Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Month: October, 2014

The Emperor’s New Clothes

A little while ago, I dipped my toes into a cult of sorts. No, not a Tupperware party – I’ve made it through a few of those relatively unscathed. And it wasn’t one of those Chef’s Toolbox parties either (yes, been to one of those, bought a pizza stone that I never used, lugged it around for years because I spent quite a lot of money on it,  then I started using it for baking bread a year ago. Not a waste in the end, hey?) However, I’m digressing again. How unusual.

No, I went to a Thermomix party.

I’d been hearing about this wonder of German technology off and on for a few years, how every restaurant had banks of them and if I let one into my house, it would revolutionise my cooking and I’d be throwing out ALL my other appliances. Suffice to say I was pretty curious. I do like to cook a bit, and I like to bake and if this thing was as good as they said it was, well – there’s my Christmas and birthday presents sewn up for the next year or so. I was quite interested when I agreed to go to the party. Myself being the researching type of person, I did consult Mr Google and found only rave reviews (this was prior to the Great Thermomix TM5 Scandal of 2014) and could not find a single person who didn’t totally love their Thermie (or Gladys. People give their appliances cutesy names. Weird.)

Anyway, I rocked up to a friend’s place with a couple of other curious punters and the demonstration began. Firstly, this life changer was going to set me back close to two thousand dollars ($1939 for the machine, and by the time you bought the really rather excellent heating dish thingie and a couple of cook books, two gorillas will have left your care). On the sample menu was a sorbet, a beetroot dip, a risotto, dough, and lemon custard. Now, everything tasted nice, and being able to cook up all of that stuff in the three hours of the demo was indeed quite impressive. But was it worth $2K? And would a Thermomix fit in my life if I decided to save up for it?

For starters, it took up a LOT of space, yet the cooking device was quite small (only 2.2l). And noisy. Oh. My. Goodness. That thing was so loud. Even when it was making custard, it was bloody noisy. Hrrm. Ok, I don’t have the shift worker at home any more, but the noise level was ridiculous. Then there’s the time saving of the device – nothing took very long to make – but would it really make that much difference?

Of the things we made, I would be the only person who would eat risotto at my house, and while the demo suggested the risotto would take a mere 15 minutes to cook – it still needed a few minutes to dice and sort of saute the onions, then it had to sit and rest for ten or so minutes. I’m pretty sure that the risotto I make only takes about 30 minutes in total anyway. Ok, I wouldn’t have to stand over it and stir, but that’s why someone invented baked risotto. Mmmm. baked risotto. The custard was yummy, and the dough was pretty good, too.  But a teensy quantity. The bowl only holds 2l. Bread is something I make at least once a week – the recipe has just over a kilo of dry ingredients, and 750ml liquid. It’s not going to fit. Nobody at mine drinks smoothies (it’s NOT FOOD, it’s a drink) and we’re past the having to hide the vegies in the food for the offsprings. They eat more vegetables than I do.

I didn’t buy one there and then. But I still thought about it. So, I decided to slot an Imaginary Thermomix into my kitchen and see how it fit in. The only difference between a real Thermomix and my Imaginary one was that the imaginary one didn’t take up anywhere near as much room on the bench and it was way quieter. I do some kind of half arsed meal planning so I have a vague idea about what I would have cooked for a couple of weeks.

Commence Thermomix v the stuff I already have:

Sunday, I made sausage rolls. Now, while I could have used Thermomix to make the pastry, but Mr Pampas kindly makes puff pastry in sheets that are just right. The filling has a heap of grated vegies and mince. Thermy doesn’t grate. It minces. Thermy would have stayed on the bench while I got the Whizz n Chopper out and grated all the things. The rest of it requires squooshing stuff with my hands.

Monday, we had burgers. I actually made them on Sunday while I had the whizz n chopper out for the grating of the vegetables. Bought rolls and sliced all the other stuff with the mandoline. No Thermy for Monday.

Tuesday – spag bol. This is a standard Tuesday night meal, because it’s a busy night. I make it in bulk in quantities that fill a 7l slow cooker. Plus, bolognaise is about the only recipe that’s not for Thermomixes.

(Not doing so well, are we? Hrrm.)

Wednesday was parmies and veg. Yay! Something I could use the Thermy for.  I could steam the vegies and make mash. And I could make the breadcrumbs for the parmie, and the tomato sauce (I make passata myself, too) as long as I made them in advance. Planning. Not something I’m awesome at.

Thursday. Big, fat lamb roast. Yum. Roast vegies and gravy and all the trimmings. Puddin’ for dessert – I could either mix it in Thermy then chuck it in the oven, or I could mix it in the Kitchen Aid and make custard in the Thermy. Ok… not improbable.

Friday is takeaway night – we make takeaways. This Friday was pizza – I could have made the dough in Thermy, and the passata. Everything else involved cutting stuff with a knife or the mandoline. I buy grated cheese in a bag. I could have pulverised the cheese in Thermy, but it doesn’t grate (the whizz n chopper doesn’t grate cheese, either).

Saturday, we had steaks and veg. Again with the making of steamed vegies and mash in the Thermy and cooking teh steak on the barbeque.

On the weekends, I bake. As well as the aforementioned bread, I like to make breakfast crumble. I stew a heap of fruit and make a seriously thick crumble and serve it with yoghurt. Mmm. Magnificent. I could probably stew the fruit in Thermy, assuming it could cope with about a kilo and a half of fruit. And while I could make the crumble in it, I’d have to wait til it was finished stewing, wash the bowl and make crumble (butter, sugar, oats, coconut and almonds) without pulverising everything. So, I stuck to the rice cooker and the Kitchen Aid. Plus, I made muffins for lunches – I could have done them in Thermy (after the fruit finished stewing and I’d made the crumble etc), but I just mix it up in a jug. I use a whisk. Very low tech.

Now, that’s only a week of fairly standard meals at our place, but the only thing I’d really use a Thermomix for would be cooking vegetables, and making the odd dessert. We’re not fans of casserole type meals, and I’m the only one that eats curries and fancy rice dishes. Yes, it whips up a cake mix in seconds, but so does the very attractive mixer I already have. It wouldn’t get much use when we have tacos or lasagne or souvlaki from left over roast. And aside from the noisy factor, the appliance is butt-ugly and not something I’d want out on the bench all the time.

Don’t think I’ll be rushing out to drop close to $2K on a Thermomix any time soonly. It’s a glorified saucepan really! Maybe if I win tattslotto or something, I might consider one of the cheapie knock offs. Or I might look into whether the grater attachment for my Kitchen Aid will grate cheese. That’d set me back $150, which is much more acceptable to the wallet.

If my family had food allergies or if I wanted to grind my own flour and stuff, maybe I’d consider it. I also sort of wonder a bit if all the people who have laid out the loot for one of these machines don’t ever mention not loving it because hello, just spent TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS on a machine and I’d better bloody well love it.

Well.

What else have I been up to when I’ve not been allocating pieces of my mind to the reeducation of young whippersnappers? Spot of reading, believe it or not… Since I last posted about books, I’ve read THREE books. Two were new installments by old favourites, t’other was a newish find.

In no particular order, I’ve read Personal by Lee Child – this is the 19th installment in the Jack Reacher series. This time, Jack’s off to London to show those poms a bit of what for. It was one of the better ones, strangely enough. Even though it totally overstepped the bounds of plausibility on so many levels. As if the US Army would fly a loose cannon such as Mr Reacher to Paris then London to track down a sniper… Hrrm. I’ve checked a couple of other reviews of this book, and the pendulum is swinging. This is a love or hate book for a lot of people that read it.

Personally, I found it to be better written and less formulaic than the last few. I suppose there’s only so many towns someone can casually arrive in, beat the crappers out of a few people then get on the next bus out of town, so it wasn’t a bad thing that Mr Reacher left the country. (You would think in these days of the interwebs and all that, the small town police would be on to Jack Reacher by now). Plus the ‘obvious shag interest’ wasn’t. This wasn’t a bad thing at all. I mean, the actual Jack Reacher (as distinct from the small and shiny Mr Cruise) is probably quite hot in a manly kind of way, but he gets laid way more often than one would consider seemly. I digress. Not so much shagging. Only a relatively small amount of biffo and a greater reliance on weaponry, which is ironic seeing as it’s set in the UK where (mostly) only the villains have guns rather than well, just about everybody. So yeah, enjoyed it. Bit of serious couch time invested in this book, and it was a good old fashioned straight up mystery rather than secret agendas and personal politics.

Now, onto the second book…

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid is a stand alone thriller with a different detective (DI Karen Pirie –  who was in A Darker Domain as well). Now, I do enjoy Ms McDerimd’s books as a rule. She does really good slightly icky crime and decent whodunnits as well. This falls into the second category. A skeleton is found on the roof of an abandoned building, and DI Pirie and her colleagues work to find out who the body belongs to. In parallel, Maggie Blake, an Oxford don is turning 50 and she’s reflecting on parts of her life, including her younger days in the Balkans during the Balkan wars.

I didn’t mind it, but it was sort of paint by numbers. Like, I worked out who it was what was dead, *and* had a fair idea about who it was what dunnit well before the reveal. I don’t like that in a book. I want to go along for the ride, and be surprised and shocked along with everyone else when the denouement is reached. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It was well written, the characters were well rounded, the story was actually quite interesting. It was just a bit meh. Disappoint.

And the third book…

Now, this one was a wild ride. Night Film by Marisha Pessl is really trippy. I’m a fairly visual reader and generally read in full, glorious technicolour. This was black and white, with a splash of colour here and there, shaky hand held camera and everything. Sort of a cross between a David Lunch film and – not really sure what else.  It was creepy and spooky and nothing at all like Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This is a good thing because of the whole didn’t love the first half of it and didn’t start liking it until it stopped trying to be something else. Night Film, however. Not like anything else I’ve ever read. It was about Stanislas Cordova, a cult film director who had vanished from public life, and Scott McGrath, a has been hack journalist who lost his entire life after going after Cordova. This book was weird, strange, compelling, infuriating (Scott McGrath needed a couple of swift punches to the side of the head. More than once.) and so totally not putting this down-able. To the detriment of that stuff I am supposed to do on weekends… This book was good. You know how I mentioned earlier I liked being taken along for a ride – definitely the case here. And it surely was wild and exciting and peculiar, and I didn’t work it out. Even at the end, I sort of half wasn’t sure about what it was I was reading. I was disappointed to finish it, I wanted to know what happened next next.

That side of the book reminded me of American Psycho. That book was disgusting and disturbing, I couldn’t read it at lunch time, and I couldn’t read it before bed because nightmares. BUT at the end of it, all I could think was that it was all in his head. You know how some people stand away from the edge because they’re worried someone will push them in front of a train. Other people stand back from the edge because they know they’re the someone who might push someone else.

Standing up

A week or so ago, I was innocently riding my bike down the street near me, concentrating on the obvious things like not falling off and watching out for cars and small children (it was the school holidays) when a ute went past me, with the driver hanging out the window yelling something at me. I didn’t actually hear the words he said, but the tone wasn’t pleasant and honestly,  how many young idiots in utes yell nice words at fat ladies on bikes?

One of the benefits of wandering into middle age is becoming invisible to young idiots like that. So to say I was surprised and shocked by the whole encounter would be an understatement to say the least. By the time I’d collected myself he’d disappeared from view, and what would I do about it anyway? He may have been being encouraging? Anyway, I felt sort of squicky and uncomfortable all day, decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, built a bit of a bridge and got over it and as if I would ever run into him again to confront him about it anyway.

Fast forward to yesterday… I was running really late for work (damn daylight savings) and drove to work. Anyway,  all flustered (daylight savings, who’d have it) and went the wrong way out of the driveway. So, a quick detour down the next street and whadderyou know… there’s the very distinctive ute that went past me. I spent all day yesterday internally debating the whole thing about whether I should go and confront him or continue to walk away.

I’m not the most confrontational soul, and I’ll do anything to avoid an argument. But this wasn’t an argument. This was someone else going out of his way to make someone else miserable for no reason but his own amusement. I was minding my own business when he chose to yell at me, and his actions impacted on me in such a way that I was really quite upset, whereas if he’d chosen to mind his own business too – both of us would have continued to have a pleasant day.

This morning, I confronted him.

I told him he would have no idea who I was and no idea why I was there, but when I reminded him, I think he knew . Of course he denied it, then said if he did do it, he didn’t remember what he said.  I very calmly (on the outside) told him that his actions made me feel uncomfortable, he insisted he was yelling encouragement and if I didn’t hear his words, how do I know he wasn’t? One raised eyebrow from me. He didn’t continue to insist he was being encouraging. He did apologise a couple of times (to his credit), and I told him that next time he went to yell out the window at anyone, he should think about how his mum or his sister or his girlfriend would feel to be on the receiving end of what ever it was he said.

Then I continued on my way to work (still shaking like a leaf, I might add!), and if I’ve made him feel as uncomfortable as he made me feel and made him think about it for a second next time he decides it’s an ace idea to shout out the window… He’s only 19 or 20, so he’s got 60 years ahead of him of being a dick, and maybe I might have re-directed his path a smidgeon. Maybe I haven’t, but for one small moment he knew what it was like to be me.