Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Yum yum

Granny is a little late this morning. Guests are leaving etc etc. Granny has to put on yet another hat and turn accountant/cashier. They seem very satisfied and promise to recommend this establishment to Alastair Sawday. And how not when they are staying in the place illustrated above and eating food like this.... (These guests luckily are foodies and have adventurous tastes.)

Here follows some sample menus to get your taste buds working... Granny must, though, acknowledge the strong input from the 'Moro' cookbooks, much as their recipes are often adapted by Beloved or by her. What she really means is that she's too bloody EXHAUSTED to write anything. Menus will have to do. Sorry.

Thursday March 22nd

Oyster mushroom with sherry, garlic and prawns
Roast Chicken with preserved lemon
spinach/ kohl rabi Moroccan style
Dried fruit fool with grappa

Friday 23rd March

Vegetable Tapas (Turkish sweet/sour leeks. Puree of Moroccan roast carrots with feta and carroway seeds.)
Black Paella
Green salad
Queso Fresco (fresh goat's cheese) with Membrillo (quince paste)

Saturday March 24th

Salad of salt cod, red onions and potatoes
Lamb tagine with rice
Green salad
Oranges in orange flower water with orange cake
Sunday March 25th

Ajo Blanco (white gazpach0) Kiwi style
Beloved's Stuffed Squid
Slow-cooked fennel
Bananas flambe with black treacle ice-cream

Tuesday March 27th

Risotto of green garlic (home grown)
Quail breasts with raisins and pine nuts
Spinach/young broad beans in the pod
Chocolate cake with Seville orange icecream

Everything home-made; of course. Want to visit anyone? Or not?

This is NOT going to turn into a cooking blog. To prove it you can now go here. It's up.

(Sometimes the way things are in the literary world Granny thinks she should turn to cooking full time.Or maybe not. The cooking she likes. What she doesn't like is the washing-up. Beloved doesn't either. That's why he doesn't do it much.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wives of ...

The local produce market yesterday was not its usual self. Granny went up quite late for her - blame clock change - guests - early rainstorms; by the time she got there the sun was blazing and the place seething with people, almost all locals and most of them nowhere near the vegetable stall. It is true that once a month or so, alternative jollities afflict the market - dog shows, baby shows, threshing demonstration with mules, things like that. Granny made up the baby show, but now she comes to think of it, there was a baby show or sorts this time: only the babies in question were donkeys; Along with their mothers. Which was all very sweet and very nice.

The baby donkeys did what baby donkeys do, suckled from their mothers, then strayed a bit and had to be summoned back. But noone paid much attention to them. Much more interesting was the band of handsome young men, in local costume, playing and singing local Canarian music, music of which it can only be said; you've heard one piece, you've heard them all. Not that in mattered in the least to the crew of local abuelas - grandmothers to you - who were dancing to it very merrily. They looked pretty much the same abuelas Granny saw as Can Can dancers in the carnival procession, or sees, every few weeks or so, as the local woman's team, dressed in identical track suits and baseball caps and heading for a Canarian bowl's tournament. Most of them are pepperpot shaped, most have short dyed hair - few women go openly grey here - and all are energetically jolly; especially energetically in this case, their hair, spectacles, their rings and earrings glinting and bopping with them.

The young men with their drums, banjos, accordians, processed round the market from stall to stall, stopping at this one and that for more music, more dances; the pepperpot ladies seemed tireless. Granny absented herself briefly to do her shopping. When she returned the dancing had stopped at last. The band played standing in a semi-circle; the abuelas stood opposite. The band's singing as always varied between unison and solos; only this time thinner, smaller voices also took their turn; some of the abuelas were adding verses of their own. Now Granny is fairly up on Spanish obscenities, but when it comes to bawdiness, her command is limited. Even so she barely needed the raucous cackles breaking out at the end of every verse to realise that what was going on here was very bawdy indeed. Her Spanish mightn't have been up to most of the punchlines; it was up to picking up the 'culos' (bums) the 'piernas' (legs), the 'entrar' and 'passar' (does not need translating) the 'suegras' (mothers-in-law) and 'yernos' (sons-in-law) that were being bandied about. Even if it hadn't been, the gestures by musicians and abuelas, both, made things quite clear; young musicians flirting with ageing abuelas, ageing abuelas flirted with young musicians, each musician, each abuela attempting to be more outrageous than the last. By the look of it, any of these Canarian Wives of Bath would have been happy to take any of the musicians - even the one with Eric Morcambe glasses and a slightly peaked version of the local men's trilby - behind the stalls for a quick one. Though Granny doesn't know about the musicians - some of the abuelas might even have been their own - they too were enjoying themselves, for sure.

'Do you understand?' asked a woman next to Granny, 'Bastante' she said. 'Es para adultos,' - the woman nodded and grinned. 'What did it all have to do with donkeys?' Granny wondered. A fertility ritual to encourage their next mating? Most likely not.

Granny, unfortunately, does not take a camera with her when she goes to buy vegetables. She did go back with one later, but all the abuelas and the band had gone. The donkeys were still present but when she tried to photograph them she found the batteries in her camera were dead. If she dared be suggestive - but how could she compete with the abuelas? - she's not even going to try - might it have been telling her something? Most likely not.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dead meat: live meat

Well: the water came back. Turned OUT - as it turned ON - that during the work on the new houses just up the road they had turned the supply off and in turning it on again created an airlock and added a lot of shit too which clogged up Granny and Beloved's pump. All was sorted out, the aljibe filled up and the guests are not having to slum it after all - just as well since they are - would be - paying for the experience. Better still, the animals can be again watered too. Lugging buckets from the next-door house, across the patios and across the land, to the goats/chickens would have been tiresome. Granny could perhaps have presented this to the guests as the ultimate rural experience and had them paying for that too. Or perhaps not.

Guests. unlike animals, do not drink the aljibe water, it sports the odd dead lizard and God knows what else besides. They drink bottled water instead. They also drink a lot of booze - good - it's profitable for their hosts. They like sitting up late, talking, too, which is less good, nice as guests are in all other respects. A lot of their talk is about the walks they've been doing. 'Why doesn't all that walking wear them out?' asks Beloved, as he falls - wearily - into bed. Obviously it doesn't. It just wears out their weary hosts.

Granny is sitting writing this without her stove. Her office, nice as it is, is the coldest room in the house by far, and behind her on the sofa lies a dead animal in a bag. Dead animal is two month old lamb. After several years here, she has managed to source genuine, local, organic meat. Mr Handsome from Blackburn- who among other things it turns out spent years as a butcher -there is nothing Granny can see he hasn't worked at in his life - is coming to cut it up, so that all but the meat for tonight can be put into the freezer. He is bringing his small grandchildren with him to see the live baby; the kid. Granny wonders if he will show them the other, dead, one as an example of all flesh is grass etc....Probably not. People are squeamish about such things these days, unlike the Victorians who when evangelically inclined did not let their children forget such things; with gruesome examples

The lamb was killed on Wednesday. Granny picked it up on Thursday via a long and hairy drive up a couple of hillsides covered in the wild chrysanthemums unique to the north of this island and, she thinks, no other. Her aged Mercedes protested mightily, but made it.The smallholding where the beasts are reared - she could see the meat's siblings gamboling about - oh dear - was a long way from anywhere, out of sight of all other houses, a proper Canarian house, its rooms and outhouses clustered around a large enclosed courtyard out of the wind; very necessary at such a height. The real Canarian experience, thought Granny as a beautiful young man wended his way down the slope towards her, herding a flock of goats. She addressed him in her best Spanish, asking for Jose, the farmer. 'What language do you like,' he answered - in English - 'French? German? Spanish? English? I'll see if Jose is the house therein. My name is Fritz.' So much for authenticity. Though a German working on an organic farm in this particular area is pretty much the authentic - modern - Canarian experience too.

Granny is cooking a lamb tagine tonight with local green peas and tomatoes. She herself will be taking each mouthful thoughtfully. It's only recently she has taken to eating meat again after years of being somewhat vegetarian; not so much because she objects to killing animals, but because she objected - objects - to factory farming. Factory farmed this meat wasn't. Just the same, the so very recent deadness of the animal lying on the sofa behind her, does sit in her mind a little. . All flesh is grass indeed. (Or actually, organic wheat from Barcelona and home-grown alfafa. The farmer was kind enough to show Granny what this dish ate, in between its careless - unrealising-of -its-fate gambols.)


The picture up top by the way - she will spare you the dead one - is of the live meat; Rachel Vinegar no less, recumbant. And below, to raise the tone a little and make botanists rather than carnivore salivate, she presents you with some of the, she thinks, unique Canarian chrysanthemums. Enjoy your meal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Oh God - two guests arriving tonight. The weather's shit - AND WE HAVE NO WATER. Men putting in pipes just down the road are the suspected culprits. The one certainty is that our aljibe - well - water tank - whatever you call it - hasn't filled up as it should do from the mains and it is now empty. Guests will have to go dirty. And flush their loo with a strategically-place bucket filled up with somewhat chlorinated water from the jacuzzi.... Unless that is Mr Handsome can shout at someone and sort the situation out. His Spanish may sound like Blackburn but it's serviceable at least. Granny's would do at a pinch too, but workmen take more notice of other men in these parts. So do utility companies. So he'll try his first.

No water to water maize anyway.

BUT IT'S UP!! Here

Monday, March 19, 2007


What an interesting life you have around scientists. And at the most unlikely times. As Granny swung in her lovely new - Mexican - fairtrade (of course) multi-coloured cotton hammock yesterday evening clutching her first glass of wine, Beloved said - a propos of she can't remember what exactly, though it was no doubt a logical progression; Beloved's progressions always are logical, unlike hers- 'Did you know there was a study done once using pin pricks and how close two needed to be to feel like one?' Granny did not know; not least he expressed it initially in terms not likely to be understood by the uneducated - for which read Granny; this was the idiot's (read Granny again) version he very kindly added. It was done, he went on to explain, by two eminent experimental psychologists, professors both, one from Oxford, the other from Cambridge. They tested it out on each other, reputedly all over each other's bodies. As in: ALL OVER.

It was a mistake, possibly, to report this advance in scientific understanding while Granny was in her hammock - even more so while she was clutching her first glass of wine. It was, according to Beloved, a very significant and very well-known study. If he says so, Granny believes him; of course. Nonetheless, at the thought of these two scientifically curious and presumably aging gentlemen, advancing scientific knowledge by solemnly pushing pins - best dressmakers' pins, she hopes - into each other's most private parts - she fell out.

Next post will concern MAIZE, a much more mundane and local subject; almost as local as Granny's still slightly - though probably less so than the professors' - sore bum.

(Beloved googled the study later by the way but couldn't track it down. Does it matter?)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Heaps of Earth

So there they sit the heaps of earth. AND STILL NOTHING HAPPENS. That's the way of it here. And here Granny sits, at her desk, in her office with heaps of earth in full view beyond the window. She contemplates sad fact of life; that it's perverse. Eager visiting natural historian psychotherapist came longing to see birds. Birds weren't having it. No hoopoes on the land, few if any of expected waders on the mud flats. Granny ran the Beautiful Wimp down down at the latter the day after nice guest departed. Mud flats were TEEMING with birds. Of course. Yesterday even the mad spoonbill had returned. As for the hoopoes, crazy birds, they fly up in front of her every time she walks down to visit baby goat. Which is growing; jumping. And still has two names.

She herself contemplates new book between excitement, gloom and TERROR. Another sad fact of (a writer's) life - or anyone's for that matter - creating something out of nothing; a painter friend of her 's once described looking at the empty page you are supposed to fill as like "looking at a hole in the world." Which explains the terror possibly.

Off to clean the fridge. Which is not an empty page, let alone a hole in the world. Would that it were thinks Granny, uncovering one dubious looking bowl after another. 'Beloved, what are you keeping these for?' 'It's for the dogs/goats/chickens.' etc. All very virtuous, not to say ethical. Didn't the BBC this morning quote a report saying that a third of all food in the UK is thrown away, so is clogging up landfill sites? Whoever is filling local landfill site here with thrown-away food it isn't Granny and Beloved. This isn't to say that coming from the generation Granny does - as her Beloved does -both growing up during rationing when throwing food away was a crime of crimes - that her fridge hasn't always been full of dubious little bits of this and that. Now at least they get eaten; mostly. Granny has, too, after much nagging, succeeded in banishing vegetable peelings/pods etc to the dairy outside, where she doesn't have to encounter them directly. Nevertheless the more perishable stuff lingers. And care, has to be taken among other things, that the omnivores - the chickens - do not get fed anything containing chicken fat, stock etc; no cannibalism here. It wouldn't do the chickens any harm probably. But it offends all her instincts. Remember the ground-up bones in the cattle feed? Say no more. Get to it, Granny. Get to it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Well - did Granny say Beloved got it wrong? Because, well, he did. No phantom pregnancy, after all - unless the little black and white animal, born first thing Sunday and now skittering about is a phantom. Maybe it is. Otherwise it's a matter of : WE HAVE GIVEN BIRTH. Or rather Isobel has, the smaller goat, the Virgin Milker (bet you didn't know this was the correct term for young, female goats, did you? Suppose it would be blasphemous to suggest same term could have been applied to the Mother of God. Never mind.)

Granny and Beloved at play? Sorry to disappoint you, yet again. Nor is it a picture of the baby (called Vinegar - according to Mr Handsome from Blackburn, who was very miffed indeed at not being called to the birth the moment it was discovered; fortunately, Blackburn Rovers being in the semi-final of you know what, this did not last long. He does, on the other hand, remain miffed by Granny's insistence that the kid's name is 'Rachel' - after delightful and now departed female guest. Vinegar indeed! Alongside two other goats called Ruby and Isobel? Never! Granny suspects, though, this goat will have two names for its whole life. Neither Mr Handsome nor she are easily diverted. She herself would at a pinch settle for 'Rachel Vinegar'. Mr H is not shifting in any way whatever. )

These more elderly skitterers are revellers from a Citizens of the Third Age display at Carnival on Saturday, up Granny and Beloved's way. The procession here was much truncated compared to the one in the large resort. The collection of walking yogurt pots complete with spoons sticking out did not appear, for instance. (Strawberry flavour anyone? Or Toffee Banana? Very inventive they are on this island; the names of the yogurts were even written in Spanish). Nor did the large functioning, plaster fire-engine, complete with fire crew which won the first prize for floats. Nor the blokes in drag with fairy wings on their back or the collection of well-feathered Red Indians. The blacked-up cannibals in grass skirts, plus blazing fire, cooking pot and simmering missionary - sporting large - fake - bare - tits - did feature, on the other hand. Political Correctness and Carnival are strangers to each other on this island; to put it appropriately crudo they do not share a bed. Many others do not go to bed either, with or without each other. The sounds of revelry went on all night and at 11am a small group, wings, sequins, clown wigs, you name it, were still leaning drunkenly outside the local bar still waving beer cans.

Granny knows what they feel like. After a heavy week of entertaining she feels pretty much like that herself. It is raining. Good good good. Today, after signing off from this, she proposes doing absolutely NOTHING. No skittering for her today. So here's some other aged skittering to be going on with.

Update. It's up! Here.


Monday, March 12, 2007


Well - he was wrong!!

More tomorrow...

(Mysterioso elsewhere is still mysterioso. Field remains full of piles of earth; all other activity has ceased. Could be that it's developer is still nursing a sore head from Carnival on Saturday....Let's see.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

more mysterioso

More trucks have been (and gone). More piles of earth have appeared on the piece of land beyond Granny's wall. 'It can't be a house, anyway,' Beloved says. Maybe so. But nothing else is clearer.

No sign of a kid yet, from black and white Isobel. The fractious goat couple are back together again. Beloved is muttering about a 'phantom pregnancy.' It happens, apparently, even in animals (other than human animals, ie.) Now if there's one thing we don't need round here it's a neurotic - or hysterical goat. Don't think cabrine psychotherapy is the answer either. Just imagine it....

'Bleat'. 'Oh? Yes.' Interested silence. Goat moves about restlessly. 'Bleat.' 'Oh.' inquiring look, chin propped on hand. 'Bleat.' Goat shoves therapist. Therapist (very calmly) 'No, don't do that. Please don't'. 'Bleat.' Therapist, retreating again but even more - enforcedly - calm, head on one side. 'You seem distressed? Are you feeling distressed this morning,' 'Bleat'. Ad infinitum, Etc, etc etc. Visitor this week turns out to be a psychotherapist; I'll ask her what she thinks. Or maybe I won't. No, I'm not knocking psychotherapy, far from it, it's helpful. But I don't think psychotherapists like being laughed at either. (More than most of us they must have the odd doubts about what they do. They'd be worse therapists if they didn't, wouldn't they?)

An animal psychologist on the other hand? Now that's a thought.

Oh: and I'd almost forgotten. IT'S UP!! Here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


A (paying) guest is coming. Granny is about to put on twenty simultaneous hats - natural history expert on one hand, chauffeur, chambermaid, cook etc etc on the other. So she won't probably post much for a day or two. Maybe, by the time she reappears, the mysterious comings and goings on the far side of her land will have explained themselves. Right now the once abandoned field is covered in cones of red earth, deposited in heavy truck loads, one after another, following days of activity by a digger. Is it for a new house? she wonders. God forbid. It's rural land, houses - in theory - are forbidden. But you never know in these parts. Beloved thinks it may be new paddocks for the horses in the paddock already established nearer the road. We will see.

Last night much more mysterious wonders; mysterious, even when fully explained. Scientist Beloved was keen to explain it,drawing pictures of moon, earth, sun and the penumbra. Non-scientist Granny was quite ready to listen. BUT: a lunar eclipse, she thought, while it was ongoing didn't need explanations - they would come after. It just needed looking at. So she looked at it, sitting on the back step, her dog at her feet, wrapped in a sweater; now and then she thought of much more fully wrapped people back on her other island and was grateful for the relative - only relative - warmth. It was a totally clear still night. Slowly, slowly, so slowly, the ragged rather fuzzy shadow crept upwards across the surface of the silver disk; not at all like the crisp earth shadow which makes the new and old crescent moons. It took a long time. Granny went back and forth - Mrs Jonah the headmaster's wife had been to dinner so there was clearing up to do. But then she settled herself on the step more permanently. For there it was. No more silver. Wholly shadowed moon. For a few minutes, even the dogs both far and near stopped barking.

Granny saw the solar eclipse a few years back. She remembers how fleeting the moment of total darkness was. The shadow fled across the sea, passed, stood, fled away, an instant of eternity. That was, she admits, a still grander event than this one- Chartres cathedral say, compared to parish church. Which is not to say that the moon's shadowing wasn't transcendental; it was; it was amazing. The shadow here, not the least fleeting, stayed and stayed. In the beginning, the top of the moon still glowing faintly, it was as if a great golden ball had been flung up into the sky. Gradually the glow faded; the moon turned darker, redder; shrank into itself. Its usually flat -seeming disk no longer flat, it looked like the globe - the ball - it really is; like the pictures of planets you see in books, three dimensional. It was also so small, shrunken. A round red grape turned round red raisin. Beloved went on explaining all this lying on the sofa behind her. While Granny, once it became clear how long the dark red shrunken globe of a moon was going to remain, did some more clearing up. But each time she returned to her dog and her doorstep, there it was, luna mysteriosa; this red moon enthroned amid now clearer constellations; the Plough, the Dipper, Orion's Belt. She tried to take a picture of it. Her not-very expensive camera wasn't having any. She had also meant to stay up - till 11.53 pm she thinks it was supposed to be - to see the shadow finally begin to leave, the silver edge of the full moon appearing once again. But about twenty minutes before then, the moon, finally, had had enough of being gawped at it in its diminished state; it summoned -it was as if it summoned -the sea, the tides. Sea mists raced down from the north, swept across the land, across the sky. In five minutes there was no moon, no stars, no constellations, barely any street lights even beyond the land, just mist everywhere.

Granny and Beloved went to bed. In the morning mist still hid everything though it is clearing now. And there is a beautiful diagram of moon, earth, sun, penumbra in full colour, which you can find here, courtesy of the BBC. And an explanation - which, dare she say it, Granny understand rather better than she understood Beloved's explanation, the night before, when she was drowned in wine and weariness, above all in wonder.

From across the land now comes the sad complaint of separated goats. Isobel, the little one, is about to produce a kid and so has to be kept apart. She and Ruby together are like a married couple, Beloved says, they quarrel all the time, but cannot bear to be parted either so the poor things are in mourning, very loudly. Granny herself is off to change into another hat. Ta ta for the moment.

Don't worry; the next chapters of Lifting the World, will be up on Wednesday as usual. Can you wait?

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