Would you Adam&Eve it? The penultimate chapter (and a day early cos I is on a night train to That London tonight and back tomorrow) … come back next week for the thrilling — OK, charming finale of The Travelling Lady’s Cookbook.
Sticky rice and mango
I feel sick
—Epifanea laughed. Typical of him to get nauseous watching a video, while she was fine filming it at 60 kilometres an hour and upside down.
I feel sexy
Better than picnics of passion any day
Funfairs of fucking haha
Too white knuckle for me
More like soggy gusset for me
But I love you
You’re boring but I love you
—Open minded, he was, to a satisfactory degree at least. And she could hardly deny that she wasn’t all that adventurous in certain areas herself, as Picnics was proving. But adrenaline junkie, he certainly was not. Were he here in the pleasure gardens, at least he’d hold her bag for her while she went on every ride she could afford, and pretend not to know her as she screamed the place down. And though he’d said he would accompany her on skiing holidays if she wanted, the thought of him sitting in the bar doing loads of moody au lieu de ski, would take the edge of plummeting down hillsides.
So what’s the dessert?
Mango and sticky rice, my style
Now I am looking forward to you coming home
But that’s all you’re eating?
No I found a cool place to have a smørrebrød first
That’s easy for you to say
How do you get the fancy Os?
Hold the o down and options come up
Oh yeah forgot
So what’s smobrod
Herring, ham, stuff
Anyway. Best till last
On the demon next!
—But Eppy had reached the head of the queue and was heading for the roller coaster like an excited child that’s been told ‘one more ride then we stop’.
—She knew she’d have to compromise. At home in the right season, she’d find a ripe mango and wrestle with it to get the stupidly-designed stone out and present it sliced in an aesthetic fan shape. Here, she’d settle for a small plastic tub of mango cubes.
—She had also assumed she’d have to improvise a steamer for the khao nieaw, or sticky Thai rice she’d carried with her, along with the small tin of coconut milk, for nearly a week, but the kitchen boasted a tall pot with a removable cage, for sweetcorn or asparagus, and she was sure a small steamer bag with a lot of holes punched in it could sit within, just clear of the boiling water.
—She’d got up early, in her apartment near the harbour. The area itself was quaint but far too touristy for her tastes, but in the hundred or two metres walk from there to her flat, the crowds thinned out rapidly and the restaurants and bars became more ‘real’. And by dawn’s early light, it was indeed as picturesque as it wasn’t at peak tourist-trapping times.
—The main reason for this early bird, however, was to catch an even more popular attraction at her peaceful best. Her friends had told her that the Little Mermaid was almost invisible for the teeming hordes, with their cameras and phones, that surrounded it from once the day got going, until sundown. After a stroll along the waterfront, past the National Theatre and the Port Authority Building, she found just one other tourist, a Chinese woman, sitting on a rock and taking a selfie with the tragic heroine. She wondered if her auroral companion knew the non-Disneyfied and downright gruesome original story behind the statue, but didn’t say any more than hi and beautiful. The Chinese girl echoed these sentiments but Epifanea, not being at her best in the early morning, didn’t feel like a longer conversation.
—All commentators had warned her that the statue itself was disappointingly small, distant and unimpressive. It seemed like a mantra. So many times had she heard it, that she was expecting a miniature mermaid, less than a metre high, and fifty metres out into the water. So it was pleasantly surprising that the statue was the size of a small human being (after all, her name did include the word ‘little’), and only a few metres away from the rocks along the shore. But even though Eppy, lacking a selfie stick of her own, elicited the help of the Chinese woman to take a picture of herself just in front of the work, the fact that the sculptor had captured so well the melancholy air of a tragic heroine made her glad to get away to wander round the lakes and parks and back towards the town.
—She found a hotel called Babette, with seating out on the pavement, which seemed a good place for a feast, or at least a pastry (when in Denmark …), opposite a supermarket which would no doubt be open by the time she finished her coffee.
—And so it was that she returned to her apartment ready for a short nap, with cartons of orange and pineapple juice and other provisions.
—For another of the contributions of Epifanea Tredwell to the repertoire of world cuisine was a special take on khao nieaw mamuang. Thai sticky rice needs to be soaked for a few hours, preferably overnight, before steaming. For the sweet dish with mango, it is then drenched in sweetened, heated coconut milk before serving with the fruit arranged around or beside it.
—Eppy’s innovation, as she liked to call it and he liked to eat it, was to pre-soak the rice in fruit juices rather than water. Extensive experiments had led her to a fifty-fifty mix of orange and pineapple. This not only gave the rice a fruitier flavour, but also a pleasing orange appearance. For larger gatherings, she had even prepared half the rice the traditional way and used a bowl to mould a yin-yang pattern of white and orange in the centre of the serving dish.
—Sod that this time, she said to herself. On her own in a strange kitchen, this was just about practicing the basics and enjoying the taste. She put the rice in a bowl, added the juices, drank a glass of the pineapple and got ready to go out for a light lunch and a long wander. And some thrilling rides.
—I suppose I should be thinking of taking a few gifts back for family and friends — even something for him, though it would serve him right, she thought, if she took his oft-repeated insistence that “all I want is you” seriously. In a haze of post-exhilaration euphoria and post-modern irony, she bought a few tasteless souvenirs — Little Mermaid keyrings and snowglobes for friends and a Carlsberg keyring for him, because he considered himself far too sophisticated a drinker for mainstream lagers.
—Back in the Inner City, resting from her afternoon of overstimulation, she found bookshops and cafés and one rather nice shop which combined the two functions, where she sat and drank coffee and looked through magazines (even though she understood no Danish, she had no desire to be seen to be reading Picnics of Passion in a sophisticated city bookstore).
—Still plenty of time to kill, she thought. So who should I be killing?
—Ah, you may not be here, but your old jokes I have always with me.
—A boat trip was in order; once round the islands on the Saucy Svenskød, before the promised open sandwiches in a quaint and no doubt touristy traditional eatery she’d spotted earlier. Towns always look different from the water, and the commentary shed new light on the canals and the buildings of Christianshavn, the opera house, the naval ships, the distant Oresund Bridge and her melancholy old friend, the Little Mermaid, now with her attendant throng of admirers, many bodies deep, that more than justified her early start all those hours ago.
—And so it was that some time later, satisfied by but not too full of chewy breads and fishy toppings, she returned to her flat to finish the day’s home cooking, the three part extravaganza that she would soon be recreating for her belovéd.
—She drained the rice and tied it up in a piece of muslin, before putting it in the steaming vessel over simmering water for twenty minutes or so. While that cooked, she heated up half her coconut milk with some sugar, a little orange juice for colour, and a goodly pinch of salt, and cut up the chunks of ripe fruit, arranging them on a small plate as prettily as she could.
—When the steaming time was nearly up, she stirred a little sugar and absolutely no salt into the rest of her coconut milk and put it over a low heat to blend. Then she untied her bag and dropped the pale orange rice into a bowl. She poured the first coconut concoction over it and stirred it in. While that cooled she started sending back home some less vertiginous photos of her day, enjoying his responses, both cheeky and envious.
—Finally, she arranged the rice, swollen and oozing its sweetened juice, alongside the mangoes on the plate, and poured the sauce over the top. She sent one last picture of this, before she settled down to eat and read and rest.
Of course, you’ll be getting it on a banana leaf
Oo er missus
I wouldn’t have it any other way