Professor Humperdink III

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28.6.11

Washington









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Looking down at the White House, George says that he hopes that our arrival will not alarm the President. George says that we should hang a flag out of the window, to indicate our peaceful intentions. Personally, I doubt that Juan has peaceful intentions, however, Albert says that this is a good idea, and goes off to find a flag. I tell George that, until Albert finds a flag, he should paint a picture of an American bird and we can hang it out of the window, to show that we appreciate American birds. Juan says that that is a good idea, but Rory says that, flapping, and seen from the ground, any bird that George paints might be mistaken for a British bird, and Americans and the British are at war. Fatty tells Rory that the Americans and British aren’t at war but, to be on the safe side, George should paint a Scottish bird because Americans understand that Britain does not include Scotland. George is not sure that this is true until Fatty explains that Scotland is the ‘Great’ in ‘Great Britain’, without Scotland, he explains, Great Britain loses its greatness, and is simply called Britain, a country that has nothing to do with Scotland.

Rory says that he is worried because, as we arrived unexpectedly, in an unusual aircraft, the authorities will want to question us. I tell Rory that he has nothing to worry about because, when the authorities notice that a giant airship has materialized over the White House, they will be too busy shooting at us to ask questions. Rory says that he doesn’t want to be shot, I tell him that he is not alone, nobody wants to be shot, unless they are seeking work as a human cannon-ball.

Albert returns, dragging a wooden flag-chest marked ‘United States’. Juan shoots the padlock off and kicks open the chest. I tell Juan that he didn’t need to shoot the lock off, the key was in the lock. Juan says that, in America, it is against the law to use a key, when you’ve got a gun. George tells Albert to pick out the American flag, but Albert says that there are a lot of flags, and they’re all different. I tell him not to be stupid, there’s only one American flag. Albert shows us some flags, but George points out that the flags are the Hudson’s Flag and the flag of the Dutch West India Company and they have got letters on them whereas the proper American flag should have stars on it. Albert holds up another flag that only has stars on it. George says that it’s the Confederate Jack and it’s out of date. I tell Albert to find a flag with bars as well as stars. Juan says that this proves that America is an advanced civilization, they put bars on their national flag. Albert holds up the Confederate 'Stars & Bars', but George says that the American flag does not have bars, it has stripes. I can’t believe that the simple action of picking the American flag out of a flag-box full of American flags seems to be an impossible task and I shout at Albert to stop being a complete moron and just find the star-spangled banner, I remind him that we are about to be blown out of the sky, so we don’t have time to sit here while he messes around like a befuddled baboon.

George says that I have got the flag confused with the national anthem, and tells Albert that, as we are over Washington, we should fly the Washington flag. Feeling offended, I tell George that I am not confused, the Star-Spangled Banner is the name of the anthem and the flag. I am not sure if I am right because I don’t know anything about anthems or flags, so, before anyone can challenge me, I challenge them to tell me why the Star-Spangled Banner is unique amongst anthems and flags. George says that it is unique because it is a both a flag and an anthem. I tell George that he’s wrong, in fact, I inform him, smugly, what makes the Star-Spangled Banner special, is that no other flag and anthem contains a hyphen.

I am pleased at myself for making such a insightful observation. However, instead of listening to me, everyone has lost interest in flags in favour of shouting and screaming and banging the bar; loudly participating in a beard-flea wrestling match in which, it seems, Juan’s beard-fleas are making mincemeat out of Rory’s whisker-nits, but there’s a lot of riding on Fatty’s hair-bugs. Fatty says that he picked them up in the Congo, he doesn’t know exactly what they are, but they are ferocious, and they have a vicious bite. Considering that Fatty is a chef, I am not certain that this is entirely hygienic, but Fatty tells us that he always wears a hair-net in the kitchen. George asks if the hair-net stops all the bugs from escaping. Fatty says that some of the bugs do escape, but it doesn’t matter if they fall into the food, as they are very tasty, in fact, he says, none of the bugs are wasted; under the net, he explains, in the heat and the dirt and the sweat, they breed quickly, so every few months, when the hair-net is full, he boils it with oats to make a nutritious bug porridge for the crew. Rory looks horrified, but I explain that Fatty is a master chef whose genius would only be hampered by irrelevant concerns such as hygiene. Fatty says that a chef who has the time to clean things is not giving enough attention to the food. Food produced in a clean kitchen always tastes soapily bland, whereas, claims Fatty, a rancid kitchen and a filthy chef will produce a variety of interesting flavours and unusual odours.

Albert hangs the Washington flag out of the window, hopefully, the incoming American aircraft will see the flag and realise that we are friendly. George says that, as we are in the vicinity, we should land on the White House lawn, but Aodhàn says that we can’t land as we are, temporarily, stuck. I tell Aodhàn that there’s no point in engines that are meant to transport us around the planet at high speed when all that happens when we arrive is that we get stuck. Not only that, I add, we took over a week to get here, so the engines aren’t as powerful as Aodhàn said, now we are trushelishly behind schedule and stuck again. Juan shouts that he is fed up with being stuck, especially over cities full of beautiful women. Aodhàn says that, while we wait to become unstuck, Juan and I should take the slip-coaches, small aircraft carried on the underside of The Lion. Juan asks why Aodhàn didn’t tell us about the slip-coaches before, Aodhàn takes us to the slip-coaches and explains that this is the first time he has flown The Lion, and he only just discovered them.

I tell Aodhàn that it’s a fantastic discovery, Juan agrees and opens a barrel of Special Reserve, to celebrate, while I collect cases of Vintage Glenesk, Longmorn, Edradour, and Glen Elgin Private Reserve, to take with us. We raise our glasses and offer toast after toast to our fellow passengers and crew, then, after wishing them the best of luck against the armed might of the United States, we clamber into the aeroplanes and, shouting with excitement and bellowing with fear, we dive toward Washington, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

20.6.11

Suiswijk




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Because Rory has a problem with crows, we should not talk about them at all, unfortunately, we don’t seem to be able talk about anything else. George wonders where the expression ‘stone-the-crows’ comes from. Fatty tells us that a crow can be killed with a stone, then baked on stones, but, first, he warns, it must be moistened, to stop it drying out. Rory twitches, and yells that he doesn’t want to hear about stoned crows or moist crows, or anything to do with crows, and, he shouts, if anybody says one more thing about crows, he will throw himself out of the window. I tell Fatty that, out of respect to Rory’s problem, rather than referring to crows, he could choose a bird that is only vaguely related to the crow, such as the jackdaw. Fatty says that jackdaws have a unique taste, and they can be soaked in whisky and dried to make jackdaw jerky, which is very different from baked crow. Rory starts to panic and shouts that jackdaws and rooks and ravens and crows are all the same sort of bird, and it doesn’t matter whether they are baked or raw, or dry or wet, they are all disgusting, and they make him sick.

Aodhàn tells us that we are not far from the capital, as the crow flies, and, if the wind continues to blow in the right direction, we will arrive very soon. Juan says that, as soon as we get to Washington, we are invited to meet the Chief. I tell Juan that he has misunderstood the meaning of being on the Most Wanted list. Hearing us talk about something other than crows, Rory looks relieved. However, Juan says that he doesn’t mean the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, he means our old friend, the Stony Tribe chief, Chief Wet Crow. Rory starts gibbering. Fatty says that, to honour the Chief, he will serve stone-baked crow, garnished with rook jerky, decorated with raven feathers, and steeped in jackdaw blood, to keep it moist. I tell Fatty that this sounds wonderful, if a little excessive. George says that, coincidentally, he has just finished a painting of a jackdaw and he turns his canvas around to show us the painting, Juan says that it’s just another stupid bird, Fatty says that it looks flavoursome, which is what matters most. I tell George that it’s a very nice jackdaw, and Rory should not worry as a jackdaw doesn’t look anything like a crow, but, judging by the fact that Rory is shaking and sweating and gasping for breath, Rory is worried. I tell George that the jackdaw’s egg is pretty. Fatty says that jackdaw egg nog is very tasty. Rory turns green and crawls to the window to be sick.

I remind Rory that we are approaching Washington and warn him not to throw up on the White House. Rory says that he can’t see a white house. Rather than try and explain the difference between a white house and the White House, I quickly finish my bottle of Vintage Tullibardine Founder’s Reserve, fall off my stool, and crawl to the window, to see for myself. Looking down, I have to agree with Rory, there are no particularly conspicuous white houses, and I can’t see the White House either. In one way, this is unsurprising, as we are over Suiswijk, but I thought that, at least, we were in America, so am surprised that we are in the Netherlands.

I tell Aodhàn that, when he said we were approaching the capital. I assumed he meant the capital of the United States of America, because that is where we are meant to be going, but, in fact, we are closer to Amsterdam which, I admit, is a capital city, but of the wrong country. Aodhàn says that the airship’s engines will switch on as soon as they warm up, until then, we are drifting with the wind. Juan says we should stop and meet some Netherland women. I tell Juan that the term ‘Netherland woman’ is not correct. Juan says that there are Highland women in the Highlands, and Lowland women in the Lowlands, so there must be Netherland women in the Netherlands.

Fatty looks down at Suiswijk and says that it looks very boring, so the women are probably boring as well. I think this unfair and point out that Suiswijk is famous for many wonderful, exciting, things. There is a long, expectant, silence, but I do not feel obligated to recite a list of Suiswijkian wonders to ignorant people, so I change the subject by reminding everyone that we are plaintuously behind schedule, and demanding that somebody do something about it.
Aodhàn says that when the engines do start, they have automatic speed correction systems, which will make up for the time we were stuck. Albert says that, in the time we were stuck, we could have got to Washington, so we will have to travel to Washington in no time at all, which is impossible. Fatty says that Albert is right, everything takes time, but the time preparing a delicious meal, he reminds us, is time well used. Juan says that, as far as he is concerned, when it comes to food, the quicker the better, unless you have to catch the food, in which case, the slower the better. Rory says that Albert is right, to make up the time, we would have to travel at infinite speed, which is too fast for an airship. George agrees, saying that an airship is designed to drift majestically, with the serenity of an albatross; it is not meant to dart around like a twitchy swift. I defend the swift by reminding George that the swift darts around because it is catching insects, or failing to catch insects, if the insects are swifter than the swift, and, because swifts have little wings, they have to fly quickly, if they fly slowly, they stall; an albatross, on the other hand, has big wings, so it can stay in the air for a long time. It is a well-known fact that a tired albatross can go to sleep and remain in the air safely, unless it crashes into another sleeping albatross.

There is a hum and Aodhàn says that the engines have started and, if they don’t explode or melt down, we will be over Washington in no time at all. This is wonderful news, to celebrate, Juan orders Vintage Balvenie, Mortlach, Linkwood, and Tullibardine Private Reserve, we drink to the wonders of Suiswijk, offer toast after toast to the nether regions of high and low women and, singing 'Het Wilhelmus' and 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at the top of our voices, we crawl around in confused, befuddled, circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperink’s Diary

3.6.11

Unstuck




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We can’t find the laboratory so, irritated and thirsty; we head back to the bar, to refresh ourselves. I remind everyone that we can only stay for one, quick, drink, as we are still stuck, we have thousands of miles to travel and we are knapdarlochishly behind schedule. Juan orders Vintage Duff’s Defiance Founder’s Reserve, which is wonderfully refreshing. Fatty says that he will serve a light lunch. Rory says that he is still feeling queasy after Fatty’s baked snails and hopes that Fatty isn’t thinking about cooking anything slimy or alarming. Fatty tells us that, as we are over Paris, he is working on a new dish, called nouveau galantine, which he will serve with French tarts. Juan cheers and orders Vintage Glenturret, Edradour, Auchentoshan and Dalmore Private Reserve, to celebrate. Rory, who does not speak French, looks slightly worried and says that the tarts sound nice, but he is not sure about the nouveau galantine. I tell Rory that he has nothing to worry about, when Fatty refers to French tarts and nouveau galantine, he doesn’t mean the Nouveau Galantes, Juan’s group of horribly debauched Parisian friends, many of whom are somewhat slimy and all of whom are definitely alarming. In fact, I assure Rory, Fatty is talking about tasty French pastries such as tourte aux prunes de damas, or tartelettes aux avelins.

George tells Fatty that, as a representative of French cooking, tartelettes aux avelins is a more appropriate dish than tourte aux prunes de damas, as damsons come from Damascus, so tourte aux prunes de damas is not entirely French, whereas tartelettes aux avelins celebrate Saint Philibert of Jumièges, the esteemed abbot and chef who, as a novice, working in his monastery’s kitchen, became inspired by a recipe by Saint Basil the Great of Caesarea, and created ‘Ouranophantor’ fudge flan in the great man’s honour. This proved so popular amongst the brethren that Philibert went on to invent Carmelite caramels, Macarius macaroons, and Columbanus crackers. In later life, as an abbot, Philibert opened nunneries and monasteries dedicated to producing Benedictine buns, Trappist tarts and Franciscan fruit-cakes. Rory looks relieved, so, when Fatty says that, on consideration, rather than pastries, he will serve ragoût de grenouilles, which is wholly and undoubtedly Gallic; I think it best not to tell Rory that grenouilles are frogs.

Albert says that he has a theory about why we are stuck. I tell him that inventing theories is no use; we need to do something useful. George says that he has been doing something useful; he has painted a bird. Juan says that painting a picture of a bird isn’t useful, it’s useless. I don’t think this is fair and I tell Juan that paintings are like Lowlanders, generally useless, but can be used for decoration, however, I remind George, Rory is scared of crows, so I hope that he has not painted another picture of a crow. George says that Rory has nothing to worry abut as he is has not painted a crow and he turns his canvas around to show us his painting. Seeing the painting, Rory goes white and starts to gibber. I tell George that, although it is a very nice crow, after saying that he had not painted a picture of a crow, especially to Rory, who is terrified of crows, it is not fair to suddenly present a picture of a crow.

George says that any fool can see it’s not a crow; it’s a rook, so he is surprised by Rory’s reaction. Juan says that Rory’s reaction is normal after a bottle of Vintage Highland Park Private Reserve. Fatty says that the rook looks tastier than a crow. Rory starts yelling and waving his arms around, shouting that we all know that the one subject on earth that he doesn’t want to know about, and that is the subject of eating crows, or the colour of crows or anything else about crows, but the only thing we ever talk about is crows, and he breaks down and starts sobbing into his whisky.

We all fall off our stools as The Lion tilts and lurches to the left. Aodhàn looks in to say that we are unstuck. This is wonderful news, Juan breaks out a barrel of his Special Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions, Fatty presents us with bowls of stewed frogs, then, while Rory has another breakdown, we offer toast after toast to the wonders of French culture, and, giving thanks for delectable French tarts, we inflate our bagpipes, then, cheering and shouting with excitement, playing ‘Froggie Went a-Courting’ at full volume, we stumble around in befuddled confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Frog Stew

Ingredients: 6 or 8 frogs, salad-oil, one quarter of a pint of white whine, 2 tablespoonfuls of truffle liquor, 8 fresh button mushrooms, one quarter of a pint of brown sauce, salt and pepper.

Method: The hind-quarters of the frogs alone are used, and they should be carefully separated from the rest of the body. Cover the bottom of a sauce-pan with a thin layer of salad-oil, and when thoroughly hot place in it the frogs’ legs. Fry quickly for 2 or 3 minutes, turning the legs once during the process, but most carefully so as to avoid tearing the skin and flesh. Drain, place in a casserole, add the truffle liquor, mushrooms, previously well-washed to free them from grit, and season to taste. Stew very gently for about 30 minutes, then transfer carefully to a hot dish, and strain the wine into a small stewpan. Boil quickly until well reduced, and then add the brown sauce. Season to taste, make thoroughly hot, pour over the cooked frog, and serve.

Recipe by Isabella Beeton, 1861

Nouvelles Galantes