Perfect Fegato alla Veneziana

A bit of a departure here, into the realm of food.

For many years now, I’ve been trying to make the perfect fegato alla Veneziana, otherwise known as liver and onions. From Venice.

I do realise that I may not get out as often as I should and some people might even regard a dream of making the perfect fegato alla Veneziana as a fairly low ambition in the cosmic scheme of things. But I am of the firm belief that, if there’s a God, which there isn’t, he would very much enjoy a plate of liver and onions, if he were capable of eating it, which he isn’t because he doesn’t exist.

An onion.

An onion.

Be that as it may, I have to say now that I have finally perfected this dish, and I would like to share it with you. The recipe, of course, not the dish.

Now there is a lot of controversy regarding the correct way to make fegato all Veneziana, as you might expect from a recipe that was devised by Italians. Some people add sage, for example, which I did for several years in the belief that it was an essential ingredient. It isn’t.

Others finish off the dish with a sprinkling of lemon juice. Which is a waste of a lemon. And liver.

The secret is that no single flavour should dominate. No sage. No lemon. No salt. No pepper. Well, the dish does contain salt and pepper, but it shouldn’t dominate. Much.

If properly made, fegato alla Veneziana (liver and onions) is a marriage made in heaven. Or, at least, it would be if there was one.

So, first of all, the list of ingredients:
Veal liver (about 300 g)
Onions (2)
Olive oil (a slosh)
Butter (a bit and then a bit more)
White wine (generous slosh)
Wine vinegar (not much at all)
Veal stock (just a dash – use the ready-made stuff)
Freshly ground black and white pepper (a healthy twist or three)
Sea salt (about 1 teaspoon)
Chopped parsley (a handful)

This will make a good helping for two. If you want a good helping for four, double the ingredients.

Lemons feeling left out.

Lemons feeling left out.

The first thing to do is to slice the veal liver. I find the best way is to slap it in the freezer to harden up for a bit and then cut it into very, very thin slices with a sharp knife. I can’t impress on you too much how sharp this knife will have to be. Test it out on Granny first.

Peel the onions and cut them in half. Then slice them very thinly using a very sharp knife (which you have tested on your wrists).

Slosh a bit of olive oil into a sauté pan – or any wide pan with high sides and a lid. Add a bit of butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the onions, stir them around, turn down the heat and then fry them slowly until golden. Not black. What you want to achieve is a bit of caramel but not too much. This will take about 15-20 minutes.

Remove the onions with a slotted spoon. Well, any spoon will do at a pinch. The object is to leave some of the juices behind but there won’t be much so I wouldn’t bother.

Turn up the heat, slosh a bit more olive oil into the pan and, when it’s very hot, add the liver.

Now this liver will cook very quickly. Keep stirring it and just make sure it’s changed colour on all sides. There will be a bit of blood but as you’ve already tested the knives on Granny and your wrists you should be used to that by now.

Then add your cooked onions, salt and pepper and stir the liver and onions together but don’t leave them to cook. Just heat them up.

Remove the liver and onions from the pan with your slotted (or unslotted) spoon and transfer to a pretty serving dish, which you have cunningly kept warm.

A pretty serving dish.

A pretty serving dish.

Now comes the tricky bit. “Deglaze” the pan with the white wine (meaning pour in the wine and stir it about), scraping up any unfortunate remnants, and add a small dash of white wine vinegar and another dash of veal stock. Add a knob of butter and allow this to foam up while stirring. Pour the result over your liver and onions and then sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Serve immediately.

Now I am aware that there are some people who do not like liver. Poor you. I suggest that you give this a try anyway as it will not taste like any liver you’ve ever tasted before, given that you have actually tasted some before.

But for true aficionados of fegato alla Veneziana, this is nothing less than what the Italians might call i testicoli del cane, if they had ever heard of the phrase.

Buon appetito!

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Spatial awareness

Roughly defined, spatial awareness is our ability to see two or more objects in relation to each other and to ourselves. It’s about judging relative size and distance. It prevents us from walking into walls, trees, lamp posts and slow-moving animals. It stops us from falling down holes. It’s probably one of our most basic survival skills and, as such, it’s something that we tend to take for granted.

Unfortunately, our ability to be spatially aware seems to be in decline. Particularly in Norway.

I’ve developed an elegant and thoroughly unscientific theory about this. According to this theory, Norwegians evolved without any special need for spatial awareness as there wasn’t much to be spatially aware of in the first place. In Norway, natural obstacles such as mountains, rivers and lakes are very big and they don’t move, which makes them difficult to miss and easy to avoid. Trees are found in massive groups called forests which most people tend to go round rather than through. The sea, from which Norwegians have earned a living for countless generations, is remarkably free of any sort of obstruction apart from the land.

Norway before the invention of spatial awareness.

Norway before the invention of spatial awareness.

Admittedly, there are a significant number of holes here and there, which may go some way to explaining Norway’s small population. However, once they knew where a particular hole was located, they could successfully avoid this too – confident in the knowledge that it was not going to move.

This posed no real problem as long as Norwegians stuck to their rural environment. Unfortunately, however, they discovered oil in the North Sea, grew wealthy and moved to the city.

Now a city is full of walls. Norwegians seem to have taken these unfamiliar objects pretty much in their stride. No doubt their subconscious instructed them to treat a wall as a rather small forest and go round it instead of through it. This strategy has been remarkably successful by and large, except on Saturday nights in downtown Oslo.

Most cities are also noticeably free of large stretches of water and holes.

So far, so good.

Potentially hazardous but immovable hole.

Potentially hazardous but immovable hole.

Sadly for the Norwegians, however, cities are full of people. Many people. And they move. People will pop up here there and everywhere at a moment’s notice. You can walk down a street one day and it will be completely empty while the next day it will be full.

Initially, the Norwegians attempted to cope with this problem by giving each other a wide berth. If you look at photographs of Oslo at the turn of the twentieth century, you will not fail to notice that no one is less than an oar’s length from anybody else, with the exception of friends and family members. This removed the necessity for judging distance, size and relative speed and reduced the need to manoeuvre and/or take evasive action to a minimum.

Oslo 1900 with Norwegians avoiding each other.

Oslo 1900 with Norwegians avoiding each other.

This was all well and good as long as the urban population stayed stable, which it didn’t. Like it or not, Norwegians were brought into ever closer proximity with each other. Gradually and inevitably, they were faced with the terror of the Confined Space.

I think we would all roughly agree that nowadays it’s almost impossible to stay an oar’s length away from someone on public transport or in a busy street. Never exactly the most spatially aware of Europeans at the best of times, the Norwegians responded to this problem by abandoning the idea of spatial awareness altogether.

A Norwegian abandoning the idea of spatial awareness altogether.

A Norwegian abandoning the idea of spatial awareness altogether.

In practical terms, this means that when confronted with large groups of other people in a Confined Space, the Norwegian will simply ignore their presence. This takes the form of walking directly at an approaching pedestrian, confident in the knowledge that they do not really exist and that actually walking through them as opposed to round them will not result in injury to either party.

When entering a tram, bus or subway car, the Norwegian will simply stop with his back to the people entering behind him. This, of course, is perfectly understandable as the people behind him do not exist anyway and doubly so as he has his back to them. Conversely, neither does he exist for the other people entering the Confined Space, who will attempt to walk right through him.

Norwegians coping with a Confined Space.

Norwegians coping with a Confined Space.

However, although undoubtedly challenged in the area of spatial awareness, Norwegians are nevertheless essentially polite people. A simple ‘excuse me’ is usually enough to get them to move aside. Unfortunately they will not move very far aside as they are, after all, spatially unaware. They will move roughly two centimetres, a distance that they judge adequate for the free passage of any person or object regardless of size or weight.

As you might expect, this congenital lack of spatial awareness becomes even more apparent when the Norwegian is behind the wheel of a car. Unfortunately, as I am painfully aware, this article does not really allow me the space to go into that.

New, interesting diseases!

As human beings, we have a vested interest in keeping abreast of the latest developments in disease. And let’s not beat around the bush, diseases are evolving at a considerable rate. We’ve had bird flu, then swine flu, and shortly we’ll probably have hamster flu or even the extremely dreaded but so far hypothetical broccoli flu. The world is about to melt down into a pandemic that will reduce its entire population to three quantity surveyors in Bradford, Illinois.

So, in the interests of public safety, The Opposite considers it a duty to inform you of the latest and most interesting diseases to pose a threat to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, etc. Brace yourselves for a shock.

These diseases are:

Atkinson’s Chorea. Atkinson’s Chorea, not to be confused with North and South Chorea or A Promising Chorea in the Civil Service, is a motor-neurone disease affecting the individual’s ability to turn left. This can lead to great distress on the part of sufferers, who typically try to conceal their affliction by referring to themselves as ‘Right Thinking’.
Fortunately, the only people to suffer from Atkinson’s Chorea are people called Atkinson and then only in the ratio of 1:100,000. An aspect of the disease that has baffled scientists for many years is that it is not genetic in origin. Anyone called Atkinson can suffer from Atkinson’s Chorea – even those who have changed their name to Atkinson by deed-poll. Fortunately this also means that suffers can be cured totally by simply changing their name to something else.

A sufferer from Atkinson's Disease undergoing therapy.

A sufferer from Atkinson’s Disease undergoing therapy.

Cameronism. A disease that specifically targets British prime ministers – well, only one of them actually – and which manifests itself in an ability to look smarmy and an inability to think straight. Or even to think at all. It also results in short-sightedness and a fawning desire to please anyone with very large amounts of money in order to remain in office. Cameronism is a refined form of the disease incompetensia which has decimated the ranks of politicians since…well, since politicians started, quite frankly.
Sadly, there is no known cure for Cameronism and, as it seems to affect only one person, there is little hope of a medical breakthrough.

Mumbles. Mumbles is a disease of adolescence that combines two of the best features of mumps and measles: a runny nose and a swollen ego. The first symptoms of mumbles include a sharp decline in vocabulary, the inability to combine more than a few words into a single coherent sentence, and a concomitant rise in the patient’s belief that he or she knows everything and is, in fact, a misunderstood genius who is the victim of a world-wide conspiracy.
In its advanced stages, Mumbles reduces the patient to being able to say little except ‘uh’, ‘like’ and ‘innit’. However the prognosis is generally good: patients tend to recover within a five-year period, although, like, a few of the symptoms may carry over into adult life, innit.

Bacterial Brown Spot. This used to be a disease afflicting beans only but recent years have seen a disturbing spread, via other leguminosae, to the human population. The main symptom is …erm… a brown spot. This spot may appear on any part of the body at the most unexpected and, indeed, embarrassing of times. It may also vary in size between what may at first be mistaken for a standard small brown pimple to something resembling a golf ball. In fact some of the larger varieties have been known to carry logos like the Nike swoosh.
Sadly, there is no known cure for Bacterial Brown Spot. The good news is that it’s certainly not life-threatening and a really bad dose could solve all your golf ball problems. As long as you want them brown.

An isolated case of Bacterial Brown Spot (well, greyish actually).

An isolated case of Bacterial Brown Spot (well, greyish actually).

Non-specific gastro-intestinal geraniums (NSGIG). This is a silly but highly infectious disease transmitted through intimate contact with geranium plants. According to WHO statistics, it currently afflicts 0.00000000023% of the global population, all of whom live in Rotherham, England. In this context, ‘non-specific’ refers to the variety of geranium. Tulip-flowered are considered benign, while cactus-flowered and shrubby-leaved are not only malignant but extremely painful. According to WHO guidelines, geraniums should not be accepted as gifts from persons unknown to you, and you should always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Avoid eye contact.

Non-specific gastro-intestinal geraniums after extraction.

Non-specific gastro-intestinal geraniums after extraction.

Blackwater sneezing. Sneezing is, at the best of times, a highly debilitating condition but Blackwater Sneezing is certainly its most hazardous form. As early as 532 BC, the Roman amateur doctor Servius Quacus defined the condition as ‘quispiam meus uxor res ut’ or ‘something my wife objects to’. This is understandable as the average blackwater sneeze has a range of approximately 27.5 metres and has been known to stun low-flying birds. Particularly the ostrich. (Actually, this may have been Austrian and not Ostrich – the Latin text having been rendered partially illegible due to the side-effects of the said sneeze). Incurable.

Spotz. This is the British regional variation of a disease that has been prevalent in the United States for many years: Zitz. Spotz is transmitted through text communications on mobile telephones and Internet chat services. But IMHO it hasn’t affected 2many PPL 2date. Like Zitz, Spotz, usually presents as an inability to spel accompanied by a cutaneous eruption on the side of the face closest to the mobile fone. In advanced stages hit develops into a repeated shouting of ‘yo’ and the giving and receiving of indecipherable handshakes.
NATO is currently investigating the possibility of using Spotz as a non-invasive alternative to thermo-nuclear war.

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