July 20, 2012

The Perfect Hamburger (part four) – It got weird

It’s been a helluva long time since I posted on this here website – over two years!

 

I feel shame.

 

Many things have happened since then; I’ve become gainfully employed (since December 2010), the laptop with the perfect hamburger pictures died, and we’ve moved house.

 

But you’re not interested in that.  You’re either a web-bot, interested in sending me spam comments (of which I had 18,000+), or you’re one of my few readers who has finally given up on hearing about the perfect hamburger’s outcome.

So – what happened with the MeatLog and the CheezLog and the Imperfect Burgers?  And what about the math anyway?

In a nutshell, the perfect burgers were really, really nice burgers.  The buns were great, the burgers were delicious (one of my guests referred to eating the Perfect Burger as comparable to “eating custard”, which is a bit of a strange analogy to be sure).  The imperfect burgers were nowhere near as good.  (Imperfect burger – buy ground beef, add granulated garlic, pepper, and some salt.  Form into patties, grill, throw on orange Kraft burger cheese, place in shopbought buns.  Enjoy!)  That being said, some said that my Imperfect Burger was better than any of their own homemade burgers, and the recipe was requested.

Why so long to post about it?

Things got weird at the perfect burger testing evening, and the whole In Search of Perfection process is bloody exhausting.  I knew it was a bit silly to start with, but having a three day marathon to make a fucking hamburger?  That’s lunacy.  Add in the blogging, and the pictures, and making them suitable for quick upload on the web, and you’re looking at a 7 day effort.  I have to say that I spent a lot of time golfing instead.  And then I got a job which involves long hours in the office and a great deal of travel (throughout the GCC, Africa, and parts of SW Asia).  Good fun, but the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at a computer.

How did the burger testing evening get weird?  Some of it had to do with how many guests we had… the test group had very much increased in size since the halcyon days of the perfect chicken.  One of the guests didn’t want burger – spooky Dubai chicken breasts were infinitely preferable to hand-ground, carefully prepared and selected beef.   Whatever.  Conversations were decidedly odd; one guest was more than happy to talk to everyone else, incessantly, about how much she disliked her job.  Seriously – you could be talking about cheese, and somehow she’d be able to take the cheese conversation and segue it into how her boss was mean to her.  Ketchup was directly linked to the fact she was underpaid.  Fried mushrooms = underappreciation for her great efforts at work (to be fair to here boss, after hearing some of the shit she pulled to get back at her workplace for not putting her on a pedestal, covering her in glory for her merest presence, and for not bowing worshipfully to her whenever she deigned to enter the workplace, I would have sacked her ass in a moment.)

 

Then she offered to manually jerk off my dog and store his semen for us.  Yes, at that point we’d thought about breeding him (even if by distance) with a Canadian lady flatcoat, but still –  my puppy did not need to get his first sexual experience (apart from his ongoing homoerotic – and mutual – affair with the cat) from a whiny woman with an overinflated opinion of her own self-worth, a poor work ethic, and no concept of when to shut up and let conversations that weren’t about her to go ahead.  Note that she wasn’t planning to pleasure him that evening (thank god), but was happy to come along with the liquid nitrogen (and I’m assuming the candles, Barry White, and whatever diverse sexual aides were deemed necessary) whenever we desired.

 

Yeah – it was an “interesting evening”, and one that I’m still scarred from.

Normally when a dinner party goes awry, I’m happy and able to pick up and move on to the next one.  In this case, it was so bloody strange, and so interlinked (in my mind) with the Search For Good Enough, that I had to step away for awhile.

I’m very sorry to find that “awhile” equated to 2+ years in this circumstance.

 

So what’s next for “In Search of Good Enough”?

 

I do intend to test more of Heston’s recipes, and blog about them, although on a reduced, more relaxed, and less insane scale.

I also have had some thoughts about the nature of “perfection” itself… and not just the Heston way.  To get all philosophical-like, we’re all sold the idea that we can have a perfect body, perfect career, perfect marriage, perfect fitness, perfect wardrobe, perfect teeth, perfect retirement plan, perfect savings, perfect dinner party (don’t go there), perfect… whatever, by today’s media.  As a corollary to this, we should feel shameful about anything that isn’t perfect.

But wouldn’t it suffice to be Good Enough?  And what is Good Enough in terms of body, fitness, career, marriage, etc?  And if we choose to be Good Enough, does it mean we’re settling, or are we finding balance?

I have thoughts about exploring some of these areas, through self-experimentation and perhaps through the shared experiences of my readers (if I have any left).  I’m not sure where or how I’ll start, but welcome you thoughts and comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 26, 2009

Can a slapdash home cook find perfection?

I have a confession to make:  I have a major geek crush on Heston Blumenthal.  I love the way the man thinks about food, his methodical, questioning nature, and the way he presents this information to the public.  I would also love to say that I love the way his food tastes, but I can’t.  See – I’m a Canadian living in Dubai who has never had the chance to visit either the Fat Duck or the Hind’s Head.  So, I have to do the next best thing… watch Heston’s TV programs, read his recipe books, and dream of the day when my husband gives in to my incessant whining and takes me on a pilgrimage to Bray.

 

To be honest, up until about a year ago, I had only heard of Heston Blumenthal by way of food magazines and articles on www.chow.com (where he was normally mentioned in the same sentence as Ferran Adria and El Bulli).  I first saw his TV series, “In Search of Perfection” here in Dubai, and have only seen that series and one other “Kitchen Chemistry with  Heston Blumenthal”.  His other series have not yet aired here, and I’ve been a good girl and haven’t obtained them by “other” means.

When watching the shows, I was struck by Heston’s methods;  here’s a man who’s unafraid of hooking his wife’s kitchen fan to a grill in order to make it burn hotter, someone who would experiment with airbrushes, hairdryers, blowtorchs, and soda siphons in order to achieve the best version of a recipe.  It looks like a helluva lot of fun, and I learned a bunch of things as well.  However, the programs also set me to wondering:

  • Are his recipes really the pinnacle of perfection?  Really?
  • Who in their right mind, in their own house, lacking an experimental kitchen (or, to be honest, at times even a clean kitchen) would follow these recipes, when the tried and true methods take 1/4 of the time, 1/100 of the special ingredients, and taste… well… okay?
  • How can you possibly be expected to replicate these recipes in a place where you don’t have a neighbourhood fishmonger/butcher/chocolatier, where mail order deliveries of foodstuffs may be improbable, and your chances of getting locally sourced, organic, happy meat and vegetables are slim to none? 
  • Will my husband let me have a blowtorch?

I stayed wondering up until about a month ago when I ran out of reading material and we had to make an emergency trip to the local palace of books.  After I had run the gamut of my normal reading material (science fiction and fantasy – told you I was a geek), I had a browse through the cookbook section.  It was a quick browse, because my husband is an atrociously impatient shopper who had secured his pile of magazines and was ready to go.  So rather than having a leisurely gander about, I was instead told to “Get a bloody book by bloody Heston, there’s one right there, now let’s go, woman”.  So I bought  In Search of Total Perfection, took it home, read it that night, decided once again that Heston was a mad scientist/lunatic chef, then started thinking…

 Read part two