Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still Going Strong

Yesterday evening, we took a trip to Bavaria to hear a British musician.  Aschaffenburg is less than an hour from Frankfurt, just over the border to Bavaria.  There are no border controls, but the Aschaffenburg police did stop our friends and make them open their trunk and display their first aid kits, just to remind them that they were no longer in Hessen.  In spite of the less-than-friendly greeting at the city limits, we were in for a real treat.  Our friend is a jazz buff and keeps his eye out for interesting opportunities to hear good music at reasonable prices.  The concert took place at a club named Colos-Saal, a play on the word Saal, which means (concert) hall in this context.  The musician was Brian Auger ("The man who said 'no' to Jimi Hendrix") with his band, Trinity, including his son as drummer, his daughter as singer, and a bass player from Chicago and LA named Les King.  I was familiar with Auger's name and may even have heard some of his music over the years, but this was the first time that I had devoted much time to the man.   The club was mostly standing room, typical beer joint, and there were only about 100 guests.  The group adapted its music to the setting and played hard-edged, bluesy versions of some of Auger's most famous songs.  Two sets of about one hour each and then two encore pieces.  The last song was a fantastic, driving display of all four musicians' talent, really the best song all evening.  Hard to believe that Auger, at 72, still has the juice to pour his soul out in stifling heat at the end of a long evening, but that's what he did, and it certainly was a highlight of my summer to hear him play.  Here is a dreamier version of Road to Cairo that I found on You-Tube, with Auger's daughter singing and son on drums:
Road to Cairo

Between sets, we had a bite to eat at the adjoining Jazzküche.  The Alsatian Flammkuchen had plenty of ham chunks and, at EUR 6, was a good value.  Drinks from beer to ginger ale were EUR 2.50 for a 0.3 liter soft drink or a 0.4 liter beer -- by Frankfurt standards downright cheap.  We'll certainly be back.

Auger used to play with the singer Julie Driscoll.  Here is a sample of one of their most famous songs, Season of the Witch, written by Donovan, also performed last night.

Another song covered last night was Compared to What, a song that I first heard performed by Les McCann and that has an interesting history.

Compared to What: Les McCann & Eddie Harris 1969 in Montreux

Eugene McDaniels Discusses "Compared to What"

You know, listening to those lyrics from 1969, they still resonate forty years later.

Compared to What

Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby now!

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preacher’s fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

Finally, here is a video of Donovan singing his own song, Season of the Witch:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Internet Secrecy Debate

This man wants to know more about you.

OK, it's summertime, and, in spite of the upheaval going on in the world, German politicians with too much time on their hands often look for interesting topics to fill the summer gap.  The Germans call it the Sommerloch (literally the "summer hole"), and, apparently, English speakers call it the "silly season", although I'm not familiar with that term.  In any event, Hans-Peter Friedrich, Germany's Interior Minister (CDU), recently called for laws to do away with Internet anonymity.  Ahem.  Herr Friedrich is already backtracking, claiming that it was only a "trial balloon" to encourage "debate".  Well, I'd like to introduce Herr Friedrich to another English term:  Lead Balloon

Now, we at Bloggerboy World Headquarters consider ourselves to be open-minded. In that vein, here is an article in English discussing some of the issues related to web anonymity.  Nevertheless, we like our anonymity.  We try to use it responsibly.  We have various reasons for wishing to remain anonymous (imagine the embarrassment to Bloggerboy Junior and Fräulein Bloggerboy if their friends learned what their father was up to in his spare time).  Besides, aren't search warrants intended to take care of abuse of web anonymity?  Herr Friedrich, why not take some well-deserved vacation, or at least make sure that you have a back-up plan in place in case something happens similar to what is going on in London right now?  That's in your job description, right?  Certainly you have something better to do than snoop around here, or?

In an attempt to show willingness to compromise, I would like to disclose this tidbit of information: Bloggerboy World Headquarters is located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Certainly, there can only be one of us here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Finally, a Subsidy that I Can Support

If you compare life in Germany to life in France, one thing you notice is that the French subsidize children and students much more than the Germans do. Raising two kids in Frankfurt is an expensive undertaking. The kids take public transportation to school. Until recently, the only monthly ticket available cost just under EUR 60 a month and was non-transferrable. Technically, it was only to be used to get to school and back, although there never was an attempt to enforce that ridiculous rule. It was a stingy tariff. The local transportation company ("RMV" for Rhein-Main-Verkehrsbund) took the standpoint that any reductions in tariff would have to be based on subsidies from the municipalities. Until recently, the city of Frankfurt was not willing or able to support cheaper family rates. Now, the RMV has offered a reasonable annual pass for school children and apprentices called (Denglish alert!) the CleverCard.  Not only is the card good during the school year within the first Frankfurt tariff area that covers the entire inner city, it also is valid during vacation time.  The annual fee is EUR 399, or just over EUR 33 a month.  That is a fair price.  Too bad Bloggerboy Junior finished school this year and will be going away to study.  Think of all the money I could have saved!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rough and Rumpy

I got a kick out of this You Tube video about making tempura batter.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Deep Fryer Alternative

I finally started getting serious about trying to make french fries at home.  I enjoy french fries from time to time but would not say that I consume them more than once a week on the average, which may still be too often for healthy living.  Certainly, I do not intend to make them at home more than once a month or so.  The obvious first step would be to buy a deep fryer.  I checked the leading German consumer reports foundation, Stiftung Warentest to see if there had been a recent major report.  Aside from a couple of single product tests these past years, the last major report was dated 2003.  Unfortunately, most of the machines were found to have primitive and inaccurate thermostats.  Research has determined that frying above temperatures of 170 degree Celsius produces significantly higher acrylamide levels.  I went to several stores and looked at several fryer brands, including several made for commercial use.  All of the home-use fryers had primitive temperature controls in comparison to the commercial ones, confirming the consumer report.  Furthermore, the machines are bulky.  We don't have a lot of extra space for storage.  For that reason, I decided to try an alternative until I am convinced of the need for a fryer.  I bought 1.5 liters of sunflower oil and a good digital thermometer, which also can be used to test meat temperatures, etc.  I also bought a french fry cutter.  Both products are shown below.  

A Digital Thermometer

French Fry Cutter

I compared Kalba's instructions with Thomas Keller's instructions in his cookbook, Bouchon.  I decided to blanch the potatoes in boiling water à la Kalba, as opposed to a lengthier soak in cold water, as Keller does.  I heated the oil to 130 degrees and 170 degrees Celsius, respectively, with several hours in between to allow the frites to chill.  The results were pretty good.  An interesting tidbit that the German consumer report mentioned is that fresh oil does not produce the best frites.  The oil gets better as it is used -- until it reaches its prime and starts to decline.  One suggestion was to add a bit of old oil to your fresh oil to speed up the process and add more flavor to the first batch of fried goods.

So, in order to get my oil in shape for better-tasting frites, my next recipe will be deep-fried Mars bars:
Just kidding, but aren't you just the least bit tempted?