Sunday, November 20, 2011

Food'n'Drugs ...

Do you know what happens when you put petrol into the fuel tank of a diesel? Thought so. Alright, don't laugh. Must have been the first time Margo ever topped up the van, coming back from the Lubéron on Sunday night, and automatic pilot took over ... luckily the engine started to fade as she was pulling out of the péage north of Grenoble, so rather than a long lonely wait in the cold behind the barriers miles from anywhere, she was at least pulled over under the lights and where people are still going slowly.

The tow-truck eventually arrived, mumbled something along the lines of "it happens more often than you'd think" and towed it back to the garage: from whence, once he's cleaned it out, changed the filters and does whatever other magical stuff he deems necessary, we shall reclaim it. Margo eventually turned up home in a taxi: paid for, thankfully, by the insurance. (The taxi driver was apparently a happy man. Nice long drive, non-scary passenger, guaranteed payment and in one trip he's done his turnover for the evening.)

So whatever, this morning we get a phone call from our dearly beloved son, inviting us out to lunch! Oh the thrill! More prosaically, he cooks for the lycée restaurant on Tuesdays, and today they needed more bums on seats. Ours were the lucky bums. Wasn't half bad actually: it being la semaine du goût they'd picked a maghrebin theme (at least today) so we got a daiquiri to start with, soupe au pois chiches, pastilla au fruits de mer, couscous and then, rather disappointingly, fruit salad. (Literally translated, that would be chickpea soup, seafood packets, meat & veg with semolina, and tinned crap.)

That's actually a bit more than I can usually handle at lunch so I rather toyed with it I'm afraid (and I passed on the pastilla, I've no great desire to see if I can still do projectile vomiting) but like I said, not bad at all. (Although it's a shame that tinned fruit salad seems to be full of those little pink balls that I think are supposed to have been cherries at some point. And as much cheap peach as they can stuff in.) And although my cocktail of choice is still a dry martini, I can see that a steady diet of daiquiris on a beach somewhere could become rather addictive.

Of course there were a good dozen or so of his fellow students on service, pretending not to know us as chatting would be unprofessional and they'd get marked down for it, and we got treated, as per instructions,  to a full recital of the contents of each and every plate as it was set before us. But we were very good and didn't laugh, just as well as most of them looked rather self-conscious.

I cheated, by the way, and took a look at the crib sheet that came with the pills. Possible side effects include "nauseau, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, weight gain, weight loss, somnolence, insomnia, headaches, itching, loss of libido, renal failure and suicidal urges". Also, reassuringly, "in rare cases, spontaneous combustion subcutaneous haematomas". Reminds me a bit of the malaria tablets I had to take for Cameroon, with which it was noted that "should you experience violent mood swings and psychotic periods, stop treatment immediately".

They didn't actually say "and get some of your fellow-travellers to strap you into one of those handy straitjackets that you should always have in your luggage, keep you away from chainsaws, and top you up with whisky every two hours", but they might as well have done. A good thing it didn't come to that.

Remind me, by the way, to avoid "organic" produce at the market in future. I mean yes, I'm sure they're really nice people and intellectually I'm all in favour of tree-hugging and saving the planet and stuff like that, but I'm pretty sure that something's been lost in translation because as far as I'm concerned "organic" need not necessarily mean "without pesticide of any form and therefore riddled with worms, weevil, slugs and other surplus-to-requirements dietary supplements". Because I get pissed off at having to chuck out half a spud which turns out to be home to a large and thriving family of threadworm, or whatever agricultural term might be correct for the damn things.

And the carrots are even worse, as the obsession with "organic" apparently extends to ensuring that they're neither washed nor kept humid so as a result when you buy them three days after they've been plucked untimely from the ground they are rather limp and floppy. Not a pleasant thing to touch. The brussells sprouts are, sadly, indescribable.

On the other hand, a good thing to do with left-over roast pork - provided it is decently moist ie a rolled shoulder or somesuch - is a gratin de porc sauce piquante, which I suspect I may have mentioned before but what the hell, I'll mention it again. Now sauce piquante comes in any number of varieties: my favourite is pretty simple, as you start by stewing a couple of chopped spring onions in butter until soft.

When that comes about, sprinkle the little sods with a tbsp of flour, a tsp of decent mustard powder (which is not, let me tell you, that easy to find over in these here benighted parts), a tsp or two of beef stock and add three or four chopped cornichons and, if that floats yer boat, some capers. Stir it all up, add half a cup of water (or white wine, if you insist) and keep stirring on low heat until it starts to thicken, at which point add 4 tbsp of vinegar, 1 tbsp of redcurrant jelly and, if you have some, some hot pepper jelly. KEEP STIRRING. After ten minutes or so, it should be thick but not, if you please, solid.

Taste it, and add more vinegar if it needs it - which it probably will. Many would also find this a good time to sling some parsley in as well, and fair enough too. Assemble the dish: put a coating of sauce on the bottom of a gratin dish, arrange thickish slices of cooked pork (or tongue, or whatever) on top, then coat them all with the rest of the sauce. Into the oven with it for fifteen minutes or so until it starts to bubble, then under the grill. Mashed potatoes (sans worms, weevils or whatever) actually go rather well with this.

Looks like we might have to get that emergency backup dog sooner rather than later. Kelly's having a really bad time of it with her arthritis/rheumatism/whatever - to the point of hobbling around on three legs at times - so Margo took her off to the vet the other day to see what she could get along the lines of anti-inflammatory drugs and such just for pain relief.

Which is when she found out that there was a large tumour in the stomach, and maybe a bone tumour in one foreleg. So it could be anything between a couple of weeks and a couple of months, but while she's happy and not in pain we'll keep her with us, and keep hoping it won't be tomorrow morning that we come downstairs to find her lying stiff.

Whatever, as you can probably tell I tried those raw scallops in orange juice again, followed by baked stuffed apples just for the hell of it. The hot pepper jelly, Sophie and I decided, was not really one of my better ideas: sure, it provided a little taste explosion but the napalm afterburn was enough to kill the subtle flavours of the scallops. So we both shuffled the stuff carefully off to one side and ate around it, pretending it wasn't there.

The apples didn't last long either: stuffed with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins (I knew there was a reason for that squat little bottle that's been lurking at the back of the fridge for the past five years or so), then wrapped in bastard puff pastry and topped with a wodge of crème fraiche five minutes before getting pulled out of the oven. Not pretty, nor elegant, but still ... some things are just too simple to be improved upon.

Anyway, I'm off to the garden to enjoy this weather while I can.

1 comment:

  1. I cheated, by the way, and took a look at the crib sheet that came with the pills.

    Very thoughtful of you to place this paragraph right after the description of tinned fruit salad. Surely the glace cherries are bigger than that.