the virtues of being hungry

I like food. I like eating. They’re pretty standard things to like, I know.

At times, however, I also like feeling hungry. Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s logical, though, if you think about it. Feeling hungry is sort of an indication that you need to eat, which makes me anticipate food and eating. Feeling hungry can also just be an indication that you’re dehydrated. But, you know, most food has some liquid content…

Hunger tells me that I’ve sufficiently digested my last meal, and I’m now ready for my next one (or maybe just a snack). Hunger is a way for me to reassure myself that I haven’t really been overeating that much (I probably agonise over this a lot more than people think I do).

Of course, I’m not talking about real, painful starvation-type hunger here – I’m lucky enough to live somewhere where I have easy access to food 24/7 – but I’m talking more about that hunger that’s anything from “feeling peckish” to that gnawing hunger that distracts you from everything else that you’re meant to be doing. I think hunger, in this context, is a good thing.

Most days, I start work around 8am, and I’m usually hungry by about 10am (I would’ve had breakfast by about 6:30am). There was a point when this happened so predictably that I could guess (with some accuracy) when it was approximately 10am just based on when I started feeling hungry (and by judging the severity of my hunger). It’s a marvellous thing, to feel hungry.

I don’t mean to tell people to starve themselves. I’m just trying to encourage people to appreciate different perspectives on hunger.

Waking up hungry (in the morning) is probably best. If it’s the week-end or I have a day off, I like to lie in bed for a few minutes more, just enjoying that sort of gentle, murmuring hunger, and thinking about what I’m going to have for breakfast. It’s great. I’m hoping that I can wake up hungry tomorrow, but tonight I’ve had a burger and a donut, as well as a beer, so who knows – I could still be trying to digest that come the morning.

service please

I’ve taken my time getting around to writing this, but it’s only a few days delayed, so I suppose it’s alright.

The other day I had lunch at Hatch & Co. in Garden City, and, to cut straight to the chase, the service there was amazing. It helped that the food was good too. Definitely going back there again some time!

Having worked in the service industry (in some capacity) for about half of my life now, I understand and appreciate the importance of good service. I reckon I’m more inclined to become a regular at a restaurant with average food but excellent service, than at a place with average service but spectacular food. The friendliness and attentiveness of the staff do a lot for the atmosphere and the vibe of a place.

The only problem, which I suppose is not really a problem, was that I was waiting at their “Please wait to be seated sign” for a while (probably not that long, but I was kind of hungry so that might’ve affected my perception of time), and no one came to seat me. I got a table soon enough, but the reason I said that it’s “not really a problem” is because I also don’t like when you’re just having a quick look at the display menu (often near the “wait to be seated sign”), and you haven’t decided either for or against eating at that particular place, and someone comes up to you (probably while you’re still reading through entrees) and asks if you’d like a table! (Sorry, that was a bit of a convoluted explanation…)

Anyway, everything else was fine – and by fine, I mean perfect. They were polite, they smiled, they took my order promptly, they gave me a glass of water without me needing to ask (and even though I ordered a drink as well), they cleared away dishes in a timely manner, and they kindly enquired about how everything was at some point appropriately in the middle of my meal (it kind of annoys me when people ask how the food is when I’ve only just started eating – or worse, if I haven’t even started eating yet).

What really impressed me – what was the cherry on the proverbial cake was that the waitress who brought the bill to my table told me that I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted. This, in particular, really impressed me because I’ve never had that happen before. Usually they subtly hint that you might want to leave (e.g. by packing up the tables/chairs around you – although this is probably fair enough if you’ve hung around until their closing time) or they don’t say anything at all, and you kind of have to guess if they care about you loitering or not.

I’ve worked in a restaurant before (as a waitress and kitchenhand) but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it from the workers’s/business’ perspective. I mean, if you’re working at a restaurant, and people are finished eating, paid their bill, but are just hanging around to chat, you kind of don’t need to really serve them any more, so it’s less work, right? However, it also means that they’re taking up tables that other customers (potentially tipping customers) could come in to use, so you might be losing out. Similarly, from a business perspective, you probably want the place to look full or near capacity, so you probably wouldn’t mind people sticking around unless you desperately needed to usher more customers in – right?

I feel like I’m starting to go off on a tangent…

Hatch & Co. probably weren’t even half-full at the time when I was there, so I’m not sure if this impacted on their offer to let me linger a bit, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t let my overthinking taint this positive experience.

polarising foods

From my vast experience both eating and talking about food, I’ve noticed that there are certain foods that seem to polarise opinion: you either have it one way or the other, or maybe not at all.

What prompted me to think about this was a certain lunchtime conversation at work last week. The impetus for this conversation was none other than the humble avocado, a simple fruit with neither a very strong aroma or taste. Actually, it is perhaps this very quality that gives it the scope necessary for dividing opinion. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but I think someone must have been eating something with avocado in it (which was savoury), which prompted one colleague to comment that avocado is much better with sweet accompaniments (e.g. honey). This, in turn, triggered a rather passionate discussion about why avocado is better in sweet/savoury contexts – an almost too passionate discussion, considering what we were talking about.

So, basically, some people like strongly prefer avocado with honey and/or sugar, or with condensed milk, but the other half of the table seemed to think this was odd, and would rather have it in a salad or on toast or something. And thus a line was drawn. As for myself, I don’t mind it either way. I grew up eating avocado with honey and a sprinkling of raw sugar – sometimes on toast, sometimes just the avocado, honey and sugar. When I discovered how amazing avocado on toast drizzled with sweetened condensed milk was (despite how messy it is to eat), honey lost pole position. (Granted, this particular revelation came about from a recommendation to improve the condensed-milk-on-toast experience rather than with a view to enhancing the avocado-on-toast experience.)

I was never really a fan of avocado in savoury sandwiches (toasted or not), so at this point I thought that that was it – avocado on toast surely couldn’t get better than that. Well, no, apparently it can. Last year I discovered, via a website that a regretfully cannot remember the name or address of, the delicious simplicity of avocado on toast with lemon juice and cracked pepper. This also has the added benefit of not having as many calories and hence as much guilt as is associated with excessive condensed milk consumption. It is also easy to prepare and not as messy to eat. This is now my preferred option.

I really did not expect to write three paragraphs about avocado, but when I think about it, I don’t know how I expected to write any less than three paragraphs about it. Nevertheless, let’s move on. Another fruit that gets thrown around in the sweet vs savoury debate is pineapple. The usual point of contention here is whether it is acceptable to have pineapple on pizza, and there seem to be only two sides to this. No elaboration needed (but, personally, I don’t like pineapple on its own – I’d rather it were on a pizza or in a cake; just cooked somehow).

Another one that has popped up in recent memory is that of crustaceans, especially crabs and prawns. The issue here, however, is not about taste. Perhaps it is a generational thing, but apparently I’m not the only one who believes that the effort-to-reward ratio for eating (hard-shelled) crab is simply not worth it. Prawns have a similar issue, but not as bad – at least the shell-to-meat ratio is more favourable, and it generally requires less effort to eat prawns than to eat crabs. In either case, I’d prefer to be able to eat the shell: soft-shelled crab, and prawns cooked in a way that renders the shell crispily edible. (Yeah, “crispily” is probably not a real word, but it will have to do for now.)

There are, of course, lots of other foods that people just do not sit on the fence about, and, as much as I would like to, I could not possibly go through them all. Examples include oysters, licorice, durian, and raw tomato (I can’t remember specifics, but I feel like raw tomato is one of those things that a lot of people have told me that they absolutely refuse to eat). If you have some examples of your own, you’re more than welcome to share!

the baking of the cake

So… I’ve been asked to post the recipe for the Frangelico cake that featured in the last post. I think I didn’t include it in that post originally because I’d just taken a recipe that I found off Google. But I suppose I kind of tweaked it enough to be able to kind of post it as kind of an original recipe. (I only just realised, as I was proofreading this, that I wrote “kind of” so many times in that one sentence… Totally wasn’t intentional.)

The original recipe was sourced from All Recipes Australia, courtesy of someone called “kate” who apparently also lives in Queensland. Thanks “kate” (you’ll probably never read this, but thanks all the same).

I suppose another reason I couldn’t be bothered posting the recipe before was that a lot of my measurements weren’t very exact… so there’ll be a lot of approximations in the recipe below…

  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease cake tin with some butter, and dust with a bit of flour (I actually used almond meal instead of flour here because, well, I just have a ridiculous surplus of almond meal…)
  2. Measure out ~100g dark chocolate and ~100g butter, and melt these together in a small bowl in the microwave (in ~10 second bursts)
  3. Whisk 3 eggs (medium-sized) in a large bowl, and then mix in (just under) 1/3 cup of caster sugar, 1/3 cup of plain flour, 1 cup almond meal, and 1/3 cup of Frangelico (but, yes, I did put in a little bit of extra Frangelico, and then a bit of extra almond meal)
  4. Stir in 2-ish tablespoons of chia seeds, and then transfer cake mix to baking tin
  5. Bake for ~30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean

I also made a simple cream cheese frosting to spread on top of the cake. This basically just involved beating together 250g of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of icing sugar, some hazelnut syrup and, yes, more Frangelico (I’m not an alcoholic, I swear – it was just a splash).

The cake turned out kind of fudge-y, which is perfectly fine. I added the chia seeds on a whim in an attempt to make the cake remotely healthy-ish (almonds are good too, right? Vitamin E and whatnot). At the very least, I didn’t expect it to affect the actual taste very much. Fortuitously, this addition seems to have added a nice bit of texture to the cake. Maybe next time I’ll try it with chopped hazelnuts or something, or make it with a different liqueur and add fruit. Maybe Chambord…?

Well, I hadn’t given too much thought to the end product when I was making it; I just hoped it would be an edible and reasonably tastey cake. Mission accomplished, I suppose, if I do say so myself. Also, my sister liked it, which was the whole point of the exercise, anyway.

Frangelico cake

I baked a cake

I don’t bake very often, which is something I actually find a bit odd because when I think about all the smells that I like, most of them involve baked goods (bread, roasts, anything with pastry, etc). Despite it being a hot summery day today, I decided to bake a cake. It’s kind of an early birthday cake for my sister.

The thing that I always hear about baking is that it’s really important to get the measurements right. When I hear things like that, it makes me think that, as long as you have a clear recipe, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have much experience with baking …so long as you follow the recipe. Simple, right? Having done a fair bit of compounding in my years in pharmacy, I’m pretty confident I can follow a recipe.

You can probably already see where this is heading: the recipe was not followed very strictly. Well, the end result was still fine. I had basically just searched online for an easy-ish recipe that I’d already have all the ingredients for (no way I’m walking down to the grocery store in this blazing heat just to buy a pack of hazelnuts or something!) To paraphrase the recipe, all I had to do was measure out the ingredients, melt the butter and chocolate together, and then mix everything together and bake.

For this cake, I needed 150g of butter. I didn’t think this would equate to a lot of butter (NB: estimating things like weight, distance, volume, etc is not my forte) but as I started to measure it out, it started to look like a lot, so I skimped on the butter a bit… Next was the dark chocolate. Yeah, no problem, I thought, there’s always plenty of chocolate in this house. But, yeah… might have been a little bit short on that too (most of the chocolate we have has nuts and fruit and whatnot…). Not to worry – the chocolate I did use was pretty good quality stuff, so I reckon that more than makes up for the slight shortcoming.

Long story short (not that it took very long at all), I basically compensated for less butter and chocolate (although I assume I sort of saved some by just melting it in a small bowl in the microwave instead of using a saucepan like the recipe said) with more Frangelico (which I used to help rinse the chocolate out of the bowl I’d melted it in), and then compensated for the extra Frangelico with more almond meal (which I wanted to use more of anyway because it was kind of expiring). Anyway, point is, it’s fine. Well, my sister hasn’t tried it yet, which I suppose will be the real test, but mum and I tried some that stuck to the cake tin, and it got her approval.

Strange thing that I’ve noticed is that although I don’t drink very often, and don’t drink much when I do, there’s something about cooking with alcohol that really seems appealing to me, particularly for desserts or anything sweet. I am not sure why.

Onto something different, but still related: When I went for a run this evening, I was thinking about baking, and thinking about how the word “baked” doesn’t sound quite right, even though it is correct. “I baked a cake.” Why doesn’t it convert into past tense in the same way that “make” does? “I bade a cake.” Don’t think it’ll catch on. Then I thought, what about “wake”… “I boke a cake.” It just sounds wrong. The English language is so weird. I reckon “baked” doesn’t sound right because “maked” and “waked” don’t sound right – but that’s because they aren’t right. Perhaps, however, it’s just because I don’t bake much, so I don’t use the word as much as I might. Well, I guess I know how to fix that.

happiness by the hundreds

Ok, so I actually finished the “100 happy days” challenge several weeks ago (over a month ago now) and I’ve been intending to write a post about it, but I guess I just somehow haven’t gotten around to it until now… What I actually wanted to do after the challenge was go through all of my posts – sorry, tweets during those 100 days, and see if there was a recurring theme. Basically, I just wanted to analyse it to see what I tweeted about most. And then I would write a blog entry about it. Yes, I’m a bit of an academic at heart.

This isn’t actually going to be a very thorough analysis, though. (I evidently don’t have time for that!) I pretty much just scrolled through my “100 happy days” tweets and tallied up the theme(s) of each one. The results aren’t actually that surprising.

About a quarter of my posts (I’m giving up on calling them “tweets” because that just doesn’t sound natural to me) were related to food in some way, including at least five that were about cooking. Food was the most common theme, and that was kind of expected because I have to eat every day, and I love food, so it was kind of easy to find “happy” things to post about food.

A lot of posts were also about people – friends, family and colleagues.I wouldn’t say that my social calendar is very full, but when I do go out, it seems that I’ll generally make the most of it.

The final spot on the podium goes to work-related posts. Considering that I spend a great portion of my week at work, this is also not surprising. I also actually like my job, which is something that I’m thankful for. However, to be fair, there might be a bit of bias in this particular statistic because I’d often think about my tweet of the day while coming home from work, so I suppose my thoughts may have naturally focussed on work-related events. Similarly, there were a fair few posts related to my daily commute.

Something else of note, is that there were more home-related posts than ones pertaining to the outdoors (excluding those about the weather or sky). I do consider myself to be a somewhat outdoorsy person, but I can’t deny that I like my home-days.

Anyway, some of you may have noticed that I’m kind of continuing my “happy days” tweets, but not as a daily thing – just for when I remember and/or feel like it. Not sure how long it will last, but I’ll try… Mostly because I don’t include a lot of photos/pictures with my blog posts, so having my Twitter feed on the side kind of helps break up the pages and pages of words here… kind of…

As to whether or not the challenge has changed my life or made me happier: probably not…? I feel like life’s gone back to “normal”, as it was pre-challenge. Perhaps one benefit is that I am more conscious of negative thoughts and will more actively counteract them with positive ones. Well, either way – whether there was direct benefit or not – I do think that it was a worthwhile challenge, so I’m happy I took part and actually made it to 100.