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31.3.11

Fatty’s new bar










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We stop to pick up Albert and Eric, Albert’s robot, and Doctor Rory MaCullum, to help Juan, and then we race around providing medical services, food, and emergency supplies to disaster stricken areas. After several weeks, we are very aware that the catastrophic conditions that so many people are enduring leave us with no right to complain about anything, nonetheless, we complain about everything.

Fatty complains that, in the Middle East, some of his meals were left untouched. I tell him not to worry, whether they eat it or not, everybody appreciates his wonderful food, for instance, everyone knows that, when Fatty cooks it, pig’s ears and feet in jelly is a superb meal, however, I remind him, many Arabic people do not eat pork. Fatty grumbles that they do not know what they are missing; next time, he says, he will serve boiled crow, garnished with pig snouts and parsley, and they can ignore the snouts if they want, it’s their loss. I tell Fatty that I am not sure if boiled crow will be a welcome meal, with or without snouts, Rory interrupts to ask us not to talk about crows as, he tells us, he had a bad experience with the creatures and the subject upsets him.

George says that he thinks crows are good subjects and, inspired, he paints a crow. Juan says that the picture is rubbish because the subject is stupid, and George should stop painting birds and paint women instead. George says crows aren’t stupid, and, he adds, he wouldn’t paint stupid women either. Albert says that it doesn’t look like a crow, it’s the wrong colour, it should be black. George says that it’s a gray, or grey, crow, because it’s gray, or grey. I point out that it is also called Corvus cornix, the hooded crow, because it looks as if it is hooded, or a ‘Royston’ crow, because it’s ugly and nasty, like the people of Royston, but, I add, they must be tasty because East Prussians collect them in autumn and preserve the hoodies for winter food, and, although everyone believes that East Prussian cuisine consists entirely of raw potato, in fact, it is augmented with rancid crow. Rory tells us to stop talking about crows, because it makes him feel ill.

Juan says that there are more important things to worry about, and complains that we are running low on Highland Park Special Reserve, I point out that it is entirely his fault, we have had to render hundreds of patients unconscious with Highland Park, this is because our supply of morphine was meant to be for injured people, who really need it, but, stupidly, Juan gave it to the crew. Juan says that the crew really needed it because they were too tense.

I remind Juan that the crew of a giant, dangerous, experimental aircraft are not meant to be too relaxed, or, at least, not slumped over the controls, snoring and drooling. George says that, in their defence, the crew were tense because we had crashed and people were shooting at us. I tell him that, with Fatty as the captain, the crew should be used to crashing, and people were shooting at each other anyway, they only shot at us because Albert flew a flag out of a window, but he flew the wrong flag, and it irritated people. Albert says that it wasn’t his fault; Eric chose the flag and, logically, it was the right flag, just in the wrong place. George tells Albert that, with flags, location is very important, but I point out that that it might have been the right flag, in the right place, but at the wrong time, and if Eric does not know to fly the right flag, at the right time, in the right place, he is a useless piece of junk, and I call for a crew member to dispose of the robot, but all the crew are asleep.

Juan complains about the lack of nurses. Albert says that, because Juan and Rory have been working without assistance, on this occasion, he has to agree with Juan, more nurses are needed. I tell Albert that it doesn’t matter what he is doing, Juan always wants more nurses. George complains that, as everyone here seems to speak the same language, share the same history, culture and religion, and live in the same country, he can’t understand why they are shooting at each other. I tell George that I don’t know why people are shooting each other, personally, I add, I only shoot people by accident. Juan says he doesn’t know either, and says that he only shoots people in self-defence. I point out this doesn’t count as Juan believes that attack is the best form of self-defence, and when he’s nervous, he shoots people anyway, just in case.

Fatty says that he wouldn’t shoot anybody or anything, although, he tells us, when he was a young boy, he did shoot a crow with a crossbow, but he immediately regretted it. George says that he understands how upset Fatty would be; the crow is a beautiful bird. Fatty says that he regretted it because it tasted horrible. Rory tells us to stop talking about crows, it’s upsetting. George says that there’s nothing upsetting about crows, but Rory bursts into tears. Albert asks me if the English phrase ‘eating crow’ is the same as ‘having egg on your face’. I tell Albert that ‘eating crow’ is closer to the phrase ‘eating humble pie’. Rory is a good example, I point out, he doesn’t like crows because, before giving a lecture at the Royal Society, he had been on a vicious pub-crawl with Juan and Mahalath, so, when he muddled up some pictures during his presentation, he was too inebriated to realise that the picture he was showing wasn’t a crow, as he claimed, but that it was a completely different creature, and, when challenged, he just got more confused and kept on insisting that it was a crow, then, to make matters worse, he produced a picture of a real crow, and told everyone that it wasn’t a crow and offered to fight everyone who disagreed with him.

Before he could finish his lecture, Rory was dragged from the stage and thrown out of the door, he missed the evening feast, and his academic career came to an abrupt and ignominious end. Albert asks me what this has to do with eating crow. I explain that eating crow is the same as eating humble pie and, rather than enjoy the extravagant pie served by the society; he went home and had a humble pie instead. Fatty says that that is a very sad story, and he can understand why Rory is upset, and, because of it, he pronounces, he will serve a proper, proud, pyramid cream for Rory, to make up for his humble pie, and, instead of boiled crow, he will serve his specialty, blackbird pie, without snouts.

I make vaguely encouraging noises about Fatty’s desnouted blackbirds; but Albert says that blackbirds don’t have snouts, so there’s nothing special about snoutless blackbird pie. I tell Albert that some people think unsnouted blackbirds are very special, but Fatty says that Albert is right; a meal of non-snouted blackbirds is too austere, a rook pie, on the other hand, would be ideal. George says that rooks are like crows, so they probably taste like crows, and crow pie would be horrible. Rory shouts that if he hears one more word about crows he will throw up. I agree with Rory, we have a thousand things to do, all of them desperately urgent, hundreds of operations to perform, tons of food to deliver, we are lost, we have crashed, people are shooting at us, we are gallivasteringly behind schedule, the crew are unconscious, and all we seem able to do is talk about crows, it’s pathetic.

Fatty says that he has been thinking about Albert’s question. I can’t remember Albert asking a question but I tell Fatty that, if Albert wants his questions answered, he should ask Eric, because answering questions is what robots are meant to be good at, but Fatty says that there is a difference between eating crow and having egg on your face, and it is important to know the difference, splashes of egg, milk, cream, and other diary products can be delicately removed from the with the tips of a serviette, if it is folded into the shape of a lily, crow fat, however, is best removed from the chin by vigorous rubbing with a fan shaped serviette, different meals require different serviettes, he reminds us, quickly folding serviettes into a variety of shapes. Noticing that everyone looks bored witless, Fatty says that, because we are all ignorant, we might not see the illuminating inspiration that flows from a properly folded serviette, but, Fatty declares, the design of the new bar on the twenty-second deck was inspired by a neatly folded serviette lily. This is the first time we have heard of the new bar and we rush there immediately, to inspect it.

We inspect it in seconds, then, ordering Vintage Balblair, Tomatin, Miltonduff, and Craigellachie Private Reserve, we tell Fatty that his bar is truly inspired, then, after saluting Fatty, offering toast after toast to the success of the his new bar, and drinking to the swift onset of peace and stability, I order more whisky, Juan inflate his bagpipes and plays wild Highland war dances while, yelling with excitement and brawling about nothing at all, shouting, cheering, kicking a helpless robot, and firing our weapons at random, we crash around in confused, hysterical, circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Pig’s Feet and Ears in Jelly

Ingredients. 4 Pig’s feet, 2 pig's ears, 1 dessertspoonful of finely-chopped parsley, half a dessertspoonful of finely-chopped fresh sage, sat and pepper.

Method. Thoroughly cleanse the feet and ears, cover them with cold water, and simmer gently until the bones can be easily withdrawn. Cut the meat into dice, replace it in the liquor, add the parsley, sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, then turn into a mould or basin, and put outside until cold.

Time, about 3 hours. Average cost, uncertain; sufficient for 1 medium-sized mould. Seasonable in winter.


Rook Pie

Ingredients. 6 young rooks, three quarters of a pound of rump steak, a quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of stock, salt and pepper, paste.

Method. Skin the birds without plucking them, by cutting the skin near the thighs, and drawing it over the body and head. Draw the birds in the usual manner, remove the necks and backs, and split the birds down the breast. Arrange them in a deep pie-dish, cover each breast with thing strips of steak, season well with salt and pepper, intersperse small pieces of butter, and add as much stock as will three quarters fill the dish. Cover with veal paste and bake from one and a half hours to two hours, for the first half an hour in a hot oven to make the paste rise, and afterwards more slowly to allow the birds to become thoroughly cooked. When the pie is about three quarters baked, brush it over with yolk of egg to glaze the crust, and, before serving, pour in, through the hole on the top, the remainder of the stock.

Time, to bake, from one and half to two hours. Average cost, uncertain, as they are seldom sold. Sufficient for five or six persons.

The Rooks are wild birds, found abundantly in most parts of Britain and Ireland. They live in communities, and feed on seeds, insects and vermin. Their flesh is tough and coarse-flavoured. Only the young birds are eaten, generally being shot almost before they take to the wing. The backbones and adjoining flesh is always removed, as these parts have a strong, bitter taste, which soon contaminates the rest of the flesh.

Recipes by Isabella Beeton, 1861