Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rip-off bagels . . . and other petty irritations

Eleven euros! Eleven euros for two lousy bagels and a small juice! I've had it with Bagels n Beans. I was delighted when they first mentioned that they were opening a new branch with work - another lunch option to add to the supermarket, Indonesian takeout, and Turkish pizza. I suffered through their inexplicably lengthy refit process but thought that it would be worth it. However, lousy shop design has resulted in painfully slow service -- by the way, there aren't so many options on your menu that you shouldn't be able to remember them all -- and the prices are outrageous. €5.30 for an onion bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese! €2.90 for a plain bagel with cream cheese - and that's all you get. No cucumber, no tomato, no attempt at decent presentation. By comparison, the €6 for a BIG vegetarian lunch menu from the local Toko Mas is an absolute bargain - two types of tofu, two vegetable dishes, rice, the most incredible spicy tempeh, a pickled egg, and a banana fritter. I will darken Bagel n Beans' door no more!

A big cup of STFU to car drivers who don't realize that a) bikes have right of way, b) this is particularly true when cars are turning right across a bike lane, and c) insisting on going through a set of traffic lights to join a stationery line of traffic on a cross-junction is just going to bung up the entire junction, rendering it impossible for other cars, trams, and most importantly my bike, to get across. Why the Dutch haven't introduced the yellow boxes you see in Britain is beyond me, especially given that their drivers show no common sense whatsoever.

I'm listening to: The Cloud Room (thanks Erin!)
I'm cooking: nothing - we're off for dinner at NOA tonight. Let's see if the service has improved at all in the past five years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Damn you, Dr Atkins

The oliebollen stall has appeared on my ride home from work, taunting me with it's delicious scent of deep-fried dough. Every night, I put turn my head away and press on, cycling past at speed and resisting temptation. And what temptation! Oliebollen with currents. Oliebollen with apple. Coated in icing sugar or just plain. Mmmm, oliebollen. Why don't I just give in and buy one? After all, I'm usually on my way home after a gym session, I'm not overly lardy, and they're certainly cheap enough. Well, just as Playschool has left me feeling like a worthless parasite, so the Atkins diet fad of 2003 has resulted in residual guilt about the consuming of carbs. Oliebollen are pure carb - heavy balls of dough, deep-fried (probably in horse fat), and dunked in sugar: Dr Atkins and his acolytes would not approve. And oliebollen linger leadenly in your stomach, slowly working their fatty way onto your hips and thighs. Their nutritional "value" might be just the ticket if you're hoeing fields or baling hay; not so good when you're merely scything through mixed metaphors and passive structures with a red pen. My torment isn't long-lived though - the oliebollen sellers will move on after Christmas, and I'll have to make do with stroopwafels and drop until Queen's Day and the appearance of butter-drenched poffertjes coated in, yes, icing sugar. No wonder the Dutch are so tall.

I'm cooking: chocolate chip cookies
I'm reading: Natural History by Justina Robson

Monday, November 28, 2005

Through the round window

The best part of our recent holiday in the Caribbean? Not the abundant food, free alcohol, or hail-free climate. No, it was the availability of Food Network on our TV. I loved Food Network and had to be pried out of the room on various occasions to partake of fresh air. I must admit that I wished they had replaced the overbearing perkiness of Rachael Ray with the dulcet tones of Norwich's very own "Psycho"Delia, and a little less Emeril (bam!) would also have been nice, but in general it was heaven. Even more than the recipes, I loved the 20-minute segments exploring different foods - popcorn, pancakes, chewing gum etc. They were the perfect combination of manufacturing/science and food.

It occured to me this morning that this love of the production-related documentary is rooted deeply in my childhood. Playschool had one of these each day - you went through the round window, the square window, or (the excitement!) the arched window, and were transported to milk bottle factories or food processing plants. Was this an attempt by the Labour government of the day to get kids interested in manufacturing (or accepting of their fate)? Is this why Thatcher's subsequent decimation of the manufacturing industry in Britain hurt so much? Could this explain why I feel that my job is, essentially, worthless? After all, I produce nothing and Big Ted, Humpty, and the others taught me that only jobs that make things are worth documenting.

Oh Playschool - what psychic damage have you wrought!?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Normal For Norfolk Posted by Picasa

Squelching to work

When people ask me what I'll miss most about living in Amsterdam, my automatic response is cycling to work. Following Friday's 30 minutes of icy hell, I'd like to change my answer. What did I encounter en route to the office? Rain - horizontal and icy. Winds that drove my bike sideways. Hail - ouch! Thunder and lightning - very very frightening. And, to top it off, a 20-metre long pedal-deep puddle in the Vondelpark that filled my shoes with icy water and mud for the final 10 minutes. Mmmm - squelchy. Thank God for colleagues who keep spare pairs of socks at their desks for just such an emergency.

However, what didn't I encounter on my hellish ride in? Dutchies! Don't be fooled by the Cloggies telling you that they cycle regardless of the weather: It's lies, all lies - I passed only a handful of hardy souls/idiots, and the buses and trams were packed. This goes hand in hand with the other 'fiets' legend - only expats get their bikes fixed by professionals, because every Dutchie is born with the inate ability to repair their chain using just their teeth (their hands being occupied with their fags and mobiles). If that were the case, why is there a bike shop on every corner? Offering such lousy service that it makes you wish you could master the teeth-chain interface, but still - we can't be supporting them all, can we? No, it's just another myth put about to make gullible expats feel bad (along with the language, the tax office, and the housing market).

Bitter, moi? Just a little.

I'm reading: The Light Of Day, Graham Swift.
I'm watching: Rome (BBC/HBO).
I'm cooking: Celery and blue cheese soup.