Pie-gate

Sometimes in the morning I’ll be in bed asleep upstairs in our loft and my eyes will go from being tight shut to wide open in a nanosecond. It’s because at that moment I get the scent of cherry pie coming out of the oven downstairs in the cafe. Well, that’s what happened last week – only rather than cherry it was apple and raisin with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Trust me I can tell the difference between a baked cherry and a baked apple. It’s taken years of sniffing to get it down to such a fine art. In fact, if anyone is ever looking for a professional pie sniffer then look no further than me folks because I’m your man. Eating pie is, of course, the obvious progression and, whilst I’ve never actually entered a pie eating competition, pass the spoon.

Anyway the reason I’m telling you this baloney is because something rather awkward has happened between me, my husband and a piece of crust. Yes, to coin the phrase by the late Princess Diana, “there were now 3 of us in this marriage”. Whilst thankfully my marital competition has proved to be completely edible, Guido has started referring to this weird episode as, Pie-gate. You know where I’m going with this one.

Baked especially to sell front of house, it was about the size of a cartwheel in circumference; cut into 16 perfectly proportioned slices. The surface was golden and crispy and was oozing lusciousness from every possible angle. Guido, surely, wouldn’t miss just one solitary slice?

Yes he would.

No he wouldn’t.

Yes he would.

No he wouldn’t.

There isn’t that much that turns my brain into indecisive mush except possibly Bear Grylls topless and a sugary filling, but there I was like Dr Jekyll transitioning into Mr Hyde in a cake shop. I picked up a knife and I cut. I hesitantly looked left. Then I craftily looked right. I checked for any possible witnesses to this unfolding crumb scene and then; and then I just ate it in greedy guilty gulps. It was like feeding time at the monkey house – both hideous and hysterical all rolled into one. As you can see I live a gloriously hedonistic lifestyle for a professional pie sniffer. I looked at the remaining pie. There was an obvious gap. Hmm. I had a light bulb moment. If I just moved all of the other slices 6mm to the left then 16 slices magically became 15. I let out a deranged Mr Hyde cackle of laughter. It clearly takes a while for his maniacal sugar rush to wear off. But who am I to judge.

However, the real test was to come 2 hours later.

“When I cut this here pie,” said Guido holding a cake slice confrontationally, “there were 16 slices. Now there are 15. Care to elaborate?”

I glanced over my shoulder like he was talking to someone else. However the problem is, when I lie, I blink excessively. It’s a dead give away.

“I have no idea,” I said blink blink, “what you’re talking about.” Blink blink, and double blink.

“Really?” said Guido.

He knew, that I knew, that he knew.

“Absolutely,” I said blink blink blink, “Pie, what pie?” Blink blink blink.

And I know what you’re all thinking. But let he who is without sin, cast the first slice.

The secret life of plants

Last night Guido and I were in bed. The lights were out. Guido was laying next to me boring me to death about how difficult it is to roll out a decent sweet pastry pie; whilst, bizarrely, all I could think about was how long a rubber plant’s tentacles might grow.

You see, I’ve discovered a wonderful Instagram account called “Boys with Plants”. To be clear. The photographs on that particular site have nothing to do with boys – they are all men – but it definitely involves plants. Some men have their clothes on, some (tantalisingly) do not. Every branch or leaf is strategically but super tastefully placed; if you catch my drift.

“When you embellish interior spaces with houseplants, you’re not just adding greenery,” I butted in abruptly. Guido was right in the middle of describing how he dusts flour on a work surface then kneads vigorously to a dry paste. “These living organisms interact with your body, mind and home in ways that enhance the quality of life,” I said. Spookily I sounded like a member of Royal Kew Gardens and if you visit “Boys with Plants” you’ll realise just how happily you could become one of their latest devotees too.

“Yeah. Anyway,” said Guido, “getting back to my pastry pie mix…”

Place several plants together, and you can increase the humidity of a room, which helps keep respiratory problems at bay. Studies at the University of Norway document that even using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and a hacking cough. And if anyone had bothered to tell me any of this before Winter I’d have just stripped right off and caressed the nearest Begonia.

“Just imagine if we had a fully erect fiddle leaf fig in here,” I said. “At night, photosynthesis ceases, and plants typically breathe like humans, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide.”

Well at least I thought that sounded like a good idea, though, if I’m honest, it did have a touch of The Day of The Triffids about it.

“Look,” said Guido rolling over, “you’re a complete disaster area with house plants. You either starve them to death until they crisp up and wither or flood the hell out of them. You’re like the horticultural equivalent of a serial killer.”

That was harsh. But realise there are at least six feather ferns out there who would agree with him. I tried to imagine holding a big prickly cactus between my legs and, frankly, I think it would take far more skill than knocking up a buttery pastry which crumbled easily. So I battled bravely on.

“Okay,” I said, “but how would you feel about being photographed flexing arm muscles whilst grappling with a Monster Philodendron. If you’re feeling shy I’d be willing to throw in a Chrysanthemum.”

Guido rolled over groaning. Sometimes talking to him in bed can be such a tough gig. I could certainly tell selling this – naked with plants thing – was obviously going to be way more difficult to pitch than the – naked with maple syrup thing. So I closed my eyes.  I tried to clear my mind of any mental images of Guido slowly taking all his clothes off and then getting to know a big Geranium better.

But it’s amazing what a fertile imagination can do.

I won’t have what he’s having

I think it was Shirley Conrad who once said “life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” but if someone bakes one then I’m happy to eat it. Especially if it’s got crushed garlic, chopped parsley, smoked ham and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs.

“Hey, snap out of it,” said my friend Marc clicking his fingers impatiently. I met him for lunch yesterday at The Spanish Onion. There were no mushrooms on the Specials Board and I was getting the distinct impression that, whilst life may not be too short, he was definitely measuring it.

For some strange reason he was wearing sunglasses (indoors) despite the fact it was dull outside. Worryingly, since we last hooked up, he’s also become a devotee of Wellness. Something of a craze round these parts. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned, wellbeing, isn’t about an extreme lifestyle choice. It’s about not getting sick.

“I’m having on average 7 hours and 36 minutes sleep – I’m timing it,” he said. “When I wake up I immediately turn on the infrared light at the end of my bed and meditate. It helps focus my mind for the day ahead. I shower using only organic products. You do know shampoos and gels are totally toxic? Then I weigh myself and use a litmus strip to test my urine pH levels.”

Goodness, I thought, no time for Cheerios then?

“I take shots of activated charcoal or an isotonic supplement. The latter comes from plankton. That way I stay hydrated. Oh, and by the way I’ve converted to vegetarianism. It’s been scientifically proven that when an animal is killed the cortisol they release into their bodies ends up flowing into yours. However, I’m finding eggs a colonic challenge.” I guessed an omelette for lunch was out.

Apart from the words – it helps keep me hydrated – I didn’t have a clue what Marc was talking about. But I couldn’t help wonder when was the last time he had decent sex. No wonder he was still single.

“So, Greta Garbo, what’s with the sunglasses in January?” I asked.

”They’re a blue light block – it cuts out negative junk,” he said. “Did we high five? I like to share magnetic energy.” He raised a flat palm so naturally I slapped it. Afterwards I could feel a slight tingling but no magnetism. I suppose I should’ve been grateful he wasn’t asking me to take a piss on a colour chart.

This kind of wellness sounded torture to me. I’m all for feeling fit and happy but why does the journey there have to be so monastic? What next, laying on a bed of nails? By all means I’ll cut my cholesterol and even shed a few pounds in the process. Hell, I’ll try not to drink so much alcohol too (ok let’s not get carried away folks), but where’s the joy? The peanut butter? The custard? The immoral thoughts of bearded men with no clothes on?

Later when Guido and I were in bed I asked him if he thought life was too short to appreciate a good mushroom.

”Not if it’s got crushed garlic, chopped parsley, smoked ham and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs.”

Which just goes to show my husband and I know what we like stuffed. And I feel perfectly fine telling you that.

16, going on 17

Last night Guido and I were in bed.

Relax readers. This isn’t going to be another one of my interminable posts about our athletic extracurricular activies between the sheets involving mayonnaise and an unidentified kitchen appliance which makes a dull, but highly pleasurable, buzzing sensation. Absolutely nothing was happening. I’m guessing Guido was just laying there next to me minding his own business and thinking. I can’t tell you exactly what he was thinking about because, unfortunately, I’m not able to read his mind – but, whereas you and I might count sheep – Guido usually spends his last moments of consciousness carefully weighing up the benefits of a short crust pastry over a sweet puff. If you’ve ever eaten one of his melt in the mouth apple turnovers, then you’d know why.

“How do you feel?” I said. I said this in the style of a caring and kindly physician. The sort of doctor who has just taken your pulse and is alarmed to discover your blood pressure is 140 over 90 yet still smiles at you as if all vital signs are perfectly normal.

At first Guido didn’t react. He does this sometimes just after lights out. If he thinks I’m about to launch into a heated debate which has absolutely nothing to do with baked apples then he’ll just pretend to be fast asleep.

“What I mean is, how do you really feel?” I was still sounding caring and kindly and wasn’t in any way whatsoever concerned about the possibility of rapid heartbeat.

“I feel fine,” he said from the darkness, “I really do feel fine.” Then there was further silence for a bit until he finally added without any prompting, “But, why are you asking me?”

Okay, I’d been reading about a Dutchman, who is legally seeking to change his biological age from 69 to 49. It was reported he thought his true age was damaging his ratings on the dating app Tinder.

“Perhaps I should rephrase that question and simply ask you, how old do you feel?” I asked.

Forget legal. I think if you were able to rewind the clock it would be a terrific idea. You see, I quite like the thought of having the swimmers body of a 19 year old but the 70 year old brain of someone smart, like Einstein. That way I could casually discuss the laws of physics in figure hugging Speedos with a poolside hunk. As opposed to the reality of actually having the body sag of an Albert yet annoyingly still the complexion of a spotty teenager.

“That depends on what I’m doing at the time,” said Guido wisely. “I like to think I still have the staying power of someone a third of my age. Yet I know these knuckles can’t knead bread the way they used to.”

It’s funny what getting old means to some people. We made a pact right there and then. I promised I’d stop fretting about my body (on account of the wrinkles) if Guido promised to stop worrying about his sweet pies (on account of the dough).

Thankfully I’m not on, and nor have I ever been on, the Tinder app. I’ve got Guido to thank for that. But if you are, and you chat to a Dutchman who tells you he really doesn’t feel his age, he really is his age.

Bad habits

Bad habits. I definitely know there are some of us who have more of them than others.

People (like me) have itsy bitsy tiny ones you’d barely even notice. They’re like a speck of moon dust up in the outer atmosphere of life. Then there’s other people (like Guido) who have great big ones the size of a space station orbiting earth. No matter how hard you try to ignore them they stubbornly refuse to burn up during re-entry.

There’s a hook on the back on our bathroom door and a steel ladder radiator for wet towels to dry out but Guido never hangs anything there. It must be one of the great mysteries of his life that after a soggy bath they miraculously pick themselves up and are back to hand the following morning to pat his face dry.

Need I mention underwear? Usually this blog will go into great, and I’ll admit gratuitous, description about how my husband and I peel our knickers off one another and then open a bottle of maple syrup just for the hell of it. But I can’t recall telling any of you how our boxer shorts eventually reach the Ali Baba laundry basket. Let me solve that one for you.

I put them in there.

It’s the same as when I replace the empty toilet roll holder, and close the dishwasher door.

Last night Ted and Gary and their super intelligent Jack Russell dog, called Brian, came over. Naturally I raised this in conversation with them.

“As far as I’m concerned the only person in our household with any bad habits,” said Gary, “is Brian.”

I looked at Brian and he looked at me. I could see this obviously came as a big surprise to him.

“He likes to chew a bone in our bed at the most inopportune of moments,” sniffed Ted.

Brian shook his head in complete disagreement but nobody seemed to notice. The whistle had been blown, as they say.

Later on our sofa (after I’d picked up the soggy towels, refilled the toilet holder and shut the dishwasher door) Guido and I sat on the sofa watching the sports channel. As usual, the remote control was strategically held between his legs in a vice like grip. I defy anyone to wrestle it free without the use of deep hypnosis or metal plyers.

“Can you believe Ted and Gary have no bad habits?” I said, “I mean, really!”

“None they were willing to tell you,” said Guido staring at the TV.

Poor Brian, I thought. I reckoned he was going to be far more careful where he chewed in future.

“At least you conceded I had none,” I said.

“Well, none I was willing to tell them,” said Guido. He had this annoying smirk on his face.

There was a long pause.

“I could have mentioned that you chatter on and on inanely for hours in bed after switching the lights out whilst I’m struggling to get some shut eye,” he said. “And you reveal intimate facts about our sex lives to persons unknown across the globe via your blog.”

There was another long pause.

I found myself thinking about the varied and diverse uses for maple syrup. Then I made a mental note.

I really must keep my mouth shut in bed.

At Guido’s table

When you live with a chef, sometimes, you can’t help but feel guilty. I think it’s something to do with all that relentless chopping and slicing and deglazing he does for me. Well, last night I thought, to hell with fricassee. Give the kid a break. Take over. Keep things simple but honestly nutritious.

“This is a genuine surprise,” said Guido laying the table nervously. “The last time you cooked it was definitely a meal to remember.”

And for all the wrong reasons folks.

I fastened on my apron with a fanfare like all the good chefs do.

”Oh don’t worry,” I said breezily, “I’m keeping things simple this time so thought we’d go for something really light – like a tomato soup.”

Guido sat down at the kitchen table. I could sense his anticipation.

“You know, the first item of furniture I ever bought was this table,” he said.

For some strange reason, he knocked wood.

“And a table seemed to me like the most important thing in my life. It talked to me. Food. Family. Friends.”

The first item of furniture I ever bought was a bed. Let me tell you it didn’t talk to me. And I wasn’t thinking of family or friends either, I was thinking about only one thing.

Hot Sex.

I was living in Camden at the time and I was dating an accountant called Coleman. He had a semi-detached house in Kensal Rise so we’d regularly rip each other’s clothes off in North London. I certainly don’t remember a lot of sleeping going on. Of course that relationship flatlined long before I’d met Guido. Which is a relief because if I’d written a blog about getting into bed with an accountant every night I’m guessing it wouldn’t be half as exciting as telling you about how Guido dips his crudités in the nude.

“I’m keeping this simple,” I said resting a tin of soup by the stove, “It’s a classic recipe… Heinz.”

I pulled back the ring pull and decanted the contents into a pan. I held it up and squinted at the instructions. Heat slowly and stir until hot. This sounded complicated. I was beginning to regret not going down the Chopped Salad route.

”Do you think you’ll be serving any accompaniments to go with it?” Guido asked hopefully.

I let out a sigh.

”Well, I was going to open a box of crackers,” I said, “but if you want to test me to my culinary limits I could try simultaneously buttering a bap.”

Honestly! What next, an Ox on a spit?

”Let’s stick with crackers,” said Guido smiling sympathetically. I guess it takes a chef to know pressure, with compassion.

“Voila!”

I poured the steaming soup into bowls and set one down infront of Guido. I watched him gingerly pick up his spoon and dip it in and then taste it.

“Well, what d’you think?” I asked.

He swallowed. He made a funny sucking sound with his tongue. He closed his eyes. He paused.

”You know, I think this might possibly be one of the best tins of soup I’ve had heated for me in my entire life,” he said.

I suggested whipping up something more exotic next week. Like a cheese on toast. But, Guido says I really shouldn’t try to run before I can walk.

Zen, and me

Last Wednesday was World Pasta Day. Guido looks for any excuse to get his Ragu out. I’d have written a post about it but there’s only so much cannelloni one person can consume without having to lay down straight after.

“You should try to find your inner Zen,” said Cara. She teaches a yoga and meditation class at The Fish Kettle cafe every Sunday morning. “Food isn’t a substitute for happiness.”

Only a woman the width of a Twiglet but who still bends at right angles like a pipe cleaner could offer you such advice. Personally I’d just love a hobby which meant I didn’t have to lose twenty pounds at the end of it.

Readers will know I’ve been down the weight loss road before. It has pot holes. Need I remind you of – The Banana Diet?

“It’s not your body which rules your life, it’s your mind,” said Cara.

She was eating a plate of Guido’s homemade heavy cream scrambled eggs on rye at the time. I’d rather have his muffin.

“Take me, for example,” she put her fork down, “before I discovered transcendental mediation my life was a void. It was a juxtapose. My entire being was an orgy of hidden horrible turbulent depths. I felt like some nightmarish water spout was going to suck me right up and spit me out into a barren wasteland on life’s shore. God, these eggs are terrific. I have no idea how Guido cooks them.”

I sipped my full-fat latte.

“In my opinion it’s the chicken who did all the hard work,” I said.

Listen, she’s not the only one who can hypothesise you know.

Cara slid a book across the table. Even though it was upside down I could still read the title – Meditation For Beginners. My heart sank. I was just hoping it was more comprehensible than the Spanish For Beginners book Guido bought me. He got really cranky when I inexplicably started making up Andalucian words. Anyway, yesterday on the way home from work I took the book out and started reading it on the London Underground.

I peered up over the top of it and could see that there was a Hot Guy In A Hoodie (HGIAH) sitting right opposite.

I stared at the page.

Get into a comfortable position.

I tucked my arms in. I wiggled down into the seat.

I looked back at HGIAH. He had beard.

I stared at the page

Close your eyes.

This made looking at the HGIAH far more difficult. It was also going to make reading the book completely impossible. So, I only shut one eye.

I squinted at the page. At first I thought I read, stop breathing, but realised that was utterly ridiculous as I would drop dead.

Stop thinking about your breathing.

I wondered if HGIAH was thinking about water spouts.

Focus on your inhalation and exhalation.

After a monent I realised I was panting erratically. This pricked HGIAH’s attention. He leaned over next to me rubbing his beard. He looked perplexed. He pointed to my book.

”Personally, man, I think it’s the body that rules your life, not the mind,” he said.

He had aura and he had depth.

If he hadn’t got off at Victoria Station I reckon we could have discussed the life enhancing aspects of a muffin.