You can take the boy out of the country

Rubey McHickstein delivers something somewhere for work. Supposedly you can just drive inside and park there while you drop off, but he gets somewhat lost on a labyrinthine set-up of one-way streets and unusual traffic-flow-patterns around the place so he ends up just parking slightly illegally on the street and going inside this building designed to be on the impressive side and drops off his thing amongst all these guys in suits newer than his and hurries back to his car.

On the way back to his car, this Italian guy parked on the street goes, Hey can you help me? I need to get to some address everyone has fucking heard of and knows where it is you know where it is?

And Rubey McHickstein says, yeah, I’m not from these parts mister but yeah, sure, it’s over there.

And the Italian guy goes, I’m Italian you speak Italian I’m in town for meetings I’m a tailor you know what that is? I make these suits see? God what a day I’ve had, you want a suit? What size are you you want a nice suit? You’re a 56 I think.

52, says Rubey.

56 Italian, says the Italian. Here’s a nice summer-weight suit, you try that on isn’t that nice? Oh, it’s a little big, let me find a smaller size here you go now that fits good can you close the button? It fits great you like it?

I was just thinking I needed a new suit, isn’t that weird, says Rubey.

Here let me give you a second suit, says the Italian tailor. Here’s a nice black one try it on oh it fits great! Where you from? Oh, you American? Obama Berlusconi Sicily bunga-bunga! You know Berlusconi? Catastrofe! Here take a jacket too, you want a nice summer jacket?

Bunga-bunga, says Rubey’s pene.

Hang on a sec, thinks Rubey. This is suddenly a lot of swag. WTF?

Yeah, very busy. I had an accident over on some fucking street no one has heard of because it doesn’t exist. I drive a Cayenne you know Cayenne? Nice car! But I have an accident, watching women, I’m a Casanova, you know Casanova, watching woman. The Italian gent shows Rubey a blank accident report. Rent this Avis. €2500 for a week at the Intercontinental. Now my credit card is maxed. I live in Rome. You know Rome you should come visit me sometime but don’t bring your wife I already have lots of women so can you help me out for gas back to Rome?

Er, says Rubey. Let me see what I have. Rubey gives the guy a hundred euro bill, thinking, shit, even if they’re cheap suits, and a cheap jacket, it’s still a deal.

I hope you’re not insulted, but could you give me back one of the suits, says the Italian.

Wut, says Rubey.

I’m a tailor. Here, look at this gigantic pile of business cards but only for a split second so you can’t actually read any of them, these are all the places I make clothes for. Look at this label, you’ve heard of this label right?

Yeah, of course, says Rubey, who got only a sort of kaleidoscopic view thru his trifocals. WTF you think I am, a rube or something?

Don’t you have any more? You know how far it is to Rome?

I wish you were in Rome now, thinks Rubey. For whom, at this point here, a waxing bad feeling has finally metamorphosed into a lightbulb, which has turned on.  Here, I have a great idea.

Twenty Euro? Ten?

No, here, you take both suits and the jacket, and return my 100 Euro, plz, says Rubey.

And the Italian tailor actually does return a €100 bill to Rubey, and Rubey goes on his way, hoping he has not got a ticket during this little interlude, amidst a generous portion of Italian expletives, repeating to himself, If it seems too good to be true, it is.

And then Rubey considers where best to spend his €100 bill, which he is 50% sure is counterfeit now.

Mig’s Blackened Rorshach Chicken

(Note to self: prior to cooking experiments, make sure at least one camera in the house is charged)

I told Brian I was going to barbecue for Mother’s Day and he suggested whole chicken with a Greek yogurt/lemon marinade. He suggested deboning the chicken which was interesting, although very simple after watching the instructional Jacques Pepin video.

Note: this dish required no substitution for a change.

Note 2: actually, it did. I substituted an ancient Japanese paring knife we got at a dime store in Tokyo once for a new chicken-deboning-knife I failed to buy last Friday as planned because I had to work on my lunch break. The paring knife worked well, it looks roughly like a deboning knife anyhow, and being of rather soft steel it sharpens up easily.

Instructions: Buy ingredients: 1 organic chicken, enough Greek yogurt (or regular plain yogurt). A lemon. Garlic. Make marinade according to the recipe, more or less, with all the other spices. The paprika, for example, works really nicely. I also added some herbs from the garden.

Bone chicken according to the video. heads up: if you watch the video while cooking, figure out a way to pause and unpause it without getting raw chicken on your keyboard. You will feel the urge to talk in a Hannibal Lector voice while deboning the chicken, and CSI jokes will go through your head, and you will wonder if this is what the turkeys Boeing shoots at its planes from cannons to test the windshields end up looking like. This will pass.

Your chicken is boned in no time! That wasn’t so bad! Less than a minute, according to Jacques Pepin, maybe a little longer for people like me. Maybe quite a bit longer, in fact, although it’s not as bad as I imagined, because I wisely locked the cats (AKA my four best friends, when I’m deboning chicken) out of the kitchen.

Marinate the chicken overnight. I covered it in the marinade sauce, folded it up like a shirt, and packed it into a tupperware container and refrigerated it.

Do something useful with the carcass. I failed to do this, and felt bad about it afterwards.

I could have given it to the cats to fight over in the yard but what would the neighbors say?

They would say, What are you, an extra from the Hunger Games?


Grill your chicken the following day. I started at 9.30 in the morning, lighting the coals etc.  because there was a lot of stuff to grill: various vegetables, mushrooms, pineapple (slices with vanilla sugar sprinkled over them), sausages because this is Austria, and the chicken, and I wanted to be done in time.

Everything was done in time. Around 11.30, in fact, everything was warming in the oven waiting for the guests (my wife’s parents).

Here is how the chicken went: I grill stuff in aluminum grilling uh tray things. Put the chicken spread out, like an unfolded shirt a chicken skeleton had just shed because it was covered in yogurt marinade, in the largest, round aluminum tray. It sizzled away. Skin-side down for starters. No idea if this was a good idea or if it matters. Turned it after a while when the first side looked a little brown. In all, it cooked for over an hour.

I stood there most of the time and watched it cook, because I was afraid a cat would steal it if I went into the house. When you stare at a flat chicken long enough, it begins to look like a Rorshach blot, and you find yourself saying, in Sigmund Freud’s voice, “So, Mr. Living, tell me what you see in this chicken?”

And you give him the answer, in your own voice, telling him something you think will make you sound sane.

It takes the leg meat longer to cook than the rest, so I ended up removing the legs and letting them cook longer. The chicken was getting fairly dark. Like, black in places. But that always happens when I barbecue. I folded up the chicken and put it in the oven in the kitchen to stay warm. Then I went back out to guard the drumsticks. Of course they were engulfed in flames when I got back out, because all the marinade and oil/fat that had collected beneath the chicken in the tray was suddenly exposed to air when I removed the chicken and ignited as soon as I turned my back.

The flames were about 3′ high. I managed to rescue the drumsticks somewhat.

Carved up the chicken and it looked fine. It was much-praised by the guests. Two people remarked how moist the chicken was. The marinade did taste good. Vegetables (marinated just with olive oil or teriyaki sauce) were good. I was too tired by then to enjoy it much, and I thought the chicken was actually a little bit dry, but maybe I’m just paranoid about dry chicken. It would be great if I could find a way to cook chicken sufficiently without burning the outside.

Will take pictures next time, Scout’s honor.

WTF should i cook for dinner?

AKA Mig’s Chicken Marsala Madeira

Chances are you have at some point asked yourself, WTF should I cook for dinner. Of course, in these days of social media, you ask that question of your Facebook friends.

At least I did a while ago. Brian suggested Chicken Marsala, which I elected to try because I was in the mood for Indian food. To prepare, I read the wikipedia article.

Turns out it is not an Indian dish. That would be Chicken Tika Masala. Honest mistake.

According to Wikipedia, Marsala is a fortified wine, like port, which is reduced to make the sauce. For me, using largely American or Anglo-Saxon recipes in Austria, cooking has become a process of substitution. I must cook everything from scratch (actually, I also prefer to do that). Nearly every recipe I cook I find myself required to substitute at least one ingredient.

In this case, it was the Marsala, which was not available at my local supermarket. They had an okay shelf of fortified wines, but no Marsala. So I got a bottle of Madeira wine. Got chicken breasts, mushrooms, peppers, shallots, zucchini. Went home and cooked.

Brian has stated before that recipies are often inaccurate, especially cooking times, so I used the wikipedia article instead of a recipe. An ideal recipe would tell you roughly how long it takes to cook something, but it would tell you how to tell when something was finished, rather than tell you exactly how long to cook it.

Brian has become my new cooking mentor, if you haven’t noticed.

I rolled the chicken breasts (with skin, deboned) in flour and sauteed them. I understand sautee to mean fry fairly hot in a fair amount of oil. The skin/coating got nice and crisp. I cut into one breast to make sure it was done (good thing, as it wasn’t done yet). When they were done I removed them and put them in an oven to stay warm, and sauteed sliced shallots, mushrooms and zucchini for a while, then got impatient and added some of the wine and some chicken stock (this concentrate you can get) and cooked until the sauce looked reduced.

Then I served it with the chicken and it was quite popular.

My verdict: working from a wikipedia article instead of a recipe works, at least for a simple dish such as this. I don’t think I added enough wine (more sauce would have been nice) and I should have reduced it a little more. But it tasted great. Chicken was a little dry, otherwise tasty and attractive. I wonder what went wrong there – what causes dry chicken? The zucchini were a mistake (I sliced them into roughly 2″ rectangular slices) – they were soft and mushy before anything else was cooked. Should have added them at the end. Substituting Madeira for Marsala was no problem (maybe Marsala tastes totally awesome and I would change my mind if I tried it, who knows).

The next time I’ll take pictures.

Based on a true story

I took a long drag on my Nicorette inhaler and immediately suffered a coughing fit.  The Dalai Lama sat down next to me.

“Could I bum one of those off you?” he said.

Eyes watering, I waved the Nicorette inhaler in front of me. “It’s the only one I got,” I finally said. “You’re welcome to it, though, Your Holiness.”

“Please,” he patted me on the knee. “Call me Dalai.” He showed me his inhaler. “I already got one. I just need the little nicotine fluid thingamajig. Ran out of those.”

I gave him one and we sat there for a while, puffing away.

“You can’t inhale too deeply at first,” he said.

“Yeah, I figured that out,” I said. “My kid gave me these for my birthday.”

“Oh, when’s your birthday?” he asked.

I made a generic waving motion at the day around us. “Today,” I said.

“Happy birthday!”


“So how old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

I pointed at the sidebar over on the right.

“Wow, you’ve been blogging a long time.”

“I was one of the first,” I said.

“Respect,” said the Dalai Lama.

“By the way,” he said, wiggling his Nicorette inhaler. “You don’t need to tell anyone about this.”

I motioned locking up my mouth and throwing away the key. “Mum’s the word.”

“I mean, I know about you bloggers.”

“Dalai, please,” I said. “Take a chill pill. Quitting making you antsy?”

“Ehn. Looking for a reincarnation.”

“Who is it this time?”

“You wouldn’t know if I told you,” he said.

“True, true,” I said. “So what signs are you looking for?”

“Remembers drowning in a past life. Trips over shoelaces at an ice cream parlor and falls on face without losing ice cream.”

“Okay,” I said. “That’s like ninja-level slapstick.”

“Here’s the kicker – it’s a girl. Who gives her father Nicorettes for his birthday.”

“Aight. Okay. I’ll keep a lookout.”

He was looking at me funny, but I ignored him. I wasn’t going to tell him.

Not until he spilled the beans on whose reincarnation he was looking for.

Expat blog

We take time out from Mig’s stream of consciousness to provide you with some true information that will be of actual use to those of you who are or will soon be ex-pats:

Julien runs expatblog, which has sent a lot of traffic to metamorphosism over the years. He asked me to let my reader(s) know about some new features over there. However, I am lazy  and asked him if it would be possible for him to do it himself. He wrote the following: is a participative website dedicated to life abroad. When I created the website 7 seven years ago, my idea was to gather on a unique platform all the expatriates’ blogs all over the world. Expatriates’ blogs are indeed a great way to get information about real life in a foreign country.

As the years went by, new features have been added to the website such as a forum, guides, albums, a business directory. Expat blog has now more than 420 000 members and 1.8 million visitors per month.

We just launched 2 new features to help expatriates and soon-to-be expatriates: Jobs and Housing in Austria.

As a matter of fact, finding a job and an accommodation are essentials to succeed in your expatriation project.

Indeed, this is often where the adventure begins. One of the first reasons of mobility is employment. Looking for a job from your native country is not an easy task: you do not know where to look for job offers or where to apply. With its new international job board, Expat blog gives you access to job offers in Austria.

This is the same process when looking for an accommodation. It is not easy to look for a place to live when you are quite far away. The housing section enables you to select or offer accommodations as per your needs: rental, sale, flat share, kind of accommodation. Here are the last housing offers in Austria.

Julien is a kind, hardworking person with a snazzy website. I encourage you to give it a look.

They came upon a spider

Sitting upon a woodpile.

It was a friendly-looking chap. Friendly enough, at any rate. It put down the poisonous four foot snake it was eating and acknowledged their presence.

Motherf, said the spider. Where’d you come from?

Us? said the first. What about you?

Everyone knows where I came from, said the spider, asshgr.

What is with your unusual manner of speech, inquired the second.

I have rare form of Tourette’s today, which compels me to utter obscenities while rendering me unable to actually get them out. It’ll pass, said the spider.

Snake helps, in fact, so if you don”t mind, said the spider.

The first one and the second one both nodded and gestured, as if to say, please, don’t mind us.

Very fffff, said the spider.

Who was that, said the first one, when they were out of earshot.

It looked like a hobo spider, said the second, a very large one.

Then we are on the right path.

I liked what you were saying about the scientist disproving the theory, only he happened to be the theory

Also, good job finding the plug like that, said the first one.

The second one shrugged. Just for the sheer joy of being able to shrug again.

A non-Euclidean plug, said the second.

Okay, anyway, said the first.

Did you used to think Chicken Marsala was an Indian dish, too, said the second one.

Until about two seconds ago, in fact, said the first one.

What was that noise, said the first one after a minute.

Which noise, the one like streaming music on a slow connection, said the second. Or the high-pitched whine?

The pew-pew-pew noises like bullets just missing you, said the first one.

Where’s my newspaper, said the first one. I had it in my belt before the unfortunate incident.

Something better happen soon, said the first one.

Oh, something will, said the second. Just not what you think.