Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Tuck in

In Food on May 31, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Rice in a bowl on a white backgroundLooking back I see I started my pantry stripping program back on April 1st, so I’ve been going at it for two months and I’m not done yet.

There is quite a lot of space in the freezer now – I can actually pull open the drawers without them being blocked by big bags of frozen chicken stock – and the dry goods area is much depleted, but there’s still a way to go.

I’m buying bread, fish, meat, dairy produce, fruit and veg – but that’s it. And one bottle of every day olive oil, although I’ve made myself start using the very special bottle I bought last year in Istria, Croatia, for salads, which is a big deal for me.

According to my normal form, I would have saved it for best for so long it would have been rancid by the time I cracked it open.

We’ve had some really good meals, including a curry night when I used up two different bits of leftover curries and made some dahl from the lentil mountain still in the cupboard. That was a feast.

The most slung together dinner we’ve had was bacon, brown rice and frozen peas, but it really wasn’t that bad. The food groups were covered and it was rather tasty – it just didn’t look very glamorous. I was tempted to put it on Instagram as a statement.

(I secretly want to start a new app called Uglygram, because sometimes the Loveliness of My Life thing gives me the shits and I’m as guilty of it as the next poseur.)

It really was a perfectly good dinner, but I felt like some kind of failure for serving something so under realised. It was three bits of perfectly acceptable food sitting on a plate – but it wasn’t a ‘dish’, or a ‘style’ of cuisine.

My sense of failure and shame about serving it to my family – who were perfectly happy to chow down on three of their favourite staples – made me realise how self conscious we’ve become about turning every flipping meal into a lifestyle statement.

Of course I prefer my dining table to look like a photo from an Ottolenghi book, but sometimes it’s fine just to have some nourishing grub.

The Nobility of Cats

In Cats on May 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I’m sure most of you have seen this amazing bit of CCTV footage by now – if not, have a look. It’s extraordinary.

It shows Tara the cat, saving the four year old boy of her human family from an attack by a ferocious dog, much bigger than her.

The response to the clip – it was on every news channel in the UK – seems a good opportunity to celebrate the unappreciated nobility of cats.

Of course, it’s all their own fault they don’t get nearly as good a press as dogs in the loyal pet stakes. They’re snobby, they’re moody, they’re tricky, they sit just outside the door you are about to close and won’t make their mind up. But they are just as fiercely loyal and attached to their humans as dogs. They just don’t show it so much.

I’m not partisan in the dog person/cat person debate, as I adore both species, but the happy-go-lucky waggy tail nature of dogs, who permanently seem to be saying YOU ARE JUST SOOOOO GREAT with all their body language, does give them the edge in the popularity stakes.

So I would like to share a story about my late beloved puss, Matchki.

Picture 029

I adopted her as a full-grown unwanted moggy from a vet in Woollahra, Sydney. I’d rung up to see if they had any kittens and the receptionist said these words:
‘We don’t have any kittens, but we’ve got an adult cat here who doesn’t have a home…’

I nearly broke the land speed record in my haste to get there and rescue her. She was a big girl, a tabby, sitting in a cage in the waiting room. I went over to say hello and she licked my hand. Love.

At this time I was trying and failing to get pregnant and after a year of trying and finding out the facts about IVF for my age group (poor odds) I had started to accept I would never have children and Matchki was a great comfort. So there was no question that when we moved to the UK a few years later, she would come with us.

We moved into my sister’s beautiful house in the country (she was living in Florida, at the time) and Matchki was in bliss with a big garden and an orchard to roam in.

After a few months in this bucolic sanctuary nature/the gods/insert-your-belief-system-here, pulled one of their tricks and I found I was pregnant.

I will never forget the moment I first carried the newly-born Peggy into the house. Matchki was lying on the sofa and she looked up at me holding the bundle in my arms with an expression on her face, which said, so clearly: ‘What the fuck is that?’

She then made herself absent for a couple of day, as cats do.

A few days later we were awoken in the middle of the night by her mewing outside the bedroom door. This was odd because we always left the door open, so she could come and sleep on my feet, which she did every night (except when sulking).

I got up to see what was going on and she was sitting, looking up at me, with a dead shrew at her feet. Before I could start shrieking, she picked it up and walked, with a very stately gait, into the bedroom, where she placed the dead creature at the foot of the cot.

Then she sat down and looked up at me again, her message clear:
‘I accept it as one of the family. I have brought it food.’

From that night onwards she was fiercely loyal to the baby. Peggy would take her afternoon nap outside in her old-fashioned pram. The chickens would all gather round it for a look, in that busy way they go. Matchki would then sit near the pram, just to give them the message: don’t even think of trying anything.

But while her statement was clear, she would always sit with her back to the idiotic chickens, in a position we came to call, Ignoring Hen.

I loved that cat and was very sad when she died five years ago.

Now we have Gonzo and he’s a law unto himself…

Captain Gonzo


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