Far Flung Four is dead

28 Oct

Long live Far Flung Four!

OK, I’m calling it. After a year, 52 topics, 183 posts and 784 comments, Far Flung Four is having a sleep. A big, big sleep.

But I’m confident that it’ll be back in a while from now. Or maybe even a shorter time. Who knows?

What I do know is that I really enjoyed writing for it, and reading all the entries. I loved the sense of closeness it gave me to the other flingers, and to our faithful readers, especially Mischa and Suzy.

I look at my weeks now and I’m not sure where I fitted in writing my posts. That time has been quietly eaten up by other things. Most notably the fair.

So it’s so bye for now I think…unless someone wants to try a last ditch resuscitation  Things have changed a lot for my fellow flingers in the past few months. All of whom have relocated, or are in the process of relocating, and there’s lots of change happening in work and family and life in general.

This weekend I took part in an oral history project where I was interviewed about my life and how I have been affected by things like technology, place, family and belonging. I got to tell someone my life story! Crazy, amazing, tiring, teary. It took over six hours, and I’m feeling pretty exhausted, but it was a great thing to have been a part of. I mentioned this blog in the interview, and remembered what a cool thing it has been – touching on every single one of those topics, and much more.

So…. Thanks for the laughs and the thoughtful insights and the feeling that I’m a part of something much bigger than myself. I miss our philosophical chats, our silly rants – all of it. But I’m also glad it died out with a bang and not a wimper.

I look forward to when we reconvene, whenever that is.

Love, Beth

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custard – by Justyna

24 Sep

Thankfully this word sprung up on FFF and now I finally understand what custard actually is. As in what exactly is in it. It was never consumed in our house in any way. In fact back in the day my mum bought it once accidentally thinking she was buying buttermilk. We all crowded around it, sniffing it and tasting it and wondering what to do with it. It was universally decided it was not something to be poured over muesli. It stood in the fridge for ages until it went off and was tipped down the sink. It was too sweet for our Slavwog palette. Polewog? These are new. I like both. The latter a bit more athletic.

Anyway. The Polish language does not have a word for custard. The Almighty Google Translate gives us two options: cream or pudding. Both horrendously wrong when describing custard. The only custard experience, apart from Wahooti Fandango (an album I never owned but liked and now wish I had), is that desert I believe to be called truffle*. The look of it always reminds me of vomit. A perplexing thought as to how one can make such ugly yet surprisingly tasty sweet food. Especially when it’s chilled in a glass bowl. Super, super ugly once the first serving is dug out.

Pudding in Poland is equally gross in it’s visual dimension. And, unlike truffle, really, really crap to eat. For some reason this potato starch rubbish food is loved by kids. Bleh. Michal tells me long romantic anecdotes how back in the commie days when the supermarket shelves were bare, pudding was the only form of store bought sweet a kid could regularly get. When drizzled with home-made raspberry syrup it was the bomb. Apparently. Nah uh. My mum would buy me pudding in Oz thinking it was a mad treat and I always hated it. It was like a cop-out fake ice-cream disaster or a warm thick, stagnant semolina slab rip-off, dressed in vanilla flavour. Even when she poured Ribena over it I always knew it was going to taste like crap.

 

* What I actually meant was ‘trifle’. Thanks to the watchful editorial eye of Suzy, I now know my error. The French are probably disgusted at my plebness.

Hipster clafoutis – by Karen

14 Sep

Since trying it for the first time last year, I have been dying to make clafoutis, and this week’s topic was all the nudging I needed. It really was a worthwhile process, so I’m going to share it in some detail. While making clafoutis, I had Shakira’s Waka Waka firmly stuck in my head, so you may want to use it as a soundtrack for reading this post.

Googling for a recipe, the Julia Child one was most prominent. I wanted to go classic anyhow, or so I thought. In reality, I went HIPSTER.

First of all, the eggs, basis of any custard dessert. Backyard heritage chicken eggs, that is. Slave to the zeitgeist.

Eggs from Araucana, Sussex, Welsummer and Australorp hens

You don’t actually need that many eggs. The recipe calls for three, but I threw in one extra, because hipster eggs can be smaller than those sell-out commercial eggs.

Next comes the hipster milk. I originally photographed this a2 milk as an in-joke for Beth, not realising that the whole production would become a joke.

Like porridge, this non-savoury recipe calls for salt. Anyone who attended Beth’s Party for your Thoughts knows that fancy salt epitomises the corruption of food by the hipster. In it goes.

Not actually Himalayan. Airmiles, dontcha know. It is in fact Australian fancy salt.

I also used a vanilla pod in addition to the vanilla extract specified.

At this point the recipe calls for a blender. “Julia Child wouldn’t have used a blender!” I scoffed. Then all our electronic mixing devices were broken. Then it turned out I am no Julia Child. I used a sieve to get the lumps out.

It’s cool that this recipe, although basically custard, requires no saucepan skills. It’s poured into the pan and bunged in the oven. There is only one ambiguous bit in the recipe:

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan.

If you check it immediately, there is no film, and there’s clearly not going to be a film for ages. Then five minutes later, it is solid and looks like this:

Bubbly and firm. Not “a film”

If any man ever reads this blog, he will just want to know what that is in the background there. It is pork belly, man. Richard made it.

Crispy pork belly

Ok, so back to the clafoutis. The point of creating the film with one quarter of the batter, I believe, is so that the cherries can be raised up upon it.

So my firm batter served the purpose:

Cherries go on

Then the rest of the batter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was really a pretty easy recipe, with ingredients most people would have lying around (presuming you’re happy to substitute the cherries for other fruit). And look! It worked!

Ready when brown and puffy!

The Pope is Catholic, and the children liked the dessert. Finn said, “can I just give my food a little cuddle before it disappears into my tummy?”

mm

mmm

Custard – by Tabitha

14 Sep

In response to Beth’s post, I would like to stand up for custard.  I agree that the so-called custard filling in products like vanilla slice or profiteroles besmirches the good name of custard, as does the store-bought variety. The real deal is the homemade stuff, and it is ridiculously easy to make. Warmed custard with sliced banana was a Carvan family dessert staple when I was growing up, and taught me that custard doesn’t have to play second fiddle as some kind of dessert accompaniment. It’s the main game, people, and a ripper of a dessert because you usually have the ingredients at hand, and it creates minimal washing up. Plus, I would say it’s not that bad for you, as far as desserts go. I think Karen would approve of it, for example.

I have already made custard since getting back to Australia, even. It’s one of Nathan’s favourite things, and on this recent occasion he ate most of it straight out of the saucepan in one sitting. Make your husbands and children happy, and go make custard right now.

  • 2 cups milk, or 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream (with cream it thickens more quickly it seems)
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
  • 4 egg yolks – whack the whites in the freezer to make meringue some time
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar, or even less
  1. Combine milk, and cream if using, in a small saucepan. Add vanilla seeds or flavouring. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.
  2. Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
  3. Wash and dry the saucepan thoroughly, or get a new one, then put the custard mixture back in and on low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until custard thickens and forms a coating on the back of a spoon which you can draw a line through with your finger. Don’t let it get close to boiling or it will curdle. This is the bit which people are afraid of, but it’s really pretty foolproof if you’re watchful. I usually find mine thickens within 5 minutes because I put the heat on medium and stir rapidly, because I don’t have the patience for cooking anything on low heat.  Then you pour it back into the bowl you used for whisking and serve after about five minutes or when it’s cooled. You can basically make it as far in advance as suits you. You can put Glad wrap on it to stop a skin forming, but the skin of custard is delicious, and always highly sought-after in my family.

Custard – by Beth

10 Sep

How can you be a major fan of custard? It’s so middle of the (dessert)road.

Custard tarts leave me cold. Vanilla slices are over-rated. Custard accompanying apple pie is nice, but I give the credit to the pie. My father used to have a thing for No Frills custard and would team it with crushed weetbix, sliced banana and a generous sprinkle of milo for dessert. I wonder what the custard sitch in Poland is, Justyna?

I have never made my own custard from scratch (have used Edmond’s custard powder like a good Kiwi), but I did make my own vegetable stock for the first time today. Tabitha told me of a clever method where you keep a ziplock bag in the freezer and add vegie scraps to it until it’s full and then you POUNCE on it and make a pot of stock. The making of the stock was more satisfying than the eating I’ve gotta say. The soup I made from it wasn’t the best ever. I guess it depends a lot on what vegetable scraps you put in there…I am inspired to keep going though. It felt so good to make something out of stuff that would usually go in the compost. And it smelt really good.

 

Discretion – by Tabitha

1 Sep

I had an antenatal check-up at a fancy international hospital in Bangkok while we were there. I was super-excited about going, because the hospital is the kind of place worshipped by medical tourists from all around the world for its service and facilities. I had heard rumours that its delivery suites were like five-star hotel rooms, and the ultrasounds were conducted in 4D, one more dimension than anyone could possible ever need.

Indeed it was pretty flash, and did have a hotel-like vibe about it, apart from all the nurses in crisp white hats milling around. It certainly didn’t feel like your typical, sterile hospital. For example, when you walked in, the first thing you saw was not triage nurses but a whole row of receptionists devoted to handling your bill and your insurance forms.

Also, upon arrival you are issued with with a photo ID, complete with barcode. I thought I wouldn’t need this barcode since I was only planning on visiting the hospital once, but no, it was scanned at least five times during our one visit. Turns out it was less like a five-star hotel and more like a factory.

I was hugely disappointed with the incompetent doctor that we saw, but when I was ushered into a special, separate consultation room for a gynaecological examination, my disappointment turned to fury. The nurse in this room asked me to take off my underpants, which I did, with one deft flick of the wrist, as I was wearing a skirt. Then she looked aghast and said “No, toilet!” and pointed to the toilet. I asked if I was supposed to give a urine sample, but again she just pointed and said “Toilet!” So I went in, and laid out before me, as in some day spa, were special “modesty wraps” which you were apparently supposed to wear. While you were lying on your back, knees wide and legs in stirrups for an internal medical examination.

Now, I don’t like flashing my gash to anyone, but the idea that a gynaecological examination should be done “discreetly” is just insulting, especially when it seems the whole “modesty wrap” business wasn’t for the customer’s – sorry, patient’s – benefit but for the nurse and the doctor’s.

I was thinking about this experience recently because I had my first visit to the Canberra Hospital this week. It’s a big, sterile hospital but I felt completely comfortable there. I talked to the midwives about some of the things I had heard about hospital birth experiences, and they answered everything by saying, “You can do whatever you want, however you want”. They said you can give birth in whatever position feels best, on the bed, on the floor, in the shower, using a birth ball (I don’t know what this is), and presumably, in the nuddy, without a modesty wrap in sight. I was so pleased to be back in Australia. Then, and at so many other times since being back, I have soaked up the sensation of “being on the same page” with people around me. Plus, the visit was entirely free.

Discretion – by Beth

30 Aug

What percentage of our lives are dealt up to us vs. things we have some choice over? Do we ever really have control over anything/anyone/ourselves, or is control a big illusion/false economy?

I have thought about variations on this question roughly a thousand times since having a child. I haven’t come up with any real answers, but I know that I wrestle with it a lot. I’m all like: “Look at me, no hands, I’m going with the flow!”, followed one hour later with “I don’t like this feeling anymore! Get me outta here!”

Control. Choice. Freedom. All concepts that are so incredibly loaded in our society. We can be paralysed by too much choice, and surely we can be paralysed by feeling we don’t have enough. I’ve been to both ends of that spectrum, but the too little choice one sucked the most.

Just this week a friend of mine had a baby, and in an email mentioned how she had felt out of control during the birth and that she was looking forward to “getting some control back” post-birth. So challenging for any new parent, especially those used to working in a predictable environment and mainly interacting with adults (i.e. most new parents).

I listened to this podcast tonight about – an interview with David Eagleman about his book on the unconscious mind. There were a couple of things about it that really stuck with me in connection with this topic:

  • “there’s a lot of other literature showing that it’s quite bad for the body to hold secrets. You get an elevation of stress hormones … in fact there’s a group at UT Austin that’s been looking at this for a while. When they have people write down their secrets, even anonymously, or even just in a journal, their stress hormone levels go down. Their number of doctor visits goes down.”
  • Secondly he talked about two examples of men who were driven to terrible crimes purely by having brain tumours pressing on particular parts of their brains. One guy killed 13 people and wounded 33 in a shooting. In his own suicide note he said he was sure there was something wrong with his brain, and sure enough the autopsy showed a brain tumour pressing on a part of his brain dealing with agression.
  • “Currently in the legal system there’s this myth of equality. And the assumption is if you are over 18 and you have an IQ of over 70, then all brains are created equal. And, of course, that’s a very charitable idea but it’s demonstrably false. Brains are extraordinarily different from one another. Brains are essentially like fingerprints; we’ve all got them but they’re somewhat different. And so by imagining that everyone has the exact same capacity for decision-making, for understanding future consequences, for squelching their impulsive behavior and so on, what we’re doing is we’re imagining that everybody should be treated the same. And, of course, what has happened is that our prison system has become our de facto mental health care system. Estimates are that about 30 percent of the prison population has some sort of mental illness.”

I’m tired. Going to show some discretion and get to bed.