Saturday, 18 September 2010

Lets Talk About Food: Oat-covered Chicken and Fried Rice.

I've been cooking.  The real thing too, with basic ingredients from scratch and everything.  Ask anyone who's known me for a while; this is a strange occurrence.  Still, if you think about it, me starting to cook now makes a lot of sense.  It really comes down to three things:

One, hunger.  I'm on T and among other things, it makes me hungry.  Very hungry.  Food-is-the-best-thing-in-the-world hungry.

Two, cost.  I'm on the prowl for a job, but in the meantime money is tight.  I could spend over $60 for frozen, ready-to-heat meals, or I could spend $45 on twice as much chicken, some eggs, and everything I need to make Borscht a couple of times over.

Three, something one of my teachers said.  It was an analogy about learning skills versus learning specific projects by rote.  He said, and I paraphrase here, that say you know how to make scrambled eggs, and only scrambled eggs, that's all you're going to make.  However, if you understand that heat + eggs = cooked eggs, you can come up with a variety of ways to cook eggs.  I pretty much took this analogy and sent it back to the concept of cooking: food + heat + spices = cooking.  From there, I can experiment.

So, here's what I did today.  I took a piece of boneless, skinless chicken breast, an egg, some breakfast-type oatmeal, and various spices.  I beat the egg in one bowl and put some oatmeal and spices in another.  I took the chicken, dipped it in the egg, then rolled it in the oats etc. until covered.  Then I put it on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 Fahrenheit.  I think I let it cook for about 15min, though I'm not 100% sure.  Meanwhile, I made some rice and cleaned up a bit.  The chicken was ready before I needed it, so I ended up keeping it in the oven with the heat off and the door open a bit while I worked on the rest.  When the rice was ready, I added the egg I'd used for the chicken into the same pot I cooked the rice in.  I also messed with the burner heat some and added soy sauce and frozen peas.

The fried rice, pretty much perfect, at least by my standards.  The chicken... well, it ended up a little bland and a little dry.  I think next time I'll get the rice started before hand, and maybe use more spices, and putting them in the egg as well, rather than just the oats.  Either way, it was more than edible, and I didn't have anything half-cooked to give me food poisoning.  I'll call that a success.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Aesthetics of Technobabble

I have a confession to make: I love technobabble.  It doesn't much matter what the subject is, I find technical jargon fascinating.  Though I don't really need to understand in order to enjoy it, I can usually follow the gist of what's being talked about.  Sometimes I can even relate it back to other subjects, and by sheer repetition and unconscious cross-referencing, learn something.  Basically, it's fun.

This, naturally, accounts for my taste for science fiction.  In fact, I've been making a point of reading some vintage scifi, partly for fun and partly to gain a sense of the history of the genre.  In particular, and in all honesty the inspiration for this post, I've been reading 'The Complete Venus Equilateral' by George O. Smith.

Due to its publication history, it's not laid out like most novels I've read.  Essentially, it's a compilation of stories, most of which were originally published in the periodical 'Astounding Science Fiction' and each followed their own story arcs.  So each 'chapter', if you will, is a short story which just happens to tie directly into the one before.  What does this have to do with technobabble?  Well, these stories are full of it.  Oh, granted it's laughably out of date by now, seeing as these stories were written mainly in the early 40's and centred around radio tubes, but the whole premise leans heavily on the technical.  The whole thing is really about a bunch of electrical engineers in space.

However, even with my love of technobabble, I'd still probably find the whole thing terribly dry if it weren't for the way Smith wrote the characters.  Just reading the way these fellows interact makes me believe they're real.  Curious, jocular, and continually teasing each other; I could easily imagine myself with these guys, trying to find the next new advancement in technology.

Out of date as it is, and as much as it tests the limits of my suspension of disbelief (for example, the idea of anyone living on Venus), I'm really quite enjoying 'Venus Equilateral'.