Sunday, 5 February 2012

Nice Weather for Beans

To the long list of things that get on my wick:

1. Chewing gum
2. Other people’s personal stereos that sound like rattling tambourines and prevent you reading on the train
3. The vocal delivery of teenagers
4. The mere presence of teenagers
5. Come Dine With Me
6. Train guards who say ‘station stop’
7. Illogically-placed stress on prepositions and auxiliaries

…I have added TV and radio weather forecasts. Long ago, weather forecasts were often exploited by teachers and materials writers to contextualise the ‘will’ future for learners of English. This might not have been an entirely accurate reflection of real-life use, as writers had to go by hunch rather than draw on corpora as we can now. Anyway, pay close attention to the next weather forecast you hear. I would be willing to bet that there will not be more than a couple of instances of the ‘will’ future, if that. I’m not indulging in nostalgia or advancing the mad claim that only 'will' is appropriate for predicting the weather, just pointing this out. Most of the phenomena now are described using the present continuous – ‘fog patches developing overnight...’ - and the UK weather forecast genre now requires anthropomorphism (or theriomorphism?) of the elements: ‘that band of rain creeping in, temperatures struggling to reach double figures’, and an assumption that we all hope fervently for sunshine, but know that rainfall is the dull, predictable norm and disappointment inevitable: ‘parts of the north east getting away with a few hours of sunshine, but then there’s that band of rain creeping in, I’m afraid, and some pretty heavy showers in store before evening.’ What pisses me off about all this is that it’s all pitched at the lighter, higher end of the speaker’s voice range, sounding all chummy and cheery, the obligatory smile audible over the radio waves, and it seems to me to be an attempt not to sound too authoritative. Don’t sound authoritative these days, even if you know you have a right to, as every bloody ignoramus feels entitled to talk back, or click ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ after what you’ve said. I really would prefer some stuffed shirt in a dinner jacket informing me in a clipped, metter-of-fecked, early-fifties sort of way to expect skettered shahs, rather than the garrulous matiness we must endure these days in any public announcement: ‘cashier number four, please!!!’ Come on down!

How did you get me started on this? I was going to chuck in a recipe. Well, what with temperatures sweating to attain figures above minus two and low clouds pootling about overhead (but not underfoot) I decided to make fasolada, bean soup, the Greek national dish. It’s nutritious, comforting and very cheap, perfect for the climate, meteorological and financial. My last attempt at fasolada was not successful. The white beans I bought at the local health food shop must have been rather elderly. I soaked them overnight and cooked them for the better part of the day, but the skins remained tough, and eating the soup, you’d have thought I’d added a tablespoon of fish-scales to each bowl. This time, I bought tinned black-eyed beans from Waitrose, thus cutting out all the faff of soaking in bicarb, boiling, draining, rinsing and boiling again. It still required a good couple of hours cooking to get the texture right, but the result is infinitely preferable to the last batch.

So, get a couple of tins of white or black-eyed beans, or both; a lot of good olive oil, a can of chopped tomatoes, a carton of V8 vegetable juice cocktail, a few chopped carrots, a couple of bay leaves, a bunch of oregano or thyme, (I used the latter) a fistful of chopped parsley, vegetable stock powder, some garlic or garlic infused olive oil, and a fat onion. You could use chicken stock for the liquid, but I have an aversion to any sort of meat stock - quite irrational when I’m perfectly happy to eat the flesh. Fresh garlic never seems to make its mark in this sort of dish, so now I add garlic-infused oil just before eating. Fry the onion gently until it softens, add the garlic if using, then your tomatoes, carrots, and beans. Chuck in some V8, stock powder and water, and add the herbs and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Let this cook on a low heat, plopping and burping gently, for rather a long time, adding more liquid if it gets too gloopy. The beans should cook to a creamy smoothness whilst holding their shape.

I cooked this last night and let it sit in the fridge, as it is always tastier the following day. During the night, we had about a foot of snow, so this evening the fasolada will be most welcome with a salad of cucumber, tomato, olives and feta, some wholemeal bread and a glass or two of red wine. Fasolada will happily keep in the fridge for a few days, so it’s worth making a big potful.

Today, temperatures will lunge gamely to hit the zero mark, but they’ll run out of steam and fail abjectly, having a fair old tussle to get a leg over minus two. Some of you cheeky little tinkers in the Peterborough area will be jammy enough buggers to see just a teeny, heart-cockle gladdener of a peep of sunshine there, you lucky little sausages, but it’ll be back to the same grey, mumbling, disgruntled clouds that the rest of us are having to put up with before you know it, so don’t be getting too bolshy about it, OK?


Deiniol said...

It's that weird gurning one sees on weather forecasters' faces during that gets on my tits. It's like they've taken enough speed to supply an entire rave and are only just keeping it in check. That and the habit one particular forecaster (also notable for an excreable taste in ties) has of pointing at the camera and chirping "and that's the weather!" at the conclusion of every forecast. Why is that needful? I know it's the weather: I am unlikely to mistake it for a docu-drama about walking tours in the Pennines.

Interestingly, my mother feels the same about stock. She's convinced that all chicken stock is actually made out of crushed little baby chicks, feathers and all. Even when I point out that I made the stock in question and as yet lack a decent source of newly-hatched chicks.

Vilges Suola said...

Absolutely - there's so much bloody waffle.

My objection to stock comes from boiling up carcasses and finding the liquid all gelatinous and slithery the day after. Gelatinous textures nauseate me and even when the stuff's hot and non-wobbly the memory of that snotty goo
keeps coming back.

Sarah said...

I take your point about the absence of 'will' among weather forecasters. I've been noticing for a while that the past tense has disappeared from history programmes too, even beyond the demands of racy scene-setting. "So, in around 1520, Anne Boleyn arrives at Henry VIII's court ..." You even get that kind of guff on 'In Our Time.' Is this the End Of Grammar as we know it?

Vilges Suola said...

The lack of 'will' doesn't bother me in itself. It may be that it never did form any large part of the weather forecast. It's the general matiness that pisses me off, and of course language will reflect that bloody matiness. Maybe I'm just a snob.

Do you reckon the heavy use of the historic present is symptomatic of the trend to dumbing down? 'Gotta make this stuff interesting to you guys...!'

Sarah said...

Yes, I'm sure it is.
I think it's also to do with the imperative to disguise expertise (if you have it) in a matey sort of way. I suspect speakers of trying to suggest that you are just listening to some bloke tell an anecdote in a bar, and not, for instance, to the Regius Professor of History explaining a lifetime's scholarly endeavour.
It does lead to some convoluted constructions if the speaker wants to refer back to something happening earlier than that past of which we have been hearing: somehow the past tense does not seem to fit the bill, so people nip from present to past perfect in a very odd way.
Maybe I'm just old fashioned.
And grumpy. Mustn't forget grumpy.

Vilges Suola said...

Possibly grumpy does come into it... if I'm at my mother's and I start muttering about some dumb usage or irritating intonation pattern onthe telly, she'll say 'you do get steamed up about some stuff'. It's being a teacher that does it, along with the grumpy.

Candy said...

Grumpy? GRUMPY? Don't get me started. But by FAR the best weather stuff came from (maybe still does. What do I know?)that Frances geezer on Sky who used to say, "Well, down in the south east, not much of a day at all really." Weather forecasts never use "will" - it's too much like a promise....

Vilges Suola said...

Why is the weather forecast the object of so much concern for innovation, anyway? The graphics, the delivery, the discourse... humbug. There should be no more than a thirty second bulletin telling us it'll be sannie intervals and skettered shahs.

Candy said...

Exactly. Of all the things in the world, the weather is the thing that we cannot control at all of any kind. AND, just to get my pet whine in, why on EARTH do the weather people, such as they are, INSIST on turning what is essentially snow in winter into bloody Armageddon? Partly clidey with skettered shahs is just fahn. Ta.

Vilges Suola said...

'Travel misery' sounds a bit over the top but I experience it if my train's delayed more than five minutes.

maria verivaki said...

great sounding fasolada - i prefer mine with white wine
it amuses me to no end that the british will hapr on about their bad weather: if you come from a hot country, cold weather feels invogorating
it's been raining a lot in hania (and i mean torrents, for over a month)
i guess i have the summer to look forward to - i can count on one here

Vilges Suola said...

I didn't have any white wine to hand this time but will definitely add some next.

Even the Greek weather forecast was not immune to the 'everyone loves sunshine' bit: when I heard 'o καιρός θα βελτιωθεί' I'd think, 'good, it's going to rain or get cooler' but it always meant more λιακάδα. I always looked forward to the end of summer, which in Kalamata invariably arrived with a deluge. Great relief!


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