Tag Archives: cookery

Critical Path Analysis – and all the trimmings

I don’t suppose John Lennon had Christmas dinner in mind when he wrote Come Together, the opening track of the Abbey Road album. But it’s the song that I found myself singing all the way through the process of cooking our festive feast (my turn …) this year.

p1020889The challenge is to get all the food, piping hot, onto all the plates at exactly the same time – an unreachable goal, of course, but an ideal that we strive to attain in the true tradition of Man’s enquenchable desire to control the natural world.

I tend to think of cooking Christmas dinner as a problem of project management. It’s all about planning, using estimates, making assumptions and peeling sprouts. It’s a situation in which I try to apply a touch of the old Critical Path Analysis, mostly unconsciously, but always with it in the back of my mind.

I remember first finding out about CPA (as we exponents routinely refer to it) in an edition of Reader’s Digest (still, by the way, the largest circulating magazine in the world), when I was a boy. In some respects, Reader’s Digest was our equivalent of the smartphone, as many people would be seen with their heads bowed, swiping through its A5 pages, oblivious to the world around them.

It featured all sorts of interesting stuff like updates on space technology (asking questions such as “Will Man ever walk on the Moon?“), “The Challenge of the Desert” and (a regular favourite) “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power“. One of the most popular strands was an analysis of what happens in a car accident. In the cover below, you’ll see the 1957 story headline “Slow Motion Picture of Death on the Road“.

readersdigest

Articles on this specific theme were included very often, providing readers with a gory, millisecond-by-millisecond analysis of what happens to “Gerald” (say) as his cracking forehead begins to pass through the ever-so-slowly shattering windscreen. There’s an example of this kind of thing in this classic reprint, the original published even before my time.

But I digress.

One such fascinating piece was about Critical Path Analysis, and it included all kinds of thought-provoking advice on how to plan the timings of a project so that everything “comes together” on time. And now, of course, it comes in so useful in situations such as cooking Christmas dinner.

cpa280I got up especially early on the day, and began planning my approach. Clearly getting the turkey underway early enough was of “critical” importance. So I immediately built that event into my CPA plan. Next I analysed the time differentials involved in peeling the potatoes, parsnips and swede, allowing a suitable period for key elements such as the relative time:space in the oven:temperature variation quotient.

onnode

In a matter of a few hours I was able to see that the project was coming together really well. I allotted some fast tracking variables to creating the gravy pathway, prior to building in an Activity-on-node diagram, showing my revised critical path schedule, along with total float and critical path drag computations. With the project planning nearly complete, I prepared a PERT chart insert to ensure that the pudding arrived at exactly the right time.

With all planning documentation, drag factor diagrams and PERT scheduling completed successfully by 1.00pm, I began unwrapping the turkey.

 

 

Image credit: on-node analysis – By NuggetkiwiOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Sage scrunching for pleasure and profit

Many people are put off making their own dried sage because they think the process involved is too complex.

Admittedly it does require the application of certain techniques which can at first seem daunting, in terms of picking the herb, sticking it in the oven and then scrunching up the baked leaves.

But if the actual methodology can be mastered, the thrill and satisfaction one finds in the actual scrunching of the actual baked sage leaves themselves is actually one of the actual delights of actual modern living.

Ingredients

100 sage leaves

These are normally found on sage plants and can be easily picked by grabbing the sage bush and pulling them off. This can be done either individually or by the handful – use whichever method you find suitable. If your goal is to make large quantities of dried sage, consider the use of garden shears or, if you decide on preparing particularly large quantities, consider hiring a fleet of combine harvesters.

sage bush

Recipe

Lay out the sage leaves on a baking tray. Personally I prefer a herringbone pattern, allowing the heat to pass gently over the leaves, which experience no pain but are simply sent to sleep as they rest on the tray. I know some people use zigzag patterns or a kind of Jackson Pollock approach – these have their merits and so it may be worth experimenting.

tray

The next stage is to put the tray, along with the leaves pre-positioned on it, into the oven. I know from previous experience that omitting this stage produces quite poor results.

The oven needs to be pre-heated to 80 degrees Centigrade, or 194 Kilometres in metric measurement.

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Leave the sage in the oven for roughly sixty minutes to an hour.

Sage is used throughout industry in many important processes. In the chemical industry, Sage_HQfor instance, it is added to people’s baked potatoes in the Baked Potato Making process of staff canteens. The world of accountancy is almost entirely dependent on the herb, of course. And not many people realise that sage is a key constituent of the sage and onion stuffing that we all know so well.

After 3,600 seconds, the sage should be ready.

baked

On removal from the oven, you’ll notice that the leaves have shrunk and twisted. This is nothing to be depressed about! Life’s too short – there are far more important problems in life than a few baked sage leaves. Try to think positively. Lighten up. What about those poor migrants?

After the leaves have cooled down, the scrunching process can begin. If you’re a novice, it may be worth organising a test scrunch using a side plate and a couple of sample leaves. Once you have mastered the technique, scrunching proper can begin.

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As you can see from the above picture, the scrunching process is now in full swing. At the end of all this, a complete dish of scrunched sage is produced.

Here’s one I prepared earlier …

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Although it has a very similar appearance, it in fact tastes far better than that stuff you get when you empty out your Hoover bag.

Now comes the question: “How do I store my sage?”. My ‘sagestion’ (get it??!) is to use a Tesco‘s sage jar. Empty out all the sage that’s already in the jar and replace it with your own.

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Serving suggestion: try dried sage on your cornflakes, first thing in the morning, for a really unusual start to the day.

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