Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On being farty

Today I am farty.  Yesterday I was not.  But at the stroke of midnight, something changed: I am now farty and will be farty (at the very least) for the rest of my life.  Some of you who read this may be surprised to hear that I'm farty.  Perhaps you know me personally and I just didn't have that air about me.  Or perhaps you're surprised that I'd be talking about it like this; for some reason, being farty seems to something to be ashamed of in modern society.

In our grandparents' era, being farty meant that you were of a particular level of maturity.  People gave you respect.  You had responsibilities.  You had solidity in your life. Sure, you might be slowing down, people might have thought of you as a bit of a pompous gas-bag but that doesn't mean you weren't still full of beans.  But these days, and I am a case in point, being farty just means that you're older but perhaps not wiser.  People's lives are much more fluid these days; I had a whole other career and trajectory before I even started to study medicine.

There's a pressure that comes with being farty.  I'm hoping that I can ease some of that pressure by trying to keep things more fluid, while also striving for solidity in the future.  I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I don't think it's helpful to label yourself as farty, or not-farty - surely everyone is farty in some way, at some time, even if they'd like to pretend otherwise. Farty is a just state of mind. Before I was farty I fell into the trap of thinking of it as the end of something rather than the beginning.  Being farty is nothing more than a sign of more surprises in store.

Am I really farty? The answers, as Bob Dylan said, are blowin' in the wind.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Up the wolves

There's bound to be a ghost 
At the back of your closet,
No matter where you live.
There'll always be a few things, 
Maybe several things,
That you're gonna find really difficult to forgive.

There's gonna come a day 
When you'll feel better.
You'll rise up free and easy on that day.
And float from branch to branch,
Lighter than the air.
Just when that day is coming, 
Who can say,
Who can say.

Our mother has been absent,
Ever since we founded Rome
But there's gonna be a party 
When the wolf comes home.

We're gonna commandeer 
The local airwaves.
To tell the neighbors what's been going on.
And they will shake their heads,
And wag their bony fingers
In all the wrong directions,
And by daybreak we'll be gone.

I'm gonna get myself in fighting trim.
Scope out every angle 
Of unfair advantage.
I'm gonna bribe the officials,
I'm gonna kill all the judges,
It's gonna take you people years
To recover from all of the damage

Our mother has been absent,
Ever since we founded Rome.
But there's gonna be a party 
When the wolf comes home.

- John Darnielle

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Potato Varieties for Fun and Profit

The Désirée is a red-skinned main crop potato originally bred in the Netherlands in 1962. It has yellow flesh with a distinctive flavour and is a favourite with allotment-holders because of its resistance to drought, and is fairly resistant to disease. It is a versatile, fairly waxy variety which is firm and holds its shape and useful for all methods of cooking; from roasting to mashing and salads.

The Russet Burbank potato is a large potato with dark brown skin and few eyes. Its flesh is white, dry, and mealy, and it is good for baking, mashing, and french fries. It is a common and popular potato. Russet potato came to headlines in 2014 when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a pair of russet potatoes to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Kerry stated that the gift was in reference to a previous conversation and was not motivated by any hidden meaning or metaphor.

The Robertson Emperor is a grandiose, elaborate potato.  It has a floury, mealy flesh which is not well suited to boiling or steaming.  However, when triple roasted in duck fat and rubbed on the inside of a silver tureen, it is capable of raising even the most tarnished tableware to a brilliant shine.

The Blackroot Honeycrown is a traditional Iberian throwing potato.  Its rough and pitted skin affords an excellent grip to the thrower but sacrifices the control thus gained for raw speed of delivery due to the aerodynamic drag.  Legend has it that the champion Honeycrown tosser Anante Tescolenes will one day return to earth on a golden blimp to revive the lost art of "Acuraverio", or flinging the potato with such violence that it spontaneously self-exfoliates and arrives at the target entirely devoid of skin.

The Cheerful Florence was bred in 1930's New Jersey in an attempt to lighten the lives of the poor slum-folk of Newark.  When immersed in water to cook, the steam escaping from its eyes forms bubbles which, to a sufficiently imaginative or desperate listener, seem to tap out of the rhythm of some of Cole Porter's lesser known Broadway show tunes.  It was not a popular success and is believed to be extinct.

Doctor Starlight's Opal Fritter is a disappointing potato.  Blandly flavoured, mushy fleshed, smelling faintly of used cat litter, and drab grey in colour, it is nevertheless a common entrant in the North American Tuber Fancy shows since 1992 due to the commercial clout of Monsanto which continues to heavily subsidize the Opal Fritter, whose patent rights they acquired in mysterious circumstances during an Egyptian river cruise with representatives of the Vatican.  Approximately 1 in every 2 million Opal Fritters will contain a skin lesion resembling Gene Wilder.  These rare specimens are highly prized among members of Gene Wilder's family.

The Dragonclaw Dragontalon Dragonlady Katana Griffonclaw Axekiller is a good mashing potato but is surprisingly vulnerable to frosty weather.  It grows well in drier, well-drained soils and will flourish with regular top ups of potash and a little TLC to keep it free from pests.