CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

The Tale of the Mystery Marrow

Portelas PotatoesA couple of weeks ago, a neighbour brought me a huge sack of potatoes - fresh, straight out of the ground. There's about twice the amount I would normally buy at once, so to avoid waste, I'm making meals that focus on them.

With them, were two bottles of local, home-made wine. Those can be added to the two that the man who comes to tend the vines in my backyard gave me, another two that my next door neighbour gave me and several that my landlady gave me at Christmas. The irony is that I don't drink. Can't drink. Maybe it is some sinister trick of pre-menopausal witchery (i.e. my age), but I can't even take a small sip without getting a headache.

Ah, but I can cook with wine OK, so I'm kinda having a run on stews into which contain large amounts of potatoes cooked in even larger quantities of wine! The wine goes into the pot first and I boil off the alcohol, leaving only the flavour.

These dishes are ideal for cooking up a large amount at once (usually, I do enough for five portions), which I then serve out into plastic containers that go in the fridge. I get a decent, home-cooked lunch every day, but I have only had to cook once. Not only is this less effort, it uses less energy (gas/electric). If I can really organize myself into action, I try to do this on a Monday, so that it also frees up my time to do other things during the week.

Recently, while I was out, a marrow appeared, mysteriously, which I found hanging in a bag outside my door. One of the local specialities where I live is potaje, a hearty soup/stew, which is based around chick peas (garbanzo beans), potatoes and various varieties of "greenery", like cabbage or Swiss Chard. I didn't see why it couldn't also be done as a marrow variety and I was right. It ain't fancy food, but it is filling and the combination of the wine and the marrow give it enough - and actually very a pleasant - flavour.

So, last night I put a half kilo pack of garbanzos in to soak and this morning I cooked them. 

You can cook only as many as you need and that these garbanzos will keep in the packet, but it is a lot of work (just remembering to soak them in time, is enough), so I tend to cook the whole package at once.

Half of the cooked garbanzos go back into the stew and, with the other half, I made a bowl of hummus. Voila! That's afternoon tea taken care of for the next few days too. :) (Fortunately, I have a small loaf of fresh, crusty bread delivered to the door every morning.) My quick and easy recipe for hummus:

Ingredients:
About a quarter kilo of cooked garbanzo beans
4 cloves of garlic
A pinch of course sea salt
About a cup of olive oil

Method:
Throw the lot into a liquidizer or food processor. Pulverize until creamy.

If you don't always have lemon, tahini or any of the other things mentioned in the usual recipes to hand, it doesn't matter. Mine is based on an old Spanish recipe and it didn't call for them either. The salt is important though, or it tastes like soap! :)

Wasting nothing (even the dog seldom gets scraps from me), after I'd peeled the potatoes to go into the stew, I fried the skins in olive oil until golden, sprinkled with sea salt and served them as a starter with ali-oli (garlic mayo).

Because of the gifts of the potatoes, wine and marrow, I now have healthy, ready home-cooked meals (achieved with very little effort, because most of the cooking was unattended simmering too), for the next few days for little more than the cost of the garbanzos: 80 Euro cents (50 pence/about a dollar).

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Is this the definition of a placid dog?

Number one rule to avoid boring blog visitors ... Don't talk about your cats and dogs! Yeah, I never did go much on following rules. Just a small thing that happened today, but it did strike me as cute. This is the dog whom locals think is a "dangerous breed" ...

Came back from the store with a bag of snacks this afternoon: just puffed corn thingies that are really no more than fresh air with flavorings, but dog likes them and so we share a bag once a month.
It's a game too, because I throw them at all different angles and she gets training that would hold her in good stead, should she ever make the selection for the soccer team, as goalkeeper!

Just recently, Balu has developed a taste for crisps (chips in the colonies) and snacks too and he begs for them worse than the dog.

He's incredibly brazen about it too, because he plonked himself on the corner of my chair, between me and the dog. Or, put more precisely, between the dog and the food, which, you can imagine, could be a very dangerous place to be.

Especially, because when I say that I throw these things up at all angles, that is not entirely deliberately: I'm simply a rotten thrower and they just go all over the place. Ask Holly about the time I threw a stick and hit her on the head.

(She considers me too dangerous for stick throwing games now!)

Anyway, to get back to the snacks. So, I threw one in the air for the dog and it landed short, on the cat. I expected the dog to get it and eat it - both the cat and the snack probably - because it was only inches from her snout.

But no, the cat got it first and the dog just ignored it. Sat back down and waited patiently for the next one to be thrown.

Have you ever ...? A dog NOT grabbing at food seems way beyond polite and incredibly placid for a supposedly "killer dog", don't you think?

Friday, 9 June 2006

Dangerous People

As several sites have reported today, a woman was killed in Tenerife on Wednesday night, when her son’s American Staffordshire Terrier attacked her. I wasn't aware that Staffordshire had been moved to America and another report had called it a pit-bull. Probably kept for intimidation, whatever it was.
I'm sure the story has also been doing the rounds of the press and the TV and, no doubt, with all the usual sensationalism about "dangerous breeds".

Obviously, we don't know the full circumstances - and I am not insensitive the fact that the owner has lost both his mother and his dog - beyond that the son was arrested on charges of reckless homicide, as he had not registered the animal as potentially dangerous. (Though I fail to see how registration would stop the animal doing what it did in it's home.) Nevertheless, people here have an atrocious reputation over how they treat their animals.

In 14 years on this island, I have yet to see anyone here, other than English or German expats or those with Canarian hunting dogs (then only when hunting), who ever take their dogs out for exercise.

Most dogs are kept in small spaces, most often on short chains, eating sleeping and shitting in the same 4 foot radius, 24/7. Then the owners wonder why these animals go crazy! Duh!

But, thanks to ignorance and helped by the media, people carry on thinking that there are dangerous dogs, where, in truth, there are only dangerous owners.

As I was out walking my dog this afternoon - no way is she dangerous and she was under control, on a lead which I pulled in close to me as I had to pass what I can only call a pair of "mal educados" (Rednecks).

As I approached, they began talking loudly in disapproving tones, at the air in general, but with clear inference in my direction, about how someone was killed "dangerous dog". Honestly, they didn't have the balls to address me directly, but they had to get their 2 cents in.

Holly merely sniffed in the direction of the guy's wheelbarrow, while passing, not even within arm's reach of him, but he immediately made melodramatic hand waving actions to shoo her off. The stupid thing is, of course, that if they did that to an uncontrolled and untrained dog, then they would get their hand bitten. And it would be their own fault, not the dog's, but, of course, they just can't see it.

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