SAD – Seasonal Added Disaster

Hello?  HELLO?  Blimey, where’s summer gone?  Well, I know where it went, the useless, tricksy git.

I had a text from my brother at the beginning of August:  Just thought you’d like to know we took Mum out to the usual place for her birthday.  Lots of fun but possibly too much fun because she had a heart attack when she got home and now she’s in hospital.

Never one to avoid a bit of drama, my 79-year-old mother ended up being strapped to a board like a Hannibal Lecter murderous maniac, loaded onto a private plane by a fleet of firefighters and sent from Jersey Hospital to Oxford for an emergency triple bypass.  Heaven only knows what stunt she’ll pull for her 80th birthday.

So most of August, for me, was spent on the M25 and M40, dashing between the office,  pitta kitchen and hospital.  I am utterly traumatised, mainly from having to spend endless days trapped on a small ward of old biddies letching over the unsuspecting male black nurses.  Good grief.  Those poor blokes.

Normal life has resumed but I’m all out of kilter.  Being self-employed, I’m all out of money too.  But that’s character-building, right?  Hey ho.  Another two weeks of toil and we’ll have a cheeky few days in France.  If I can pretend to be French, I can pretend to be rich too, right?  I’ll just practise my shrugging for now.  C’est la vie, hein?

I’m steadfastly ignoring the heredity nature of traits… not so worried about my heart health but concerned that Boots know something I don’t judging by the label on their parcel..? Ooh ‘eck…

Of Menopausal Mania

Life has hit an all time low.  I tapped on a pic yesterday to bring up more info and sat there, tutting, for a minute or two ’til I realised the terrible truth: the pic I’d clicked was in a magazine.  A proper one, with pages to turn and a tea-stain on the front.

I fear for my sanity sometimes.  Perhaps it’s the bite marks left after three months of daily b*llockings in a law firm earlier this year? (Directed at everyone, I hasten to add. How thoroughly enjoyable!)

‘I just don’t think I’m a [insert name of bastard law firm] sort of girl,’ I bravely emailed the HR lady before flouncing out, going home and having another cry.  Good grief.

Had my brain disintegrated after a year of street food-ing?  Was there flour in the nooks and crannies of my thinking department?  Perhaps the hormones had taken over the asylum and I was over the hill; a menopausal maniac who shouldn’t be let out unsupervised?

My children – and even the dog – would say all of the above is true but they are horrid and not to be trusted.

I run a successful foodie business.  I’ve just started working a few days a week in another law firm where there’s cake, not confrontation.  There’s a new secret project on the go… no wonder my brain works more slowly?  It’s not broken, it’s just got a lot of tabs open.

A ten-year life plan seems hellishly long when you’re hot flushing, have creaky knees and can’t find the car keys but the plan would work more effectively if this bloody magazine picture would just hurry up and load…

Sod it

Of Simplicity and Spuds

‘What’s the ****ing point of a fancy loaf of bread or making poncey sauce when you can buy it cheap in the shops?’ shouts one of the ghastly Gogglebox blokes when forced to watch Tom Kerridge’s ‘Top of the Shops’.

Life would be quicker if I did one huge haul of fluorescent sauces and sliced white once a week.  But oh, no.  Why make life easy?  Even whilst cooking for other people all weekend we still go home, wash up and start again for ourselves.

The 70s were all about convenience.  Mum would drive to the little local supermarket to buy a packet of Smash rather than walk round the corner to Vic le Riche’s rickety little stall with the honesty box on his muddy farm drive for a bag of freshly-dug Jersey Royals.  Not really more convenient.  She probably just wanted to keep up with the times.

A neighbour would bring mackerel after a day out fishing, or crabs which clattered around the kitchen floor while us lot stood on chairs, screaming.  I don’t remember us eating those goodies though; probably saved for the grown-ups while we ate our reconstituted spud.

Lurch from the 70s to the yuppie years.  Working for a merchant bank, it was all excess – any excuse for champagne and eating out.  Lobster? Chateaubriand?   Yes please.  Madness really.  But it was the norm.

Now?  I’m at *that* age.  I want good food but can’t be bothered to faff.  I’m knackered and curmudgeonly.  I eat the things that still make my parents grunt at suppertime:  leftover Jersey Royals, roasted in a bit of oil, then dunked in a fried egg.

Instead of reaching for Nigella, if I want to bake a cake, I use Mum’s old ‘4, 4, 4, 2′ recipe for buns (4oz self-raising flour, 4oz caster sugar, 4oz marge, 2 eggs).  Beat softened butter (I still use Stork, for nostalgia!) with sugar ’til pale; add the flour, then the beaten eggs.  Go wild, pop in a dribble of vanilla extract.  Dollop into (buttered & floured) cake tins.  The whole thing takes about 20 mins, including the 15 mins baking (180 in a fan oven).  Feeling yuppie?  Bit of whipped cream with a little bit of icing sugar and sliced strawberries in the middle.   Lush.

Homemade lunchbox muffins.  What child wouldn’t want those?  Not us 70s kids, to be honest.  We wanted Penguins.  And I still have a soft spot for a Club.  Mint, please…

Waste Not Want Not

The Greek God has many skills (apparently).  His best, he often tells me, is being able to conjure up a feast from bits and bobs – leftovers, if you will – from the fridge or cupboard.

We watch Masterchef together with mixed emotion; the invention test hurls me into menopausal pantry anxiety while the Greek God bursts forth with recipe innovation.

It’s not how my brain works.  I like to shop, French-style, daily.  Fresh veg, a bit of fish… whatevs.  Years with teens and the frequent lament that “I may as well just empty my purse over the bin” as they ‘didn’t really fancy’ what we had rings loud and frequent.

I’m an artisan foodie lady now – skinflint?  miseryarse?  on trend?  I’ve started shopping more effectively.  I think ahead. Crikey.  Don’t tell anyone, will you?

But there’s a problem.  I shop. I roast a spiffing chicken.  Last night’s came with new potatoes (where are my Jersey Royals this year?!) and fennel slaw.  My new mean mind expects this chook to last a while.  I’ve got veg in to roast with couscous with the other half. Two meals.  Boom.

This morning, the Greek God waves a sandwich bag at me.  “Awesome leftovers!” Our evening’s dinner is compressed inside a gone-wrong pitta.  Oh dear.

How does one convey that leftovers aren’t *actually* leftovers but dinners for the rest of the week?  I don’t want to squish his creativity or ‘owt.  So.  We currently have his ‘n’ hers fermentation going on.  Can you guess which one’s which?  On the right, rhubarb and raspberry gin.  On the left, some sort of dodgy pickled leftover cabbage destined to become a smoked kimchi granita gel.  Bloody Masterchef.  Bloody Greek God.  Thank goodness for leftovers gin…

Of Multicultural Confusion

I’m a Jersey girl, baking Cypriot pittas by the billion in my little Victorian kitchen in Suffolk whilst listening to Indian music on French radio.  No wonder my brain’s a bit wonky.

To be fair, the Indian music was accidental but such is the joy of FIP.  Never let it be said their music combinations aren’t eclectic: Miles Davis followed by Wham and then perhaps Manuel Volpe & the Rhabmontic Orchestra.   I love it.  But then I love everything French.  It’s my dark secret.  As I tap away here, the Greek God is whizzing up mint for tzatziki and marinating his pork (ooh er) for tomorrow’s souvlaki.  But naughty me is having secret thoughts.  French thoughts.  Ooh la la.

I’m surreptitiously working on the Greek God: in the spirit of ‘you are what you eat’, I’ve started feeding him all things français: jarrets d’agneau braisés au vin rouge last week (“d’you fancy lamb stew on Sunday, darling?”) and caviar d’aubergine:

Halve three aubergines lengthways and score the flesh in a criss-crossy pattern.  Bung ’em on a baking tray and drizzle with oil (I’m loving English rapeseed at the mo).  Grab six garlic cloves and squish them flat with a knife, leaving the skins on and put one on each aubergine half, along with a sprig of thyme.  Cover with foil; bake at 180 for an hour or so.

Take ’em out, discard the thyme and peel the garlic.  Scoop out the aubergine flesh and chop it finely, adding the garlic, S&P and a drop more oil if you need it.

I think I swerved international suspicion by serving it with pitta chips made from leftovers.  OPA!  Cheeky AND cheap.  What’s not to love?

Recipe swiped from the utterly gorgeous French Brasserie Cookbook by Daniel Galmiche.  Le sigh.  I love this book.