Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’

tapas

December 20, 2008

I have no real idea about the economic hazards of owning a restaurant. I only assume that certain business formulas are more likely to be on the secure side than others. Ten years ago or so, a Mexican restaurant opened in Borås. Their lunch menu of the first few weeks was exuberant and the fees were low. In the course of time, the lunch selection become ever more mundane (and less “Mexican”); eventually the fees seemed high for what was on the plate. This is when I stopped going there. A few months later the whole enterprise was history. The plan to suggest heaven first and apply thumbscrews later is clearly not so smart.

Tapas culture has found another way. Here, everything is about the idea: you pay for a bit of time at a square little table, candlelight, for fishing bits of things out of many small bowls, and for believing  that you almost are in Spain, minus the eternal hassle with taxi drivers, stolen cell phones and inferior hotel plumbing. (more…)

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sweet dreams

April 14, 2008

Last night, I dreamed that I attended a large birthday party. They were just beginning to hand around cakes, brownies, pastry and stuff – lots and lots. I believe I saw about 20 items in huge piles, chocolaty ones, flaky ones and some big bits with thick layers of sugary gleaming icing.

I had just managed to think that I’d better skip most of the powdery brownies (while munching one) and other lesser kinds in favor of the ones with the most icing when I woke up. (more…)

the funny peté bean

February 28, 2008

Sator, or stink (or stinky) bean, is used in Thai and Indonesian cooking. In Holland it is most of the time called Peté in a modernized frenchified spelling.

We are talking about beans of the shape of a thumbnail or slightly larger, and about as thick as half a pencil. Their color is most inspiring: a difficult to define, solid pastel green that lacks most of the watery translucency normally associated with peas and green beans. Through their appearance alone, peté beans speak to us of far away countries and unknown customs. In one of Louis Couperus’s numerous novels (I forget which), a colonial poisoning during an extended meal has to take place. In the Dutch filmed version this event is duly introduced by showing how a large dish of peté beans in a hot red pepper sambal is being brought into the dining hall. In the subdued lighting and the stuffy late-nineteenth century setting they wink at us, out of their red sauce, in a most sinister way. Long before there are actual deaths to report, we shiver and huddle together. (more…)

up, down, and up again

February 18, 2008

Last November I got a gift certificate from these guys, a late but welcome ripple in the wake of the defence of my dissertation. Someone had found out about my interest in cooking: it was from the Swedish kitchenware chain Verner&Verner, issued at their first-ever store in the Nordstan mall of Gothenburg. Gratefully, I went to V&V’s website and picked out one of these things I always wanted to have but refused to pay for.

Verner&Verner, which began in 1986, has a profile that attracts the Glass-Door-Pantry and See-Me-Cooking types, with a lot of colorful Le Creuset’s assorted pots and pans, a selection of expensive knives, a sharpening service, shelves full of gleaming espresso machines, kitchen-aid mixers in green and red, piles of design accessories, pasta in fancy glass tubes, herbs and specialty coffee. They used to be quite alone with this concept in Sweden. It always was a pleasure to walk through their shops. But competition has caught up. Both V&V shops in Borås closed last year, and a week after I had chosen my gift-certificate-item, the newspaper announced that Verner&Verner had gone out of business altogether.

Darn. As soon as there was time, I stuffed my coupon into my backpack and we went to Nordstan in Gothenburg. Yes! The shop was still open. It was still called Verner&Verner. I went to the shelf, grabbed my box and lined up at the desk.

A young shop assistant, all towering regret, “I’m so sorry, but we are not accepting these coupons any longer. We have been selling their certificates as a service, but they’ve gone bankrupt, and we cannot, at this point…I am really sorry but there’s nothing I can do about the matter.” (more…)

the kitchen of statenlaan 119

February 13, 2008

I began to cook my own meals in the kitchen of one of the houses with student rooms that the Royal Conservatory of the Hague maintained around 1980.

The house (also featured in this entry) had three kitchens, each of which was shared by six or seven music students. While on the other side of the wall someone was nervously stuttering through Schumann’s first piano sonata on his battered Bechstein Grand, interrupted by frequent nicotine- and espresso-fill-up silences, I battled to find out how a slice of pork behaved when fried at various temperatures, how rice was best kept from sticking, how to prepare bean chili or a new-agey veggie all-in-one-pan with rice, nuts, raisins, chopped dried apricots and curry powder. Others had other pastimes. (more…)

test the tourist and other italian passions

December 3, 2007

One late afternoon, we were traveling in a regional train somewhere between Tuscany and Umbria. An elderly perspiring lady in bright colors had occupied all the opposite four seats with numerous bags and herself, and was fanning her face vigorously. After a few minutes, she addressed us in English, perhaps to distract herself from the heat. We answered in Italian (private brand), something she loved (while we stumbled).

Few conversations in Italy don’t turn to food after a while. – “Ah, you’re interested in food! What kind of food, pizza and such?” A sensible way to approach tourists, no doubt. – “Well, actually, I like cooking a lot, and I am very fond of Italian food – so, I’ve been trying to do some other things as well…”

This was the starting shot for an impromptu cucina-Italiana-quiz that lasted until we had reached our destination. (more…)