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November 09, 2011

Penny Arcade on adventurous eating in Skyrim

To say that I'm "excited" for Bethesda's Skyrim is to understate it quite a fucking lot. I actually went out and bought my original Xbox just so I could play their Morrowind game. That was the entire purpose of that hulking black box to me: it was a Morrowind machine. Their follow-ups--Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas--stand as three of my top ten games ever. There is a thing that Bethesda does, a lushly-drawn world full of humor and pathos and quests thing, that is petty much the apogee of gaming to my reptile mind. On the Bartle breakdown I am an Explorer/Achiever, roughly 90/10 split. And Bethesda's games are built for people who crave exploration with the occasional palate cleanser of terrible violence. Skyrim is their newest outing. It drops on 11-11-11, a rare Friday release for a game. So basically you shouldn't even think about trying to talk to me this weekend. If you want to know where I am, I'm in Tamriel slaying fucking dragons. Penny Arcade - Their Name Means Big
With Skyrim only a couple days away, and your evenings likely engaged in some kind of military or paramilitary conflict around the (digital) globe, you might not have had the opportunity to prepare yourself mentally for the rigors of an entire simulated life in Tamriel. Fear not. We are, as ever, your servants. For me, the greatest pleasure has been seeing my long-time collaborator play it. I had a hard time getting him into the last one, and his lack of affection for things is communicable. But The Cycle is complete now, it doesn’t need to be refreshed; he doesn’t need perpetual coaxing to play amazing games, which was once the case. He had moderate to severe art challenges with Oblivion: the faces, which were previously made by melting tallow over a wooden substrate, now look like the sort of thing we associate with living beings. But, it’s like… “amazing faces” wasn’t the draw. The draw is that you can do things like contract vampirism, and become a vampire. What he’s getting now is a case study in the difference between a sandbox and an open world. Gus Mastrapa’s “Things I Ate In Skyrim” is a well rendered account, a piece about eating which is savory in its own right, but you might be surprised to find during your own play through that you spend most of the game with a bit of butterfly wing poking out of your mouth. Cities tend to have something particular about them ecologically, which means new things to eat, and new things to eat means new things to learn about their alchemical properties, which are often injurious. It’s true! Every strange root you find isn’t something you should (strictly speaking) eat. But you will. The way it usually happens is that I will roll into town in the middle of the night, and pick the entire place over for bugs and herbs I’ve never seen before. Then, I’ll stand in the town’s central fountain, eat everything at once, and trip my fucking balls off.

November 08, 2011

How To: Make Your Own Sea Salt

How To Make Sea Salt — Eating Rules
I gather water with medium-sized, rectangular, lidded coolers. Round drink coolers are buoyant and difficult to shove down in the surf, and 5-gallon water jugs don’t have a big enough opening to gather seawater effectively. To avoid silt, it’s a good idea to walk out into the surf as far as your constitution will allow. Better yet, collect by boat. After you’ve schlepped your water home, rack it, just like wine, for a few days. That means leave the cooler untouched in a cool place, so that all the sediment and salt particles sink to the bottom. Next, siphon the clean water into a large cauldron. I use a canning pot. Do not siphon the bottom inch or so, as that contains impure sediment. Place the cauldron over low heat on the stovetop. Ideally the water should never go over 170�F, and whatever you do, DON’T BOIL IT — that will ruin the crystal structure. If you’re processing five-gallon batches, it may take a day or two to evaporate, but keep an eye on it. Once the water level drops to a few inches, crystals will start to form. At this point, I like to remove the pot from heat and carefully (so as not to compromise the crystal structure) pour the water into a wide, shallow pan. If it’s sunny enough, I will do the final evaporation in my light-filled window box. If it’s midwinter, I give up on the notion of sun-dried salt and evaporate it in the oven, stirring gently every once in a while, with the oven at the lowest setting. This method produces better crystals because it provides more even evaporation than the stovetop. I resist over-evaporation because it weakens the flavor. Instead, I let the last of the water drip out of the salt by placing it in a tamis (ideally) or shallow sieve for a few days.