Sunday, 16 February 2014

My quest for the perfect Dal

You would think that making a very tasty Indian Dal would be as easy as cooking fish, wouldn't you? Well I can't do either.

In the pub last night, I noticed a very promising recipe for 'the perfect Dal' in a foodie supplement, so I took out my phone to photograph it.

It was poor (some would say 'romantic') light, and the phone camera has no shutter-speed settings, so the above unreadable picture was taken.

I try to avoid flash as much as possible, because it bleaches out fine print on white backgrounds, but in this case I thought it had to be used, so I searched for a way to turn the flash on the phone.

Ten minutes later, I was still searching through the menus in vain and I turned the phone over to look at the lens side.

My new phone gives detailed instructions on how to take a 'selfie'. It says, 'look into the lens and follow instructions on the screen'. These instructions are impossible to carry out to the letter however, because it only has one lens, and that is on the other side of the screen. Without blocking the subject matter (yourself) with a mirror, you cannot look at the screen and the lens at the same time.

When I turned it over I discovered that it has no flash, so I stopped looking for instructions as to how to turn it on, even if there were any - which there probably is.

The engineer sitting next to me offered to take the picture on his own smartphone, then text it to me. I wanted him to email it to me, because my phone company charges me for receiving images. Tomorrow, my contract with them expires and I am switching providers after about 18 years with the same company.

So he took a photo with a brilliant white flash, and only the edges of the print could be made out in the glare, so he turned the flash off and got a reasonably clear shot of the recipe.

He brought it up on screen, and asked me for my email address, which I gave to him. He then spent about five minutes trying to find out how to attach the photo to an email, and I advised him to start from scratch by putting me in his email book, then attach the photo to it with an ordinary email.

He spent about another 5 minutes trying to find a way of putting me in his address book before giving up and returning to his beer.

I got home a little later to find that he had, indeed, sent me an email. The trouble is that it was completely blank - no words, let alone a photo. It didn't even have a title.

This guy spends all his working day designing computer-controlled, endoscopic cameras, but he has one slight set-back. He is dyslexic.

About three months ago, I was in a charity shop just over the road from the pub, and I found a large, toy, yellow plastic JCB digger with working controls. It was only £3, so I bought it for my friend's small child to play in the sand-pit with.

I took it over to the pub and fitted it with batteries, and it all worked fine except for slipping a ratchet on the 'up' movement of the bucket.

"Give it to me," my engineer friend commanded, and proceeded to take it completely to bits with a small screwdriver. This took over half an hour, and when he had put it all back together again, he pronounced it unrepairable.

"Give it to me," said another dyslexic friend who was sitting the other side of the engineer.

He produced a strong elastic band and wrapped it between the end of the bucket and the seating arrangement for the child. The tension that the rubber band provided was just enough to prevent the ratchet slipping, and the toy worked perfectly thereafter.

We never let the engineer forget this small humiliation, and we also never let him forget the greater humiliation of being beaten in an arm-wrestling competition by one of the female bar-staff. It's a jungle out there.


  1. In a park one time I saw a wonderful toy; a tractor seat, mounted on a post in a sand pit, and featuring an operational bucket scoop--a digger. A child could take up a bucket of sand, swivel and dump it elsewhere. But, the child had to master the art of dropping the bucket, scooping and raising the bucket, and so on. The ones who couldn't left, the ones who could monopolized the site.

    1. What a great toy, and what a predictable outcome. See John's post on how children are prepared for adult life...

  2. I have gained a small plastic yellow and red wendy house in the storm. I have asked all the neighbours and the people who live behind us... no ones. the chicken lady up the road said she would have it the hens can hide in it out of the sun (got to laugh at that) in the summer.

    Blue sky here today no wind. Fabulous. nearly wore shorts to town just because! lol

    1. That's a good use for a plastic Wendy house. Say that she can have it, just so long as all her chickens are called Wendy from now on.

      I took advantage of the sun today by marching into town with no shorts on as well.

      (Sent from my Blackberry from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Bath Division)

  3. That reminds me of the lorry that was just an inch too tall to pass under a bridge. The police wanted to raise the height of the bridge with a pneumatic drill, and the fire brigade wanted to dig down into the road with a JCB. Then a small child said 'why not just let some air out of the tyres'.

    1. Oh yes - I think that was based on the truth about a stuck lorry, wasn't it?

  4. Perfect Dal has evaded me too Tom. I gave up years ago. As for smart phones and their bloody cameras....mine flashes when I don't want it to and doesn't when I do. Shite.

    1. Shite indeed. I am on a new network now, and - believe it or not - I can access a primitive form of internet with it - whether I want to or not as well.

  5. Reading your post is very entertaining and reading the comments is just as entertaining.
    This reminds me of navigating my iPad and my 4 year od grandson says "let me show you how Nana".

  6. Ps. There is no wearing short pants here. I'm envious!

  7. Tom, I have several degrees, have written for various magazines, play the piano up to grade eight standard, am a reasonable cook - but I cannot change a plug. Horses for courses is how I like to explain it.

  8. Dear Tom,
    I'm not sure whether I can recommend the "Yak Yeti Yak" where we were in Bath for a perfect Dal. My friends seemed to enjoy it - when it was Dal what they had.
    As I have taken an oath not to hint up at any ol' songs no more under your posts, I can only whisper:
    "Don't you give me no dirty looks
    Your father's hip; he knows what cooks
    Just tell your hoodlum friend outside
    You ain't got time to take a ride
    Yakety yak (don't talk back)"
    The coasters sang that in 1958 (so I am told) - and here you see how flippantly I choose the songs I posted (nevermore!) for you (I'll reveal my stream of consciousness only once): just the line with "father - cooks" and "yaketiyak" is enough -- and if there are fine underlying implications they might just get unnoticed by my innocent German heart. But from one vice to another: now I have to put this: :-)

  9. If he had tapped the front of his classy phone a few option icons appear on the screen. one of them is a small arrow which gives the option to "send as an email".