You all might notice that my fiction additions to this blog have been flagging lately, imaginary readers. I have unfortunately been distracted by another large scale creative project, which has kept me from…
Now that I’ve taken some advantage of my wordpress formatting, let me explain my apparently crazy actions.
Lee Cope is a long time friend and recent collaborator with both us and our partner project Liberation Industries, and a brilliant and prolific creative writer. The Ferryman’s Apprentice is one of their new offerings, the first issue completed in this years NaNoWriMo if I’m not wrong, now divided into delicious snippets to enjoy on your commute, your break or at any point that your infernal overlords quieten their terrifying demands.
Its a twisted, elegantly written fantasy clipping along the border of life, death and humanity, so I think my imaginary readers would enjoy it immensely.
It’s been a bit weird, coming back to inverted seasons, but the Australian Autumn has proven rather warmer and sunnier than even the Scottish Summer. Even then, it’s nearly Samhain, and that means…
It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve given y’all, my dear imaginary readers, one of my recipes/snuff pieces, so here’s one that’s kind of about a pumpkin pasta dish, a little bit about religion, with a dash of Renaissance art thrown in for good measure.
I know that we’re at the opposite end of the agricultural cycle to be really thinking about planting, but seeds are handy in vegetarian-land because we all need iron and chewing rusty nails gets some funny looks. But once again, Samhain approacheth, and hollowing out pumpkins sort of sits well with that, so we’ve got these little fellas out of that process.
I’m using a Butternut for this. I think the British call them Squash, but they’ve always been pumpkins to me.
I’ve got some mixed seeds too, Just for variety.
For my northern hemisphere imaginary readers, it may be weird that I’m talking about Samhain in March, and indeed the calendars do read Easter. Hell, for you guys Halloween isn’t til October. Just gotta remember I’m on the topsy turvy arse end of the globe now, out by the “here be dragons” label. And this is part of the problem I have with gods with dicks.
So you fry the seeds first. Otherwise they’ll be chewy.
You see I’ve had two Autumns this year. Two dying seasons, two harvest times. Last Autumn I was lucky enough to see Titian’s Diana and Actaeon series in the Scottish National Gallery, who had secured their loan for a few months. Beautiful pictures, but it kind of shocked me that he’d painted her as blonde. To my mind Diana was pale and raven haired, in line with the moon in the night sky.
Once you’ve chopped the pumpkin, put it in the pan with the seed mix. Fry it up a bit, gives it more flavour. You can add some chopped onion at this point if you want, I do sometimes. It adds more bulk than taste, so it’s handy if you’re short on pumpkin.
Which we shouldn’t be at this time of year, despite the crazy Catholic Calendar telling us its the Festival of Eoster, telling us its spring time. Not sure whose bright idea that was, but its a damn fine way to foster ill considered farming practices.
Not that it matters so much in a modern context but seriously. Gods and their penises.
So I usually add a bit of water at this point, otherwise you’ll burn the mix.Throw in a touch of nutmeg, cinnamon and cumin at this point, though you probably don’t want more than half a teaspoon of each. Dash of salt and pepper.
A young cousin of my partner, while we were all temple hopping in Paestum, asked if I had a favourite Greek god, his being Ares, and I answered Artemis (Diana to the Romans and for that reason Titian) because she was crazy. She’s a brilliant character because she has absolutely no space in her heart for mercy or compromise. I suppose if I were to pick an actual role model from the Greek pantheon I’d probably be more inclined towards Athena, and even she did some pretty dark stuff (Gorgons, for example) but what I always liked about the Greek gods was I don’t think they ever felt the need to be role models. I tend to think that they were more like fables, stories about the kind of stuff that people get up to when they have too much power. The kind of gods that lead people’s most common prayer to be “oh great and glorious god, please find it into your benevolence to not kill us today.”
Give the sauce a fistful of spinach. A generous fistful. Remember that spinach is always going to cook right down, add a little more water if you need to cover the leaves, but that will mean it will take longer to simmer. I’ll leave it to your discretion.
An I suppose we come to the crux of my problem with wanger deities. In the upper floor of the Scottish National Gallery, right above the frame of Diana arranging for Actaeon’s hounds to eat him after she had the temerity to show up without knocking, there’s the Medieval section. You run into a lot of pictures of Jaysus in the Medieval section, as well as a number of Madonna and child pictures that show a blatant disregard for how breasts work. I’ve got nothing against Jesus specifically. I mean, I’ve tended to view him and his Ma as fairly piss poor imitations of Attis and Cybele, and it amuses me greatly to think of the Madonna chowing down on a Christ sandwich come Winter. That was all intentional in the attempt to convert pagans, so… well, the ones that cheesed me off were the images of Jesus crowning his mother, as if he could somehow bestow divinity on Mary.
Here’s a fun fact Abrahamic fundy types. God didn’t give you life. Your mother did.
Put the pasta on to boil. You’ll want a little salt in the water.
I’ve been thinking about Cybele, the Mesopotamian fertility goddess who the Greeks called the Magna Mater, lately. Like Eoster, she’s had a rough time with the Christians trying to erase her. I think I like her because she’s understands that there are seasons for all things. She is the birth, life and death of her children, consuming them like the earth so that life can continue. Your dick gods tend to favour a top down, absolutist control structure that leads to things like absurd, impractical calendars, non-existent months named after dead crazy people, and violent fundamentalists murdering those weaker than them in attempt to block out the pathetic futility of their own existence in the face of the infinite.
Grate up some cheese, because cheese is great. Strain off the pasta, and your ready to dish up!
I suppose the real problem I have with gods that have penises is that they always seem to assume that they have to be alone. The only one. Maybe they looked down past their gut one day and counted. But having that as a core conceit means there’s not any room for change, for evolution or for variety. All it has is control, and the myriad abuses of that.
So I like the Magna Mater. I admit in my mind she’s a vicious, snapping thing, tough as Diana and twice as crazy, a goddess who doesn’t speak in words because she’s older than language and has never seen a need for them. But she recognizes that things change. That anything can die, because change is a necessity in the face of a changing world, to the seasons or the bigger changes we’re facing today. Because trying to massage your sad little ego in the face of a hostile universe doesn’t fix your problems. The universe is hostile either way.
I like to think she’s still waiting. Watching Jehovah. Watching the state of Abrahamic stagnation, waiting to begin the cycle again. She’ll still be there. Still hungry.
Sure is lucky that we made this delicious pumpkin pasta then isn’t it? Happy early Samhain everybody!
Astute readers may have realized that this recipe, or indeed this entire article, is not very Cyberpunk at all. Fr those of you worried by this, fear not! I have something lined up for you that I think you’ll appreciate… and photos supplied by me dangit, so this article’s mine! You can’t have it!
Over the last two months, I have been having an adventure.
Now its not the traveling the world seeing new places kind of adventure, though that has also been happening. I’m currently in Edinburgh. That may come up again later in the article.
Its also not the looting a tomb and then battling the dragon that for some reason lives twenty floors below ground kind of adventure. Actually that happened too… well, not exactly that, but you get the picture. Lousy gnomes and their magic.
Anyway, this adventure I’ve been on is a culinary one; I’ve been running a little experiment on myself and my very understanding partner, and so far it has been going well.
Over the last two months I have eaten a grand total of five dishes containing meat.
As a bit of background, this is not really what I’m used to. Growing up in Australia, you tend to find yourself eating meat with a regularity that would make the people of history, and indeed a number of people in less developed countries, blanch at the extravagance. Admittedly, I’m probably making it sound worse than it is; when I visited Japan, people were surprised that my family and I didn’t eat meat every meal of the day, before proceeding to feed me chicken and salad for breakfast. Anyway, you grow up in a meat eating household in Australia, and from my experience at least you’ll probably have at least one meat dish a day. So this is new to me. I’ve not been, I suppose, a hard core vegetarian, as I know that if I draw an absolute limit for myself I will almost instinctively buck against it through a sense of pure grumpy subversiveness.
Admittedly, this is not the first food experiment I have engaged in, though we might save the stories of Sheep Hearts (and How to Devour Their Courage) and The Strange Case of the Pig’s Head for another time.
Now I personally have struggled a little to put my exact reasoning into words. For the sake of staying succinct, and since nobody else is around to ask questions, I figured I’d do a little interview with myself to try and show this as it is, and not just as a mad experiment that I’ve carried out on my own digestive system.
So… not eating meat huh? You worried about your weight?
Well, not so much. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never much had to worry about my figure, though due to my recent transformation into a windblown drifter I will say that I’m not training as hard as I used to. If I were still doing fifteen hours of Judo a week, I might need the protein. But I don’t think that’s the big reason.
You ran out of money, didn’t you.
No, but there was a moment there between paying some bonds and getting my first paycheck where I was eating a lot of lentils on rice.
Aha! You’re in Scotland! You’ve been driven mad by disgust at the local delicacies.
Well, this is my second time staying in Edinburgh, and on the first run I tried all the stuff that tends to freak out the tourists: The haggis, the black pudding, the various fried iterations of various other foodstuffs… can’t say any of it bothered me all that much. Haggis is really just like any other sausage with a higher oat content, and black pudding tasted no bloodier than the average steak. A few folks I’ve heard complain of “having to think about what their made from”, and the answer, like your steak or (ostensibly) your chicken nuggets, is that their made from bits of dead animals. So they didn’t bother me any more than other meat consumption.
Well if that’s not it, why? Have those animal rights activists finally got to you?
Wow, this projected id is turning out to be a real jerk. This was part of the reasoning. I run into a bit of a contradictory element in my brain here, as I think that empathy for animals is important, but fundamentally I don’t have a problem with people eating them. On a pragmatic level, I know that a healthy human being is valuable enough to justify the sacrifice of animals. On the other hand, I’ve yet to see a more striking vision of Hell than a factory farm, so there’s a degree of respect and moderation that I think has to play into it.
And I think that moderation is becoming even more important. As incomes in developing nations grow higher, more people are demanding a piece of that meat-rich Western diet. And given the amount of energy it actually takes to produce meat, then the Human race is going to wind up shooting itself in the foot one way or another. My guess is through either over-exploitation of resources or an antibiotic resistant epidemic that grows out of some very short term focused factory farming practices.
Wait… this is going to become one of your apocalypse rants isn’t it?
Not this time, actually. Of all things, this time it comes back to Shadowrun.
You’re kidding right?
Well, maybe its not the main thing, but it is one of the biggies. Now for those who aren’t familiar with Shadowrun, and don’t feel like tabbing over to Wikipedia, its a weird sort of cyberpunk/fantasy rpg. The kind of setting in which the statement “Cybernetically enhanced Ork wizard and punk rocker” can actually make sense. Its not a fictional world without its problematic content, but one of the things that struck me was the setting’s take on the food we will be eating in sixty years time.
Everything is soy.
Due to a combination of population pressure and lack of viable arable land, meat consumption has become non-viable for the vast majority of the population. To quote “tofu is to our dinners what chicken was in the twentieth century” (Shadowrun 5th Ed. pg 41). And this is an idea that intrigued me. So, driven in part by wanting to kick the decadence of the Western diet in the face, and in part by wanting to see what I could achieve in this meat free culinary field, I basically got started on a Cyberpunk Diet.
Cyberpunk diet? That’s the stupidest-
Alright, I’m going to dismiss the interview id now. Anyway, I decided that I’d try to make this cyberpunk themed diet viable, in part due to curiosity, and in part because I have faith in Humanity’s capacity to dig its own grave and in ten years time maybe this will be all we have to eat.
So, the following is my experiment to see if tofu really can be chicken. And beef, incidentally.
Tofu Katsu Curry (aka Schnofu)
Now I suspect those who know me will know of my love for Japanese Katsu Curry, which is basically a chicken or pork schnitzel served in curry sauce. Now the sauce is usually made from a curry roux mix on a beef stock base, so that was the first thing I had to work around. I wandered the aisles of the Scotmid, trying to think of the closest thing to beef that I could that didn’t contain meat.
“Red Wine!” came the answer into my brain.
“A reasonable start,” I replied to my brain, “but the sauce already has some white win in it. Might be counter productive.”
“You’re right…” my brain took a moment to consider, “Mushrooms? They’re everybody’s favourite carnivorous micro-tree!”
“Now we’re talking,” I thought, and started loading up on closed cap white mushrooms.
With my wine, onions, carrots, mushrooms and tofu slab in hand, I returned to the flat.
Slab of tofu? Check. Veg and curry roux mix? Check. Wine? Where isn’t there wine… Crystal Castles 1 and 2 cued up as working music? Oh yes.
Lets Neuromance the hell out of this.
So, I sliced the tofu and fried it in some oil, garlic, salt and pepper so that it would hold its shape a bit better. Turns out this slab was pretty firm anyway, so it wasn’t too hard. The heel of the slab got chopped up and went into the sauce to help the mushrooms pretend to be beef.
After letting it cool a moment, I coated the tofu in flour, eggs and then finally breadcrumbs, and fried it to a golden brown and slightly burnt finish. Because as it turns out you need to pay attention to these things.
As for the sauce, dead simple. Chop and fry mushrooms and onions, add curry roux mix (available from all the East Asian grocery shops I’ve been to), wine and water, hoik in spare tofu and some chopped carrots and we are golden.
So that was pretty much that. If I could have Takeshi Kaga maybe shout something at this point that would be great.
I think it turned out pretty nicely. I hear that snarky Interview Id sneaking back to accuse me of not having a sense of taste and thus not being fit to judge these things, but screw that guy. I subjected a number of the people I live with to the result, and the feedback was generally positive. Tasted just like chicken schnitzel to me, which makes me wonder if I was just tasting oily breadcrumbs and protein all along.
Not long ago I also made a Chilli Con Tofu, but I feel like that’s a story for another time. The feedback on that one I believe was something to the effect of “could have used some salami”, so maybe further experimentation is required…