Mull of the future?

(Also published on Arc of Prosperity.)

highland village photo
Photo by kingary
I woke up to the crowing of the rooster and the smell of freshly baked croissants.

My butler minion gently opened the door to my bedroom. “Would you like your breakfast in bed, master?” “That’d be great, Bob.”

Bob buzzed in on his wheels and served the croissants together with a gorgeous cup of cappuccino. I’ve spent years searching for the perfect recipe, and I finally found it on a website somewhere in Italy. It was worth the hassle, though. People keep asking me for it, but I’ll not share it for any less than 1kg of scrap copper.

“Master, what would you like for lunch?” asked Bob. “Perhaps a mushroom omelette? Tim found some lovely wild mushrooms in the forest this morning.” I grunted my approval. Tim is my foraging minion, and he always finds the best stuff. At least it sounded a bit more filling that the salads Bob has been feeding me for the past week – I guess my weight is back to where it should be. Not that Bob ever tells me.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” I asked. “You’ve got dairy farm duty from 10 to 12, you’ve got a work meeting at 14.30, and finally you’ve invited your girlfriend for dinner at 19.00.”

I spent the next hour inspecting my home farm. The minions were zooming around me at the same time, collecting eggs, weeding the lettuce and cleaning out the pigsty. I love my home farm.

At 9.50 a car stopped outside the gate, and I strolled out and got in. Yukiko and Pierre, two of my neighbours, were already sitting in it – we do farm duty together. They greeted me with a cheery “Madainn mhath! Ciamar a tha sibh?” and we started chatting in Gaelic. It’s not our native language, and to be honest it probably would be easier to speak English together, but when the founders of our village decided to resurrect the village of Crackaig on the Isle of Mull, they decided that it should be Gaelic-speaking, so it’s now a requirement for moving to the village that you learn the language and use it when interacting with people. Fortunately language-learning is so easy these days – the linguist minions are just sublime language teachers.

At 10 o’clock the car stopped at the dairy farm, and we got out. The car zoomed away, either to park or to drive somebody else somewhere. My grandparents keep telling me that they used to drive cars themselves when they were young. It sounds like a really dangerous and wasteful way of going about it. Computers are obviously much better at driving than humans, and in those days every household had one or more cars, which meant that they spent most of the time being parked. Crazy.

Dairy farm duty is generally pretty easy. The minions do practically all the work, and all we need to do is basically to walk around and talk to the cows – humans can sometimes use their intuition to spot a problem that the minions have overlooked.

This was not one of the easiest days, however. It was time to say goodbye to two of the bulls and hand them over to the butcher minions. I walked with them up the hill, and then the minions led them away into a shed and did their stuff. The minions have perfected bovine psychology, so the bulls didn’t seem to feel any anxiety.

I’ve read that lots of people were going vegetarian or even vegan towards the end of the capitalist era. It was mainly a reaction against factory farming, however, so once people started repopulating the villages and producing almost all their food locally, they started eating meat again. This was reinforced by the realisation that microplastics were destroying the environment, and this led to a complete ban on the use of synthetic materials in clothing and footwear, and having access to leather thus became more important again.

The late capitalist society must have been pretty mad. Instead of feeding your food waste to your animals and letting your cows graze on unproductive stretches of grass, they threw the food waste into landfills and then grew cereals for the sole purpose of feeding animals which they kept in huge factory-like farms. Apparently they even killed many male calves at birth because it would be too expensive to raise them.

In our village most of our clothes are made out of wool, hemp or flax, and we mainly use leather shoes. That’s fairly typical for Scotland, but of course different materials get used in other countries.

I walked home after farm duty and then sat down to enjoy Bob’s delicious mushroom omelette.

Afterwards I stepped into the VR room to commence the work meeting. I’m part of a small team working on carbon capture technology to roll back global warming. We have created a virtual Greek olive grove as our work environment, based on Plato’s Academy. Lots of other people keep telling us that you want walls, chairs and blackboards in order to work efficiently, but we disagree. Sitting on blocks of marble dressed in a toga while munching on olives is great. To make it even more realistic, we’ve decided to adopt Ancient Greek as our working language. Yes, it’s mad, but we need a lot of creativity to come up with better ways to capture carbon, and creativity and madness are of course closely related.

It’s strange to think that schools for so long were mainly places to learn facts and techniques, when today they’re places to bring out everybody’s innate creativity. Of course you need a certain amount of knowledge and skills for your creativity to kick in, but at the end of the day computers are much better at every known task than humans – however, they’re still pretty bad at coming up with the new and surprising answers, and at dealing with new situations. So of course that’s what we humans have to focus on now.

After work I started getting ready for dinner with my girlfriend, Salome. I was going to bring her some flowers from my greenhouse, but in the end I quickly 3D-printed a pair of golden earrings for her using a traditional pattern from Guatemala.

Salome and I were going for sushi in a neighbouring village modelled on a traditional one from Hokkaidō. A lot of people said at the time that a traditional Japanese village doesn’t really belong on the Isle of Mull, but I must admit that it’s really nice to see something completely different without travelling more than 10 km. In fact, the idea is spreading. More and more villages get the builder minions to rebuild everything in some exotic style – just on Mull we’ve now got places that look like they belong in Bavaria, Viking Scandinavia, Māori New Zealand, and the Shire (from The Lord of the Rings books).

Over dinner we discussed whether we should go on holiday to Paris at some point. The old centre is supposed to be stunning, but like all other former cities it’s surrounded by enormous areas of crumbling ruins that still haven’t been converted back to villages and farmland.

At least the former cities aren’t dangerous in Europe. However, in many other parts of the world they never nationalised the land like they did here, so people who didn’t own any land were left practically destitute when the value of labour dropped to nearly zero after capitalism collapsed. They’re now typically living in the skyscraper ruins and trying to make a living selling personal services (mainly sex) to everybody else. It’s horrible, and we’re so lucky in Europe where we introduced a universal basic income early on and then nationalised the land and gave everybody the right to borrow a plot for the rest of their lives.

Of course it would take a while to get to Paris – flying is completely prohibited for holiday purposes – but we could sail there or take a sleeper car, and that’s good fun in its own right.

We took a boat back to Salome’s village. Life on Mull is pretty good.

Rullepølse for expats

My rullepølse.
My rullepølse.
One of the few Danish types of cold meat that lack any close equivalent in Scotland is rullepølse, basically rolled and pressed pork.

Here’s how you can make real Danish rullepølse yourself:

  1. Buy a large piece of pork belly (they regularly stock them in Makro).
  2. Cut off the skin and any ribs that might still be attached to it (you’ll need a very good knife for this). Trim it so that it’s perfectly rectangular and of a uniform thickness. It should now weigh about 1500g. You’ll probably end up with a lot of surplus meat and fat, but you can mince it all and use it for a medisterpølse.
  3. Make a brine by boiling 2000ml water with 200g of sugar, 300g of salt, a couple of bay leaves and 10 pepper corns. Cool it down and put your pork into in. Store this in the fridge for 48 hours.
  4. Take it out and discard the brine. Chop up one onion and a large bunch of parsley. Distribute this on the pork together with ground pepper, some ground allspice and a few sheets of gelatine. Tie it up tightly with some string.
  5. Boil it for two hours. Let it cool down a bit, and then press it overnight in a cold place between two chopping boards (I used some clamps to apply pressure, but you could also put something heavy on top.
  6. Slice and enjoy!

Enzo’s rabbit recipe

Two rabbitsLast time we visited my parents in the Tuscan village they’ve retired to, we got invited to dinner by two brothers, Enzo and Franco. Enzo is a trained chef, and he cooked an absolutely perfect meal. Amaia has been raving about his rabbit ever since (she ate half of it), so when I asked her what she wanted to eat on her sixth birthday, it was no surprise that the answer was rabbit.

I therefore sent my dad down to their house to beg Enzo for the recipe, and I thought I’d share it with the world. It’s a wonderful dish — the rabbit is moist and tender.

  1. Chuck a lot of rosemary, sage and wild fennel (don’t substitute normal fennel if you don’t have any — just leave it out), nutmeg, garlic, olive oil, salt and chilli into a blender and process to obtain a thin paste. (Enzo used black pepper instead of chilli, put the whole garlic cloves into the rabbit instead of adding them at this stage, and I don’t think he used a blender.) I also added a bit of lemon juice after tasting it, but the recipe didn’t call for it.
  2. Rub the rabbits (I used two for eight people) inside and out with this paste. Put the rabbit livers and one or two thick slices of pancetta into each rabbit and tie them shut with some string.
  3. Put them into an oven at 180ºC. After half an hour, pour over enough white wine to cover the bottom.
  4. Cook them for another 60 to 90 minutes (depending on size), turning them over a couple of times.

Tre år gammel mesterkok

Eggs - oops!
Eggs – oops!, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Phyllis laver tit scrambled eggs til frokost, og Amaia hjælper hende. Jeg har derimod aldrig lige fået styr på, hvordan man laver den ret.

I dag skulle Phyllis lige gøre et job færdigt først, men Amaia var sulten, så hun begyndte at kommandere med mig: Giv mig den kasserolle der! Og det lille piskeris! Find smør, æg, mælk og ost! Hjælp mig med at skære et stykke smør af — dér! Sådan! Tænd for blusset! Så, nu er det smeltet — hurtigt, der skal mælk i! Nej, mere, ja, sådan! Og nu æg! Seks! Og nu skal jeg piske! Nej, du må ikke hjælpe, far! Og nu skal der ost i! Nej, ikke med rivejernet, med kniven! Seks stykker! Nu skal der ikke piskes mere, der skal røres. Og nu er det færdigt, sluk for blusset!

Ovenstående er ikke et ordret citat, da hun taler 80% engelsk til mig, men det var helt nøjagtigt, hvad hun mente.

Og resultatet var glimrende — æggene var brændt lidt på, men det smagte lige så godt som normalt.

Så nu har jeg en datter på tre år (hun bliver fire til januar), der er bedre til at lave scrambled eggs end mig. Hun har lært meget, siden hun var lille og kun brugte æg som kasteskyts som på billedet!

Buchwider Bräu β₂

Beta 2
Buchwider Bräu ??, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
My first Belgian witbier was full of ginger, coriander and orange peel, and although the result was unpleasant it didn’t really taste like my favourite witbier, Korenwolf.

This time I managed to find some recipes on Dutch home-brewing forums (sometimes it’s useful to be able to read Dutch!), and I used them as a basis, adding interesting ingredients such as spelt malt, curação orange peel and elderflowers.

The result — Buchwider Bräu ?? — is quite nice, but it’s still not right. I need to add more orange peel and elderflowers, but there’s something else that isn’t right yet. The Dutch recipes called for the addition of flour (yes, real, normal flour), and perhaps this is the missing ingredient?

I need to get hold of some more Korenwolf bottles, however — my memories of it are becoming too hazy for precise flavour comparisons.

Buchwider Bräu λ₁

Buchwider Bräu ??
Buchwider Bräu ??, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
I wanted to brew something different for a change, and I opted for a real, alcoholic ginger beer.

It was very simple and cheap to make, but the result is extremely dry — you have to be a real ginger beer lover to enjoy it without adding something to it.

However, a dash of lime cordial turns it into a pleasant and refreshing drink, although at 6% it’s not something you should drink too fast!

Pickled green tomatoes

Green tomatoes
Green tomatoes, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
I planted the tomato plants a bit too close together in the greenhouse this year, and the resulting perpetual shade has produced a harvest of 2.7 kg of green tomatoes, but only one single red one!

Fortunately, pickled green tomatoes is one of my favourites, so I spent an hour pickling them yesterday.

Here’s the receipe I used, adapted from this Danish one:

1 kg green tomatoes
2 chillies
2 vanilla pods
300 ml white wine vinegar
300 ml water
400 g sugar

Wash the tomatoes and the chillies and pierce them deeply with a fork.

Split the vanilla pods.

Bring vinegar, water and sugar to the boil and add the chillies and the vanilla pods.

Add one layer of tomatoes and boil them for 5-7 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes.

Put the tomatoes, chillies and vanilla pods into sterilised jars. Top up with the hot liquid, and put the lids on.

Leave for two weeks before eating.