Absent Idiot

I left the house this morning to go to my regular contact session with students learning English at the local Technical College. A group of volunteers are at the disposition of the teachers to encourage the students to practice their english and it is a lot of fun. I have learned from the students how to cook beans properly, Costa Rican style…which is the best pizza takeaway in town…how you gain admission to public universities…what is reggaeton– dance music……a real breath of fresh air. The students are well behaved, responsive and really nice young people. They do me good. I hope they benefit from it as much as do I.

We have discussed all manner of things….why a true Scot wears nothing under the kilt, who are the kings of rock, the war in the Ukraine….and have worked on the skills they will need to find success in their future careers, not just language competence, but networking and continuing professional education.

So, on a high, I returned home.

One look and I would have done well to turn on my heel….the kitchen was in chaos. Higher Authority was directing operations, every surface was covered and the cleaner was brandishing cleaning cloths and dusters.

He had found all the kitchen gadgets which I had tucked away…out of sight and hopefully out of mind. Their discovery while I was out qualified me for the apocryphal Russian translation of said phrase…absent idiot.

Higher authority has a weakness for gadgets…..but he isn’t the one using them.

Some are useful….the one I use for steaming pan haggis, for example. Apart from steaming it claims to cook and fry as well, but I already have provision for these activities so apart from haggis and Christmas pudding production it remains in its lair.

A sandwich toaster has long been abandoned to a dark corner. Such is its shape that it requires supermarket sliced bread which is as vile here as in Europe and, what’s more, the major supplier of which rejoices in the name of Bimbo. Bimbo is also the sponsor of one of the major football clubs in the country whose supporters buy and wear copies of the team’s kit, thus the sight of gentlemen of all ages, shapes and sizes strolling about in tee shirts emblazoned with the name of the firm in bold letters across their chests. It gives an anglophone pause for thought in these days of transgenderism…

The blender had been brought blinking into the light. Not only do I not make ‘smoothies’ but the cup is a real beast to clean, the designer having given it internal ribs, so it rarely emerges from obscurity.

Not too much of a problem so far….the gadgets were being dusted and replaced…but too soon to breathe easily.

He had discovered the electric saucepan. To be fair, he had bought it thinking it a slow cooker, but having a sufficiency of normal saucepans I had put it aside.

Why had I put it aside? Look, it has temperature control! Ideal for making ersatz golden syrup!

To Britishers of our age, life without a stock of golden syrup is unthinkable.

No golden syrup, no brandysnaps, steamed puddings, gingerbread or, most importantly, treacle tart.

In the days that the British Embassy had some care for its citizens, there used to be a celebration of the Queen’s birthday in the garden of the ambassador, complete with highland dancing but most importantly with a stand supplying British essential consumables. Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies, Bird’s custard powder, proper loose black tea, pork pies – and how they got those through customs is beyond me unless they used the diplomatic bag – prepared suet, Mars bars, golden syrup…….the stand was mobbed and it was handy to have been trained in how to use the elbows at church jumble sales in order to get to the front.

These days the embassy could not care less if its fellow countrymen took a running jump…they are there for trade purposes only, and, being so commercially virtuous, there are no more cakes and ale for the hoi polloi. Thus, no more golden syrup. You have to make a substitute and for this, I am informed, the electric saucepan will be ideal. It is placed on the work top, ready for action.

Then, lastly, my particular bugbear…the air fryer. I hate the thing. Chips, french fries, call them what you will, are not meant to be cooked without fat. I loathe the results. I loathe wrestling with the thing, trying to release its basket for cleaning. I loathe burning the backs of my fingers on it when turning out its contents.

We ought to have another go…I’ll look for a recipe.

And look he did.

With the result that I have wrestled with the thing and burned the backs of my fingers again.

Air fryers? Humbug!

60 thoughts on “Absent Idiot”

  1. I just volunteered to do some English conversation over Zoom. With any luck the kids will teach me a few things, too. But don’t get me started on the appliances. Why I feel the need for a blender, a multi-cooker, a KitchenAid, a stick blender, toaster and more, in addition to a perfectly fine stove, I do not know. Fortunately there is no one here to rat me out. Jacques will never tell.

    1. Dogs are very loyal. As long as I don’t bust the pressure cooker which produces their food….
      The exchanges with the kids make my day…they are so open, not watching whether they are saying the right thing.

  2. ‘Air Fryer?’ I heard something about these the other day and have no idea how they work. Oven chips are easy and fattening, so I need no more. In fact I have had too many chips in the past.
    I am impressed by the keenness of Higher Authority to ensure the kitchen, which he does not use, has all the latest and best gadgets. How caring.
    The kids appear to do you good. They will learn much, including Scots cooking, and you sound as if you are having fun! Good for you!

    1. The kids are great. The staff have been busy finding videos about Scotland which I spend my time either explaining or debunking. The Highland Clearances shocked them.
      Chips are to be made in deep fryers using animal fat to qualify as such…..
      Yes, he is keen to save me work…I just wish the gadgets thought alike.

    2. “Scots cooking,” you say? Be sure to teach the wee ones about proper nutrition including the Mars Bar Diet. As Billy Connolly said, “”I’m a big fan of the Mars Bar Diet. You don’t eat the Mars bar, you stick it up your arse and let a Rottweiler chase you home”

      1. No, I don’t burn my fingers, maybe it’s the model I have or the tongs I usually use. Make sure you have some aloe around for those “hash marks”. (burns and scrapes from cooking)

  3. You have my sympathy. We have THREE gadgets (from Lidl) for mincing meat, because he forgets we’ve already got one. He’s always about to make the minced base for bolognese and chili con carne but never quite gets round to it. I know what you mean about smoothie makers. I’ve given up worrying about how clean it is, since it’s going to be used again tomorrow to make another smoothie. It’s the one way I can make sure he gets his five (or in our case nine) a day. It’s the most used gadget in the house. apart from the electric kettle.

    1. Electric kettles banned here…..heat the water for tea on the gas having measured it first!
      I was forgetting about the mincer…and the slicer….and the endless potato peelers in search of the ideal…..oh, and the mouli legumes which a friend brought over from France which astonishes those who meet it!

    1. I think the idea was to stop using oil…..but as far as I can see the human race was a damned sight healthier when it used dripping and lard, ate eggs and slapped butter on its bread than when the food industry persuaded doctors to tell us anything non artificial was bad for us.

          1. I don’t think so…it’s heavily larded with Shakespearean insults, a few biblical curses and liberal Swahili and Maori. And a dash of Welsh, for good measure!

  4. The only gadget that I find useful aboard the Cardinal is the electric antelope eviscerator, although electric antelope are going the way of the clockwork orange in terms of availability and price. Kettle (gas or stove-top), ancient heavy steek combination boiler/steamer (gas or stove-top) and – against all government diktat – heavy frying pan, for when some veggie hash requires a decent crust. The kettle is one-litre, exactly the amount of water required for my coffee first thing in the morning, and no more.

    Distinct Autumn if not actual Winter is upon us here in Ingerlund, and I – like most others in the real world – am already rationing my coal… and I still can’t open a new FaceBook account after being thrown off some months ago for simply suggesting the introduction of a tight new working relationship betwixt street lamp posts, ropes, and all politicians.

    1. Facebook is a decidedly disciminatory firm…..I think if you had suggested that your idea pertained solely to Presidents Trump and Putin you would have been feted, not banned….

  5. I confess I did chortle a bit as I read your post. Mine is a kitchen the size of a nickel and space is at a premium. I detest appliances on the countertop (hate that clutter!) and thus managed to avoid the Insta-Pot/air fryer craze that everyone in my family has. That was until Christmas when the daughter (bless her heart) sent one-a beast sized appliance. What the bloody blue blazes am I gonna do with that thing? And more importantly, where the devil will it live-it can’t live in the kitchen-there’s no space for it in the cupboards. Ugh. I’ve had to relegate it to the garage where I’ll probably never remember I have the bloody thing. On the plus side, no more burnt fingers. 😆

    1. When Leo designed this house the kitchen area was immense……slowly the workspace has become invaded by gadgets…some useful – others decidedly not! He must have been planning ahead!

      1. Sadly it’s a true fact of life, you fill the space you’re in, no matter what. I moved from a 6 bedroom house into a 3 bedroom house…My garage was filled with the overflow for a good long time. Now that I’m fitting in better, the last thing I needed was an Insta Pot/air fryer! 🙄

  6. The comments here are gold! Such a witty community here that could easily coagulate into a C.A.A :- “Citizens Against Air-fryers,” activist-style movement. I would join that enthusiastically. So far, I have stubbornly resisted the “but everyone has one,” mentality. Perhaps I was traumatized by the M-i-l, who is the gadget Queen. Although the microwave won me over eventually, I quietly confess to having an Electric kettle and a Sandwich press – I come from a family obsessed with fresh, soft, sliced bread. I like baking but the thought of having one of those Monster Kenwood Mixmasters that weigh a ton on the benchtop is just too much.
    But back to the Golden Syrup! I am a big fan of it, especially on Danish rice pudding, which gets par cooked on the stove and then finished off with a couple of hours wrapped in towels in the bed – as in hay box residual heat old-style cooking. Surely that qualifies me as an appliance hater?

    1. A hay box! As used by granny to send out food to the men at harvest time, when the weather dictated the hours worked, to avoid the food getting cold.
      I shall look up that Danish rice pudding…..though putting anything in the bed here is a high risk operation, dogs being somewhat curious.
      Leo declared war on electric kettles years ago after watching his mother and sister filling them to the brim in order to make two cups of tea….the batterd saucepan on the gas and measured water is the style in this household. Mother had a one cup electric kettle…but I can’t find anything like it here.
      I am firmly of the view that the comments section is the best part of this blog….

      1. It might be difficult to find a recipe for Hay box cooking but it is a great method for cooking rice if you can shut the door on the dogs. The Danish puddings name is “Ris a la mande” – the Scots probably had a similar less decadent version. The Norwegian version, Risengrøt, is far less sweet.

  7. This made me smile. Broadly. You have a way with words. I loved your description of the Queen’s birthday celebrations (you need to write a book, by the way). I am considering a Bimbo T-shirt and want to know who are the kings of rock,

    1. The kings of rock were finally admitted to be the Rolling Stones….
      As to the Bimbo T shirt, be warned, the colours are a livid purple with white lettering and stripes. You would stand out in a crowd. However, if undeterred, send me your vital statistics under plain cover and I could obtain one and send it the next time I have a DHL package going to the U.K. – which will be some time after the CWU industrial action. Here we have the same effect by industrial inaction, which goes on longer.
      Write a book! I would love to, but as I live with the Person from Porlock and twelve dogs full time and assorted Costa Ricans at all unexpected hours of the day, not to speak of the young man who only makes deliveries after sundown, my time is not my own.
      I’m glad the blog makes you smile…..as the comments do me.

  8. My daughter has bought me several appliances, but the only one I use and like is the toaster oven. My kitchen is too small to store the juicer, the food processor, the coffee maker, etc. And I have friends who swear by an air fryer, but I’m with you: some foods were just meant to be cooked in grease! Hang in there, and when you get the chance, put all your appliances back where you hid them.

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