I’ll be back

It’s amazing how unexpected eye surgery can put the brakes on creative outlet.  I’ll be back soon to bore you all in 2016. Until then – fellow bloggers, readers and friends – where ever in the world you are have a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Jean-Paul

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Bread and bluffing at cards

This week Guido and I reached another terrifying mid-month point in our lives. It’s the time when we both lay awake in bed at night trying to plot the downfall of our poker winning friends, Ted and Gary.  Just kidding, we love you guys really.

“Bring a bottle of something fruity.  And make sure it’s REALLY expensive,” said Guido.  “In fact, bring three bottles.” He put down the telephone with a big clunk.  

“There’s no shame,” I yelled.  “What’s the point of being friends with a millionaire banker if he can’t spare some Chateaux Margaux 2009 to wash down some of our cheap and nasty olives.”  I mean really.  The number of times we’ve lost playing cards is catastrophic.  “If they’re taking us down I want some expensive anaesthetic to dull the agony.”  

I swear I could hear Ted and Gary cracking their knuckles and the distinctive rat tat tat of cards being shuffled from half way down Southwark Street.  Installed in a café booth they wasted no time whatsoever in shifting cash from our side of the table to theirs.  Here in Bermondsey it’s what you’d enthusiastically call a fun night in with friends.  Though only if you happened to be rich and complete masochists. 

Guido this bruschetta is amazing.  What’s the bread?” purred Ted. 

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll remember that Guido and Ted bonded over a spelt loaf at a Peggy Porschen bake class.  It changed their lives forever.  Most male friends text the football scores, instead they Twitter bread batter recipes. 

I looked at the hand of cards Gary had  dealt me and I blinked a couple of times. I had a flush and I’m not talking about the sweaty kind.  I blinked a couple of more times.  I really did have a flush.  Stay calm I thought. This is the best hand you’ve had in fifteen years, don’t blow it by being the transparently awful player you usually are.

“Its a rosemary and sea salt sour dough,” said Guido. “See you and raise you.”

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m a flight attendant but I love those hard bread rolls we serve on aircraft,” said Gary. He glanced at his cards and winced.  “They’re great if there’s turbulence because you can just lob them at passengers like a slam dunk and nobody cares.”

I stared at my cards again, savouring the moment.  I stifled a hysterical laugh. 

 “And what’s your favourite bread, Ted?”  I said innocently. I said this so simperingly it was like black molasses treacle dripping from my vowels.  Never before had I pondered the words –  revenge is sweet – with such anticipation.

“Granary oat,” Ted said completely deadpan.  He took a sip and reshuffled. I think he twitched. “See you and raise you.”

“Well nothing beats a baguette in my book,” I said, “with possibly the exception of a bit of crumpet.”  I tapped my cards. I was ready to show.  Boy this was better than a hot brioche. “Flush,” I said magnanimously.

Gary threw his cards and so did Guido.  My hand moved tantalisingly towards the cash at the centre of the table.

“Full House,” said Ted. He revealed his all with the usual po-faced aplomb.  

Of course I’m far too polite to tell you what I screamed, but it sounded a bit like focaccia.

A big bang

Picture this.  At midnight last night Guido and I were in the café kitchen.    He was wearing a tee-shirt with the words HO HO HO on the front of it.  I should respectfully point out that he had nothing else on except for a pair of tartan boxer shorts.  More specific detail of the latter, later. 

Two days to go and preparations for the last café evening opening of the year had hit a minor but crucial issue.  There was no menu.  Guido looked at his watch. 

“We have an hour to come up with ideas,” he said, “nothing predictable.  I’m looking to go out with a big bang.” 

Readers will know cooking isn’t exactly my strong point.  Unless of course it involved toast.  I stared hopefully upwards at the ceiling for inspiration.  I hummed a little tune.  I tried not to think of recipes involving garlic as I swear it’s the root cause of why Guido and I have no friends. 

“I don’t believe it’s possible to live well without eating well,” said Guido unexpectedly resting his big chopper on the work top.  “I want food that makes me feel good, not just when I’m eating it, but when I’m cooking it too.  I believe with all my heart that what and how we cook can make us feel better and more alive.”  He curled his long hair back behind his ears.   “For me a meal, however simple, is a celebration of life.  And life’s for celebrating.”  God, I thought, this was getting deep.  This must be what it’s like to live with Nigella Lawson.

I looked at Guido’s mountain bike propped up against the back door and inexplicably chef Heston Blumenthal in a lab coat popped into my brain.  “Why don’t we get your tyre pump and inflate a wild guinea fowl to the point of explosion?” I said sounding desperate.  It brought a little bit of Bray to Bermondsey.  

“What for?” said Guido looking blankly. 

“Don’t ask me,” I said, “but it’s exactly the sort of thing Heston would do.”  

My eyes drifted back to the ceiling, then to Guido’s tartan shorts, and then back to the ceiling.  Stay focused.  I started to hum the Scottish national anthem.   

“I’ve got it!” he yelled suddenly.  The word Eureka! filled the room.  “I’ll roast a turkey!”  Please note there are four exclamation marks in this sentence alone!

Roast a turkey in December?  Duh, why didn’t I think of that?  My boyfriend had a brilliant mind.  He was an absolute genius. 

“Yeah,” he said, “and I could stuff it!”  This was getting better by the second.  “I could mould warm crusty balls of sage and onion mix with my big bare hands.  It would ooze between my fingers.  With big slabs of spicy sausage on the side.”  He paused, salivating.   “Then I could dribble it all with some of my thick sticky gravy.”  

Boy, was it just me or was it suddenly getting very hot in here?  I felt like my glasses could possibly be hazing up.  Never before had a full roast made me want to rip all of my clothes off and have sex on a chopping board.  

“Sorted!” he shouted.  He looked at his watch.  “And we still have fifty minutes to spare.  Got any other ideas?” 

I stared at Guido’s tartan shorts and thought about going out with a big bang.  

“Yeah,” I said, “but its really predictable.”         

Trust and our Christmas tree

My mother once told me never to trust any man from Liverpool.  This is the same woman who also advised me never to get into a serious relationship with a plumber because they all cheat.  Apologises to every monogamous plumber out there.  Whilst I could understand possibly vetoing all men from a particular city, I do think it’s a bit unreasonable to boycott an entire occupational profession.  I can only deduce that before she met and married my father, my mother hooked up with a tradesman from Merseyside who had copious amounts of sex, only unfortunately not solely with her.  I guess life teaches you to forgive, but you never forget those things. I’m just really thankful she never had a fling with a chef from Malaga because heaven only knows who I’d be sleeping with now if she had.     

I’m also grateful that in this wonderful universe of ours opposites do attract.  If they didn’t Guido and I wouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of survival.  We perfectly fit that profile.  Let’s take a for example, and something which should be really simple to illustrate how easy it is to divide us into a two camps.  I can do that by typing one simple nine letter word.  Christmas.  

Guido loves Christmas.  He can’t get enough of it.  I hate it.  If someone could knock me out and cryogennically freeze me in say mid-December, then bring me round with some smelling salts when Big Ben chimes in January, I’d be eternally grateful.  Alas that is not to be.  And so this morning Guido insisted I take part in that horrible annual ritual which involves getting up very early to go to a stall at Borough Market to pick a Christmas tree together.   To celebrate the outing this year Guido wore a red and white fur trimmed cap.  It’s the same kind of shape that the seven dwarfs had.  It had a bell on the end of it and as we walked along Southwark Street he’d periodically shake his man bun so it appeared to make a dinging noise.    Guido thought that was hysterical.  I hate to tell you this but it’s at times like that I could quite happily see the man I love being smeared in honey and then tied securely to an anthill. 

“I think we should carefully consider the options,” he said in all seriousness, “I’m swaying this year towards a Scotch Pine over a Norwegian Spruce.” 

Phew.  What a blessed relief that was.  The Noble Fir we had last year was a pine needle dropping bald branched disaster area.  Our vacuum cleaner’s never been the same again.

As luck would have it the market was empty.  That’s because there were no other complete idiots up out of bed at that time on a Sunday morning.  Except for us and a man surreptitiously selling trees out the back of his white van.  I have to say the trees looked a bit more like they had been uprooted rather than expertly felled but Guido was quite happy to ignore tree species and their origins if he could bag a good bargain.  We certainly got a great price.  It turned out the guy selling them was actually a plumber (originally from Liverpool) who just happened to enjoy doing a bit of arboreal work at weekends. 

I phoned my mother.  Her prediction is that the tree will not survive the week.      

Soufflés and other let downs

Guido has spent almost all his spare time so far this week trying to create the perfect blue cheese soufflé.   God it’s tough living with a chef.  Let’s just say we’ve had no highs and quite a few gooey lows over the past few days. Eggs have been scrambled and the Spanish word “Mierda” has been screamed a lot.  Honestly my enthusiasm for veined stilton just isn’t what it used to be.  I am surprised the process hasn’t left us both egg bound.  The tension whilst waiting for the oven door to open on an evening makes the Cuban missile crisis look like a daft misunderstanding.  

But, a soufflé turning out to be a pile of pants is nothing compared to what I’ve been through.

The pink wedding tuxedo I ordered via my dubious internet tailor, Haziq in Kuala Lumpur, arrived.  I‘d be lying if I didn’t tell you I had fears right from the off.  Haziq seemed more interested in my payment methods than my inside leg measurements.  Here’s a snappy three word line from an email exchange I had with him.  See below.

SEND ONLY DOLLARS!!!!!!

 Far be it from me to be grammatically picky but the over use of capitalisation and the exclamation mark makes their impact seem somewhat superfluous to me.  They should be reserved for use in only cases of extreme emphasis, when emphasis is needed.  See example below.

GUIDO CAN YOU PLEASE GET OVER THE SOUFFLEE OBSESSION!!!!!!!!!

The tuxedo arrived in an envelope no bigger that the size of our gas bill.  I thought it must be a cloth sample.  But no, it turned out to be the entire suit. 

“Do you think this is going to fit?” I said to Guido unwrapping it and holding it up against my chest. 

“Who have you got in mind going into it?” Guido asked, “The Incredible Shrinking Man?” 

It’s true, I’d have to lose half my body weight.  The lapels barely covered a nipple.  Whilst the trouser legs tapered to a fashionable point, actually pulling them on was going to probably involve a shoe horn and a cast of thousands.  As for dressing to the left or the right the only viable option I could see working was going to be straight up the middle.  Though I’m not sure the crotch would withstand the G force of yanking the zipper.  Attempting the latter was certainly something Guido and I could try out on a wet afternoon when we had nothing better to do but eat sloppy eggs. 

I picked up the phone and called Malaysia.  I knew it was Haziq because he spoke in capitalisation and exclamation.  So did I. He said he’d put me through to his customer service department but I think it was still actually him because he sounded exactly the same only with a high pitched and silly voice.  I hung up.  

Later in bed I asked Guido what he thought I should do and he suggested cutting up the tuxedo and turning it into some napkins. 

I told him that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.  But if anyone else has a better idea then please do let me know.