Sunday, March 1, 2009

Let the Great Experiment Begin!1

I watched curling2 on TV today for the first time. Curling is that silly sport with the brooms that is the official snack-break of winter olympics watchers. I can't say that it holds a candle to ski-jumping or this (thanks, Will), but it is unequivocally more interesting than the biathlon, and here's why: (1) It's a strategy game--"rocks in the house," "he's got the hammer," "hard line," "let it curl"--all of the best strategy games have great, impenetrable idioms ("Sicilian defense, dragon variation" comes to mind). (2) You actually get to see what's happening, unlike the biathlon. I'm waiting with bated breath for the bullet-cam. You know, biathlon matrix-style. It's the only chance they've got. Watching a nice curl is kind of like watching a great ping pong or tennis game in slowmo where you get to appreciate all the spin put on every shot. (3) Finally, curling is a mixture of extreme concentration and at times--here's what I love about it--absolute panic. Sometimes they let the rock slide and the ice is completely silent, and sometimes the skip (please excuse my novice errors in curling terminology) is screaming at the absolute top of his fucking lungs at the sweepers to stop being such lazy assholes and sweep the goddamn ice. This panic on the part of the skip paired with the zeal and enthusiasm with which the sweepers comply with his panicked hollering is inherently hilarious. If the skip has botched his throw the most the can do is yell at the sweepers to clean up his mess. As if the skip's inability to do anything once he releases weren't tense enough, there's something that is fundamentally anxiety inducing in being forced to watch someone else do what you think you can do better. That's the kind of relationship I imagine between the skip and the sweepers.3

One reason that curling has showed up here is that after watching it, I had to get it out of my system. I just couldn't not talk about it. The other reason is that it has a vague, tenuous relation to poaching eggs, the actual subject of this post. I liked curling for the same reason that I liked a little egg-poaching experiment that I did a few weeks ago. A subtlety of motion and careful technique is essential to curling, and to well-poached eggs. However, there's also that oh-my-god-what-have-i-done, everything-is-going-to-hell, my-beautiful-egg-is-losing-it's-shape moment of panic that makes things so exciting as you try to coddle your poorly-curled egg into some sort of togetherness. This is part of the reason that people think that egg poaching and curling are difficult. Well, egg-poaching isn't really that hard, or so I discovered.

First of all, I know that doubling up on the eggs is poor form; however, you need to stop whining and poach yourself some. It'll be worth it. The light satiny texture of poached whites with the umami goodness of warm, runny yolk is glory incibuate.4

As it turns out, there's a lot of cooking that has to do with science and a lot of cooking that has to do with "science." I happened to be in the presence of a scientist (or "scientist"?) last weekend who mildly tolerates my food experimentation. Nicole was visiting me in Seattle and when it came time to make some brunch, she and I decided to have a friendly little competition between to egg-poaching virgins. Actually, saying that we "decided" is a bit disingenuous. Nicole strong-armed me with her spirit of antagonism into having a competition. Here are the results. You be the judge:

Nicole's Egg:

Peter's Egg:

In the interest of full disclosure (and not sore-loserness) I took the picture of Nicole's egg and she took the picture of mine. And you can't really judge from pictures anyway, so whatever. It's not like anyone's judging. But, if you are, notice that beautiful runny yolk oozing out of my egg's glorious dome, and think Hagia Sophia. Here are the thoughts that we gathered on technique:

{+} Poach an Egg

We ate our silky little nubbins atop a bed of garlicky sauteed kale and wheat toast. Like eggs florentine, but with kale. And minus the hollandaise due to my unflagging laziness. Here's the scoop5 on that:

{+} Eggs Kalentine It

However, the kitchsperiments don't end with poaching eggs. You may remember that in my tzatziki post I mentioned that straining regular yogurt could yield something that approximates the consistency of greek yogurt. At the time, I didn't know that. Now I do. After doing some egg cleanup, we moved on to kitchsperiment 2: thickening yogurt. We infused some ginger and ate it as a sweet, tangy treat with honey. It was creamy and spicy and wonderful. Here's the lowdown:

{+} Strained Ginger Yogurt

Well, friends, that's all I've got for now.

Keep on brunching,

1 Fünke. [Note: Clicking the footnote number here in the footnote now brings you back to where the footnote is in the text. How cool is that?]

2 The only reason that it caught my attention is that a dear friend of mine, let's call him Bideon (something so embarrassing must be treated with the requisite anonymity in this public forum), has joined a curling league. It's a fascinating study in despair to ponder how far in to the abyss you must have descended to think sweeping ice is fun.

3 This is almost certainly my projection rather than any sort of fact of the matter about the personal dynamics of professional curling.

4 Gid, you may have to correct my bastardization of Latin here. I'm not even close to making a real word. It's just that incarnate was not quite right and grated on my vegetarian sensibilities.

5 I am currently reading Scoop by Evelyn Waugh for a little book-gathering that I am part of. It's a dry and humorous satire of British journalism and politics in the first half of the 20th century. Also, it is unrelated to the Woody Allen movie. It is related to the new Brideshead Revisted movie in that Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead. Y'all can thank Kribs for the recommendation.


Gideon B said...

Whoever that Bideon is, he sounds like an awesome dude, and I would definitely respect any and all life choices he has made with respect to curling. Also, you should withhold judgment on him until you either a) vigorously sweep a perfectly delivered rock down the ice so that it hits an opponent's rock on the T-line at the 4-ft and rolls right smack dab on the button, to win the game or b) watch "Men with Brooms," which will largely vindicate Bideon's decision to start curling, as well as Canadian culture (which, I think we can agree, needs vindication).

As for your vegetable incarnation pun, you should probably talk to Bideon about that, because he seems way nerdier than I.

Here are two quotes from "Mw/Bs" that will tease your appetite (like spending a few hours watching a bag of cheesecloth filled with yogurt....mmmmm)

Joanne: [discussing curling] Okay. Like shuttleboard.
James Lennox: It's shufflebaord and no. You gotta think like snooker, poker, and free-rock climbing. This is dangerous shit.


Chris Cutter: No, it's not just a rock.
Amy Foley: No?
Chris Cutter: It's forty-two pounds of polished granite, bevelled on the belly and a handle a human being can hold. And it may have no practical purpose in itself but it is a repository of human possibility and if it's handled just right, it will exact the kind of poetry...