On Alex Colville

It’s the ordinary things that seem important to me.

This Sunday I enjoyed the rare luxury of having the entirety of an afternoon liberated from any obligation to weigh it down. So I went see the lovely mister Alex Colville at the gallery across the bridge. If you’re anyone like me, regardless of the reason (be it the need to get the most bang for your buck, pure curiosity of a three-year-old, or genuine appreciation for the arts), you’d make your way along the walls of the gallery at approximately sloth-pace for the sake of reading every single description, quote, and commentary of every single painting.

Colville’s works, in all truthfulness, did not appeal to me in the least when I stood in front of the gallery, staring into the woman with the binoculars’ forehead on the oversized promotion poster. No vivid colors, nothing provocatively creative about it, just painfully ordinary.

But as I moved from frame to frame, I became moved frame by frame. Something about the way his impeccably detailed brush strokes merged into minimalism and the way the intense reality of each subject somehow hinted at the surreal was simultaneously familiar and refreshing.

Indeed enjoyment, at least for the modern busy soul, rests in the down of the everyday, and is defined by a taste for the yesterdays.

And behold,

there arose

a great storm on the sea,

so that

the boat

was being swamped

by the waves;

but he was

asleep.

Matthew 8:24

Tomato Creamed Eggs
Tomato Creamed Eggs – fan q’ieh chow dan

My grandmother had an unwavering belief in eggs. In the mansion in southern Taiwan where my mother and her three siblings grew up, they kept chickens on the rooftop terrace. It was at once a delight and a pain to reach past the menacing beaks of the angry hens and to sneak out a couple of down-specked eggs each morning. For my ah-ma a few eggs symbolized the wholesomeness she worked so hard to provide for her children. In retrospect, the eggs tell a different story – one of contentment, and how it only decays as our haves become greater.

Ingredients for the Tomato Creamed Eggs:

  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 3 large free range chicken or duck eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk or water, optional
  • 3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
  • sea salt, to taste
  • splash of white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch, stirred well with a glug of cold water
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk or water lightly using a fork in a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 tsp of the oil into the skillet and pour in the eggs. Stir and break up the mixture by pushing the outer edges into the center using a pair of wooden chopsticks. Dump everything back into the bowl once the eggs just begin to set. Set aside.
  3. Preheat a wok or a sauce pan on high heat until very hot. Tip in the remaining oil, swirl the pan to cover (it should be a shimmering coat), and add the sliced tomatoes. Add the sugar and season with salt to draw out the moisture. Cook the mixture on high heat until the tomatoes have dissolved and the juices have become syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add a splash of vinegar to brighten the tomatoes, stir, and fold through the eggs, breaking them up a little. Immediately pour in the corn starch mixture in a round motion and stir through until the mixture tightens up. Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a deep plate.
  5. Serve with freshly steamed short-grain rice or some crusty bread.
  6. Enjoy!

confidence, confessions, and a confit recipe

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make.

Julia Child (1912-2004)

Neither do I, Jules. And for that matter, I don’t believe in twisting myself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food I eat.

Food was, before cloth became fashion, before sticks and stones evolved into architecture, and definitely before the inception of the word “definition”, the one variable that defined human society, its tragedies and its genius. It might be useful to restrict what I mean when I refer to “food” to be separate from sustenance. We eat not because we are worried about surviving long enough and well enough to produce offspring, but because there is pleasure in eating.

While humanity is without a doubt exclusive, it can be difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes us so special. Some might say it’s our advanced use of hands to manipulate materials into tools. Capuchin monkeys do that too, but I’m not about to invite them to my Thanksgiving family dinner. Others might say it’s our level of intelligence. Please, let’s not flatter ourselves and have those cetaceans with their permanently sarcastic smiles actually laugh at our ignorance.

Food, however, may be a simple way to mark the line between us and everything else. Specifically, if we define “cooking” as a process by which we alter the taste of an edible substance such that it might improve the experience of the eater, then we might have hit the jackpot. You might object and say that raw foods such as fruits and vegetables have not been processed in any way. Yet, cultivation in and of itself is by the definition above a form of cookery as the farmer, in order to compete with other farmers, must strive to produce a better-tasting crop and therefore uses anything from selective breeding to fertilizing in order to achieve his objective. What about sashimi? Well, it is probably one of the most intensely monitored, controlled, and complex processes a food can be subject to.

Take tuna for example. The time and location of ‘harvest’ matters due to the migration routes of the schools; in particular, fish that have reached their spawning grounds are less desirable as they are exhausted from the long swim and there is less fat and usually a metallic acidity in their flesh. The way they are captured matters; line caught is always better as the fish doesn’t drown before it’s hauled on board. Then there’s the speed and temperature at which it is flash-frozen as the quicker it freezes, the smaller the ice crystals and therefore the finer and more delicate the texture. Oh, we also want to defrost the fish nice and slow (also at a controlled temperature) so we don’t end up with a dry lump of bluefin swimming in its own juices. Then there’s the slicing and presentation that’s got diners at Tokyo’s Jiro-Sushi paying ¥30,000 for dinner (about $300).

Food is worth celebrating. But not because of what it is, because it is nothing if not for the mind and hands behind it. It says nothing about what we are. We are not what we eat – from a green-stemmed banana to sous-vide short ribs with. Rather, we are how we see food.

Take your pick, be a glutton, an innovator, an obsessive compulsive label-checker, an artist, a purist, a gastronomane, or a snob. The way you see food is your choice and you have control over that part of who you are. Why not be someone you’ll like?

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,

when he delights in his way.

Psalm 37:23

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Duck Confit

The word confit stems from a family of words that all huddle around the meaning of preserving. As most preservation methods are, the process of confit-ing was likely a peasant sort of dish as opposed to the reputation it occupies today. The breasts, which are more tender, quick to cook and best consumed fresh, were probably eaten first (or sold to wealthier folks), and the tougher quarters would be left to less à l’aise. In this context, confiting serves a few important purposes. In addition to substantially extending its storage life, it also stretches a small amount of protein to yield immense flavours. For example, the classic cassoulet uses duck confit as a seasoning to enhance the depth of what is essentially a pot of baked beans. However, you’d end up sacrificing the crackling that’s literally addictive as crack (and dare I say better than peking duck). Not the case here – just look at that crisp gold overlay.

Ingredients for the Duck Confit, makes 6:

  • 6 fresh free range duck legs
  • sea salt
  • bunch of thyme
  1. To make the duck confit, you first need to cure it – this will tighten the muscle fibers, making them more tender once they cook up and prevents them from drying out once they’re in the oven. To do this, simply rub the duck legs liberally with the sea salt.
  2. Line the bottom of a baking dish with a good layer of thyme sprigs, then arrange the duck legs, skin side up, in the dish. Cover tightly with foil then pop it in the fridge to cure for 2 days.
  3. On the third day, take it out of the fridge and send it straight into the oven – no need to preheat here. Turn it on to 300 degree F, and let it bake for 3~3 1/2 hours, or until the fat has completely rendered out and the skins are richly caramelized. Let it cool down to room temperature, uncovered, before transferring the to freezer bags in which you can then keep them in the freezer for at least 3 months.
  4. Tip the rendered, thyme-infused duck fat into a small jar and store in the fridge. I use the duck fat to roast potatoes and fry scallions for duck fat dry ramen. Don’t waste the flavour-bomb brown bits left at the bottom of the dish either. Flood the dish with water and bring it up to a simmer to lift up all those bits to make a beautiful complex stock, which you can take further by infusing with star anise, ginger root, szechuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, and a couple dried chinese jujubes.
Duck Confit with Warm Green Olive Potato Salad
Duck Confit and Warm Potato Salad with Green Olive Vinaigrette

Ingredients for the Warm Potato Salad and Green Olive Vinaigrette:

  • 1 lb new potatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 anchovy fillet, optional
  • 1/3 c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 strips lemon zest
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  1. To make the potato salad, boil the potatoes in generously salted water just until tender, about 15-18 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pulse together the olives, garlic, anchovy fillet, parsley, lemon zest, mustard, and honey in a food processor until a chunky mixture forms. Scrape it into a large salad bowl and stir in the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper if necessary.
  3. Once the potatoes are cooked, refresh them under cool water just until cool enough to handle – thy should still be quite warm. Halve the potatoes and toss with the green olive vinaigrette. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with either some more honey, or a bit more salt and black pepper.
  4. To serve the duck confit, heat a non-stick skillet until hot and add a good glug of flavourless vegetable oil such as avocado or canola. Add the duck, skin side down and sear until you can hear the sound of its crispness by tapping on it with the tip of a spoon (about 1~2 minutes), then flip to warm up the other side. Serve immediately with the potato salad. Feel free to drizzle a bit of the oil left in the skillet on the duck and potatoes! (That’s actually what gave the dish in the picture so much shine, not to mention it’s delicious!)

Enjoy!

Noodling up your best

You’ll be fine, as long as you do your best, they say. I’ve lived and sworn by this for my entire life, or at least as soon as I had the slightest clue of what any of those words meant. But lately, I haven’t been so sure.

What does fine mean?

What does my best mean?

Is the concept of ‘fine’ a well-defined range of achievement? Let’s assume it is, then what does that include? If it means life will go on, and I wouldn’t die, I’m not too sure if I want to trust that interval. For all that the lower limit implies, there could be all sorts of devastation, loss, and injury that fit quite comfortably inside that bracket. There could just as well be an upper limit to the concept of fine. When we say something is capital-A Ahhmazing, we don’t say that it’s “fine”. Now it looks like being fine really sucks doesn’t it? Sure does, considering you’ve traded ‘your best’ for this can of worms.

What is ‘your best’ anyway? The saying doesn’t say be the best, it specifically says do your best. So taking into account the whole “You are special”, “You are unique”, and “You are you” type stigma, it’s pretty clear that there is strong evidence against your best being equal to my best being equal to his/her best. So without even unpackaging the word ‘best’ we’ve already found the assumption of the statement to be quite liberal, essentially undefined.

So what, does that mean that no matter what we do we’re going to be fine?

Well, I think there’s two ways of looking at this.

1. The statement, wise and comforting as it sounds, is meaningless. Consequently there’s no point in trying since everything’s going to be fine regardless of what you do.

OR

2. Everything I’ve just walked you through is quality crap, and there is a definitive “fine” and a definitive “best”, both of which are unknown, both of which we grapple at constantly in our daily struggles, but there’s one thing that tells us the two have aligned and proves the statement to be true: peace.

and as your days,

so shall your strength be.

Deuteronomy 33:25

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I’m supposed to write a food brief here, but I’m just going to boss you around and threaten you into making these noodles. If you don’t your taste buds will roll over and die in protest, no joke. If you do, your mouth will be in a fiery heaven of silken ramen noodles smothered in a cool and tangy tahini yoghurt sauce and lamb dripping in its own fat that’s been infused with chili, cumin, and szechuan peppercorns. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ingredients for the Szechuan Lamb Mince:

1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp vegetable oil, such as grape seed or avocado

1 small brown onion, finely diced

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tbsp minced ginger root

2 fat cloves garlic, minced

500g fresh ground lamb

2 tbsp Szechuan chili oil

1 tbsp doubanjiang or Chinese chili bean paste (not gochujang)

1/2 cup rice wine

To make the dry spiced lamb ragu, place the peppercorns and cumin seeds in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulse until coarsely ground then set aside.

Heat a wok or pan to medium-high heat then add 1 tbsp oil and fry the onion with the salt until soft and starting to caramelize (the salt draws out the moisture so the onions soften quicker and prevents charring). Add the ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant then incorporate the ground spices. Stir for 1-2 minutes, until the spices have been cooked out and the mixture is fully fragrant.

Push the mixture to the side of the pan, add the remaining oil to the vacant side, then add the lamb. Let the lamb sit for a couple of minutes so it can brown nicely before you start breaking it up. Add the chili oil and chili bean paste. Stir until there are no more large clumps of lamb and the mixture is starting to sputter and get sticky. Add the rice wine and let it cook until it’s completely reduced. Add more salt as necessary; you want it to be quite salty – think of it as more of a condiment than a dish eaten on its own – and remove from the heat.

Ingredients for the cheater’s ramen:

4 bundles dried wheat noodles, such as Taiwanese Guan Miao noodles

good pinch of salt

1/2 tbsp baking soda per litre of boiling water

Here’s a genius trick for transforming regular egg-less dried wheat noodles into silky, elastic, aromatic ramen that literally bounces as you pull it a foot high above the bowl. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil, add the salt and baking soda, yes – baking soda, and cook the noodles as you would in the alkalized solution. You’ll notice the water and your boring white noodles turning yellow – like ramen! After 9-10 minutes of boiling, fish out a piece and see if it’s cooked through; you’re not looking for al dente, you want it to be completely cooked in the center.

Drain and rinse under cold tap water until the noodles are cool.

Ingredients for the assembly:

1/2 cup tahini

sea salt

1/2 sour cream or plain whole milk yoghurt

4 scallions, thinly sliced

To assemble, toss the rinsed noodles with the tahini and some more sea salt, adding more room temperature water as necessary so a smooth sauce coats the noodles without clumping.

Divide the noodles among four plates or bowls, top with the spiced lamb mince, a good dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, and finish with the green onions. Have your guests mix everything together themselves before they dig in – it’s one of the key joys of eating saucy Asian noodles, I think.

Enjoy!

ad hog

The other day I was reading this article which short as it was, did have some good points. It doesn’t give you any tacky advice on how to give your resume a shiny pop or the wittiest interview answer. Instead, it emphasizes some of the more useful stuff. For example, how to be a better human being.

No it’s nowhere close as detailed and perfect as my ultimate manual on life (if you’re interested, Google the word “Bible” and start with Proverbs). Nonetheless, it was great to be reminded that there is still some sense and sensibility in society.

If by now you still haven’t read that article, I’ll go easy on you this time and debrief you straight on what I found most inspiring. That is, the art of “to get to know“.

Right off the bat I can already see colours of all disgusted shades spouting off like clouds of dust from your minds. Exactly, because it’s nearly a lost art. These days I find people like to do things, go places, eat food, buy stuff – and we turn off our ears when we hear the word “materialist”.

When we do these things with people, we all of a sudden, as if by magic, become BFFs. But really, we’re just real tight with the big screen and artisan bistros. But then, really, we’re just all about serving ourselves.

Look at me, I’m at the movies, not alone.

Look at me, I’m at a hip bohemian cafe, chose it. Wow, I’m sao cultured.

Then you take away the where, what, when. Can you be satisfied with the who and the why?

Who are you? Who’s this person with you? Why are you here? Why is this person here with you?

You see, sometimes, it’s beautiful to strip away all those unessential essentials. And it’s genius to add a couple beneficial redundancies.

The first day of the festival will be

an official day for holy assembly,

and no ordinary work may be done

on that day.

Numbers 28:18

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I tend to be a little more adventurous when I’m with people close to me. I’ll have the urge to do things for the first time, go places I’ve never been, and put my face in an ear-to-ear grin for so long that my face needs a massage afterwards. My dear mother is one of these people who can break down my walls. My brother’s friends call her the food fairy. Her definition of wellness is dependent solely upon how “well” we are eating.

Anyhow, so one evening after supper my mum wanted me to make pulled pork. So at 9pm we went out and got ourselves a six-pound butt of pork shoulder, and a dozen bottles of deep amber malt. Then, with a little bit of midnight magic thrown in the pot, we woke up to a house of melted meat and tons of jus. Naturally, pork dip was the next progression. If you like french onion anything, falling-apart-tender shreds of meat, or dark ales. This is for you. The secret? Nothing, really, just let’em mingle. They’re meant for each other anyway.

Also, yes, I get it, there’s no “searing of meat” here. But, if you don’t know this already, searing meat at high temperatures has nothing to do with it staying juicy after a long braise. If anything, searing adds caramelized depth of flavour, which has already been taken care of by the generous addition of amber malt and cider in this recipe. See? I definitely thought this through.

Ingredients for the Malt and Cider Braised Clove-Studded Shoulder, serves 8~12:

3 yellow onions, sliced

6 lb pork shoulder, strings removed

3 tbsp kosher salt, or as needed

12 whole cloves

3 bay leaves

3 c unpasteurized apple cider

2 bottles malta*

To make the clove-studded shoulder, preheat the oven to 225°F, with the rack placed in the lower third of the oven.

Place the sliced onions in a clean dutch oven or oven-safe pot. This will help keep the bottom of the meat from becoming dry and tough. Unroll the pork shoulder and rub it generously with kosher salt. Place the pork, fat side up, into the pot. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make twelve small incisions in the skin and plant the cloves in the incisions. Add all remaining ingredients to the pot, cover with a heavy lid, and braise in the oven for 12 hours

The next day, while the meat is still warm (don’t do this while it’s still scorching), shred it roughly with two forks.

*malta is a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage made from malt extracts similar to malt liquor. It has a slightly yeasty aroma, and deep caramel notes comparable to molasses. In a cinch, substitute in malt beverage, guiness, or a medium beer (I wouldn’t venture into the pale end of the spectrum, though).

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Ingredients for the pork dip, serves 8~12:

all the juices from the braising pot, and the shredded meat

3 sturdy sourdough baguettes, cut into 4 hot dog bun-sized portions then split

butter, as needed

grainy mustard, as needed

pickled onions or cornichons, to serve

To make the pork dip sandwiches, warm the braising juices and shredded meat in the pot over a very low simmer. Meanwhile, toast the baguette with a little bit of butter. I usually double-toast them; I would toast them unbuttered until the cut side roughens up but not browned Then, I rub a stick of cold butter over the cut side, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt and finally toast it a second time until deeply golden. This way, I find, they hold up to the au jus much better and have a very rich flavour of their own.

Once toasted, spread a generous amount of grainy mustard on the bottom halves, top with the shredded pork (shake off the excess jus before piling it on the bread), some of the caramelized onions from the braising liquid, and close the deal with the top baguette half.

Ladle the remaining braising juices into small ramekins or bowls and serve alongside the sandwiches. To eat, it’s as the name suggests: dip the sandwich in the jus, and take a big bite – having trails of meat juice run down your arms is part of the appeal. Then take a bite of pickled onions, or chomp off the head of a cornichon (small sweet pickle).

Happy un-skinny dipping!

Lied der Mignon

After snoozing my trusty bedside clock for three consecutive times this morning, I said thank you to Jesus for a perfect Sunday past and a revitalizing stretch of sleep. It was a quiet Monday morning where the gentle purr of the furnace was as clear to my ears as the heaving exhales of some slumbering giant, and I might have believed, for the briefest moment, that I had the house to myself.

As I sucked on the cold orange slice between my teeth, I gave myself the luxury of imagining the chill of its juice soothing the shriveled tissues in my throat. It was well past magic hour, and the sunlight was crawling up my left arm and slowly up my profile.

These fleeting moments are usually the most dangerous. And today was no exception. A newly instated holiday borne out of the most innocent of intentions, the words “family day” sank heavier than iridium into what is now a crater in my thought. Immediately fragments of the most plain and puerile experiences flooded my mind, and as they darted into the away, I felt as if I had plummeted a thousand feet back into the seat of my chair.

I wanted an old stale book with yellowing pages to curl up in, for the notes of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier to be hammered into my brain, for the sun to burn away the nerves in the surface of my skin.

Then my throat tightened, so I sucked on another slice of orange.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

Psalm 38:9

Pickled, Pureed, and Pan-roasted Beetroot with Coriander, Yuzu, Thyme, and Chevre

So apparently when I get emotional I don’t consume food…I produce it, and often that’s when I come up with the better half of my kitchen endeavours. And this dish is full of psychotic pinks that will stain not just your fingers should you touch it, but also your precious white Club Monaco shirt should you dare to wear it to dinner. Beets, that’s right, in my three favourite variations of it: butter-basted with fried thyme for meatiness, candied and pureed with yuzu and EVOO for richness, and pickled with anise and coriander for crunch and tartness. If you remember Heart Beets from way back, this one would definitely be an upgrade as it pays more respect to the natural beauty of this revered root. And of course, you’ll see chevre at the party too.

I used fingerling or cylindra beets because I saw them at the farmer’s market and love at first sight sort of got the best of me, (and their slender shape makes the cross-section particularly stunning), but by all means, use smaller round beets if they’re what you’ve got. The best way to tackle this dish is to start three days ahead. Yeah, bugger, I know, but surely you don’t want to make the mistake of buying pickled beets from the store again wouldn’t you agree? So I say, boohooh to you, now roll up your sleeves and learn how to make the most out of being stuck in a pickle. After you’re through with the pickling, steam both the beets for the candied puree and the butter-basted variation together. That’s all I’ll say for now; for further information, please see the recipe below. (Excuse my formality, I just really wanted to see what it would feel like putting those words down.)

Ingredients for the short-pickled beetroot:

2/3 cup raw sugar

2/3 cup distilled white vinegar

2 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted

4 star anise, toasted

3 fingerling/cylindra beets (use whatever color you’d like, just have all 3 of the same kind), thinly sliced with a mandolin crosswise into small rounds; you don’t need to peel them, just scrub them under running water

To make the pickled beetroot, place the sugar and vinegar in a small pot and bring to the boil. Pour the mixture into a clean glass jar and add the coriander and anise. Bring it down to room temperature, cover, and chill overnight in the fridge.

On the next day, add the sliced beets and refrigerate (covered), for at least 3 days or up to a week.

Ingredients for the beetroot puree:

3 fingerling/cylindra beets, cut into one inch chunks, steamed until tender

1 tbsp Korean yuzu tea preserves

2 splashes balsamic vinegar (about 2 1/2 tbsp)

1 splash extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (with more emphasis on pepper)

To make the candied beetroot puree, place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and puree until completely smooth. Add a splash of water to help out the blades if need be.

Push the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve and chill, covered, until ready to use.

Ingredients for the butter-basted beetroot:

3 fingerling/cylindra beets, scrubbed, halved lengthwise, steamed until tender

3 tbsp butter, or avocado oil

9 sprigs thyme

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To make the butter-basted beetroot, melt the butter over moderately high heat in a cast iron pan. Add the thyme sprigs and stir until fragrant and push to the side. Place the beets, cut side down, firmly in the pan and sear until crisp and caramelized while you baste the top side with butter.

Flip and let the other side take some color as well. baste and season generously with the thyme-infused butter.

Ingredients for the assembly:

120g unripened goat cheese, plain or with herbs, broken into chunks

Paint a near-circle of beetroot puree with the back of a spoon on 3 or 6 plates. Place a few chunks of broken cheese on the puree and position the butter-basted beet as pleases your eye. Add a few pickled beetroot slices here and there to fill the desolate spaces and garnish with the fried thyme. Finish with more salt and pepper and a drizzle of walnut or hazelnut oil if you’re really feelin’ it and into shiny food. No, really, go for it.

Enjoy, all you lovely human beings!

bless you, industrialization

Closely linked to and much like democracy, industrialization is also a protégé of Western politics. While I would probably say that democracy granted to developing countries is probably as bad as giving chocolate to a dog, it would be unfitting to say the same of industrialization. (Yes, hate to break it to you about democracy, but it’s sort of common sense. When you need to build a country and get stuff done, it’s better to have a single long-term vision than multiple parties putting on a talent show.)

Industrialization is sort of like pumping iron, it whips a nation into shape – it is impossible to achieve efficient production without order and discipline. For developed countries, it’s the tried-and-true steroid for jump-starting the economy.

Even for the average household, industrialization has worked its magic. That is, unless you still roast wild fish caught by wooden spears on scratch-made pit fires or, less appetizingly, bash the poor thing’s head on a rock then rip your teeth directly into the knocked-out animal’s less-than-tender flesh.

What we would call artisan or from-scratch today can hardly be achieved in the absence of industrialization.

Consider bread, the very edible incarnation of the word ‘rustic’. Made with yeast bred in incubators with machine-regulated humidity and temperature, and flour ground by furnace or electricity powered mills from commercially farmed wheat. Prior to industrialization, people sat around and waited for yeast to fall out of the sky (in the form of rain) into hollowed-out logs and grow into a usable amount.

As a student, oh my do I love industrialization for its gifts. Just think: no industrialization = no food processor = 3 hours to make hummus. I practically live off that stuff, and ain’t no UW student got the time to mash chickpeas for 3 hours a day.

Humans might have gotten many things wrong, perhaps more wrong than right, and industrialization in a hundred years may reveal itself as the dumbest crime man has ever committed,

but hey, it works handsomely right now.

Take millstones and grind flour.

Remove your veil,

strip off your robes,

bare your legs,

and wade through the rivers.

Isaiah 47:2

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If you’re any bit like me and simply cannot help but gloat at the sight of meatballs on a lush, creamy bed of polenta, then this is already, without a doubt, your next obsession. If you’re with me on the gloating despite your mild disapproval of polenta, then you my friend, have just found your next every-weeknight-dinner. Savoury spiced meatballs, caramelized with minimal effort right in the oven, nestled on a bed of buttery silken hummus, are finished off with an ingeniously vibrant and zesty parsley oil and plump sultana raisins. Make an extra batch of meatballs, freeze the extras, and you’ll have dinner served in under 20 minutes any day of the week.

Ingredients for the koftes, makes 24~30:

1 tsp each fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, oregano, and thyme

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

454 g ground lamb or free-range, grass-fed beef

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, finely diced

1 free range egg

1 tbsp olive oil

a generous helping of sea salt, to taste

To make the koftes, preheat the oven to 415 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Place the all of the spices in a spice/coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground. Put the spice mix in a large mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix gently with your hands until the mixture comes together. Add a little cold water if the mixture seems too dry. Divide the mixture into 24~30 portions and shape them into balls. Place them on the prepared tray and bake for 20 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

Ingredients for the hummus:

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and drained again

1 garlic clove

1 lemon, juice only

3 tbsp tahini

1 tsp honey or agave

sea salt, to taste

To make the hummus, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water at a time with the motor running to adjust to a lusciously smooth consistency. It should be slightly thinner than regular hummus.

Ingredients for the parsley oil:

80 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 long strip lemon zest

To make the parsley oil, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. It is best used immediately, but will keep, covered and refrigerated, for two days.

To assemble, spoon a large dollop of hummus into small salad plates. Splatter a bit of the parsley oil on top, then add a few koftes/meatballs. Finish with a small handful of sultana raisins and a round or two of freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve with pitas, lavash, or seeded crackers.

Happy noshing!