Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tasty Dessert: Toxic Waste

Toxic Waste: It's not good for you, but it's edibleIt's been a big weekend for inventions here at Scribbles Labs. Since it's the day before Halloween, I'll start with the story of my new dessert - Toxic Waste. Notice how transparent the blue jelly is?While wandering the web, I came across this whimsical dessert idea and decided I had to make one for Halloween. Except bigger and scarier. If you're interested in doing something that comes out the way you planned and is a sensible quantity, I recommend you go to VenusZine, follow their recipe and don't waste any more time with this article. Bigger: I've had a small, unused aquariam for ten or more years. I figured that would be just the thing, and would save me buying a fish bowl. Scarier: Easy, instead of gummy fish, I'd find gummy creepy crawly things and candy eyeballs. I know this is pretty gratuitous, but I want you to feel what 19 packs of jelly are.On Tuesday night my regular class was cancelled, so I borrowed the other Dave's car and went to Loblaws. They had four boxes of blue jello. "That should make quite a bit," I thought and took all of them. Friday night, I thought I should make sure I had enough jello before I started. I measured the tank. [20 cm x 20cm x 40cm = 16,000 cubic-centimetres = 16 litres. Each pack of Jello makes 1/2 litre. 4 packages = 2 litres = 1/8 of the fish tank.] Lucky the Loeb is still open, I thought. I thought this was kind of prettyAt the Loeb, they had one package of blue Jello. I put that in my bin. The blue is pale, I thought, I'll get a lot of peach which is also pale and some strawberry and cherry, because a reddish tint will be appropriate for Halloween. I wound up with 5 blue Jellos, and 14 assorted Merit jelly packages. Ahh, when the mist is on the jelly...At home, I boiled up a big pot of water and started pouring it on the powder. I quickly realized the mistake I'd made. With blue, red and orange jelly colours, I had a good mix for making brown. I might have been better to go all orange. Maybe when I pour the cold water in, it'll dilute to something more translucent, I hoped. No such luck. I had a fruit and berry flavoured liquid that looked like flat cola. I have a cardinal rule with recipes: When something goes wrong with a dish, but it's still edible, re-name it and keep going. "Toxic Waste." I kept going. I'd bought a box of chocolate chip cookies and a couple cans of peach wedges to be the "stones" on the bottom of the tank and figured I'd go ahead with them. I liked that a couple of the peach wedges actually floated. I was also pleased that the chocolate bears floated. I'd hoped that they'd swell with the liquid and turn into horrific monster creatures. Instead they turned into little puddles of chocolate cake textured stuff. I couldn't find candy eyeballs, but lychee fruit aren't a bad replacement. They sink in liquid jelly. Get it? lips sink? He's a genius inventor and a master punster.I also discovered that gummy worms, gummy salamanders, licorice and lips sink. Figured I'd save them for later. I tried hanging some salamanders off the side of the tank with a licorice string tied around them. The flaw in this part of the plan was that the licorice quickly dissolved and the salamanders sank. I also tried floating some chunks of sponge toffee (To me they looked delightfully similar to pieces of brain.) Unfortunately, sponge toffee dissolves even faster than licorice string. I carefully put the tank in the fridge. (This gives you a good opportunity to see how close your fridge is to level. Mine is not close.) According to the directions on the jelly pack, it should set in about four hours. This does not appear to apply when you use 19 packages all at once. But it was set when I took it out of the fridge the next afternoon. (14 hours later, but it could have been set a couple hours earlier.) Inserting things into the jelly I really felt like a mad scientist. I hardly ever get to use my old medical forceps when I'm cooking. They were just the thing for wedging chocolate fingers, chocolate covered raisins and gummy worms into the jelly. I'd bought two boxes of butterscotch pudding mix and two of vanilla to make a sort of foamy layer on top of the "water". I decided that it would be more toxic looking to have two distinct colours, so first I made the butterscotch. After I mixed it, I got distracted with something. When I came back, intending to pour it into the tank, it had set into pudding. So I just scooped it into the tank. With the vanilla, I did the two minutes with the blender and then poured it right in. I liked the topographic effect with the butterscotch hills. I wedged more chocolate fingers in, arranged bits of the "brainy" sponge toffee, some licorice string and the rest of the gummy animals in the tank. I tried to make it look like the frogs, worms and salamanders were trying to escape. You can't tell because of the way the flashbulb worked, but I put a lightbulb behind the tank (covered with a box) and it gave an eery glow through the jelly. Here are some things I think I'll try next time:

  • Find plain uncoloured, unflavoured gelatin, add food colouring or concentrated fruit juice to get a transparent liquid effect.
  • After the main layer hardens, make holes and pour in bright red jello to look like disgusting spills of blood.
  • See if I can get cool effects by squirting whipped cream in.
  • Put grapes or blueberries in the holes of the lychee fruit to make them really look like eyeballs.

And How Was It?

Some people wouldn't touch it. It might have helped if I'd put up a sign with the ingredients, detailed how I'd disinfected the thing when I bought it a decade ago and again before using it to serve food, and put some sort of lid on it. Maybe the disgusting appearance still would have put them off.

But lot of people did eat it. I liked it so much I ate four bowls.

You don't have to take my word for it. Here's what Sally Robinson said "It's f-ing awesome! All these different flavours and textures and it's all delicious."

Friday, October 28, 2005

FreeCycle Ottawa

I'm about to go over to OttawaFreeCycle and post some stuff I have to give away to anybody who wants to come to my Centretown house and get it. Priority goes to people who can collect on Saturday, Oct. 29 during the day. There are: Science fiction magazines: Somewhere between 50 and 100 . Mostly Analog and Asimov's from the 90s. [Update: taken]; Some beer (or wine) making equipment; A recliner [Update: taken]; and A string hammock [Update: taken];. More photos if you The beer (or wine) making equipment includes a bottle capper, bottle caps, bottle drying rack and a bit of other handy stuff. The Recliner works fine. It's clean. Came from the Slovakian Embassy. I just don't have room for it. this is a present from a woman I went out with for a month in 1984, I feel guilty every time I see this rolled up bunch of nylon stringI've never used this hammock but I've used ones like this. They're very comfortable. You just need somewhere to hang it. Like a cottage. I'm looking forward to never having a cottage.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Time to harvest the apples," I thought when I looked out the window this morning. And here is this year's harvest. I used my extension pole. The same one I use for disturbing bats that are in hard to reach places. The apple tasted very much like a red delicious used to before they turned them into chalk.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chinese Dumplings at Home

Here's what you're aiming for. A tasty meal of Chinese dumplings and broccoli with a yummy dipping sauce. Manphong Supermarket, 230-9934, 775 Somerset Street WestFirst you want to go to a Chinese grocery store and get the staple ingredients for the sauce. The Mamphong on Somerset is good. I try to always have these things in the house:

  • peanut butter
  • rice vinegar
  • light soy sauce
  • powdered ginger (yes, fresh grated is better, but this is about doing things the easy way.)
  • sesame oil
  • ground fresh chili paste (I get the kind without garlic)
Chinese Dumpling Shoppe, 233-0660, 628 Somerset Street West

You can buy dumplings at the Mamphong. But if you tell your friend Kerry that you did, she'll go, "You didn't buy them at the Dumpling Shop!? You have to buy them at the dumpling shop!" and make you feel like you know nothing about dumplings. It will turn out that she is right. Even though the Mamphong sells dumplings made by Yen Fung Ding, you will save 49 cents per bag when you buy six bags at the Yen Fung Ding, and you will feel like you are having a more pure dumpling experience. Yen Fung Ding has a whole bunch of types of dumplings. Ones for steaming, ones for frying,... I always get the ones you can boil. Because it's more straight-forward and I'm all about doing things the easy way. I usually get mostly "chicken & vegetable". "Pork & Water Cress" is pretty good. Of course, you also need to buy broccoli. Probably at your usual supermarket. Not much on the dumpling experience purity scale, but remember we live in the real world. ["It's easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain," Bill Murray in the 1984 version of the Razor's Edge] Back to the food. Start water boiling in a pot. Wash and chop the broccolli. Notice how I've chopped the stem? That woody part of the broccolli you usually throw out? Throw the stem in the water right at the beginning. (But only the stem. The rest waits until later.) A watched pot will eventually boil, but really, go find something else to do for a while. If you're having an ADD day and are likely to forget that you've started a pot of water to boil, do something that will take roughly ten minutes and cause you to be in the kitchen when you're finished. Or set a timer that will remind you. It's not a disaster if the water boils for a while because those stems pieces can probably use it. But some time after the water is at a rolling boil, throw in your dumplings. However many you feel like eating. Give the pot a swirl so they don't stick on the bottom. Now it's time to make the sauce. I really like it with a peanut butter base, but you can skip the peanut butter if you want something lighter. You can also substitute another nut butter for excellent results. I also like a lot of hot sauce. You might prefer less. Add sesame oil, soya sauce, rice vinegar and ginger in quantities that feel right to you. If you want precise measurements, use a measuring device and write down what you did. If you like it, do the same thing next time. If you didn't, make a change, write it down, and so on. When you've got your ingredients in your dipping bowl (or teacup), have a look at the dumplings. If the dumplings have floated to the top and are looking like they might even be about done, throw in the rest of the broccolli. Stir up the dipping sauce. You can either stir it a lot so it's all smooth and a uniform colour, or just a bit so that you've still got swirls of different colours. Your choice. Get a nice bowl to put everything in. If you've got one of these handy straining scoops, use it to remove the dumplings and broccoli from the pot. Otherwise strain the stuff with a colander or just use the old holding the lid while pouring the water out method. Looks good, don't you think? Eh?