21 Feb 2014

'Put the spoon down and step away from the pudding!' To share or not to share?

I'm fine with it, as long as what I have in front of me isn't too small. If I have three grilled scallops as a starter I'm not going to give any away, no matter how much I love you! I'll happily order some more though. But a slice of my steak, a forkful of the baked fish I've ordered, some of my chips, a spoonful of my risotto, lasagne... sure, no problem. Here. Taste. What do you think? And as someone who doesn't usually order dessert I'm more than happy with the 'dessert and two/three/four spoons' trend that's drifted across the Atlantic in recent years. 

What about Indian and Chinese meals? Are you a fan of the 'let's all order what we want and then share everything' approach? Or do you like to have what you're having? And enough of it. Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that some people change their minds over what they thought they wanted, their pedestrian Chicken Biryani for example, and then chow down heftily on your choice of Tandoori King Prawn Masala. 'This is great,' they'll say, heaping their plate with prawn and sauce. Yes, I know, you seethe inside. That's why I ordered it.

The 'you' at the end there is actually Tony. I'm generally happy to fall in with the communal 'let's share' suggestion but Tony would rather eat his own toenails than share his Tandoori King Prawn Masala. Or anything else he's ordered too. It's his and he wants it all. That's why he ordered it. Which is a fair point. But I'm wondering whether men, generally speaking of course, dislike sharing their food more than women?

Google tends to agree with me if you believe the gossipy public forums. There are lots of  'my girlfriend/wife always wants what I've ordered' or 'my boyfriend/husband freaks out when I ask if I can taste his dinner' kind of complaints. One woman, Natalie Gouche even asks her husband the question on YouTube, filming him across the table on her iPhone, so I don't think I'm alone in wondering if this is a gender issue.


If you're a fan of Nigel Slater you'd imagine that he's the most 'shary' of people when it comes to food, wouldn't you? Well read this:


But having tackled his prune pudding recipe I'm now inclined to agree with him. This is worth keeping to yourself:



The shortcomings of my cupboards meant I had to fiddle with the recipe - common or garden prunes not Agen, port instead of sherry, light brown sugar instead of muscovado. The result was still lovely though I suspect it would be lovelier as Nigel intended it. 

I did share mine with Tony. He didn't share his with me when he ate it for breakfast the next morning. To be fair, I didn't ask. To be fair, I didn't think there was any point.

Hungry writing prompt
Write about what you will share and what you won't share

10 Feb 2014

The Great British Bakery

It is just before 9 on a Friday morning and I have tucked myself into a corner, while I wait for my car to be serviced, next to a chiller cabinet, that growls intermittently like a reluctant tractor, with a bacon bap and a milky coffee, the foam swirled and peaked like a cloud and thick enough to eat with a spoon, the only customer here. 

And then it begins: a clutch of mothers returning from the school run, men in work boots or jangling keys, one man with a swept back wave of silvered hair who beams, ‘Helloah!’ into his mobile as he pushes through the door, an old man with a damp umbrella, some office workers, according to their shoes. Like a flood erupting into the warmth and light from the dull and drizzled street. 
 

Farmhouse, cottage, bloomer: seeded, granary and rye. Bread pudding, Belgian buns, cherry Bakewell tarts with bright red noses. Lemon drizzle cake and carrot cake and Eccles cakes, and doughnuts filled with vanilla and jam. And sausage rolls, bacon wrapped in pastry blankets, pasties, cheese twists. And the garish wonder of a tray baked Tottenham cake dressed in pink and a quilt of sugar strands. Listen as a Sandwich loaf rumbles towards its destiny of thinly sliced. 


This is the Plaxtol Village Bakery in Borough Green and no sooner does one flood recede then another one builds. Paper bags and white cake boxes lifted over the glass cabinets like babies.



We talk of holidays in France, recall the hypnotic windows of patisseries, their gleaming, surgically precise cakes decorated like carnival floats and Ascot hats. But on a grey British day it’s comfort we’re after: pillowed packets of rolls soft enough to dream on, the almost unbearable sweetness of a Gypsy Tart, a jammy shortbread heart.



Hungry Writing Prompt

Write about a heart that's sweet. Or a heart that's been soured. 


4 Feb 2014

A Big Friendly Giant thank you. And a hello.

Bonefish Grill - BFG




And the occasion? It was twenty nine years ago, on 3rd February 1985, that I met Tony on a blind date. I knew by the time my main course arrived (Lobster Thermidor - you knew I'd remember what I ate, right?) that I'd fallen in love with him and could feel a small whirlwind of panic spinning around my solar plexus as he told me about his future work and travel plans. I'm not going to see him for over 3 months! Why are you being so stupid? a rational brain cell responded. You've only just met him.  

How many more years do you think we'll have? I asked him last night. 

I think I'm going to live until I'm 88, he said.

Can you make it 91? I asked. Then we can celebrate 50 years together.

Okay.

Of course, neither of us can really know the when. Or the how or why. There's a pop-psychology/philosophy question that bounces around the internet: if you could know the date of your death, would you want to? The argument for is that we would fully live every moment known to remain. The argument against is that we would fully live every moment known to remain in a state of anxiety.

It's impossible to keep up that original level of all-consuming passion and enthusiasm for each other after years and years of living with another person, with the snips and irritations of daily life, the griefs and upsets, the blames and resentments we have to negotiate. But something else arrives: something quieter, something deeper. John Armstrong in his book, Conditions of Love, The Philosophy of Intimacy says: Our collective understanding of love is beguiled by love’s first moments; and yet it is continuing, long-term love that we all want. Real love is love that lasts and withstands the difficulties which a prolonged relationship inevitably brings. 


Happy Anniversary, Tone. Hello, I said to you when I opened the door 29 years ago and knew in the moment I looked at you that something momentous was about to happen. Hello again.