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Salt & Fat's Tomato-Butter Sauce

The day ten years ago this recipe for tomato-butter sauce was posted on Salt & Fat was the day I started to cook. Until then I had prepared plenty of food and certainly thought that I had been cooking, but all I had really been doing was warming a few disparate ingredients enough to be edible and adding a bunch of salt at the end.

This, however, was the first time I had taken a few ingredients – tomatoes, an onion, salt and butter – and created something that tasted entirely different. I still remember the jolt I got from my first taste of this sweet, salty, jammy sauce. It was like alchemy.

Salt & Fat is a blog by Neven Mrgan and Jim Ray that ran from 2010 to 2014. It’s been on hiatus for a few years, but its archives are a treasure trove of ideas that massively expanded my food world. Food is food, after all, so it’s not as though any of this is going to go out of date anytime soon. A few highlights off the top of my head are —

That last one is for boiled potatoes, and is a particular favourite. Nothing could be simpler, but few things are as tasty in their simplicity. I no longer make any of these exactly as described, but I use the techniques described every single day.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Last night I accidentally started watching the Pavement documentary, Slow Century, and ended up watching the whole thing. It has tonnes of great music and performances. Two of my favourite moments are the band playing For Sale The Preston School of Industry, which has been on repeat in my head all day; and Malkmus doing an early version of Discretion Grove.

I was struck by how little actual information there is about how the music was made. Thankfully, we have the Stereogum oral history of the making of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain to fill that void. It’s incredibly detailed, with in-depth contributions by not only the whole band, but also a bunch of other people who were around them.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s Exhalation is one of my favourite short stories. Its centrepiece is a meticulous description of the protagonist’s self-dissection of his own brain. It’s a mechanical being (although the word mechanical seems too crude) so rather than blood and bone, it’s an assemblage of intricate mechanisms. Reading it takes some concentration — you really have to pay attention to each word and try to hold the image in your head as each detail is added — but it’s well worth the the effort.

When I was done, my brain looked like an explosion frozen an infinitesimal fraction of a second after the detonation, and again I felt dizzy when I thought about it. But at last the cognition engine itself was exposed, supported on a pillar of hoses and actuating rods leading down into my torso. I now also had room to rotate my microscope around a full three hundred and sixty degrees and pass my gaze across the inner faces of the subassemblies I had moved. What I saw was a microcosm of auric machinery, a landscape of tiny spinning rotors and miniature reciprocating cylinders.

You can find the story online at the Night Shade Books site, or in Chiang’s recent collection, also called Exhalation.

The Assassination of Albert Camus?

“The accident seemed to have been caused by a blowout or a broken axle; experts were puzzled by its happening on a long stretch of straight road, a road 30 feet wide, and with little traffic at the time,” Herbert Lottman wrote in his 1978 biography of the author.

Catelli believes a passage in Zábrana’s diaries explains why: the poet wrote in the late summer of 1980 that “a knowledgeable and well-connected man” had told him the KGB was to blame. “They rigged the tyre with a tool that eventually pierced it when the car was travelling at high speed.”

News of a book outlining a theory that Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB has been making the rounds recently. My gut feeling is that it’s nonsense. A scheme to kill someone by making a tyre blow out seems like it would have a pretty low likelihood of success, even if everything went to plan.

Net Zero Emissions

It would be an overstatement to call this article hopeful, but it’s a good overview of things that could and can be done to draw CO₂ from the atmosphere. The upshot is that the current technological solutions cost too much and do too little. Lower-tech approaches, including planting forests and storing crop residue at the bottom of the ocean, seem to be a better place to start right now.

New technologies may in fact hold the key to the problem. In the second half of the century we should be doing things that we can’t even dream of yet. In the next century, even more so. But it takes time to perfect and scale up new technologies. So it makes sense to barrel ahead with what we can do now, then shift gears as other methods become practical. Merely waiting and hoping is not wise.

Of course, working out how to do it may not even be the hard part.

Even if we try, we are far from guaranteed to succeed … But will we even try? That is more a matter of politics and economics than of science and technology.

The Husband Stitch

A modern fairytale by Carmen Maria Machado.
The whole thing is wonderful, but I especially like the instructions for storytellers, such as —

(If you are reading this story out loud, force a listener to reveal a secret, then open the nearest window to the street and scream it as loudly as you are able.)

iTunes Movies with Japanese Subtitles

Finding a movie with Japanese subtitles to watch on the Australian iTunes store can be a pain because most don’t have them and there’s no way to just see a list of those that do, as you can with Netflix.

To keep a track of the ones that do I’ve made a list that I intend to add to as I find more.

The New Wilderness

Maciej Ceglowski on privacy in the age of surveillance capital  —

This requires us to talk about a different kind of privacy, one that we haven’t needed to give a name to before. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll call it ‘ambient privacy’–the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered. What we do at home, work, church, school, or in our leisure time does not belong in a permanent record. Not every conversation needs to be a deposition.

The New Wilderness