Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Another quickie this.

They came, they saw, they showered - luxuriantly - and then they ate - how they ate, very slowly, savouring every bite.

There's one part of Granny - the puritanical Angl0-Saxon bit, brought up on the notion of eat to live rather than the reverse and generally surprised by the proportion of their income that those across the channel were prepared to spend on food - what about the starving masses? - etc etc - that thinks she ought not really to enjoy such gastronomic excess. On the other hand: since her long-ago education via the books of Elizabeth David and her successors she has learned, somewhat, to suppress this part of herself. (While not of course entirely forgetting the starving masses: time for another contribution to Oxfam or Africa Now, perhaps, that useful means of appeasing a guilty middle-class conscience..?) But the rest of her - and on such occasions - is quite able to quell that part. And how.

Gastronomy after all - she tells herself and you - is an art like any other. Making a meal at restaurants like this the equivalent of a visit to the Tate? Possibly. For the Waterside is particularly high art. Take the lobster Granny and Beloved ate - very slowly - its richness and even richer portwine sauce offset by a sprig or two of chervil, much subtler than parsley but not as blatant as coriander - very slightly liquorice, or aniseed, but not quite. It was a bit like that dot of white - like the glint on Vermeer's pearl earring - that turns a good painting into a great one. When the chef himself came round to greet them - it was that sort of restaurant - and Granny pointed out this perfect touch - he was pleased: 'my herbs are not for decoration,' he said. Quite.

And then there was the perfection of the restaurant choreography - a ballet of waiters, wine waiters, under-managers which outdid the Royal Ballet. After the lobster came a duckling. It was carved with marvellous dexterity by an under manager wielding a wide, glinting steel knife, while the vegetables were laid out -exquisitely -by a waiter - one of those who wore waistcoat and shirt sleeves, as opposed to the wine waiters' tail coats., turned temporarily soloist. 'You're doing a chef's job here,' Granny said to him. 'It makes the job more interesting.' he said. The duck was as perfect as the lobster, tender, a little pink, full of flavour, if a bit too much - in quantity - for Granny, who rarely eats meat. She gave some of her slices to Beloved.)

Now Granny is as fond as anyone of good food in more rough and ready surroundings - gastro pubs for instance. She doesn't always want to be part of a gastronomic ballet. Or only once in a very blue moon. But that once in a blue moon is heaven, at the time.- and for a bit longer, given the presents of jam, coffee and cookery books that she and Beloved came away with. (And now for the contribution to Oxfam to make it virtuous - sort of - as well.)

She got up yesterday and went straight to Stoke Newington to mind her beloved little lone twin baby for the afternoon. Who wailed in the park, when tired. Slept thereafter and then chatted and smiled as she does So that was alright. Real life - nice real life - restored.


Wonderful, golden autumn weather by the way. The kind she misses on her island, which doesn't do turning leaves only the rather inelegant browning and falling of the ever-green variety. To which she will be returning in 10 days or so. Next week she is off to see old friends in Somerset to see still more of the English kind.


'Sta luego, amigos.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


More inter- cultural jottings - from London this time. Rasta man - hair tucked into huge beret - in the street behind Granny's flats with small child, evidently his own. He is jumping the child up and down to the child's delight. "Upsidaisy" he says, "Upsidaisy". Granny doesn't think that phrase ever came out of Jamaica. But it certainly came out of her long-dead mother's mouth long ago and from hers, with her children and now with her grandchildren. UPSIDAISY. Indeed. It belongs to us all. UPSIDAISY.

But this is all she is going to write now. She is currently sitting on a very comfortable and very big bed in an extremely upmarket and Michelin starred establishment alongside the Thames - she and Beloved will shortly go for an exploratory riverside walk. No, she has not come into a fortune suddenly. This is a final joint family present to her and Beloved to celebrate - belatedly - their mutual arrival into an eighth decade. They have been, drooling, reading the menu for the meal which will at 8 o'clock be placed in front of them.

'Like eating money,' said a very puritanical friend once of a similar establishment. 'But oh what delicious money,' Granny said, 'what a delicious money just the same.' She will, very shortly, experience - with her tongue, her mouth, her tastebuds, her belly. this lovely money, for herself.

Though you will be glad to know that she has - on ethical grounds - turned down the offer of foie gras.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Granny is very sorry. No: she is not dead/disabled/eaten by shark/smothered by figs/drowned in the paddling pool/ whatever you choose - or don't choose to imagine. She is lazy/inadequate/generally useless. (Make a cross as applicable. Check all options if you like.) She has also been writing - really. Well, that's her excuse, so there. Otherwise she has been doing much as normal, apart from the fact that last weekend was the great yearly fiesta when the whole island descends on the village next to hers on foot and dressed in local dress. (Does Granny dress up in local dress. NO. Though she does walk there like everybody else: in her case it takes all of ten minutes so is not exactly an effort. And anyway, all roads closed to cars, it's the only option.)

Tomorrow is the date of the actual festival celebrated - the day of la Virgen de los Dolores Our Lady of Sorrows, if you prefer - one of the many gods of Catholicism - no more monotheistic than Hinduism as far as Granny can tell. Which means it's yet another holiday and all the shops and businesses are closed. And she herself is due to fly to London, to see the babies among other things.

So she hasn't much to say now, nor much time to say it in. Beloved is busy with the hassle of shipping a dog back to England - the Little Black Local Yokel - off to join his owner - which is worse than shipping a load of cocaine as far as Granny can see. Oh the jabs at the vet, the pet passport, the paperwork, the customs forms, the acquisition of a box of exactly the size allowed by the airline. Etc etc etc. Plus the cost: a lot. Plus all relevant businesses being closed for fiesta on the day everything was supposed to come together. Granny's advice to anyone thinking of shipping an animal back to Blighty is: DON'T.

Meantime a large amount of grapes arrive, thanks to next door neighbour - the grape harvest is finally over: but the large amount of pork Beloved was supposed to be buying from another neighbour doesn't materialise because the slaughter vet claimed the poor animal's liver was defective so that the whole animal had to be thrown away. Neighbour not pleased, nor Beloved, though Granny herself was a bit dubious to start with. (Neighbour's pigs have reasonable quality of life - more than reasonable - but aren't exactly free-range, so not quite happy enough pigs for her.)

Oh and this animal story: concerning the Beautiful Wimp who is NOT being despatched to England. No way. Beautiful Wimp is a mixture of whippet and Welsh collie; looks like a small rather pointy-nosed collie therefore. Granny was walking him along a local dirt road when up rolls a van with a group of what looks like Andean Latin Americans - Ecuadorian or Peruvian. One of them leans out, points at the Beautiful Wimp and shouts - and this is a moment of beautiful cultural, geographical, linguistic animal intermixing. 'LASSIE.'

'No. LADDIE,' Granny shouts back, imagining a village somewhere high up on the Alto Plano showing old old films to the local inhabitants. Much as she, years ago, staying in a remote Donegal village and attending the weekly fillum show in the village hall was treated to several episodes of Tom Mix: the even more antique serial where the good cowboy wears a white hat, the bad one a black. and the heroine ends most episodes tied to a railway line in front of an advancing train/about to be swallowed by a whale/fall off a cliff, whatever.

Hollywood is a great cultural binder. Especially in a world where people travel a long way from home. Granny included.

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