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Cruising the net on a sunny afternoon

"In this age of getting what you want and getting it now, the simple pleasure of browsing is often forgotten." Tom Hodgkinson

"watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead." Chuck Palahniuk

So here I am sitting in the garden practising being dead if Chuck Palahnuik is correct - and if he is then maybe death is not so bad. Still it is indeed a worrying thought - that one spends one's life - well most of us - not doing anything meaningful. But then we can't all be creative geniuses, brilliant minds or crusaders. And it's very pleasant sitting out here in the garden cruising the net - not the garden in the photo - that was just outside Lorgues on the French Riviera.

Earlier today I did do something that many would find more meaningful - a long walk back from the shops - so exercise. Exercise and sport is always seen as a good thing isn't it? But the majority of my time has been spent very pleasantly browsing the net looking for something to cook for the family feast on Sunday when it will be very hot - 37 degrees we are currently being told. As my son said - that's serious heat. And I will come back to that - the family feast.

First though one of those little things that you pick up when you browse the net. Or should I say surf the net? Did you know that the term surfing the net was invented by a librarian? Her name was Jean Armour Polly and she wrote an article Surfing the Internet in the University of Minnesota Wilson Library Bulletin. Apparently the first time the expression was used - and she describes her choice of words thus:

"I wanted something that expressed the fun I had using the internet, as well as hit on the skill, and yes, endurance necessary to use it well. I also needed something that would evoke a sense of randomness, chaos, and even danger. I wanted something fishy, net-like, nautical."

I found this little piece of, I suppose trivial information, whilst looking for a suitable picture to illustrate today's exercise. I began by looking for 'cruising the net' but that just brought up a whole lot of stuff about cruising - on boats that is. So I tried browsing, but they were all boring and mostly people who were obviously working and looking for something specific. Occasionally the surfing metaphor popped up however, so I transferred to that, which resulted in many more imaginative but very male oriented and - yes - dangerous, even dark images. The one I chose is the best one I thought, because it also hinted at a keyboard, and the figure on the surfboard is also not real.

So do you cruise, browse or surf or even play or search? I didn't look for play or search, as they are connected to very specific activities.

Cruising implies pleasure and a kind of laziness really, which is perhaps why I began with that word. For although I obviously had search words which tried to be specific - I was actually just enjoying drifting around and occasionally digressing. Sometimes dipping into more information, sometimes going completely offtrack. Yes just drifting.

Browsing is also a bit vague, but with the intimation that if you browse enough you will find something unexpected but wonderful - the perfect book in a bookshop is, of course the obvious metaphor:

"True browsing means that we discover shelves and subjects that we could not have anticipated when we started. And the books we read introduce us to other books, as if we are at a magnificent party of the mind, being ever welcomed by new friends to join in the conversation." Ramona Koval

I confess I don't join in conversations on the net, although I do sometimes enjoy dipping into them on sites such as Reddit and Quora. Mostly the conversations you come across are pretty mindless however.

And here is an aside which is nothing to do with any of this, but inspired by the word conversation. You may have noticed that the Comments section at the bottom of my posts has disappeared. I tried to work out why today but failed. I shall persevere. Wix seems to have changed the format to something utterly confusing. And I have also added a Related Posts section at the end of each post - a sort of 'You might also like ..." thing. Just for a change. Maybe that's what messed up the comments.

Back to cruising, browsing and surfing. Surfing. It simultaneously signals to me playing, liberation, competition and also danger - and yes, skill. A much more active thing although, again simultaneously, completely at the mercy of the elements - in this case Google and what it throws up for you.

So what was I actually vaguely looking for? Well, as I said, the family are coming for dinner on Sunday - hopefully to tell us about all their travels - but it's going to be 37 degrees, so what to cook? Well really I don't want to cook at all, and David certainly won't want me to. So I need to find something that can be cooked/prepared in advance and served cold. Salad I suppose.

I am not a salad fan, but nevertheless I do see the point of going for something previously prepared, or requiring no cooking on the day. Even barbecuing is not a good idea in 37 degree heat. I thought Mr. Ottolenghi would probably have something - and indeed he does. In fact I found what I am probably going to present as the main dish straight away: Saffron chicken and herb salad. There were an enormous number of people who had tried it and raved about it, so this is definitely my centrepiece. I can even hive off a small portion of it and add halloumi, or tofu to it for my vegetarian granddaughter. And most of it can be done in advance.

However, I continued looking, just in case. We do that don't we? I'm reminded of a couple of attempts at new home searching - for my mother and also for us currently. You're looking for a house - the first one you see is just about perfect, but you can't quite believe it's the one and so you miss out. Not that you miss out in the same way with food. And even though I had found my perfect dish I did continue looking.

Initially my search was very Ottolenghi focussed which brought me to a delicious. selection of recipes - 64 of them inspired by the week that Ottolenghi appeared on Masterchef. Some of them were from Ottolenghi himself but most were in the 'inspired by category'. I'm guessing that someone at delicious. trawled through their library and came up with the list. And there were some yummy looking things in there, some of them not at all relevant to me right now, but I printed a couple out for another time. The main dish for Sunday options were:

Peperonata and spaghettini frittata with harissa cream - Belinda Jefferey - too much cooking involved I fear; Caramelised sprout and red onion tarte tatin - Jamie Oliver - ditto and not good for a crowd; Toss and bake baklava chicken wings - Sam Parrish (Coutts) and Roasted brassicas with puy lentils and halloumi - Jamie Oliver, which I may well make for my vegetarian girl. The others are for another day however.

Having more or less decided on the main dish I then pondered on the supporting salads - something vaguely carbohydrate, something vegetable and here I have to say Ottolenghi really starred - in fact apart from George Calombaris' Carrot tzatziki - a dip for starters?; the rest are Ottolenghi - even the Ottolenghi's green bean salad which Nagi Maehashi of Recipe Tin Eats reproduced for us all. Though I have a feeling I may have tried this before and was a bit disappointed - even though lots of others rave about it. I have definitely made his Grilled vegetables with mustard and parmesan dressing before and it is wonderful and also great for large numbers. Then there was Couscous with tomato and onion - too much cooking on the day perhaps; Rice salad with nuts and sour cherries (you can substitute cranberries in lemon juice for the sour cherries) and Sweetcorn and avocado with sweet chilli and lime sauce. So many choices, so many differently delicious tastes.

For starters I might do the Curtis Stone melon salad that I have done before and I have no idea what to do for dessert. Some kind of cake probably. More happy browsing to come.

So yes, I have had a very pleasant afternoon cruising around the net, looking forward to delicious things to come even if, yet again, it's heavily Ottolenghi biased. Although there's that nagging doubt about practising for death, and this rather superior thought as well.

"in the 21st century, when we're used to clicking and browsing and having constant choice, painting simply sits there silently and begs you to notice the smallest of detail." Kehinde Wiley

Should I have just gone to an art gallery? Or. I could have cruised the art world on the net.


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