Archives for posts with tag: creative writing

mouse and witch

Witch went to Mouse and said, “You are right!” Mouse was staggered as she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

“I agree, we shouldn’t include the teff custard in the book” she explained. “Why the sudden change?” Mouse asked her friend. And then Witch told her that she had just read an article about teff being currently en vogue with Hollywood stars. So the demand is rising and will rise even further. However, it is also one of the basic foods in Ethiopia, where half the population  lives on less than a dollar a day. As the carbohydrates in teff are absorbed slowly people can eat their national dish injera, a sour dough bread made from teff, and then work all day without getting hungry. The Ethiopian government is now expecting a price explosion due to increased demand from the Western World, akin to what happened when quinoa all of a sudden became popular a few years back. This might result in hunger and malnourishment in the poorer population of Ethopia. As a measure, the government has currently banned exports of teff except with a special license.

“I wonder if you can obtain a special license when you give money to a government official?” asked Mouse.

“That’s not my main concern, but you might have a point there” said Witch. “Teff is certainly a very healthy food, but we in the West don’t run the risk of starvation, particularly not the Hollywood lot. Luckily, teff is a relatively hardy plant, but I understand it is time consuming to look after and process. Personally, I will forgo my desire for teff until other cultivating areas have been established – but not in a Monsanto type of way.”

dardevil custard

There are some days when you need comfort food. When everything has turned to custard it’s best to have a bowl of it, or at least that is Daredevil’s advice. Daredevil is a peace loving character who only fights for what he strongly believes is right. Of course, what he considers the right thing doesn’t necessarily coincide with other people’s opinion and he sometimes feels like Don Quixote. When he realises he is on a kamikaze mission he usually makes himself a big bowl of chocolate custard and eats it slowly and quietly in the corner, reviewing his position. It doesn’t happen too often, but yesterday he felt the urge. “Do you think, Mouse, my custard is eligible to be included in the book?” he asked, while he had another mouthful.

“What’s in it?” asked Mouse, “you don’t just rip open a packet of custard powder, do you?”

“No, I use corn flour, milk, sugar and cocoa and – when I have one on hand – an egg.” Mouse thought for a little bit and said, “not sure about the cocoa, it isn’t on the ingredient list. And I see you use corn flour?”

“C’mon, corn flour is a flour and it is a much better thickening agent than wheat flour.”

Once again Mouse couldn’t say no. “Okay, give me your recipe. I am only collecting them at the moment and I’ll think about it!”

Ingredients

3 heaped tablespoons of corn flour, 2 cups of milk (or milk and water), 1 generous tablespoon of cocoa, 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Method

In a bowl, mix the corn flour, sugar and cocoa and add half a cup of milk to make a smooth paste. Make sure there are no lumps in it.

Heat the rest of the milk (1 1/2 cups) and before it boils add the paste you made earlier. Stir continuously until it bubbles. It will thicken quite quickly once it starts boiling. Stir until it doesn’t thicken any further.

Eat warm or let rest to cool.

“You said earlier you might add an egg if you have one. When would you add this?” asked Mouse.

“Simply mix any eggs into the corn flour paste before you put it into the heated milk” answered Daredevil. “They are also a thickening agent and you can leave out a little bit of the corn flour.”

king crumpets

All the Dedes gathered in the kitchen to try the sweeter stuff that was currently on offer. King tried a bit of this and a bit of that but nothing seemed to satisfy his tastebuds. “You know” he said, “when I was a little prince, we had crumpets as a special treat for breakfast.”

“Crumpets? What’s that?” asked Deutsch Fraulein.

“I don’t know what they’re made of” said King. “It must be more than flour and water. I remember them as the most delicious Sunday breakfast” He paused for a while and everyone could see that in his mind’s eye he was being served a tower of delicious crumpets by his butler. “They are very similar to American pancakes but definitely not the same. They are really spongy with a honeycomb surface that soaks up any topping” he concluded.

“What do you have them with?”

“Butter or cream cheese and jam.”

Liar, who is a bit of a snob and pretends to be from a posh family, stepped forward and said, “I know how to make crumpets. And they do fit the profile.” He told the others that crumpets are a rather strange combination of a yeast dough and a baking soda batter. Like pancakes, they are baked on the stove top but they don’t contain eggs.

“Now that sounds interesting” said Mouse. “I definitely want to have that recipe!”

“As with any yeast dough they do take a little while to make, so they are good for a Sunday brunch rather than for everyday breakfast,” Liar explained as he handed over his recipe. “But you can make lots and put them in the fridge, and reheat them in the toaster over the next few days.

Ingredients

1½ cups flour, ½ cup hot water and ½ cup milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons dry yeast. ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ cup of warm water. Butter for the pan.

Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Mix hot water and milk to create a lukewarm liquid (if necessary heat it up a little) and pour into the well. Add sugar and yeast. Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it is sloshy.

Mix yeast with flour until it becomes a soft dough. It’s best done with your hands, though it is really sticky. The texture is more like a very thick pancake mix than a bread dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and put in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Dissolve the baking soda in warm water and stir into the yeast dough. It doesn’t combine easily, you need to be persistent. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

The batter is soft and won’t keep it’s shape well when placed in the frying pan. If you have some egg rings for poached eggs, they are ideal for containing the batter and make the crumpets nice and round. If you don’t have egg rings, you can cut a clean tomato tin up into rings (make sure there are no sharp egdges that can cut you). Grease the rings and place them in a frying pan. If you aren’t fussed about getting the perfect circular shape you don’t need to use rings :)

Fill each ring with some batter. The batter will rise while cooking and the crumpet dries from the bottom up. Bubbles come to the surface and pop, which gives the crumpets their distinct honeycomb surface. At this stage remove the ring, flip the crumpet over to cook the other side for a minute or so.

You can eat them immediately, or cool on a wire rack and reheat in the toaster later. If you eat them straight from the pan you don’t even need a topping.

“Only a King, with servants, could crave for crumpets.” Deutsch Fraulein said, after she had read the recipe. “No-one else would go to all that trouble.” After she had sampled them, she changed her mind.

no egg evan g

Detail still isn’t convinced about the Artist’s survival cookbook idea. “Isn’t glue the only thing you can make from flour and water?” she asked.  The others burst out laughing and pointed out that this is the reason why the book is particularly appropriate for the Dedes. After all, they are made from glue and newspaper. But Detail remaind unfazed. “Just show me one edible recipe, and I will shut up!”

“No problem” said Evan G. List stepping forward. “I am vegan. I make no egg pasta all the time.” He fetched a clean cup from the cupboard and then grabbed the flour tin. “Here, just flour and water. Okay, you can add a little oil, it makes it a tad easier as it sticks together faster, but you can do without it.” He kneaded the dough while he told us that his no egg pasta had been a life saver plenty of times when he was young and had friends around who got the munchies after midnight. He always had flour at home and with his pasta recipe he could whip up a delicious dish in no time at all. Just add some dried chilly and/or other herbs from the pantry, and some garlic and olive oil to the cooked pasta. Done!

“Those were the days,” he sighed and his eyes glazed over behind his thick glasses. He didn’t even have a rolling pin to call his own then, he had to use a clean wine bottle to roll out the dough. Now of course he owns a pasta machine which makes life so much easier.

Ingredients:

1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of oil (optional)

Method

Pour flour on a flat working surface and add a little water, working the water into the flour with your hands little by little. When half the water is used up, add the oil. Knead well before you add more water. In the end I only wet my hands with water and knead until the slimy ball turns once again into a nice pliable playdough consistency, before I wet my hands again and repeat the procedure.

Once you have a firm, smooth, pliable, non-sticky dough, put it in a bowl, cover and let it rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. This is an important step as it allows the flour to bond with the water in the dough rather than the water it will be cooked in later.

Once the dough has rested, divide it into two balls and roll it out with a rolling pin to the thickness you like. The more pliable your dough was in the beginning the thinner you can roll it now. If you have a pasta machine you increase the pressure with every pass and the dough will get thinner and thinner. Once you have achieved the thickness you are after you cut the dough into strips and hang up to dry for a little. You can place a clean tea towel over the back of a chair and place the dough strips on the tea towel, or you can hang it up on a pasta drying rack. Usually the time it takes for a pot of water to boil is enough time for the drying.

Bring a pot of water to the boil (in the meantime you can prepare the sauce you want to have with it) and when the water is boiling place pasta in the water and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

mouse gardening

Yesterday Mouse, the little working bee Dede, came up to me and asked, “Hey, can I have a spoon and a fork?”

“What for?” I asked suspciously.

“Mmhm.” she said, “You know we are bored, so we have been watching you over the last few weeks.”

“Oh, dear!” Earlier in the year I decided to turn my garden into a producing vege patch. I have to admit, I tried to do it a couple of times before, but it never worked as I don’t really know what I am doing. This year I have the help of Dee Pigneguy, a well-known garden guru in our area. And even though I still don’t know what I am doing, I am very confident that under the watchful eye of Dee, it simply has to work.

Mouse knows me very well and she could tell what I was thinking. “Yes”, she said, “We want to have our own vege patch.”

“But you could help me. More hands make lighter work!”

“No way!” She shook her head vigorously. “You are too difficult to work with. You always know everything better. We want to do our own thing! We even have our own chook, you know, Loudmouth. She has already produced so much manure. Now we are ready to roll.”

“Where will you have your patch? If you are not helping me, I don’t want to have you in the backyard!”

“We found this neglected pot on the deck. You know, the one you got last year for Christmas and the herbs in it just died…”

“Ja, Ja, Ja. Tell everybody about my incompetence.” To shut her up, I went to the art cupboard and rummaged for a plastic spoon and fork. We will see how successful you guys will be, I thought to myself. It’s not as easy as it looks.

“Could we have some metal cutlery instead?” the cheeky thing asked when I handed over what I had found.

“First you prove to me that you can stick to it. I know you guys! If it works I might find you some better tools.”

She wasn’t happy, but grabbed the tools and went straight out onto the balcony.

lizzie carol and esther

Last Friday I finished Lizzie’s film (Lizzie is the pink one in the middle). It is now awaiting music and a last edit from the script writer. This is a project I started last year together with an Australian therapist, who I met at a puppet workshop in Melbourne. The film is to raise awareness of Lipoedema, a condition that is present in 11% of the female population, and it will premiere at a conference in Auckland in three weeks. I will show it in due course on the blog.

Now that one major project is finished, I asked what we should do next and it turns out that two puppets are already working on new projects. L’Artiste has to create  a set of new puppets for a nutritional blog that Garden Guru Dee Pigneguy has just started. If all goes to plan, L’Artiste’s puppets will be present at the launch of Dee’s new book in the Takapuna Library next month. He has shown me his ideas on paper and I love them. L’Artiste is a very quiet worker and an extremely reliable guy, so I am pretty sure we will see his creations soon.

Witch, who is into nutrition as well had an idea of her own. She has always been a strong believer in cooking everything from scratch. She doesn’t buy bread or spaghgetti from the shop. She makes it herself and along the way she experiments with all sorts of ingredients, like buckwheat grouts or teff flour. Most of the time she can’t repeat what she cooked, as it is all chucked together, but anything she cooks is a treat. I can’t ever remember her presenting us with something ineditable. The weirder the better. Unfortunately the Dede household is pretty strapped for cash at the moment, so fancy ingredients are off the menu for a while. Instead of moping and complaining that she can’t fulfill her job description as the supplier of nutritional food, she decided to turn the shortcomings into a challenge. She is working on a recipe book with the working title “The artist’s survial cook book –  101 meals made from flour and water“. We discussed her draft yesterday, and while I have to admit she is cheating a little, (she uses, in fact, a handful of ingredients in different combinations) I am totally amazed at how many different things she can conjure up with those few really basic ingredients.  On top of it, none of them seem to be very time consuming. (Oh sorry, yes, flakey pastry does take a bit of time, that’s why we only get it on very special occasions.)

The books starts off with the basic of all basics: Bread buns, which she is baking for lunch today. I asked her to take photographs and maybe we can have the recipe on the blog as a teaser tomorrow.

lizzie and lil sculpture

Magician finally got to work! His first action was to serve all non-Dedes with an eviction notice. They have to leave their places in the studio by Thursday. Magician wants all human visitors to the studio to see Dedes only. Lil’Sculpture didn’t take the notice too seriously as he is a well liked observer of the Dedes. You could call him an honorary Dede, as he was created by Sunny Boy, the wannabe Dede artist. He even appeared in one of the Dede Flash Dramas. He always thought he was well liked by everybody.

Lizzie, the sponge puppet, on the other hand keeps mostly to herself. She is a very hard worker and has been working flat out the last four days on a film to raise awareness about Lipoedema. She was too tired in the evenings to look at the notice. Both were very surprised when Magician appeared at dawn this morning and reminded them not to ignore the deadline, and they have only one more day to leave. “But where shall we go?” asked a tired Lizzie.  Magician looked around and said, “Ah well, you can have the empty bookshelf till Friday. But this is my last word. If you are not out by then, I will move you to the rubbish bin.”

Magician was very cunning with his timing. None of the other Dedes were about. They were all still asleep in their cupboard. Only Devil, who has made his bed by the stage door for the time being, overheard what was said. But if he mentions anything to the others they will assume it is just sour grapes. What a predicament. What to do?

mouse clipboard

I bumped into Mouse and took the chance to ask her how it was decided that Devil should be sacked. Our reader Cathosster queried yesterday whether there should have been a vote and asks, where is the democratic process in all this? Mouse reminded me that there was in fact a vote by the Dede committee members. She even pulled out the minutes which she still had on her clip board to show me. “Here you are,” she said, “the woodheads had requested to speak to the committee at their meeting. They spoke at length about the future of the Dedes, and so on and so on… you can read it for yourself”. She handed me the minutes. It was all above board. In the end it was motioned to vote on the dismissal of the spokesperson and the result was 3 for and 2 against letting Devil go. Sorry, I am not a big expert on the Dede Society Constitution, but I believe Mouse when she says there was no foul play.

“So, what do you think about all this?” I asked.

Mouse seemed a bit uncomfortable and humed and hawed. “But you and Devil were such a formidable team,” I continued, “will it be the same with Magician?”

“Look” she said, “I am the administrator. I will work with whoever. It will be different, but I am sure it will work.”

“She is scared she will be next” said Pirate who just happened to pass by at that moment.

“No, I am not!” replied Mouse defiantly and then pulled me into a quiet corner. There she told me in confidence that she finds herself in an impossible position. Devil is one of her best friends, but each time when they see each other now, he is terribly negative and scathing about the Dede committee, and he wants her to agree with him. But she, Mouse, is still working there and loves her work. While she can understand Devil’s hurt, she also sees how he could have done things differently to avoid the situation. But of course Devil doesn’t want to have a bar of this yet (or maybe he’ll never want to hear it). The whole thing strains their friendship to the max.  He treats her like a traitor and while she knows he really needs her badly right now, she doesn’t want to see him. She feels like a real bad mouse at the moment and wishes it will be over soon and everybody is back to normal.

magician speech

After the Woodheads had started their long track back to the bottom of the stairs, where they usually reside, Magician was ready for his maiden speech. He stood quietly on stage and smiled benevolently at the crowd. You have to admit, he does have a very benign expression. It made me all fuzzy inside watching him slowly unfolding his arms and stretching them out as if he wanted to embrace the entire Dede world. The crowd looked at him expectantly. Finally he said very slowly: “I will save you, trust me!” in a rather high-pitched voice. And that was it. He bowed a few times in all directions and the Dedes thanked him with rapturous applause.

“Oh’ dear”, said Devil from his favourite spot behind the curtain. “Ssssh,” I said “Give him a chance, he just does things differently than you.”

“So far he hasn’t done anything!” Devil answered back and gave me a very dirty look as if I’d betrayed him. Then he wandered back to his bedstead to have another rest.

magician intro

Yesterday we were finally introduced to the new spokesperson. It is the Magician. I never would have guessed it, as he hasn’t stood out in any way so far. He kept a very low profile. Indeed, I have never heard his voice before. But obviously he was in the right place at the right time. As I understand it, the Dedes have been dissatisfied with Devil’s performance for a while. (Personally I think it all started when Devil resigned last year to prove a point, but then he took his job back when everybody begged him to continue. But that is a different story.) So back to the Magician. He obviously had asked the Dede committee every so often if he could be of service, but they said they were happy with the Devil they know… Then, recently, two self-appointed advisors, I think they call themselves the woodheads, showed up and told the committee that they are going nowhere fast with the Devil. They painted a very bleak picture for the future of the Dedes if they didn’t get a new spokesperson. They pointed out the Devil has his own agenda, and rubs people up the wrong way to boot. The Dedes thought about it and had to agree. But what to do? Luckily the woodheads had a solution: the Dedes simply need a magician, and then they conjured him up. What could the Dedes do, except to say: yes, you guys are so right! And here we are.