alexpgp: (Default)
Alla came up with a marvelous fish-based soup, of which I consumed two bowls just now.

As I spooned the goodness into my mouth, I got to thinking of how certain people (Galina and my late stepfather come to mind) simply cannot stand cooking aromas in the house, especially aromas of cooked fish.

As for me, perhaps it is simply a case of crass sentimentality, but I recall with fondness hanging out with my grandmother and immersing myself (so to speak) in all of the wonderful smells that wafted through her kitchen when I stayed with her on weekends and for extended periods during summer vacation. If I close my eyes, I think I can still smell the exquisitely prepared budget cuts of meat that she prepared with gently caramelized onions and mashed potatoes.

It was my grandmother who taught me the rudiments of finding my way around a kitchen, without making a fuss about it. I fried my first egg under her watchful eyes. I toasted—burned, actually—my first piece of bread on a venerable folding contraption that was designed to sit over a gas burner with slices of bread carefully leaning on what was essentially a truncated wire pyramid. She didn't get upset about it; she took the burned toast and showed me how to scrape off the really charred parts so I could eat the rest.

In other news, I gave the curing fish an extra day to cure and then unwrapped the result. (And do I wish you could see the smile on my face right now!) The end product is quite tasty!
alexpgp: (Default)
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I don't know if it falls into the category of "delicacy," but I'm not at all sure I would ever want to consume kiviak, which consists of whole birds that are fermented inside a seal's carcass and is a traditional food of Greenlandic Inuits.

Then again, I may be letting my mind get in the way of my taste buds, who knows? (One thing is for sure, though: if I were visiting Greenland and were offered a taste, I'd accept.)

* * *
What haven't I had a chance to try? There's quite a list, but the thousand-day-old egg (a duck, chicken or quail egg preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for about 3 months) is probably the most memorable item on my list (only because several months ago, I deliberately went out of my way to track down and patronize a restaurant that had this item on the menu, only to learn there were no more left that day!).

alexpgp: (St Jerome a)
I may have gotten turned around somewhere on the details, but a very long time ago, my mother introduced me to ghee, which I understand to be clarified butter with all of the water boiled out of it, leaving behind a golden liquid that I love to cook with.

Ghee tends to be a pretty pricey item in most health food stores (a 16 oz jar runs for about $10 in Durango, and it's about $12, if memory serves, at the recently opened market here in Pagosa), but if you don't mind standing over a stove for about 20 minutes, you can make about that much for the price of a pound of butter (and the energy it takes to melt it and boil out the water).

The basic procedure consists in melting the butter over moderate heat and then watching it—listening to it, actually—until it stops bubbling. The cessation of bubbling means the water in the mixture has boiled away, at which point I turn off the heat and let the process continue for a minute or two. If you cooked the butter over medium heat, you do not risk burning the product by finishing it off this way.

Typically, all of the solids will have migrated to the bottom of the pot, but I use a small piece of cheesecloth to filter out the few remaning solids that refused to sink. First, however, I pour the liquefied ghee into a quart Pyrex measuring cup and prepare the ghee container (a wide-mouthed screw-top jar) by running hot water over the outside surface. Then I pour the ghee through the cheesecloth into the jar, screw on the cap, and let it sit for a little while before putting it in the fridge.

The wide-top of the jar helps in digging out the product for use in cooking, and the ghee itself gives a nice taste to the food you prepare with it.

* * *
One of the things that perennially drive me nuts about Russian is the language's seeming insistence on using formulations of the form:
Питер больше чем в два раза меньше чем Москва

[St. Petersburg] is more than two times smaller than Moscow
The engineer in me protests. It's the word "times" that does me in, I think. The word screams "multiplication" at me, but multiplying anything by a number greater than one doesn't result in a number that's smaller than what you started with.

A few moments of reflection make clear what is intended. Something that is "two times smaller" is "half the size"; "three times smaller" is "one-third the size." In a recent translation, however, I ran across something that was "1.5 times smaller," which—using the pattern of inverting the number, i.e., 2 becomes 1/2, etc.—is the same as 1/1.5, or "two thirds the size."

The example above contains an additional nuance: it says one city is "more than two times smaller," implying (for the sake of argument) "more than two and less than three," and ultimately, if you run the thought process to the end, you arrive at the following:
[St. Petersburg] is less than half the size of Moscow.
I will admit to a certain amount of laziness in the past, in going along with the "x times smaller" wording in English. In the future, unless I risk adding some kind of ambiguity into my translation, I think I will pursue the more native style of English expression.

alexpgp: (Corfu!)
The raspberry one is history. This one is for dinner tomorrow:


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