Thursday, 7 March 2013

Spirit Baking

A step-by-step guide to spirit baking

Step 1: Drink 2 beers.

Step 2: Open a new YouTube window and create a playlist of Icelandic Punk & New Wave (Purrkur Pillnikk etc).

Step 3: Shave your head into an extreme hairstyle, such as a feathercut/chelsea cut etc (optional)

Step 4: Select one of the following recipes...

Licorice Blackberry Bar

Similar in size and shape to a necklace box, this treat if eaten during a polar twilight will enhance your ability to perceive what is hidden.

 - Melt a shed load of chocolate, procure a slab of licorice and fresh blackberries.

 - Sculpt clover and spade shapes out of the licorice, set aside.

 - Make a soft blackberry nougat and mix the licorice clovers and spades into it.

 - Mold the nougat into a jewellery box shape and cover in chocolate. Leave to set.

Licorice Mousse with accompaniment

Black, this dish should be served with a flaming sambuca chaser. Once consumed, and imbibed, the stars will seek you out.

 - Make a licorice mousse, sprinkle with sheared licorice flakes or black popping candy, or chunks of chocolate.

 - Pour a flaming sambuca shot.

 - Prepare to be penetrated by the stars.

Berggangar; Chocolate Malt Ice Cream Cake with Crimson Coulé

This malt ice cream cake juts above a tart raspberry ocean like a lonely berggangar in a red northern ocean. It is the gift bringer.

 - Make chocolate malt flavoured ice cream in an ice cream maker, leave in the freezer till the next day.

 - Mold into the shape of a pinnacle, also commonly called a sea stack.

 - Prepare raspberry coulé.

 - Fill plate around malt ice cream to create ocean effect.

Be warned; this delight may open the door to an unfathomable abyss.

                       The Golden Galleon

This tart rides in on an invisible wind, and is a herald for providence. Even preparing it will take you higher........Consuming it will lead you onto paths unbroken.

 - Make red velvet sponge with blackcurrant jam in between the layers

 - Make red butter cream icing and cover the cake so as to resemble a wild and stormy ocean.

 - With cherry flavoured marshmallow that you've made earlier, construct a dramatic 'islet' on top of the cake.

 - Sculpt a Spanish galleon out of pure marzipan, cover in edible gold and place next to the marshmallow. all you need to do is await

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Bú, from Iceland

Iceland may have a dearth of flora and fauna compared to other places, but one Icelandic genus is trumping the world: Candy.

Candy comes in several sub genera; chocolate, banana, licorice, marshmallow, wafer, rice puffs and some others.

Many combinations are formed from the above categories. I tried to catalogue all the different forms of candy in Iceland and although it's possible, I decided not to. Candy's worth more than plain itemisation I thought, it needs points of reference that evoke its origins, its use, where it starts and where it ends.

I want to feel Icelandic candy. I want to be inside it.

So I'm taking my mind back...... the year 1986.

I'm working in a confectionery factory in the suburbs of Reykjavik. I'm a guy in my mid 30's with long, curly black hair. I like riding on my snowmobile, my girlfriend when she's wasted, getting rides into town, watching subtitled re-runs of Mork & Mindy and of course, lazy Sundays.

My friends call me Bú, and I've been making chocolate bars that look like this:

But I'm riding some new waves right now. I've stopped watching Mork & Mindy re-runs and I've started playing my Commodore 64 late into the night. Iridescent limes, lilacs, beige and gray sear my retinas at regular loading intervals in my darkened room. Strangely, my pupils have shrunk, and I've started to use more abstractions in my day to day conversations.

Some evenings pass where I eat nothing but licorice, and my lazy Sundays have turned into apathetic Sundays. On my Commodore 64, one game has me hooked a lot more than the others..

The Sentinel

The weeks go by and my girlfriend starts getting wasted at her friend's house. One Friday, I go in to work as normal. Kolfinna, a sturdy machinist, is in the lunch room as I make a coffee. Kolfinna's always got an oddly stunned look on her face, like a toddler who's just done a poopy. Her eyes are humongous, round, extruding snooker balls. She's really in to small talk, and she sets herself off by making a coffee at the same time as me.

"You know", she says

"I got invited to this really nice wedding. And I just can't wait to go, I just can't wait."

"Oh yeah", says I

"Yes, I just...can't.....wait.......... to go", her bug eyes are almost inside the rim of her coffee cup as she places it to her mouth to take a sip, she's shaking her head in disbelief, or perhaps ecstasy. Her breathing's slowed and she's slowly turning away from me, like a colossal star craft making an about turn beside Jupiter.

I don't have any retort for her, because she hasn't abstracted enough. Previously I'd have said something like wow, or tell her how nice it sounds. But I can't.

"You know..... it's a 5 star hotel" she says softly as she does an about face on her about turn, locking me in the eyes with her now cantilevered eyeballs. She seems inconsolable, quivering beneath her importance. And her eyes tell me that she's in a bliss that can only be reached by her. I'd have to have been blind from birth to feel what she's feeling. I look at the wall and aim the corner of my mouth in her direction, to feign servitude and to hide my indifference.

That night after playing Sentinel with the lights off I went to bed and dreamed; 

I was in a rain lashed valley with very gradually inclining sides. Every so often a black coloured man-thing would come running from a ditch and scare someone to death. The people in the valley knew it was going to happen to all of them sooner or later. When it came my turn, the man-thing ran up to me very fast and thrust his whole forearm down my gullet. Suddenly he was Kolfinna and then just as suddenly we were aboard a broad, quiet star liner, drifting slowly into a planet. I ran for the bridge with Kolfinna, who told me she loved me as we sprinted in tandem along the corridors. At the bridge upon our arrival, lattices and grids threw themselves up about us and sounded out the impact balefully.

That's when I woke, with an afterglow of feeling like dying that lasted for days. And for days Kolfinna was lost to the stars, thinking about that 5 star wedding and how she'd be there. 

When my girlfriend broke up with me I didn't tell anyone, I played The Sentinel on my Commodore 64.

And at work I suggested we make a new candy bar, one like a dream, with the black arm of a man-thing thrust inside it, that throws grids about itself as it hurtles towards the end.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Some prose, or alternatively, the adult-onset side effects of being reared on milk formula....


"The Aurora was the first to leave, then the Borea, followed by Eos Astra, which was the last. a sea-ish accent, he asked what was my skin name? To wit he came strangely to me.

...and I had the heady sensation that I'd been there before. I approached the Entertainment."


Thursday, 1 March 2012

How That Shit Went Down™ - Part 3

"En route to meet the girlfriend we made a reservation at the posh restaurant De Aalmoes which had set up temporarily in the museum café. I'm currently a food snob as a result of my kitchen porter career, so I was like "acceptable". Waiting for this woman that I'd received so much analysis on was giving me the jitters. She got pointed out to me from like half a mile away so I had plenty of time to soak it up before she was right in my face. She seemed like a hotter version of a 21 year old Claudia Schiffer from that distance. The gradually revealed reality was a freckle faced, sorta Irish looking, plain jane (not that there's anything wrong with that). So we dicked around town and the girlfriend became visibly isolated the more we talked about art and issues affecting daily life. Later we rocked up back at the museum café for dinner. I ordered the beetroot salad which literally (and I use that word literally) turned out to be 3 slices of beetroot, 1 piece of lettuce, a slice from a goats cheese cylinder and 2 pieces of a satsuma. No joke. As a child I would eat beetroot in large volumes and even drink it's juice so my pee would come out weird, hence I was underwhelmed. It was tasty though so I built a bridge, and got over it. All the restaurant staff were Flemish and our waiter had a pretty gross cold sore that kept repeating on my memory."

We continued on for party times

"After that we went and had a few beers in the street which was stacked with cranking techno sound systems. Techno, house and dance constitute Dutch folk music and are a cultural glue to which young and old relate. Period. Come to think of it, each host I'd stayed with had asked me if I loved it, which they all most certainly did. People were raising their fists in the air and dropping them to the beat. Mostly it was women in the 40-50 age bracket who were doing that. Dutch women with big hair, weathered orange skin wearing large knitted ensembles with joke/oversize buttons and collars. That was the landscape. People must have been trashed but I can't prove that assumption cause they could just have easily been stone cold sober. The apex of the situation was when an early 2000's 'anthem' came on, everyone looked at each other knowingly and jammed out 10 times more than they were jamming out already. That was Rotterdam in a nutshell. During all this there was some obvious distance between my companions and I was made pretty homesick by the surroundings. I felt for her but as my host had said, she didn't tend to express anything, or react to stuff. Her job was so boring I can't even remember it, yes I remember it, she gathered financial data from the media about the activities of companies. Being able to remember that doesn't make me feel good."

And now, the riveting conclusion...

"I was happy to walk home but my host wanted to take the tram. We got that whilst she biked. He bitched and complained about her the entire journey. When we got back there was a 'singing legend in concert' show on the telly that we watched. It was exceedingly boring. The next morning as me and my host ate chicken saté for breakfast I made my decision; I was gonna get the F out of Holland. I didn't think I could handle the lifestyle anymore. I bought my ferry ticket then and there. The girlfriend woke up about an hour later and we all talked about techno music."

That's How That Shit Went Down™

Saturday, 25 February 2012

How That Shit Went Down™ - Part 2

"I got an instant sick feeling in my tummy when I knew they were going to accept me. On the way back after the interview I stopped for a wee, feeling completely torn. It was instantaneous indecision. It was pretty annoying actually, after having come all this way. Hauling my worldly belongings in a ramshackle cluster of awkward satchels, a plastic bag from Forbidden Planet and my broken suitcase that weighed a tonne, literally halfway across the Netherlands. Fuck I hate that suitcase. I couldn't believe how Natalie Imbruglia's Torn kept repeating in my head as I urinated, but it totally was. It didn't stop for like 45 minutes. Back at the flat I contemplated my feelings to the tune of the rain and Star Trek: Enterprise. The visual metaphors were coming at me thick and fast as T'Pol decided between staying on the Enterprise and exploring outer space, or returning to Vulcan to take up a post at the Science Academy. I bought my host a Kinder Bueno and left a post it note saying I'd been accepted in to art school, then bailed."

I left to go stay with the final host I had lined up, after that I was on my own..

"When I got there he invited over his neighbour who had previously lived in Australia, I'm assuming to make me feel more at home. The neighbour turned out to be someone you'd encounter smoking a bucket bong behind the surf club with a wild dog and it's pups. He suggested we watch some Rodney Rude on YouTube which rung alarm bells in my head. I remember thinking 'Shit this is gonna be really boring' as I'd had several Rodney Rude cassettes growing up. I ended up laughing so hard though that I actually felt like a reject and had to cover my mouth cause it looked weird when I laughed. My lips were stretched so tight across my teeth it hurt, it was both surprising and embarrassing. We continued on to a snooker bar where it was ladies night but there were only like 3 chicks there, all wearing boob tubes in order to highlight their saggy, middle aged assets. I managed to win 2 games out of 5 which is pretty amazing shit for me. I still felt unsure about committing to art school here, and talking to the guys about it gave me no answers"

"The next day the girlfriend rung saying she wanted to go to the beach but my host told her he'd rather hang out with me, a total stranger, and go see a gallery in town. So she decided she'd hook up with us later. During the tram ride in to town he talked about how she didn't enjoy taking on new situations and was bad at expressing her feelings. As it turns out he's had like a million girlfriends, he met this current one on the internet. The tram took no time at all and we legged it to the 'cool area'. The galleries were time well spent, the best thing I saw was a painting of the lyrics from the Sesame Street song. Surrounded by all the art I was feeling more like I should commit to art school. Crossing over the canal en route to the Sonneveld museum we were accosted by a woman who actually looked like a Muppet character, with massive spherical eyelids and heavy blue eyeshadow, I marveled at her face and insane accent as the infamous girlfriend called to say she just had rocked up in town! We bailed on Muppet face and went to meet her, my anticipation was palpable."

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of How That Shit Went Down™

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

How That Shit Went Down™ - Part 1

I once had the idea I would move to Rotterdam and go to art school. Here's How That Shit Went Down™...

(diary excerpts, selected highlights)

"The ride to Rotterdam was suitably futuristic, upon a small new train, the likes of which I'd never seen before. The people were bugging me out a little. It seems strange to think of most people's perception of the Dutch as free thinking stoners when in reality, they're conservative Americans from the Midwest who shop at Abercrombie & Fitch. That's a phenomonal case of mind control right there. All the rail staff had been incredibly stroppy, although this seems to be a worldwide situation and I myself have been one of the stroppiest rail employees known to humanity. I'm surprised I'm not even in jail. Everything reminded me of a Dr Who television set, particularly at the time when Sylvester McCoy was the Doctor. But that's not the first time I've said that about something which made me worry about my prevalence for cliché."

I had arranged to couch surf that evening and after a few wrong turns found my way to the guys place

"My host made a quiche, seemed to get a bit tipsy and then we played PlayStation 3, which I felt too rude to say I wasn't in to. It was so banal. I don't really see the appeal in computer games. Alex Kidd in Miracle World maybe, actually, that game wasn't that amazing. I think I just became obsessed with it. Then I slept in the spare room listening to the rain, praying it wouldn't rain all the following day. The next day my atheist principles were all up in my grill as the sodding rain had intensified. I came to understand that my prayers are worth about the same as a 1x1 millimeter piece of white plastic that got chipped off a derelict and deserted book shelf originally from IKEA, now wedged in the dirt in deserted wasteland east of the A12. The second night was cool, this time I made puttanesca and we listened to music instead of the video games. He felt like more wine but to be honest I'm not really feeling wine lately. We chatted and drank the wine. He played more bad music and talked about techno."

I had arranged to stay at several different places

"The following day I walked all the way to my next host, complimenting a lady on her intimate knowledge of the city whilst en route. She must have looked at me and thought: "what a cheese ball". The weather was still butts-ville, but at least it wasn't pissing it down. On the way there I stumbled across a comic book shop which ensnared me for about 15 minutes. Run by an exceedingly obese man who has relatives in Perth. His inability to pronounce Perth interested me. I would want to tell the people in Perth How That Shit Went Down™. I can imagine the repulsion and the disinterest etched in to their faces right now. There were some cool comics in there such as Altur; the interplanetary civil servant Elf who gets recalled from one planet to attend a language course on another planet, where unbelievably, 'something happens'. The illustrations were ram-a-jammed with Tron-like native American Indians. I thought it was the coolest thing in there. I got to the guys place and my first thoughts were: this guy seems to forgo style and theme in preference for function, to the point where it's actually become a style statement. He'd gone full circle. Emphasised best by the most striking feature in his flat which was a ginormous light bulb for a ceiling light. I couldn't really look at it for too long. It's intention and the intention that I should feel something by looking at it, was too distracting."

The next day I was to apply at art school, I had an interview arranged and my portfolio was prepped. Stay tuned for the next installment to see........ How That Shit Went Down™

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

24 Hour Soho

Wandering aimlessly around Soho at any time of day, on any day of the week, should be my emotional identity. My ample rear lumbers so often through it's streets and lanes, that Soho shop owners have undoubtedly started calling me The Idle Toad by now.

I love Soho to the max, it's the big fat, juicy cherry on top of life's heaving stress cake and as some high powered TV Executive in the midst of a nervous overload might say, is just..


I came across this curious coffin like entity on a recent episode in town. My foolish brain took quite a while to figure out what was going on..

..but after what seemed like an eternity, it identified it as a sleek new variety of street bench

According To The Internet™ they have been designed as the ultimate crime resistant addition to our apparently hellish streets. Anti-rough sleeping, anti-skateboarding, anti-graffiti, the list of kill joys goes on.

'Amaze' I hear you say?

Considering that pure function has resulted in a subtle expression of modern design, then yar, it's a little amaze. Let's take this design concept a little further though, and see if we can introduce full blown artistic mayhem onto our pavements.

Here's my next generation street bench concept..

Get that shit happening on the streets of Camden. I wouldn't mind some spinning light boxes attached to my FACE.

Continuing my... 'Yar I'm in Town' ....session, I headed deeper in to the woods and loitered around the bottom of Centrepoint for a bit, admiring the Centrepoint Apartments on St Giles Street and hoping that somebody would throw me down the deed to one as I did so.

I noticed their style was not unlike the street bench I'd seen earlier, smooth white granite, borderline sculpture. A little bit like the early 80's film Krull.

Some Krull flavours...

                                   You pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?

Starting to feel stimulated, I popped in to Cass Arts on Berwick Street, but found myself slightly irritated by the whole chain-store vibe, their twee sloganism and the fact that those are the things we go to Soho to escape from. So I got the fuck out of there as quick as humanly possible.

Which led me A. Past that Soho stalwart Bill Nighy and B. In to Walker's Court.

Seeing Bill Nighy in his trench coat, all louche and enigmatic restored my heart. He inspired me to imagine an even better Soho, one filled with poor people, artists and prostitutes. A place where women wear shiny plastic raincoats and men wear black eyes and hangovers.

The Soho look



Feeling exhausted by the humanity, I decided it was time to eat.

Worth a visit for the name alone, The New World on Gerrard Street in China Town offers not only scrumptious dumplings, but probably the only opportunity in the UK to feel like you're on the set of Seinfeld. I summarily ordered some dumplings as that was all I really cared for at the time, at which the look on the waitresses face turned from loving, naive child to..

'We're both in the Warsaw Ghetto, it's 1944. If you don't order any more food, you die'.

I ordered more.