Archive for March, 2009

Rubber Ring: A Sad Fact Widely Known

Posted in Food & Drink on March 17, 2009 by Johnnie

mokapot2Tea drinking visitors to my house have always, over the years, made polite fun of my collection of Bialetti Moka pots.  I have five, graded by how many espressos they make: one, three (I have two of these), six and nine.  Being of Italian stock, these ingenious, classic stove-top coffee makers have been a huge part of my life since I was tiny; the beautiful aroma of the brewing process could, in TV home-improvement logic, have sold my house and those of my grandparents and extended family, thousands of times over.  But for all that they’re life-saving devices for drowsy, dual-ended-candle-burning coffee addicts, they do have an Achilles heel: their functionality depends entirely on a little rubber seal.  Using a Moka pot at least once a day means copious washing (in water only, never with washing up liquid) and eventually, this rubber ring wears away and stops sealing – leading to treacly coffee bleeding out of the middle or simply not filling the upper chamber.  My whinge is this: why is it so hard to find these little rubber rings in Dublin?  I do trek to the wonderful Little Italy in Smithfield for supplies as often as possible but, the thing is, so many places sell Moka pots – why can’t they just keep bags of replacement seals?  The pots themselves usually cost around €20 for a three-cup (probably a lot less in Italy, or anywhere else), and should last a lifetime if cared for correctly – in fact, the more used and worn-looking, the more charming they are.  And, of course, they make progressively delicious, fragrant coffee too.  It’s just such an aggravating, violent-tremble-inducing pity that this can all go suddenly awry for the sake of the death of a wee rubber ring.  Still, what’s a little psychomotor, vigilance and cognitive performance impairment between cups?

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Posted in Books on March 12, 2009 by Johnnie

glassroomEngaging Tale Of A Chilling Place In Time 

Sunday Business Post, 25th January 2009

Simon Mawer ‘s powerful and elegiac new novel centres on mankind’s simple but vital need for a place to call home.On their honeymoon in Venice in 1929, the cultured, wealthy couple Viktor and Liesel Landauer meet a maverick architect called Rainer von Abt, who has an ambitious vision to build a rectangular house of glass.

Sharing his modernist viewpoint, the Landauers commission von Abt to create the work on their behalf. The finished house, situated in a Czech city called Mesto (or ‘Place’), is the realisation of a series of elaborate design specifications: a rectilinear structure of glass, concrete and steel, featuring a wall of golden onyx which reflects sunlight in the most colourful way.

On seeing von Abt’s rudimentary sketches, Viktor initially describes the building as ‘cold’ – and although von Abt rebuts his theory, coldness, in all its forms, creeps in and permeates the novel’s narrative. Despite the Landauers’ warmth and optimism, their relationship is undercut by unspoken needs and desires. Continue reading

Make It Easy On Yourself and Stomach

Posted in Favourite Publications, Food & Drink on March 11, 2009 by Johnnie

cornedbeefI do love Easy Food magazine.  The recession certainly needs its ethic, and it’s one publication that’s been patiently honing its act and biding its time until we’re all poor enough to require it.  Now, I’m not saying it’s the home of remedial food, but it certainly takes the responsibility of its title very seriously indeed.  And literally.  It does stop short of saying: “For that special, ‘restaurant appetizer’ experience, in the comfort of your own TV room, simply: open a tin of tomato soup; pour into a pan; heat for five minutes; then serve in bowls, garnished with shreds of doughy, white sliced pan” – but only just.

Takes its ingredients list for ‘chicken jalfrezi’ – 2tbsp vegetable oil, 400g chicken breasts and 1 jar of Patak’s Meena’s Spicy Jalfrezi Sauce.  Hang on, isn’t that just the ‘Serving Suggestion’ on the jar?  No wonder they call it Easy.  Oh, I forgot, you could add chopped, fresh coriander leaves (optional) too.

“BUT…” they say later on, “what if I don’t have fresh herbs?”  Well, you “simply substitute them with half the quantity of dried herbs”.  Which will certainly work if it’s a dish stipulating use of fragrant, freshly picked basil leaves; but, don’t fret if you have no dried basil to substitute it with – ‘simply’ cutting up tiny little pieces of green crepe paper will taste just as nice.  And I’m not joking.

Finally, you haven’t lived until you’ve attempted their Knorr-sponsored zenith of culinary masochism and shanty town frugality, ‘Spaghetti with corned beef sauce’.   To make it, simply… oh, never mind.

Am I Wry? No.

Posted in Music on March 10, 2009 by Johnnie

This is purely self-indulgent, self-help.  Just for me.  Enjoy, or look away now.

“Am I wry? Oh my! Fallacy!  Fallacy in my words. Am I wry?”

Thank Heavens For Jolly Japes

Posted in Music on March 5, 2009 by Johnnie

japeloreanaHeartfelt congratulations to that bastion of pop excellence, and all-round nice man, Richie Egan AKA Jape, who was crowned winner of the 2008 Choice Music Prize at Vicar Street last night for his essential album Ritual.  It’s not only a thoroughly deserved win, it’s unlikely to be received as begrudgingly by the blogging community as last year’s surprise Choice, Super Extra Bonus Party – especially considering the hysterical furore ‘n’ fuming that erupted when this year’s shortlist was first announced in mid-January.  In that sense, congrats must also go to the judging panel for simply getting it right this year – it can’t have been easy.

Jape photo by Loreana Rushe

There Ain’t No Show Like A Joe No-Show

Posted in Grave News, Music on March 5, 2009 by Johnnie

nojoeStand by your wallets, fools – you and your money are soon to be parted.  Although it sounds like one of those more-money-than-sense events they used to throw on in the old days of the economic boom (if that ever really happened), some promotional genius really believes this is a winner.  Joe Dolan – The Reunion Show runs for two nights in Vicar Street over the Mother’s Day weekend.  Just in case you don’t know, the show doesn’t feature the man named in the title, because he’s no longer with us.  A cheap night out in Joe’s absence, then?  Not a bit of it.  It’s €45 – and that’s only if you take the cheap option.  

But the bit that really stretches credulity slowly and painfully through the mangle is the “V.I.P. package “.  For no less than €139, you get: One night’s B&B at the (4-star!) Red Cow Moran Hotel; a ticket to the (Not) Joe Dolan Reunion Show; (get this) “Luxury” coach transfer to and from Vicar Street; and ‘late night dancing and music’, presumably back at the ‘Cow.  Yes, I know it sounds like the first prize at a church or village fête, but no, they are actually looking for people to fork out this amount of money.  If they get away with this, expect to hear announcements of new tours by The Doors, Thin Lizzy and Queen.  Oh wait…

FF Pinning Recovery Hopes On Secret Assets

Posted in Favourite Publications, Grave News on March 2, 2009 by Johnnie

couglanlegsshockerLike many of Social & Personal‘s loyal male readership , I wondered when Fianna Fail’s most devastating secret weapons would be unleashed.  I should have guessed, really.  Where better than their Ard Fheis?  Yes, we’re talking Mary Coughlan’s legs.  I hasten to add, dear reader, that this is not a personal opinion.  Back in July 2008, Social & Personal declared that the Tánaiste’s pins were 20th in Ireland’s Top 100 Sexy Legs poll.  Interestingly, while suitably leggy pics of Pamela Flood, Michelle Doherty and Miriam O’Callaghan (in fact, everyone else in the Top 20) accompanied the results, poor Mary was represented only by a dull, unflatteringly typical politician’s mug shot, complete with hideous red jacket.  Along with a couple of equally intrigued and baffled office colleagues, I spent the best part of ten minutes Googling without so much as a glimpse of Coughlan kneecap.  It seemed, from internet evidence, that Mary was less than proud of her almost prize-winning assets and consistently kept them under trousered wraps or, for when she’d man the coconut shy at The Ploughing Championships, brightly-coloured wellies.  Well, maybe her gaffers have had enough of the bad news and were determined to get her to show us what we’ve all been missing.  This picture, in today’s Irish Independent confirms what S&P already knew and the rest of us could only guess at.  Thank heavens the Tánaiste looked so delighted to pose for pictures – fingers crossed she’ll strike a bit more of a pose on the shoot for the mooted Fianna Fail Babes official 2010 calendar.  Of course, she’ll face stiff competition from Mary Hanafin, but we hear that dark-horse Mary O’Rourke’s team are “working like bankers” to prepare her a show-stealing outfit for the occasion.