Thursday, October 27, 2011

acclimatization: food and drink edition

Today's soundtrack:
"All You Good Good People" by Embrace
"Road Rage" by Catatonia

Nothing for a month, and then two posts in a row.  You lucky people.

Over the past few months, I've tried a new recipe each week in an attempt to get a sense of British cuisine.  During the summer, I learned how to make a number of different curries and dahls.  This autumn, I've tried a couple new soup recipes.  The other week, I made my first Shepherd's Pie, but I was rather underwhelmed with the results.  I was working off of a basic recipe of meat, carrots, and potatoes.  Not a lot of flavour there.  Having never had Shepherd's Pie before, I assumed that this famous British dish is supposed to be bland, but not this bland.

Tonight's Shepherd's Pie, however, is a complete success.  I used a recipe off of the BBC's Good Food database, although I did tweak it a bit.  Not having thyme sprigs on hand, I used 1 tsp of thyme instead, and put it in alongside the tomatoes rather than with the onions.  I also used roughly 450g of ground beef, 500 mL of beef stock, and 250g dry green lentils.

The result is fantastic.  Unlike last week's inappropriate potato to meat ration, I think this version has the perfect balance.  I topped off my own portion with a bit of HP sauce.

You're drooling now, aren't you.  But wait, there's more!  Alongside these new British dishes, Miguel and I have been sampling different beers from the smaller breweries.

Broughton's "Black Douglas", "Greenmantle Ale", Wychwood's "Hobgoblin", "Wychcraft", Fyne Ales's "Highlander", and Shepherd Naeme's "Spooks"

Thus far, we've sampled the three beers on the right.  "Wychcraft" is a blonde beer and I didn't find it particularly interesting.  More interesting than a regular lager, but not exceptional.  Essentially, I'm over lagers.  Too boring.  Now, "Highlander" and "Spooks" are stronger ales, but my favourite out of the three is "Spooks".  Fantastically hoppy, "Spooks" is a more autumnal version of Inveralmond's "Ossian".

So there you have it - the perfect Shepherd's Pie and the perfect pint.  This acclimatization thing is a lot more fun than I thought it'd be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

whistling a happy tune

Today's soundtrack:
Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service

The last week I joined the local choir.

This does not explain my month-long silence on the blog, which is due to a dissertation, a conference, an impromptu trip, another conference, more dissertationing (it's a verb now), and various houseguests.

But as I was saying, last week I joined the Anstruther Philharmonic Society.  Miguel is quite happy about this, as it gets me out of the house and socializing a bit.  Getting to know people is easy when you have a workplace or get to go out on a regular basis.  When you're at home writing a dissertation, excursions are limited to weekly shops up at the Co-op, during which time you natter the ear off of the poor cashier and the whole store is glad to see the back of you, so it's a little bit more difficult to get to know people.

So, I joined a choir.

I didn't really know what to expect.  Philharmonic Society sounds quite impressive, but the East Neuk isn't exactly a booming metropolis.  Well, cast all assumptions aside.  We have quite the choir.

When I arrived at the hall, Jane MacDonald welcomed me (with this accent, I do stand out a bit), organized with the librarian for my books, introduced me to a few sopranos (of the non-New Jersey variety).  "Why don't you try soprano this week, and you can always change next week," Jane suggested. Sure.  After all, I sang soprano back in Children's Choir.  Of course, that was before I hit puberty.  Still, what could possibly go wrong?

The poor ladies I was standing beside had to suffer through my screeching in vain search of a note.  I didn't remember notes being that high.  By the end of practice I sounded like I had laryngitis.  I was pretty singing didn't used to hurt this much.

Okay then, plan b.  This week, I sat in with altos.  I hid in the back, hoping that I could pick up the tune without being too noticeably off-key.

I was not the only alto with this plan.

As we reached a part of Hummel's Mass in Eb we hadn't rehearsed before, I began to cheat off of my neighbours, pitching up and down to find whatever note we were on now.  I soon noticed, however, that my neighbours in the back row had the same plan.

There we were, pitching up and down, giving our best impression of a cat in heat as we strove bravely on through a sea of syncopated rhythms, randoms naturals, and endless runs.  Needless to say, I dug my flute out today and began practicing in earnest.

But on the meeting people end, choir is a success.  I met a woman who had not only visited my hometown, but her husband's family had spent time there in the 1880s.  I met another two women who live close by and kindly shared their reasons as to why double glazing is a terrible idea.  As I left the rehearsal last night, a kind gentleman held the door open and said "after you, Lady Mary" (re: Downton Abbey).

Honestly, there's no better way to spend a Tuesday night in the East Neuk.