Well, a stream of photos had been trickling onto our Z: drive, here at Big Garden HQ, but no copy to go with them. So, as editor-in-chief, I guess I’ll just have to do what any self-respecting editor does these days – make something up. No I really mean that in the best possible sense. No, really! … … …
So, Denise is in Lanzarote – not only for the winter sun (which she really craves), but also on an adventure to learn new things. It’s by far the furthest she’s ever travelled from the UK, and only her third time in Spain (the previous two she was visiting our daughter Catherine, who is settled in Navarra with her Basque partner Ion).
Spanish. She started from scratch about 6-8 months ago, but only really got going after her operation, last Autumn. All from books and internet. A lot of practice in the past few weeks, including revision and re-writing her notes into a wee pocket book. My instructions for domestic management have been left partly in Spanish, but my knowledge of the language is nothing more than I’ve acquired through giving her random English words and expressions to translate into Spanish. (Alas, I lack both time and motivation to learn. At least for now.) Becky and Denise are staying in the north of the island – as far from the mass-tourism resorts as they could. A self-catering finca, and a hired car. Sink or swim!
Driving abroad. Or more specifically, driving on the right, in a left-hand-drive car. She did it when we lived in Germany in the 90s, but rarely without me, and in fact rarely, period.
Long-distance multi-modal travel. I got all I wanted, thank you very much, of planes, trains, trams, buses, taxis, hire cars, etc etc, (and of course timetables!) when I was working away from home on major engineering projects. At times, Denise was envious, though mistakenly so: my travel was just work – all security gates, departure lounges, hotels, office desks and meetings. Yawn! Denise is lucky: she’s doing it just for her own sake. But it’s new to her, and she wants to feel that, in our ‘retirement’ (well, semi-retirement) she can head off to see our daughters – whether in Ceredigion or Navarra (or elsewhere) – and not be shackled for want of confidence.
But it’s not just Denise learning new skills. I, too, have decided I need to learn something new – something others – certainly Denise! – take for granted.
Cooking! The fact is that I’ve never had much reason to cook for myself. Even when, 2009-2010, I was living mostly away from home, in our old motorhome, working in SE England, or when Denise was in hospital or visiting Catherine or Becky and I stayed at home – as now – looking after the home and animals etc, the most I could do in the way of cooking was to put a ready-made (or Denise-made!) pie in the oven and boil some veg. I could also boil an egg and make porridge. I couldn’t do any of those things well. There was no reason to learn more, and anyway I had no motivation to do so without Denise to take an interest in what I do.
However I’ve been quietly nurturing a wee timorous beastie of a dream: to learn enough about cooking to be able to make something others might enjoy, and might express my love of wonderful fresh home-grown produce.
By chance, listening to the radio whilst I was waiting to see the plane take off safely from BEB on Wednesday, I heard a piece about the delight of recipe books from other countries. Not UK books with recipes based on cuisine of other countries – but their own cookbooks. After the plane took off, I called in at the nearby thrift shop – and there came across a recipe book originally produced by Mennonite churches of the USA. Entitled More with Less, and now in its third edition, it has proved over the years to be an inspiration to what might now be labelled as world food, ethical eating, or sustainable food. Over the years, More with Less has been joined by a couple of other recipe books, one of which turns out to be the very one mentioned on the radio programme, with recipes contributed from minority cultures around the world. That’s what particularly inspired me, so I’ve now bought a used copy of that on Amazon. However I did buy More with Less from the thrift shop (apparently never used – in perfect condition), and back at home I’ve been excitedly searching for a recipe with which I could make some kind of tentative first step.
Now Denise had left for me, in the fridge and ready to put in the Aga, a slice of salmon dressed with olive oil and home-grown rosmeary. The problem was, I didn’t know what to put with it. Yes, there was home-grown potatoes and parsnips, and carrots too, but I didn’t want to end up just boiling those. Our own carrots are pulled from the ground only as we need them – even in winter, but these had been in the fridge and needed using soon. This recipe caught my attention. I summoned up my resolve … and then realized that whilst I could handle the USA’s lbs and ozs, qts and pts, I knew nothing more about c. t. and T. other than that they are cup, teaspoon and tablespoon. We don’t have those measures in the house, and I couldn’t find a conversion table (well I could find two on the internet, but they disagreed!). And I needed to cut the quantities by two-thirds! But as my attempt would be 98% luck anyway – what the hell! For the sake of health I used olive oil instead of margarine (but how much to use? how much substitutes for margarine?) and I added a few garlic granules (otherwise it would have been a whole clove of fresh garlic – surely too much?). And a spoonful of greek yoghurt to thicken the ‘sauce’.
I had anticipated the whole thing might turn out to be an overture on a theme of pink-and-orange, so I’d planned to nip out into the garden to get some fresh curly kale to add to the carrots and the sauce and hoping (mistakenly, I now suspect) it would crisp a bit, without losing its green appeal. However I opened the door to discover that the storm that has been raging non-stop for three days was not going to go out without a final fistful of hail and rain, and anyway isn’t life supposed to look just fine through pink-and-orange-tinted glasses?
Well, I have to say the result was absolutely … er, um … acceptable. If there was one thing that would have made it better? Skip the garlic. Dried garlic granules, certainly. And, you know what, some of that curly kale from the garden would have been worth the getting wet for!
Goodness – you still here? I thought I was writing just for myself! But why the glazed expression? Dreaming of my Ginger-Glazed Carrots? No. I see. You fell asleep with your eyes still attached to the screen. Oh dear!