Sunday, 9 December 2012

Nursery food

The occasion was a family summit, a summit to discuss my grandmother's fast progressing Alzheimer's. There had been a meeting in Henley, where she then lived. While the adults talked, the four cousins window-shopped in town.

After the serious business, whatever it was, had been transacted, the adults and children regrouped and headed to my uncle and aunt's house - Hereward Cottage in Chalfont-St-Giles - for lunch. My aunt Lynda was not there but had left us a large and delicious lasagna to eat.

It was some words of Alex as he served us that have stuck in my mind: "Apologies", he said, "that it's nursery food." No one, of course, accepted the apology (a chorus of "Nonsense" etc) and I don't think anyone was merely being polite. After all, what could have been more comforting and warming than a plate of lasagna after (for the adults) a rather gloomy morning of seriousness?

But something else occurs to me many years later, probably at about the age Alex was then. His comment was certainly not meant to make the children present feel more childish. Instead, Alex was, probably entirely subconsciously, reminding himself and his sisters that once upon a time they had all been used to eating "nursery food", in a nursery, in Henley, cooked by their mother, my grandmother.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Ethiopian restaurant

The restaurant Philip introduced me to about twelve years ago lay somewhere in the outer reaches of King's Cross. It was on a grim arcade of shops. This start, so unpromising, should have been the precursor of an extraordinarily good meal, the talk of smug dinner parties to come. Instead, it was one of the worst meals I have ever eaten.

Let me try to recapture it. Spread out over our plates like damp carpet underlay, flavourless bread, grain unknown. That was the only thing worth eating on the table. There followed bowl upon bowl of nondescript sludge: vegetable matter so overcooked that it was impossible to tell what it had once been, to distinguish one dish from another or even, I confess, to determine whether certain dishes were animal, vegetable or mineral. Nothing tasty. Just a general sense of suspicious flavours, wetness and nastiness.

The conversation, on the other hand, was lively. Philip tells the story of how one of his dining companions, choking with rage, but still wishing to keep to the rules of dining propriety, hissed at him: "What is this degrading filth?"

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Rosemary bread

A sliced baguette. Rosemary from the front garden. Olive oil. Salt. And in the oven. Dedicated to Granny.