Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Can't see it; haven't got it

I have three roles in Mrs BB’s kitchen: to wash up, to lift things down from high shelves and to observe. Recently I observed blind baking beans in action, preventing that culinary solecism whereby pastry case and tart contents combine. I recognised their function but couldn’t remember having seen this procedure before. It turned out Mrs BB had bought the beans two years ago. And before? Real beans, but “they’d begun to look a little secondhand”.

I wondered if cooking beans end up in that destination I identify as the Food Processor Bermuda Triangle involving tools for comparatively rare but very specific tasks (eg, a melon baller). So rare that when the need arises one bodges rather than look for the tool. The phenomenon reaches its expensive apogee when a food processor is “put away” rather than being left on the work surface. “Not in a well organised kitchen,” replied Mrs BB a trifle frostily.

I AM NOT SEDUCED by perfumed toilet products. My preferred shampoo is Head and Shoulders which has a chemically smell and an in-yer-face aim (gets rid of dandruff). My favourite soap is Wright’s Coal Tar. If I could find a tooth-paste flavoured with petrol I would buy it. Yes, I know, it’s a man’s thing and its finest expression is a deep love of Swarfega (alas, now newly packaged). Used by garage mechanics for cleaning oily hands it is a luminescent green gel which feels excitingly slick to touch and has a hypnotically techno smell. It’s at its best when taken from an industrial-size container and it not only works well but better than you could ever expect. Welcome to this blog.

Novel progress (Working title: Bloggers Unite). Chapter one: 3420 words, Chapter two: 3806 words. Chapter three: 698 words.


Plutarch said...

Mrs B is right about food processors. I seem to remember that you had the same philosophy about dictionaries. You even acquired a lectern upon which yours rested permanently. Funk & Wagnell wasn'tit?

Sir Hugh said...

What I can't abide is having stuff on the worktops that has no place in the kitchen.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah yes. Shampoo ~ I don't want my hair to reek of "Mango Delight" or some such fruit concoction. And soap ~ Badedas used to be it for me until they "improved" the scent. Nowadays I use a simple bar with Aloe. I must admit that I have strong preferences (the time I spend at the gym has allowed me to ponder these things.) My problem is that I have a big nose and that it works too well. I prefer my food to smell like food and the people around me not to smell edible. So your Techno gel sounds good to me, BB.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh I do love visiting here! Baking beans AND Swarfega.
I was given some ceramic 'beans' for baking, but much prefer the real thing. 'Swarf' will always remind me of Pa's garage and bits of motorcycle in the hallway.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Well remembered. The dictionary was in fact a huge Random House, acquired in the US. Younger daughter now has it. I found out that the lectern (discovered in Fulham by Pamela Goodtimes) was a prier dieux. It went to France when we bought the house there, since having an easily accessible French dictionary was even more important than an English. Sold with the house, along with the dictionary.

Sir Hugh: I agree wholeheartedly. But allocating space for a FP is ultimately the difference between having one and not having one. It is just too much fag to dig it out of a cupboard and put it back again.

RW (zS): Swarfega is really only necessary if you disassemble gearboxes fairly regularly. Otherwise I fear it might curtail your social life.

HHB: "...much prefer the real thing" For eating, yes. I find it ineffably poignant that Swarf nostalgia is still alive and well all those many miles away. It's a link between us that's stronger than Blogger. Bless... as daughter says to me occasionally, though I suspect there's an ironic tinge there.

Sir Hugh said...

When I said "no place in the kitchen" I meant things like five weeks of unopened post, a pile of vestments on the way to the washing machine,a bag full of conkers picked up on a walk several days ago which will never serve any useful purpose, several items of toileteries purchased a few days ago which should have been put in the bathroom cupboard at the time. I agree wholeheartedly with your FP philosophy and mine is kept on the worktop.

Julia said...

Hmm...I know what swarf is, but any idea why the -ega?

Relucent Reader said...

The Missus uses a coal tar smelling hair shampoo, I loot that.I enjoy the smell.A bar of soap, though not Lava please,will clean my hair....
Our new FP lurks in a corner of the countertop, waiting for its next job.The immersion blender is in storage, along with the pasta roller attachment (not used yet) to the mixer what will take two men and a boy to lift outta there. O yes: we have, get this, an "appliance garage" at the base of the corner cabinet. Toaster and mini-processor are in that.
Working on a model, I like just the relevant-to-task tools at hand on the workbench.
I did not realize Funk & Wagnell dictionaries were available in Britain, rights or something. Haven't heard the name since Junior High, always used to get a chuckle amongst the classmates.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: "Eager" to remove swarf?

RR: I like "appliance garage". Stored in ours is a sandwich toaster; I like toasted sandwiches but the toaster cannot be allowed to occupy kitchen work surface and thus is rarely used. As with the corn popper.

Plutarch's memory failed him - it was a Random House dictionary which probably weighed 2 kg. I had to have it after I'd read it reviewed in the NYT Review of Books by Kurt Vonnegut. A true masterpiece. It was offered as a Book of the Month deal which I immediately cancelled after I'd met the necessary quota.

Avus said...

With you on the smell of Swarfega, BB. Also the smell of Gunk (degreaser) on a hot engine and that ineffably nostalgic scent of burnt Castrol R racing oil trailing from the exhaust of a classic motorcycle.
(I, too, am a "Head and Shoulders" man.)

Lucy said...

For a brief while in my early working life I was a nanny in a boys' prep school. Matron, a diminutive and ferocious woman of Italian extraction who smioked like a chimney and had been a nun, used Swarfega to get grass stains out of cricket whites.

I have an old style cast iron meat mincer made in the Czech Republic which used to live on the work surface but has eventually been banished to the cupboard. I banished the food processor (which had been Tom's before my advent in his life) to Emmaus, and stick with a Braun hand-mixer and a ... is it a mezaluna? One of those two-handled curved bladed things you use on a concave chopping board.

Mrs BB is lucky, (but then we knew that). I have a husband who looks at baking beans and says, 'they won't cook in there will they?'

The most useless thing-at-the-back-of-the-drawer we have is a tool for cutting spiral shapes out of carrots and other cylindrical vegetables. We were seduced by a sales demo at an exhibition.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Why was I almost 100 per cent sure you'd know about Gunk too? Simply because large parts of our lives have run on parallel - and only narrowly separated - lines. H&S has another attraction: it frequently features in BOGOF promotions. Shampoo is one of those purchases where I begrudge every penny.

Lucy: It would be interesting to excavate all the reasons why the FP was banished. One of them could well be that your are attracted to recognisably efficient yet simple tools where the human input is self-evident and a degree of skill is required; Plutarch is also a member of this breed and it's not suprising that the two of you have got together in this poetic yin-yang poetic project. Your shared conversation at The Retreat should have been recorded and passed to me - I'm sure I would still be picking out Works Well topics a year afterwards as well as the humdrum stuff about Eliot and Yeats.

Mrs BB's FP does not preclude her from owning a Moulinex ricer. I'm sure its function can be duplicated on the FP but its existence here bears witness to some deep-seated atavism from which I am completely excluded.

Lucy said...

Oh yes, the potato ricer. Possibly my favourite thing...