28 October 2014

Just right

pumpkin pie
Some days everything is right: the roast chickens moist, the green beans with the perfect amount of bite, the crunch and fluff of the potatoes, the teaspoon of freshly ground cumin on the shredded sweetheart cabbage while it steamed a good choice. The gravy makes you sing. Even the pumpkin pie you leave in the oven for 15 minutes too long survives without a scorch. 

Your friends arrived cloaked in the after-shock of six weeks of builders, work concerns, family niggles, the kind of weariness that flattens the light in people's eyes. 

Food, wine, spicy tea, chocolate, laughter and a feel-good movie in front of a log burning fire to make you smile.

Some days you do not have to try to be good to yourself or others. Some days it just happens of its own accord. An alignment of the stars? Your breath in tune with the rhythm of the season? The way you looked at the world when you got out of bed that morning and said, 'yes'? 


Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about what your body loves.

I have kept the bottle of Chianti we drank. It is asking for candles, for flames and soft rivers of wax. Remember them, those bottles in their nests of woven straw from our bedsits and twenty-something flats that sat on our kitchen tables, their waxy rippled landscapes growing fatter by the week as we ourselves grew into the world? I'm starting another: a feel-good bottle of colour and light. We might have evolved from the events and journeys of our past but it's how we live and love in the present that really makes us who we are. 




22 October 2014

Good soup


I wrote about my Mam's vegetable soup back in January 2011, just a few months after I started the hungry writer blog while living in France. It's a post I'm particularly fond of and a few other people liked it too. Here's one of the comments it received:

My house (in Ames, Iowa,USA) is filled this frigid January night with the heady and hearty scents of your Mam's Vegetable Soup - this weekend's treat to me.

How lovely is that?! 

'The fragrance, the tenderness.' the blogpost ends, literally and metaphorically. And they are present too every time I make it and serve it.

I made it recently for a friend of Tony's who's had 8 sessions of chemotherapy this year and will not let cancer get the better of him. I am sure he has his dark days, disappointments and fears, yet he smiles and jokes with us and gollops up Mam's soup sprinkled with parsley and Parmesan, dunking chunks of crusty bread into the broth, then digs into the cheese plate (Cheddar, Cheshire and Gorgonzola) and lamb's lettuce salad, and tops his meal off with a cup of green tea to celebrate the news that his recent scan showed no progression.

'That is the best possible lunch you could have made for me,' he said. The fragrance, the tenderness. 

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about a single act of tenderness

We have to allow other people's positive thinking to be contagious, for them and for ourselves. A Facebook friend recently updated their status complaining about inspirational quotes, about how damn depressing and irritating the ooze of them across the internet can be. No. I won't let myself agree. Even if the sentiment feels too easy. Even if I scroll past a lot of them myself. I won't slam them or the people posting them. Every drop of good feeling matters. 


The above and following photos are from The Secrets of Pistoulet, a magical illustrated little book of contemporary fables all about making soup and making people feel better. There are decorative transparent pages, a pull-out letter, recipe cards in envelopes and a bubbling pot of uplifting, inspirational quotes. 

'Strong is the hand that lifts the soul.' 'Passionate choices have potent consequences.' 'Clarity of the mind brings a moment of grace.'

The recipe instructions are quirky, flirty and fun. The 'Potage of Vision' instructs: Go to the farmer's market and look for the farmer with the clearest and most penetrating eyes. 

I shall try that out at West Malling's Farmers' Market at the end of this month! 

On the last page the author and illustrator, Jana Kolpen, has written: Peace to all creatures great and small. On the home page of her website you read this: Art that makes you smile. 

I've said it once already. How lovely is that.


15 October 2014

Feed me

Feed a cold: starve a fever. I've plumped for 'cold'. There aren't that many things that will stop me from eating even if eating for the last couple of days has consisted mostly of toasted organic wholemeal bread and cups of tea. 



Toasted bread - the real stuff with a crust, not the doughy, long-life, ready sliced version - has to be one of the great comfort foods of the world: a satisfying light crunch with a soft, warm heart tickled with melted butter. 

On the first page of his culinary autobiography, Toast, Nigel Slater says, 'It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.' 'Putty in their hands,' he says.

I wholeheartedly agree with the first sentence. Not so much with the second. I'm not the most amenable of patients. I think it's the 'wounded animal' part of me. When I'm ill I just want to curl up, put my tail over my eyes, and be left alone. No, please don't stroke my head, or pat me. In fact: DON'T TOUCH ME! Fortunately, Tony has known me long enough to realise this and can deliver a plate of toast and a cup of tea in such a way that I do soften enough to smile and say thank-you.

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about touching. And not touching.

Apparently, there's some dispute about the 'feed a cold/starve a fever' saying. It could be a centuries driven misinterpretation of 'feed a cold to stave off a fever'. That's the kind of information that delights a hungry writer's mind, and stomach.

8 October 2014

An interlude for chips


Fat

Skinny women order his fish
fried in low-cholesterol oil,
batter as crisp and sheer as glass.

He teases them about goose-fat,
the slip of it, how it dimples
under fingertips, at the right point
of tenderness how it gives
to the tip of a tongue.

He dreams of women
whose flesh parts for him
like lard – their overlap, the spill
and pleat of them, his hands skating
over their suety gleam, their excess
rejoicing under his palms.

From Learning How to Fall (Parthian 2005)


Hungry Writing Prompts
Write about chips.

1 October 2014

Fancy pants


a name lost to you over millennia 
with more flash and glitz than 'gourd' 
but you three are making up 
for that with how you dress. 


No matter that you sound 
like a growl in people's throats 
when you are the vessels of history 
and myth: water-carriers, birdhouses, 

drums and nose-flutes, the carriage 
for a princess. Bright, hard-skinned, 
your own determined selves.
If the end of autumn 

is leaf-mulch and wood-smoke 
then you are the unbridled 
beginning, the flag-waving, 
fancy-pants of its arrival.

We want more of you. We want to
fill the kitchen with your rowdiness 
as the days slowly shrivel,
as we light the fire earlier

each night. You're the echo 
of summer, the sun packed 
tight within you like memories, 
the ones we cannot let go. 


Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about hard-skin.