Pictures of my food: Fusion it up with Turko-Polish Turkey

A surprising number of Polish dishes can be traced to Turkey (and further East but we’ll stop at Turkey for historical reasons). For example kotlet mielony (ground cutlet) is pretty obviously a Northern version of Turkish köfte.

Here is my modified take on them. Rather than the usual Polish mixture of pork and beef I use ground turkey and mix it with grated (and maybe dried roasted) onion, maybe grated carrot or celery, breadcrumbs, spices and egg.

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Not pretty at this stage, no.

Of late I’ve taken to chopping up massive amounts of fresh herbs (esp parsely and dill) and mixing those in at the end. Then I put portions in a bowl with flour in it and roll it around and shape the cutlets by hand. The idea is not to use too much flour which makes them gummy but just enough to help them hold together until you cook them.

Here are some I made a while ago. The four on the left are made with dill and the four on the right have parsely in them but I’d run out of breadcrumbs so I improvized with a kind of wheat flake cereal which worked out fine.

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Ready for civilized company….

After they rest in the fridge for at least half an hour I fry them in a little oil. The ones with dill can also be poached in bullion (lower fat) but frying brings out the parsely taste very nicely.

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Spain’s Turn in the Barrel

The new socialist prime minister has taken it upon himself to make the Spain the new focus of migration from Africa (mostly economic migrants who try to make it to Europe by paying human trafficking networks who are aided by European criminal groups and NGO do gooders to keep their trade in human flesh flourishing).

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They had to get violent with the police to get into Europe, but now they’ll become law-abiding and productive residents? Do you believe that?

He’s ignoring the heightened aggression and violence on the part of migrants trying to force their way into Europe (like the several hundred who attacked police with containers of human excrement and quicklime). And now he’s promised them free health care and that their asylum applications will be appraised individually.

Every other European country that has put itself in this position has lived to regret it. Italy, Germany and Sweden, among others, have gone that extra humanitarian, non-nationalistic mile and the result has been astonishment that so many! still are trying to make it to Europe followed by the polarization of the political scene and the marginalization of traditional social democratic parties.

I have no idea why Spain thinks it will be immune to this and his party would do well to reign him in before he cripples Spain’s post posterity Euro economy and consigns his own party to the dustbin of history.

Start the clock…

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What I’m watching: Non-threatening Germans Edition

“Why is it so addictive!” asks one youtube commenter.

“What a nice guy!” writes another.

“Susane looks so good and always pays a fair price! Respect.”

Other comments are dedicated to endlessly repeated in-jokes.

“Dr Ratzpappelzapabellapapelazeppal”

“The intern is at it again!”

“Eighty Euros for that thing and straight into the furnace!”

Of course this is about Bares für Rares, Germany’s most popular afternoon TV show. And as I watch the parade respectable middle class Germans unload unwanted family mementos, flea market finds or just whatever they could get their hands on to get on TV I have to admit, it’s strangely and weirdly calming and… addictive.

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It’s the opposite of a nature show…

Basically Bares (the German title roughly translates “Cash for Rare stuff”) is officially listed as a docu-soap, a sub-genre of reality TV.

The idea is that everyday, real people bring antique or collectible items to the show, the items are evaluated by an expert and then those who make the grade get a “seller’s card” and then face a panel of antique-collectible dealers who make bids for the item. I looked up the very first episode which was shot in a kind of cinema verité style with jerky editing, some Dutch angles and the background noise ramped up. It soon wore away those rough edges and evolved in a sedate and ritualized experience.

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Die Expertin (in red) figures out how much whatever this thing is is worth.

The approach: The seller is shown approaching the studio carrying what they want to sell while the announcer makes oblique references to what they have to sell. Alternately large and bulky items are shown being unloaded from cars. Then they face the camera and explain why they want to sell the item. They are then shown entering a large hall while the announcer reminds the audience they have to earn the elusive Händlerkarte before they can sell it.

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Will these people buy used crap from you?

The evaluation: In a large room with people holding weird objects and waiting in line, the seller approaches one of three help desks, each manned by a different expert. There is one for jewellry, one for works of art and a third miscellaneous desk though the division is not always clear cut – a watch might be evaluated by any of the three… Then the ingratiating host, Horst Lichter, who looks a bit like an egg with a grey handlebar moustache introduces himself and the expert in question who begins evaluating the offering. The expert dates and describes the object and points out what makes it valuable (or not). The host asks how much the seller wants (sometimes expressed in Schmerzgrenze (how little they can stand to sell it for). and then the expert gives their evaluation. Over nine out of ten times the seller then receives the most useless prop in the world – the Händlerkarte. The camera zooms in as Horst hands over the card which is never seen or referenced again… I don’t know what is the deal with that, it’s like a prop that never quite worked out but that they can’t get rid of. Very occasionally the seller is unsatisfied with the “Expertise” and decides they don’t want to sell.

The sale: The seller expresses their hopes or strategies for selling the item and is then shown walking into a room where they face a panel made up of five buyers (antique dealers) who look the item over and then start making bids and the seller talks up the item. When the bidding runs out of steam the seller is asked if they’ll sell. Usually they do (maybe wheedling a little bit more on the price). The buyer counts out the money on the spot and they shakes hands. The seller then addresses the camera and expresses how happy they are with the money they just made. Again, very occasionally the bids are too far below the seller’s Schmerzgrenze and they leave without making a sale. Occasionally, when bidding is cold Horst shows up and talks up the item (which is a clear cue to the buyers to start bidding more which they almost always do).

That’s it. Simple, reptitive and strangely addictive and calming at the same time. Episodes of the show are done in twos (two evaluations and then two sales) but the network (ZDF) thoughtfully slices them up by seller so that a nine minute video shows a single seller’s approach, evaluation and sale. These are what I prefer to watch (there’s also a description of each item in the video. Not only the host but some of the experts and buyers appear to have also become at least demi-celebrities.

I keep wondering about the appeal of this even as I compulsively watch new sellers. Like all reality TV it soon becomes clear that a lot of it is fake, the experts clearly have had a chance to examine and research the items ahead of time and the people waiting in line are also obviously extras. I’m also convinced the buyers have a budget for making bids (and sometimes are clearly overbidding or drive up the bidding so that it won’t look like they’re being mean to a sympathetic seller).

. Is this the culture of an aging planet? Most of the sellers range from 50 to 80 years old which might explain why the rough edges of the original were smoothed away. This is the flip side of German mono-maniacal thinking, by accident or design they’ve created the lowest stakes, most soothing reality TV ever, there’s less tension than an average episode of Mr. Rogers. There is no grand prize, after you pick up your Euros you’re out the door, the closest thing to losers are the occasional delusional sellers who just won’t accpet that their old junk isn’t worth a fortune. The closest thing to villains are the even rarer unpleasant sellers. Rather than a balance between winners and losers it’s just a parade of winners and bigger winners with an occasional ‘did not participate’. The show is the closest thing to an award for participation I’ve ever seen.

And I’m off to watch more…

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The Currency of Politics

(nb a little rambling and describing a phenomenon does not mean I completely support it)

Across many countries, the old neoliberal order is beginning to lose large swatch of electoral support with its representatives either winning elections and then promptly losing support (France) holding on by their fingernails (UK, Germany) or outright losing (US, Austria, Italy).

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Old and busted….

What’s starting to take its place is a combination of populism and nationalism, with populism prevailing more in the US and nationalism being more in the forefront in Europe. Both Sanders and Trump were different kinds of populists.  I’m not defining either populism or nationalism too closely at present because by the time that a coherent replacement for the neoliberal model emerges its core might have a very different form from the beginnings we’re seeing now.

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New hotness….

The main reason that neoliberalism is starting to fail electorally is that it no longer offers very much to everyday voters. It’s stratified the electorate into winners and losers and the loser camp is growing larger than the winner camp and the losers can still vote. The currency of politics is hope for the future and the health of societies is measured by the positive emotions of the citizenry.

And no neoliberal candidate in any country has anything to offer in the way of hope for everyday people. One of the reasons that Hillary Clinton lost was that she couldn’t even pretend that she had anything to offer rustbelt residents mired in unemployment and addiction and hopelessness. She offered the rich a continued ride on the gravy train, she offered some minorities a chance to feed their resentments and she had nothing for anyone else.

It was the same with Brexit, even given the non-stop pro-EU slant of the British media a majority weren’t getting any emotional satisfaction from the EU anymore.

Yes, populists usually disappoint their electorates (sooner or later all political paradigms run out of steam) but people can deal with disappointment and most people prefer hope that leads to disappointment rather than the chance to become serfs with no social safety net who have to juggle part time gigs to keep the wolves away from the door one more week with no hope that things could get better. That’s one of the things I noticed in Spain recently, the rot of ‘this is it and it’s not going to get any better’ settling over the population.

I tend to think that populism (like nationalism) is not the sum total of the emerging model but more the vehicles that will make it possible.

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People Do Things For Unexplained Reasons

The strike by Ryanair cabin crews is big news in Europe but it’s a sign of the times that it’s very hard to find information on why they are striking. There are bland references to pay here and there but it’s mostly being treated like the fires in Greece – things that happen for no particular reason.

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Who know why this person is doing this thing….

On Spanish TV there was a short interview with one person who explained a couple of issues and some googling turns up (not immediately you’ve gotta keep looking) some of the other reasons.

It seems very much like a sign of the times that the media is simply uninterested in examining grievances by workers (as opposed to grievances by consumers which makes up about 98.76 % of the coverage of this.

A quick summary of a couple of the issues:

Ryanair maintains a fiction that all employees are employed in Ireland in order to get around the labor laws of the countries where employees live and work. Spanish flight crews (Spanish citizens living in Spain) are supposed to maintain the fiction that they are employed in Ireland and temporarily resident in Spain.

Cabin crews are paid for flight time only, if a crew member gets to the airport at 5 am for an 6 am flight that’s delayed a few hours and then finally cancelled at 10.00 they receive no pay for the day.

Cabin crews have individual sales quotas that are unrealistically high (with no shared sales so that crew members are forced to compete with each other in hawking merch to the passengers through the entire flight).

Ryanair expects crew members to move around (as in moving their residence between bases which might be in different countries) with the season with no compensation. There’s more, and note that most of the information came from an unrelated story last year.

I’ve only flown Ryanair once (round trip) and it wasn’t bad (especially given the reputation) but I’d rather not fly again until the company changes its work culture. At present too many employers treat employees as consumer goods to be purchased for as little as possible, used up in the way the purchaser wants and then discarded. I can only assume that Ryanair wants crowds with pitchforks charging the houses of the owners…. cause that’s how you get crowds with pitchforks.

 

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Fire on the Aegean

I don’t know if it’s been reported much in North America but this week has seen devastating fires in Greece that have killed 80 people (and counting). Fires have always been a thing in Greece in summer (dry, hot… do the math). But in recent years have dramatically increased in severity and the fires this week have been the worst in this century.

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Firemen help real estate developers get rid of pesky forests….

A former Polish ambassador to Greece has been talking in the media that the fires are possibly (probably) set by real estate developers. Forested lands are protected from development but if the forest disappears on year… then new houses are built the next. He describes a web of economic interests that will literally burn down the country to keep their business model running. I’ve heard rumors of things like that in Greece and Italy both for years, but haven’t heard politicians going on record with it.

I’ve only seen one reference to the idea that the ongoing austerity (10 years and counting) have hampered the country’s ability to respond to natural disasters. The fact that Greece probably has the worst political culture in the EU doesn’t help either, while employees in the Parliament rushed to donate blood, only a single MP chose to donate. Greek politicians are about sucking blood, not donating it.

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Spain’s New Normal

I just got back from a week spent on Spain’s extreeeemely touristy Costa del Sol. My last trip in Spain was about three years ago and what I remember then was state TV was constantly showing government officials who were non-stop trumpeting the idea that the crisis was over, done and finished. Over.

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For the full effect add a few thousand tourists to this scene….

I misunderstood that at the time. And it was only while leaving this time that I finally got it. The idea of a crisis being over is usually understood as initiating a period of new growth leading to more prosperity, happy days are here again.

What the Spanish government was actually saying is: “Welcome to the new normal, things aren’t going to get any better than they are right now. Deal with it and stop poking around in our economic business while you’re at it, you peasants ¡Viva España!”

In the most heavily trafficked touristy areas I was in about 20 per cent of storefronts were empty. Signs announcing liquidation were not rare. Once you get out of the most touristy parts the number of empty storefronts increases, I wasn’t counting but 30 to 40 per cent seems about right.

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FOR RENT – It’s a sign of the times… or forever now.

There was also a return of begging on the streets. A few looked like Romanian gypsies but the majority looked and sounded Spanish. And there was also visible homelessness which I don’t remember seeing before.

This is all the EU and Euro have to offer Spain now, permanent austerity and a return to permanent comparative poverty (pretty lavish compared to the past or the third world now, but still… not great) and the need for the population to be psychologically willing and able to leave Spain for greener pastures.

And the newly installed Socialist prime minister just announced that he will not publish the names of tax evaders (no matter how many times he’s promised to in the past) the message is that the public needs to stay out of the elites’ business and feed themselves however they may…. ¡Viva España!

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