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21 April 2006

I just had a so-kind e-mail from the States, offering me a pre-approved mortgage of $650,000 for $450 a month repayments. Whoo, yes please, I thought, I'd take that like a shot, even if the period of the mortgage was the term of my natural life...

That's what offends me most about spam, I think, it's that way they have of assuming or implying or downright asserting that we are idiots, that we have the intellectual capacity of - well, of a tin of spam.

Mind you, it does work, it has to, or they wouldn't bother; there must be people who respond to this kind of crap, and get themselves into God only knows what trouble as a result.

But then, we know that that is so; in the same way that we know there are people who respond to daytime TV adverts, or again they wouldn't bother. Hell, let me confess, I've just done it myself. I have bought a bottle of Cillit Bang. For those of you who don't know, it's a bathroom cleaner, advertised by a very annoying man who shouts a lot; and I have people coming round on Sunday for tea & cakes, so I have house-cleaning very much on my mind. For those of you who don't know, I am a slovenly housekeeper, and recently I've been so intent on working, even my standards have slipped; my bathroom does stand in need of a lot of cleaning. And I've spent half my life (the adult half) in search of a product that does what it says in the advert, spray and wipe and lo, a clean & sparkly bathroom; so I thought I'd try Cillit Bang, as that is indeed what the advert says.

Surprise, surprise: it's crap. The advert and the product both. Thin and ineffectual and expensive. It is my role in life to warn you of these things; be grateful.

I think this is fairly typical of the current state of Chaz, that he has people coming for tea & cakes and what worries him is the cleaning. These days I can take the cooking in my stride, whether it's recipe'd or improvised; I'm going to do a few old standards (eg Chaz'z Easter Ham, which is exactly the same as Chaz'z Xmas Ham only smaller, on account of not having to stretch so far - one year I even had to do Chaz'z Two Xmas Hams, both legs of the beast, but I suppose that is why they do have two, to accommodate my occasional need), a few recent discoveries (eg Torta di Porri), and some new discoveries (eg chocolate mousse cake - 'nuff said).

Talking of improvisation, though, this is representative, I think, of what I tend to do to recipes. I had a belly of pork, and wanted to roast it. So I found a recipe that recommended rubbing it with smoked paprika and fennel seeds, and I did that; and it said to lay it on a bed of onion, carrot and celery, but I had no celery, so rather than shop I substituted fennel-the-vegetable; and it said to douse all in a given quantity of cider, but I had none, so rather than shop I substituted three-to-one water and cider vinegar (with two tablespoons being the measure of 'one', for the bean-counters amongst you); and it said to cover the roasting-dish with foil and cook at gas mark 4 for two hours, so I turned that round instinctively, gas mark 2 for four hours; and then took the foil off for an hour and turned the heat up to crisp the crackling, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The meat soft and melting, under a snapping-crisp coat; the juices aromatic and flavourful; the vegetables I mungled up with mashed potato and swede and carrot (well, not mashed, exactly - boiled and then crushed with an old masher, so there was still a lot of texture there) and fried in the fat that came off the pork, to make a sort-of bubble and squeak. Same texture again, soft and melting under a crispy crunchy topping. Oh, it is nice. Tonight I'm going to reheat the last of the pork (I know, tut-tut, health & safety, all of that - if I die, remember that I went gloriously) on top of a giant field mushroom, which will bake and absorb the last of its juices; and then I will still have half a dozen more giant field mushrooms left (you'd never guess, would you, that I've been shopping?) and I would make a soup with them, only you can't serve soup at Sunday tea, it would be silly, and there's just no room in the freezer, so God alone knows what I'll do. Advertise them on the internet, perhaps? Spam, spam...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.