Travelling Lady’s Cookbook, chapter 9

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(chapter VII has also been updated with a steamy bit I failed to copy across earlier)

IX
Goose Fat and Garlic

In the hills of southern France
She found the chance
For wild romance —
She joined the dance

xxxThe traveller Tredwell was not acquainted with the works of the poet Nugent. She wasn’t even sure that the poet Nugent existed. On the evidence of her book’s epigraph, she hoped not.

At first she adored
Les villes de Périgord
But the more she explored,
The more she felt bored

xxx“That’s at least as good. Or as bad,” she thought, as she scribbled her own ditty. “Elspeth Nugent, eat your heart out.”
xxxShe worried that she was probably being unfair on the southern French region. She’d never been to Périgord and wasn’t sure she could point it out on a map. She reckoned she was as close to it as she’d be getting on this trip, both geographically and gastronomically. But she had the idea it would be a rural, not to say bucolic paradise for some, if a bit lacking in stimulation for a city-loving culture-vulture like herself.
xxxThat being said, the people of Périgord (Périgordians? Périgordites?) were apparently among the longest-lived in the world. Or perhaps, she thought, with so little entertainment, it just seems longer.
xxxMuch of their longevity was attributed to their diet, particularly the huge quantities of goose fat and garlic it contained. And that, said Eppy, can be obtained most anywhere, not just in the controversial capital of foie gras d’oie. Still by the lazy river (though more wary of passing boatmen), still on her island near the town and a short train ride from the big city, she could cook and old favourite, with a dash of the Montrachet, and still have enough wine to accompany it.
xxxSlow simmering was needed — for food and lovers, she thought with a wry smile. If all he missed about her was the sight of her boobs and minge, he could go without the rest for a day or two. On the other hand, if garlic is an aphrodisiac, this dish could lead to serious frustration. To be on the safe side she limited herself to two plump and pungent cloves.
xxxThe star of the show was large, thick, juicy côtelet de porc, known back home as a gradely pork chop, with half a kidney nestling in its arc. After rubbing it all over with one cut clove, she made a number of nicks made with the sharp end of her knife, into which she inserted tiny slivers cut from the aromatic segments. Lightly sprinkled then it was with salt and freshly ground black pepper, rubbed in with a coating of olive oil, through which her fingers slid over the lubricious flesh, as she told herself to stop being silly, for the action and thoughts of the garlic’s alleged effects turned her thoughts in salacious but unwelcome directions.
xxxPotatoes. Po – tay – toes. Potatoes are not remotely sexy, she told herself. Put on some dance music and peel a potato. Then chop it into small cubes and salt it.

When I wake up to a brand new day
It makes me happy, it makes me feel that way

xxxThe only thing getting turned on in this kitchen is a pair of gas burners on the hob. And those on only a low heat.

I bring the sunshine; I bring the stars at night
You know I’ll be there to make you feel alright

xxxHer shuffling phone having selected some Nineties house choons, she bopped her way round the kitchen, stopping in one place long enough to dig out a small and large le Creuset skillet. Once on the heat each was treated to a generous spoonful of goose fat, which slipped and slid around as it melted. Into the large pan went the cutlet, while its smaller companion played host to the potato cubes and some thinly and rapidly-sliced (because almost-forgot) onion. The second clove of garlic, roughly but finely chopped, was divided between the two pans.

And when you’re down just listen to me boy
You can count on me ’cause I will bring you Joy

xxxNo vampires would be sinking their teeth into Epifanea’s neck tonight. Or probably for the rest of the month.

Gonna bring you Joy
Gonna bring you Joy

xxxFive minutes later, she turned over the chop and gave the potatoes a gentle stir. As Keith Flint invited her to smack his bitch up, an invitation she politely declined, she reopened the wine and poured herself a generous glass.
xxxAnd some for you, she said to the meat, tipping in just enough to moisten the base of the pan. The goose fat and the juices from the meat were in themselves enough to produce a jus, if not quite a gravy; the wine just contributed a little more flavour and lighten the texture. Moving the potatoes around one more time was a prelude to turning both rings down as low as they would go without being extinguished and covering each with a well-fitting lid.
xxxIn twenty minutes or so she would stir once more what a tiresome search of the internet had finally revealed to be pommes sarladaise; until now she’d only known it as a French version of its olive oil based Spanish cousin, patatas pobres. That stirring done, a handful of pitted green olives would be added to the chops, when they were turned for one last time. And not long after that she would boil some sugar snap peas and check the sauce with the meat, adding a dash more wine if need be, while she topped up her glass in preparation for the serving and the enjoying, which would be accompanied by the more soothing sounds of a Mozart piano concerto.
xxxBut while she waited to perform these actions, she stood on the veranda looking out at the river; though now respectably clad in shorts and a tee shirt, she kept a wary eye out for vulgar boatmen while she sipped on her wine and imagined his frustration at having his messages ignored.
xxxAnother one vibrated her muted phone. Idly she looked at it.

If you want to win me round that sort of pic is not the way to do it.
‘I show you mine, now show me yours’, is pathetic, even by your standards!

xxx— she thought, but did not reply. Boyfriends, like pork chops, sometimes need to simmer in their own juice.

 

 

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Smörgåsbord för Alla: Den Resande Damen Fortsätter

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VIII
Smörgåsbord/Mezze/Dim Sum/Tapas/Buffet

There is, she realised, a kind of vagueness now, in both wanderings and diet. When he’d asked what’s on the menu, she’d replied, “Oh, just stuff — bits, and probably bobs too.”
xxxMost countries and cultures have names for a table of nibbles, as snacks between meals or as what some nutritionists call a structured food event. Even the British now, she mused, must have moved well away from the three square meals a day pattern.
xxxEven so, it will always be unusual for someone on their own to take the time and trouble to lay out a spread like this. In an attempt to vanquish the idea that a disorganised set of disparate dishes bespoke a disordered life, she told herself she had to express the whimsical and unconventional side of her nature, her right-brain creativity, a personality that thought outside pretty much all of the boxes.
And boxes there were, and bags too; even sachets, whose interesting ready-made dressings had caught her eye.
xxxWhile she hadn’t been set on any one dish, she did find herself drawn to a few luxurious eats — and drinks. In fact it was yesterday’s bottle of Bâtard-Montrachet that called out to her first and got her credit card primed for action. Having decided to waive all financial constraints for a day, it was but a small step to the small block of foie gras, studded with pieces of black truffle.
xxxA large glass of said wine had accompanied the delicate, gingery freshness of the previous night’s stir-fry, a simple matter of frying a smashed clove of garlic in a drop of ground nut oil, flinging in sliced red pepper, and then the squid and prawns and stirring them around under a very small splash of the wine and drizzles of soy sauce and sesame oil. Finishing with halved cherry tomatoes and spring onions sliced obliquely, had made a dish as colourful as it was tasty, served with a simple bowl of boiled fragrant rice.
xxxToday, the preparation was to be a little more various, and maybe elaborate.
xxxShe grated the carrot and mixed in a handful of sultanas. A pinch of seasalt and it was ready to steep in Moroccan Dressing (probably just a vinaigrette with a little cumin) and stick in the refrigerator; soon afterwards, it was joined by a shallow bowl containing a star of chicory leaves, radiating outwards from a shiny cherry tomato, and each cradling a segment of tangerine, all seasoned and drizzled with a dressing of grapefruit juice and rapeseed oil. The delicate taste of the chicory meant she felt no need to blanch it in boiling water first, so it could retain its crispness and not add too bitter a note to the proceedings. So she needn’t have prepared it so early, but, hey, it was one less thing to do at suppertime. The soft and pungent cheese just needed releasing from its bamboo box, the chorizo could be sliced and simmered in red wine and served warm; cucumbers, olives, and greenery for salads and garnish — all these could wait. Now she could relax a bit longer on the shady veranda, looking out over the river and catching enough of the late afternoon sun to be warmed but not burned.

xxxAnd she could also, she thought, be quite relaxed about her post-shower déshabillé. Wisteria, or whatever those creepers were called, hid her by its profusion from the neighbours on the island, and the far bank of the river, beyond the weir, was too far for any but the most powerful binoculars.
With the book on her lap, Epifanea smiled at the overblown description of the heroine’s shower, sensuous to the point of parody, and in such contrast to her own quick rinse, a sluicing away of the stickiness of a hot day’s walking, rather than working up a lather — in more than one sense.
xxxShe laughed at the thought that not only was her linen gown a cut-price version of Ms Gower’s silk kimono, but neither woman had bothered to pull them round her body, much less tie their sashes.
xxxShe blushed as she realised that her free hand, like that of the fictional character, had been idly caressing her own body and breasts as she read.
And she screamed when she heard the whistle and saw the boatman standing atop his barge, as it rose in the lock just beyond the end of the garden. The laughter and round of noisy applause from the rest of the crew, as she gathered the robe around her and ran into the house didn’t help.
xxxShe had to travel half way down the bottle of Burgundy and savour the buttery flavour of the wine and the melting goose liver on its slice of fluffy, crusty bread, before she could laugh about it. This was helped by the knowledge that those men, possibly raising glasses to her and indulging their gross fantasies, would by now be a long way up-river to the North West.
xxxHe wasn’t a lot of help. Rather than sympathetic, he regarded her experience with a mixture of levity and jealousy.

Great. Froggy bargees get an eyeful and you can’t even give me a quick flash on messenger?!

I’ve told you before: I don’t do sexting

You don’t trust me

xxxIf he’d known a sulking emoji, he’d have used it. Not that he needed to, she thought.

I trust you now but who knows what might happen in future?
I trust you sober too haha

He wasn’t amused now. Conversation ended abruptly and she finished the day and the wine in sombre mood.

Something Fishy for the Travelling Lady

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The Travelling Lady’s Cookbook: a Grand Tour in Twenty Recipes (contd)

(see preceding blogs for the rest)

VII
A Fishy Stir-Fry

The trains in continental Europe (so much cheaper than those back home) are the main reason for standardised time and, more significantly perhaps, the availability of wonderful, fresh seafood, in small markets at a considerable distance from the coast. Epifanea always tried to get ingredients in season and minimise her ‘food miles’ by buying local, even if she then used them in dishes native to other lands. But as far as she was concerned, if a small market town many leagues from Barcelona, Marseilles or the Amalfi Coast boasted a fine fish stall, the prawns, squid and monkfish on that stall were all in play.
xxxAnd if her host’s kitchen was also graced with a Chinese wok, what could a girl do but a stir-fry? No recipe to guide her; this is inspiration and improvisation.
xxxAnd hope.

xxxSurely anyone who loves to eat and loves to cook also loves to wander round a market. Even in provincial England, where the choices are fewer and the vegetables more apologetic, the atmosphere is relaxed but exciting — well, at least scintillating. Cheery traders chat cheekily with customers or call out flirtatiously to attract passers-by. Early in the day stalls groaned under the weight of freshly-piled produce, while the evening air is filled with shouted offers to clear the unsold stock at rock-bottom prices.
xxxAt a quiet time between the two, dreamy Epifanea Tredwell sauntered slowly round the stalls. The lush green of the coriander caught her eye, and led it to the paler tones of the limes that lay beyond. Courgettes played another variation on the chromatic theme, while the almost crimson tomatoes offered a complementary contrast, leading the eye to the rich tones of a red onion, and the pungent grace notes of creamy white heads of garlic.
xxxHe once told her about an old movie called If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.
xxxShe told him that it was originally the caption to a New Yorker cartoon.
xxxHe hated being outdone.
xxxShe loved doing it.

xxxBut she’d taken the point. To get some rest, to take it easy, was important. Even to get to know some places in more depth. She’d booked two nights here; and though she’d probably wander round the same market again tomorrow, and sit on the same high stool at the same counter for one more coffee and one more pastry, it made sense to stock up for tomorrow’s supper at this visit.  Some olives, cucumber, chicory, an orange, baguettes …
xxxNo; no baguettes. Or …
xxx‘Baguettes — I’ve had a few’, she sang, earning herself strange looks from a Lebanese stall holder, while she wondered if she could think of a third baguette-punning song. Nonetheless he was happy to chat with her, safely behind his table, and to sell her tiny cheese pasties called sambusak, and lightly spiced kibbeh.  She loved kibbeh: fingers of lamb and cracked wheat paste, stuffed with more lamb, sultanas and pine nuts, fragrant with cumin and coriander seed.
xxxHeaven.

xxxThe wine shop had a rather nice-looking white Burgundy in the cooler. It also had blocks of foie gras.
xxx‘Go on’, she thought. ‘Just this once. If he thinks a day of rest is good for me, he can’t disapprove of me making it luxurious and indulgent.’
xxxHe didn’t.

xxx“Lucky man.”
xxx“Pardon?”
xxx“You are English? your accent …” The young vintner shrugged.
xxx“Ah yes, c’est vraie. I am English. But who is …?”
xxx“Your shopping. The wine, the paté … some guy is on for a treat, I think.”
xxxAbout to say no, she was a alone, being indulgent, shopping for two days, not two people, she checked herself just in time. All over the world, men, in her experience, could take an admission of solitude as an invitation to accompany, pester or even worse.
xxx“Ah, oui,” she said instead. “Very lucky man. I like to think so.”
xxx“Well, I hope he appreciates it.”
xxxAnd, as she left the shop, she shrugged too.

She seldom exposed her body to the eager gaze of men; never completely and only at moments of sexual fervour, allowing hands and lips access, pulling open a button or two to let a mouth envelop an aching nipple, or guiding a hand beneath her panties to cup a buttock or caress her clitoris. Even on the beach, her costumes were miniscule but somehow modest.
xxx
Though old-established feelings of guilt added spice to her passionate near-abandonment, she had never permitted herself to complete the adultery. And while her would-be lover both cursed and respected her restraint, he regretted still more her unwillingness to share her nakedness as freely and casually as he displayed himself to her in the privacy of his apartment. 

xxx“Stupid girl,” said Eppy out loud, laying down the book and taking up the bottle of Montrachet. “What soft-porn nonsense.”
xxxThe words of John Donne drifted into her mind:

To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.

xxxIt was ever thus, in every age, in every land: poor men would try anything just for a glimpse of a bare breast.
xxxShe shrugged again. She smiled. She drank.
xxxShe cooked.

 

Travelling Lady’s Cookbook, Chapter VI

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VI
Sausages in Cider

That morning Epifanea Tredwell had climbed over a two metre high mound of coffee beans, squeezed herself into a darkened space between black velvet curtains as painfully bright coloured lights came on at random intervals, and contemplated a large box of blood-spattered shop window dummies’ hands.
xxxThe paintings, even the ones incorporating strange objects and unpleasant substances, seemed so-so by comparison.
xxxArt can be very tiring, conceptual art, doubly so.
xxxThe coffee and the café, drink and room, were works of art in themselves and extremely welcome. At least the chairs were comfortable, and not like the un-sit-downable, spiked, ridged and precipitous mockeries of IKEA in Gallery Three.
xxx“Pffft!” she went, as she recognised the pattern so carefully constructed in the foam of her latte. Fannies are so last millennium.
xxxShe refrained from taking a photo and sending it home. His reaction was too predictable as was his reaction to tonight’s supper.
xxx“I tell all my friends my girlfriend loves sausages in cider,” wasn’t all that funny the first time. It might have been — when she was fifteen maybe; long, long ago that age seemed.
xxxSausages, she mused, are not like people. The more she travelled, the more she engaged with the folks she met around the world, the more she found that, beneath the superficial appearances of genes and culture, people were … well, people. Whereas sausages looked pretty similar from a distance — not to mention men making the same jokes about them — wherever she went. But the contents, taste and consistency of that humble foodstuff varied so much.
xxxAs, surprisingly, does cider, a West Country drink that was beginning to catch on in Eastern Europe. Finding that liquid in the shops was what triggered the idea of making an old but very English favourite in an unfamiliar setting. As long as she could find a dryish apple-based booze and a sausage less tightly packed with meaty chunks and more like the old British ‘banger’ than the Continental norm, the other ingredients should be no problem.
xxxIndeed, the onions, the carrot and even the mushrooms had been easy to find. It was not the autumnal time of year for wild mushrooms, so prevalent in mainland Europe, compared to fungus-fearing Blighty.
xxx‘They’d be wasted in this dish anyway,’ she thought, as she chopped up a couple of the familiar, farmed button variety, putting the rest in the fridge.
xxxMushrooms on toast for breakfast. Fried in butter, sprinkled with flour, a dash of mustard and enough milk to make a thick white sauce. Yummy. And she wouldn’t have to endure the sight of him ruining his with lashings of sugary ketchup.
xxxShe was still unsure about the sausages. Was this a mistake? A Polish serdelki seemed the best option, a smartphone search suggested, reinforced, or possibly confused, by hilarious attempts at sign language between herself and the large, jolly woman at the delikatesy. She had ascertained, or possibly not, that it was the least smoked, least dense, and least ‘chunky’ option. But was it too much like a Frankfurter? The word Wiener brought the phallic references back to mind, as had some of the more ribald gestures of the seller.
xxxOh, how we laughed.
xxxAt home she always favoured a basic Lincolnshire sausage for this dish. And that was something he did agree on, and not only, she felt sure, because he came from that county. The hint of sage and onion and even the rusk ‘padding’, really worked well in this concoction. Sometimes a sausage can be too meaty, too strongly flavoured.
xxxDon’t start that again. And don’t say things like this to him when he calls.
xxxIf he calls.

xxxIt’s a one-pot dish, perfect for the tiny stove in her shared flat. The other guest was a girl from Vietnam, who seemed even more reclusive than Eppy, and even earlier to bed. No, she didn’t want to share foods, she’d made herself a salad in a plastic bowl, which seemed to be predominantly coriander leaves, with which she had retreated to her room on the stroke of six o’clock.
xxxTravel: broaden the mind, experience new sights and sounds, avoid human contact. Some people. Oh well.
xxxThe onion was cut into medium chunks, the carrot sliced a little smaller and a potato peeled and similarly cut up. With the mushrooms they all lay, ready for the pot. A little oil went into the saucepan, over a medium-high heat and the onions started to sizzle as soon as they were added. The sausages, cut into bite-sized lengths, joined them soon after.
xxxShe remembered what cider could do to potatoes. More than once her efforts had been spoiled by that chewy skin forming where the fructose, the fruit sugar, in the cider had acted on the starch of the spuds. So she pre-cooked the potatoes and carrots in boiling water; so much for a ‘one-pot dish’. Meanwhile, she added the mushrooms to the sausages and onions and stirred them into the fat, letting them heat through for a few seconds, before she drowned the mixture in the cider.
xxxShe turned the heat as high as the little stove would go, bringing the stew to a boil. While it reduced by about half, she recalled that cider can also be used as a drink.
xxxHmm, not bad. Not as a dry, applish (Is that a word? Malic?), or as strong as many a real West Country brew, but then, not as sweet, fizzy or tasteless as their commercial cousins, either.
xxxListen to me. Suddenly I’m not only talking to myself, I’m becoming a booze critic too.
xxxPotatoes softened: check.
xxxLiquid reduced: check.
xxxTurn off the vegetables, drain off half the liquid, tip the pan in with the sausages: check.
xxxSalt and pepper to taste and reduce to a simmer: check and mate.
xxxAnd phone home. If it can be called home.
xxx“Your favourite.”
xxx“Fish and chips?”
xxx“No no no. I mean your favourite cheap laugh.”
xxxYour favourite you mean. You’re the one who loves sausages inside …”
xxx“Yeah, right; say no more. I wonder what it would be like to have a grown-up boyfriend.”
xxx“You’d hate it.”
xxx“That’s still to be decided.”
xxx“No. You’re missing me terribly.”
xxx“That’s OK then. I wasn’t sure until you told me. Anyway, how’s your day been?”
xxx“Nothing to report, mon capitain. You’re the one having adventures. How’s Prague?”
xxx“I wouldn’t know; I’m not in Prague, idiot.”
xxx“Well, I wish I was there, wherever you are.”
xxx“That’s a coincidence.”
xxx“See, you do miss me. You wish I was there with you.”
xxx“No, I mean I wish you were in Prague, wherever I am.”
xxx“Cheeky sod!”

Travelling Lady: Green Eggs and Ham

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Travelling Lady’s Cookbook continued  (see preceding blogettes)

V
Green Eggs and Ham

The influx of East European people to the British Isles had disturbed many narrow-minded souls and inflamed a few racists, but, for a food lover like Epifanea Tredwell, it had just been a facilitator of new gastronomic experiences.
xxxIt had also prepared her for the experience of buying food in shops where every label looked like the lower lines of an optician’s chart. Not that she could distinguish all the types of charcuterie, but she knew enough to be able to buy some good smoked ham.
xxxAll the threads of our life cross, intertwine and come together, sometimes in pleasantly surprising ways. Growing up with the crazy rhymes of Dr Seuss, it never occurred to her that green eggs and ham could be the name of an edible rather than a comically disgusting dish.

I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.

xxxThat changed when she found herself in a cool delicatessen in the city of Nottingham, which featured a breakfast of that name.
xxxSo that jar of pesto was bought in Genoa with at least a vague notion that some of it would be meet its manifest destiny when she found the right ham, meaty, smoky and, thanks to frantic but lucid sign language, cut very thick.

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.

xxxBut I will eat it in a flat, I’ll eat it up and that is that. I’ll cook it, cook it, for myself, I will not share with no one else.
xxxOK, leave the poetry to the good Doctor. It annoys boyfriends too.

You woke me up to tell me that?

Lazy bugger.

My favourite breakfast though
Well second favourite ☺

Filthy bastard

I miss that a lot

Buy some ham and eggs then

You know what I mean

I repeat, filthy bastard

Did you find sourdough?

xxxShe didn’t think so, but whatever it was, it wasn’t as dense as most of the breads there, and it made reasonable toast.
xxxThe scrambling of eggs was for Epifanea a meditative, almost religious experience. Over a very low heat, she melted some butter in a copper-bottomed saucepan. She broke a pair of fresh eggs, their yolks a deep golden colour, and gave thanks to the chickens that ran free behind the shop, drinking their health with a large gulp of orange juice.  Then she whisked briskly with a large fork, blending yolk and white into a rich, yellow soup, before adding salt, ground white pepper and a splosh of single cream.
xxx“Still single, a nice, rich cream like you?”
xxxShe tipped the mixture into the pan and began to stir steadily with a small wooden spoon. In her earphones she had chosen the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony.
xxxWhat Love Tells Me.
xxx“You find love that boring?” he’d said, only half joking.
xxx“You have no soul.”
xxx“I sold it long ago to some guy with horns, to get you in my life. I thought it was a good deal. Still do.”
xxxAh, you couldn’t expect to agree on everything, she told herself, as she stirred the egg mix and kept it from setting on the base of the pan. She tried to think of something they did agree on, some taste they shared. Then she stopped trying and told herself she still loved him to bits and it was never about shared interests, after all. And she turned all her attention to the eggs and the music. She loved it, it was beautiful, it was moving, it moved steadily and majestically but tenderly to its climax, and most of all, it lasted about twenty-five minutes, which was the perfect time to scramble a pair of eggs, leaving them firm but still moist.
xxxSelf-control was needed. The stirring needed to be regular and gentle. It didn’t need to swell in intensity as the music did. But she wasn’t that keen on minimalism. And it could be interrupted, albeit briefly, long enough to pop the two pre-cut slices of bread into the toaster. The ham was already cut and warming over a hob on its lowest setting.
xxxShe liked the way the egg tried to form into lumps, like mini omelettes, only to be thwarted in their coagulations by her insistent wrist action. As the mixture started to stiffen, she flicked a few small knobs of butter into it, and stirred them in as they melted.
xxxAnd now for the vital ingredient that turned the eggs eponymously green, and gave a garlicy basil tang that went so well with the ham. She blended in two generous teaspoons of the pesto genovese, its cheese and pine nuts but mostly its herbs turning the egg mixture into an olive drab gunge.
xxxThat can’t be the right word, she thought; so unappetising; and then, it’s not green enough.
xxxShe added some more pesto. Flavour was more important than getting the colour right, as she’d learned when she tried to make her Thai red curry brighter with extra chillies. But she also knew from experience that green eggs could handle quite a lot of the most garlicky pestos without disturbing the balance of flavours too much. It just needed less, with the anaemic yolk of a British supermarket egg, to make the dish do justice to its name.
xxxPlak!
xxxUp, noisily, popped the toast, perfectly timed to coincide with the creamy green mixture being taken from the heat. Deftly she spread the pale local butter on each slice, then spooned the eggs to the side and overlapping them. The warmed slices of smoked ham arranged neatly on top, the whole assembly was taken to the table, to join the glass of orange juice and the cafetière of java.
xxxThe perfect start to a sunny Spring day. She was in such a good mood she didn’t even stir up his envy with a photograph.
xxxShe just ate.

Fair Game: Travelling Lady’s Cookbook continued

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The story so far?  Just go back over the last three blog posts.

IV
Wild Meats

“What’s that? Qu’est-ce c’est?”
xxxLievre, mademoiselle … like … er … rabbit, but more big?”
xxx“Aha — hare.” A quick search on her phone confirmed the translation.
xxx“And … ?” She pointed at what  looked like a very dark piece of fillet steak.
xxxChevreuil. Venaison?”
xxxVenison, specifically from the roe deer, said the internet.
xxxOh yes. Eppy suddenly recalled a recipe she’d seen on television, quick and simple and made by a famously wine-loving celebrity chef on a UK tour. That was the plan, then.
xxxMerci,” she said, as the assistant wrapped the meat.
xxxIn a reverie, she wandered round the small market hall. A patisserie stall provided an individual pear tartelette for her dessert — and a strawberry one for an afternoon snack. One of many fruit and veg stalls provided a potato. Another sold her something that looked like a tightly-packed anaemic baby broccoli. It had, she later found, a flavour so subtle she decided never to buy it again.
xxxRich, red Rhône wine. Almost local. Right country, anyway. Chateauneuf du Pape.

Number 9 Pope Street? Nice.

Oh I do miss your original wit 😉

xxxI missed it just then, she thought, but she smiled anyway. He made bad jokes with style and she laughed without shame, both with him and at him.
xxxIn a wine shop she found a small bottle of a liqueur from farther North, Crème de Cassis. Essential for her plans. As were matches. Long matches.
xxxSitting at a small, round table outside a corner bar in a small French town, with a café au lait and a croissant for breakfast: what could be better, she asked herself.
xxxThree hours later, much to the waiter’s amusement, she came back and answered her own question with a glass of chilled Chardonnay from Chablis and a croque  monsieur, thick slices of ham and melty cheese, between slices of rustic bread, piquant with mustard and all fried in butter. Healthy, probably not; delicious, certainly.
xxxIn between these visits, she had strolled round the town, sketched the houses and the churches, and wandered along the river bank, waving back to the men on the working boats and even sitting on a rock, like the Lorelei, while reading a little of Kat’s Book.
xxxFreedom can be frightening.
xxxReally?
xxxLeaving him and starting a new life was the best decision she ever made. Now was the right time to explore her world, her self, her sexuality. Life stretched before her, spreading out like an endless panorama of possibilities, without limits, without restrictions.
xxxBut also without signposts, with its spiritual satnav disabled, disconnected, Liberating but also scary, exhilaratingly scary.
xxxGood grief! Eat, Love, Pray, Barf.
xxxNo, no, no. I will not be defeated. I will keep my mind open. As wide as I can, my dear Katrina. But for now I will content myself with watching the river flow by, accompanied by the shrill sounds of distant children at play, and the plaintive ululations of the boatmen’s horns.
xxxAfter a walk back over the tiny bridge and up the hill, Epifanea stripped off and took a shower. She lay down on her towel on the bed for a short nap. She smiled at her foreshortened image in the full length mirror near the foot of the bed, her unruly pubic garden looking like a rain-soaked wooded valley rising to a pink hill.
xxxBloody Hell, that book’s affecting me already, she thought, and rolled onto her side, bending knees and hips for comfort, stability, and to obscure the reflected view, before any more bad prose reveries sprang to her mind. It didn’t help much. She closed her eyes and tried to make her mind go blank, but somehow one vision after another appeared in her mind’s eye: the reflection of her own, damp body, those overexposed men and women on that Greek beach and even the sensuously dark piece of red meat waiting in the kitchen.
xxxAnd this final image led her to think of the rich red wine she would soon be drinking with it. And the liqueur she would cook it in. And this finally led her thoughts away from sex and sensuality to that mixture of white wine and Cassis named after a former mayor of Dijon, called Felix Kir.
xxxA bit early for an aperitif, she thought.
xxx“Nonsense!” she replied out loud, and headed for the kitchen.

What doing?

Had a shower. Making a Felix.

You naked?

No!

xxxShe lied. She smiled. She slipped into her spotted pyjama trousers and pulled on a t-shirt, in case he started demanding proof.
xxxHe didn’t.

What’s a felix?

Just joking. A Kir
Got some cassis for the venison

Bit early for an aperitif

Nonsense

Missing you

Me too. Skype later?

xxxEppy sat with her drink on the terrace, beside the cast iron bistro table. She scrolled through the day’s photos on her state-of-the-art phone, and made notes in an old-fashioned booklet with a primitive pencil. Not for her a meticulously written, formal diary, but neither was she happy to look back at interesting photographs, unable to recall the exact circumstances in which they were taken, or even where they were taken. Not wishing to lug a laptop or even a tablet all over Europe, she just made those notes in case they were needed when she got back home and collated everything. They would help when sharing her memories with friends and family, perhaps even in the form of an online account; memories for her own later years, or perhaps even a small, self-published travel book, that no one would ever read.
xxxA load of recipes, perhaps. The photos she sent him of her every snack, drink or meal, might make an interesting collection one day.
xxxIf I ever get round to it.
xxxSuddenly she realised she’d been on the verge of falling asleep and hadn’t noticed how ‘the glimmering landscape had faded on the sight’, making her reading and writing very tiring to the eyes.
xxxHow long have I been sitting here? Time to cook. Lucky it’s a quick dish.
xxxShe put on a pan of water for the knobbly, pale green monstrosity the man at the market called a choux romanesco. No cabbage this, she thought, more like a small, dense cauliflower, gone green. Indeed, it broke up nicely into conical florets.
xxxShe decided to dispense with potatoes and let a crusty, fresh baguette supply the carbs.
xxx‘No! No baguettes! No — I shall have no baguettes …‘, she sang, contradicting her lyrics by cutting a few lengths from the long rustic loaf.
xxxAnd then, the cooking. A knob of butter melted and foamed in the heavy skillet, with a splash of oil to stop it burning. She placed a spatula flat on top of each piece of meat in turn and brought the heel of her hand down on them smartly a couple of times to flatten and tenderise, then patted salt and freshly-ground pepper onto their surfaces.
xxxInto the fat they went.  After only a minute or so, she flipped them over, giving the pan a shake. As they cooked on the second side, she tipped the romanesco florets into the salted water boiling in her saucepan.
xxxShe took the meat from the fat and put it to rest on her plate. Now for the spectacular part. She hoped this kitchen’s smoke alarm was less sensitive than the one she’d set off in Edinburgh, just by making bacon sandwiches for his breakfast. At least in this climate she could have all the windows open without freezing her arse off.
xxxHer right hand held a long match and she’d  positioned the matchbox at the side of the cooker near her left, which she first used to pour half a glass of the blackcurrant liqueur into the bubbling mix of butter, oil and meat juices.
xxxImmediately, she took hold of the box and struck the match. As it burst into flame, she held it low over the pan. A sheet of blue-violet flame danced over the liquid, as Eppy swirled it around to mix up and let most of the alcohol burn off.
xxxNot all. She preferred to blow it out before it ran out of fuel; she was convinced that gave the finished sauce a touch more ‘bite’. He, of course, insisted he couldn’t tell any difference. But tonight she could do it her way, without fear of smart-alec comments or criticisms.
xxxShe added a little beef stock and a small spoon of tomato puree, and stirred, before tasting, and completing the seasoning with some finely chopped basil and a little more black pepper from the grinder. The stock and the steaks had enough salt already. All it needed now was a pleasing glaze, which she created by whisking in one more small knob of butter.
xxxThe meat was put back into the pan and doused with the sauce to heat through, while she drained the green florets and arranged them on one side of the warmed plate. On the other side, she arranged the venison medallions and poured the sauce, dramatically, if not very artistically, over them. The large glass of red wine had obviously been filled — and refilled — well in advance.
xxxLess than ten minutes for the whole process, she thought proudly. As she confirmed this by checking the time on her phone. That was when she saw his impatient messages.
xxxWhich she ignored until after she had eaten.
xxxAnd rested for a while.
xxxThat dish had, except for the green lumps, been too tasty not to savour, slowly.
xxxAfter which, his attempts to have a flirtatious conversation were hampered by his feelings of annoyance and frustration; if he was trying to hide those feelings, he was doing a terrible job. Nonetheless, his hands, hidden below the level of the picture on her screen, seemed restless and she wondered what he might be doing with them. She had no intention of asking him.
xxxHer hands meanwhile, equally concealed from his view, were busy making rude and disrespectful gestures. She managed to keep a straight face.
xxxJust.

The Travelling Lady’s Cookbook: novella, continued

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(see preceding posts for chaps 1 and 2)

III
A Gallimaufry

The small boy performed a very good impression of a jet engine, at least in terms of volume, as he piloted his fighter. Approaching the enemy, which consisted of a young female motorcyclist and a small dog, he added the sound of rapid gunfire. This caused the girl to scream and the dog to start yapping at the heels of the intrepid pilot. And this, in turn, prompted the mother to drag the protesting airman from his craft, which bounced back and forth on its heavy spring as peace and quiet returned to the park.
xxxA mother losing patience sounds the same in any language, thought Epifanea,  sighing with relief and turning her attention back to the barely-started book. In truth the cute but irritating child had provided a welcome distraction. As did the message from home.

What’s  a gallantry?

xxxHe tried again.

Oh shit. A gallimaufry

My phone doesn’t know it either.
Have you not mastered google?

Other search engines are available lol

I prefer to ask you, o font of all knowledge

Well I know it’s fount not font to start with

OK my bad. At least google spares me
the sarcastic put-downs

Gallimaufry. A mishmash.
Just throwing a load of stuff in a pan and stir-frying.
When inspiration flags.

xxxAnd beer for a change. Back home they had both learned to love craft beers from small brewers with big price tags and the pleasingly bitter tang of strangely-named hops. But in the continental heat the standard, light and more subtly flavoured lagers were a crisp, clean and refreshing way to wash down a meal at the end of the day.
xxxShe gathered up her things and took her glass back to the bar.
xxx“Thank you. You need not have bothered,” said the handsome young barman, with a smile.
xxxWell, that’s probably what he said, thought Eppy, whose grasp of the language was less than rudimentary. From the tone of his comments and the smile he made them through, he  might well have been making an improper suggestion. But she preferred to think better of  people.
xxxAt the exit from the park she stopped for a while to gaze out over the ocean. The evening sun sparkled on the rippling waves. But then she noticed the barman, who, she fancied, was interpreting her pause as some kind of invitation, leaving his post and moving towards her. To avoid confusion and possible hassle, she turned away from the rolling deep, crossed the promenade and walked briskly along the narrow street that led to her flat. She could look at the sea more peacefully from the rooftop.
xxxShe rubbed the fresh coriander leaves between thumb and fingers, and breathed the scent in deeply. She chopped the leaves and stalks and put them in a bowl. The pork steak from the carniceria, which obviously meant butcher, looked really good. Nice and thick with just the right amount of fat. Best of all, it was from a local, acorn-fed pig. Solemnly saying, ‘Gracias, señor pig’, she cut it into bite-sized cubes.
xxxThe mushroom and the small green pepper got chopped up similarly, as did the  bunch of  spring onions. A clove of garlic was crushed and chopped. One of the dried Chinese mushrooms she had in her bags had been soaking in warm water for the last half hour; she took it out, squeezed it and cut it into thin strips.

Chat?

Later. Just started frying

xxxShe lied.
xxxShe opened the beer and took a swig from the bottle before selecting some Chinesey spices from her travelling supply. Szechuan peppers, a little five spice powder, chilli oil …
xxxNow I’ve started frying, she thought, pouring a little groundnut oil into the deep pan. No Chinese wok in an Andalucian B&B.  No rice cookers either. I don’t suppose there are many paelleras in Kowloon either. The rice went in a saucepan with loads of boiling salted water, just like it did at home. Less arsenic gets eaten that way, he liked to tell her.
xxxShe fried the pork over a high flame, crisping up the fatty rind. Then she lowered the heat and added the onions, pepper and garlic.
xxx“Eye of newt and toe of frog.” She cackled the line from the Scottish play as she sprinkled the spices into her cauldron in meticulously judged random quantities. After a few minutes stirring, punctuated by swigs from the beer bottle, she added the mushrooms, onions and coriander.
xxxA sorry-looking lime lay wrinkling with age in the fruit bowl. She chopped it in half with a blow of her cleaver and squeezed the juice of one piece over the pan, which it hit with a pleasing sizzle.
xxxAnd that, said John, is that.
xxxShe spooned half the drained rice into the large bowl, took a drink from the bottle, shovelled most of the stir-fry over the rice in the bowl and dropped the rest onto the rice in the saucepan.

I made too much

xxxShe sent a photo of the bowl.
xxxThen she sent a picture of the saucepan.

I’ll eat your share cold for breakfast

You’re disgusting, woman.
So that’s a gallimuffy?

Gallimaufry. It is now.
Don’t know what else to call it.

Pork and peppers?

Boring. Call me in 20

xxxEppy took the food to the table, put the bottle to her lips and realised it was nearly empty.
xxxPlenty more where that came from.
xxxAnother bottle was retrieved from the fridge and opened. She sat to eat.
xxxAfter that she’d be ready to talk to home. She was missing him, of course she was, especially the feel of his body lying beside hers in bed. She missed him almost as much as she would shortly be telling him she did.

xxx¡Salud! she said to herself.

For Heaven’s Hake!

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Last week I introduced you to Epifanea Tredwell, the Travelling Lady of the Cookbook (A Grand Tour in 20 Recipes) (click here to revisit).

Here is the second recipe …

II
Merluza alla Vasca

As a rule, Eppy did not do beaches.
xxxNot her sort of thing. For a start, boring. So-so. Pale skin is fine; he doesn’t mind it, much; and it’s healthier. The terrace of a tiny tavern in an old town square or even a bench in a pretty park were far better venues to catch up on some reading. Who needs sand getting everywhere?
xxxAnd so much flesh. Even at home, where weather allowed little sun-worship and convention limited exposure, bikinis and budgie-smugglers were the norm. But here …
xxxThe sight of low-cut tops and off-the shoulder gowns could make her a bit uncomfortable. Acres of bodies in the outdoor equivalent of underwear or less were definitely not where she wanted to be.
xxxShe liked a swim. She did own a bikini as well as a one-piece. But she tried to keep her activity to quiet spots and quiet times and was never fond of lying in the sun for extended periods when the aquatic exercise was over.
xxx“It’s not a ‘body image’ issue …”
xxx“It bloody shouldn’t be, not with your physique. Women half your age would kill for …”
xxx“I know, I know; I look after myself and I’m rather proud … no, pleased, with the results. But I do it for health, not for display purposes, and I don’t like seeing lots of skin on general display. It’s just the way I am.”
xxxSo Mediterranean beaches brought her no pleasures. Certainly not the sea of breasts. Not even the exceedingly handsome and completely naked young man, who gave her a friendly smile as she passed. And though this was the quickest route to the market, she thought she might take the back streets to her apartment, when she’d bought a piece of firm, white fish and a handful of juicy clams.

Why don’t you cook local dishes

Too obvious lol

Just for you I’ll rename it — Nasello alla Basca

Or Basco

Pedantic bastard

xxxGreat fish, hake. But most Brits don’t want to know about anything that isn’t cod or haddock. Plaice sometimes, but that seems out of fashion now. Overfished? Like Mediterranean hake, in fact.
xxxMaybe he was right. It would, she thought, have been more sustainable and more local to have bought the Atlantic version in Bilbao, though that was probably caught off Cornwall. But she wasn’t going anywhere near Bilbao. Not on this trip anyway.
xxxOn vacation many people like to read books relevant to their location. Not just travel books. Hardy in Dorset, Proust in Paris (if it’s a very long stay and the weather is terrible) or maybe Henning Mankell, if in Sweden for a spot of serial killing.
xxxEppy liked to be different. But not just for the sake of it (she insisted) and not slavishly so. She might cook a paella in Provence or read Calvino in Cádiz, but she had to admit that sometimes the best quality ingredients could only be found in the home of a dish, and that some books benefitted from a genuine sense of place.
xxxEven so, she’d abandoned her plan to read The Leopard and was planning her Basque hake over a glass of wine (at least that was a local product) and supporting her shopping list on the book that Karen had thrust upon her before she left.
xxx“You’re having a break from home and work and domestic life — take a break from heavy reading too.”
xxx“But I like what you call ‘heavy’,” she protested. “It ain’t heavy to me; I love long flowing sentences, poetic turns of phrase, deep, meaningful … well, you know.”
xxx“Oh, do lighten up, darling. Some ‘shallow shit’ is very well written you know. And maybe you’d just find you enjoyed something frothy for a change — and a bit raunchy too.”
xxxClams. Eggs. Peas (small pack, frozen).
xxxGarlic. Onions I have, and flour.
xxxWhite wine, of course. Oh and some shellfish bits to add to the stock maybe.
xxxAnd parsley grows in the little shaded garden. And of course there’s already olive oil. Just need a fresh lemon. Or was there a tree in the back too?
xxx“I’m perfectly comfortable with sex, Kat. Why do people think I’m such a prude? I like a good fuck as much as anyone — now it’s your turn to look shocked — yes, I’m quite cool about the word too.  Feeling sexy is great; I just don’t think it’s a thing for public sharing.”
xxx“Don’t do it in the street in case you …”
xxx“… frighten the horses. Exactly. But you can do it with the horses for all I care, in the privacy of your own stables.”
xxxThey’d laughed and raised their glasses to sex, glorious sex, and Eppy had accepted the gift of Picnics of Passion. And brought it with her, fully intending to ‘give it a go’. Though, just in case, she’d also packed Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber.  She didn’t like to tell Kat that this too had its explicit passages, written centuries before her ‘liberated’ modern pulp.
xxxTake hake steak: bake.
xxxShe smiled at the wordplay in her notebook.
xxxAnother lovely kitchen, though not with much of a view. To look out of her bedroom she had to stand on her chair, and her only reward was a patch of waste ground where the local dogs conducted their unromantic sex lives.
xxxSmall, high windows facing South. So the rooms stay cool in high Summer, I suppose. At least the shared lounge had a view to the high hills North of the town.
xxxMince your onion, said the notes. Forget that, said Epifanea, and chopped it finely. She placed the broad blade of a knife on the garlic clove and smacked down on it with the heel of her hand.
xxx“My dear, no one uses flour in sauces nowadays.”
xxxChatting about recipes was one of life’s great joys, but not with those few judgemental idiots, ruled by fashion and the latest celebrity chef. Yes, thicken by reducing or adding Guatemalan filé powder or whatever is trending in Shoreditch this week.
xxx“Don’t you know that flour just clogs up the taste buds, giving an impression of blandness?”
xxx“Fuck you Celia,” she thought but didn’t say.xxx
xxxShe had already dusted her fish with seasoned flour, and now she started frying it (skin side down, of course) in a little olive oil.
xxxIt only takes a minute, babe, she sang, to fry a hake, to fry a hake …
xxxAnd another minute to fry the other side, before lifting it and draining it and putting it in the warmed earthenware dish. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top.
xxxShe wiped the pan and added a little more oil, enough to soften the onions and garlic. Basques, like most nations, did not share the Italian aversion to using both together.
xxxOf the offensive flour a small spoonful sprinkled, mixed into the oil, then a slow stirring while adding a splash of wine — and drinking some for quality assurance purposes. Once reduced, the mixture turned to sauce by adding the warmed fish stock, prepared earlier and waiting patient in its jug.
xxxIt didn’t take long to thicken. While it was doing so, Eppy added the frozen peas, salt and pepper, and plenty of chopped parsley. The, when the peas were cooked through and the sauce a good  consistency, thickened but still fluid, she poured it over the  fish and scattered the handful of fresh clams over the top. Then the rustic brown dish was ready for the moderate oven.
xxx“I don’t like immoderate ovens any more than I do immoderate people”, he had once said. It still wasn’t very funny.
xxxSpare me the pictures! he texted now, in his frustrated jealousy. Love letters, yes; blow by blow delicious recipes, no!
xxxUndeterred, merciless, she sent a picture of a hard-boiled egg, its shell half removed. He replied with a rude emoji. She laughed.
xxxThe other guests probably thought her crazy. She rose so early she sometimes met them coming home from their nights out as she set off for her morning run or swim. But her timetable also meant she could make use of shared areas, like kitchens and  lounges, at times when no one else was interested. So now she stood dreamy in the living room, wine glass in hand, and watched the hills glowing in the ever-changing evening light.
xxxNot only the dawn is rosy-fingered, Mr Homer.
xxxAlmost in a trance, she suddenly realised that twenty minutes had gone by and the fish needed removing from the oven. With the dish placed on a tray, she could finish the dish by scattering the chopped up egg and a bit more chopped parsley. At home she might have added a boiled potato too, but today she simply tore in half a petit pain (or whatever they called it here) and dropped it on the tray.
xxxWine, bread, merluza alla Vasca — done!
xxxShe ate it at the desk in her bedroom. Well, someone might come back early. She accompanied it with Mozart on her headphones and Katerina’s book propped up against the wall in front of her.
xxxRealising she was not the only pebble on the beach, Janey Gower decided to become a little bolder …
xxxIt was not a promising start. But the fish was delicious.

Travelling Lady, Stay a While

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Until the night is over, as Mr Cohen put it.

I may have mentioned this before but Peter Cook’s standard response to people who said, I’m writing a novel, was, Neither am I. Well I am. I have. Two already and a third on the way. But I’m also writing a novella, which I’m over half way through, so I thought I’d share it with you in weekly instalments.

This is called
The Travelling Lady’s Cookbook
or
A Grand Tour in Twenty Recipes

I
A Risotto

As the evening sun began to graze the top of the island, catching the Sultan’s turret in a noose of light, Epifanea Tredwell stretched a lazy arm towards her wine glass, which was balanced precariously on the balcony parapet. She paused in mid-swoop, to savour the picture of the sun’s rays, which gave a honeyed glint to the straw-coloured nectar. Not for long. Thirst defeated aesthetic appreciation. She brought the slender glass to her lips and half-drained it in a single gulp.
xxx“Food,” she thought. She took in the view across the bay to the far side of the sunken volcano, the sun hanging level with the hilltop fortress; taking the half-empty glass with her, she went into the small but perfectly-stocked kitchen.
xxxOnions? Or garlic?
xxxThis risotto she usually threw together at home with ingredients always to hand in cupboard, fridge and freezer. Dried herbs and stock cubes, pancetta pieces, and frozen broad beans. But today the local market supplied fresh what her local, misnamed ‘super’ market only sold in packets. This thought reminded her that the newly-shelled broad beans were still on the balcony, by her lounger. She retrieved them, along with the colander of empty pods, and started to cut up the pancetta. What favour this local ham had. How small the extra effort in cutting it into cubetti, slightly larger than the tiny pieces she got from a packet at home. ‘Handy packs’, indeed. She’d never realised how bland they could be, compared to the ‘real’ thing.
xxxGarlic? Or onions?
xxxMany Italian cooks will insist, with a passion and even a threatening cleaver, that no dish should contain both. Others, especially Italian-Americans, will use them together in almost every savoury dish. ‘Going native’, even though not quite in Italy, Eppy went with onions. The more placid option, she told herself. The small red bulb she finely chopped, then softened slightly in a healthy splash of olive oil. She turned up the heat a little and added the cubes of cured meat, warming them through and even crisping them slightly, before she turned the heat back down and added the rice.
xxxLovely rice.
xxxRisotto rice. Arborio. Or was it carnoroli? The jar said only risotto. An expert could tell. Blindfold. Probably by smell alone from the next room. And other, less famous types. And the quality too. These grains longer than those at home. She seemed to remember that longer grains meant finer rice. Or did they? Who cares? Have a drink.
xxxShe shook the grains into the pan, measuring probably too many, by eye alone, and stirred them gently to coat each one with a thin film of the oil. After another sip from the large wine glass, she emptied the rest into the pan, the heat turned higher and prepared to add …
xxxOh shit! The stock. Her nagging feeling had been right; she had forgotten something. She turned down the heat under the rice, turned the neighbouring ring on full and half-filled the kettle with water, rushed to the cupboard and found with great relief a box of chicken stock cubes.
xxxThe wine by now reduced and absorbed, Eppy splashed a little cool water on the rice to buy some time. The stock crumbled into the kettle water in a small pan, she quickly stirred it and added beans to boil and slightly soften, sighed with relief and poured more wine into her empty glass.
xxxFor this relief, much thanks, her silent toast.  Gia mas, she said out loud in Greek, and ladled some of the stock into the pan. And remembered a small clear plastic box beside the stock cubes in the cupboard.
xxxI’m just wild about saffron, she sang, and saffron’s wild about me.
xxxMore expensive than gold; but the host said anything in the kitchen could be used. And it’s far cheaper here than back home. Must get some to take home and maybe replenish the host’s supply. This thought calmed her conscience as she opened the costly box. Mustn’t take too much. Not just the price: too much of a good thing makes for a bitter taste.
xxxLike love? She smiled and put a pinch of the vermilion stamens into the pan, adding a ladle of stock on top. Some beans came with it. A larger pinch of fresh-cut oregano and a gentle stir took enough effort to warrant another leisurely drink of wine, before the slowly-swelling rice called for another dose of stock and beans. The secret of a good risotto is to add the liquid a little at a time, all the while stirring frequently but gently.
xxxA bit like life, she thought, but wasn’t sure the idea worked.

Missing you already

xxxPilau, paella, jambalaya … most non-sticky rice dishes, you keep the stirring to a minimum; it breaks the coating and lets the starches out. But the starches in risotto rice need to be released, the make the dish rich and creamy.

Yes, me too

xxxShe sent a picture of her wine glass on the balcony in its sunset setting.  It made her answer less convincing.
xxxCucumber, tomato and plump black olives made a quick and easy between-stirs side salad, seasoned, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and splashed with white wine vinegar. The lightest dressing seemed more than enough, for salad and body alike.

Bikini bottoms and loose robe if you must know

xxxShe sent a stirring selfie with wooden spoon in her free hand.  She replied to his next request.

Dream on
Not even undressed salad lol

xxxLove this cheese grater. Another thing she mustn’t pop in her luggage when she left. It made quick rotary work of grating a lump of the excellent parmesan.

xxxShe tasted the rice. Nicely swollen, not too soft. A little salt and a generous grind of black pepper. And half the cheese and a knob of butter to melt in before turning out onto the plate and taking a photo to send home.

Heartless bitch
And me w takeout pizza missing yr cooking

OK don’t show me yr tits but spare me the food porn

xxxShe smiled but didn’t reply. Instead she cut a piece of the baguette, topped up the wine glass, and arranged the salad bowl and risotto with them on a tray. The sun was down now, leaving a pale glow on the far horizon; she sat happy on the candlelit balcony and ate, watching the twinkling lights of the town below and the boats out in the bay …

 

No Comparison

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Dost thou compare me to a summer’s day?!
Dost think that I am nought but birds and flowers?
That I am hot and tiring dost thou say,
And only lasting four and twenty hours?

What is it with this current thing of indignantly accusing all comparisons of being simple identities? If I say you have a moustache that looks like Hitler’s, I am not saying you have any desire to slaughter whole ethnic groups in gas chambers. And ‘comparison’ can be shorthand for ‘comparison and contrast’, surely, anyway.

To be sure, such comparisons can be used to hint that there is more you have in common than just the facial hair, especially in a case where I could as easily have made comparison to a silent movie comedian, similarly arrayed.

But for fuck’s sake people, enough with the mindlessly sheepish and rhetorical indignation. It doesn’t help the argument get anywhere, which carefully chosen comparisons can (as long as we all accept they only apply for the qualities/hary lips under consideration).

And yes, I am comparing all of you to moronic sheep and yes I do mean you eat grass and go baa a lot. And taste good with roast tatties and mint sauce.


Meanwhile here are some portraits what I is doing on the monochrome camera in my trusty Huawei. They be going on Instagram to publicise the Scottish Portrait Awards 2018 exhibition commencing on November 3rd at the Scottish Arts Club.

Be there or be square format.