Saturday, October 13, 2007

Taking the piss out of New Zealand

For those non-Aussies and non-Kiwis out there this post is not an update about how I'm keeping up with my toilet habits. No, this is a celebration of the word 'piss' in the New Zealand lexicon and character.

In America this particular word has nothing but a bad rap. As a noun it refers to body waste, as a verb to similarly waste something that should be put to better use, and, when used as a slang term, it describes a state of anger. Piss is one of the 7 Dirty Words George Carlin rallies for as unfairly banned from use on network television. There is no positive context for the word piss outside of certain medical conditions.

Here on the other side of the planet this four-letter beaut is used in a more light hearted and jovial way. When you 'take the piss out of' someone here you are mocking them to bring them down a peg. Sure, this could be done in a malicious way, but for the most part it's a light-hearted national pass time. No one is exempt from mockery here. National figures, revered figures, honoured individuals, friends, neighbours, enemies and idiots are all subject to having "the piss taken out of them." Mockery is the great leveller.

I've been considering this phenomenon lately because New Zealand has been in a tizzy since the All Blacks lost their recent match with France and are now out of the Rugby World Cup. Initially there were quite a few angry/long faces around the streets and work places. People who were typically pretty jovial around work were actually bitter and non-communicative this last Monday. The Headmaster at our school made a speech at assembly that had the feel of an obituary. He called for the students not to feel let down or resentful toward the team or the referees that are now blamed for making bad calls. Instead, he encouraged the students to send emails of support to the team to let them know that they are still "our boys".

It's no secret that Kiwis take their rugby seriously. The All Blacks hold an elevated status of nearly divine proportions. Saying anything against the All Blacks typically earns you either some well-deserved flack for being an ignoramus, or suspicion that you're in cahoots with Australia. Either way you get mocked mercilessly and then assaulted with statistical and anecdotal information aimed at bringing you into the fold. Kiwis have rallied admirably around their team and their devotion is unrelenting. Definitely a good quality, right?

But this week I've heard, for the first time, Kiwis taking the piss out of the All Blacks. Now I may be wrong, but up until now I've always thought that the AB's were exempt from any mockery by Kiwis. Now I'm convinced that taking the piss out of people is indeed a national pass time with no exemptions. Here are a few jokes I've heard around the school this week:

Q: What's the difference between a tea bag and the All Blacks?
A: A tea bag typically stays in the cup.

Q: How is an arsonist smarter than the All Blacks?
A: An arsonist doesn't waste five matches.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Our International House of Pancakes

We've been doing some inter-continental pancake recipe sharing lately. The Head Chef(s) at Steirgruebl World Enterprises posted a fantastic Buttermilk Pancake recipe that they've taken to making on weekends. It's fluffy, crisp, delicious and everything that the chefs claimed these pancakes would be. The truth in advertising is just as satisfying as these breakfast gems. Find the recipe here.

We really loved it but found that we rarely had buttermilk around the house, and frequently forgot to pick some up from the store the day before we wanted to make pancakes. So we started fiddling with what we typically had in the house and developed a modified recipe that is now a well-loved standard in the house. If we want to add berries to the mix, we still us the SWE recipe as they are fluffier and make space for fruit better. After a few rounds of the "oh, we don't have enough (enter ingredient here)" game we came up with something much akin to SWE's recipe but a little different.

The big difference is that we use a bit more wheat flour and substitute a yoghurt-milk mixture for the buttermilk. We liked the sweet flavour that the vanilla extract added, and so kept it, while cutting out the white sugar. My sweet tooth seems to by dying a slow death as I get older.

2/3 Cup White Flour
1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Power
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt

1/3 cup plain un-sweetened yoghurt
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 Tsp Vanilla

Mix wet ingredients together, then add salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. Mix until integrated, then add flours a bit at a time. The batter should be slightly lumpy, but pour smoothly.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Pour 2x 1/4 cup measures of batter into the skillet, cooking two cakes at a time. Remove from heat to a warm plate (in a warm oven works well). We like to layer banana slices and bacon inbetween the pancakes and drizzle maple syrup on top. The salty/fruity/maple-ey combo is pretty good.

If you make these and find a different way to make them, please share your changes. I'm always on the lookout for a good pancake.