Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Theoretical cooking in cyber space

In as far as my cooking prowess is concerned, it falls into the average category. My best dish is roast beef accompanied by crispy roast potato quarters and cooked vegetables. Let's just say I'm a basic cook - nothing fancy - down to earth type fare. Perhaps this is the reason for my attraction to cooking programs on TV. It's so easy to sit back and watch - and criticize - everyone else as they do the work turning out visually perfect dishes.

When it comes to things kitchen-related, Martha Stewart still has this area covered but there is something somewhat  disturbing about perfection in action. Watching her work methodically is in my mind, reminiscent of the females depicted in the movie, "The Stepford Wives."  For the uninitiated, the wives in the movie had the perfect demeanor, focusing their entire being to retain the consummate feminine image while keeping the ideal home and cooking up quintessential meals and retaining the perfect personna. There is something about watching her work that makes me wanna say: "c'mon Martha - show us just one little mistake" or hope to see one of her cakes that doesn't rise up as they are always prone to do. Hardly since the woman would never allow a baking glitch to be seen by the public. Martha takes the most complicated desserts to a new level. The woman doesn't care how many bowls she uses to mix her ingredients or how many baking pans she has to wash because she doesn't have to wash anything like we normals do! A bowl for her dry ingredients and then another bowl to mix her heavy cream, still another to cream her butter and so on. The bowls, baking pans and extensive, most up-to-date equipment pile up but it's doubtful if not impossible that her hands touch water or the dish washer buttons? Be that as it may, she's obtained a level of ease and perfection that's hard to dispute - darn it!

The arrival of the food and cooking networks offer viewers a plethora of interesting choices ranging from how-to genre to those with a competitive edge.

"Chopped", consisting of four chefs whose full time job is working in restaurants throughout North America competing against each other for a $10,000 prize, is a personal favorite. In three rounds from entree to dessert, the competitors cook up meals encompassing unusual ingredients or a melange of unusual mixture choices that don't usually go together. The end result of their efforts is gauged by four well-known judges, some of whom are successful restaurant owners or are recognized for their expertise in the kitchen. One chef is eliminated after each round until the final victor is declared. In describing their dishes and techniques,  fancy cooking terminology is tossed around when really, plain ordinary words would suffice. Then again, it would take away some of the mystique connected with their technique.

"I made for you today," they may explain to the judges, "an abbatis bien cuit in a chiffonade of lettuce avec frites."

It's so much more impressive than merely saying a serving of giblets of poultry winglets, well done and wrapped in lettuce with fries on the side. Too mainstream and boring.

On occasion and under a time limit, competitors misjudge the amount of time it takes to cook a dish. Rarely has anyone used a microwave oven to semi-cook a dish and hurry the process. Perhaps it's just not done but speaking as one who endorses this type of meal production, seems the logical solution. Stick in the food, press a few buttons and voila! But I digress.

After each round, the judges taste the competitor's dish followed by commentary on the appearance and overall flavor of the dish. In cooking shows as in life there are winners and there are losers and on occasion, there have been sore losers who visually express negative reaction to the judges decisions while departing the Chopped kitchen. Makes for good TV.

Some might call him bombastic, loud and he definitely has a way with words most of which are bleeped out, but one thing that can be said about Gordon Ramsey is that he's a showman. Why chefs allow themselves to be put through the ringer in front of a TV audience on the "Hell's Kitchen" show and be insulted by Ramsey is a mystery. Presumably they're hoping that by being part of his circus, they will earn a place on his staff at his many restaurants located throughout the world. Even more interesting is that he is treated with hallowed reverence as he screams profanities at them and insults their cooking techniques. Most likely he would have most people in tears, at least me anyway, within the first five minutes. It does, however, make for an interesting show if one keeps the volume down.

Although I've rarely watched the show, the host of "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives", Guy Fieri is the personable host who roams the U.S.A. and beyond, in his search to find the hidden gems in the form of small eateries. Over time, he has acquired a loyal following of viewers who seek out regular, dishes following familiar home-style recipes. At the end, Guy digs in juice and gravy dripping down his chin as he offers his unabashedly positive opinion critiquing the dish while wiping it away liquid with a napkin. Guy is mister everybody who enjoys plain, good cooking.

When it comes to baking cakes, "The Cake Boss" has this area sewn up. As the owner of Carlo's Bakery, the affable Buddy Valestro and his group of able assistants has turned his aptitude for baking and turning out exquisite and definitely complicated cakes into an art. Most impressive, at least in my eyes, are the way he creates huge cakes to fit the taste and requirement of his clients that come to him with complicated requests, all of them filled and then some. Watching him ice cakes with ease while carrying on an easy-going conversation, it's like he's actually communicating one-on-one with viewers, showing them how it's done. Don't I wish!

Really, there's a show to fit every taste ranging from designer cupcakes, candy concoctions...you name it, chances are somebody somewhere has a TV show focusing on that particular aspect of cooking. Too bad they haven't created smells to accompany the meals but give them time, chances are somebody will come up with that one day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Young 6-year old boy gets suspended for kissing girl's hand. Say what?

Really, I don't know what's going on in schools these days and more to the point, the thought process that goes through some people's heads.

It's obviously not easy being a school teacher or administrator these days especially when it comes to enforcing disciplinary regulations covering student behavior within the school environment. All students have to abide have a certain decorum within the classroom and on occasion, the system is tested to the point of ridiculousness.

Take for example the case of a 6-year old Colorado boy who was suspended from class for kissing a fellow female student's hand. Really.

According to the boy's mother, since the boy had been suspended before for kissing the same girl's hand, it's being construed as sexual harassment. Two hand kisses is obviously one kiss too many.

The boy, for his part, says that he has a crush on the girl and she likes him back and the offending kiss took place during class while in a reading group.

During the meeting with the school principal, the mother of the kiss-er was shocked when the term "sexual harassment was brought up during the meeting.

C'mon people! Sexual harassment over a hand kiss, by a 6 year old student, in class no less? Gimme a break! We're not talking here about a student bringing a weapon into class or a physical confrontation. The offending act was a buss on the hand.

The suspension was due, according to a school official, because of a policy against unwanted touching. So readers of this blog, what do you think about the boy's suspension? Is it justified or political correctness gone awry?

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Gifting for a true love during the 12 days of Christmas - definitely not for the budget conscious

Right now as many holiday shoppers are shaking their heads in trepidation at the cost of buying and finding those unique gifts for the special people in their lives, a solution could be at hand within the lines of a well-known song. The song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" contains a plethora (love that word!) of options for people who want to be different when it comes to gifting for their true loves.

PNC Wealth Management has released a list of what it would cost gift purchasers to duplicate the contents of the 12 days in 2013.

- a/one partridge in a pear tree: $199.
About this type of arrangement, why would a partridge want to live in a pear tree, anyway? Why not on the ground where there is food aplenty? According to the RSPB, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who should know about partridges, partridges are ground birds and "never likely to be found in a pear tree." Be that as it may and going by romantic advice offered in the song, what about winter arrangements when the snow falls and covers the pear tree and the bird? A contingency arrangement would have to be made to build a shelter or perhaps keep the tree indoors in the garage. Then there's the issue of having to clean the feathers... But I digress.

- two turtle doves: $125
Definitely for the bird aficionado and the romantics who enjoy listening to their never-ending coo-coo...coo...which can drive a person cuckoo after while

- three French hens: $165
Just wondering why French hens, anyway, and not, say, North American species? According to Wiki, "The Faverolles is a French breed of chicken. The breed was developed in the 1860s in north-central France, in the vicinity of the villages of Houdan and Faverolles. The breed was given the name of the latter village and, therefore, the singular is also Faverolles, not Faverolle. ..." Do they crow with a French accent, one wonders. My advice to hen buyers is buy local. But I digress...again.

- four calling birds (do they use cell phones, one ponders once more): $599.96
According to www.1000birds.com, calling birds are actually "colly birds" or in Britain where the song originated, black birds. Perhaps further thought is in order when gifting a true love with your everyday, common blackbird, even they are an interesting specie. I mean, what would one do with four blackbirds hanging around the house, although they could be used as a one-up to friends:
"Hi blah-blah. Guess what my true love gave me. Four blackbirds. Want one?" You get the idea.

- five gold rings (no indication of the number of carats) $750.
Jewelry is always a favorite and five gold rings especially with a/some big diamond(s) is always a welcome and nice gift.

- six geese a laying: $210
As in geese in the act of laying eggs or perhaps merely hanging out and laying around in the sun on a river bank  - or perhaps given that it's the holiday season, nicely browned on a platter along with roast potatoes and veggies...

- seven swans a swimming: $7,000
In checking out the price per swan, swans are definitely on the luxurious side and go anywhere from $1,040 for your white mute swans up to $3,770 for your coscoroba swan, according to www.purepoultry.com. Presumably - pure speculation on my part - they would be purchased for the person who owns a pond or at the very minimum, a private pool specifically for them. I mean, one wouldn't want to swim in a pool where geese have...well...you know... But I digress - once again.

Moving right along...

- eight maids-a-milking: $58
Although this has a religious connotation and as an aside, e-Bay has Limoges plates with images of 8 milking maids beginning at $15. Just thought people who want to duplicate the twelve day milk maids concept would want to know. It's easier to find a plate than eight hard-working maids who would want to give up some spare time milking cows.

- nine ladies dancing (per performance): $7,552.84
Perhaps - once more pure speculation on my part (big on speculating) - this could be referring to a chorus line - maybe even the Radio City Rockettes - who could visit the recipient at home and entertain. Imagine the impact of having a chorus line show up at a house party.
"Oh look, Felicia! Blah-blah has a chorus line to entertain us! How different- and they keep in step!"
 For those on a budget, nine dancing ladies could most likely be hired at a cheaper rate from a local dance school, where they might be convinced to throw in a few lessons.

- ten lords-a-leaping: $$13,373.35
Another expensive acquisition. The big question and issue here is how to convince a lord to assume the role of Christmas gift and one that would agree to leap is another issue altogether.
"Hello Lord Blah-blah? I have a favor to ask of you. Could you and some of your lord friends hop a plane and fly over to (insert geographical location) and do some un-lordly leaping around?"
No wonder the cost is so high what with the cost of plane travel, accommodations and then then the actual performance, not to mention health insurance to cover leap-related accidents.

- twelve drummers drumming: $2,855

Prices for the 12 day gifts have gone up as is the case with most items these days. Then again and given the total cost being $39,762.61, maybe your true love would settle for a one of. It's worth a shot.