East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Poor Writer’s Dinner

I was talking with a friend, today, about a book I always liked a lot – Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a classic collection of food writing and other wonders published in ’84 and compiling a selection of thirty-odd years of the writer’s articles on magazines and newspapers.

I was also celebrating the fact that yesterday, for the first time in over six weeks of lockdown, I was able to find eggs at the supermarket.

This led to talking about food, and the fact that I have learned to eat well on a very tight budget, and thiis led to the the idea of a challenge – can I prepare a good simple dinner for two people, spending less than 3.50 euro each, that is 7 euro in total?
Considering that a Margherita pizza is 4.50 and a pack of crisps at the local grocery is 2.50, what could I do?, I was asked.

Well, I said, I’ll show you what I can do…
And this is quite interesting, as my #StoryADayMay from a few days back asked me to compile a list, and give it a meaning. So, here’s to killing tow birds with a stone. This is the Poor Writer’s Dinner.

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The news is that various areas in Italy are reaching the peak diffusion of the virus, and therefore the lockdown will be further restricted. Yesterday a wild story was circulated about army checkpoints and anti-contamination kits being distributed, one per family, and a lot of other rubbish. Easy to debunk, but a lot easier to spread, given the current psychological state of the citizens.
People fabricating such stories should be sent to clean the bedpans of the sick in the hospitals.

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Gifts of food

For the first time in my almost-50-years of life, Christmas 2016 brought me a gift of food, that is, the classic “Christmas Gift Basket” that is sort of a traditional thing hereabout as a “family gift”.cesto-natalizio-confezione-fai-da-te-300x225
I mean, I usually get books, music, maybe a scarf or a pair of mittens.
But a food basket?
Never before.
In this case, it was my uncle, that hit me and my brother with a huge selection of fine traditional Italian treats that will cover all our needs for the New Year’s Eve four-course dinner with assorted associated extras. And then we’ll recycle the basket, and use it for our laundry.
And it was not the only gift of food we received: there’s a metal box full of home-made cookies that’s been keeping us happy at tea time for days, now. And then we’ll recycle the metal box to store paid bills.

Which gives me a good starting point for a somewhat more serious reflection on this Christmas in particular, and maybe more general things. Continue reading

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Silk Road Food

Something fast, silly but possibly of interest.
After all, the Silk Road is one of the themes of this blog, and food is one of the most accessible, and often surprising, facets of culture.
So, here goes – a small collection of Silk Road inspired foods, on Pinterest.
Some authentic, some shamelessly counterfeit.

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Cooking is one of those skills that look good on a writer, a scientist, or an action hero.
Being able to put together some quality food out of raw ingredients is a show of mastery, and an essential skill.
Anyway, that’s my rationale.

9781906502904One year ago – give or take a few weeks – I bought a book as a gift for a friend’s wife.
The poor girl can’t cook to save her life (it’s not a mortal sin, mind you, just a fact of life) and she’s always been rather curious about my (supposed) cooking prowness.
So I went and got her a copy of South Wind through the Kitchen, that’s a sort of best-of compilation of recipes and food writing by the great late lamented Elizabeth David.
If I can do anything at all in the kitchen, I owe it to my mom, Len Deighton and Elizabeth David.
And as I could not give my mom to that lady as a gift, in doubt I went for the David book, because it’s sort of more dignified than Deighton’s by any means masterful Action Cook Book.
Also, I caught a copy in a local book store, which is always better, I thought, than having the book mailed through Amazon.
I picked it up and thought about wrapping it up in brown paper, like something out of a grocery store.
Something silly like that. Continue reading

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Dine like Indy

A friend passed along this photograph, that I find highly suggesting.
Time to get back in the kitchen – it would be a nice menu for a themed diner party with some friends.


While they appear weird and exotic, most of the courses are pretty straightforward – and any good coockbook or online recipe server should give ample information on how to replicate the dishes.

For instance, here’s a good one for Crawfish Korma.
And here’s a basic recipe for Wanton Soup.


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A long list of food-stuff, and how to order it.
So now we can wander in a Japanese restaurant, greet the people there (as per lesson two – no eye contact, no smile), and then go Sandoicchi to sarada o kudasai… which should get us a sandwich and a salad.

Starvation is no longer a proble.
On to lesson four!