Friday, 30 November 2007

Lidl, Lobster, Language

If you don't know, Lidl is the still point around which the world turns.

It is a ludicrously cheap supermarket, but one that manages to come up with the goods much better than that vacant monkey cage, Netto, which calls itself a budget option but in reality just sells the lowest value things like air biscuits and greasy pop and hopes you won't notice the scurvy in your fit- like rapturous throes of stinginess.

But Lidl- they have aspirations. You can imagine them sleuthing around the world for bargains, sourcing from bankrupt cherry canning operations and money launderers that use pre- packaged omelettes as a front. All sorts of unusual products and lots of strange languages on the packaging.

Untranslated labels in general correlate strongly with low cost, with the obvious aberration of those in Italian- which is done on purpose to make you think you are getting one over on the Italians who meant to hoard whatever it is for themselves. (The same fuzzy logic just doesn't work for countries that we don't have a vague conviction are guarding godlike culinary secrets). Anyway you can gau
ge the cut of Lidl's gib from one of their current offers which is a whole lobster for just £5. Here it is!

It is frozen, and opaquely packaged so there is no real way of seeing what it is like, apart from a perfectly smooth tube about 10" long. Now I know lobsters are not perfectly smooth- I am quite sure they are pretty bumpy, so I have been hoping this is just caused by frozen water, because the alternative is that this is lobster in the same sense that 'crab sticks' are really crab- in other words, I have bought a large tube of expensive mushed up sea protein.

This has been in my freezer for a couple of weeks now- today I had a friend over who would appreciate it, so today is the day. I defrost it, we open it; it is definitely a whole and real animal. A bit smaller than I would expect, as almost half the length of the packet was taken up by the claws which were arranged in a diving position over its head. It is red rather than a fresh grey, which I guess is to do with the freezing process. The same happens to frozen prawns so I don't know why I would expect any different. The movies I suppose.

We cook according to the guidelines, boiling furiously for 5 minutes. We make a garlic sauce. Then sit down on battered sofas to eat the most studenty lobster ever eaten, off our knees in lieu of table and off the same plate in lieu of plates. It takes a bit of bravery to get started, but we egg each other on....

Sigh. All that, and it is almost entirely
hollow! I wouldn't mind if it was tough and tasteless, as long as there was something there to pretend with. For potential guests to pretend with! As it were, we got maybe 2 small bites each out of it and enough garlic butter to make us feel a bit sick.

It is as if this is just the shell of a lobster, which it shed like a snake. Do lobsters do that? If no one has checked I think it might be a good idea. My meat probably crawled out and is now enjoying its big luxurious shell in a cushy restaurant tank somewhere, cackling. Don't count your chickens, Mr. Lobster...

*The image above is photoshopped, but that is my friend, and that is the crustacean in question

Monday, 12 November 2007

Eating with scissors

Who thinks spaghetti is a nemesis best countered by turning it against a spoon on the end of your fork?

Well- you're well mannered, but wrong. The solution so simple I can't believe people don't do it all the time. I feel like urban legend cosmonauts using a pencil;

1 - Just get your fork full, let it all hang down as far as you like. This is a new carefree you.
2 - Jam it in your mouth, remove fork.
3 - Chop off the excess with scissors.

There is still some slurping involved, but not enough for the spaghetti to whip around and flick stuff everywhere. So next time you have a posh do to go to...

Next; pizza. This should be easy to cut; its so thin! But it is this quality of compressive elasticity which lends it such irritating resilience, coupled with the fact that normally when cutting things up on a plate, we use a lot of 'ripping' motion without really noticing. You can't do this with a pizza because it takes up a whole plate.

Everything else that is flat you cut with scissors! I suggest in the strongest possible terms that you do the same with pizza.

In sum, if it is thin and flexible; scissors are better.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Anaerobic respiration pickling

Thanks to some guy from the internet, I am going to preserve some of my chilies by anaerobic respiration pickling, which is something like fermentation. All you do is submerge them in a weak brine for a while and they sort of create their own acidity in the form of lactic acid.

Incidentally, I seem to remember, anaerobic respiration is what happens when you sprint and have to create energy for your muscles without enough oxygen- in a sense they burn because they are being pickled.

Anyway, I'll update you on this in about 3 weeks when the fermentation is over and I can seal it.