24 Nov 2013

Having a laugh. And lunch.

He gave me the post code, saw me putting it into the sat nav, so the third time he asks, Are you sure this is the right way?, I feel like poking him. Instead I say, firmly, You do it then! To be fair to him, the posh woman in the machine does seem to be sending us the very long way round. But at least it's a scenic route: the back lanes of mid Kent on an autumn day bright with blue skies are worth any detour. And as we appear to be heading more or less in the right direction I'm happy to take things slowly. But as we follow instructions to turn left into yet another narrow high-hedged lane Tony's resolve crumbles and he decides to ask for directions. 

There are rules governing the asking of directions. Don't do it in city centres after 7pm: you'll inevitably get the drunk. Don't ask people at bus-stops: they're there because they don't know the way to anywhere independently. If you ask someone and they say, Pardon?, just drive off: they're playing for time, politely, and the next time you repeat the address they'll tell you they're not from around here. What? You didn't know that when I first stopped?!

I've now added another rule, one that was rapidly formulating in my mind as Tony slowed down alongside a half hidden driveway where an old man was leaning on a rake. Tony, no... But it was too late. 

As soon as we came to a stop he shifted his weight from the rake onto our wing mirror so now we were stuck there or we were going to have to take the old bugger with as as we drove off. Ah, Kingswood, he said and nodded and then left a pause long enough that we were both tempted to poke him to see if he was still alive. But what if we poked him and he fell off the wing mirror? 

I left Tony to deal with the matter, and stared out of the passenger window, my shoulders, by this time, rocking with silent laughter as the old boy tried to remember what was at the end of the lane. 

He probably hasn't spoken to anyone since the end of WWII, Tony said after we eventually escaped and I was wiping the tears from my eyes. And then the sat nav instructed us to turn into Gravelly Bottom Road. You're having a laugh, aren't you? Tony said to no-one in particular. By the time we'd passed Bushy Grove we were a pair of basket cases. Sometimes living in England is entirely worth while! 

And we got a great lunch out of the day too. The Pepperbox Inn near Harrietsham lives up to all and any expectations of what an English pub should be like: 15th century, whitewashed, a roaring fire, cosy leather sofas and dark wooden furniture with the worn gleam of centuries and the obligatory lollopy dog asleep on the floor next to the bar. 

And the food was a winner too. I had an Asian scotch egg with salad and chips, the sausage meat singing with flavours of chilli, garlic and cumin. But I could have chosen a good half a dozen other things and been equally as happy, I'm sure.



And there was a windowsill I wanted to take home with me.


Or at least spend a weekend in with a pile of soft cushions and a couple of books. 

Is there anything better than a good laugh and a good lunch within minutes of each other? Not that I can think of right now.

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about stopping at the side of a road.


16 Nov 2013

The reality of disappointment

Three disappointing food things:

  1. cold chips
  2. discovering your husband has eaten the custard tart you'd been saving for a snack during Masterchef
  3. dragon fruit
1. is redeemable: a few minutes in a hot oven. 2. could provoke an argument if you didn't find the bar of chilli flavoured chocolate in the kitchen cupboard while muttering to yourself about 'greedy gits'. But there's nothing you can do about 3. 

Dragon fruit disappoint more deeply because of their vibrant exterior. Then when you slice one open the black seed-speckled bright pinky purple flesh almost makes you gasp. It's like nothing you've ever experienced in your life. 

Dragon fruit: Pitaya or Pitahaya
Google searches throw up descriptions of its wonderful flavour: like a cross between kiwi and pear. But that wasn't my experience in the kitchen this morning: solid pink water is the most complimentary I can be.


I imagine eating the carrots dug from my dad's garden only a few hours earlier and comparing them to the carrots, even the organic ones, I buy in a supermarket. The taste of two different worlds.

It's difficult to imagine only eating indigenous, and seasonal, fruit and vegetables: the 20th and 21st centuries have gathered food to our tables from all over the world and my culinary and gastronomic experience is richer for that. But that's what we did do, mostly, when I was a kid. Bananas and oranges were the only 'exotic' fruit Mammy bought. Pineapple came in tins. And there are plenty of popular and academic posts and articles on the web that promote the health benefits of doing just that. 

I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or relieved to discover that last week was the annual week of eating indigenous food, according to the Facebook group, Indigenous Eating. But there's an itch in my mind that will probably grow to an inclination over the next couple of months. I'll let you know how I get on with food that looks more like this: 


And this:



Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about a time when you were disappointed. 

1 Nov 2013

Forgiveness soup

I'm not going to divulge why I need to make this soup. In fact I tend to be suspicious of other people's confessions, the motives behind them, so I also suspect the motive for my own. 

Even confessions that make it to the printed page sometimes wobble along a a narrow line between confession and exhibitionism. Confessions don't always make for reparation. Sometimes they're just attention seekers. Sometimes they just make the confessor feel better. 

There's a strong argument, on a lot of occasions, for staying quiet, zipping it, putting a lid on it, keeping it to ourselves. This is one of them.

Why does this make a good forgiveness soup? Both as an offering and a receiving? Because it's simple. It's straightforward. It's warming. It has a texture that comforts you whatever side of the forgiveness model you happen to be sitting on. Or waving from, if the event was truly divisive.

You'll feel better after a bowl of this though.


3 leeks, sliced, and 3 carrotts, sliced, sauteed in a little olive oil.
Add: 1 litre of vegetable stock

grind together quarter tsp chilli flakes, half tsp cumin seeds, quarter tsp coriander seeds and add to pot
salt and pepper to taste (I used garlic pepper)

Add 250 gr split red lentils (having boiled them rapidly for 10 minutes spooned off any froth)

Cook until the lentils have softened. Keep an eye on it and add more stock for the required consistency.

Add some chopped parsley to serve.



Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about a time when you were in need of forgiveness.