What do you call a blind dinosaur?*

10 08 2009

This post is another amble down memory lane, courtesy of a moment of serendipity when I came across Jurassic Park on the telly over the weekend.  This movie was part of a pivotal moment in my life, something that lead to one of those fork-in-the-road major life decisions. 

On my list of iconic, sometimes seminal and always affectionately remembered childhood films you’ll find Jurassic Park.  I have fond memories seeing it at the cinema as a ten-year-old with my dad and brother.  I sat huddled in the darkened theatre, transfixed, with eyes slightly wider than normal, totally drawn into the world Crichton and Spielberg had created.  

There are plenty of awesome moments in the film, not all of them involve the dinosaurs, but a lot of them do: the herds of Brachiosaurus and Gallimimus, the Dilophosaurus (Wayne Knight’s monologue with them is priceless) and the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  However, the star dinosaurs for me were the Velociraptors – a truly terrifying adversary that combined speed, agility and beguiling intelligence with those talons – and the scene with the kids in the kitchen?  Ugh!  Nightmare inducing!  However, some of my favourite moments actually didn’t involve dinosaurs: the debate around the lunch table over the merits of the island being the stand out. 

Anyway, after seeing this film at the theatre I went dino-mad and decided that I wanted to be Dr Alan Grant and dig up dinosaurs (previously I had wanted to be an archaeologist and dig up ancient Egyptians).  I then read that dinosaur names were derived from Latin.  So, logically (at least for a ten year old), I decided that I needed to learn Latin in order to name the dinosaurs that I would find.   Consequently when I started at college a couple of years later, one of the classes I found myself in was Latin – ready, willing and able to learn so I could name my dinosaurs.  In fact, one of the reasons I went to that particular college was because it offered Latin, though I don’t think it was offered for the reasons I was taking it… 

I then continued to take Latin throughout my five years at college before leaving for university – and can you guess what subject I took at uni?  Yep: Latin.  However, by now I no longer thought I’d be naming dinosaurs, but I was hooked and couldn’t give it up. 

In total I’ve spent over a decade studying Latin and the reason why can be traced backed to that day, in that darkened theatre in Levin, watching that movie.  Unbeknown to me, this moment lead to a chain of events that ended up shaping a fairly large chunk of my life.  I’ve often wondered (normally in times of intense naval gazing): what if I hadn’t seen Jurassic Park?  Normally I’m too bewildered by the myriad of possible answers to that question to try and hypothesise what life would be like if I hadn’t seen it.   At the time I just thought it was a cool movie and I had no cares about what would happen in the future.  Now that it is the future I can happily proclaim that 16 years later I still reckon it’s a very cool movie and if anyone needs a dinosaur to be named…you now  know where to come.

*And the punch line? “Do-you-think-he-saw-us” Go on and guess what his dog’s called…

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Chocolate Coffee and Cream Pie & Chocolate Cake

2 08 2009

Despite any impressions you may get from the following post, I’m generally not a big chocolate eater, I tend to go for the savoury, salty variety when it comes to foodstuffs that come from a vending machine.  I also generally prefer fruity desserts or just fresh fruit (especially in summer).  However, over the last month I had not one, but two, blocks of dark cooking chocolate at my disposal and a couple of recipes that had interested me enough to warrant making them animal friendly. 

The first was “Mary’s Chocolate, Coffee and Cream Pie” from The Vegetarian Adventure Cook Book.  This cookbook is somewhat of a New Zealand vegetarian bible.  Or maybe it just is for me as it was the first veggie cookbook I remember reading as a youngster – that and it is in every cookery section in every bookshop back home.  The ingredients are something of a fantasy list for a decadent dessert: chocolate, coconut and coffee. 

The base of the pie is chocolate melted with a bit of “butter” and a hugely generous amount of coconut.  This mixture is then smushed together, forming a shell, chilled and then filled with creamy (but not heavy) concoction of chocolate, very strong instant coffee, a little bit of sugar, a mixture of soy milk and cream and agar flakes to get it to set.  The verdict? Very nice!  Not too sweet at all (as I prefer my desserts) and with a real coffee hit.  This one has certainly made the “Definitely Make Again” list.

Mary's Chocolate, Coffee and Cream Pie

Number two was the “Chocolate Cake” from Rachel Allen’s Bake.  I flicked through this book in detail in Waterstones while passing time one day.  My first impressions were that it was a pretty decent collection of recipes, most of which I could modify to my heart’s desire (and probably quite easily) and therefore worthy of purchase – one day.  Well, a well-known Internet retailer recently had it heavily reduced, and somehow it ended up passing from my wish list, to my shopping basket and finally to my front door and into my kitchen! 

I’ll admit that I feel somewhat compelled to like chocolate cake, such is the social perception that women-kind has a kryptonite weakness for chocolate, and especially chocolate in the cake form.  But truth be told I often find chocolate cake to be disappointing and rather anti-climatic.  So if  I am to make it there are certain conditions that must be met: one of those is the use of chocolate and not just cocoa powder in the recipe (why make chocolate cake without chocolate?).  Luckily this recipe does use dark chocolate in the cake batter.  I then subbed the eggs with blended tofu but stuck with the butter ingredient, using an animal friendly option instead.  Often in cakes and similar baked goods I’ll sub in oil for the butter, however this time I didn’t and I’m glad, because the result was extremely pleasing: very much like a Victoria Sponge in texture (though I doubt the WI would have approved of it).  In a fit of domestic goddess-ness I also whipped up the chocolate butter icing and sandwiched the cake together with this and then dusted it with icing sugar.  The final result with very sweet (due to the icing) but still rather nice and not anti-climatic at all. 

Bake's Chocolate Cake