My first deep-fried dishes!

About 4 or 6 months ago, I moved into a personal apartment and began living on my own. This meant learning a new skill – cooking. Now, in-spite of having lived for over 20 years, my character never invested any level-up points to the “cooking” skill. Barring a certain incident, … it might have been about … 7 or 18 years ago when the cauldrons in the kitchen first beckoned me. After some trial-and-error, “instant noodles” became a recipe I could safely cook on my own. Which was all there was to my “cooking” skill for many years to come.

A unique opportunity presented itself to me as I began to study the prospect of living alone. It could be the chance of a lifetime for me to answer the age-old question of; “Can a man live on bread alone?”. Not knowing how to make bread, the question had to be … modified … to fit my situation. The new age-old question became; “Can a man live on instant noodles alone?” Answering this, would forever carve my name in the annals of Philosophy! And I wouldn’t even need to eat the same food everyday either. With so many brands of instant noodles in today’s market, it would be child’s play if I wanted a change of taste. Taking the idea even further, it wouldn’t be just taste, but the cooking formula as well! Undercooked? Overcooked? Anything in-between? A golden opportunity, if there ever was one!

Unfortunately, mistress common sense barged into the room, grabbed me by the neck, threw me on the bed of reason, stripped me of all the above philosophical ideas and proceeded to have her way with me. A guy can’t really say no when confronted in such a manner, so I asked Lady insanity to hide under the bed and wait until we could get some extended quality time together. Which would probably happen sometime in the unknown future, but fortunately insanity is very patient.

-sigh-

The drama aside, I needed another way to feed myself to appease mistress common sense. As in any good RPG, the answer was obvious – my character would need to level up and invest a few skill points in cooking. Again, as with any good RPG this means to ask the local expert for advice. There’s only one such expert I know of – my Mother.

Usually, I wouldn’t have any issues with approaching my Mom for anything. We like to consider ourselves as a nice loving family and keep no secrets between each other. At least, that’s the official story. I used to own a personal stash of internet porn which went missing and it’s too embarrassing to ask family for help in searching for it, but … that’s another matter entirely.

Coming back to the issue of cooking, there is another … aspect … which I haven’t mentioned so far. In my 20+ (or so) trips around the sun thus far, I have subjugated my family to the horrors of what anyone with 0 skill points invested in cooking would produce – burnt, crisp, charcoal quality toast was fed to my only brother; instant noodles were cooked for so many consecutive nights that both my parents grew sick; a nameless something was created one fine day and fed to my cat. I could go on-and-on with a more examples, but the end result is that my Mother became very leery of permitting me to do anything associated with cooking in the kitchen. There have been times when she would get a certain, strange look in her eyes as I approached the stove.

It wasn’t a hopeless situation. I was still her child after-all, and so, did what any other child would do when wanting something from their parent. No, not bawling tears – it doesn’t work against my parents and besides, that’s a baby’s tactic. We’re not looking to get breast-fed here people! Oh no, it was the other thing. Anyone with a loving parent knows what I’m talking about. It’s too embarrassing to mention.

Fortunately, it worked and I convinced my Mother to teach me cooking. The first few attempts were … well … not-so-great. Eventually, after weeks of practice (and eating my own gunk) I was able to make rice!

The rice I make can’t really be called good or even tasty, but at the very least it can be considered edible. With so few points invested in my cooking skill, a full course gourmet meal is out of the question, but I am capable of making simple dishes and other small items. Which brings us back to the topic of this post. Considering the state that I was in, my Mother gifted me with the following piece of advice – “do NOT attempt to deep-fry anything without someone around to help you”.

So like any good cooking student, without anyone around to help me in-case things go wrong, I decided to try out the dark arts of deep frying anyway. Now, I’m not stupid enough to just walk into the kitchen, dump oil in a pan and set it ablaze (Though, now that I mention it, think it would be fun to try out. Just once!). Instead, I decided to approach the matter as an engineering problem. Those are a variety of puzzles that I’m pretty good at solving and, surprisingly enough, the tactic helped put things in a better perspective.

When solving an engineering problem, the first thing to do is research – books, youtube cooking videos and what-not. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it, which meant that I wouldn’t even start until I had all the theory firmly ingrained in my head! Next is the matter of preparing the workshop and tools. Or in this case, the kitchen, ingredients and utensils. The local supermarket was most helpful in this endeavor. This, being a new kind of problem, meant that the solution would have to be as simple as possible. What does that mean from a cooking perspective? It means that only those “ready-to-cook” items from the supermarket’s frozen section would be tried out. I decided to go with a packet of chicken fingers and french fries. Once all that was setup, I was ready to begin my first deep-fry style cooking!

First, a non-stick pan was taken out and about 400ml of vegetable oil was poured into it. Next, the induction cooker was set to “deep fry” mode. It was fascinating to watch as the oil warmed itself in the pan and began flowing around. The flow isn’t easily visible and I had to turn & squint my eyes from the side of the pan to see it, but once the oil appeared to be … well, hot, it was time to start the main show!

A few frozen french fries were taken out of their plastic bag and slowly dipped into the hot oil. This had to be done very carefully. The fries started sizzling as soon as they touched the oil, which in turn caused some of the oil to leap out onto my bare hands. I think it was a minor miracle that I didn’t make a bigger mess of the situation. After that, it was a waiting game. Eventually the fries in the pan changed their color to the tasty golden-brown shade. Using my plastic spatula, I rinsed out the cooked fries and added in the next batch. This second set cooked a lot faster. From then on, it was a fairly repetitive procedure. Occasionally, a bit of salt would be added to the cooked fires. Not sure how long it took but in the end, I think the results speak for themselves. Here’s a picture of what I made,

Not bad for a first try, even if I do say so myself!

Not bad for a first try, even if I do say so myself!

Up next were the chicken fingers. This too was cooked in a similar fashion. Oddly enough, they cooked a lot faster than expected. Perhaps it was because I had already used the oil to cook the above fries, but first few chicken pieces that were put in? They got over-cooked. After playing around with the heat settings on my cooker, the problem was no more. Here’s a picture of my second deep-fry dish,

Can you guess which were my first batch? (hint: the 3 black ones on the left)

Can you guess which were my first batch? (hint: the 3 black ones on the left)

Ahhhh!

Let me tell you folks, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you successfully did something others more experienced than you, told you not to. At this point all that was left to do, was to settle down in front of my computer, play a video and enjoy the meal!

Speaking of enjoying the meal, I decided to do it with the show We Without Wings. Surely, something with such a nice name and cute cover picture would be a wonderful romance/drama story, right? Sadly, such was not the case. The show is so full of … questionable … fan-service, that I could neither enjoy the plot (if there was one) or the fan-service itself. Now, I like the latter as much as most folks, but this particular show does it with such an arrogant “In YOUR Face” attitude that you can’t help but cringe in agony!

Which in retrospect, is probably a good thing as it prevented me from over-eating. Tells you a lot about the show, doesn’t it? Seriously folks, do NOT watch it!

Especially, if you are eating something you cooked yourself. The food deserves better.

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Anime review “Mahou Sensou (Ep.01)”

I got a request to try and review the first episode of Mahou Sensou. Why did I pick it up? It’s because I’ve never done an anime review before – which means something new to try out! And if it turns out good, I might even do more. Alright, enough blabbering. Let’s see what the synopsys says (copy-pasting this from myanimelist),

In this modern magic action story, Takeshi Nanase is an ordinary high school boy who has a somewhat dark past. Due to certain circumstances, he formed a “fake” couple with his childhood friend Kurumi Isoshima, but otherwise, he lives a normal life. However, one day, he comes across a girl named Mui Aiba, in a uniform he has never seen before, collapsed on the school campus. This encounters changes Takeshi’s destiny completely. Mui tells Takeshi that she is a magician, and she apologizes, for she turned Takeshi into a magician, too. What Takeshi once knew as one world is actually two—the world where magicians live and the world where humans live.
Before we start with the actual show, lets talk about what we might be able to expect from the above paragraph. A hero with a dark past? Aren’t most of them like that? The very first such “hero” that comes to my mind is Batman. And for some odd reason I’m also thinking of Kirito from SAO. At best the latter only has a dark cloak, but he’s presented to the viewer as “the mysterious bad-ass who nobody knows about, but has a heart of gold”. Then we come to the next bit – the guy is in some kind of “pretend” relationship with his childhood friend. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen an anime where they pull this off well. Unless it’s part of some gag, what usually happens is that one (or in some situations both) parties in the relationship grow actual feelings for the other. It’s a really weird kind of romantic tension – everyone else thinks that the two of you are going out, but there is this invisible barrier preventing either party from taking the first step. Bring in another romantic interest and you have all the ingredients for a love comedy. And finally, our hero meets some ‘mysterious’ girl and gains magic powers? Does this have anything to do with his own “mysteriously dark” past? Let’s find out!

Fanfiction review “FateScrewed-Up”

And time for another fan-fiction review. This time it’s a cross-over story between Harry Potter and Fate/Stay Night. What’s disappointing is the plot. Here’s how it goes – Harry, after gaining all three Hallows, becomes some God-like entity who doesn’t die, but re-incarnates … as a girl. That by itself, is just silly and in the right author’s hands can be made into a brilliant plot. As for this author? It gets worse. He gender-bends Shirou. Yeah, truly a WTF kind-of moment. Here’s the link to the story,

FateScrewed-Up by Magician of Blue

This time, instead of just writing the review in my blog, I decided to put it up on FFN as well. In the general interest of laziness, I’m going to copy-paste it here –

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Fanfiction review “The Monster Lord”

Instead of reviewing the story by myself, I’ve decided to ask for assistance from an acquaintance. A second opinion is usually helpful and considering that the intent of these reviews is to be critically constructive, it should be a good idea. Here’s the link to the story (WARNING: spoilers ahead!),

The Monster Lord by MadHat886

It’s a Ranma 1/2 crossover fanfic fusing the hentai games “Monster Girl Quest” and “Violated Hero”.

You know, perhaps I should just do this one by myself as usual. The whole second opinion thing might be better left for another kind of story  and … ah, dammit. I’m here. It’s the place where my acquaintance lives. Amusingly enough, he freeloads in a church,

The church

And I’m coming here to talk about hentai. I think I forgot my common-sense somewhere… Continue reading

Fanfiction review “The House of Elendil”

I decided to pick up a review request for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ crossover. While I’ve read the LOTR books, it’s been years and my memory is fuzzy. Only important point I recall is that it’s the story about a hobbit traveling the countryside (filled with enemies & monsters) with his friends to destroy a powerful (and magical) ring. As for GOT? I’ve watched the first two seasons and consider the TV series to be filled with too much sex. Nothing wrong with that, I like good skin-ship as much as the next warm-blooded male, but the show has it in more quantities than I would have liked.

That said considering how expansive the lore is in both universes, I would expect a crossover to be newbie-friendly. Even if you are a fan (of either source), chances are that the obscure facts would escape memory and an author should compensate for it. With that in mind, let’s begin shall we? Here’s the link to the story (WARNING: spoilers ahead!);

The House of Elendil by EricDal

The title means nothing to me and the summary reminds me of that famous poem from the LOTR books – the one which speaks of nine rings, lords and the one that binds them … etc. Reading further, it looks like I can expect a story of someone who comes from across the sea into Westros and joins in the political game for the Throne. Hmm… better do a quick search about this Elendil fellow (opens up google). It looks like Elendil was an elven king/ruler who first ruled over Arnor and Gondor. I guess that EricDal is planning a story of how those kingdoms get established in Westros instead of canon-LOTR universe (starts reading story).

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Fanfiction review “On the Wings of Freedom”

Another Fate/Stay Night and Sekirei crossover. Ever since gabriel_blessing started writing “In Flight” these stories seem to be popping up like bad fungi. Heck, even I wrote a few snippets some months ago! Without further adieu here’s the link to the story (WARNING: Spoilers ahead!),

On the Wings of Freedom by Shadows of Vanity

The summary is well written. I wondered what Shirou was doing in France, but the author answers the question with the next few words. Seems that he went there on a holiday. It’s a bit odd why someone would be called in for an interview in the middle of a vacation, but that’s just nitpicking for the sake of it. What really spoils things are the last 4/5 words,

powerful!Shirou, Shirou/large harem.

Is there any real need to mention this? The summary has already told us that he’ll be getting a harem. Why repeat information we already know? And what am I to make of the phrase ‘powerful!Shirou’ ? Barring a few crack-fics, most stories have him as a competent fighter anyway. Or are you trying to tell me that he’s going to be God-like in this story? If so, you should have also included a tag for the Emiya Clan. Sounds like a perfect fit to me.

I find your choice of pairing “Shirō E. & No. 08/Yume” puzzling for a harem story, but I think we’ve spent enough time talking about the summary. <starts reading the chapter>

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a surprising lack of comedy fanfiction for Love Hina & Ranma

Some days back the following Love Hina fanfic idea was thrown out on TFF,

During the 4th volume (manga) when Motoko challenges Keitaro, he somehow ‘defeats’ her by catching her blade with his bare hands. Suppose that didn’t happen – the fight ends with Motoko defeating him. As per the agreement, she sends him off to her sister with instructions “to make a man out of him I can respect”

As a Keitaro+Motoko shipper, I couldn’t let the idea slide by. I volunteered to pick it up and as part of background checking, went back to re-read the manga. To my horror, I discovered that my characterization of the cast was off. Badly.

That aside, I realized something else as well – what I found most enjoyable about Love Hina. It’s without a doubt the humor. Checking back on fanfiction.net I confirmed that no-one had written a notable humor story lately. Some more digging and the same conclusion can be reached for the Ranma section as well (not talking about crossovers).

I’ve decided to tackle this shortcoming by writing a humor story. At the moment, all I have are a few random ides that (hopefully) will diverge to the snippet above, but … the lack of humor fanfiction for a source that is nothing but slapstick comedy is a bit disheartening. Even worse – it took me this long to realize it!