shot of this Salome-esque sight. One of us asked the waiter if he would pose with the dish and we primed our cameras, only for him to stick his arm out as far away from his body as he could stretch it and to sigh so audibly it made me flinch. He then tersely announced "You are all scaring me. I will not serve this till you all sit down".

I think that, and the sigh, was the straw that broke this camel's back - being kept waiting was bad enough, but actually being made to feel like we were an irritation felt like a slap in the face.

su-lin pigfest picture 3
(photo copyright sulineats)

So after a few more snaps, I sat down, piggy ardour completely quelled.

We passed the pig's head around for some adoration, and then began to tuck in, but frankly my heart wasn't in it any more.

Sure, the pork was delicious - moist and sweet - and I knew I should have been enjoying it, but by that point the massive pauses between courses and the surliness of the waiter meant that I was more interested in the (frankly fabulous) company than the food.

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I would like to give special mention to the greens, which had been steamed so perfectly it cheered me up a bit. The beautifully lacquered pig skin was far from crackling though, and chewing on it made me feel like Chaplin in The Gold Rush.

Anyway, despite everyone having a good old try, a glut of porcine flesh was left over, so I ran off and asked the one friendly waitress to doggy-bag it for us and at least she smilingly said she'd oblige.

I guess you're wondering how the pudding was. Well, I have absolutely no idea.

For by then it was almost quarter to eleven, so I (and several others) actually had to leave before it was served, so as not to miss our last trains home.

As I rushed out, the general manager stopped me and apologised. This threw me a little, partly because I thought he'd been oblivious to our existence, but mainly because he resembled Jonathan Pryce so strongly the theme tune for Brazil popped into my head. I nodded distrait, and barely made my connection, and when I got home I was still hungry.

Libby's pigfest group
The PigFest Posse
(top) ruduss, meemalee, R_McCormack, sulineats, Anon 1, BribedwithFood (the Force is strong in this one), KaveyF, everythingbut
(bottom) rudehealth, LibbyEAndrews, Anon 2, GreedyDiva, Anon 3, florantena
(not shown) MathildeCuisine

(photo copyright LibbyEAndrews)



So let's recap - some stunning food but sluggish and neglectful service, a churlish waiter, stingy portions (apart from the pig) and a total pudding fail.

How was my first time? Let's put it this way - I left feeling thoroughly chafed...

St John Restaurant, Smithfield
26 St John Street
London
EC1M 4AY
020 7272 1587


St John (Farringdon) on Urbanspoon


20.01.10 PIGFAIL UPDATE:

I'm pleased to say that St John has kindly offered dessert and champagne to all sixteen of us to make up for the problems we experienced. I think we'll be taking them up on the offer in March. Stay tuned ...

26.03.10 - Dessert Fest - A tale of reparation by Kavey

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Announcing the Girls' Steak Club

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We interrupt our normal schedule for a guest post from A Scot in London:

"There is a very strange thing in Anglo-Saxon culture that would be worthy of in depth anthropological study and that is the gender assignation given to food. If you are not sure what I mean then look at the number of food reviews describing food as macho, separating men from boys, butch, etc etc. Almost everyone writing in English is at it.

Personally I blame Anthony Bourdain and the like. At some point chefs decided they were pirates and that cutting meat was akin to hoisting petards. Well I’m sorry boys, you don’t swash buckles, you chop onions and last time I looked it wasn’t the same thing.

The losers in this, as always, are the women, as anything a man decided he liked became macho. So it is with steak.

We – me and a few n’er do wells on Twitter- have decided it was time that this imbalance in our culture was redressed and that a new phenomenon of women meeting for steak and martini, as opposed to afternoon tea and cakes, needs to be created.

The inauguration of the London Chapter of the Girls' Steak Club will take place on Tuesday 2nd Feb Hawksmoor Steakhouse 157 Commercial Street E1 6BJ

The meat Hawksmoor serves is the reason men made steak macho.

The menu is below and is £40 per head with a sitting at 7pm and another one at 7.30pm.

Apart from an initial martini, drinks are separate leaving you free to have your choice of cocktail, wine or anything else.

Menu


Martini


Tamworth Belly Ribs
or
Chargrilled squid with capers, shallots and watercress


Rib-eye (400g)
or
Bone-in Sirloin


Selection of sides


Please phone 020 7247 7392 to book mentioning you are booking for The Girls' Steak Club.

If you are a disgruntled envious man reading this you are catered for in style the night before at a Boys Eat Beef organised by Simon Majumdar of Dos Hermanos. Please contact him for details via his website

The Girls' Steak Club. All the meat you can eat."


NOTE: You may get an answermachine saying that the restaurant is closed for refurbishment. You can still book by leaving a message with the following details:
  • you are booking for Girls Steak Club,
  • the sitting you want to attend - 7 or 7.30pm,
  • your name,
  • your contact number,
  • your email address
You can also email this information to info@thehawksmoor.com

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow Day - Break Out The Ration Packs

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So last week I was stuck at home for three days, because my "metro" train service into London is a big steaming pile of fail and couldn't cope if a pigeon farted in its general direction, let alone deal with the heavy snowfall we'd received.

Cabin fever was setting in, not least because husband and I were unused to being at home at the same time without it being a holiday.

Apart from working, we passed the time by yelling to each other to make a cup of tea. I invariably won because (a) I'm me and (b) he was nearer the kitchen.

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Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I'm a survivalist at heart, so being snowed in was kinda thrilling as it provided the perfect excuse to break out the ration packs I'd kept stockpiled under the stairs.

Okay, not technically ration packs (though Lord knows I've tried to buy some genuine field rations off eBay), but camping meals made by Wayfayrer.

Pasta and meatballs, and chicken casserole - so far, so blah, but here's the exciting bit - these babies were self-heating.

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Yeah, maybe those silver packets aren't particularly appealing, but SELF-HEATING goddammit. Do you hear me?

As the packs themselves say:
"EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR
A DELICIOUS MEAL
FOOD, HEAT SOURCE, FORK & SPOON"
Yeeeeeeeeees.

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The blurb at the back says this:

"The HOT FOOD KIT combines the foil meal pouch with an innovative complete Heater System and a lightweight set of plastic cutlery. When water is added to the Heater System a reaction is triggered and the element gives off heat. The heat is transferred to the foil pack and thus to the pre-cooked food creating a hot meal within a matter of minutes. Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who need to travel light"

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Heigh-ho, I figured I'd better read the actual instructions as well.

Looks long-winded, but it turns out they're pretty much the same as fireworks - light fuse (or rather moisten flameless ration heater) and retreat to a safe distance.

Here is the chemical equation for the science nerds out there:

Mg + 2H2O → Mg(OH)2 + H2

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At first nothing happened, and hubby and I thought I'd been sold a lemon. However, a few minutes later a noxious smell began to waft towards us, accompanied by an unholy fizzing noise which became louder and louder.

We contemplated the ignominy of death by ready meal and decided to leave the kitchen until the 12 minutes warming time was up.

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And lo! the packets had stopped squealing and yes, they were sort of warm. We ripped open the foil and tipped the contents into bowls.

Looks vaguely edible, yes?

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Sadly, although the heater packs themselves were scorchingly hot, they didn't quite manage to heat the food all the way through, so we ended up having to zap them in the microwave anyway.

But I could see that if I was up Ben Nevis, this would be as good as it gets and I'd be grateful for the warmth.

After the blitzing, we tucked in. The pasta was okay, the pasta sauce quite zingy, the meatballs strangely delicious with a satisfying bounce, though bearing no resemblance to meat. The chicken casserole was less successful - stringy chicken and tasteless veg, although the gravy was saltily good.

Heck, I'd buy 'em again, even if they were £4.99 each.

SELF-HEATING goddammit.

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EDITED TO ADD: So it's snowing again. Hooray.

Also, I think I figured out why the MRE didn't heat all the way through - Wikipedia had a photo of some better instructions. Clearly it's because I failed to use a "rock or something":

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Friday, 8 January 2010

Everything You Need to Know About Michael Buble

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I only know three things about Michael Bublé.
  1. Michael Bublé's surname is pronounced "Boob-lay".
  2. Michael Bublé is addicted to pain.
  3. Michael Bublé thinks his mum is hot.
I quote:
"I looked at my mom, who was my date, and said, 'Mom, you look hot'"
That is all I know, and that is all I need to know.

12/01/10 EDITED TO ADD:

So it turns out that Michael Buble got engaged this weekend (and not to his mother) ie mere days after I published this post. Coincidence? I think not.


Monday, 4 January 2010

Burmese Cats - A Hundred Posts

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It's my 100th post! To celebrate, I'm ramping up the cute factor with a few Burmese cats.

By "Burmese cats", I don't mean Burmese cats, although maybe some of them are, because I can't really tell them apart.

By "Burmese cats", I don't mean
Birmans aka the Sacred Cat of Burma - incidentally, wtf? We're not ancient Egyptians. We don't worship cats.

Nope, I'm just showcasing some cute little fluffy kitty-cats from Burma (although that third one below looks a bit evil to me).

Feel free to imagine your own lolcat captions.


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