Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Making scones is a weekend tradition for us. I’m a big fan of the British scone. Cooks Illustrated has the nerve to say this:

The British original is lean, dry, and barely sweetened. Spoonfuls of jam and clotted cream are a must.

Bollocks! I know I’ve mentioned before how Cooks Illustrated recipes annoy me with their ridiculous obsessive compulsive details. Here they ask us to freeze the butter then grate it. Screw that!

And the Cooks Illustrated recipe has blueberries. Blueberries (insert shocked reaction). What is it with Americans and their fear of raisins? I know so many people who don’t like raisins. Or if they do they only like them alone but not cooked in stuff. I remember being a kid in kindergarten and having little boxes of Sun Maid raisins as a treat. When did everyone develop a complex about raisins?

We pulled out Jake’s British Good Housekeeping cookbook and here is my slight modification to the recipe.

1. First we make our own cultured butter. The culture is added to some heavy whipping cream (double cream) then sits in a dark cabinet for a few days. We then take a sample to freeze and shake the jar until butter forms. Afterwards you get cultured buttermilk and cultured butter. Making your own butter is obviously not part of either recipe but this is part of our weekend tradition.

2. Thank god for my John Lewis scale. It weighs grams and ounces and the top part doubles as a liquid measurer with millilitres. So I put 225 grams of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl and mix it up. I’m adding a half teaspoon of baking powder than in the British recipe because they use self-raising flour. And the two tablespoons of sugar is my addition too. I do light a slightly sweeter scone.

3. I cut in 40 grams of my newly made cultured butter with a pastry blender. Then I add about a 1/2 to 3/4 cups of raisins to that.

Next is 150ml plus of the newly created cultured buttermilk even though the British recipe asks for just plain milk. Stir it into the flour mixture until it starts to pull together. Add more buttermilk if needed.

4. Here’s where Cooks Illustrated has me. I drop the scones onto a baking sheet into amorphous blobs. I just don’t care enough to roll them into pretty uniform circles. And another American touch is to top them with a little sprinkle of raw sugar.

Finally bake at 425 degrees(220 C) for 12-15 minutes.

5. Cut open and eat with the newly made butter, which ahem, Cooks Illustrated, is the whole point. And cultured butter is the best. Yum.

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You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but on some level Jake is afraid of this man. Who is he? The owner of Gorgeous George’s Mediterranean Restaurant in Greenwood. We had heard good things about this restaurant, and so had planned to go sometime in that way where you say to yourself “we should really try that place sometime.”

Then I read a reader review on some restaurant rating site that said “George doesn’t just cook for you. He sings and dances and comes to your table.” This information I relayed to Jake who was completely horrified. When we passed the restaurant one day on an evening stroll we peeked in and saw George with his signature hat out in the dining room talking to guests. “We are never ever going there,” Jake said.

Dare I make a cultural observation here? Feel free to offer your thoughts too. Is it that Americans really like the gimmick of the stranger who is your best friend? Do we know no boundaries between strangers and ourselves? Are the British just uptight? Why can they not enjoy the company of a dancing and singing chef?

In America, there is always the pretense of extreme friendliness even if that friendliness is so obviously false. Ever been asked by a salesperson how your day was and then you told them something other than it’s going well? Usually, their faces change as if to say “oh how interesting” in a I’m-not-really-interested sort of way. I was once in that same predicament. I was at my service job and I asked a customer how she was. Not so good, she said, I had two toes removed yesterday. I didn’t really know what to do with that information.

In Britain, everyone is extremely polite. I like how when making a request either as provider or consumer, you always end your phrase with please. I’ll have a pint of Guinness please. There you are, two quid please. Yet, and perhaps I’m wrong but I seem to recall, that you are never asked how you are if the person doesn’t really want to know the answer. Is it rude? Well, it’s honest, isn’t it? But I digress.

Here are some more scary tidbits from Gorgeous George’s. And Jake, feel free to weigh in here and tell me if I’m misinterpreting your discomfort.

You’re the only chef I know who sits at customer’s tables. Do you have a fetish for watching people eat your food?

No, it’s just nice. I try to sit at the tables so everyone will feel at home here. But I don’t come out to sit when I’m in a bad mood. I can’t fake my face, I can’t be two-faced. If I’m nervous or mad, I’ll just stay in the back and cook.

What do you learn about people from watching them eat?

Sometimes people just need to put the food in their mouths. Like the baklava can go straight into your mouth, no forks needed. It’s not cake. Sometimes people don’t know what they just ordered. It’s Mediterranean food, with spices from the Holy Land. I say Holy Land, not Israel or Palestine, because I want both Jews and Palestinians to feel comfortable eating here.

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upstaging Michael Jackson at the 1996 Brit Awards? While Jackson’s death is certainly a shock to anyone in my generation, I can’t say that have a lot of fond feelings for the guy. He was very likely a child molester. Sure he was completely nuts also, but… I will speak no more ill of the dead.

I love Jarvis Cocker.

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Picture of the day

Just what could the Duke of Edinburgh be thinking right now? I’d love to know.

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And apparently it’s true that they are reuniting.

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No doubt this film isn’t Sean Connery or John Boorman’s finest moment.

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When the story about Bernard Madoff first broke, I immediately thought of the Nineteenth Century Playwright Harley Granville Barker. His play The Voysey Inheritance begins with a son finding out from his father that the family business is no more than a Ponzi scheme. The son is asked by the father to inherit the business and perpetuate the ruse. If you have the time to read the rather long excerpt from the first act, I highly recommend it. You can find it below. If not, here is the link to Google Books. Print it out and take it home. It’s worth it and very timely. It’s a comedy, I think.

I haven’t used block quotes in order to put more text on the page. I’ve done some editing to make it easier to read than what I copied and pasted it from. The scene begins in Mr. Voysey’s office.

Just after Act I begins:

MR. VOYSEY. Good morning, my dear boy.

EDWARD has little of his father in him and that little
is undermost. It is a refined face but self-conscious-
ness takes the place in it of imagination and in
suppressing traits of brutality in his character it
looks as if the young man had suppressed his sense
of humour too. But whether or no, that would not
be much in evidence now, for EDWARD is obviously
going through some experience which is scaring
him (there is no better word). He looks not to
have slept for a night or two, and his standing there,
clutching and unclutching the bundle of papers he
carries, his eyes on his father, half appealingly but
half accusingly too, his whole being altogether so un-
strung and desperate, makes MR. VOYSEY ‘s uninter-
rupted arranging of the flowers seem very calculated
indeed. At last the little tension of silence is broken.

EDWARD. Father . .


EDWARD. I’m glad to see you.

This is a statement of fact. He doesn’t know that
the commonplace phrase sounds ridiculous at such
a moment.

MR. VOYSEY. I see you’ve the papers there.


MR. VOYSEY. You’ve been through them ?

EDWARD. As you wished me . .

MR. VOYSEY. Well ? [EDWARD doesn’t answer. Refer-
ence to the papers seems to overwhelm him with shame. MR.
VOYSEY goes on with cheerful impatience.] Come, come,
my dear boy, you mustn’t take it like this. You’re puzzled
and worried, of course. But why didn’t you come down
to me on Saturday night? I expected you . . I told you
to come. Then your mother was wondering, of course,
why you weren’t with us for dinner yesterday.

EDWARD. I went through all the papers twice. I
wanted to make quite sure.

MR. VOYSEY. Sure of what? I told you to come
to me.

EDWARD, [he is very near crying.] Oh, father.

MR. VOYSEY. Now look here, Edward, I’m going to
ring’ and dispose of these letters. Please pull yourself
together. [He pushes the little button on his table.]
EDWARD. I didn’t leave my rooms all day yesterday.

MR. VOYSEY. A pleasant Sunday! You must learn
whatever the business may be to leave it behind
you at the Office. Why, life’s not worth living else.

PEACEY comes in to find MR. VOYSEY before the fire
ostentatiously warming and rubbing his hands.

MR. VOYSEY. Oh, there isn’t much else, Peacey. Tell Simmons that if
he satisfies you about the details of this lease it’ll be all
right. Make a note for me of Mr. Grainger’s address at
Mentone. I shall have several letters to dictate to At-
kinson. I’ll whistle for him.

PEACEY. Mr. Burnett . . Burnett v Marks had just
come in, Mr. Edward.

EDWARD, [without turning.} It’s only fresh instruc-
tions. Will you take them?

PEACEY. All right.

PEACEY goes, lifting his eyebrow at the queerness of
EDWARD’S manner. This MR. VOYSEY sees, re-
turning to his table with a little scowl.

MR. VOYSEY. Now sit down. I’ve given you a bad
forty-eight hours, it seems. Well, I’ve been anxious about
you. Never mind, we’ll thresh the thing out now. Go
through the two accounts. Mrs. Murberry’s first . . how
do you find it stands?

EDWARD, [his feelings choking him.] I hoped you
were playing some trick on me.

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US spied on Tony blair

That’s what David Murfee Faulk, a former Arab linguist who worked at a secret NSA facility, has told ABCNews.com. Murfee Faulk says he saw and read a file on Blair’s “private life” and heard “pillow talk” exchanged between Al-Yawer and his then-fiancee.

The U.S. and Britain have pledged not to collect information covertly on each other, several former intelligence officials told ABCNews.com — though this would by no means be the first time the U.S. was found to have done so.

Last month, Murfee Faulk and another former worker at the NSA facility revealed to the news network that the agency had listened in on private calls made by American journalists, aid workers, and soldiers stationed in Iraq. A Senate panel has said it is investigating those claims.

It all makes Tony Blair’s downfall a little more tragic. He was deceived by being given faulty “intelligence.” There was the ultra-embarrassing “yo, Blair” moment. Now we learn, the poor man was spied upon. Tony Blair is young. He could have had the tenure of a Thatcher. Instead, what is he?

I don’t know what’s worse: thinking Tony Blair knew WMD’s was a sham or that he was foolishly misled by George W. Bush. Either way this report is pretty depressing.

Via TalkingPointsMemo.

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The British cult classic Withnail & I has been an odd study for me. The movie had such an incredible reputation that I thought there was no way I could not like it, but when I saw it for the first time I was puzzled. I didn’t get it.

Over the last ten years I’ve seen the film perhaps a half dozen times. I think at last I have gotten it. Or at least, I recognize it’s a great film even if only in my own very special personal way. What can be difficult for an American to get is gay jokes sustained for over half the film. But I guess that is an integral part of British humor. See my previous post about this for reference.

What makes Withnail & I great for me ten years after the first time I saw it is Richard E. Grant’s fantastic performance. He so completely embodies his character. He relishes every word, every shrug, every eye movement. It’s something to behold.

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Paddington Bear

A Bear in Hot Water is a hot video on youtube today. I remember playing with Paddington Bear as a kid. I’m glad he’s not forgotten.

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The definition of fun.

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First of all, he wishes. Second of all, Ian McKellan’s portrayal of King Lear will air on PBS possibly with full frontal nudity:

Ian McKellen’s acclaimed performance in “King Lear” is coming to PBS, but a public TV executive was coy Saturday about whether his on-stage nude scene will be exposed on air.

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger, who saw the play during its brief run in New York, said she was impressed by the production and recalled thinking, “This is the kind of thing people should have a chance to see.”

Really? The jury is out.

Charlotte Rampling of course is the fabulous 62-year-old actress who seems to be appearing more nude than not in film lately. Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, Heading South…I could go on. I guess if you still have got it you might as well flaunt it. As for McKellan, we’ll see.

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Oh Dear

I earlier wrote about this bizarre Nazi-style role playing story about Max Moseley. Moseley is now suing the News of the World who published the story. You know things are bad when your defense is:

James Price QC said his client admitted using prostitutes, but the paper had committed a “gross and indefensible intrusion”.

Cross-examined by Mr Warby, Mr Mosley said he had paid the five women £2,500 for the encounter, which he called a “party”, rather than an orgy.

But asked if he had done anything wrong, he said: “Absolutely not. I fundamentally disagree with the suggestion that any of this is depraved, fundamentally disagree with the fact that it is immoral.

“I think it is a perfectly harmless activity provided it is between consenting adults who want to do it, are of sound mind, and it is in private.”

Mr Mosley said he had been having similar encounters involving “corporal punishment” for 45 years.

I’m sure his wife and family are relieved. I suppose there’s a valid point in there somewhere. Weird. Very weird.

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My husband doesn’t think so, and I’m not sure I do either but I have to admit they are a guilty pleasure.

Meanwhile in the UK:

A Pringle is undoubtedly crisp – but it is not a potato crisp. That was the conclusion reached by a High Court judge today after an exhaustive inquiry into the ingredients, manufacturer and packaging of the top-selling snack.

The result of Mr Justice Warren’s ruling is that regular Pringles, in their various flavours, are free from VAT.

I liked the arguments used by the Pringles lawyers. Where’s Nina Totenburg when you need her?

Most foodstuffs are zero-rated for VAT, but Revenue and Customs argued that Pringles fell within the “potato crisp” exception.

Procter & Gamble pointed out that, unlike potato crisps, Pringles had a regular shape “not found in nature” as well as a uniform colouring and texture and a “mouth melt” taste.

Crisps did not contain non-potato flours like Pringles and were not normally packaged in tubes.

And customers did not regard Pringles as potato crisps.

Mr Justice Warren ruled that Pringles were not “made from the potato” within the definition laid down by the 1994 VAT Act.

To fall within the exception, a product “must be wholly, or substantially wholly, made from the potato”.

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Talk about pressure.

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I somehow missed this neat little nugget of Wimbledon information from a few days ago:

June 27 (Bloomberg) — Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia took delight in dumping former champion Maria Sharapova and her outfit out of Wimbledon yesterday.

“It’s very pleasant to beat Maria,” said Kudryavtseva. “Why? Well, I don’t like her outfit.”

Sharapova’s outfit, a white tuxedo-styled jacket and shorts by her sponsor Nike Inc., attracted as many questions at her first-round post-match press conference as her on-court performance. Kudryavtseva, who wore a white skirt and tank top, said her Federation Cup teammate’s attire “was one of the motivations to beat her.”

“It’s a little too much of everything,” she said.

I completely agree. This is sport we’re talking about. Not a fashion show! And that goes for Roger Federer too with those ridiculous tuxedo shorts.

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It’s nice to know Marat Safin still has it in him.

One of the things I like about Safin is that he is always entertaining to listen to. He’s blunt, honest and at times self-effacing.

“I had to take my opportunities as he was under pressure fighting for the world number one spot so he has to win matches. From me no-one expects anything.”

Safin later admitted that he already booked himself on a flight to Moscow on Wednesday evening but he must now prepare himself for a third-round match against Italian Andreas Seppi.

“I hadn’t looked at the draw because I saw I had Djokovic in the second round, but now I will have to check. The way I am playing right now I can go far but it must be step by step,” added the Russian.

He also has the coolest name in sports.

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An interesting history of the Bush Administration with Leonard Cohen’s brilliant Everybody Knows as the soundtrack.

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It seems Alex Ferguson is a little upset that Real Madrid are openly wooing Cristiano Ronaldo to play for them. Best quote:

United have sold David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gabriel Heinze to Real in recent years, but Ferguson insisted the case of Ronaldo was different.

He said: “Yes, we sold them Van Nistelrooy and Beckham but we did that because we wanted to.”

Ouch. Not too flattering for Nistelrooy or Beckham and further proof that Ferguson has a sixth sense about football.

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I wouldn’t call myself an avid sports fan (with the exception of tennis) but I do nonetheless end up watching a lot of sports. More for the symbolic significance of sports than for anything else. For instance, I support Celtic instead of Rangers (I like Catholics), and in the English Premier League I support Tottenham because the Hotspurs make me think of Henry V.

Today being the Champions League Final, I set out to find a place to watch the game in downtown Seattle where I work. Migliore is bar far your best bet. It’s an Italian café that resides where Torefazzione used to be before Torefazzione got bought out by Starbucks. They only bring out the TV for soccer, and the great thing about Migliore is that since it’s a café, you’re not tempted to order a beer. Which could in turn be a bad thing.

But Migliore does not have wireless internet, and in a ridiculous attempt to get some work done, I decided to try somewhere else. I called Tap House Grill, an interesting fancy pants tavern in a basement location where once Planet Hollywood used to reside. Yes, we have wireless internet they said. But upon arriving and once again confirming that they had wireless internet I ordered food only to find out that it the internet didn’t work. We tried to tell you when you called but you hung up, they said. Oh really. Did you try and tell me when I arrived and asked again. It’s sometimes spotty, they said. Spotty as in it doesn’t work? That’s not really spotty is it? As anyone who has a home wireless internet knows, unplug it and re-plug it. Sheesh.

So I headed over to World Sports Grille. Don’t you love that e on the end of Grille? Must be a classy place. When the server asked if I wanted something to drink, I asked her if I could first check to see if I could get any internet. She had no problem with that, but the restaurant itself had no internet. As I was checking, she asked again if I wanted anything. I told her I didn’t want to order and then find out I had to leave. She said that she could get me water or something, and that she didn’t mind. So kudos to Lynda at World Sports Grille. Her kindness went a long way and I decided to stay even though sadly I could not connect. I can’t say much for the Asian chicken salad though.

Probably the cheapest place to watch soccer in downtown Seattle is your local gym. These days soccer is shown on basic cable, so as long as you don’t find yourself sharing the gym with a rabid As the World Turns fan, you should be okay.

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Doris Lessing, by Mark Gerson, 1956

Leave it to Doris Lessing to tell it like it is. Somehow winning a Nobel prize has caused Doris Lessing to retire from writing.

Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing has said winning the prestigious award in 2007 had been a “bloody disaster”.

The increased media interest in her has meant that writing a full novel was next to impossible, she told Radio 4’s Front Row.

Lessing, 88, also said she would probably now be giving up writing novels altogether.

Her latest book is the partly fictional memoir entitled Alfred and Emily.

Since her Nobel win she has been constantly in demand, she said.

“All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed.”

Speaking about her writing, she said: “It has stopped, I don’t have any energy any more.

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A few months ago, we bought a region-free DVD and I was able to catch a film I hadn’t seen in years. Hobson’s Choice with John Mills and directed by David Lean. I risk spoiling a small part of the film just to get you interested and that is why I am showing this clip.

According to Dictionary.com, a Hobson’s choice is:

the choice of taking either that which is offered or nothing; the absence of a real alternative.

[Origin: 1640–50; after Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), of Cambridge, England, who rented horses and gave his customer only one choice, that of the horse nearest the stable door]

In the film, the daughter of a shop owner informs the boot maker of the shop that she’s been looking at him for a while and she’s decided he’ll do quite alright for a husband. She then tells him to meet her at the park which is where this clip starts.

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Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the UK, said the following:

“The world owes George Bush a huge debt of gratitude” for his efforts against terrorists.”

Did he mean to say Bush’s efforts to increase recruitment for said terrorists, because he’s been absolutely remarkable in that respect. What about Bush’s failure to capture number one terrorist Osama bin Laden?

It’s almost enough to make me Tory and I can’t even vote. Perhaps Brown should be reminded of Bush’s most recent approval rating in the U.S.

The latest Gallup poll finds that President Bush’s approval rating has fallen to 28 percent — “a record low” for his administration.

“It doesn’t take a genius of public opinion research to isolate some likely causes. Americans are deeply depressed about the economy, gas prices are at a record high, [and] there is a war still underway that a majority of Americans call a mistake.”

It may not take a genius, but clearly it doesn’t take a University of Edinburgh grad either.

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Here’s an interesting article about the similarity with the Prime Minister of the U.K. and our own Hillary Clinton:

They are tacticians, not strategists. Neither seems able to focus on the longer-term or the bigger picture. Neither is blessed with an appealing personality, neither seems to appreciate that these days candour wins more points than trying to play both sides of an issue in an effort to appeal to as many interests as possible. In a cynical age, admitting error is more likely to impress than pretending, robot-style, that everything is always under control.

These are not comfortable times for incumbents (and in the Democratic context Clinton should be considered the incumbent). Nicolas Sarkozy achieved the striking feat of appearing to offer change and glamour despite representing the incumbent party; Silvio Berlusconi’s triumph in Italy is another indication that voters are attracted to candidates that, however flawed, offer something like flair and excitement. A victory for Boris Johnson in the London Mayoral race will strengthen the sense that glamour and idiosyncracy are back in fashion.

Indeed, turbulent economic times may demand politicians who offer cheer as well as diligence; inspiration as well as perspiration…

What is Hillary Clinton for beyond the advancement and greater glory of Hillary Clinton? What is her campaign about? She has never given a satisfactory answer. Similarly, what is Gordon Brown’s ministry for? What does he want to achieve that his party could not achieve in its first ten years in power? Again, the answer is hard to discern. As with Mrs Clinton there is an unfortunate whiff of entitlement about Brown. He doesn’t deserve to be Prime Minister because he has a compelling, sweeping vision for the future but because, well, because he’s waited a jolly long time and it’s his turn to be Prime Minister. But that’s not enough. Is there anything actually there? It’s hard to say.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

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