Thursday, August 2, 2012

MLG Travel Update: Day 79

Yours truly, 29 July 2012, Vichy
(click image to enlarge)
Photo © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias. All Rights Reserved.

DAY 79 (Thu 2 Aug '12): CHAI — and inadvertent EGGPLANT PARMESAN — #RECIPES follow. #travel #cooking #living #amwriting

Just put on a couple loads of handwashed laundry to soak. It's much cooler in Vichy today, and we're just barely managing to make do with the continuing sporadic internet connection, though it's mighty slow. Slow is better than nonexistent.

Fortunately, before I left the public library yesterday, I thought to schedule the Day 78 blog post to publish at 10 pm (Central Europe) just in case I wasn't able to get internet access back at the campsite, which we weren't. So that will become standard practice, to schedule the aggregated Twishort travel update posts to publish automatically on MLG sometime before midnight.

And if you're subscribed to receive MLG blog posts, you'll receive these in your inbox first thing the following morning.

Also, while I've stated my intention to post these aggregated posts on a (roughly) daily basis, this is all contingent on my having internet access such that I can publish updates in the first place, whether via Twishort, Hootsuite or Twitter, which will then need to be copied, formatted and published as an MLG blog post.

While in Vichy it's hard enough to get dependable wifi access. On the road, while moving from place to place, it's an even greater challenge, coupled with finding the time to write/post.

All to say, I appreciate your understanding when such posts aren't able to come out daily.

However, now that I have a suitable platform from which to publish brief updates — but not so brief as 140 characters — when I do have stable internet access (even if it's been days since the last blog post), I can still aggregate these updates into a blog post.

ANYWAY, this morning has been lovely. Another simple, tasty breakfast in the sunshine. I made today's chai, and I'll let you in on what I used.

Today's Chai Recipe ...
- Thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger, roughly sliced, chopped or whatever you like
- 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds (beyond using the palm of my hand, I don't measure these sorts of things, so adjust as you like)
- 6 cardamom pods, split open and thrown (including the pod husk) into a large saucepan into which all these ingredients go
- 2 cloves
- 2 black peppercorns
- A few slivers of cinnamon bark (see above note regarding exact measurements)
- Four filled-to-the-brim large mugs of water (to result in at least 2 full cups of chai for both Mufidah and me, with a wee bit left over for good measure)
Bring all this to the BOIL, and let simmer for a good few minutes.

Stir in approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons (US) / dessert spoons (UK) of honey, or to taste.

Then add 3 teabags, and let these simmer for a couple/few minutes, before adding as much milk to the pan as you like. As with regular black tea, I like my chai to be robust and not overly milky.

Pour directly into your mug(s), or cup(s), of choice. If you like, you can pour it through a tea strainer. I don't bother with this, as I actually like getting the occasional bits and chewing on them, or spitting them out (we're living outdoors so I can do such things!).

Don't become a dogmatic chai brewer. All of the above measurements, spices and such can be left out according to taste. Milk and honey can, of course, also be left out.

As with cooking anything, experiment and don't become overly dependent on recipes or exact measurements. Try new things.

Recently I had a complete paradigm shift over the way I've been making eggplant parmesan for decades now, and decided — due to the way in which we were preparing the dish outdoors at our campsite — to chop up the eggplant, put them into a stainless steel bowl, crack an egg or two into it, and add the breadcrumbs and herbs (e.g., oregano, basil).

I then just mixed it all with my hand, and poured the whole caboodle into the preheated, pre-olive-oiled Cobb wok/frying pan, and fried the pieces up all at once (and then crumbling a bit of sea salt over the now-crisp chunks, to taste), instead of frying a few slices of eggplant at a time, and hovering over the frying pan for an age.

THE RESULT — an eggplant parmesan that's never been beat, and one which was all the better for the smaller chunks of eggplant having been properly cooked through, a mistake (undercooked eggplant) which many an Italian restaurant I've been to has made with their eggplant parmesan.

Also, because the eggplant was not sliced, I didn't bother layering it with sauce, parmesan, etc. Instead, I poured the simmering chunky, homemade red sauce directly into the wok, added the parmesan all at once, mixed this through, topped it with fresh mozzarella, and brought the whole dish to the simmer while slightly browning the mozzarella by putting the Cobb cover on the wok.

Bon appetit!

DAY 79 (cont'd): BACK at the Vichy library, working away on various online tasks. My only complaint is it's a bit toasty in here in the afternoons. And the fabric chair cushion gets a bit scratchy and hot when you (or at least I) have shorts on, which I almost always do.

On a completely different topic — you'll no doubt be happy to hear — I've been inspired at various times this summer to write in response to some excerpts from Basho's travel sketches contained within the Penguin Classics edition of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a book which I first read for my M.A. in Eastern Classics program at St. John's College in Santa Fe.

Anyway, I don't have a particular excerpt in mind right now. But I did finish rereading the book the night before last, having savored it ever so slowly, typically reading just a few pages at a time.

I shared the book with a 69-year-old German bicyclist-camper who visited our campsite a few weeks ago. This was his ninth consecutive year to go on a long-distance (approx. 1,000 miles or perhaps kilometers) cycling journey. Anyway, I thought he'd enjoy the book.

Instead he seemed to take exception to it, but didn't expand upon this much other than to say that a German translator would never translate it as Nobuyuki Yuasa had, and that it was a book for a young man. He then went on to juxtapose it with Kerouac.

Hard to imagine the widely acknowledged greatest of haiku poets — who wrote The Narrow Road shortly before his death in 1694 (born 1644) — being either a young man's read or on the level of Kerouac's On the Road. Perhaps it was merely the title, and a very cursory glance over the course of the afternoon he had the book before handing it back to me, scarcely concealing an apparent near-disgust for dear ol' Basho.

Oh well, it's been interesting rereading the book with an eye towards what it might have been which got this gentleman so riled. I can't recall anyone in my M.A. program taking offense whatsoever.

Have you read Basho's travel sketches? If so, what are your thoughts?


  1. By the way, I also let the chai simmer for a while, again, after adding the milk. Then I remove the tea bags, leaving the rest of the chai spices to remain in the pan while I sit back and enjoy. Speaking of which, a cuppa's sounding pretty damn good right now.

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