Category Archives: Food

Regency cosplayers, green tea cake with Dog, and a mustachioed King of All Cosmos

I’ve been meaning to make a blog post for a while and just not had the time to get around to it, so this’ll be a fairly variegated one, drawing on the stuff of the past few weeks.

Serendipity

A couple of weekends ago I was finishing up my line-edit of my Regency fantasy of manners, and I walked to Hampstead Heath with Cephas. It was a really pretty day — it’s a really pretty area, and it’s nice to be close enough to escape there when you spend the bulk of your days in the centre of town.

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We visited Keats House, which we’d been meaning to do for a while. (It’s basically just a house, and they’ve filled the rooms with pictures of Keats while also trying to keep it authentic to the period, which makes everything a bit weird because you can’t imagine that he had loads of pictures of himself in his house when he still lived there. Maybe if it was Byron House!

Anyway, if you want to visit a famous person’s house in North London I’d recommend Freud House instead. Once in a while they have a Kaffee und Kuchen tour where they give you Austrian coffee and cake and a tour, and it is delicious. But also Improving!)

After our tour of the interior of Keats House I went to sit on the lawn to work on my book, and while wrangling a particularly knotty sentence I looked up and realised I was surrounded by Regency cosplayers, present for the Keats Festival.

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Here they are demonstrating Georgian music to an interested audience. Being a Philistine in all matters musical, I quietly beredar-ed and spent the rest of the afternoon on the sunny lawn. The house is kind of boh tat, because you have to pay £5 to enter, but the gardens appear to be free and they are very pretty.

Baking triumphs

Today I applied myself to the challenge of making a green tea Swiss roll, and I am inordinately proud of the result. Behold!

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I am a great big ball of vanity. The cake itself is not too difficult — it does involve working with peaky egg whites, but I always figure with this sort of thing that either it will go well and it will rise, or it won’t go that well but the cake will still taste good. (And you can see from the pockets of air in the cake that I mixed my egg whites in with no very skilful hand.) The whipped cream is also easy to do — the recipe tells you to put but 3/4 of a tablespoon of sugar in it, so you worry that it is not sweet enough, but actually the cake is pretty sweet so together they are perfect.

What is hard, and what I worried about when contemplating doing the cake, was the purely mechanical aspect of the roll — getting the cake into that shape without breaking it or turning into a cream monster. But Cooking With Dog helped me!

I don’t know if you know Cooking With Dog? I introduced Cephas to it today and he started LOLing, to my sister’s puzzlement.

“It’s just a normal cooking show,” she said. “I watch it to see the cooking. I wouldn’t link it to my friends, it’s not funny. The dog isn’t even doing anything.”

“How can you say he’s not doing anything?” I said severely. “The dog is hosting.”

Dog was very helpful with my Swiss roll mechanics today! Thank you, Francis.

Recommendations

I started following Singaporean writer Alfian Sa’at’s Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago and feel pretty good about that as a life decision. You can follow his updates even if you’re not friended (it does, alas, require you to have a Facebook account), and it is worth the price of entry if you are at all interested in local literature. His most recent status on pantun and peribahasa (Malay poetry and sayings) referencing apes, monkeys and slow lorises is a good example — my favourite of the ones he lists is:

Seutas rotan ditarik, bergegar hutan belukar, riuh bunyi kera dan lotong

‘A rattan stem is pulled, the forest underbrush shakes, the outburst from the macaques and langurs is deafening’. If someone is guilty of wrongdoing, he or she will receive an earful from friends and relatives.

If they taught Malay literature like this at school I think people would be a lot more interested lor. (Not that I didn’t enjoy Konserto Terakhir, mind you. Surprise almost-incest always jazzes up one’s school reading!)

And a final picture

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Which requires no explanation.

Many cakey returns

It was my birthday yesterday! Some people wished me many cakey returns. It is for these people that I post the following pictures.

Cake #1: a Japanese strawberry green tea shortcake, made using this recipe + a healthy heaping of matcha. I made it myself! The advantages of this are a) you can make precisely the sort of cake you would want as a birthday cake and b) when Skyping with your parents you can lament that you are so badly off, so neglected by your spouse and all your loved ones, that it is necessary for you to make your OWN birthday cake. Alas! Alack!

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Lunchboxes and literature

I used my Aladdin bento box for the first time today! I’ve got the two-storey version, which comes with a top compartment for soups and a larger bottom compartment, into which you can slot a half moon-shaped container so you can keep your rice and cai separate. It claims to be able to keep your food warm for up to five hours (or cool if that is how you prefer it), which is convenient as we don’t have that many microwaves at work.

I put some edamame in the top compartment, along with a hardboiled egg, and filled up the bottom with kimchi fried rice, giving the rice a blitz in the microwave before I set off. It worked pretty well! The rice wasn’t quite hot, but it was warm, and edible enough. The things I will do differently tomorrow are:

  • cook the edamame in advance and chill them, because when you put them into the lunchbox immediately after cooking they get a bit soggy
  • put the spring onion for garnishing the rice in the edamame compartment and only add it to the rice just before eating, so it doesn’t get wilted by the heat
  • heat up the rice until it is EVEN HOTTER before packing it
  • put in less rice. Wah, very full after lunch today.
  • (perhaps include a piece of delicious banana bread Cephas has just made, by way of dessert)

I am going to buy myself a bento cookbook. :D Perhaps the Just Bento one? Do let me know if you’ve got any recommendations.

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You may enjoy these Notes on K. S. Maniam’s The New Diaspora in the New Village zine, discovered via hipsterbabas. (The original essay is here — I haven’t read it yet.) K. S. Maniam is a Malaysian Indian novelist and playwright, and the essay “explores the problems of internationalising community literatures, using the multicultural situation in Malaysia as a sort of model”.

I do not understand all of what Maniam is saying, and the notes seem scarcely shorter than the original essay itself lor. But what I have managed to grasp is interesting. I am doubtful about this idea of a new diaspora, an elite minority whose task is to make sense of the problems of multiculturalism and globalisation by somehow rising above its ethnic and cultural origins — but perhaps I misunderstand the argument. Anyway, it is comforting to see discussion of these issues one has been grappling with personally, feeling quite at sea.

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Today I hit 50,000 words on the novel! My aim was to hit that word count by the end of 2012, so I am a couple of days late, but eh. \o/! I really made this post just to say this, but got distracted by lunchboxes and literature.

The first draft is growing alarmingly fragmented; I am run away with some subplots and don’t know what to do with others — and I think I have written one scene at least twice. But these are things that can be fixed on the next go-round, right? We soldier on.

Zen’s Vegetarian Life

I’ve just moved in with a (mostly) vegetarian who has lower standards for food than I do, which means a) I will be doing most of the cooking and b) I guess some of the cooking will have to be vegetarian???

So to explain where I’m coming from on this — you know how families have nicknames or roles for each of the members, like one kid is the baby and one kid is the responsible one, or maybe one kid is sporty and the other is academic, or one kid is the pretty one and one is the plain one? In my family, I am the meat eater. (We all eat meat. But I’m the meat eater.)

Still, as with the other familial roles I listed, it’s something you can outgrow, and I’d say I’m probably one of the most open-minded eaters in the family now — I profoundly enjoy meat when I do have it (which is … most of the time …). But I don’t insist on having it with every meal or anything like that, or feel like I haven’t had a real meal if there wasn’t any meat in it. (Note that I am subject to the influence of, respectively, a) a food culture that finds the concept of vegetarianism so challenging that it has produced restaurants whose metier is serving tofu made to look like fish and b) a food culture that puts tiny prawns in everything. EVERYTHING. See: colorblue‘s sad experience eating instant noodles at a medan selera where nothing didn’t have udang.)

I’m unlikely to become a vegetarian, since my partner is only mostly a vegetarian and doesn’t care if I make stuff for both of us and then add steak to my plate. But I am going to try and report back on my efforts! I foresee my initial forays will be heavy on mushrooms.

Food photos below the jump, hobviously.

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