Thursday, November 19, 2009

Which Came First...?

...and does anyone really care?

Much as I love my wife, there are times when her common sense goes totally arse-out the window. Case in point: hatching chickens.

We've got some friends locally whose chooks went on the brood. They've got more chooks than they need already, and they didn't want still more of the beggars running around the place, so they've been trying to give the things away before they hatch. These "friends" saw my wife coming from a couple kilometres distance, the words "SOFT-HEARTED SUCKER WITH SMALL KIDS" apparently glowing in neon letters a metre high above her head.

Natalie responded to their overtures by hinting to me. Repeatedly. That we should take these eggs and hatch them.

What? Do I look like a fucking chicken? I don't fucking hatch eggs. I scramble the bastards, or maybe create a nice fritatta funghi, serve it up with maybe a light pinot noir and a garden salad, you know?

I made it clear that I really didn't think much of the idea. And I'm sure we can all guess what happened next.

Yesterday, I had to go buy a 'warming light' from the hardware mob. At first I thought I'd get the old cage-light so beloved of mechanics everywhere, but it turns out Johnny Howard's scrote-kick to the incandescent lightbulb industry has had an unexpected side effect. You can buy the cage for a mechanic's light, sure. But you can't get a fucking bulb for it, can you? Unless you resort to one of the shiny new compact fluoro jobs -- and while they work just fine in a static installation, I am informed by a number of very cranky people that they last maybe two days in a mobile cage-light.

Besides: it was good old inefficient incandescent heat I wanted, not cool white fluorescent light.

Eventually I got a portable floodlight, with a screw-fix bulb. You can still get incandescents for them. Of course, the hardware version came with a 150watt Death Star Annihilator bulb, which obviously wasn't going to do the little eggs a lot of good -- so I stopped and picked up the mildest bulb that the supermarket possessed: a 75 watt number.

This I duly gave to Natalie, when she came home with a cardboard box containing six or seven eggs. I then went off to teach ju-jitsu.

When I returned home, sore and bruised and tired, as I entered the house, there was a very odd smell -- hot "Napi-san". Why? I stuck my head in the bathroom. Aha. The improvised heat-lamp is shining down on a towel laid nicely over six or seven eggs. And the towel is scorching visibly.


I reorganised the set-up, but to be honest, it was probably already too late for junior Foghorn Leghorn and the rest of 'em. A little Internet research indicated that unhatched chickens tend to go all sort of dead if the temperature climbs much over 39C for any period. Towel-scorching temperatures are definitely out.

That, however, did not dissuade my beloved. Nope. This evening, as I sat in my study after a bit of sword practice, she came in and announced that the eggs remaining to our "friends" were now, right now, in the process of hatching, and they'd texted her to tell her so. And shouldn't we maybe go and get those little hatchy eggies so our children could see the Magic of Chickenbirth?

Oh -- and did I mention that she discussed all this right in front of said children?

When I unstuck my face from my palms, I pointed out a few home truths: that we'd already cooked one bunch of microchooks; that we don't have a cage ready for them; that we don't know shit about raising baby chickens; that the boys were short on sleep from last night, it was already eight pm, and they're hoping to have a movie night tomorrow night... and did she really expect me to get in the car now, right now, and go get those little hatchy eggies?

Yep. She did. And she expected me to take the boys with me, so they could get the full benefit of The Magic.

It's now ten forty at night. The boys finally made it to bed at 10.00. A new eggy chicky place has been constructed, this time with a halogen reading lamp for warmth (as opposed to parboiling). And one goddam chick has actually had the decency to kick its way free of the shell. Just one. Another one is making struggly noises inside the shell. The rest?

Fucked if I know. The real joke is this: they're all fucking bantams anyway. Aaaargggh!

And in other news: Grace's dietary dilemmas have lead to a slight lifting of my game. I admit: in the past, when making nasi goreng, I've simply grabbed the jar of garam masala off the spice shelf and applied it as I saw fit. But this time I checked the label first and discovered, horror of horrors, that it included wheat starch amidst the spices, probably as an anti-caking agent.

Undaunted, I threw black peppercorns, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, cloves and some cinnamon powder into the spice grinder (which I got for Natalie when she was in her Turkish Coffee phase) and built myself some decent garam masala, from scratch.

Holy shit! How good was that? Pungent, fragrant, spicy... I'm never buying commercial garam masala again.

EDITED TO ADD: ...aaaand the Mau-Mau just woke herself up with a spectacular power-puke. The entirety of her nasi goreng dinner plus her much-coveted bowl of home-made vanilla-cinnamon ice-cream distributed liberally across the upper half of her bed. So: pick up the howling Mau-Mau, deposit her in the shower. Natalie comes curiously downstairs ( I thought she was asleep! Hooray for small mercies.) and takes over the showering, while I remove bedding. And mattress. Replace mattress with spare. Find new bedding. Clean bedframe. Identify contaminated bed-toys and remove. Replace, reconstruct. And return the Mau-Mau to slumberland.

I love this gig.