Gadget Guy prowls at night in snowbound Gotham

Pat J. Fraley


Perfectly, it is been a while, but under no circumstances way too late for some information from Chicago. It’s late February and it’s wintertime. And when it is winter season listed here, it snows. Soon after residing listed here for far more than 30 many years, snow has become aspect of this Pretoria boy’s existence, no matter if he likes it or not. In the deep hrs of the night time, I will abruptly sit up in mattress and realise the metropolis has long gone quiet. And I know it has started out to snow. The sudden absence of large metropolis sound as the big snowflakes drift down, covering the town like a significant blanket, is seriously startling.

When this comes about, I generally get up and wander through the dark, quiet household, marvelling at the odd earth outside. Following all these several years, the magic hasn’t worn off. Not genuinely darkish, since the snowflakes do odd matters to light-weight as perfectly. They refract the street lights, suffusing the property in an amber glow. And then, each individual 20 minutes or so, faint eerie blue lights dance on our kitchen area walls. The Blue Line prepare to the airport rattles by on its elevated tracks about 4 blocks from our house and the sparks from its wheels on the wet tracks get projected all this way by the snowflakes. Assume Batman videos and you get the picture.

Chicago shares the part of Gotham town with New York in the Batman motion pictures, including the new just one, which my son hauled me off to see a few days back. I’m not a superhero enthusiast but it was worthy of sitting down by means of all the dark and brooding things just to see how awesome Chicago seemed. Afrikaans boy in Gotham City, what the hell. Occur to assume of it, I’m most likely sufficient of a sourpuss to make an excellent Batman villain.

So last night time, in the deep darkish hrs, I quickly discovered myself wide awake, staring at the ceiling. Apart from this time the bring about of my unexpected wakefulness wasn’t the silence of snow but an panic attack introduced on by a textual content concept from my editor inquiring about my upcoming column. Oh god. I had been residing in a state of denial, until finally I listened to that ping on my cellphone yesterday afternoon. 

My spouse of study course thinks this full predicament is amusing and that I ought to see it as an enjoyable challenge. Give me a split. What do those very good men and women living fortunately on the much southern suggestion of the African continent care about my culinary viewpoints. Inevitably the ceiling started resembling a blank computer system site so up I received and started out roaming the darkish dwelling, waiting for inspiration to strike. Very little. Nada. In the meantime Hugo the pup was lying on his puppy dog blanket, gleefully seeing my every transfer. I feel I outlined right before that his malevolent minimal eyes glow in the darkish. And becoming the spiteful very little hound that he is, he very carefully chose his instant, and barked, waking my spouse who needed to know why I was scaring the pet.

“I’m not scaring the bloody pup. I am pacing the dwelling trying to get inspiration. That is not scaring the puppy.”

“Oh god. Give them a recipe. What is the massive deal?” 

Sleepy mumble mumble. Proper, like Jill even reads food columns. But ahead of I could think of an apt reply, she was fortunately again in dreamland, leaving me scowling at fur encounter, who was grinning his doggy grin, ear to ear.

“Proud of oneself, you minimal runt?”

Ja, ja, demonstrate every person what a cute minor doggie you are. (Picture: Chris Pretorius)

Well, an concept lastly came to me the future morning while producing toast. Or at least, trying to make toast. What the hell are all the bread bakers out there pondering lately? Why is most people baking blob breads? And sourdough blob breads on top of it. Do not get me completely wrong, I’m all for blobby breads. I’m the happy owner of not just one but two Opinel No 8 pocket knives, procured in France nogal, so I can go out there and hack chunks of crusty blob bread and dried sausages and sheep’s milk cheese with the rest of them. But not in the early morning when all I want to do is make a slice of toast.

Exact same with sourdough. I like sourdough, but it has a time and a spot. Occasionally it’s just also overpowering. It is like when craft beer brewers learned hops a couple of a long time in the past. Now, each and every dough puncher out there is on a mission to bake only sourdough blobs. There are round blobs, oval blobs, elongated blobs, all the things but, yep, you guessed. Rectangular blobs.

So a handful of days back, there I was in a extravagant grocery store making an attempt to obtain a rectangular loaf of bread. I’m not conversing about the full aisle of packaged bread, the things that you can ball up into the dimensions of a golfing ball and then it jumps back into form. Which is not bread. 

I questioned for help and the younger lady just couldn’t determine out what I intended by a typical, rectangular bread, not a blob, but with a crust. Something that I can make toast with. And not sourdough. Why should that be so tricky. I recall as a child back in Pretoria we utilized to get a fairly good bread referred to as a Rock and Roll loaf. Every single afternoon following university I experienced to go to the corner café and get fifty percent a Rock and Roll for four and a 50 % cents. To make up the five cents, I obtained Chappies bubblegum in adjust. Anyway, I didn’t stress the inadequate female with my childhood reminiscences and it appeared that she also finally comprehended what I was talking about.

“Oh, you mean a Pullman loaf.”

“Okay, what is a Pullman loaf when it’s house?”

It did switch out to be form of rectangular and I determined to give it a shot. Pullman loaf? Very first time I’ve heard of it. Everything has to be called a thing fancy these days. The dough punchers are turning into like craft brewers, acting like they just invented the wheel. I googled it as soon as I received household. Confident enough, it’s a extravagant name for a sandwich loaf. In the old days they applied them in the Pullman railway cars and trucks since rectangular loaves took up considerably less house in small coach kitchens than round breads.

Why was I not shocked when my slice of Pullman loaf was way much too massive for my standard, standard sized toaster. I indicate, truly way also massive. Have those people knuckleheads not found a toaster right before? So I experienced to trim it down which is when I experienced my aha minute. I will compose about my favourite kitchen area gadget which at that instant I was making use of to scrape up the trimmings from the slice of Pullman loaf.

Toast problems. (Picture: Chris Pretorius)

Outstanding, even if I have to say so myself. My favourite kitchen gadgets. Possibly I can do a entire collection. The only challenge is that I’m not a gadget man. I only have 1 favorite gadget and its called a dough scraper. And I do use it every single time I cook dinner. Alright, it is identified as a dough scraper but it has a good thick metallic blade and you can scoop up anything at all with it. Anything at all you chop. It has a quite sharp edge and the way it is formed will allow it to scoop every thing, leaving almost nothing driving. There’s nothing like it, have faith in me. If you have a little kitchen area with restricted counter area, this is the device for you. Nicely, which is it I suppose. A dough scraper.

And then of system, a day or two following I experienced this brilliant thought, and in advance of I got around to taking a photo of it, its manage fell off. There goes my kitchen gadget thought. Then it struck me that I was being necessarily mean. I’m not heading to abandon the bad minor gadget just since its silly manage fell off. What the hell. I determined to consider its portrait in any case. Very little a minimal super glue just cannot fix.

But my budding profession as an enthusiastic kitchen area gadget reviewer was not just off to a roaring start. No speculate I get anxiety attacks at 3 in the morning and scare the puppy dog. Reminder not to acquire myself much too significantly.

Speaking of scaring the puppy, a several days back, on my way dwelling from function and finding up reported pup from daycare, I realised I was driving via a neighbourhood named Ukrainian Village. I outlined in one of my 1st columns that a lot of Scandinavians, North and Eastern Europeans moved to Chicago in the 19th century and developed very distinctive neighbourhoods. They likely moved below for the reason that it is also damn cold for any individual else.

And correct slap bang in the center of Ukrainian Village is a Russian Church. Not just a church, but the cathedral of the Russian Orthodox church in America. Weird, due to the fact Chicago has never ever experienced a large Russian immigrant population. The setting up by itself is intriguing, due to the fact it was developed by popular Chicago architect Louis Sullivan and funded by Tsar Nicholas II, the a single and only. For a cathedral it is really modest, for the reason that Sullivan based his design and style on the compact wood church buildings located on the Steppe.

Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Chicago. (Picture: Chris Pretorius)

What is even stranger is that in the early Nineties I worked on restoring the inside of the church every single day for far more than a 12 months. At the time I had just started working for a mural painter who essentially bought the position but dropped curiosity following a handful of weeks so he palmed it off on me and a man identified as Darek, freshly arrived from Poland exactly where he skilled as a sign painter in the shipyards of Gdansk. I’ve never ever satisfied any one given that capable of cost-free handing completely straight strains. I’m great, but Darek built me glimpse like a 3-calendar year-aged.

The thing about Darek though was that like most Polish guys I’ve achieved listed here in Chicago, he experienced only a person aim in everyday living, and that was to earn plenty of cash to buy a Harley Davidson. So he was joyful to just chill, dream about his Harley and do what he was explained to. 

Yep, I was not kidding. Designed, reduce and did all the stencilling, flooring to ceiling. (Picture: Chris Pretorius)

Like all Russian Orthodox church buildings, each and every square inch of wall place was adorned but back again in the Fifties or Sixties the parish painted in excess of all the intricate stencilling designed by Sullivan, so I just made it up as we went along, designing and chopping all these elaborate 12-colour stencils, and there we were being, and Afrikaans boy and a Polish boy, redecorating the church, from the blue dome with gold stars, all the way down to the baseboards. Each sq. inch.

We weren’t, even so, allowed to restore the icons, because icons are thought of to be sacred texts. For that the Bishop, Father Grigory, brought two young ordained icon painters from Russia, Sasha and Boris, neither of whom could communicate or read through a word of English, a intelligent go by Father Grigory due to the fact they could not figure out how very little he was shelling out them. What a crew we have been.

There ended up 3 Polish delis within 5 minutes stroll from the church so every single lunchtime, Darek and I feasted on all sorts of Polish sausages and pierogi. Boris and Sasha only ate Kellogg’s Froot Loops, a few periods a working day, apparently, with extra sugar poured on prime. They could not get plenty of of that stuff. They slept in the storage area on fold-up stretchers and washed up in the church hall restrooms. Old Father Grigory wasn’t specifically Mr Hospitality.

They received paid out a pittance and they used it on the weirdest junk to take back to their people, like inflatable plastic swimming pools and beach balls, all of which they proudly showed us when we confirmed up for get the job done on Monday mornings. I advised they stock up on Wonder Bread for the reason that they could ball them up and suit like 30 loaves in a sock. Then back in Russia, the breads would just bounce again to their first form. Magic!

Brain you, I believe Darek and I last but not least got as a result of to them that outdated Father Grigory was taking them for a journey due to the fact a person Monday morning we got to operate and no Sasha and Boris. They possibly demanded higher wages and received transported back to Mom Russia. Ideally they managed to inventory up on Kellogg’s Froot Loops.

Hey, Boris and Sasha, wherever you are in this massive huge environment, I hope your inflatable pools and blow up seaside balls did not get punctured and your Speculate Bread balls didn’t get confiscated.

Useless to say, the relaxation of the icons someway managed to restore by themselves, assisted by two Polish sausage munching heathens, a single of them dreaming of Harleys. (Who, me?! Really don’t glance at me. I didn’t contact those people saints. I’m from the southern suburbs of Pretoria. From Valhalla, to be precise. What do I know about saints and stuff like that.) And the great Father Grigory turning a blind eye, of program. Oh properly.

In a way I was lucky staying dumped in that condition so soon right after I arrived in this article. Quite a few people dwelling in Chicago are fully unaware of the cultural and culinary richness of all the minimal neighbourhoods. People live right here for a long time and keep on being entirely oblivious of what’s suitable underneath their noses. I signify, when I arrived listed here from South Africa, I experienced no clue what Polish meals was. Considering the fact that individuals early days I have retained a fondness for Polish and East European cooking, specially on snowy times. It is genuine winter season foods.

Dough scraper with damaged manage. Oh and parsley. (Image: Chris Pretorius)

Anyway, all this produced me consider of parsley. What is the offer with flat leaf Italian parsley? Every single recipe I study these days insists on flat leaf parsley. What’s mistaken with very good outdated-fashioned curly parsley? Not extravagant plenty of? Not amazing plenty of? Much too “Sixties”? Italian parsley preferences like very little and it appears to be wilted even right before you heat it up, then it wilts even much more. It sucks, as considerably as I’m worried. On the other hand, curly parsley may perhaps be uncool but it has a amazing clean flavor and keeps its crunch. I just never get it. What the hell. Now there is a cooking idea! Never hear to those recipe writers. Be a satan. Walk on the wild side. Use curly parsley. I’ll go away you with that considered. Later on, dudes, as they say here. DM/TGIFood

The writer supports Isabelo, chef Margot Janse’s charity which feeds college kids each individual working day. Please aid them in this article.

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