Friday, 14 November 2014

My mussels, and Nigel Slater's "Toast"

My closest friends and family members will recall that I have a passion for mussels. My longstanding request is that my last meal on earth be mussels.  I have even written a rather heretical poem about this. (Ask me nicely and I'll publish it).
To my great delight our local "Whole Foods" is now selling frozen mussels, (sustainably farmed) and already shelled and cooked  (only $4.99 for a 1lb bag). 
 I fixed a mess of them the other day, in (store bought) seafood stock, with garlic, tomatoes celery and onion (diced), and sweet corn. Look above and let your mouth water.
Apart from today's meal (!) my memory of  the finest mussel meal  of my life, to date, was in Rimini, Italy.  My pal Joe S. and I sat outside a great little restaurant, and I had a dish of steaming mussels, straight from the ocean it seemed.  Such memories.
Food and memory.
My good Anglo-American friend Diana put me on to "Toast". (Published in the U.S.A. by Gotham Books in 2004, in the United Kingdom by Penguin Books in 2003).
You can read more about Nigel Slater here:
Slater's Thesis is this: "Forget salt and pepper, garlic and lemon. The most successful seasoning for what we eat is a good pinch of nostalgia"
Of "Toast" the Wikipedia entry has this: Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, a moving and award-winning autobiography focused on his love of food, his childhood, his family relationships (his mother died of   asthma when he was nine) and his burgeoning sexuality. Slater has called it "the most intimate memoir that any food person has ever written".
It is a "must read" for British folks who grew up with "not very good" cooking; with sherbet fountains, 99 ice cream cones, penny and ha'penny chews, dandelion and burdock soda, ice-cream soda, and with those nipply/breasty shaped Nestle (?)  Walnut Whip confections - a creamy-gooey inside covered in chocolate with a walnut on top.
Walnut Whip
Slater is also funny.  He recalls that the family "daily", Mrs. Poole, disapproved of dandelion and burdock soda.
He writes  "I don't know how you can drink that stuff" says our daily, Mrs.  Poole, grimacing like a haddock eating mustard"
In another place Slater writes "Forget scented candles and fresh brewed coffee. Every home should smell of baking Christmas cake. That, and warm freshly ironed tea towels hanging on a rail in front of the Aga. It's a pity we had Auntie Fanny living with us.  Her incontinence could take the smell off a chicken curry; let alone a baking cake.  No matter how many mince pies were being made, or pine logs burning in the grate, or how many orange-and-clove pomanders my mother had made, there was always the faintest whiff of Auntie Fanny.
Warm sweet fruit, a cake in the oven, hot retriever curled up by the Aga, mince pies, Mum's 4711. Every child's Christmas memories should smell like that.  Mine did.  It's a pity that there was always a passing breeze of ammonia."
"Toast"  (his mother always burned it) is a splendid, touching and funny book.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Junior cat Adelaide all excited 'cause there is a bird outside


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

"FATHER AND SON A LIFETIME" by Marcos Giralt Torrente. (Am I in this book?)

I have just read "FATHER AND SON  A LIFETIME"  by Marcos Giralt Torrente.  The book was published in Spain in 2010.  Translated into English by Natasha Wimmer the book was published by Sarah Crichton Books in 2014.

This bittersweet and tender memoir is about Torrente's interaction with his unpredictable father, right up until the death, from cancer, of the latter.
It's a good read, and I recommend the book.

On page 108 of the American edition Marcos Torrente writes this of his father:

" My father was shy, introverted, and melancholy by nature, but that does not mean that he was sad. He hated any kind of solemnity, including the solemnity bred of sadness.  His main obsession, it's fair to say, was being happy.  He harbored all kinds of doubts about himself and was always grappling with them. but just as zealously he sought distraction, sought to brush his doubts aside. Humor was his tool, the territory in which he moved most easily.  He used it to defuse potential conflict, to avoid the gaze of others, to shine in public, to demand affection, to order affection, to judge the world. Also to defend himself.  When he was cornered and forced into a prickly conversation. his initial tactic for dodging blows was a humorous remark. It was his way of asking for forgiveness and obtaining it before running into a dead end. It was his way of buying time when he felt corralled before a blowup, since his incapacity for dialogue when he was questioned often led to fits of anger."

There is so much of me in this description. 

Thank goodness I never married and had a son. He would have seen through me by the time he was thirteen, hated me by the time he was sixteen, ignored me in his twenties, despised me in his thirties, and tried to understand me in his forties.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Minor technical nuisances, and a major canine success

Plastic cover for engine.  Finding the engine block is hard if you don't have an adjustable wrench with which to remove the four bolts which hold this in place.
Dead battery
My brother Martyn, and his son Sam will remember that my car battery died one night back in 2011 after we'd had dinner at Barnacle Bill's on SRQ's "North Trail".
After resting the engine for a bit we managed to start the car just as the AAA techie arrived.  He was very nice about this.  But the car would start the next morning.  AAA replaced the battery which was just as well, since M and S were heading out to Sea World that day.
That new battery "died" in Feb 2013, and was replaced, fee of charge, under warranty.
This morning, less than two years later, the replacement battery was wonky.  I thought that I might have left headlight on overnight, so I jump started the battery with the help of y neighbour Garry's car, and my jumper cables.   I drove to the bank, and left the engine running while I made a deposit, hoping that I could get so charge into the battery. 
The it was off to the Opera House and the Library, to pick up a ticket at one place, and a book at the other.  (They are opposite sides of the same street).  As I  walked back to the car I did two irrational things.  I crossed my fingers, and I prayed that the engine would start.  I didn't.
I put on my friendly face and asked a woman who was returning to her car if she would help me jump start the battery.  She was pleased to so do.
I suppose that car manufacturers believe that jump starting will never be needed. In the case of my Santa Fe, since the engine is covered with a plastic shield, it is almost impossible to find a place on the engine block at which to attach the negative clip of the jumper cables.  I had to manually hold the clip against a bit of the engine which was visible, whilst my kind helper turned the key.  (She had offered to hold it in place.  I declined on the grounds that if anyone was about to be electrocuted it should be me). 
Back at home I ran the engine for an hour in the hope of getting a bit of a charge, but to no avail. AAA arrived at 3:30 p.m., and replaced the replacement battery under a pro-rated rate dating back to the 2011 battery replacement.  So I am eighty four bucks out of pocket.  Darn!  Batteries should be good for more than two years.
It will print a test sheet
It is connected to Wi-Fi

I bought a new Wi-Fi enabled Epson XP 310 printer last September at "Best Buy"  It cost the princely sum of $75.
It has worked so well -  until two days ago. 
'Tis all very strange. 
(1)  It will print a test sheet. (So the printer itself is fine)
(2)  The screen on the printer indicates that it is connected to Wi-Fi  (But  it refuses to print from my computer, which "says" that it cannot locate the printer).
What goesI do not know: but I will go to the American "Best Buy" chain tomorrow, (test sheet in hand)  and check in with their "Geek Squad".
Should their fee for repairs  be excessive (They are rumoured to start at $99) I will ditch the Epson XP 310, and buy a cheap, basic, and non Wi-Fi printer for abut 40 bucks. 
Why would a printer work one day, and not the next? Such is the mystery of this electronic age.
A major success.

The ever adorable, and always loving canine "Penne" has been an important part  of my life since I adopted her back in 2007 or 2008.
Ever since then her "Tummy troubles" have bothered me.  She would so often refuse to eat until she had a first eaten grass, and then thrown up.
Earlier this year it dawned on me that she was always vomiting  un-digested kibble.  I sussed  that dry food was not good for her.
So I adjusted her diet.  Now I feed her only good  quality canned food, (supplemented with a scrambled egg).  She eats it with glee, and the days of grass eating and vomiting are in her past.
Poor dear Penne.  Even though I had bought the very best and most expensive kibble, it was not good for digestive system.
We do what we think is the best,  even if it is not the best for our pets.
Makes me think about how much the human parents of tiny babes must "agonize" about the best ways to feed their infants.