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Showing posts from March, 2011

Are we all racists?

I’m at the counter of The Seafood Bar in Gatwick airport’s South terminal, my regular pit-stop on journeys between the UK and France over the last three years.
I think the woman preparing lemon slices, toast and salad is Phillipino and her English is a little broken and rushed. ‘He come take your order soon Madam,’ she says smiling at me and nodding towards a man busy with customers at the far end of the bar. I can hear his eastern European accent.
‘No problem, I’m not in a hurry,’ I say and take out my book, a French translation of one of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, Fleshmarket Close. Translated British and American crime novels, or policiers, are perfect for improving my French; their tension keeps me turning the page and the syntax is much easier to understand than a lot of contemporary French literature.
Nous sommes tous racistes, inspecteur…, moi aussi. Ce qui compte, c’est la façon dont nous abordons cette triste réalité.
The words of Mohammed Dirwan, a Glasgow lawyer working with …

The Invention of Mousse

What was your iconic party food as a child?  Mine was ‘mousse’: the whisked concoction of Rowntree’s jelly and evaporated milk that my mother made. She filled stiff, waxed paper jelly dishes with it for birthday parties,  glass dishes for Sunday teas, or used it to make a quick trifle topping, pouring it over the jelly-set swiss roll and tinned fruit instead of the layers of custard and cream. After leaving it in the fridge for several hours it set stiffly around the million air bubbles added by a furious session with the rotary whisk. When you pushed your spoon in it made a sound that was a cross between a squeak (the noise jelly made) and a squelch (the noise of custard).
There was strawberry mousse and orange mousse but I preferred the strawberry. The tang of orange set into sweet milk just didn't taste right to me and I’m still a bit resistant to orange combined with anything creamy today.
In a recent cloud of nostalgia I bought a new hand rotary whisk, a Faringdon 30cm '…

Guest Post by novelist, Deborah Lawrenson

I am so pleased and excited that Deborah Lawrenson accepted my offer to write a guest post. I've read her previous novel, The Art of Falling, where she writes exquisitely about family, secrets, food and landscape so I know what delights lay in store for readers of her new novel, The Lantern, due out in the UK and the US later this year. Enjoy this short excerpt from the book and what she has to say about the place that inspired it. And, as you'll see, she makes a mean tomato salad too!
That summer the house and its surroundings became ours, a time reduced in my memory to separate images and impressions: mirabelles, the tart orange plums like incandescent bulbs strung in forest green leaves, a zinc-topped table under a vine canopy; the budding grapes; the basket on the table, a large bowl; tomatoes ribbed and plump as harem cushions; thick sheets and lace secondhand from the market, and expensive new bedcovers that look as old as the rest; lemon sun in the morning pouring throug…


What’s the first thing you can remember eating?

I don’t remember eating these chips with my older sister, Shân, on holiday in North Wales, though I have a faint memory, that my mother says is from the same holiday, of the walls in a square upstairs room of a B&B that the four of us shared for one night. My father remembers it was an old school house in Capel Curig. My mother remembers the woman who owned the house giving us buttered welshcakes. But all I remember is the walls. They had some kind of decoration or fixing, perhaps a frieze or a dado rail, or maybe there were paintings or framed prints hanging around the room, but something cemented those walls into my memory. And each time I pull that scene to the surface I see that the ceiling is high too, the perspective preserved from my four-year-old eyes.
I look at the photo again; my left hand is a blur, the Box Brownie capturing it in motion, and something stirs. Do I remember wanting to hold a chip for the photo, the no…

Eat Write

This is what makes me happy: good books, good food.
 Bad food makes me grumpy, as I’ve said elsewhere. And I’ve eaten more unappetising and occasionally lamentable food on residential writing courses than at any other places or times in my life.

On these courses, at least in the UK, evening meal preparation is organised on a rota system. 16 course participants divide neatly into four groups of four for cooking dinner on Tuesday through to Friday. If you’re lucky each group will have at least one person who knows their way around a kitchen, but even then success isn’t guaranteed because cooking for between 18 and 20 people is not the same kind of undertaking as cooking at home for two, or four, or even eight. Even with recipe cards and ingredients supplied there’s a whole world of difference as far as cooking stages and methods, timing and seasoning are concerned (regardless of what the recipe says), not to mention the conflicting opinions of four people who don’t want to add salt,…