Please excuse the tardiness of this festive post.
It’s Christmas Eve – I had to work today and I have also been up late every night this week just trying to get the absolute minimum done to cobble a decent Christmas together: groceries bought, a real tree purchased and decorated and yes, alright, assemble the super-high maintenance stockings that my older boys will still delight at, anticipating an equal balance of the usual and the unexpected; marzipan from the German store (traditional) but then perhaps a gift certificate for a high end restaurant tucked in deeper still . Like most people, there are a few “must have” traditions that I like to get done in order to feel calmer but honestly, I am not a crazy person about all this. No one here has been carving roses from butter for the table or stringing dried cranberries around the cat basket. I merely try to strike a good balance and still do fun things for myself and the people around me.
Despite that – I somehow ended up weeping yesterday. Continue reading
A good friend of mine once observed that she had to exercise great caution in her selection of music first thing in the morning as it could affect her mood for the rest of the day. I think this is very true for those who actually listen to music and separate from those who just have it on as “something in the background” which I find somewhat appalling in a John-Cusack-High-Fidelity music-snob kind of way.
There’s a certain eccentric charm to the small hamlet in which I live and my eldest son (aka “Frasier” for the purpose of this blog) has likened it more than once to Portlandia
with hilarious accuracy. Here is a timely example extracted from a simple drop-in at one of the nearby cake-shops.
ME: Hello, I’d like half a dozen whole wheat rolls please.
SHOP ASSISTANT: [Warily] Rolls?
ME: [Brightly] Yes. Whole wheat please.
SHOP ASSISTANT: Do you mean rolls – or buns? Rolls are a 2 oz. size difference and there is a noticeable variance in crumb texture. Buns are distinctly larger of course and come in a variety of shapes. Soooo which.do.you.actually.mean?
ME: [Flustered] Oh I’m sorry, I did not realize. I do want buns. Half a dozen please.
SHOP ASSISTANT: [Eyebrow arched] We don’t have buns today. Only rolls.
I’d like to dazzle you now with my witty reply but I had none – it’s a deeply discouraging part of my personality that even though I am no longer a gangly yoof I still allow store clerks to shame me. This was of course a totally ridiculous exchange and more hardboiled folks than I, might have made some helpful suggestions as to where those buns might be dispatched. But unless I prepare for every shop encounter like a job interview, I will always be caught off-guard by this type of unexpected grandstanding. Anyway – it matters not. I bought a dozen rolls (you might recall I only wanted six but it was a bargain just to get out of the shop) and stepped out into the clear, brittle sunshine of winter, clutching my brown bag, breathing in that warm, yeasty fragrance and noting that humiliation aside, I do absolutely love these buns … er … rolls.
There’s no denying the fascination we have with food and its preparation. Just check out the food network for an hour or two. Who would have predicted a few years ago that people would lie on their couch and watch someone else grilling a steak – and that would be the entire show? I don’t recall anyone back in the day being remotely interested in their dad’s BBQ ritual even when it involved dousing the charcoal with that customary shot of lighter fluid; of course, these dads also did not use hair product and nor did they concern themselves with marinades or preparatory spice rubs. What kind of Nancy-Boy would consider “resting the meat” either? Any juices – returning or otherwise – were duly pressed out by the chef himself as he conversationally flattened burgers and steaks alike. Thanks to FoodTV we now know this is not okay. We have also learned about herb butters, aromatics and how a sprig of rosemary makes a tasty brush for applying sauces …
Bookstores (like my own kitchen shelves) are swollen with dozens of glossy, expensive books that tell us how to make the Ultimate Grilled Cheese and transport us to a world where pickle choice and condiment selection occupy entire mornings. Co-ordinated or fashionably faded linen napkins are always clean and readily available. Is it the near-extinction of stay-at-home mums that fuel this devotion? Is it because feeding our own children is one of the few things that we can really do to control our collective anxieties about the state of the world? (And I’m looking at you Martha Stewart and Real Simple magazine as well – they keep stoking the notion that we really can create a haven wherever we live, a controlled, organized space where everyone feels safe and happy. Which actually would be a Good Thing except that this kind of lifestyle often seems to require Hunter boots and a team of personal gardeners). But nonetheless, I haven’t given up the dream and I will often turn to reading about food and its preparation (especially helpful if I am stressed out or unable to sleep) from Nigel Slater or Jamie Oliver or Back in the Day Bakery
When the rain is ticking against the windows and there happens to be a chicken slow roasting away in the oven, the smell that builds throughout the house is nothing short of celestial – and more importantly it’s the smell of love and caring. Food and meal preparation is an act of love after all and perhaps that is why we crave it. But cooking is, unfortunately, another time thief and I don’t want to waste that time to create a solid, hockey puck more suitable for livestock than a birthday ( even if it does have spelt in it!) If no one eats it, what’s the point? As one of my boys asked when he was very young and sampling a homemade but crumbly wheat germ granola bar: “Isn’t this what we fed those llamas at the zoo that time?”