Do you remember the “good old days” when you could call a company and get a real, living breathing person on the other end? In the dim and distant past when the oxymoron, “intelligent systems”, was just a few sparking neurones in some computer programmers head? Today I thought I would share with you a tale of man against machine which left me wondering just what the world was coming to……..
A few days back I had to call a utility company to increase our contracted service and therefore increase the monthly charge we paid. The call was of course answered by a machine with a list of menu options and the associated keys I ought to press to have my call attended to correctly. Of course something always goes wrong and after about half a dozen calls I was no nearer having my monthly charge increased. I spoke to lots of polite agents, all willing to help. Unfortunately of course, as I had gone through to the wrong departments, the agents were unable to help and, of course, they were unable to transfer the call to the right department.
Round about the seventh call I managed to get through to an agent who said they could in fact help. Perhaps my luck had changed? She asked me an exhaustive list of questions and said everything was ready for the change to my contract. She said she was going to switch on the call recorder so that I could confirm the contract changes……. and yes, you guessed it, the line went dead and the changes remained un-confirmed.
This was now a case of man against machine of epic proportions, of a scale only seen in the Terminator films. I was determined to have my contract changed and my bill upped! I called again and again. In the end I have no idea which keys I pressed, but I finally got through to an agent who couldn’t change my contract, but who did know how to beat their intelligent systems! The secret she said was not to press any keys in answer to any of the questions. She said all I had to do was ignore the system completely.
I made another call and did as the lady suggested. No matter how many times the system repeated the question I kept my arms folded and my hands away from the keypad, pressing no buttons at all. Eventually the call went through to a warm body, who asked me a couple of questions and pronounced the contract changed. He had been so quick he actually left me stunned and still holding the handset long after the call had ended. I must admit to having had a certain amount of scepticism, but when the following bill came through it had increased as expected.
So the moral of this story? When asked to press a button, don’t!
So why a diatribe on intelligent systems? Well I received a request to facilitate the translation of my articles on the blog-site. For those of you who need it, you will now see a button down on the left underneath my photograph. It seems to work fairly well, but of course in many ways it is just another intelligent system and now you already know what I think of those…….
Nevertheless many people use these tools, from restaurants looking to have a menu translated to adolescent school kids who think they can get away with submitting a google translated page to their foreign language teacher. For those students reading this and considering doing it this way, I will let you in on a very important secret…… don’t, the teachers, they can tell! They are born with a built-in radar that can detect a fake a mile off.
These systems you see are of course far from intelligent, in fact much of what they do is simply statistically based. This is particularly pertinent when they translate homographs. As I mentioned on in a previous article, “kid” in English invariably gets translated to a word meaning child in another language, for example “niño” in Spanish. But of course “kid” also means a young goat, so don’t be surprised if you see “niño asado” (roast child) instead of roast goat on a menu!
These machines will get better, of course. They will start to add in contextual rules so a lot of these silly mistakes we see now will disappear. But for me a language is much more than a statistical exercise, a language has a life of its own, it has its history and one hopes a future too. When I discover a new word I like to understand a little about its etymology and how its meaning might have changed over time. Words have a life all of their own…… So let’s take a word, a simple word like coney perhaps, and see how life has treated it….…
I first read the word coney in the book “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. At one point our intrepid hobbits catch and eat coney stew. As coney is similar to the Spanish word conejo my first though was that it meant the same, i.e. a rabbit. I was right, but why was I right? Well the word coney arrived in the English language from Latin via Old French. Perhaps it came across the channel with our old friend William in 1066?
Rabbit initially was a young coney. Coney unfortunately fell out of grace, supposedly due to similarities with a colloquial anatomical word that I won’t go into here. So rabbit is now the usual word for Oryctolagus cuniculus and now coney tends to be used by poachers, game-keepers and cooks and refers to a wild rabbit.
So, to cut a long story short, coney’s fall from grace makes it the perfect word for today’s recipe, as it is a dish made with wild rabbits. You can of course use shop-bought rabbit or indeed other meats, for example chicken. It is a simple but delicious dish which I hope you will enjoy:
Serves 2 people
1 Pimiento choricero
3/4 Wild Coney
2 Garlic cloves
This recipe if for wild coney, which takes longer to cook. For farmed coney you can reduce the time the meat is stewing in the liquid before adding the rice..
Open up the pimiento and leave to soak for at least an hour in some water.
Chop the front ¾ of the rabbit into smallish pieces, reserving the hind legs for another day.
Chop the onion and mushrooms.
Break off a couple of garlic cloves but do not peel.
Put a good quantity of oil in a 30cm diameter paella pan or frying pan. Brown the rabbit well and reserve.
Whilst browning the rabbit, cook the liver and lightly fry the garlic. The garlic should feel soft when it is done.
Remove the liver and garlic once cooked. Chop the liver and place into a mortar. Peel the garlic and add to the mortar.
Scrape the flesh from the pimiento choricero and put into the mortar. Just use a knife and gently pare the now soft flesh of the peppers away from the skin.
Put the pimiento flesh in the mortar with the other ingredients.
Mix into a smooth paste adding a little water to help make and thin the sauce.
Once the coney is nicely browned and reserved add in the onion and fry until done.
Mix the liver paste into the vegetable and add water or stock slowly mixing well. Add in a sprig of thyme.
Add the meat back in with just enough water to cover. Cook for 45 minutes turning once half way through.
Add in the rice.
Cook until done, adding water when necessary.
Move the rice the minimum. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then serve in the paella pan.
As you can see from the pictures, I have used just the forelegs of a number of rabbits. I find it easier to use the other cuts for other dishes, holding back the smaller front legs for this particular one.
Although the use of pimientos choriceros is not essential, they do add warmth and colour to the dish. Checking on Amazon, at least in the UK, they sell jars of “Pimiento Choricero en Pulpa”. This is the flesh of the peppers in a paste form and ready to use, so no soaking required! In some area pimientos choriceros are also called “Ñoras”.
For another coney dish, why not try my Soused Coney? Just click here for more details:
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge