Friday, August 16, 2013

MUSIC: children, bowels, and the like.

In a decidedly uncharacteristic move, I'm going to regale you with a story from a few years ago that was one of the more, shall we say, "colourful" musical experiences of my life.

As an orchestral musician there are many rituals, traditions, and standard accepted practices for behaviour, movement, how to sit, how to breathe, how to ask questions, how to stand, how to do pretty much EVERYTHING when you step on stage for both rehearsals and concerts.  This may seem like a odd concept for the uninitiated, but these behaviours have evolved from decades of work by countless musicians and orchestras around the world.  (Centuries perhaps even)  The results from all of this amounts to order, and an efficient working environment.

So, when one of the orchestras I play with (name withheld) decided to do the "Symphony of a Thousand"  (Mahler Symphony No. 8) it was with great joy that I agreed.  Rehearsals go as they always do with this group.  (A little bit of "old school" prima-donna rubbish from the conductor)  So some time wasted, some things rehearsed poorly, some things over-cooked...  The usual really.

This symphonic work is VERY large.  It requires a large choir and specifically asks for a childrens choir too.  As you may or may not know, childrens choirs come with a few chaperones to make sure they don't get bored and run off as this piece of music is somewhat more lengthy than you would expect even the most obedient child to be able to sit through.

So it came to concert night and the choir was filling on stage.  The musicians had filed in, the lights were dimmed and the concert master (leader of the violins) walked on and signalled for the orchestra to start tuning.  It was around this time that some of the musicians (the ones sitting close the the childrens choir) noticed a peculiar (think brown) aroma wafting forward.

It was painfully clear at this point that one of the children had an "accident" but was too scared/frightened to leave the stage.  I'm sure the choir handlers didn't realize how dire the child's need was and prevented him from leaving. 

Anyway, to make matters worse, the child remained for the first half of the performance.  During the course of which, there are many places where the choir is featured (and stands up) and many places where they are not.  (So they sit down again).

With every sit/stand there were tidal-waves of stench that wafted forward.  It was so strong that many of the orchestra members thought they might have "gambled and lost" while trying to pass gas.

The concert was several years ago.  I don't remember how we played.  I just remember this.

Good times!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

FOOD: Banana Bread (Cake)

There's one thing I hate about cookery books is the general lack of order of operations.  Yes yes, they do have a method, but the ingredient listings are almost NEVER in the order you'll need them.  So it makes it often difficult to remember if you've added this or forgotten that.  Additionally, there is some degree of knowledge and experience that cookery books require being able to adjust proportions according to deal with the inevitable variability of such things like fruits.

So here we go...  My mom's banana bread.

Ingredients: (in order of addition)

1/2c sugar
1/2c softened butter
1 large (or extra large) egg
1 tsp of vanilla extract
4-5 largish bananas.  (4 if they are huge and 5 if they are not)
1 tsp of baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1.5c AP (all purpose) flour  (Pastry/Cake flour works too it just comes out a little heavier)
3/4c chocolate chips (optional)

Tools required:
A stand mixer is great, but it's optional.  So if you don't have one of those then you need a pastry knife (or a fork) a big mixing bowl, a medium sized loaf pan, and of course an oven, and cooling rack.  (And for you idiots, oven-mitts)

Pre-heat your oven to 325F

Add sugar and butter to your mixer (or mixing bowl) and beat (or mix with your fork or pastry knife) until it's much like the consistency of cake icing.

Add your egg and vanilla and continue to beat or mix until it's all well blended together

Toss in your bananas and continue beating.  (It's helpful to pre-mash the bananas in a separate bowl if you're doing this by hand)  Add in the baking powder and salt, and you guessed it... keep mixing.

Once the flour is in, don't over-mix.

Lastly, add the optional chocolate chips and stir ever so gently.  (Stand mixers will pulverize many of the chips so it's best to do this part by hand)

Pour into your cake pan, shove it in the oven and bake for 50 minutes (or as long as 75 minutes depending on the size/shape of your loaf pan.)

You can check to see if it's done by stabbing your loaf with a wooden toothpick.  If it comes out clean or with the ever so slightest crumb, then you're done.

Remove from the oven and let it sit in the pan for a few minutes (5 or so) until it releases itself from the pan.  Turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cook for 20 minutes or so.  If you try and cut it too soon, it will break apart into a crumbly mess.

Additionally that can also be topped with cream-cheese icing or chocolate icing.