Monster Salad

I decided to start eating healthily as part of my preparations for the Apocalypse. Usually I live out of cans, except for breakfast, which is a boiled egg, muesli, and yoghurt. Nothing much to eat during the day, and a gut-crippling evening meal of curried rice, red kidney beans, and tuna, with a can of new potatoes thrown in so I get my daily allowance of starch. Followed by a bowl of custard, the comfort food of the Gods. Doctor Who likes his custard with fish fingers – I tried that but they have to be almost frozen or else crumble into the custard. I’m a purist about custard.

Ever since I murdered my saucepan a couple of days ago, along with five innocent, terminally over-boiled eggs, I’ve been thinking about making changes. Even with a new saucepan, it felt like the right thing to do.

Today I went to Tesco in search of salad stuff. It’s difficult to know what to get, so I started with leafy things, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, spring onions, proper onions, mature cheddar, tuna, and a can of new potatoes (old habits die hard). Oh, and a can of custard, because if the whole thing went pear-shaped, at least I’d have that to fall back on. I worry with salad that there won’t be enough to satisfy my hunger.

My fears were unfounded. Using only a handful of leaves, 1 carrot, 1 pepper, 3 mushrooms, 3 spring onions, a can of tuna, and some grated cheese, I filled this enormous plate to heaping height. There wasn’t even room for a boiled egg, and I had to eat the already boiled new potatoes separately. You can judge the size of the plate in comparison to my MacBook.

Monster Salad #1

The custard topped off a perfect meal. Think I might be a convert to salads. Here is the landscape view.

Monster Salad #2

You either love it or hate it…

As everyone knows, vegemite is the Australian cousin of marmite, a delicious yeasty extract made from hops, perfect on toast or in soups, stews, and suchlike. I’ve not had the pleasure of tasting vegemite, but if it’s anything like marmite, then it must be brilliant.

Amanda Palmer has something to say about vegemite. You have to wonder if the lover in the song is none other than hubby, Neil Gaiman, who looks like a man who enjoys his marmite.

Coffee Training

For a country that takes pride in its revolutionary origins and spirit of independence, the US seems like a nation of conformists when it comes to perfecting just the right consumer lifestyles. Brands are an essential element in the consumer experience, and performing successfully in the theatre of capitalism often requires learned behaviour, as dictated by brand advertising and other psychological triggers.

Take coffee, for example. Here is an enlightening video about the way Starbucks practices social engineering to make customers use Starbuckspeak when ordering their drinks – both the drink’s name and cup size. It always amused me that “Small” is no longer “small,” but “Tall.” It’s not up there with 1984’s four government ministries, whose titles express the exact opposite of their functions, but it is a linguistic deception.

I’m proud to say that, as a bit of a Bolshie, I steadfastly refused to comply. Right to the end it was always “Earl Grey, two tea bags in the biggest cup.” In the interests of not being seen as a glutton, I should point out that this was before the advent of the Trenta, a staggering 916 ml and larger than the average stomach capacity of a human. After a while, I had the baristas properly trained.

Bikini Baristas: Would you like whipped cream with that?

We all know sex sells pretty much anything. In the State of Washington, home of the iconic Starbucks, it also sells coffee. Not by the aforementioned corporation, I hasten to add for fear of being sued, but by some small, independent coffee chains. Typically those that operate out of roadside stands, rather than having retail space inside a commercial building. And not everyone is happy at being served their lattes by beautiful young women in skimpy bikinis. You have to pity the sad puritans who don’t conjour up an entirely un-caffeine related fantasy at being asked if they’d like some whipped cream on their hot venti.

I give you Girl Town Expresso in Lynnwood. According to this article, a picture was sent to the Snohomish Health District that showed the owner, Rick Summers, having sex with one of the baristas inside the stand. Fortunately for Summers, he was able to prove that the incident took place long ago, when the interior was painted a different colour. And he said they were closed at the time. So, happy endings, and Girl Town Expresso is once more open for business. It’s worth taking a look at the comments below the article to get an idea of how Washingtonians think about the issue. Certainly, some Americans are prudish, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a member of the Disgusted Squad who sent in the photo.

But there’s nothing illegal about employing bikini baristas. Faced with this painful fact, Kitsap, a conservative county, is seeking to protect God-fearing Americans from the sight of bare flesh by erecting barriers round 3 expresso stands. The Kitsap Sun reports that planners are writing zoning regulations for future coffee stands, but the only thing they can do with the 3 existing ones is to build 8 ft barriers round them. Do they not have even the most basic grasp of male psychology? Anything covered up is automatically lusted after. Ask your average Victorian bloke about ankles.

You have wonder at the logic behind all this. Even if the aim is to protect impressionable minors, the baristas are wearing bikinis – standard issue on public beaches. When concerned parents take their children on vacation, do they spurn beaches because of the moral danger? In any case, if this blog post has excited your curiosity and you wish to do a little sight-seeing next time you’re in Washington, here is a directory of bikini barista stands in the state I was proud to call home.

Consider it a Public Service Announcement.

Happy Burns Night!

Visit the Robert Burns World Federation for eveything you’ve ever wanted to know about the haggis including a translation of Robert Burns’ most famous poem.

Address to the Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm :
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead. 

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich! 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums. 

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner? 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit! 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle. 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Language – Love It or Lose It – Revisited

Serendipitously, over the last 24 hours, I’ve twice been reminded of the Word of the Week feature that used to be on this blog.  First elbow in the ribs is from Amy Eighttrack’s Blog in the comments section of this post.  Amy used that splendid phrase, take umbrage, and I felt a stab of remorse.  I’ve been a lollygagger in not posting old words in need of immediate care and attention, so they can be returned to the community of everyday language.

The elbow on the other side is an article in today’s Guardian, Dictionary compilers create endangered words listCollins Dictionary is retiring words that people only rarely use, at first in the smaller dictionaries, but who knows when they will only be found in obscure etymological texts?  I am particularly distressed about aerodrome and charabanc.  The aero in front of drome or plane has always seemed to me a much more attractive and spacious spelling.  And charabanc evokes an era of social history that’s still vividly alive in my imagination.

Nor am I alone in this way of thinking.  The great British chocolate manufacturer, Rowntree’s, produced the legendary Aero Bar in 1935, a confection of milk chocolate filled with air bubbles.  The name fits perfectly.  Can you imagine them re-branding it as the Air Bar, just because people now travel between airports in airplanes?  Of course not.  I rest my case.

Something must be done about this.  Remember, you can adopt a word at Save the Words.

I pledge to use aerodrome and aeroplane in all written communications, and charabanc wherever possible, regardless of whether the chellspecker has a hissy fit.  And I will revive the Word of the Week feature.  As before, each new word will be added to the Dictionary Page.

So, without more ado:

Umbrage (n): Offence or displeasure.  It’s almost onomatopoeic, suggesting the sound a large, brass wind instrument makes when blown in a fit of disgust.  Reminds me of rumble, rumble, discontent, a phrase a college friend used when irritated, which was quite often.  In later years I have made it my own.  Such is the power of a good example.  The word contains the Latin umbra, meaning shadow.  I can still remember the pleasure at discovering umbra and penumbra (see also penultimate) in a science class about Lunar eclipses.

But enough of this wittering: Jake took deep umbrage at the evangelist’s claim to know the mind of God, because God had already spoken to Jake, and it was nothing like what he’d heard.