Thursday 26 December 2013

Best Wishes for a Self-Referential Redundant New Year

Lunch today is a cheese quesadilla with hot sauce, simply because it's a holiday week and I'm not at work. So for the sake of keeping the sandwich ideas coming I'll start with a description of a lunch I had last week. I've always said I don't like rocket (arugula for American readers) because I can't stand it in salads. But in the past few years I've discovered that rocket actually works in some sandwiches. Since I get these pre-made salad mixtures that always seem to be crowded with rocket (which I've usually just thrown out), I made a sandwich with Wensleydale with a bit of hot mango chutney and then stuffed it with fresh rocket. And you know what? It was delicious! I'll definitely do this again. I know it's good with Stilton, and I'm sure it would be good with Lancashire, Cheshire, Caerphily, and the like.

As today is Boxing Day and I'm being leisurely and reflective (two things I never seem to have the luxury of indulging in these days), I'll start with a realisation I had recently: in the future life will become self-referential. For years we have been reading reviews of what literary critics have read; today we spend leisure time reading and watching what friends are spending their leisure time reading and watching (via Facebook), and we watch TV programs about people watching TV programs (re Charlie Brooker and The Royle Family). It's only a matter of time before we will be watching TV programs about people watching TV programs about people watching TV programs about people watching TV programs ad infinitum. We will play games where we make our own screen avatars play games where they make their own screen avatars play games where etc. And I can see myself falling asleep and dreaming about myself falling asleep and dreaming about myself falling asleep and dreaming about myself falling asleep. I've already come quite close.

As life is becoming more virtual and less literal, why do so many young people -- students especially -- insist on being redundant about the literal world? "I was literally so hungry" means nothing, you idiot -- you were hungry! "I literally couldn't find my keys" means you couldn't find them, period! Nobody expects you to figuratively not find something unless, perhaps, you're writing out an algebraic equation on a chalkboard that symbolise the search for your keys.

I see a day where our completely virtual, figurative, self-referential lives will be explained in doubly redundant literal terms, and all sense of logic will be dumped into an infinite loop. The world as we know it (or watch it or explain it) will explode or implode, or possibly both. I hope I have fresh batteries in my camera when this happens.

Friday 4 October 2013

Humbled by Stair Diving

Lunch today is a mixture of leftover nubs: a sandwich with slices of Wensleydale, Port Salud, and Davidstowe Cheddar with the last bit of fresh tarragon and the last bit of chopped Romano pepper. Not a bad creation considering my haphazard and sometimes mindless attempts to be conscientious about not wasting food.

I'm returning to work after being off for 2 days after having done an impressive dive down a flight of stairs at a party on Saturday night. This isn't my first dive, mind you, and fortunately it wasn't the most damaging. I think my worst-injury dive was my first one many years ago, when I woke up in a London hospital with my forehead and chin stitched up, and the second-worst was 3 years ago when I knocked myself out, managed a permanent rug burn on my right cheek, and was unable to finish a sentence for 2 weeks. Four of my falls occurred on those short little stairs featured in typical Northern England terrace houses, most of them built in the late 19th century when people were very tiny. Even though my feet are small I have to step sideways down the steps. Therefore it is fairly easy to accidentally slip, especially if one is a clutz like myself, and if there is no handrail with which to steady oneself.

On this most recent stair dive I didn't injure anything in particular, except for the sensibilities of my traumatised friends; but my body is extremely stiff and sore and doesn't appreciate me moving in certain directions, particularly -- and perhaps ironically -- toward the floor. The doctor told me movement is good but not to do anything that hurts. And one of the things that hurts is to take long strides.

This is where the humility comes in. I am a speedfreak when it comes to walking. I love to walk and I love to walk as fast as is possible with my long legs and my super-quick strides. I love to feel the wind blow through my hair as I sail through the air like a schooner, leaving every pedestrian I pass in my wake. I love to push myself to walk even faster than is humanly possible, with my mind leading the way for my rocketing body. My friends comment that when they see me walking by I'm just a blurred streak. This is part of my persona.

But at the moment I have to walk very very slowly, with short strides. I feel like I'm stuck in slow motion, walking at the same rate as the elderly men and the obese ladies and the students on crutches and the idly meandering families with nothing better to do than meander. This morning I walked from the gallery to the little Sainsbury's to pick up a couple of items before work. Normally I do this walk in no time flat, jetting along the pavement like a missile. But today it took me so long, so unbearably long, that I found myself bored shitless by the time I was only a third of the way there. I never realised how boring walking at a slow rate can be. I want to keep up with the greyhounds and the cheetahs. I want to feel the G forces fold back my face. I want to get there faster than anybody else!

But for now it's baby-step, baby-step, baby-step, baby-step, baby-step….(yawn)…

Monday 12 August 2013

The Joy of Men in Skirts

I hate to say TGIF, because I believe one should live each day and not count their life in weekends. But it's been a 3-day work week which for some reason seems to plod on longer than a 5-day week. I'm sitting in the Winter Garden apologising to the pigeons for not having any more of my Edam, red pepper, and spinach sandwich left. I'm also being appalled by the number of parents who beam proudly and laugh when their hyperactive sprigs stomp and screech in order to scare the pigeons. How would they feel if some large creature were to stomp around and scare their children during their dinnertime?

My week was short because we went away for a long weekend to a wedding. I've been to a few Catholic weddings and plenty of Jewish weddings, and I've been to two religious English weddings. But this was my first humanist Scottish wedding, on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

One of the most exciting aspects of the wedding -- besides the lone bagpiper whose tunes ushered in the bride and her entourage -- was the large number of men in kilts, including the English participants. If one were to wear a kilt in Sheffield, one would probably attract a few titters. In America a kilt could either elicit outright derision or impress the observer with how eccentric the kilt wearer is. But in Scotland I saw these Englishmen, nervous as they were being fitted with their kilts, finally relax into a manly kilted mode, most comfortable with their wrap-around layers, intricately laced shoes, daggers, and sporrans (especially handy for carrying cigarettes and mobile phones). And I don't think I was the only non-kilted female who felt quite happy to be surrounded by men in skirts.

(To be fair, the bagpiper pointed out to me that kilts are not skirts because they wrap around in the opposite direction from a skirt. But as none of my skirts actually wrap around in any direction, I'm assuming this is original distinction, back when skirts did wrap around the body. So I'm still going to think of kilts as skirts.)

I've always liked men in skirts, especially if they have good legs. In America as well as in England I've had to content myself with the occasional fashionable man (think David Beckham) sporting a long skirt, or with fancy dress parties with men dressed as women. But in Scotland it's a much less random occurrence. Just mention a wedding, a funeral, a family gathering, or a formal ceremony, and the kilts come out. I think men should be allowed to wear kilts at their whim just like women can wear skirts: to work, to a party, for a night out on the town, on a leisurely day just because they're comfortable. Man bags are finally becoming popular, which I think is a good thing.

So bring on the skirts!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

That Yoyo Called "Weather"

I’m sitting in the Winter Garden with my favourite comfort-food sandwich: Wensleydale with dried dill. I’ve also got a few leaves of curly green and red lettuce fresh from a friend’s allotment – and a summer assortment of nectarine, apricot, and mango slices.

I went to California for a short visit last month. While I was there the weather was pleasantly springlike – in a Southern Californian way, that is. My mom only had to turn on the air conditioning three times, and the majority of days were suitable for sandals. Up in Northern California a summer jacket was sufficient for evenings.

I came home to find Sheffield in total meteorological chaos. For the last few days it’s been cool, with hot sunbreaks along with gusty icy winds occurring within the same minute, with the element of surprise being a sudden but momentary downpour. Sitting outside I get a real upper-body workout simply donning and doffing my jacket over and over again, dozens of times.

I can’t help but be amused by the confusion I see on the city streets. Two young women passed by, one wearing a jacket, scarf, and boots, and the other in a vest, short trousers, and sandals. Probably 85 percent of the populace are wearing jackets in varying degrees of heaviness, and the other 15 percent are strolling about in their shirt sleeves, a few displaying impressive goosepimple patterns on their arms. The other day a young boy I know was contentedly wearing a padded jacket and a trapper’s hat with earflaps. And this was inside, not outside. When the sun smiles pleasantly, coaxing people out into beer gardens and onto decks, the sudden exodus into shelter can be striking when a surprise hurricane does its magic trick by suddenly announcing “WHOOSH!” It’s 3:13pm: do you know where your patio umbrella is?

They say this “uncertain” weather is going to last for the next 10 years. Meanwhile I’m considering buying a bigger backpack so that I can leave the house every morning prepared for what might happen. If this summer I wear a t-shirt, light jacket, jeans, shoes, and sunglasses, then my “uncertain” weather back-up gear should include the following: sandals, shorts, sun hat, vest, sunscreen, umbrella, Pac-Mac, scarf, gloves, jumper, winter boots, winter coat, winter hat, ice grips, and a couple of heavy boulders to hold down lightweight items in a gale.

I’ll have to shop for a very big backpack…

Sunday 24 March 2013

A Snowy Plug for my Ecookbook

Today I’m not eating lunch in the Winter Garden because it’s a Sunday as opposed to a work day. I’m at home, the ground is covered with a foot of snow outside (obviously snow is the new “spring” this year), and I’ll probably have a quesadilla for my lunch, made on a wholegrain flour tortilla with extra mature cheddar and some Mexican hot sauce from a bottle. My weekend lunches aren’t created as lovingly as my weekday packed sandwiches simply because I usually wait until I’m absolutely starving before rushing into the kitchen to create something fast.

So why am I talking about this in my lunch blog? Because I need to post a personal advertisement today. Yesterday I finally published my first e-book, Adventures in Sandwichland: How to Look Forward to Your Lunch While Saving Money. It’s a cookbook with dozens of recipes for the very sandwiches I create, describe, and consume in the course of this blog. Because I’m a pescatarian most of the sandwiches are vegetarian with some fish and seafood options, but a very close carnivorous companion with excellent taste and a finesse for culinary creativity has contributed some meat recipes.

The ebook is only US$4.99 (which, as of today, is only £3.28), so grab yourself a copy. You can read a sample for free first.

So check it out here!

Meanwhile I suppose I should describe the snow outside. It’s tall and it’s piled up in drifts and the neighbourhood is very quiet except for the scraping of plastic sledges being dragged down the street by excited families. The wind chill factor is predicted as being between -6 and -8 Centigrade, and there is no relief in sight.

I’m dreaming of a white Easter…*

(*Thanks to Steve Jones for that one)

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