Theme: Freedom, Sex, Food and Key Chain Fobs

Theme: Freedom, Sex, Food and Key Chain Fobs

Back in January I was looking through the themes for 2015, and this month’s theme: “Freedom, Sex, Food & Key Chain Fob,” had me puzzled. I thought that it was an English/American saying with a non-literal interpretation, but no. To be fair, English is not my native language although most of my day passes in English. I am using it to get by. I leave it to you native-English-speaking types to account how the sentence “Some people can’t stand sitting,” came to make sense. Anyway, I threw a 4-sided dice (yes, they exist) as to which keyword I should focus on, and this month we talk about food. I leave the freedom, sex and key chain fobs for the rest of my co-bloggers to cover. So in line with a zine I went out and challenged myself to make some food. I am now a man that has made his own tomato sauce. And it was easy! Do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is easy.

You take 1 kg. of tomatoes. As to which type of tomato, I do not care. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and several gastro-scientists on the web have already posted deep analysis of which tomatoes to work with. They did the research and I ignored it. Which type of tomato should you use? The red ones. Simple as that. 1 kg of fresh red tomatoes. Anything else, I will not be responsible for the outcome. You take the tomatoes and wash them for dirt and whatever else they are crawling in from the market. And without any further processing you throw them in a pot with water and put them to a boil. Any boil. After 2-5 minutes in the boiling water, the skin of the tomatoes will crack. When cracked, pull them out of the boiling water. Might want to use a strainer. Put the cracked-skin tomatoes into a some cold/ice water to cool them off. Once sufficiently cooled off, you take each tomato and peel the skin off. I did this on 1 kg. of tomatoes in 5 minutes. It is easy. Messy, but easy. Remember to talk the center stalk-bit out as well. Ain’t nobody wanna eat that. Use a knife. When should be left is just below 1 kg. of red lumps.

When you want to add to your tomato sauce does not matter. I used 1 red bell pepper and 1 red onion, sauteed with paprika. You do you, and it will be fine. I recommend at least adding the onion. Red bell pepper, garlic, cauliflower, beef stew, strawberry pudding, loafers or babies is all up to you. No turmeric though. Never turmeric. You may use curry if you want to, but no pure turmeric. This shit is not going to get commercial red as it stands, no need to add lying treacherous yellow colouring to the mix. Once you have your ingredients and your peeled tomatoes ready to go, we do things the Irish way: Put it in a pot and boil it until you can eat it using a straw. The second messy part of the job is crushing the peeled tomatoes. I did so by hand because my paprika sauteed onion and red pepper motivated me to proceed macho-man style. You may use a blender or a food processor if your fancy ass kitchen has one of those, but I do not. Put a peeled tomato into your hand, put your hand into a pot and crush ever so gently. Once all the tomatoes have become a red lumpy mush in a pot you squeeze the lumps, too. Until everything is a red liquid-ish mass. If you have done some research into the best kind of tomatoes to use, you may have a lot of liquid in the pot now, or not so much. Does not matter much though. You add all the other ingredients, 1 tsp. of oregano and 1 tsp. of thyme and put it to a boil. And after seasoning your tomato sauce extra carefully, you may punch a wall to gain +3 manliness buff to counter the “growing vagina”-debuff you will be sprouting at this point.

You boil this liquid mass until so much water has been reduced that you are happy with the consistency. Depending on your choice of tomatoes and added ingredients this likely takes between 30 minutes and three hours.

Now, what I got out of it after using a camping handheld blender to remove excess lumps and reach my favoured consistency: a few small lumps in a homogenous sauce, I ended up with about a half liter of tomato sauce.

You may want to sweeten the sauce to your liking using sugar or artificial sweetener if you are so inclined, or diabetes is ailing you. If you do not prefer it sweet, you may opt out of this. Taste and spice, that is the key here. Some salt and pepper should be added at some point in the mix, preferably while the sauce is boiling, but you can do so subsequently, if you want. This is not set in stone. None of it is. You boil tomatoes with ingredients. It is not rocket science. It is cooking. No need to make things harder than they are.

The sauce was not as red as the store-bought tomato sauce. But in terms of taste, I have never had better, and I have been to Italy and I have had authentic home-made Italian tomato sauce before. It trumps the store-bought tomato sauce by miles in terms of taste and you get to control what is in it. No artificial colours or preservatives. No added chemicals. You know what is in it. And it tastes much much better. In terms of price, I paid 12-13$ for the ingredients and seeing as I can get half a liter of store-bought tomato sauce for 0.99$…

There is an old saying, you should never cross a river to get water. This does depend if it is a particularly nice trip, or the water at the end is much cleaner and tastes better than the water from the river. If you know what I mean. 😉

Reflections: On a Eurovision Performance…

Reflections: On a Eurovision Performance…

So, Eurovision 2015 came and went. And while the want to read on went out the window for the American viewers as early as the headline of this post, I am European and I care about the Eurovision Song Contest. Always has. Always will. Why?

Briefly, I think that in a utopic world state where we all live in peace, harmony, symbiosis and respect for one another’s cultures and beliefs, the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly the kind of thing we would be doing: a celebration of our different cultures and of mutual respect for cultures and beliefs. And I do not want this to go away.

This is not going to be a rant on why I think the wrong contribution won. Although, I somewhat do.

One performance this year left me somewhere in the uncanny valley and I want to rant a bit here. First, go watch the performance. Here, I will link it and, please, pay attention to the stage show:

Obvious disclaimers: I am not going to criticise the music, or her singing, or her appearance. The number is absolutely worthwhile listening to on its own. Bojana Stamenov’s vocal performance is great and I have nothing but respect and admiration for her representation of Serbia in this year’s contest. But I will say why I find the message moot, and that the stage show undermines it completely.

First of all, the whole “accept who you are and be at peace with it” has been a viable hot topic for decades, even before the Rocky Horror Picture Show, before the rise of the Internet. Yes, RHPS was in 1975. Makes you feel old, right? It never ceases to be a relevant message, but I find myself asking: what is this song teaching us in terms of inner peace and acceptance? Obviously a lot, but what fresh teachings does it bring about? What does this song say that has not been said before? Nothing. So I find the message moot, but this is a very subjective point of critique. You are not likely to share this opinion, so I will not argue about it. The arguments would rely too much on intertextuality to be convincing. Ultimately it comes down to the this: I have already heard all the points this song is making elsewhere and before. If you have not, you have not, and you will not share this opinion of mine.

Whether or not it is worthwhile repeating the message over and over again, if a completely different debate…

But notice the stage show from around 1:50 and onwards. When her four background dancers that were previously rather static and uniformly dressed burst into dance. Their scene presence is obvious and their energy is unmistakable, and contrasts the stage performance thus far. But this is sort of where is breaks down for me. I think the choreographer attempts to embrace the celebration of self-acceptance, which is noble, but…

The singer does not match what her dancers are doing. And to me this is glaringly obvious. First of all, she would not have the air to do so, the extreme movement would impact her impressive vocal performance (mind you, all singing must be live in the Eurovision), she is obviously not trying to match their dancing, and lastly, and I hate to draw attention to it, her size.

Since this is the SJW-age of the Internet, I need some TL;DR disclaimers here before the hate-mail and death threats commence. At least, to keep it to a minimum (the un-nuanced twat-cakes are already typing out their hate right now). I am not criticising her for being obese. I am about to bring about an argument that contains within it the appearance and weight of a female performer, so I obviously must nuance my critique, before starting it. Let me clarify once and for all: My critique is not with her. It is about the stage show’s (lack of) interaction with her.

Whether or not she is obese or that is make-up making her look like that, I feel fair in the statement that her size makes her stand out on stage. And that is fine. How people look, how they live and what people eat and drink is something I feel should be left entirely up to themselves, but the central theme of this particular piece of music is beauty. And this comes in two variants: inner and outer. For all that I know she could be a fiend or an angel to be around when it comes to inner beauty, I do not know, and that is of no importance to the performance. Her personality only affects the performance in the minds of those who know whether or not she possesses a great personality. The point of the song is the accept beauty even if it is not apparent, which is a statement that channels inner beauty outward. The song is thus about acceptance of the lack of outer beauty and the embrace of inner beauty (captain Obvious strikes again). And the sole act of appearing on a stage, let alone performing, in a show like this shines (several hundred) spotlights on her appearance. And in this context, appearance is not nothing!

And she is an obvious choice from the get-go for this song, because putting four of the usually-undernourished in-great-shape dancers around her accents her difference in appearance. She is the odd-one-out among the dancers and that is the point. That is why her dancers are static and wearing the same uniform for the first part of the song, and she is the singer. It comes across perfectly. But when they break into dance and start taking the stage, the performance, to me at least, shifts from being a celebration of self-acceptance to be a celebration of the limits imposed by her deviation in appearance. That is the way she sticks out and it becomes obvious that she can not do what they can do. But ought the point not be that in spite of her difference in appearance, she is able to do anything anyone else can? That she is every bit their equal, and then some, seeing as she is the lead singer? And that outer beauty in no way imposes superiority?

I like to think so (if this is not the point of the song, then it advocates outer beauty and my respect for the contribution is straight out the window). And that is why I think the stage show in a master stroke, to accent the climax of the music and demand scene presence, destroys the central point the performance is trying to bring across.

Her dancers shed their costumes to accent their individuality, and then they take the stage which shifts some of the attention from the singer to the media-pretty dancers. And this is where there may have been a stroke of genius. Because this is what media tend to do in practice: shift the attention of something “undesirable” towards something that is culturally pleasing to look at. And this experience that the stage show betrays the artistic message of the performance as is common in media, might have been an actual work of art, because “beauty never lies.”

But the whole point of her performance is that she is meant to be channeling inner beauty outwards. Hence, the choreography does not deem her “beautiful” in this performance (although I think she is), but the dancers obviously are. If their individuality accented by their varying costumes are meant to somehow bring across that they, too, are not “beautiful” in the eyes of the audience, then there is no contrast anymore. Their uniforms meant nothing and they are all odd-ones-out – and the whole message fails completely.

If they are “beautiful”, and this is meant to portray the betrayal of the stage show to the artistic message of self-acceptance where does this shine through? If indeed “beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn”, then why were the “beautiful” dancers concealed for the first part of the song? Why were the beautiful hidden? Unless they are not meant to be “beautiful” and then we return to the paragraph above. This is either wrong or implies that outer beauty excludes inner beauty (in which case my respect for this contribution is out the window). So, the only interpretation left, that I can see, is that “beauty never lines, it cries ‘here I am'”, which merits the singer’s place among the dancers and that they are indeed equal. The dancers are meant to be “beautiful” and she is not meant to be “beautiful” (although she is). And we return to the paragraphs above and it all falls apart at the seams.

It had the potential to underline how media excludes anything “not-beautiful” and shifts attention away from inner beauty to superficial beauty. A great point because the whole notion of outer superficial beauty is driven by media. But to me, it falls short and the stage show makes it a celebration of her limitations, a celebration of the fact that she is not as good as them – she is different, hence inferior.

And that rubs me all the wrong ways.

The song taken on its own without the stage show, however, is still worth listening to and advocates a great point.