I Write of Food and Fullness.
I lose stuff in the fridge. Anything covered in silver foil becomes anonymous and is in danger of being ignored for too long. Half empty jars of olives or capers reproduce themselves. Crab apple jelly and chutneys and jams and marmalades find their way into the fridge and congregate anonymously towards the rear. I have an occasional ponder as to whether I need such a beast in the kitchen. It seems to me that it does a fantastic job for milk and butter and margarine and frozen peas and everything else is there to take up space. Is it the design? I don’t think so. It’s a square box with shelves.
I need the weekly wipe down and the monthly “everything out onto the table deep down clean” or I’d never know what was in there. I’d never had a fridge until I got married. Is it like digital technology; something I will always have but a tourist’s understanding of?
On Saturday morning everything is laid out on the table and only some of it goes back into the gleaming white alien.
While David is home we try to vary the breakfasts. He picks out a few of his favourites and we really enjoy starting the day together with good food. Scrambled eggs on toast are always nice; but there’s something a bit special about serving eggs on a bagel. We normally drink tea with breakfast but this one demands good coffee.
When the bread is home baked and fresh, bacon sandwiches are a real treat. This must be eaten with a mug of tea. To have coffee with a bacon sandwich would violate some law of the universe. If your day went badly then this would be the reason.
Beans tend to get served as a side dish on a bigger breakfast. It shouldn’t be forgotten that when Mr Heinz first perfected the recipe and the canning process, beans were seen as a luxury item and you had to go to shops like Fortnum and Mason to get them. Baked beans on toast is a wonderful breakfast. You need nothing else. At this time of year your digestive system will thank you for it as well.
No visit home would be complete without a pancake breakfast. If all five of us are around the kitchen table then I will have two pans going. For three, I manage with one pan. 12oz of flour and 4 eggs makes enough batter to fill us to the brim and prime us for a good winter dog walk. Sugar and lemon is still favourite but I’m very impressed with the maple syrup I bought at Aldi. Perfect consistency, lovely sweetness, superb maple tang.
There’s usually a stolen meal. When T goes off early, David and I indulge in the simple pleasures of the very best way of enjoying an English cooked breakfast. Bacon, eggs, bread and butter and tea. Nothing else. It is the best breakfast of them all.
There’s an awful lot of bacon in the fridge this Christmas. And bacon sandwiches are so easy to make.
Just about my favourite meal of the whole holiday was a TV supper. We had some cheese and we had a packet of cheese biscuits (crackers). Upstairs they go to the television room, along with every pickle I can find and a big pot of tea, and various cakes that have been started but not finished. Really good cheddar and pickles is the treat I most remember. It was intended as a snack and exceeded its brief by a mile.
A trip to Nottingham allows me to catch up with Pat and Martin and Pat’s lovely American friend Susan. We get ourselves ensconced in a busy coffee house just off the square and the company and conversation is so good that we don’t bother moving on. We talk education systems and expectations, English pantomimes, rising stars in theatre and film; Martin is making an impressive contribution to writing and directing but it is as a discoverer of talent that he is perhaps most successful. We talk English food and American food. Susan tells us of farmers’ markets and places where you can get cheeses to match any we have this side of the pond. I’d love to travel around America in the company of someone who could show me just where to buy; what to eat.
When Charlie comes round one afternoon I make the number one favourite dish for my boys; spaghetti and meatballs. I once spent a whole week experimenting with variations. The outcome is to make a good sauce with a fair element of spice and heat and simple balls of good mince and ground black pepper. It’s simple but it works. I like to eat pasta once a week. Really good meatballs please my taste buds and they are a really happy dish. You cannot eat spaghetti and meatballs in a bad mood.
One morning I start the day by making a batch of vanilla ice cream and a batch of bread. This guarantees a pleasing day food wise but also a contented Simon. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than making bread; and making ice cream comes a close second. To eat the bread fresh from the oven with cheese and chutney (I have my beetroot chutney, T has Steven’s Autumn chutney… they are both fabulous) is a simple and deep delight.
January the Fourth is the twenty fifth anniversary of my first paid day of teaching. It is also the twenty fifth birthday of our first dog. Sally was a truly wonderful dog who saw her role as nanny to the growing children. She looked after us all for a dozen years and when she died it was the saddest event I have experienced. She is remembered today with fondness. She’s still around somewhere.
The children all come for dinner. I make a January roast with both beef and pork. It is very rare that we gather together in our original five but it seems apt that it is on Sally’s birthday. It’s the final feast of the season and we all do justice to slices of top rump beef and pork loin, roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and Yorkshire puddings. The gravy you get when you roast these two meats in the same pan is exceptional. The meal lasts for three hours. It is such a treat to have a family gathering. It will be some time before we get another opportunity. I’m certainly blessed with the people I spend most of my life with.
Pudding begins life as a banana split but grows into a piece of work. Raspberries, quenelles of thick whipped cream, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, marshmallows and chocolate vermicelli. Coffee and a Tate Gallery variation on Happy families allows David to carry off most of the major art woks of Britain. It was a fabulous day.
Over the Christmas season there is one month’s good luck earned by every mince pie you eat from a different source. I’m a recent convert to mince pies and did my best to make sure that I accepted pies from a round dozen different people. They may be enjoyed by some with a glass of mulled wine. For me, the best way is to warm them through in the oven and serve them with vanilla custard.
We kept Christmas rather well this year.