“Wait, before we hang up, butter or shortening? Which do you prefer for a pie crust?” our friend Bonnie enquired, a propos of nothing, other than Thanksgiving was approaching.
I bet she doesn’t remember she asked me last year too. And my answer is the same: butter.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of starting a brief stint in the old kitchen where I worked for eight years, a job I left right when Campari and Sofa was born. Two and half years later, it was a bit surprising and very heart-warming to see how little had changed, how certain habits fit like your old favorite shoes.
A million years ago I used to stay in a hotel called the Principe di Savoia in Milan. It was (and probably still is) a very regal, proper hotel. With the most wonderful bar/lounge where they had real barmen who poured old-fashioned cocktails and would never have dreamt of throwing bottles around a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail. There was always a piano player, an elderly man – who told me he had played “with Important Orchestras in Each of the Important Capitals of the World”. The Principe would never have considered piped music. People behaved with decorum, there were sofas to sink into and the rococo decor always made me smile. You could exhale at the Principe.
I’m a huge fan of “Top Chef” – the US TV show that pits proper chefs (rather than Master Chef’s home cooks) against each other. And has other proper chefs…
Did you ever read Pinocchio when you were a child? Did your parents ever threaten your nose would grow at your first lie? And I mean the real Pinocchio, not the Disney-ized version with the cuddly and not so woody puppet, and the grandfatherly Geppetto, but the original fairy tale by Tuscan author Carlo Collodi, which was much darker, as if written in anger: as my friend Luisa likes to point out, the tale runs the gamut of death, threats, lies and punishment, enough to terrorize a poor child for decades to come.
Every holiday has a hump day. That ‘everybody is irritating the shit out of me’ day. Where the allure of being away from home, on tour, on holiday, on a honeymoon or business trip has dissipated. It’s the day where everyone’s excitement whaps up against the reality of their surroundings or companions and each starts to miss their familiar. Its adrenalin fatigue. Its overtiredness. The anticipation has gone, reality has set in and the bleh spills out.
Sunday mornings in McG are DIY mornings. As in, the Nans have to get their own breakfast. The older two rise to the challenge and generally come up with something interesting. The little one tries to pitch in – but gets shouted at by both her siblings, so she tends to sit on the sidelines and offer helpful tips, which only incenses them more. Think Gordon Ramsey on a bad day. It’s a bit of a shame because she is genuinely supportive, has good ideas and eats the results (however varied in quality) enthusiastically. When the heat gets too much and she gets tossed from the kitchen, I take her aside and remind her that the day is not too far away when she will be ready to create her own masterpiece. How the rest of us are going to deal with chocolate cake for breakfast when that day comes, is another matter.
Fetes were such fun. School fetes, Church Fetes, Round Table fetes … we went to them all. sofaparents would give us each 50cents and tell us “now go and play” and we would drag the small kids around from stall to stall. Eating our way through coconut icing, fudge, spook asem (ghost breath – cotton candy) and bags of multicoloured popcorn.
We’d take our chances on tombolas and raffles. Place our bets on tin horses racing around wind up tracks and throw darts at playing cards stuck to green felt. We’d scare the kids shitless in the homemade ghost tunnel, and compete in various novelty races. “Can the Can” would be crackling from a tinny tannoy, and I’d sing along nonchalantly to “Life on Mars”, thrilled that I knew all words.
Last week in McG I bought a big plastic bag of rumpled looking lemons from one of the local entrepreneurs or smouse (smohsah) as we call them. These guys are experts on using what they have to hand, and making ends meet. They go out and forrage for various bits and pieces they have learned that city types like to buy and will arrive at the gate and stand there yelling: “lemmmmonnns, leeeeemmmmmonnnns” or “eppples …. epples….” until you take your R20 outside and buy a pack…. mainly to stop the noise. I know they are as organic as they can be, the guy who sold them to me had undoubtedly been scrumping them from an uncared for orchard somewhere.