Cheeseburger Gothic

This pasta will end me

Posted February 2 by John Birmingham

I have a shameful secret. Well, it's shameful to me. I go to restaurants and I order the same things over and over again. The chicken and pork ragu at Vine. The Roman carbonara at Enoteca. The lamb kebabs at The Lamb Shop. Seriously, I eat a lot of fucking lamb kebabs. Sometimes with chips.

But it's that fucking fettuccine carbonara at Enoteca that's gonna kill me. Not by clamping my heart in a deliciously creamy stranglehold and squeezing until it explodes – although there is a fair chance of that – but more likely through frustration.

When I lived in Sydney I used to have fettuccine carbonara three or four times a week at a cheap trattoria in King's Cross. It wasn't silver service dining, but it was pretty good, and reasonably priced at a time when I couldn't afford much more than cheap pasta. Fast forward a couple of decades and the Roman variation served up at Enoteca in the Woolloongabba dining precinct is a revelation. About three times more expensive for starters, but so good I can't get past it, and they can't take it off the menu. Motherfuckers got cut last time they tried.

But because I can't afford to eat there every night, and because it's supposed to be a simple dish, I've tried recreating it at home. The restaurant guys have even talked me through how to do it. It should be ridiculously easy. You boil up some fettuccine, natch. Choose your porkalicious protein, I usually go for smoked speck, which I gently fry in a pan while the fettuccine is cooking. The pasta comes off the boil and get strained. A couple of eggs, sometimes more depending on the size of the meal, are gently folded through, say, a minute after the pasta has come out of the water – otherwise you're a fair chance of scrambling the eggs in the heat. Toss through the chopped up smoky pigmeat. grind over some fresh parmesan. Plate that bad boy up.

It's delish, honestly, even when I do it at home. But I'll be damned if I can get my carbonara to the same thick, heart stopping consistency as the restaurant’s. Seriously. Theirs is not even a sauce. It's more like a gravy. I normally program a couple of hours high-intensity interval training before I eat there and then, like a bear in winter, I don't eat again for months afterwards.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. There is just… something… missing. And I cannot rest until I find out what it is.

10 Responses to ‘This pasta will end me’

Oldy mutters...

Posted February 2
Vegeta? Often the difference between "yum" and "wow"

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted February 2
I'm think I should have added some pasta water.

Respond to this thread

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 2
I'd beat together the eggs with cooking cream and fold that through. I'm sure it's a healthier option. Dairy, right?

Respond to this comment

Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted February 2
add a little of cheese/parmazan to the meat and gravy and let that simmer for a few minutes. I think that is the trick.

Respond to this comment

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 2
This sounds amazing.

Respond to this comment

balders puts forth...

Posted February 4
try adding an extra egg yoke or two and some Parmesan and make sure that there is still some fat in the bottom of the pan from cooking the speck

Respond to this comment

Leftarc ducks in to say...

Posted February 4
Add a little bit of the water from the pasta, has all that gluten in there to thicken up the sauce.

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted February 5
These are all excellent ideas. I will have to eat a lot more of this pasta to try them out.

Respond to this comment

Naut ducks in to say...

Posted February 5
Have you been here http://www.kalimerasouvlakiart.com.au/?

If you haven't, happy to take you next time you are in Melbs.

Respond to this comment

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted February 5
All this talk of pasta is driving me crazy. My better half has to cut gluten out of her diet (medical reasons) and this has flowed on to the rest of us. I tried making gluten free lasagne the other night. The flour just doesn't work the same. RIP (Rest In Pasta)

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'This pasta will end me'

Del Rey Challenge Coin

Posted February 1 by John Birmingham

Sometimes publishers send you things. Usually books. But my publishers sent me this cool 'challenge' coin for Christmas. As the text explains, challenge coins have been given as tokens of 'valor, service and camaraderie' since Roman times. Legionaires who'd proved themsevles particularly stabby on the battlefield got an exta coin in their pay pouch at the end of the week.

Apparently some military units still gift their members with special one-off coins, and the soldier who cannot produce their coin when challenged is up for an expensive round of drinks.

Del Rey's heavy coin of solid black Adamantium was minted solely for Del Rey's authors and the letter professes that it is given as emblem of the comradeship of the house and in appreciation for our work.

But just quietly, to get one you have to straight up murder at least two authors from Baen Books first.

12 Responses to ‘Del Rey Challenge Coin’

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
In an age of disappearing publishing houses and the sense that just to be published is an honour and a privilege, it makes sense for publishers to expand their operations into complementary industries like covert assassinations, and cross skilling their authors to contribute to both business models. Handing out sexy black coins would be a fairly cost effective way of identifying the more, shall we say, productive authors....

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted February 1
This triggered an idea for JB’s next airport novel to replace the City and the Tribe. A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other. An up and coming author gets their first book contract, only to discover that in order to be published they’ll have to train to become an assassin, and they’re horrified to discover that the world’s deadliest woman is a beloved children’s book author. The new author gets teamed up with a world weary international super author/assassin who writes books about ‘splosions and is renowned for his research and the realism of his fight scenes, but what the critics think is fiction is based on his exploits in his secret shadow career.

“Just be grateful you got recruited by Del Rey,” Birmingham murmured into his whiskey glass. “They just give you a black coin once you’ve made you bones taking out a couple of authors from Baen. Those psychos at Hachette take your pets and your family members hostage until you’ve earned your book royalties back.”

The ageing assassinauthor leaned back in his armchair and smoothed the lapel of his smoking jacket. “And leave the cooking book people alone. Christ, they make the stabby happy jerks at Simon & Schuster look well adjusted. Never trust someone who can poison you a thousand different ways AND has the tools to carve you up like a Christmas ham. They get worse when they cross genres too. The shit the Sales and Crabb team have pulled over the years…. I didn’t want any of this. I wanted to be a serious writer, creating dissertations on the fracturing of society as we know it. Instead I write airport novels where I’ve destroyed the world in six different ways, all with a contractually obligated number of explosions, in between book tours where I’m inhuming tinpot dictators and wannabe supervillains and dodging the freelance hitters at Amazon.”

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted February 1
"A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other."

Jesus Christ.

How are you not in charge of Random House already?

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted February 1
I'm sure if you flashed your challenge coin around your fellow Del Rey authors we could get a hit squad together to arrange an "accident" for the incumbent at Random House and get moving on this :P

HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Did somebody intimate violence?

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted February 1
I'm very excited by this.

Dirk puts forth...

Posted February 2
One word and Dan Brown sleeps with the fishes ...

WarDog swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 2
OK, I'm hooked, what's the release date? I think it would be a real writing challenge to keep it fresh past book 2.

Respond to this thread

ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted February 1
Poul Anderson and Bob Asprin never saw it coming.

Respond to this comment

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
I suppose you'll have to keep it about your person at all times, just in case there's a random book deal or some such. No pun intended.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
None taken, guvnor.

Respond to this thread

jl asserts...

Posted February 1
This means I need to carry a coin with me everywhere now. In the past I'd only have one on Memorial Day or something.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Del Rey Challenge Coin'

Free martinis

Posted February 1 into House keeping by John Birmingham

The post below is an extract from The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis, the anthology I collected over two years of writing Alien Side Boob. But specifically the non ranty, non political bits. Looking back, they're my favourites.

Because I've grown so weary and sick in my soul of social media, I'm making a real effort to pour the energy I would've spent composing tweets or drooling thru Facebook (not a typo) into slowly renovating the ol' blog here.

I like the idea of a quiet clubhouse where I can retreat from the madness of the online world. And I gotta feeling I might not be alone. So although I've published Martinis as a book—Kindle exclusive for now, so its free for KU readers—I'll be running a piece here every now and then. Partly to pimp the book, but mostly to warm up the joint.

I get so little joy from Twitter anymore. And I've pretty much always hated Facebook. Opening those sites and apps feels like compuslive self abuse, and not the good kind.

So pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and get cozy. But observe the one and only house rule. Be awesome to each other.

11 Responses to ‘Free martinis’

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted February 1
Good to see you Mr Birmingham, things have been awfully dull around here... Now you're on this, I hope we are going to see some gratuitous sex and violence.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
Never Say Never Again.

Excellent film.

Respond to this thread

Leftarc asserts...

Posted February 1
Good to see you back in the saddle JB.
Whilst I enjoy a short, pithy snark as much as the next person, watching you dismember a topic or person limb by limb (sorry, watched Kill Bill this morning) in the long form is something to savour.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 1
I fkn SECOND BARNES'S FKN MOTION. I for one find the OTHER fkn worlds out there to be all of the above and somewhat more. Actually, a FKN LOT FKN MORE to be honest! And when I say that, I mean, full of the unwashed, tree huggin, lets slap somebody within an inch for a small comment, lets get angry and protest, lets not fk about, buut be PC and fear to tread ANYFKNWHERE!

Respond to this comment

DarrenBloomfield is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
Hazzuh! Normal service has been resumed.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted February 1
Um, when you mention the house rule, is that with the same " intent" as the house rule at the former CBG Smack Down, octagon that was eighty versions of pure fkn awesome? Just trying to qualify what ya sayin.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted February 1
We all know the rules don't apply to you.

Respond to this thread

tqft has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
In a fit of efficiency a few weeks back I added the burger to the list of startup sites.
I could add it to my rss feed script but that almost guarantees not being read.

To ditch twitter or not, I don't know. If I had a life outside of work I might.

Respond to this comment

jason has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
I may be missing something here. Exactly where do i get the free martini. It's 5 o'clock on a Friday so a casual libation would be appreciated.

Respond to this comment

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Hell, I might have to resurrect The Pondering Tree.

Then again, I might want to work on some new fiction first.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Yes, you might.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Free martinis'

This, too, Conan finds best

Posted February 1 into Funny by John Birmingham

"Conan, what is best in life?"

To make the yellow light at the intersection with but a fraction of a second to spare, then to savour expressions of your enemies, the other, lesser drivers as they are bathed in the loathsome flash of the red light camera.

Conan, please, what is best in life?
To see a close friend stumble in public, to almost fall, and to regain his footing but only at the cost of great embarrassment. This. This is best. Most especially the embarrassment, but also the clumsiness.

Come now, Conan.
It is also best to find twenty dollars folded into your pocket. Not less, for there is little one can do with less. Not more, for with great riches, or fifty dollars, comes great responsibility. To accidentally find and wantonly spend twenty dollars is indeed best.

Conan, what is best in life?
Not the Celebrity Retweet, but the envy of your closest friends at your Celebrity Retweet.

Conan, is that really what’s best in life?
For Conan there is also pleasure to be had in the awkward, slightly uncomfortable moment when another must hold the door open longer than usual so that I might pass through.

Conan?
If the door is the entrance to a crowded restaurant or bar, and your long and awkward approach is long enough that a table opens up directly in front of you as you enter? This, this too is best in life. For some reason, greater pleasure is to be had in subterranean venues.

But what is truly best in life, Conan?
I speak true when I say that to freeze frame the TV just as your enemy is blinking so as to appear in the throes of a stroke, perhaps brought on by an explosive and unexpected end to a prolonged bout of constipation, this is best.

Conan, what is truly-ruly best?
To have a water balloon fight with small children in which your superior reach, speed and throw weight allows you to utterly drench them while you yourself remain dry.

Any more, Conan?
To drive one’s wagon to market, and pull into a parking space at the exact moment the wagon immediately in front of you pulls out, allowing you to claim the pull through slot and ultimately to drive away without the inconvenience of reversing, that is best in life.

Conan, is that seriously what is best in life?
The crusty edge on a muffin top also pleases Conan.

You’ve changed, Conan.
Conan does not change, not for mere pleasure, unless it is into a fleecy track suit, fresh from the warm cycle of the clothes dryer. This too Conan finds best.

Conan, there must be more than this.
Only the look on someone’s face as the elevator door closes with them still outside and Conan within, smiling, victorious.

From The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis.

6 Responses to ‘This, too, Conan finds best’

jl has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
This was one of the very best from ASB. I laughed so hard I cried.

Respond to this comment

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Yeah, nice.

On the parking, while I still had to suffer the indignity of reversing, I did manage to arrive at the right time to grab a parking spot as someone left, in an otherwise completely busy supermarket car park, and after someone else, who appeared to have been driving around looking for a spot, possibly for some time, gave way to me. That was best, and surprisingly guilt free.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon reckons...

Posted February 1
oh dear god. That is evil. I dread that situation so much that when i build a time machine it won't be to kill baby hitler, it will be to make sure automobiles are never invented so that this situation (the person giving way) will never happen to me. Sure, saving all those people that had died through history due to automobile accidents is just a completed side quest.

Respond to this thread

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
My only regret about the closure of ASB is that JB never wrote an article on Conan vs The Microsoft Security.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted February 1
Oh man...

she_jedi asserts...

Posted February 1
IT'S NOT TOO LATE! #Justsayin'

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'This, too, Conan finds best'

The Stand. A ten part TV series

Posted January 31 into Telly by John Birmingham

CBS has green lit the latest adaptation of the King's masterwork. A ten part, one-off series for its streaming service. The golden age of TV can't last, but it's got a few years left to run it seems.

One of the writer/producers, Josh Boone, tells a great story about coming to the work as a young boy.

“I read The Stand under my bed when I was 12, and my Baptist parents burned it in our fireplace upon discovery,” Boone said. “Incensed, I stole my dad’s FedEx account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work. Several weeks later, I came home to find a box had arrived from Maine, and inside were several books, each inscribed with a beautiful note from god himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.”

6 Responses to ‘The Stand. A ten part TV series’

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted January 31
That anecdote gave me ALL THE FEELS! Also, I'm very excited about a new adaption of the Stand, especially in this golden age of TV.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 31
I know rite!?!

Respond to this thread

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted January 31
Wonderful book. Awesome news with a little trepidation around doing it right.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted January 31
The guy in charge sounds like a fan, which will probably work out okay.

Respond to this thread

jason puts forth...

Posted February 1
No offence John but The Stand is probably my favourite book in the genre. I cannot wait for this to hit my screen.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted February 1
None taken. Mine too.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'The Stand. A ten part TV series'

Polar Vortex explainer

Posted January 31 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Perhaps because we're roasting through another brutal summer down here, I'm all in on the polar vortex over in the US. If you've ever wondered how it all works, the New York Times has a cool infographic thingy right here.

15 Responses to ‘Polar Vortex explainer’

jl puts forth...

Posted January 31
Ah, the polar vortex. -2F/-19C on my front porch right now. Wind chills -25F/-32C. And that's a joke next to Minnesota or something.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted January 31
I saw reports today that Chicago is colder than Antarctica. I can't even.

jl ducks in to say...

Posted January 31
Yeah, I heard the same thing. This is hell.

jason mumbles...

Posted February 1
Time to migrate to Australia. We don't even have the minus symbol in our weather department.

jl ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Believe me, I've given it thought.

Respond to this thread

FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted January 31
Got a mate living out Ann Arbor way and he sent me a pic of his car dashboard -23C with the words "the sun isn't even down yet". He did a 30sec dash to his car and said in that time his fingers felt like they were going to drop off. It gets cold where i live in the mountains - maybe a bit of snow a couple of times a year. But quite frankly i think he'd call my winter "shorts weather"

Respond to this comment

FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted January 31
Got a mate living out Ann Arbor way and he sent me a pic of his car dashboard -23C with the words "the sun isn't even down yet". He did a 30sec dash to his car and said in that time his fingers felt like they were going to drop off. It gets cold where i live in the mountains - maybe a bit of snow a couple of times a year. But quite frankly i think he'd call my winter "shorts weather"

jl has opinions thus...

Posted January 31
Ann Arbor is 8 hours north of me, so they are catching it. It was the weirdest thing today. The sun was shining brightly, and the thermometer dropped all day, sun or not. This morning it was 15F, by sunset it was -2F.

Respond to this thread

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 31
Otherwise known as, "Just another fucking winter in Missouri."

jl would have you know...

Posted January 31
Ah c'mon, Murph, this is pretty cold!

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted January 31
Meh. Not really.

Respond to this thread

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted January 31
Then again, I have more snivel gear at 47 than I did at 19 in KSA.

Respond to this comment

jl puts forth...

Posted January 31
-21C here this morning. Close to a record.

Respond to this comment

Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted February 1
Dare I mention the arse baking heat we had here in Bondi yesterday? I dare - it was 39C until the southerly blew in and knocked it down to the early 20s. Even the ocean was 21C. As for this polar vortex....I get cold just reading about it.

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Send it to Missouri please.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Polar Vortex explainer'