Two Beautiful Amateurs

The discipline of linguistics has a history of giving uncredentialled amateurs a seat at the table. Indeed, one of the foundational linguistic theories of the twentieth century, which came to be called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, was based in part on the work of Benjamin Whorf, an inspector for the Hartford Fire Insurance company. Whorf never got an advanced degree, but he took graduate classes in his free time with the anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir, in the nineteen-thirties, and he devoted his leisure hours to the study of Native American languages.

From Joshua Foer’s excellent New Yorker article, ‘Utopian For Beginners’:

After he began publishing his poems Stevens changed jobs again, becoming resident vice-president, in New York City, of the Equitable Surety Company (which, in turn, became the New England Equitable Company). He left that position in 1916 to work for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he remained employed for the rest of his life, becoming vice-president in 1934.

From The Poetry Foundation, full biography here

Posh Chicken Dippers

One thing I haven’t really posted about on here is food.  My monologues, poetry and general observations seemed to me to be the interesting things.  Eating (we eat most days and cook most days) seemed to be secondary.  I work for a large publisher and we have a cookery/food list.  They are nice and they win awards and stuff.  Over the last few weeks and months, I have seen more cook books than I usually would do.  I began to think: maybe I could work on my own, very limited, collection of recipes?

I have had for a long time the ‘Vegetarian Cookbook’ and in a burst of optimism about the grocery situation in East Ham, I bought the Leon cookbook (the first one with the lists of cheeses and fruits).  You can get almost nothing they mention in my local Tesco Express.  So, I have muddled on, slowly developing a repertoire of base ingredients, spice mixes and ways to cook them.  I thought I would share my lunch recipe here in case you lack inspiration to make your own.

‘Posh Chicken Dippers’

Serves 1


Seven/eight Birds Eye Crispy Chicken Dippers (don’t use the own brand ones!)
1x brown onion, medium sized
2x charlotte potatoes
Mustard seeds, half a teaspoon
1 tsp of salt
Crushed chilli seeds
Garlic, 1 clove
Ginger powder (use fresh ginger if you can be bothered, makes a lot of difference)
1x lime
50g sweetcorn, frozen

Okay, so it’s pretty simple.  You first need to add the Chicken Dippers to the oven, gas mark 7, and cook for 20 minutes.  The first ten minutes, you can relax, read a book, listen to some music.  I would recommend maybe the new album by Metz, although it is pretty hectic.  Maybe try the Beach House album if you are a moody sort, or there’s the Twin Shadow album ‘Confess’ which works well for hipsters.

Finely chop garlic, after peeling.  Add to bowl.  Add your 1 tsp of ginger powder.  Add the salt.  How much salt?  Up to you buddy.  You like salt?  Go for it.  Just don’t come to me when you’re adding cruet sets full to your fish and chips.  Add the crushed chilli seeds, vary amount according to taste.  Add mustard seeds. This is your base. [not a cooking term]

Peel the Charlotte potatoes and dice into pieces thinner than a julienne, maybe 2/3mm cubed.  Keep bigger if you like crunchy uncooked potatoes or are a bit of a cack hand with the knife.  Halve the onion, peel, and then slice 3mm thicknesses for each half.  This will fall apart nicely in the pan.

Add a little bit of oil to the wok or pan.  Put up on high heat, the hotter the better.  This should be done around five minutes before the Dippers are cooked.  Put your base into the pan, it will sizzle.  Absorb aroma – good, eh?  It’s nice.  You’re doing well.  So, turn the extractor fan on, and then add the potatoes and the onions.  Do this before the mustard seeds pop – if they pop before you will end up with hot oil-coated missiles flying everywhere – this is not good.

Keep stirring.  When you achieve a little bit of browning on the onions, add the sweetcorn.  At this point you can add a bit of Lea and Perrins if you want, but it’s up to you.  Keep stirring, high heat.  Cut the lime in half and add the juice of half a lime to the dish.  You can use the other half for a garnish/dressing or in a gin collins or G and T. I would use it to make a drink if I am honest, otherwise you are just wasting a good lime.

Get the chicken dippers out, and they should be crispy and golden.  Add whole to the pan, stir until they are coated with the stuff in the pan.  The lime juice should be making the sides of the pan go a bit grey as it boils off.  This is your cue to serve up, and go and eat.  You can add chilli sauce if you find it bland but depending on the quality of the ingredients you used, it should taste just fine.  Next time why not add a few beansprouts and maybe some peas to differentiate and add some roughage?  You can use torn chicken breast if you are a bit posh.