31.7.10

4d3d3d3.



I think I've picked up some kind of vegan spongiform problem. I'm seriously thinking about how to make "meatballs" out of ground flaxseed and kohlrabi. I got the idea here.

I've tried using flaxseed before, a couple of times actually, but, yeah, it never "did what it was supposed to," and I think I now know why. Umm...you're supposed to grind them first. Yeah, nobody told me. Or, someone did tell me and I just thought they were adding an extra step.

After doing the research I should've done initially, I've determined that most people seem to grind theirs dry, in a coffee grinder, but by doing this they're totally missing out on a superfun science experiment. Take a tablespoon of flaxseed and soak it in 3 tablespoons of boiling water for 10 minutes. Then process that mix in a food processor. What you end up with is an amazing, gross, gelatinous alien goo, like if brown okra was made of sticky brown rice flour and tasted like unshelled sunflower seeds. And yet, I ate it. Salt helped.

It's possible that those Swedes are on to something, though. I bet if you mixed this flax goo up with something relatively appetizing, sure, like potato, but I was thinking more like cauliflower or kohlrabi, and fried that up...it might be OK. Or at least it would probably be cool-looking. And, most importantly: it would be on my diet. Maybe I try tomorrow.

Oh, here's the funny thing. After I loaded up on flaxseed, I went out in the hallway and saw that the painters have taken the windows off our bathroom (to be painted). Foreshadowing? Or just good, solid home safety?

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THE MORNING AFTER: I had an incredible sleep last night. So incredible that when I woke up I Googled flaxseed and sleep and ended up here. Seems to be some kind of, whatcha callit, correlation (I'm sure that's not what you call it).

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brassica monkey.












Above: €0.75 worth of kohlrabi, my new favorite vegetable, ready for roasting.

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Again, we have the uncomfortable juxtaposition of "written" entries with "brief notes", let's call them. I just think that's the way it's going to have to be.

Dus, briefly: I feel...better today. My body still knows that it's missing some things it normally has, but my middle section is much happier than it's been. Not perfect, but trending smaller, so that's preferable. I did some tweaking on my inputs, so I'll assume that's the cause.

Things I added: more water; lots of roasted kohlrabi; a probiotic pill for restoring intestinal flora; flaxseed; prunes; unfiltered apple juice.

Things I subtracted: valerian; red cabbage and tahini (:-<); olive oil before bedtime.

Don't know who's responsible for what, but...thanks.

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30.7.10

macro.













Above is a picture of the best pen in the world, the PaperMate Nylon Tip, Black. For the last 5 years, we have had exactly two of them in the house, a house that contains something on the order of 800 pens, I'm not kidding, and keeping track of My Two Pens has been a constant source of enjoyment.

So last week, while I was placing an order online at the office supply store, which I never do, Mara usually does, I had what they call an a-ha moment. I wish you could have seen my face. I looked up from the laptop with my eyes open wide, sparkling, my mouth opened in a bashful, toothy smile, and I turned towards the window.

The sun came out from behind the clouds at that moment and shone through my drawn curtains (not sure how), and glinted off of my one large tooth there in the front (embellishment), and I said aloud in a wonder-filled and slightly lispy whisper: "Pens. I'm going to buy more pens. More PaperMate Nylon Tip, Black pens. The best pen in the world."

And so, I did. I now have 14 in total, same as my teeth. Life is Good!!!

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Been a couple days since we talked about blogging personas and TMI...ehhh, what's this topic actually called? Someone must know. That's one of the problems with only having 8 readers, your resources are pretty limited when you just shout out a question like that. Answers don't come quick.

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I talked to my mom on Wednesday or something, and during our phone call I re-recognized something that I knew already (English word for this please? Silence again. OK, suit yourselves) but it made a new sense in the context of this week's discussions.

Also in that context, I thought I'd point out that this post is already making me uncomfortable, alarms are already going off: "Perimeter breach! VDuck is going outside the lines!" In this case, not because I'm revealing something about myself, but about her. Several things, even. And, you know...we don't normally do that!

I probably should have warned her. Luckily, she's one of the 8 loyal readers, so she can have her legal team stuff a big toxic malware spider up my Outbox almost immediately if she thinks there's improposity afoot (not a word).

But yes, I'm talking about her because her ultimate answer to my question about how to proceed was to "write about the truth" (but said in a better way than that, I just can't remember what she said, because I was so high on sobriety and detoxification).

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My mother is what they call "a good listener", but, yeah, significantly better than that. I've seen it in action hundreds of times. You don't have to be around her long. Almost every day, her cellphone rings 30 minutes after she's awake, 30 minutes before she closes her eyes at night, and probably 10 times in-between, with family members, friends, acquaintances, people she likes, people she hates...all calling to (mostly) talk about their problems.

They call her because when they talk to her, she listens: she's not just half-listening, nodding yeah, uh-huh, and waiting for a chance to talk about herself ("Oh, that's too bad, yeah those are tough, mm-hmm, you poor thing. But listen, at least it wasn't like my surgery, you remember my surgery, right? I told you about it, right? Oh God, listen, when I had mine, I told the doctor I told him, I said look I don't wanna etc.")

Well, my mom might be half-listening, especially if she's driving, but when the speaker stops and it's obviously time for her to say something, she'll say something truly empathetic, or ask a relevant diagnostic question, or if she feels like she has enough information to give some probably good advice she'll give it (if she sounds like a pro, it's not irrelevant to note that she's been a nurse for the last 40-something years).

The last time I saw her do this listening thing, late last year, I realized that I am pretty much exactly like this, or I would be if I ever answered my phone. Or, no, I actually realized it when I was on the phone: a few months ago I somehow ended up on the phone with a friend, and they had something they really needed to talk about.

If you're not someone who has my phone number, you don't have any idea what a fantastic-sounding scenario this is. "Yeah, right," you'd scoff. "Mark. On the phone. Really. (Pause). On the phone phone?"

But yeah, I was really on the phone phone. At 6am or something I got a text that said "call me when you get this," a sentence that can be innocuous, but not usually at 6am. Especially since this person knows that I don't use the phone casually. So we talked, for about an hour, and at some point I understood exactly why this person called me...and it's because I am an expert listener. And I thought about my mom.

The thing about this listening business is that people will take advantage of it. You know this. You've known or met someone who will talk ceaselessly and repetitively about every last little scrap of minutiae of their problems, with utter disregard for your interest level, location, safety, schedule, health status, etc.

This is usually a co-worker, or a seatmate on a transatlantic flight, someone that you're absolutely forced to be around. It can also be a family member, same deal. But for me, at least, I know that it cannot be one of my friends: my friends are super-carefully screened for this tendency. So if you're reading this and you know me? I'm not talking about you (see disclaimer below for additional asskicking).

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So, Wednesday or whenever. Let's say it was today because I have coarse salt in my keyboard and today is easier to type than that W-word. My mom's been having crappy health problems for the last, oh....40 years? (cut to uproarious laughter from she and I) OK, well, this time she's been diagnosed with diabetes. So I was asking her some probing questions about her recently diagnosed diabetes and generally crumbling health status.

Before that, she'd been asking me questions, on the offensive, totally in excellent listener mode, sounding like the wise and woolly expert advisor that she is. But when I switched into my excellent listener mode and started asking her about her treatment, all of the sudden she couldn't talk any more, like she'd been hit with a tranquillizer dart. Nothing but big pauses and "Yeah, um," and "Ah, you know," and, one of my favorites, "So, yeah...you know...(trails off)."

And I suddenly had this kind of Fight Club moment where the camera started spinning around and around, faster and faster, and then it freezes on my face, and we suddenly see that I've been talking to myself on the phone this whole time.

We're good listeners in part because we hate talking about our own problems (I don't mean little complaints, I love to complain: I mean our seriously serious shit). I'd like to know how much of it is because we've just listened to too many co-workers and other random interlopers prattle on and on about their problems and thought, "Fuck, do I never want to be that person."

(EDIT/DISCLAIMER: Let me reiterate: I like listening to friends talk, that's why they're my friends. I like problem solving, a lot. So I like listening to friends and and I like problem solving, they both come very naturally to me, and if I like you, then yis everything is great: something is wrong, we talk about whatever's bothering you until we make some progress. Thees I also get from mother.

What I'm saying is: if you're a friend of mine reading this, I don't want you going all freaky freaky from now on about talking to me at length about shit, I'm serious, or I will fuck you up. And then YOU will be the reason we go back to only talking about kohlrabi and tamales out here. That's right: you'll be ruining it for everyone. And also don't start asking me a bunch of probing questions about my feelings either, or I'll cut you motherfucker).

So I pointed this mother/son similarity thing out to her and we said haha and laughed, and then we talked about isolationism, you know, purposely avoiding contact with people, and how isolationists don't live as long, true scientific fact, haha, more laughter, and then we had a little chat about the "blogging realness" issue that's been discussed this week. And about what it means to talk transparently about shit you really care about, especially when you can't tailor the delivery to a specific audience. She said she couldn't do it.

But she said I should, and not to worry about offending or scaring or otherwise turning people off. For her, she said, the less of the whole story I tell her, the more her nurse/mother imagination assumes the worst.

And...I? I still don't know, it's complicated. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to have to open the curtains at least a little bit here, but it's possible that what might seem like curtain-opening to me will be barely detectable by you. Old habits do die hard, and I'm pretty incapable of giving TMI on a regular basis (though I'm sure I'll slip occasionally).

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i can't even get one together.























Oh man, the lack of caffeine around here is beginning to suck, look at that post title. Maybe one will come to me.

Not something I ever would have known, but one wakes up rather hungry after not eating since 6pm the night before. Hungry yet unpleasantly bloated. WTF. And fucking stinky, remind me to elaborate maybe (oh right, I elaborated already the last time I did something like this).

Nonetheless, we continue to press on. This was my late breakfast today, it looks scarier than it is. I probably could've added even more of the foods I'm trying to eat (tiny cubes of granny smith, kiwi, or beet), but as it was it was really really good and something I never ever would've made without this diet. So, thank you, you bastardy stink-making bloaty insomnia-exacerbating piece of shit detox diet.

And remember, why does everything have piles of raw onion in it this week? That's right, to remind us we're alive. And because we're still living alone for another four days or so.

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smoked salmon, avocado, grapefruit, tarragon.

100gr smoked salmon, or less
1/2 red grapefruit, flesh extracted
1/2 ripe avocado
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
2 tbsp real apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper
maybe a little coarse salt, depending on your salmon...mine didn't need it.

Serves 2.

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29.7.10

stealin' courses.













Hilarious picture, I think you can tell I'm working on music at the dinner table.

Stole another KK recipe today, the cucumber thingie. Except added two peeled and chopped kiwi instead of sugar, used cider vinegar instead of white, and added a dash of cloves, all 'cause my diet said to. As someone who is hot and cold on cucumbers, this one makes most of the right moves (note: except it doesn't keep well at all). It would be excellent on a sandwich of some sort (drained of course). Leftover pork roast? With mustard? Get down.

+++

I also made the red cabbage thing again today, and it was even better than yesterday. I would probably make it again tomorrow, but I think I'm supposed to be varying my intake a bit more.

Plus it's not the lowest-fat thing on the planet. But the dressing is a knockout. If you make it by hand like I did yesterday, it's great, for sure. If you emulsify it in a little blender thingie like I did today, it whips right up into a thicker, very mayo-like consistency in about 10 seconds, which is quite different, but maybe (as I said) even better.

After I put the majority of it in the slaw, I cut up some, eh...batons? of granny smith and kohlrabi and used them to scrape every visible remnant of dressing out of the food processor bowl. I would totally serve that to someone. Probably not in the used food processor bowl though, etc. Also, I personally would only serve it to the female kind of people...no way am I man enough to whip this one out for the boys.

Oh yeah, of course I had to try some other things with it: an extra dose of onions, just to make me feel alive (successful); a couple of currants for a bit of sweetness (great); a couple of pistachios for color and nuttiness (mwah, not bad, but not the perfect nut). The thing I would really like to try it with is a heaping pile of lamb shoarma, a bottle of sriracha within reach, but...I guess we know that's not happening.

+++

Wanna hear about something that makes me a little sad lately? Maybe I'm just in a vulnerable mood, I should probably be having another emotion. In looking at the Facebook profiles of girls I went to high school with, you know under "Interests"? I saw someone today, a very sweet and cute and vivacious girl in high school, always ready to laugh, whose second Interest was "Organizing Things". Organizing Things.

Another girl, under the "Favorite Books" section, wrote "Never Really Got Into Any Books" (I think the capitalization is automatically done by Facebook). A third, in the Favorite Music section, only has one artist: Susan Boyle.

It goes on, girl after girl. As James Coburn said in Affliction (it's become a bit of a catchphrase around here), "it makes me sad."

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28.7.10

stolen moments.

Seems wrong to go back to light and fluffy kitchen notes after all of the angsty Deep Thoughts of the past few days, but as we say around here, it can't always be magic.

I made Klary's red cabbage and tahini slaw for dinner, and yep, she's right, you should totally make this. I'll probably make it again tomorrow. I made a couple of small alterations based on my current diet (no creme fraiche) and my personal taste (raw onion), so I'm just jotting down my proportions here (it's still your recipe Klarykins!)

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red cabbage and tahini slaw.

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup sweet white onion, sliced very thinly

3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water (or less, or more, depending on your tahini)
salt

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped fine
1 tbsp dill, chopped fine

and if you're not on my diet, a little sriracha to taste

+++

Semi-inspiring challenge to work with ingredients you don't normally use. Kiwi. Grapefruit. Research reveals unexpected flavor partners for these two: kiwi and anise seems to be popular (a cold kiwi and anijsmelk smoothie?), and I've also found a couple of Korean recipes with kiwi subbing for apple or Asian pear. Maybe this means an experimental steak-free bibimbap later this week. Pistachio, lime, cilantro, and avocado also show up as friends of the kiwi, which sounds like a salsa verde of some sort to me.

For grapefruit, most of the focus seems to be contrasting the bitterness with sweetness or with fresh herbs like basil and mint. Champagne and butter also seem popular, but are not within the specs of this program. Allspice and ginger each make appearances, and here's an interesting salad that could work maybe subbing in smoked salmon for the soppressata?

Unrelatedly, I have got to get me some kelp noodles. Anyone seen these in Amsterdam?

OK, commence recipes-in-progress.

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salmon with grapefruit and miso .

I made a version of this that was extremely simple just to see how the flavors worked, and they do. Still thinking about who else to invite to the party.

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salmon, grapefruit, tarragon, champagne vinegar, lemon zest, olive oil, apple. mustard?

No progress here yet other than confirming the grapefruit-tarragon thing.

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salsa verde with kiwi, pistachio, avocado, and lime.

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, kind of crushed
2 kiwi, peeled and cubed small
1/2 avocado, pitted and cubed small
juice of one lime, maybe more maybe less

I'm not sure what you'd do with this, I just ate it by the spoonful. Maybe shrimp? A ceviche kind of thing would probably be nice.

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and someday maybe this.

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27.7.10

verbal remedies.






















If you don't blog, i can imagine that it might seem a bit histrionic or otherwise attention-whoreishly self-indulgent to be publicly wrestling with barely-formed philosophical questions about motives, criteria for success, and other esoteric causes or effects of blogging. Trust me, in "real life", I'm the guy at your dinner party who volunteers to do the dishes or go out on a beer run b/c "i'm a little shy"...attention is not my thing.

And indeed, I didn't start writing VDuck in 2005 for it to be read by a public, or by anyone other than my wife and mother (two different people, BTW); VDuck happened because the two of us were emotionally and philosophically wiped out by the immigration process as a whole, expensively opening and closing a retail business, contracting autoimmune diseases, etc.

In terms of our creative lives, I would say that we had devolved to somewhere between "dormant" and "deceased". I started writing because I felt completely in the weeds musically, and blogging was a convenient way for me to be creative about something that still made the moop and i both happy: food.

So, now, five loooong years later, lots has happened, and this blog has evolved (hopefully along with my writing), but at its root it's still a real and critical form of therapy for me, as well as a way to publicly document my obsessive mooplove, opinionize on shit I know nothing about, experiment with hilarity technique, work through some other mildly annoying shit, and yeah play with the one language I can speak in whole adult sentences, and just generally try to achieve a satisfying presentation of "what's happening to me".

The huge problem with this is that in five years VDuck readership has fucking QUADRUPLED (yes, eight) to include all manner of friends and family and people not yet met. The problem: in "real life", you don't give all of your friends and family the exact same version of "what's happening to you", do you. Naw you don't, you censor, you embellish, just make shit up, whatever, etc. based on how you want that friend or family member to see you, or whether you're concerned about upsetting or angering them, killing them, etc.

Ze blog, she no work this way. Everyone get same version. And my current creative tension is coming from the fact that, again for "therapeutic reasons", I want/need to start working with a "more real picture", writing about some less hilarious and uplifting aspects of ze life and seeing if This Blogging Thing can still be a way to Get Peaceful. But you know, I also don't necessarily want every random person who stops by for an okonomiyaki recipe to know that I've got a vial of crack stuck up my ass. Or whatever that week's drama is (do they even use vials anymore? I don't think so).

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If there are questions to be asked, it seems like they remain 1) what's the purpose of this blog today and 2) how exactly is it succeeding or failing at that 3) what could one do to fix it.

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I'ma just make a list of things I found.
  • I initially thought this Sandhill Trek post was not going to be good, but the sheer volume of answers and the variety/repetition therein seemed to help clarify the differences in my perspective.
What? It's a short list so far. Leave me alone.






















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my flaky summer diet xiv.















Above: cinnamon rolls on the stove in Shetland. MoopCam strikes again.

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Let's go back to nice, easy obfuscation for a moment before we ask any more explicitly hard questions. The basics of MFSDxiv are: mostly raw fruit and vegetables. A little fish. Very few grains. Very little fat, other than walnuts, almonds, olive oil, and avocado. No dairy. No sugar if I can help it, so this means that not all fruit is OK. Watermelon is OK, so all is not lost. Four or five quite small meals a day, the biggest being lunch. Nothing at all goes into the duck after 10pm.

This sounds pretty sane, right? I'm going to do it for a month. It's not just about weight-loss, I'll hopefully elaborate on the other goals soon.

So today, as you would, I started thinking about breakfast. Fruit, right. I had a basil plant that needed using, and some dried figs. And some walnuts. It turns out that if you slice a dried fig in quarters, attach one quarter to a walnut half and stick a basil leaf on top, chomping on a few of these make for a totally acceptable breakfast.

Not long after this, lunch rolled around. I started thinking, hey...arugula. I'm supposed to be eating arugula. Could I make a pesto, or actually, what would I have to do make a lowfat arugula pesto? Without cheese. Maybe not.

Beets. I'm supposed to be eating beets. I just saw a beet-tahini recipe somewhere that sounded good. Cabbage is on the OK list as well. I'm envisioning a raw cabbage leaf wrapped around something dipped in beet tahini. But what. Tuna + diced apple + diced carrot + green olive + onion. Necessity is the mother of invention. Could be hideous. Haven't tried it yet.

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26.7.10

casting our feelings into words.















This is an actual photo Mara took last week.

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I'm trying one of my flaky, rarely-successful health experiments this summer, and maybe I'll even write seriously about what the motivations for it are.

But probably not, as VDuck is not really a platform for that kind of writing. It might seem like it could be, I mean we talk about some personal stuff here, right? Not really. VDuck is a tightly-controlled and meticulously-obscured representation of life here at 100M that is almost never as serious as real life is. It's like The Matrix of Amsterdam food blogs.

But what if we wrote a truly serious sentence, like this: I'm discovering that this relationship between 1) allowing people social access to me/us, and 2) my firm control of that access is turning out to be one of the defining influences/issues in my adult life, and the entire process of denying that access is getting to be exhausting in its boringness, or possibly vice versa.

Serious questions abound. Does it have to be this difficult? Do I really need to obscure everything I say out here? What would happen if I didn't? It's not just the blog, I'm pretty difficult to get at in real life as well. But what am I gaining from this? Mystery? Scarcity? Am I afraid the real shit's not interesting enough? Am I afraid to be disappointed in people I think I like?

Huh. We'll just let that sit there for a while and see if it survives The Deletion Process. Up next: My Flaky Summer Diet XIV.

P.S.: I'm so hilarious. The next thing I did after this public moment of existential angst was to completely un-ironically turn on comment moderation, essentially controlling people's access to me, etc. Seek help!

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25.7.10

flattened.











Accidental, that's what I'm talking about. I could be exaggerating, but seriously the whole thing happened so fast and with so little input from me that it truly is just luck that I didn't seriously bust up my dome permanent-like.

I was standing on this chair to get something, and in my haste to grab the thing I stood on my tiptoes, and the chair immediately saw the potential to escape, so it took off (make bullet ricocheting sound) and I have no idea what happened next, other than about one big slow-mo second of me thinking "oh you dumb piece of noooooo£$%&*o". The mid-air contortions required to save myself from serious harm have left this duck in a world of ouch.

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I don't spend any time on eGullet anymore because most of the interesting characters or topics have gone, or gone silent, and the moderators have begun following some random and/or sinister policies about "decorum and topicality".

Some smart person somewhere knows what this phenomenon is called, right, when critical mass stops feeding something's positive evolution and finds something better to do, and the thing just stops growing in good or productive ways and slowly dies from inertia and being ignored, or by actively being watered down into mediocre boring irrelevance. For some reason OS/2 springs to mind.

This all has something to do with Mark Athitakis's post about Advancing Genius, but I'm too fatigued by cognitive surplus to research what the applicable term is here.

So anyway, as I said I don't read or contribute to eGullet anymore because it's not very compelling or inspirational or creative, right. But like once a month I optimistically click my eG bookmark and see what's happening.

I did this today, and was all hey, cool, pleasantly surprised by the goodness of a newly active topic on Lebanon. Great photos and informed, passionate commentary that made me want to go to Beirut immediately.

It reminded me favorably of the weekly foodblogs that eG used to have, these usually-awesome little microscopic documentations and dissections of people's daily foodlives from around the world. In fact, it reminded me so favorably of the ol' foodblogs that I made a post on the Lebanon topic to that effect, upon where it was deleted by a moderator as being "inappropriate", which seemed like an awesome feat of impersonal cluelessness, deleting a post that tried to constructively explain why I don't post there anymore, so I whined about it here, and then after I got all the badness out of me I deleted my own whining.

And in doing so I may have just stumbled on a solution to this whole Cognitive Surplus thing: lots of deletion.

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23.7.10

waste not.















Look closely at the Waste Not Permitted list. There is one item that quickly reveals the source of this foto, yes it's dead sheep and that means that this is obviously a MoopCam pic.

I just spent two hours making some not so great food. Considering my motivation levels today, this was quite a lose-lose. Hard to say what went wrong really, other than the fact that I don't really love green beans cooked in any way other than long and slow. The whole reason that I even try other recipes for green beans these days is that A) they're a vegetable and B) Andy makes some really really good green beans. Should probably get that recipe.

What I did instead was the opposite of effortless. It's OK, but fuuuuuuck. It should really be better.

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19.7.10

pangalicious!




















Hi there, you may remember me, I'm VDuck. I realized today that I haven't been cooking at all, unless you count the bushel of fava beans I blanched and skinned and then decided I wasn't in the mood for yesterday.

If that weren't deflating enough, I then stepped one level below "not cooking": I bought a convenience food product. Called Pangalicious.

I know, how could I not buy it? It's true I love the panga. And they were on sale 2 for €3 (4 filets). And they're called Pangalicious.

Were they actually Pangalicious? I would say that they were 75% Pangalicious. The Mustard & Dill variety at least was subtle, pretty natural-seeming, and unoffensive in every way. Maybe I would even buy these again if they weren't 50% more expensive than normal panga.

+++

Quite possibly as a result of all this non-cookery, I woke up today feeling a little incomplete, so I thought hey let's really cook something, something that is always good: red chile sauce.

This is an extra simple one, about as simple as it gets, and it still seems to hit enough of the right notes to keep you entertained in the mouth department. It also has the advantage of having no animal fat in it, so it will keep for quite some time in the fridge. The recipe below really can't be called a recipe, can it.

+++

guajillo chile sauce.

10 guajillo chiles
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp marjoram
3 cups water
salt
pepper
honey

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16.7.10

make up your mind.













Wednesday I went to the beach because I was trying to avoid some things happening in Amsterdam. One of them being bad weather, and for a while that part worked. I laid around with my toes in the sand, worked on writing this thing I'm supposed to be doing, then got up and walked past some tastefully restrained seaside shacks...
























And then somehow ended up surrounded by children. Yes, children.













I was suddenly desperately hungry, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Faced with a few equally uninspiring dining options, I chose Vooges because Mara and I once had a nice meal at their Utrechtsestraat outpost in Amsterdam, where the emphasis seemed to be on simple fresh food and nice wines.

Here, the emphasis was really on, eh...children. But I think that most places on this side of the beach are kid-friendly, it's just a fact (those of you who don't know me might be thinking, "Man, sorta sounds like he don't like kids...lighten up, bro!!!"). I had a "Greek salad" that was much better than it looked. I mean, nothing you couldn't make at home in four minutes, but it could've been done much worse, the feta and olives were above-average, the dressing was a tomato-mint vinaigrette, etc. Pleasant.














Then I went back to Amsterdam, where it was sunny and muggy and generally hot as nuts, no bad weather at all, but then fuckity fuck, the non-weather thing I was trying to avoid showed up right in my face, so I turned tail and quickly headed to the coolest darkest spot I could think of, The Movies. Where, in order to kill a couple of hours until the coast was clear, I watched Polanski's Ghost Writer. Pretty good, it's nice to see someone do old-timey suspense/paranoia well.












When I exited two hours later, the bad weather had arrived in full effect. I, of course, was dressed for the beach...my walk home was cold and shivery.






12.7.10

stormy monday.






















I keep thinking about the octopus. Is he satisfied?

+++

So, Scrabble yesterday...my play was satisfyingly (full disclosure: my opponent is probably reading this, so I must season my words with an extra dash of diplomacy) "insurmountable", and the food was...eh, fine.

I did what I said I was going to, the pork belly with cumin, fennel, and orange; zucchini with feta, pine nuts, and mint (tahini-buttermilk thing on the side); catfish in cumin and cardamom butter plus mango salsa.

Though it was all quick and relatively inexpensive, I don't think I'd repeat any of it exactly that way again, especially not the pork belly: not enough sweetness for me (maybe that's what the quinces were for in the original recipe? Duh....) And yeah, the spices weren't pronounced enough in the butter, leaving the catfish totally "pleasant" (it was fish sauteed in butter, I mean come on) but highly unspectacular.

In fact, I think the only bit of the afternoon's effort worth keeping was the mango salsa, which I know doesn't sound thrilling, but try to look past the generic name...it's easy and goooood.

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mango salsa.

1 just under-ripe mango, cubed
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/8 cup roasted red pepper, rinsed, dried, and diced finely
salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro and/or mint, chopped fine

Hmm...combine? I made mine in the morning and kept it chilled all day so the flavors could blend and the salsa would be nicely chilled. If you do this, don't add the herb(s) until you're ready to serve. As you can see, in this instance I added my herbs to the fish instead. I am a fucking madman sometimes.

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10.7.10

hup me.













You know what? There's a reason that the streets aren't overflowing with pickled watermelon rind. I sat down in front of the TV before bed last night, not because this is a normal ritual or anything but because I'm sleeping on the couch for hotness reasons, and I thought maybe I'd take on a nice relaxing mindless task to subdue my normally restless bedtime mind.


The "unprocessed" watermelon rinds in my fridge were taking up a lot of room, so I said, even possibly out loud (I guess maybe addressing the cats? Not good.), "Hey, let's get those dang ol'-timey pickles started," or something similar, and then assembled a bowl, two vegetable peelers, a sharp knife, and my rinds.

Right, and Jade. In the last couple of evenings before bed I've been trying to watch it on Hulu, primarily because it's free, but also because it seems to be doing a wonderful job of putting me to sleep. I really haven't been able to watch more than 15 minutes at a time, which is an unusual distinction for a non-subtitled film.

There's only one issue so far, which is some kind of (hopefully) horrific scene near the end of the film that involves lots of bloodcurdling screams and screechy violins. This tends to wake me up, but after the first time it happened (during which I assumed that the screams were coming from one of the inhabitants of my apartment), I seem to have learned that "It's just Jade", and then I roll over and go back to sleep.

It's not a good movie in the traditional sense of the word "good", but of course this is why I'm watching it. It's not just a bad movie, but a bad movie made by experts in bad moviemaking such as Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls, Basic Instinct), Chazz Palminteri, and the amazing David Caruso. Plus it's a noir, and well I love to see good ones or bad ones. But also: a then-35-year-old Linda Fiorentino is in it, and I defy you to find a man my age who wouldn't think that's a good thing.

Watermelon rind. My point. I sat down expecting some mind-numbing but productive task a la cleaning green beans, shelling peas, husking corn, pitting cherries, etc. What I got instead was something far more epic, a fight to the death between human and fruit. I lost. After fifteen minutes of increasingly agitated attacks by me, all ending with the watermelon remaining totally unscathed, I said "fuck that", viciously stabbed the watermelon one more time and then painfully stepped on a vegetable peeler that had fallen by the wayside. Mindless? Yes. Relaxing? Less so.

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I could whine some more about the heat, but really, who wants to hear it. I will say that I went for a two-hour bike ride to cool off today, and yes, that was a great idea by me, much better with a manufactured breeze. And now there are just the faintest stirrings of a real breeze coming through my windows so I imagine general relief is on the horizon.

Got a manly dinner/Scrabble/World Cup date tomorrow. Will probably do catfish in Ethiopian butter with a tart cayenne-mango salsa, and a yellow zucchini thing with a little shoarmaspice, feta, mint and that tahini-sriracha-buttermilk stuff. I also have a little pork belly sitting around, now what should I do with that, some kind of little appetizery thing. Tell me. Teach me.*

I was thinking about this, minus the quinces.

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* Back when we had our record store (ha moop), we used to get the cutest handwritten faxes from a very sweet old Japanese man named Tomonori. His manner of asking us about our new releases was, "Teach me about any new releases! Teach me!!!"

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pork belly rub.

2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp powdered bay leaf
finely grated zest of a large orange

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9.7.10

this heat.

















Is 91°F outside. And 86°F inside. That's the bad news. The good news is, Andy bought a huge watermelon for his birthday party and then kind of forgot about it. A big-ass chunk of it is now in my refrigerator.

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Since it's midnight and still way too hot to sleep, here are a couple of other tidbits (BTW, my system's language is still set to UK English since I was needing the pound sign a lot, and the spellchecker just suggested "titbits" instead of "tidbits". Sigh...):

That Ethiopian spiced butter (nit'r qibe) I made a couple weeks back but never really cooked with is pretty darned good, in that, yes, it's butter, but the cardamom/cumin/nigella mix really suggests Ethiopian food while requiring very little effort on one's part. I had an egg fried in it earlier today, something I can heartily recommend. I'm thinking about sauteeing some fish in it on Sunday.

I'm really going to make watermelon rind pickles this time. I have a rind surplus at the mo.

Aside from yesterday's grilled miracle of overeating (mushrooms with a blue cheese filling, merguez; burgers; spicy chicken wings; some courgette-wrapped haddock + tomato kabobs from a Jamie Oliver recipe; tiny potatoes; eggplant with tahini, yogurt and za'atar, my mediocre cauliflower thing, watermelon, probably something else), I've been subsisting on buttermilk, tuna, eggs, cauliflower, and green olives. And watermelon.

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8.7.10

de nieuwe meer.












(Note: It seems that not everyone knows that if you click on the pictures here, you get a much bigger version. I'm pretty careless/carefree about my server space.)

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I had one of my best Amsterdam days in recent memory yesterday, no foolin'. I'm ready to buy a boat. It's semi-tragic that the pictures don't really do the day any justice, but it's a total mismatch, this technology vs. experience thing.

Trust me: it was a breezy, picturesque summer day even before we boarded our trusty vessel; motoring through the canals was as entertaining and relaxing and educational as it always is. Actually, even more educational than usual because we went through the locks, which I'll explain in a bit:













But then we hit the open water and there was wilderness and then a panorama of windy and variously-shaded blue happiness everywhere.





















Ehhh, there's more. Parking the boat wherever you feel like it and setting up for a surprisingly comprehensive last-minute BBQ/picnic, with cool sandy shallows to wade in while you wait for the fire...this is a good way to spend Thursday. I would really have believed we were 100 miles from Amsterdam, an especially rejuvenating sensation when in fact you are still in Amsterdam.

The smell of a hamburger on a charcoal grill is still one of the best things ever invented. Even better if you get to bite a ketchupped and mustarded version when they're done. And if the light in Holland is spectacular in the mornings, it's pretty fkn good in the evenings as well, but you know...different.

Blah blah blah. I took 75 other pictures, but the same things are missing from all of them: conversation, non-conversation, being surrounded by relatively wild nature, the cool spray from a fast-moving boat, etc.

There also aren't any pictures of food, but not because things are missing from them...I just didn't take any, because yeah...technology, experience, mismatch, etc.



no picnic. yes picnic!












Humongous heads of cauliflower on sale at Dirk for €0.59 this week (be careful, though, the first one I picked up looked OK but was horridly decomposed underneath...I almost threw up). Still, if the price I pay for this much beauteous cauliflower is €1.18 and a near-vomit experience, it's worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Supposed to be going on an unplanned boat ride which leads to a picnic somewheres, and though there were other things I would've rather made for the occasion, I did have all this cauliflower. And who knows how soon it would suddenly go all Swamp Thing on me.

So I roasted it, and then covered it with a luxurious amount of pine nuts, capers, and raisins plus a few minced green olives (still trying to get rid of them). I wouldn't normally consider this picnic food, but then I thought about how the Moop and I will always finish a pan of roasted cauliflower that's been sitting around at room temperature, and thought I'd see how this works. It's way less oily than when we normally roast it, almost oil-less, in the interest of summer lightness. Here it is packed in its boat-shaped boat ride container, ready for action.












AND AFTER?: Smaller pieces of cauliflower necessary next time, or possibly better-seasoned pieces of caulifower...I may have undersalted. Still, good enough to try again.

hi-yaaaaah.












Tired...




6.7.10

sour grape.



















I wish y'all could've heard how quiet it was outside my window at 8:45pm tonight. Odd, I thought. Granted, it's Tuesday, but it's a pretty busy streetcorner, and the Dirk closes at 9pm so lots of people are usually dashing in and out before closing.

I myself was planning on dashing in and out to get the usual (cat food and buttermilk), so I decided to take advantage of this apparent lull in the action. I raced out of the apartment (then back into the apartment to get my housekeys), hurtled down the stairs, only to find: the Dirk was closed.

Closed early on account of World Cup football. And I was the only person on the street. The weird thing was, the air was permeated with the smell of "nearly-drunk person's breath". You know the smell, a smell you can often smell only if you yourself have not been drinking, which I hadn't: it's not just the smell of alcohol, it's the smell of a drinking person's breath after their sixth beer or so. It was a bit disorienting, like that (still pretty-effective) film cliche of seeing a still-lit cigarette dangling in the ashtray of an empty room.

And then, walking to De Trusty Avondmarkt for my shopping items, I passed our corner bar's outside terrace, which was simply thronged with a fire-c0de-violation's worth of orange-colored people outside, 75, 100 maybe, it's not a big terrace, all of them fixedly watching a precariously-perched giant TV in utter silence (there's not usually a TV outside there). Aside from the buzz of vuvuzelas onscreen and some hushed commentary from the announcers, it was totally silent. People were just watching. And exhaling a lot, I guess.

11:00pm. Silence no more. Vuvuzelas, which the cats do not like. Every kind of car horn imaginable. Pairs of men yelling in tandem as if dead-lifting several thousand kilos at the Olympics while some monstrously-spiked alien viciously gnaws its way through their bowels. Actually I'm pretty sure an alien attack would be quieter.

This sounds pretty cranky. Here's a true statement: Holland is the only team I want to win the World Cup right now, and I hope they do.

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Speaking of loud, Andy's having a party tomorrow. And his parties are loud, because Andy's deaf. And it's not only a party, some visiting Ethiopians are playing live. And I should make something, if for no other reason than to get rid of several of these 3,000 green olives I have. I'm thinking of this, possibly optionally (I love adverbs) drizzled with that great tahini-buttermilk-sriracha dressing from the other day.

UPDATE: This is really a great way to use up green olives. It's like you can't add too many (foreshadowing?)!!! It's pretty perfect right now so I'm afraid to fuck it up, but of course I want to add all of the other Moroccan possibilities to it to see what happens.

UPDATE 2: I did fuck it up...but the leftovers were awesome with a can of tuna thrown in it. More research and a recipe rewrite necessary.

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(tuna with) carrots, green olives, pomegranate, orange, mint.

1kg carrots, peeled, cut on diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or if your olive oil is boring try a smart mix of tahini and olive oil
1/4 fresh lemon juice or some equivalent amount pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp grated orange zest, minced
1 tbsp ground coriander (I was skeptical but this works)
4 balls of stemgember, crushed/pressed (ehh...I explain)
possibly a drizzle of honey
1 cup drained chopped pitted brine-cured green olives
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup mint

Makes a lot.

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4.7.10

shwarma confessions.












I've got some.

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Nothing racy, I just realized this week that I really believe in shoarma, specifically Amsterdam shoarma as an Idea of Wonderful Potential. I'm not trying to start any "yeah whatever my city's shoarma can kick your city's shoarma's ass etc etc etc" battles, so calm down.

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Other than today, I don't think I've ever actually left the house intending to have a shoarma. It's just kind of everywhere, all the time. It's one of those "I had 11 beers tonight and now it's three in the morning, if I don't eat something right now there will be trouble" foods, but it's got a wholesome side as well: pre-spiced and -cut lamb for shoarma is in every grocery store. It's a non-exotic dinner staple.












The thing I realized yesterday or so, and the probable reason that I am so pro-shoarma at the moment, is that...the only place I ever eat shoarma is in my apartment.

There are a number of benefits to this, including the possibility of skipping the normal arc from "wow that's a good sandwich" to "how do I get home from here" to "man I need to pee" to "zzzzzzzzzzz". You can just kind of aim for going to sleep directly at the end of the sandwich (important to time this right, though...can someone remind me who just told me a story about falling asleep with a shoarma propped on their chest?).

But really the big win is: this way, you see, I can control the range and application of condiments with the punishing awesomeness that is my culinary trademark. In fact lately I've been skipping the bread and just making a shawarma salad (different spelling looks better): lamb, pickled cukes, sriracha, mint, cilantro, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, yoghurt, tarator, lettuce, etc. You really don't miss the bread.

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I also went to Scheveningen for the first time, but no I didn't have a Scheveningse shoarma. I did sweat a bunch and drink a couple of expensive beers. The whole thing kind of reminded me of Miami, but not in a bad way.

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tahinli tarator.

1/2 cup tahini (yeah...it depends on your tahini quite a bit, adjust with water if you're too thick)
slightly less than 1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley, finely chopped
pinch of cumin

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