Finally made it!

Tonight’s dinner was a partial success.

When I was putting together my latest grocery order, to arrive a couple of days ago, I decided to make a chile con carne as my main meal for the weekend (by which I mean that I would cook enough for several days, eat some both today and tomorrow and probably freeze the rest, not that I’d only have one proper meal over the weekend). Unlike the last several times this has been my plan, I actually remembered to add some chilli peppers to my order, so I’d count that as the first successful bit of the endeavour 🙂

When it came to making the meal, things looked promising. As well as the usual minced beef, chillis, onion and suchlike, I put in a bit of finely diced carrot and courgette, as I had some of each vegetable that were in need of using up. I also added a dash of vermouth, and I had high hopes for this being a good one.

Unfortunately I got slightly distracted doing other things while I left it to simmer and got back to the kitchen just in time to find it starting to burn as the liquid, which had seemed ample when I left it, had by now all boiled off or been absorbed. I was able to rescue it from being a complete inedible disaster (or worse, setting fire to my kitchen) but suffice it to say that this chile con carbon was not quite the sumptuous delight I had been anticipating. It will be interesting to see how it is tomorrow, as such dishes are often better on the second day when the flavours have had time to develop but in this case the flavours may be a little on the smoky side!

More successful was the side dish, as I’ve finally got round to having a go at making guacamole almost 30 years after first being shown how to make it.

Back then I was still at school, and it was a different, more innocent era in which teachers could invite their pupils over to their homes for things like extra-curricular computer programming lessons, which I very much doubt any sensible and well-intentioned teacher would dare to do these days (even ignoring the minor issue of a global pandemic). One of my teachers had lent me a computer and was teaching me how to program it, which entailed fairly frequent bike journeys (usually on Saturday afternoons) from my village to his in order to take some lessons. As well as getting a good foundation in programming (I was learning Pascal, not a language I’ve ever seriously used since then, but the basic principles of how to program a computer have largely stuck with me), I was introduced to some seriously good music (the highlight being the Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra, whose music I continue to enjoy to this day) and, on one occasion, was shown how to make guacamole. This was because my teacher, who had spent some time working in Mexico before joining our school, was preparing for a party that evening and was busy making some using an authentic Mexican recipe when I arrived.

Sadly I didn’t write down that recipe and don’t remember a huge amount from it, except that it involved mashing avocados with salt, pepper and a few other things in a bowl (with a fork, IIRC). Fast forward to this evening and I had an avocado that I’d bought pretty much on a whim in my grocery order the other day; rather than do my usual thing of cutting it in half and eating it out of the skin garnished with a bit of black pepper and perhaps some mayonnaise, I decided the time had come to try out making guacamole for myself. Fortunately there are plenty of recipes online, so I was able to get a general idea of how to do it (to supplement my memories from the last millenium) and then improvised from there. I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Basically, I finely chopped an onion and a chilli pepper (carefully saved from cooking my main dish) and stuck them in a pestle and mortar (well, technically just in the mortar) with the flesh of an avocado, a bit of salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of lime juice. I then mashed the whole lot down (with the pestle, of course) and enjoyed eating it with a bit of tortilla. It may be worth noting that I had previously used the pestle and mortar to grind up some cumin, salt and pepper for the chile and had only given it a brief wipe out in between, so there was almost certainly a little bit of cumin in the guacamole too.

The other components of the meal also worked pretty well (namely, a bottle of well-chilled Mexican lager – not generally the sort of beer I go for, but ideal in the right context – a lovely bit of brie and then a couple of Mr Kipling’s trifle bakewells, which happened to be on special offer this week, for dessert). So if you count each of the individual components more or less equally, I’d say the whole meal rated about 4.5 out of 5.

And hopefully it will be less than 30 years before I next get round to making guacamole!

Bottoms Up!

Last night I made an exciting discovery.

Well, not perhaps that exciting in the grand scheme of things but something that pleased me anyway and resolved a mystery that’s been bugging me for the last year.

I’ve been playing computer games on and off for quite a few years (all the way back to the early 1980s when my family got a ZX Spectrum for Christmas and my first go on it consisted of playing the racing game Checkered Flag (IIRC) until I crashed out at the first bend on the Silverstone race track.

In the past year or so I’ve been getting back into gaming on my trusty PC and almost a year ago I got myself a gamepad to provide a more convenient control method for some of the games I was playing. My shiny new controller was an X-Box one (also compatible with Windows PCs – I must admit that while I prefer Linux or MacOS for pretty much everything else, I do tend to use Windows for gaming as it generally works more or less out of the box and there are a lot more games available on the platform).

It’s a great little device and for many games is much better than trying to use a keyboard and mouse. Just one thing always bugged me. As well as a plethora of buttons and a couple of little joystick things on the top surface, there are 4 buttons on the back (relative to the way you naturally hold the controller, which is pleasantly ergonomic). These are labelled LT, LB, RT and RB. The L and R part was obvious enough as they are on the left and right sides respectively. The T and B part confused me, though, as I assumed they stood for Top and Bottom, yet the T ones were clearly below the B ones!

Last night I was looking up the controls for my latest favourite game, Red Dead Redemption 2, in order to figure out a couple of details I’d been missing despite playing it avidly for the last fortnight or so. I came across a handy list which referred to “Left Trigger”, “Right Bumper” etc. My first thought was that this seemed a much more sensible naming scheme than “Left Top”, “Right Bottom” and so on, as the letters corresponded to the physical reality of the controller…

… and then it occurred to me that these were the actual names of the buttons and I’d been thinking of them wrongly all this time. This is a good reminder of the basic principle that was instilled into me through my many (and now, admittedly, fairly distant) years of mathematical training: to always examine your assumptions. As a slightly clichĂ©d but still true phrase puts it, to assume makes an ass of u and me!