Handy Cooking Tip – The Spice of Life

I like spices. I say that even though I have a lot more of them, then I’ll ever use.

Take pepper for example. I must have 6 different jars of pepper. Ground, White, Whole, and colored peppercorns. Those are some of them, but why is it that I can only find Ground pepper in a glass with the biggest holes on the planet? Even though I try to use it sparingly, it comes out like the soup was called “Pepper Soup”. Sometimes the family asks, “Uh, isn’t there a bit too much pepper?”, “Nope, just enough!”, I say as I hide my holey jar from sight. I’ve considered buying just one, and tossing the others, but then we do need to do our part in combating food waste! Even if it is pepper.

Cinnamon is one of those spices which gets a lot of use in our kitchen. I purchased one of those giant, large-kitchen sizes in our local wholesale-like store. It takes up the same space as 6 jars of pepper, if I could find them that is. My Wife uses it on pancakes, and I make cakes with it too. Luckily it is written in 4 languages which allows me to learn new things as I go.

The one disadvantage that I have over others is that my Wife is a Dane. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known about that part for years, but it does make it more challenging with our spices. I prefer English, but she prefers Danish. Those little known spices like Muscat or, Hjortetaksalt, might seem like a piece of cake for some of you, but I don’t feel safe in that part of the kitchen without using a Danish-English Dictionary, a chair and a whip.

I have this IKEA kitchen you see, which makes life easier for some people, but what about me? I have spices on 3 levels and added to that, IKEA makes squarish canisters which can be used for those smaller portions of spices and the like, which are in leaky bags held together with clips, rubber bands and the like. Easy, nope! Now I need to open each canister in order to see what is in there. Pepper, nope wrong again, but it was a good guess, all the same. I thought of labeling them, but then what if someone took the last portion of Timian and failed to cross the name out? I’d have to start over again, each time I looked for those darn peppercorns for my next batch of soup.

One thing, next to pepper with the big holes, that I know I can find each and every time, is Chili. No one seems to touch it, and that is just fine by me. It’s kind of like having my computer out in the garage, where no one wants to be, except for me that is. Chili and the garage are the last vestiges of my domain, my Kingdom, as it were.

I would advise you to use those spices sparingly, so your guests/family won’t want to collect any or all of the local fast-food advertisements, rather than take a chance on your darkish, strong tasting soup. Take a chance, be a man, and throw out those spices that you never seem to use, or can read the labels on.

You might just want to make up a back-up box of your Manly, throwaways just in case your Wife discovers that you’ve tossed her family heirloom spice jars, which her deceased Grandmother gave her as a child with none other than antique Hjortetaksalt in them.

Just to be on the safe side, that is…

ikeaskab kanelpepper

Handy Cooking Tip – Crossover Cooking Appliances

I’ve found the perfect way to save money and make everyone, including my Wife, happy in the kitchen.

mixer mixer2

On the left is my Wife’s expensive Kitchen-Aid mixer, on the right is an alternative, cheaper, crossover appliance, while still being a Name brand.

The mixer on the right can perform the same functions as the one on the left. It can mix, using variable speeds, it can even run in reverse, allowing sticky flour and the like to exit the mixing tool, thus making cleaning easier ( I would though advise that you exercise caution when using this reverse function).

Remember this handy tip the next time you happen to burn out your Wife’s beloved mixer when using it incorrectly (see blog on incorrect use of Wife’s Kitchen-Aid blender while making Hummus), and you might just save your marriage as well.

Proper Knife and Fork Etiquette in Europe – Part 2

If any of you remember where Part 1 left off, I’ll start off by repeating the last and very most important point of the whole blog:

That picture, number 3, was the basis for all eating life here in Europe. Look at the following picture:

plate-3

Now consider this photo:

plate-4

Now for the most part, this photo is similar to the first one, with one major difference. If you’d like to consider this difference, I can go out to my Wife and strike up a short, but witty conversation about the lower forms of higher pond life, which usually gets some sort of response from her.

Now, the last photo shows the basic position which is correct, but the addition of a roll of paper towels, although handy in messy eating situations, is a true Faux Pas, or false step. At this point if you are at a typical Danish Party with the festivities going their usual way towards wreck and ruin, your Wife might make some sort of comment likening you to your deceased, but at one time, noisy and boisterous Father, and how you are becoming just like him, talking loud and the like. I find it to be difficult if not impossible to carry a conversation, or at tune as the case might be, at those kind of parties. When everyone has reached that point of extreme happiness, someone decides to turn up the volume on the already high music, thus rendering any and all conversation to be either impossible or at the famous ”near your Father” level.

I quickly removed the paper towels, but my Wife didn’t have a better alternative, which meant that we couldn’t wouldn’t dare eat incorrectly and embarrass ourselves in front of our neighbors and friends, who wouldn’t know you from Adam (and Eve) at this point in time. I might point out that they too might have been eating messily, but no one decided to point out that fact, which had been known to ruin friendships, and marriages to boot.

If we had been at home, and a similar situation occurred, then I would propose the following alternative:

plate-5

Now the placement of the proper napkin is on the correct side and in a correct form. Some might want to place this item under the plate, but I haven’t worked out all the details as yet. The motif might not suit everyone, especially during a Summer Party, but when push comes to shove and your special Danish-steak-surprise-sauce is dribbling down your party shirt – which your wife just might have chosen for you, because being a man and an American man, you might realize that all of your taste is in your mouth, and in choosing your shirt for you, your significant other just might save you from embarrassment at the hands of your neighbors.

I must point out that I have made yet another Faux Pas with the placement of the spoon, la cuillere in French, on the left-hand side, when all other cultured people know that it/they should reside on the right-hand side of the knife!

Here are some utensils for you to practice on proper etiquette at home. Note: it requires you to print an example of the above drawing, and cut it out with scissors. I would not be furthering the proper etiquette, if I didn’t make this teaching step-by-step, so a simplification is necessary at times.

utensils

I have purposely not shown the proper placement of the utensils for fear of making yet another Faux Pas, which again would show my ignorance and crudity in the instruction of something that I have no knowledge of what so ever!

I’ve just taken a new photo showing the proper usage of the fork- la fourchette, the knife-le couteau, and the spoon, la cuillere in French if you’ve forgotten!

IMG_20150914_220628plate-5

Now you can see the correct positioning in the left photo, as opposed to the right.

The actual distance is not the most important part here, but some of you purists, might want to show off by using your metric and, or English measuring tape and putting things right as it were!

This blog is slowly but surely sliding into number 3, but not before we cover the last point of a most important addition to your proper etiquette: The Napkin. The Napkin or Serviette in French, and also in Danish, adds to the flavor and spice of your table setting. I have used Sanity Claus to show one of the many examples of decorating the most drab of all placements. Here are a few more:

IMG_20150914_220607

Married to a Dane, means never having to say no to a Serviette with a Christmas theme on it, no matter what month your Summer Party happens to occur in…..

and just remember, Napkins (late 14th century from French through Latin) from ”Nape” a tablecloth.

(Source: Online Etymology Dictionary)

Remember Part 3 is surly on its way, and it will disclose truths that some might say were better left hidden in the sands of time.

Remember too, if you are not an European, then you will most likely never get it right, no matter how many blogs I write on the subject.

Just so you have nothing to look forward to….

The End of an Era – The Death Throes of the Danish Car Industry

It has survived it competitors, the Volvo and the Volkswagen. It made it through the many worldwide recessions, only to raise its head time and again, but this time, I’m afraid that the Danish Lion has uttered its last roar!

Car enthusiasts are in mourning today. The world famous Danish Car Industry is running on empty, after 70 glorious years on the market.

Car clubs that usually sport Trabbis from East Germany or, American Cadillacs, Mustangs and Corvettes, will soon be highlighting the once mighty Danish models: The Danmobile, The Jutland Jeep and the Zealand Devil. Then there were the special edition cars such as the Viking Destroyer with its curved horn technology, and the Classic Copenhagen Convertible with its accented tone and haughty demeanor.

Part of the blame must lie upon the more aggressive German models such as the Achtung and the Raus. These cars posed a dangerous threat to the Danmobile with its 2-pedal combustion, and modified cardboard chassis. The many lawsuits brought about by the flawed construction of the Danmobile came to be known as “The accordion bends”. This affliction was caused by the Danmobile’s inability to maneuver through heavy traffic situations, where the sides of the cars were subjected to what became known as “cardboard fatigue” brought about by the less than environmentally friendly cars with their metal exteriors.

Even local petitions made to the Danish Parliament failed to obtain necessary funding to keep the Car Industry afloat. The reasoning was simple: Just as the American Government tried and failed with bail-out attempts to save the Ford Edsel and the De Lorean, the Danish Government wasn’t about to divert funds from key projects as smoking rooms for Danish parliamentarians, and much needed infrastructure on the Island of Zealand.

“More bridges and Less taxation” became the slogan for the financially challenged citizens of Copenhagen, who saw the saving of the Danish Car Industry to be a waste of time and money. This frustration reached a boiling point when local protesters, dressed as Vikings, filled a number of Danmobiles with tea and dumped them into the nearby sound.

It will also be a challenge for collectors of Classic Danish Cars to obtain spare parts. It might even result in a red-white underground market, as the term “black” would never be used for the Danish People who are known as “The Happiest People on Earth”.

I, for one, will mourn the local favorite, “The Jutland Jeep” with its classic trailer hitch, showing the rest of the country what is most important for Jutlanders! With its locking hubs and 4-wheel drive, it was designed to traverse the arid Danish Desert and climb to the pinnacles of the mighty Danish Alps.

I would proudly own one, placing it in my backyard where it could live out its days in rusty peace, as the taxes concerning its registration and upkeep are equal to the feeding and clothing of my 7 children until they (hopefully) fly the coop at age 18.

So as the Danes would say, “på gensyn”, which means “Until We Meet Again” as saying Goodbye is just too final a word, for this once mighty industry!

Handy Cooking Tip – Using Chili Wisely

When using Chili in recipes, I’ve found the following tips to be rather handy:

  1. Familiarize yourself with Chili’s many names: Red, powdered, jalapeno, very damn hot, and grounds for divorce are some common names for the layperson.
  2. Do not be tempted to rub your eyes while working with Chili. This might cause you painful distress, or the incorrect addition of more chili in current recipe, due to temporary blindness ( a good excuse for reason number 4).
  3. Do not use Chili as a tool of revenge. Having misunderstood that “No” really meant “No”, is not a good reason for ending your relationship on a spicy-note.
  4. Chili containers sporting a skull and crossbones should not be taken lightly. This is usually a sign of warning, poisoning, or fatal death. This symbol should make it evident to you, that it’s time to swallow your pride and buy those new glasses, before your entire family is found lying on the floor, with stiff limbs and glassy eyes, after making your famous “Chili Surprise”.

More handy Cooking Tips to come!

Going to Heck in a Handbasket

Le Porc est degoutant!

My Parents belonged to a strange religion. Some people might argue that all religions are strange in one way or another, but I can only speak for myself. The Russian Group of Believers was called “The Molokans” which translates to “milk drinkers”. I have only  had a superficial relationship with these people, but my Sister, if she becomes brave enough one day to write her own blog, had along with her husband, more than enough contact with “The Molokans” to fill many books, only later to be filed in the “Crazy” section of the library.

They, The Molokans that is, followed a lot of the Old Testament (read Bible), including the strict enforcement of the food laws. No Pork, or fish without fins and other normal, crazy kind of a thing rules and regulations applying to all Molokans.

Our neighbors, who also were Molokans were once caught in an unpleasant situation. They were eating canned beans for dinner, when they suddenly read the label. The beans were processed with, or contained Lard, which is also known as Pig-fat. They proceeded to wash our their mouths many times, and then having to brush their teeth until the deed was done. Think of it, ending up in Heck, just because you ate the wrong type of beans!

My Parents adhered to these food laws, even though others  outside of the Molokan Community might think them to be rather strange. It wouldn’t be so, if they had been of the Jewish Faith, as they too were involved with that Old Testament kind of thinking. My Father in later years wrestled with some renegade tendencies, announcing that Bacon was all right to eat. He liked to eat Bacon you see, but he still feared that he would end up Going to Heck in a Handbasket. There are products that call themselves “Bacon” but are not to be confused with the Real Thing- handbasket-wise. Turkey Bacon can be found, but if you really want your cholesterol numbers to soar, then it’s best that you hold onto the real thing!

I once attended a church camp one summer in California. We were driven up to a place called Hume Lake, where we could be humiliated by our friends, feel like dying was the only way out of being at Church Camp, and accepting Jesus as our personal savior, which is a real package deal, let me tell you. The Molokans were fed “special” food which meant that it was without those bad, bad things related to “heck in a handbasket”. It ended up that we ate a lot of Oatmeal and Corn Flakes while the other tormenting, bullying children were guffing down Bacon and Eggs for breakfast. I, of course, wanted to do the right thing, by my Parents and God, which meant that I followed the advice of the Church Elders and half-starved with the rest of my buddies.

Back home and a few years later, my Parents did the right thing by each other getting a divorce. I still don’t remember if my Mother, breaking the bonds of “That ol’ religion” and beginning to eat Pork, but the release from our old Church was evident. My Father on the other hand, was still fighting his devils by not eating those forbidden products, only perhaps still secretly eating Bacon then hitting his head against the bedpost, or the wall, just like Dobby the House Elf did so often in the Harry Potter books.

I had a hard time going over to the other side, which meant that a lot of those early memories still haunt me today. My sisters, on the other hand, never once looked back to the old ways, meaning that they had chosen the path of so many other Americans, dooming themselves to separation from Big-G until the end of time.

I had a good friend who in a surfer-like way told me: Hey Dude, That’s sooo Old Testament-like, When Little-J came along, he abolished that old stuff. Dude! He had also told me that religion was man’s way, and Big-G and Little-J were the real way to be. I have refrained from mentioning their real names, in case that this blog becomes to offensive to all otherwise non-believing, agnostic type of readers!

I wish I had been learning French back then, as being able to use language in real situations really helps to make those funny terms stick in your mind.

Le Porc est degoutant!

The Pork is disgusting!

Which would have warmed the cockles of my Russian Grandmother’s heart, if she had heard me denouncing the Devil’s food in that way! It could be that she could speak Russian and English, but not French as I recall.

The point is that we have come full circle with this blog, beginning and ending with Pork.

I guess in all fairness and with respect to my Father, I should dedicate the last lines in this blog to him. They might sound something like the following, remembering for you to use Google Translate, if the final message is in any way unclear:

Le Bacon est délicieux!

Jigsaw Puzzles – filling in the holes in our memories

My sister and I love to make jigsaw puzzles. It doesn’t matter to us, how many pieces there are, 500, 1000 …we aren’t picky. The picture is also not that important. If it were ‘subjunctive’ my wife, she would start by finding and fitting all of the edge pieces. My kids, on the other hand, would ask what they could start with, “I’d choose some colors, or patterns, but stay away from the sky pieces, or if there is a lot of buildings or the like.” They aren’t convinced, and give up after a while.

My sister and I start by turning over all the pieces, then choose where we would start. My brother in-law soon grew bored with watching us, and went to bed. We start to talk about this and that. It could be our current lives, or our shared past, which we’ve had together in many different ways.

We started in the same house, in the same city in the same State, California. When she got married and moved into her own house, I’d come to visit her. I did yard work and other odd jobs, she watered her tropical plants, and talked about moving to a small town. At night we’d work the puzzles once again. I’m not sure, but it seems like those puzzles kept us together, even though we were apart in time and space.

When she moved to that small town, I came to visit her. Now we worked puzzles again, in each others company, just in a new house, in a new town, but still in California.

When  I finally moved farther away then we could drive to each other, the puzzle making stopped, at least for a while. She eventually came to Denmark to visit me and my wife. We still found time to work a few pieces into their slots, even though her visits were short-lived. I was also in the States, a long time ago, and we did puzzles at that time too.

It’s funny how after so many years and a whole Continent, an Ocean – The Atlantic and a part Continent- the European, all the way to Denmark, lie between us now.

5242 miles /8437 kilometers, as the crow flies, that is. That’s how far it is between our puzzle adventures.

distance ds to aalb70

I still think about her when I see my jigsaw puzzle boxes, sitting all alone on the shelf.

I think about how it is late at night, rather early in the morning,  1-2 am, and we’re still sitting there, opposite each other, turning those pieces around until they fit/seem to fit. There was always a piece or, three that fell down on the floor. We were unable to find those guys, no matter how much we looked, not that is until the puzzle was almost finished, then they turned up miraculously, as if they had been there all along!

The puzzle pieces were sort of like our memories of the past, I had some of them and my sister did too. We tried turning them around in our minds trying to fit the holes in our memories. We would come to some sort of conclusion, albeit it was some sort of unspoken agreement on the details of which we had forgotten. I’m not sure if my other sisters would have agreed on our conclusions? A lot of our conversations had them as the topic, which made them unsuitable in adding to the truth of the moment.

A low rumbling noise emanated from the bedroom. “The bear is restless”, commented my sister. I reply, “You could just work the puzzle with me, until we finish it off”. “No, I have to go in there sooner, or later”, she says,  thus wishing me  a Good Night.

Now I am alone with my memories and an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. The house has gone silent with just the occasional sound of sleeping bears.

I’d like to finish the puzzle, but it won’t let me do so.

– Now, just where are those missing pieces?