Back in the days when I was a student, ten years or so ago,* I would be quite experimental in the kitchen. I’d try things out, new recipes, experimental recipes. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, but it made things nice and varied.
I haven’t done that for a long time. My diet’s got a bit boring. So, I’ve been spurred on to try more things, try new things, try messing about in the kitchen just to see what happens.
The other week, we were in a rather nice cafe in York, near the Minster. I was rather enjoying my lunch, and I thought: it really can’t be that hard to cook this, can it? So, at home, I tried knocking a few things together. It turns out: no, it really isn’t that hard. So here’s my rough and ready recipe for: potato and mushroom fritatta.
- 5-6 baby new potatoes
- 7-8 closed cup mushrooms, ordinary button ones or chestnut according to taste
- 1 shallot
- Garlic, if you like
- 4 very large eggs
- A handful of mild grated cheese
- Dried rosemary
- Salt and pepper
What you do: chop the potatoes into halves or thirds, or smaller, and boil them for about 10 minutes or so. Finely chop the shallot, and any garlic that you’re using. Fry the shallot and garlic, with a little oil, in a non-stick omelette pan. When the shallot starts to soften, add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have browned and shrunk a little, add the cooked potato.
Break the eggs into a bowl, whisk them, and add a dash of water, the rosemary, and the cheese. Pour the mixture onto the cooking vegetables, and stir slightly to make sure everything is evenly covered. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the fritatta is mostly firm, before putting it all under a medium grill for another five minutes to get the top done nicely. If your pan’s truly non-stick, then when it’s cooked it will slide out smoothly onto a plate. Ta-daa!
* Is it really that long?
Talking about pets: the cat has vanished. Not near home, either.
The mother was taking him to the vet, on Monday, in his cat box. She was a few paces away from the surgery – a mile or so from home – and the cat box, in her words, “fell apart”. It’s a plastic affair, with a removable lid, and it’s picked up by the lid too; so if you haven’t done up the catches right, it will fall apart. And The Mother has never shown any ability to be able to do up the catches right. I have shown her how to do it many, many times, but she still refuses to learn.
The cat immediately scarpered, and hasn’t been seen since. Since then we’ve had thunderstorms and constant rain, and The Mother – when she isn’t out looking for him – keeps saying things like “oh the poor dear, I hope he’s found shelter somewhere.” Which makes me think: no, you’re not allowed to say that. You would be allowed to say that if the whole thing wasn’t completely your own fault.
More than anything, I’m angry. I’m always angry with my parents at some level, because they are intensely annoying people. This, though, has left me angrier than normal. My mother has always been annoyingly semi-competant, being able to grasp 90% of an idea, but missing out the 10% that actually gives it its shape and flavour.* Most of the time it isn’t a big problem, but occasionally, it matters.
* Like the time she saw “Thai curry sauce” in the supermarket, the sort that you add to stir-fried vegetables, and thought “Ooh, I’ll make a Thai curry.” So she cooked some mince, heated it up in a pan with some tinned kidney beans, and added the stir-fry sauce to it. Ta-daa, “Thai curry”. It wasn’t inedible, but she didn’t seem to understand that she’d actually made something entirely different.
There are little routines you get practised in. Little things you do automatically. Taking things in and out of the oven, for example. Oven glove on one hand, open door with the other, stand back from blast of heat, pick up tray in gloved hand and shift it.
So then, why, making dinner last night, did I manage to get it wrong? Open door with ungloved hand,* pick up hot tray with same hand. OWWWWWW. And it was my writing hand, too. I can still type, but it might be a few days before handwriting is on the menu again.
* the handle on our oven door is too small to open if you’re wearing an oven glove; you can’t get a grip on it. Which is silly in itself.
When I was still a student, as a researcher, I was always a bit rubbish. I’m one of those people who hoovers up random, unconnected pieces of information like anything; but when it comes to use it I can never remember where it came from. Little factoids are no good unless you can judge how true it is likely to be, and you can’t do that if you don’t know their provenance.
For example: everybody knows that the Tower of London maintains a family of ravens, for there is an ancient legend that states that should they ever leave, the Tower, the monarchy and the nation will fall. Their wings are therefore clipped, to try to lessen the risk of them wandering.* Everybody knows about the legend, and its ancient origins. Just how ancient is it, though?
There’s an article on the ravens and the current Tower Ravenmaster in the current issue of Fortean Times. It claims that it was Charles II who was first warned that the ravens must never leave the Tower; but that there is no actual evidence for their presence before the end of the 19th century. So, possibly another of those ancient traditions invented by the traditionally-minded Victorians. Possibly not, though. There is another, older myth on a similar theme; but it wasn’t about literal ravens at all. It’s a much, much older myth, and it isn’t even English.
On Sunday, after reading the FT article, I spent a good hour or two reading up about it, and writing a post about it, but accidentally deleted it in a fit of stupidity, by pressing the “reload” shortcut when I meant to type the “open new tab” shortcut. It took an hour or two because, as I said above, I can remember a lot of things, but can’t remember why. So, I spent quite a long time reading the wrong books in search of information I was sure was in there. Bah. I’m going to go and reread them now, so I can go and rewrite.**
(read part two here)
* and, incidentally, the Tower now has a well-equipped isolation aviary to which they’ll be moved if there’s a bird flu outbreak in Britain.
** and to give me an excuse to break this over-long post up into parts.