Thursday, May 12, 2016

Macaron? Macawrong I say.

Reeking Lums assemble!

We have serious matters to consider.

One is shaped like a coroners slab, covered in chocolate, dessicated wood chip and is hard as a brick, another is a gaily coloured and fragrant sponge sandwich, that would look more at place in a bowl beside your bath, and the last looks like its been coughed up by a camel and left to dry in the desert sun, what am I talking about?  Macaroons, that's what,  and their obscure history and provenance.

Let the Reeking Lum untangle this holy mess with an in depth investigation of these so called Sons of Aroon, whoever he was.  “There can be only one” said immortal Highland Frenchie Christopher Lambert,  lets see if he was right

My investigations have taken me to the darkest corners of the web, it will take a long time to unsee some of the sights my eyes have had to endure, but as I try and make sense of it all, lets remind ourselves of the holy grail that is The "Lees Lees more if you please" Macaroon favoured in these parts, to prevent any confusion with inferior, less sturdy pretenders, I'll refer to it from here as The MacAroon. 
MacAroon: aka House Brick ( edible)

1931, to the east of Glasgow, a young grocers son, going by the name of John Justice Lees was experimenting with a new prototype confectionery bar,  if only he could perfect the smooth chocolate covered fondant, he would erase the disappointment his father felt when he flunked law school, "Michty me, I might be shite as a solicitor" young John Justice may have said " but by fuck, I'll be a passable grocer".  Time and again his trials failed,  the alchemy needed eluded him, until late one night, after a particularly disastrous attempt at making fondant icing with  sugar of all things (until then his experiments had used traditional mashed potatoes) ,  Mr Lees the senior visited him in the cellar, " What of all the fucks is going on doon here, ya useless wee tit? he inquired., "That Tunnocks bastard is over the hill cleaning up with they daft cocynut logs or whatever the fuck  he calls them, and your fannying aboot wi this, look at it, its brick cunting hard, it disnae even huv any tatties in it." With that he picked it up and to prove a point, threw it at young John Justice, hitting him on the temple and knocking him clean out and into a sack of dessicated coconut that Lees senior had won in a game cards.  Some hours, or possibly days later, young John Justice came round, starving and locked in the cellar,  all he had to hand was the rejected chocolate covered fondant slab, covered in coconut flakes,  He could have chosen to break down the door with it, or to bash his useless brains in as a final apology for all the disappointments his dear father had had to suffer, but instead he did  something surely only a genius would do, something so unlikely with an object like that, he ate a bit of it, and it wasn't bad, not as good as a Tunnocks Caramel Log, but nevertheless, edible, Quite unbelievably, an iconic legend was born, The MacAroon tolerated throughout the world and beyond.

All well and good, my beliefs had been reinforced with these discoveries, but the investigations had also thrown up suggestions of an older heritage, a possible lineage that stretched back to the old witch burning times.   This revelation had the potential to reset the clock of Macaroon evolution.  Simon Schama has nothing to say on the matter and Richard Dawkins would not even pick up the phone, so I had to search for answers myself.   

These ancient Google texts claimed that Macaroons have been around since the 8th Century, which even pre-dates the Ginger Nut.  They would have been baked by master baker monks in Venice, monks then, as now,  are prolific master bakers.  
 Macaroon aka Camel Phlegm
The secret recipe was then stolen by Catherine de Medici's pastry chef when she went off to marry the famous jousting Richard Stillgoe lookalike, Henry II of France.  And so sparked the the War of the Spatulas, a little documented confrontation between France and Italy that led to the catastrophic schism between the almond and coconut flavoured biscuit, as the Venetian monks knew it, and the camp  Macaron, with its soft spongy melt in the mouthiness, as the ponsy Frencheis liked to call them.

Later, two Nuns, fleeing the French revolution,  set up shop in Nancy and baked Macarons for the locals, they became popular and the Nuns sold so many they bought a house  and became known as the Macaron sisters, which by the way, isn't very imaginative.   I would have called them the Fancy Nancy Bitchin Baker Sisters.  All the Hipsters of the day would have went there probably, 

And that's how the Macaron became what it is today, well, almost, the Fancy Nancy Bitchin Baker Sisters Macarons had no colour or cream filling,
Macaron....aka BathBomb
they were basically a Farleys Rusk, but never mind, the cast was set for  all pretentious little cake shops that make fortunes charging £3.50 for a cup cake that has about 12p of ingredients in it and no obvious skill required to make the fucking things.

And so, my investigation into Macaroons was complete, apart from one curious side note, In Puerto Rico, Macaroons are called besitos de coca, or little coconut kisses.  My mind immediately jumped to kissing a coconut and an old girlfriend, which tells you all you need to know about her. 

Lang may yer Lum Reek. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Attack of the Vapours


I stopped smoking about a year ago, I turned to the vapours to do that and its worked, I've successfully replaced my nicotine delivery vehicle with a much less harmful one, though there is some ongoing debate about how much less harmful.

That debate seems to be kept going by the tobacco and drugs firms who stand to lose  business from those no longer buying their death sticks or supporting their expensive nicotine rackets.  Big tobacco shouldn't get worried just yet though, its hard to believe but cigarette smoking is still on the up, one in 3 smokers in the world are Chinese and they love it.

Also, there are people who disapprove, non-smokers normally,  not happy that their measured and wise decision not to smoke has been undermined somehow and of course its one less opportunity to just be super smug and superior about choices made and risks avoided.  They see us cheerfully puffing away like the Vital Spark with no apparent deadly consequences and think we are cheating at something. So they will grasp any of the flaky studies by obscure research bodies that indicate vaping is even worse for you than smoking, there will be horrible repercussions, diseases with names such as popcorn lung and the children,  think of the children, these vaping things are just a bridge to hard core Woodbines. They'll say sniffily, " but your not really kicking the habit, are you" so what?  Its not the habit that does any harm.  I just think its like getting snooty at a recovering alcoholic because of all the coffee they drink, The Reeking Lum says, Gie me peace!

Thats not to say being a member of the vaping community does not have its challenges,  you are often forced out into the smoking pens for a puff, which is like asking that same recovering alky to drink his coffee only in a pub and there is the vaping shops, the place you go to replenish your fluids.

My own personal dealer...I mean, works out of a little single fronted shop in a street where I think the rent is probably reasonable, if you get my drift.  Its tiny, but he has a large, old and battered chesterfield sofa in there where patrons can sit and relax and vape away the hours if they wish, chatting slackly about rigs and tanks and voltages and all the things that pass for hot topics in this particular sub-culture.
That means when you go in, its taken on the feel of a back street opium den, full of a thick sweet smelling fug and typically populated by a variety of characters.
Oooft,  this Witches Tit is fresh.
You'll have your lounging dandy students who fancy themselves as Oscar Wilde incarnate, or dangerous looking trunks of men that may have just stepped off an oiler from Murmansk or that uniquely Glaswegian creature, growth stunted by his mothers habits, 8 stone wet, the build of an empty track-suit and dressed head to toe in grey marl.

These fellas, very rarely women, and I will be in there choosing their poison, and this is when it gets weird.   My particular shopkeeper mixes his own and so gets to give them names as well, so I'll find myself asking for 30mls of unicorn blood, or "give me another bottle of Enter the Dragon", and "do you have any Mothers Milk left?"   Actually, I don't,  I normally say, " can I get a wee bottle of that dark purpley one"  "What" the shopkeeper will say, "Witches Tit?"   He should just wear a starry robe and a wizards pointy hat to complete the fantasy and be done with it.  Its better than smoking though, all you get from that is the joy of parting with a £10 every day, stinking clothes, yellow fingers, complaining teeth and gums,  disappointed kids and the promise of an early breathless demise.

Lang may yer lum vape.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What is TX3TW? who cares? What day is it? Are you here with my dinner?

Calling all Lums, a message from the Reeking one.

Yes, I know, they are infrequent, but productivity is down right across the country, haven't you noticed?

Anyhoo, how are you both?  I'm assuming any remaining followers are still here because they have either lost their wits or have passed away alone and the body hasn't been discovered yet, though if that is the case, there will be 5 months of milk on your doorstep, so it seems unlikely.  Madness it is then, that should make things easier.

Despite all that time away I haven't come up with any new or original ideas so I'm going to float this as one, its called my Three Things This Week column, or TX3TW column, see how clever that is, and I've called it a column, like a a grown up newspaper has columns and indeed columnists, a Reeking CoLUMnist even, this is worthy of a BAFTA or something.

So, here we go, Three Things This Week;

1. Burger King deliver.  
I'll say that again, Burger King DEE-LIV-ERR!  

Not here of course, but not solely in the most whimsical corners of my own imagination either, but in Madrid.  I saw it with my own eyes, the Burger Kings little pawns, scooting about the city on little electric magic monkey bikes, there panniers jammed full of Chicken Royales and big Whoppers on their way to the hungry masses, keeping the restive populace happy,  the ground  less likely to catch a spark of a flame grilled revolution that could threaten The Kings bundom.  But why Madrid and as far as I can tell, only Madrid? Did Cortes bring the ancient ways back with Inca gold?  Who knows, but I want burgers on a bike coming up my street. 

2. Old people's playgrounds are Da Bomb.  
In the middle of Madrid there is a beautiful park called the Parque De El Retiro,  it appears to be, to be fair, a monument to Spains bloodthirsty colonial past and measles spreading but nevertheless, a lovely place to spend a few hours.   I did,  I sipped coffees and watched the beautiful people of Spain meander past on there way to  lie down somewhere else other than the place they were lying down before.  All that lazing about is OK for the young, the workers charged with keeping the economy parping along, but the oldies, they get to work out in geriatric jungle gyms.  Its great to see, special playgrounds for old folk to get some gentle exercise, I saw some old ladies sitting on a bench chatting away , probably about the good old fascist days,  but pedalling away on some cranks cemented into the ground and an old man, who might have waved The Armada off from Cadiz winding a big gear, like he was raising a bucket of gold from deep inside an Incan tomb, there were balance beams and little flights of stairs, no more than 3 steps, for them to climb.   It didn’t look the greatest fun, but Spanish pensioners looked fit and happy and I bet would beat ours in a race if it came to that.

3. There are worse places than Luton.
As well as magical Madrid, I also visited lovely Luton for the first time recently, I say lovely like a compulsive liar might say it when he really feels the urge to lie about something.  Its not great,  though the taxi driver said it was OK, there are worse places he said, and who could argue with that? Not me, there are planets that if you set foot on, your lungs would boil and your eyes would shoot out your head like a chameleons tongue before the contents of your body cavity rapidly expressed through your arse, propelling you like a shit powered rocket into a low and uncomfortable orbit.

I think Luton is well known for something, is it Bedford vans?

I don’t know, anyway, first of all the airport is a chaotic building site that extends beyond the arrivals area all the way out to the car-park, you get funnelled along between temporary plaster board walls, spat out into the concourse and funnelled some more between temporary fencing to the teeming bus stops, by the way, Luton is like the entry point for  millions  of Eastern European joiners and plumbers, I can only suppose that none of them have learned enough good English by this time  to offer to get the airport finished for a very reasonable price.  The Welcome to England experience isn't over yet though, the  Heras fencing is like a see through maze and it takes no little wits to find the taxi rank and when you do its not clear if you are at the back or the front of the queue.
The airport also seems to be the place where the Arnold Clark of private jets has set up shop.  There is a big Gulfstream place there with dozens of billionaire buses parked like second hand cars for sale minus the bunting and porta-kabin.  Big Trump size ones and tiny little ones like you might buy from Argos, well not that small, but small.
Things got better for a while, I was staying at Luton Hoo Hotel, very nice with grounds so large, when I left, the taxi meter had gone to £5.60 before we had even reached the end of the drive.    I got dropped off at a forgettable train station in what looked a forgettable town centre, circled by the usual retail park filler and hashed by the standard one way systems. There will be worse places no doubt.

More TX3TW next week, maybe.

How was that?  Apologies for the no doubt countless spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, or flourishes as I like to call them, it is 1am though, but, It might get better, I'm ever the optimist.

Lang may yer lum reek