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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cakes and circuses!


There is no depth to which I will not stoop in pursuit of an array of gadgets, including the ecological.

I am fed up with my perfectly well performing car.  It is a few years old and I am fed up with it.  It is boring and my wan attempt at economy by buying a car which is driven by diesel has turned out to be a false economy in all senses of the word by being the more expensive fuel and the dirtier of them as well.

I have therefore resolved to be greener.  I use the lower case letter advisedly, as I do not want to be associated with The Greens.  I mean, I may as well go the whole hog and call myself a Liberal and have done with it!

My resolve was strengthened by my hearing that there were various screens and buttons, levers and switches that were inevitably associated with the dashboard array of a car which paid some sort of obeisance to a belief that electric was best.

Therefore, on a trip to get the ingredients for my next attempt to get the chocolate blondies as I want them, I called in to the Toyota showroom and asked to see and get a price for a hybrid motor car.  Admittedly this was not the main reason why I had gone out in the first place, but it seemed like a good opportunity to find out about a better car than the one I have at the moment.

Hybrid cars seem to be much more expensive than ordinary petrol or diesel ones, but salespersons seem to have a knack of cutting thousands off the price to make them seem more attractive.  I was offered a car for some seven thousand euros less than the list price (with the government paying two thousand euros) as long as I chose a car without metallic paint.
I am going to have a test drive on Tuesday and see if I can still remember how to drive an automatic car!

The chocolate blondies were augmented by single malt Scotch soaked dehydrated cherries and flaked almonds with commercially produced white chocolate pieces thrown in for good luck.  The cooking time took longer than for the first experimental lot, but I think that they should be fairly tasty.

I am still not convinced by my choice of a recipe for a triple chocolate cake, though I think that I know where I am going with a combination of two recipes that I have found.

Irene’s arrival was the start of intensive use of the Internet to try and find a flight to France to go to one of Irene’s friend’s birthdays – and have a few days’ holiday break as well.  Flying to an airport near the place we want to go is financially ruinous so we have decided to fly to Paris and then hire a car and put our total faith in a GPS!

The real problem of course is the language.  I am a proud possessor of an honourable O level in French, but that was awarded a truly horrific number of years ago and I cannot say that I have added substantively to my vocabulary since I was sixteen.  And no one speaks any English where I am going.  Apart from Irene.

In such circumstances I asked the only question that I thought was pertinent: was the wine plentiful!  As the answer was in an enthusiastic affirmative I immediately felt relaxed.  The Babel Fish was an interesting literary invention but in my experience there was no need for such ingenuity when alcohol is available.  I have had full and mutually interesting conversations with monoglot native speakers in Greece and Turkey with only the appropriate version of their aniseed liqueur to assist communication!

Alcohol is the nearest that we get to Huxley’s mythical drug “soma” in “Brave new World” which had the contradictory effects of stimulation and anaesthetizing when necessary.  Isn’t that the very personal appreciation of the alcohol experience?  A few glasses of wine to stimulate “witty” and “engaging” conversation and then unconsciousness!

Come what may, we are flying to Paris when school ends this summer and hiring a car to take us to the north-west and the birthday party.  I am looking forward to it – if only to see just how much French I can dredge up!

Travel arrangements having been satisfactorily made, Suzanne and I repaired to El Elefante to see if we could get a table for something more spicy than the usual fare that we are used to in this part of the country.

A shared Indonesian and Indian meal later we both felt more at peace with the world.  It was just as well that Irene restricted herself to fizzy water in the restaurant as she was stopped by the police, who are particularly busy in Castelldefels during the weekends, and had to undergo a document check and a breathalyser test.  Irene said that she was not surprised by this as she has been expecting something like it for a while.  She is more than ever determined to trust her instincts!

The real effort that I have made today is to get the triple chocolate cake made.  After the taste success, but presentational disaster of my first attempt I have made a few changes in the structure of this one.  The base has been changed from heavy digestive biscuits to a lighter Marie biscuit and digestive mix.  The cream I have used has been heavier and I have whipped it more.  I have added gelatine to the chocolate layers in an attempt to keep them in place.

My attempts at fondant icing sugar have been unmitigated horrors, mainly because I do not have some significant ingredients and have (disastrously) improvised.  I might have a look in the centre tomorrow when I go to one of the operas which haven’t been cancelled by the management as their response to the crisis.  The cake doesn’t need to be finished off until Tuesday evening for presentation on Wednesday.

This will be my second contribution to Chocolate Week, my first being the Chocolate Blondies which are already in their Tupperware box waiting to be distributed tomorrow morning as the opening culinary delight in a week of wonders.

The disappointing result today was the failure of Cardiff to take home the Carling Cup.  It was an exciting game but, while I recognize the delight of the melodrama of a penalty shoot-out it does seem a vulgar and unsatisfactory way of deciding an important competition.  Especially when we lose. 

Still there is the Triple Crown to celebrate this weekend – and there are a number of English colleagues to crow over!



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