Thursday, August 28, 2014
Three guesses what this can do.
I'll give you a hint: it's not used during surgery.
Another hint: I have a friend who can do what this does using a wooden gadget.
It doesn't push corks into wine bottles, though I've seen wine-bottle-corkers that look like this.
It doesn't ambulate. It's not a robot. No artificial intelligence hidden in those levers and handles.
But there are moving parts that rotate in circles.
If you stereotype genders--I called my friend a he--you might not expect that this is an implement for cooking. Here he is using his wooden press.
He's making individual nests of pasta called stringhoppers--or idiyappams, which is what his Sri Lankan parents call them. There are other names throughout south-east Asia where they're served in a variety of ways.
The dough is made of red rice flour. It's forced through a press to make noodles that are twirled onto baskets which are set inside a larger basket then steamed.
I apologize for the angle, but you get the idea:
He was telling me how his mother always made extra so they could have them in the morning for breakfast with sugar. He wants his boys to have this experience too--the idiyappam experience in general, idiyappam leftovers with sugar for breakfast. But the boys clamour for sugar the moment they see them. Forget waiting till breakfast.
The adults ate them with curry. They were delicious. A delicacy. But labour-intensive, which explains the attempt to invent a machine that forces out noodles it swirls into nests.
Made in the machine, would they be as good though? I have a friend who says bread is best when made by hand. Gluten won't develop as it's meant to if you don't knead the dough with your hands, stretch and pummel it. When I lived in Toronto, I used to work in a kitchen where the chef made the bartender stand in the refrigerator (obviously a walk-in fridge; their relationship wasn't that weird) to beat cream with a whisk. He didn't believe in whipping cream with a machine. I think I remember that the hand-whipped cream stayed stiff longer.
On another note entirely: does anyone remember Marianne Wiggins? She was Salman Rushdie's second wife. I was looking for a book on my shelves and found her short story collection, Bet They'll Miss Us When We're Gone (1991). Isn't that a good title? I'm on a streak of reading short fiction and think I'll reread this next. I wonder what she's written since. To be a writer, as well as the partner of a writer with outstanding notoriety, must complicate the questions and doubts that often characterize the writing process. I'm not referring to the notoriety of the fatwa but that Rushdie had already won the Booker when they were married.
The weather is changing. Getting cooler. The wood in the house is creaking, resettling.