Monday, 14 December 2009


Wow. It's been a long time since I was here last. It's not because I haven't been eating, or thinking weird things, I've just been hit by that awful winter laziness and simply can't be arsed to do anything at all. What have I been up to? Trying to work, trying to sell Christmas cards with little success, dreaming big dreams about moving house to Wales and then feeling very sorry for myself that this is probably a dream that will have to wait a while. What have we eaten? Nothing much of note - some amazing salt pork congee at my parents' house yesterday which blew my own version out of the water with its wonderfulness; a great, simple pasta last night that reminded me how nice things can be when you don't use too many ingredients :-); some more stuffed kabocha squash, this time with a spicy red pepper and tomato rice that I improvised. It was more-ish and squidgy - perfect for winter.

That's kind of it. I am behind with Christmas shopping and resenting it increasingly as the days pass. I don't really believe in big presents - just a token gesture and good company should be enough, don't you think?

The image above is of some hasselback potatoes that we made yonks ago. I think they need less butter than most recipes state - probably because we are not huge fans of really buttery potatoes, but it was good all the same. Here is Nigella's recipe for them. We used a different recipe, by Tessa Kiros.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

brassica heaven (with anchovies!)

Oh my word. We made a version of baked cauliflower and broccoli cannelloni last night, from a recipe by Jamie Oliver. OK, so we didn't use cannelloni tubes and made it like a lasagne instead, and I didn't use nearly as much crème fraîche, nor any mozzarella (we used a tiny sprinkle of grated half fat cheddar instead), just to keep the fat levels down! But it was amazing. Like it-might-kill-you-with-the-salt-content amazing, but wonderful nonetheless, especially if you like your brassicas. I guess you could leave out the anchovies (with which no extra salt is required in my opinion!) and just season with a bit of salt for a veggie version. Not as fussy looking as the length of the recipe makes it look - I'd definitely make it again. Takes 1 hour 10 mins including about 35 minutes in the oven.

Again I took no photos because I'm greedy and useless, but the one above is one from Food Network.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

a time for everything

It's never too late to try something new, right? Well, the other night I had my first experience of blancmange. Yup, that weirdy, wibbly, pastel-coloured stuff that most other people who grew up in the 80s or earlier have experience of, but I haven't, or at least not until Sunday night. Did I like it? Yeah, I guess so - I have a weird fondness for fake strawberry flavouring (used to HATE it as a kid, but it's grown on me), but I dislike milk (although I like ice-cream, cream and yoghurt), so it was a fine balance of good and bad. Thanks to the husband for this, uh, introduction! Best thing about it was that I got to use my vintage pressed glass jelly mould - bring on more blancmange!

What it made me think of was that there were plenty of things that I never ate as a Chinese child growing up in England, and things that I tried only at other people's houses and birthday parties. I remember my first taste of proper English (ha!) spaghetti bolognese at my friend Susan's house. I liked the 1980s dried Parmesan cheese - it was feety and different. I thought Angel's Delight was disgusting (still find it a bit of a retro oddity if faced with it). I hated cheese and pineapple at parties.

But mostly English food was almost a treat, a luxury. I remember sharing special roast dinners with my sister on Sunday trips to Makro and thinking how great it was, even though it was canteen food. We grew up with a very different slant on food, where cheapo chicken and mushroom pies from the bakery five doors down were magical rather than humdrum, but steamed whole fish with ginger and spring onions was gaggingly boring.

On the other hand I didn't know that a lot of English people don't like and can't deal with bones in their food - we grew up de-boning fish and chicken in our mouths from toddlerhood and learned the anatomy of a duck not through a book but by looking at it on the plate.

Most of all, I remember the cringingly odd lunches we would sometimes take to school. Usually lunch was boring ham sandwiches, but sometimes my Dad would make the lunch and we would get crimson-edged Chinese roast pork and lettuce in our bread, which would bring choruses of 'urgh! what's that?' at the lunch table. I would love sandwiches like that now, but at the time I wanted to disappear into the floor. Not great for a shy little girl. I looked at my friend's pâtė sandwiches and wondered what they tasted like. No-one picked on her. Susan's daily Marmite sandwiches didn't appeal so much, and I don't think I tried the wonderful stuff until I was about eleven years old. It's amazing how much I missed out on, good and bad.

Monday, 2 November 2009

the things we ate...

You know how I waffled on for days about the things we ate in New York? Now, it's not like there's nowhere good in London, only we don't go there very often since I moved away and had kind of forgotten how great it can be. We went there on an indulgent shopping trip yesterday and discovered a few things that I'd never gotten round to doing whilst there, or had not come across in my limited explorations. It's a common affliction of the London-dweller - this blindness that keeps you going to the places that are most familiar, whilst making you forget to go out and have a good rummage somewhere else.

Now, I'd been down Brick Lane and environs before, but never on the best day - Sunday. Luck had it that just as lunchtime arrived, we passed by the legendary Beigel Bake at the top of Brick Lane, where they serve the most incredible salt beef in sweet home-made bagels with a slick of mustard for added punch. I swear I nearly died, it was so good. (Image from

Onwards down Brick Lane, we stopped to look at shops, we spent money down Cheshire Street, but as we drew towards the Sunday UpMarket at the Old Truman Brewery, we were ambushed by the smells of cooking. Inside the market there were dozens of stalls selling wonderful-looking food - mostly not the trashy, sweet-and-sour stuff that is pervasive in such markets, but instead lots of home-style, honest food cooked by people with an obvious passion for their cuisine. There were (praise the lord!) bánh mì, dumplings, Moroccan, Sri Lankan, you name it. The choice was so huge I nearly wept with excitement. Yeah, that's how sad I am. No photos, I'm afraid - I never remember to bring the camera with me.

So of course we had to have a second lunch. What did we go for? A vegetarian 'three-sauces wrap' from the Ethiopian stall. I don't quite know what was in it - green lentils, some familiar curry-like flavours, plenty of heat, a great cabbage salad, a pillowy, thin pancake... it was spectacular, like oh-my-god-why-can't-we-eat-this-all-the-time? We couldn't SPEAK, it was so bloody good.

We proceeded, via a juice bar, into central London for shopping. And when that was over, we headed over to a Chinese supermarket in Chinatown where I bought salt-laden, MSG-pumped instant noodles that are my secret indulgence, and buns to steam for breakfast. Then I led the husband into a tea shop where I had iced Hong-Kong style coffee with tea which is much like Hong Kong milk tea, but with coffee in it too. Had we not been heading straight for dinner afterwards, I definitely would have had tapioca 'bubbles' in it for fun. I used to love the milk tea when I first tasted it as a seven-year-old in HK - it's probably a bit sweet for my taste these days, but it was an amazingly nostalgic experience yesterday and quite a treat.

And could we fit in dinner after all that? Of course we could! At Busaba on Wardour Street, where the food is to die for, especially the violently garlicky goong tohd prawns. Needless to say I'd eaten too much by the time we went to bed and spent the night having weird itchy episodes intermingled with peculiar dreams about pink, man-eating cockatoos and a bear that ate my finger. No, I'm not lying about the dreams - that's what a surfeit of sugar and shellfish can do to you!

Friday, 30 October 2009


It's been a while, I know... been busy, tired.

The other day I cooked two squash that we picked up in a back-alley farmer's market in our local town. I had no idea what they were or what they tasted like, so it was a pretty fun experiment. I think one was a kabocha squash and the other was like an all-green carnival squash. Now I don't love butternut squash - cooked badly it tastes like sick, so I approached these tentatively. I halved and roasted them with olive oil and a bit of seasoning for about half an hour. Whilst that was going on, I sauteed onions, garlic and celery until soft, added bacon, mushrooms, thyme, black pepper, a tiny bit of dried chilli, then stirred in some long-grain rice and covered it all with water to cook the rice for about 20 minutes. Then I scooped out most of the squash flesh, keeping the two squashes separate so we could taste the difference, mixed it into the rice and stuffed it back into the squash shells. Then it went back in the oven for about 10 minutes just so the rice was starting to catch on top. Was it good? Oh yes. Especially the Kabocha type squash which was like a nutty, sweet pease-pudding textured thing - gorgeous. The saltiness of the bacon balanced the sweetness nicely. No photos I'm afraid. I was too busy stuffing my face.

Friday, 23 October 2009

it's been a while

Profuse and profound apologies for my absence. Things have been getting a bit too crazy for me lately to even think about things other than working, and then being asked to make changes to that work again and again... I don't mean to moan - the client comes first, right? I have had enough of working now, though. I could do with a week off, but no, it keeps pouring in.

Have I done anything interesting in the last week or so? Nope. Not a sausage. Most interesting thing? Uh... a man in a red top hat outside Beyond Retro in London - I love love love how you can do anything you like, be anyone you want to be in that city - if I'm going to wear the weird patterned Norwegian cardigan I picked up on eBay last week, London will be the city. Out here in the countryside people will think I'm the village idiot.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

hong kong curry

My dad used to make curry on Sundays for the take-away. The whole town was addicted to his curry - you could smell it cooking all the way down the main street and it was glorious. I have asked him for his recipe but, like most instinctively good cooks, he is vague vague vague. He goes to a cupboard and ferrets around, coming back to the table with a box full of spices that he doesn't know the English name for. He presents them to us to smell and we recognise them in this way - cloves, cassia bark, star anise we know, but there's something like fennel seeds in there, and a curious little pod like a shrivelled fruit. What it is called I have no idea - I guess a trip to the Chinese supermarket would probably enlighten us. As for quantities of everything, well, only he knows and he can't be arsed to tell me. One day I'll force him to cook some in front of me. I must know this. This is the one thing that I would kill small mammals to be able to cook and the stuff you get ready made to water down is simply not the same.

Curry and chips! Oh my god. I need to lie down.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

We ate our first pumpkin the other day, our tiniest one, roasted and added to a salad. The skin was thick and leathery, the flesh bright orange and delicious. It's the time of year now that I start dreaming of soup, cassoulet, lentils. Beef stew I made the other day was warming and just right for the weather. I just wish I had thought to make some herby dumplings to simmer to pillowy perfection in it too. Well, there's a portion left, so all is not lost.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Someone has too much time on their hands...

Thanks to Barry for this morning's link - The Brick Testament - Bible stories illustrated with Lego. It's quite funny, especially the nudey scenes... :-P

I'm sorry I've not had much to say recently. I'm so tired. This morning I woke up, then kind of had what I call a 'mini-dream' where I was ostensibly awake and communicating with the husband, but during a small lull I had a clear vision of Boris Johnson with his hair all wet and slicked back, which I thought made him look much older. And no, it wasn't a sex dream.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

this and that...

Urgh. I am swamped with work right now. I sound resentful, but really, it's amazing and I'm horribly, snivellingly grateful for it all - it keeps me from going mad, it gives me something to moan about, it could possibly be the best work I've ever done! Well... the last sentiment is only accurate when the brief drops like a shiny new penny into my inbox, but it rapidly fades into dull fantasy when I realize that I'm drawing a load of crap. I don't feel like that right now, but it happens quite a lot.

The cabbages are being attacked by slugs. The weather has finally broken and we have been deluged with miserable, drippy rain today, which means I really should go out and set some beer traps or something to keep the little bastards away from my veg before tonight. Can I be bothered?

I really haven't got much to say for myself this week. I think it's a seasonal disorder. Just when I want a break so I can curl up on the sofa in ugly knitwear, suddenly I have to sit at this machine and draw pictures of trees...

Friday, 2 October 2009


I'm having a slow and sorry week. Lots of unpaid work, lots of anxiety, poor sleep, no husband to cheer me up, bad diet... I'm all maudlin today and will be until the weekend when hopefully things will cheer up. I think I need to get out of the house more - things are a bit monotonous and grey indoors.

That said, happily I have new cabbage plants to shove into the ground for next spring. The thought of home-grown cabbage is all that's keeping me going. The potatoes I grew this year were honestly some of the best I've ever tasted.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

now where did I get to?

I got distracted from my slightly crazed recollections of what we ate in NY. Crazed because we don't get to eat out a lot, and both the husband and I come from rich cultural backgrounds that have imbued us with some very strong food memories and their concomitant cravings. So in New York we indulged first my congee habit, and that evening we went to satisfy Mark's Ukrainian needs at Veselka.

Now, I've had a bit of Ukrainian cooking before, courtesy of the husband's mother and grandmother and it was very good. This was spectacular. We had borscht to die for, various crispy, moreish pierogi, a giant cabbage roll and beetroot and horseradish salad. We were both more than satisfied and the husband pleasantly surprised at my enthusiasm. But then I have a lot of enthusiasm for starchy products involving mostly pork and root vegetables, so what is there not to like?

Monday, 28 September 2009

you know you're getting old when...

this turns up in a vintage online shop and you remember having one in the house as a child. Oh deary me!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

the husband goes to Prague and he gets me...?

PICKLED SAUSAGE! I can't bloody wait. He knows me too well. We also have a jar of pickled peppers. A match made in vinegar heaven!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


with work and snot. I've somehow caught a cold. Since last Monday I have only been out of the house once and I guess I must have caught it then. That's what you get for hanging out in too many charity shops.

I have been pondering the saturation of the internet with blogs. It's ridiculous. What are we all trying to do? It's like mass diary-writing and the vast majority of it is TRIPE. There are just SO MANY of us, all writing pointless shite in the hope that one day we'll either:

1) Have enough readers in order to be able to monetise our blogs and make a living out of writing shit.
2) Get noticed by a big publisher and be commissioned to write a book about our sad little lives

Or both. I try not to be cynical. I try not to think like this. I'm just here writing down stuff that I like and the things I think about, right? And it's all bollocks, so if I don't get any readers I don't mind. Who wants to read endless posts about congee anyway? I'm not even being useful and writing any recipes down. Not I - I keep these things to myself for no good reason.

Anyhoo. I'm going to go and snivel into a wad of tissues for the rest of the day and try to think up new ways of trying to be interesting to other people.

Monday, 21 September 2009


The congee I made the other day was pretty good. I was really quite impressed with myself. The reason why I have started to make it was because of a wonderful congee experience we had in New York. Now, it's not rocket science making this stuff, it's not clever or difficult. I grew up on the stuff - with meatballs and crispy vermicelli, chicken, dried scallops, salt pork, thousand-year egg, pork liver, whatever... It's the ultimate comfort food. It smells like home. Eaten with hot pickled turnips and pickled tofu, it is the food of the gods. I'm not kidding - rice boiled to within an inch of its life is one of the best things in the world.

So for breakfast we headed out to Chinatown and Big Wong in particular, looking for congee. The restaurant is simple and cheap-looking, just like places in Hong Kong, with water served in plastic tumblers and a bottle of soy sauce on the side - you'd never know from looking at it that it would be worth going inside but with this place it's all about the food. We had one bowl with salt pork and thousand year egg and another with pork meatballs. It was creamy and well seasoned but didn't have the horrid taste of MSG or anything odd. It was like home, where I like my congee with white pepper and soy sauce. It was like balm to a stomach that had been overfed on weird shit the day before.

After that we went in search of bubble tea, a very popular drink in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. In HK I like what they call 'yin yang' - a mix of tea and coffee, and unsweetened if possible. We didn't get that - I had a sweet milk tea that tasted a bit odd, but it was fun nevertheless to sit in a little candy-coloured shop and suck up the chewy tapioca balls through fat straws.

Friday, 18 September 2009

the things we ate...

Most of the things we did in New York pale in comparison to some of the joyful eats we had. Actually, most of the things we did in New York were acts of joyful eating. We didn't bother to do the touristy things - I've seen the Empire State Building from the street - who wants to pay $21 dollars to go 84% of the way up (it costs $15 more to go from the 86th to the 102nd floor!)? We went to the awe-inspiring Met, and I made pilgrimage to the American Museum of Natural History, but that's about all we did that was standard. Nay, we had better things to do.

I won't bore you with a long list of everything we ate, but the highlights were many. Before we left, I'd determined that I would eat bánh mì. I don't make promises like that to myself and then break them, so for our first lunch we went to Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich near Chinatown and satisfied that urge. And my lord was it satisfying. There's something about the combination of meat and pickles, hot sauce and coriander that really makes this really special. We ate it sitting in a park and washed it down with mangosteen juice. I know it's vulgar to put up pictures of half-eaten food but really I couldn't wait to eat at least some of it before I took a photo. Be grateful, I nearly couldn't stop eating to pick up the camera at all :-)

Next up was dinner that night - Jewish. We ended up in a seedy-looking diner that, from the outside looked like any other greasy burger joint in London: all neon signs and laminated menus in the window, glass counter with days-old food in plastic tubs and take-away boxes on the side. It looked empty. I wasn't sure. But Fine and Schapiro is one of the bastions of the New York Jewish deli scene having been in business since 1927 and is not to be sniffed at nor feared. Sure the interior is shabby and dated but that is part of the character and joy of this place. The night we went it was populated with two lone male diners. One of them looked like he went there all the time, so I ordered what he had - a pastrami sandwich. It was fabulous. An enormous, meaty, fatty, caraway-seed-peppered thing of beauty. Everything here is served with a big bowl of pickled gherkins and home-made coleslaw. It was cheap and tasty - what more can a girl ask for? Here are another couple of vulgar pictures under bad lighting for you:

Enough for today. I have to go and tend the congee I'm attempting to cook. More next time!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Well well...

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, sated. New York was magnificent - a cacophony of wonderful things that I will eventually get round to writing about. First I must make lists or I will be drowned by the volume of the joyful things we did. It's like a new infatuation...

Image above: Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant at breakfast.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

a little note

Whilst reading about bánh mì yesterday, I came across this foodstuff amusingly called 'head cheese'. I mean, REALLY? Head cheese? That makes it sound like some kind of discharge from a man's unmentionables, or at least something fungal and bodily. Wow. It's chopped up bits of pig head and other things like scrotal sacs, all bound in a tasty jelly.

Somewhere down that page is a little note about a foodstuff that is familiar to me, called 'yaorou' (肴肉), which is a kind of cold pickled pork dish that I used to watch my dad make for special occasions like Christmas (imagine it instead of your turkey!). My sister didn't like it too much. I loved it. I don't know if my dad used trotters or some other cut of pork, but the skin kind of goes jelly-like and crunchy, and the pickling vinegar and punchy spices are wonderful. Sounds gross, huh? Well, I am a bit gross.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Getting excited

On Monday, the husband and I are off on holiday. We are spending four days in New York, followed by six days in the US Virgin Islands. I can't bloody wait - we've not had a proper holiday all year. For poor Mark, the Caribbean bit is actually a work conference, but I'm tagging along to take advantage of the free room in this magnificent resort. I have a feeling I won't belong in such a swanky, super-rich place. I will most likely be surrounded by people who don't carry a little pouch of fat below their belly buttons or have issues with the wibbly bits on their haunches... I have so many hang-ups, but I try not to care too much these days - it's no fun being self-conscious. It's not as if anyone's looking anyway. Or we could be hit by a hurricane, in which case I'll be stuck indoors alone with my problems.

Caribbean, schmaribbean! Who cares what I'll look like in a bikini? What I care most about is FOOD in New York. Yeah, there are loads of flea markets in NY but they are all open on weekends only, and we are there only weekdays this time, so where should I turn to but my next love? I am looking forward to every meal. I want to eat Vietnamese bánh mì, which sound like great lunch food. I even read about congee in Chinatown, which of course you can get in England or make yourself, but they make it sound better over there. Available in 13 varieties in one restaurant! But of course there is proper American food to try too - I wonder whether my little paunch will grow a bit before I get to the beach? Will I even give it a second thought whilst I'm stuffing my face? (Image below from

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

green green vegetables and a thing called pickled tofu

My lovely friend Kat suggested grating courgettes and sautéeing them in butter with a bit of seasoning. We tried that last night, only I used light olive oil instead of butter and slightly overdid it with the pepper. Oh my lord! I could eat a whole plateful of that stuff - the mouthfeel, the bite and the taste were all perfect. Sometimes I love to eat a big pile of green veg that has been gently messed with in some way or other, served with nothing else to detract or distract from its singular moreishness - I love stir-fried green cabbage with a load of oriental chilli sauce and a fried egg, thanks to Orangette; I love old spinach, like the Chinese eat, steamed and stirred through with preserved bean curd (which Wikipedia rather charmingly calls 'pickled tofu' - I've never really given much thought to what it might be called in English. Chinese cheese is another rather delightful name it takes). The latter is something I used to fight over as a child. Thankfully my sister wasn't as fussed about it as I was - for a kid who wasn't too keen on slimy green things that got stuck in your throat halfway down, this was the vegetable dish of the gods and I could eat a tonne of it.

When we were last in Hong Kong we ate a few times at the magnificent Tai Po Market. In the evenings, when the rest of the market is shut, one of the upstairs floors comes alive with cheap and cheerful restaurants serving the most stunningly delicious food. Forget going to more expensive places outside - this is where the locals go. We had, most memorably, poached chicken in chilli oil and spinach done the way I love it. I was fighting my young cousins for the stuff. The place is happily also open for breakfast - what on earth could be better than silky ho fun noodle soup with fish balls and - wait for this - the most earth-shatteringly, mouth-wateringly beautiful fried fish skins. Oh yes, fried fish skins. Served with the ubiquitous and indispensable chilli oil, of course. I am salivating. Why can't English breakfasts be as good as this? I mean, noodles and congee - unbeatable.

Image from Wikipedia

Monday, 24 August 2009

you know you're getting old when...

1. You've been to a party, had too much to drink and it takes you two full days to feel normal again. I didn't start getting hangovers until a few years ago, and I don't drink a lot normally, but this was a tricksy cocktail trap, set cunningly by my friends and those who encouraged me to keep drinking the bright green stuff in my glass... Granted I wasn't the only one to have a sore head the next day, but I thought I'd left the world of excess alcohol behind me...

2. Your fourth wisdom tooth starts growing... in the roof of your mouth! OMG, it's coming through on my palate, on the inner side of my upper left row of teeth. I had an ache there a few months ago, then a lump appeared. The pain went away, then I got this funny little textured bit on the lump a couple of weeks ago. I only deemed to scrape at it with a fingernail last night, and lo and behold it is a tooth. In the wrong place. I feel like an ageing mutant.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


I have a glut of courgettes. Not little, tasty ones, but fat overgrown monsters that I didn't have the time or energy to harvest last week. I should be grateful - both my dad and Mark's grandma have struggled with them this year, but what to do with so many? I've already made and frozen a vast quantity of courgette soup, I could make fritters with some feta and mint, but they aren't the healthiest thing. I could roast them and freeze them to throw into pasta dishes as and when I please... We have given two away this morning, but there are more to come and the fridge is getting full! Last night we tried Jamie Oliver's courgette carbonara, albeit horribly bastardised. I won't say how I cheated here, because it's just too shameful. But I admit I've never made a proper carbonara! Oh how I cringe!

I have spent too many days in the last week working and mooching about in London, perspiring from body parts which surely don't have the capacity to do such a thing. It has been sweaty and hot, smelly and tiring. I am back in the countryside now and relishing being able to hang around the house in my slobs. Bliss.

Here's a good one - I got stopped by the police for the first time in the car on Tuesday night. I was going to pick Mark up from a birthday do in Cambridge and got stopped for forgetting to turn my headlights on. Oop! I think the policeman thought I was retarded and that Mark was on narcotics. Good-oh!

Monday, 17 August 2009

I have nothing left

Wow, I've been away for quite some time. This was not intentional. I have had some problems. Not mental or anything, just a big pile of work suddenly landed on my head and I nearly suffocated. Plus I have no computer of my own this week. Boo hoo. God, I don't half whinge sometimes! Moan, moan, moan...

What have I been thinking? Not a lot. On Friday whilst driving to Yorkshire I briefly considered the merits of eating dog food. You know how it is, you're listening to the radio and an advert comes up for some joint-care dog treats and I wondered if it would be beneficial for humans to eat the treats themselves... yeah. I think I'm going nuts. Too little sleep. And then on Sunday, I asked the husband, who is a lapsed Catholic, what the communion wafers tasted like. He said they were like Crackerbread, only with less flavour. So here's an idea for a rubbish business: flavoured communion wafers! Salt and vinegar! Prawn cocktail! The mind boggles... but then why don't they just buy a tube of Pringles and be done with it? I mean, the shape of them isn't that far off, and there's a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from holding a Pringle in your mouth without chewing it. Well, no, it's horrible, but better than a disc of pap, huh?

Friday, 7 August 2009

cryptic crosswords

Oh no! We have found a new thing to waste our lives doing: cryptic crosswords. Yup, I'm addicted like a crack whore. The problem is though, we managed to nearly finish one from the Guardian last night but we are not Guardian buyers. We get The Times, and the crosswords are mroe difficult in there, so maybe we'll have to change newspapers... No, I can't change! And I don't mind admitting this - I like The Times. I find The Guardian too idealistic, too cheerful - it's for young, liberal, eco types who want to change the world for the better - whilst I do my bit for the environment and care very much about it, grow organic food and want everyone in the world to JUST BLOODY WELL GET ALONG, I'm too cynical for this newspaper. No offence to Guardian readers - most of my friends indulge in it and I love them all. I think I'm just stuck in my ways, I'm a bitter snob, plus I like the jumbo crossword on Saturdays.

Anyway, Mark and I were pleased as punch that on our first attempt at a Guardian cryptic crossword we got all of them bar about four (which we didn't get because of a spelling irregularity, another was a mistake, one was near unfathomable, and another was a word we'd never heard of). Eek! It took WAY too long. I think my crowning glory so far has been the solution to this clue (actually from The Times):
Digger, a merry young soul, might one say? (4,5)
The solution, I believe, is coal miner - Old King Cole (coal); coal digger, coal miner; young=minor, therefore coal miner. Geddit? I don't think it was a particularly hard one, but it was satisfying nonetheless.

One that the husband and I got together was:
Type of school game obligatory for most high fliers (8,5)
Solution: boarding cards. Type of school=boarding; game=cards; boarding cards are required for anyone taking an aeroplane flight. Whoop!

Now I'm sounding like a PROPER geek. Someone get me a life?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

self help

So what's the deal with self-help? It's pretty sad, really, isn't it, the idea of hiding away alone and reading books to try to make yourself more confident, more successful etc.? I readily admit I'm probably a prime candidate for self-help, but my god, I'd far rather be pathetic without help than a tragicomic self-help reader. You can spot these freaks a mile off. Or am I being silly? Should I start reciting mantras to myself in the mirror every morning telling myself I'm wonderful and beautiful and various other lies?

And there's that nagging feeling with these books that they are written by people who are even more needy than you, the reader, are. Like Greg Kinnear's character in Little Miss Sunshine, who tries to follow his own programme of self-help, and pushes it on his kids, but is nonetheless quite a tragic figure of repeated failure and disappointment.

Well, I'm not about to start reading these books, but my goodness, do I need some help sometimes.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

setting boundaries, creating focus

You know, I'm always looking at stuff or reading things and responding to them in my head, but I wonder sometimes how much of it I should write about here. Should I set myself more boundaries so that I don't say something that could be bad for my career or my personal life? I guess the answer of course is yes - when you edit all the thoughts in your head down to something that you will commit to paper, as it were, I think you have to be quite careful to not end up sounding like a lunatic. I am quite scattershot when it comes to making these selections and I think maybe I should focus a little more on certain things (like, perhaps, NOT spending most of your time on here wondering about the point of blogging at all, silly girl...).

So for today's random post, I thought I'd mention this site I read about at the weekend called F my Life where people can go anonymously to write up things that happen in their life that make them think 'fuck my life' because it sucks in some way or other. For example, the latest entry that was there when I opened up the site this morning was: Today, I had my first blow job. My girlfriend thought it would be sexy to "caress" my ball sack. By caress she meant bitch slap from side to side. FML. Yeah, I think anonymity is a good thing if you're going to write about stuff like that... Jeezus...

Maybe next time I'll write about something more interesting. I dunno. Maybe a lack of decency and boundaries would make me more interesting... ha!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dumplings and sausages

I spent a good fifteen minutes reading about dumplings on Wikipedia the other day. I guess the things one can do with food are limited, but that knowledge never stops me from finding it remarkable that there are so many dishes that seem to have evolved in parallel within different cuisines, as it were. For example, noodles and pasta have similarities, there's calzone and the Cornish pasty, and of course there are dumplings and wontons from China to Eastern European pierogi/vareniki to Italian tortellini. I suppose the dumpling/pasty thing is simply a neat way of serving lots of different fillings, but it's still interesting. My husband is half Ukrainian, so imagine our delight when we discovered that whilst I can make jiaozi filled with pork and vegetables, he makes vareniki filled with cheese and potato, both of which are cased in a flour and water dough and shaped like stuffed half-moons. Of course I prefer mine, though - I mean, what's the deal with the Ukrainian stodge pie? To be fair, vareniki can have other fillings, but this is the recipe that has been passed down to him.

Then there are variations on salami. The Chinese have one called lap cheong or lap cheung (yeah, no, my surname doesn't mean 'sausage' - that would be too funny. Sorry, different word) that (I think) literally translates as 'wax sausage'. It is often eaten steamed, sliced and doused in soy sauce, which balances its inherent sweetness and fattiness. Oh lord, I could do with some now! But it's so bad for you... There are certain foodstuffs that take you to a particular experience in your life - this sausage reminds me of the first meal we would have at home in England having arrived back that day from Hong Kong. Because the quality of imported products such as these in England isn't as great as in its native land, my parents would smuggle (well, I don't know how legal it was) things like dried oysters, dried sausage, preserved duck and salted fish back in these enormous blue-striped canvas sacks back from HK any time we went there. My god, did we exceed our baggage limit! It was embarrassing - and I guess it must have been allowed because the pungent reek emanating from our luggage would surely give its contents away. Anyway, after we had got home from the airport and had a rest, when it came to food there was nothing in the house, so what better to do than crack open the preserved goodies and re-live the HK experience? You'd think that after weeks of being away from home we would want something not Chinese, but this stuff is something else entirely. You might hate it if you didn't grow up eating it - it's kinda weird, but I still like it now.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Cauliflower risotto

So we ended up making cauliflower risotto last night, served with finely sliced runner beans from my vegetable patch. We are experiencing a bit of a glut of runner beans and courgettes at the moment. The weather has been rainy and sunny enough to cause everything to go BOOMPH! in the garden. I am faced almost daily with a new monster courgette. I will make soup, I think.

This risotto recipe is one of my favourites - even if you're not too sure about cauliflower, this dish will surely, SURELY, make you a fan. You are a lost cause if this doesn't get you excited. It is sprinkled with an anchovy and chilli pangrattato (dry fried breadcrumbs that many less wealthy Italian families used to use instead of expensive Parmesan cheese). To make it, you need Jamie Oliver's basic risotto recipe, which is the base for lots of different risottos, coupled with the recipe for cauliflower risotto. The florets are simmered in the risotto stock as you cook, and then crushed into the risotto later, almost disappearing into it. Sorry, I don't have a photo of my own. I was too eager to eat last night to stop and take pictures. This dish I could eat until I'm sick.

Monday, 27 July 2009


Hmm. Enough rubbish film critique. Tonight we are eating cauliflower. It has become such an underrated vegetable that many farmers are considering not growing it any more. I think that would be a tragedy. Anyone who doesn't like cauliflower either has never had it cooked nicely or is barking mad. It has a lovely delicate flavour but is sturdy enough to be the perfect vehicle for much stronger flavours like cheese, garlic and anchovies. Cooked to perfection it is soft but nubbly, crumbling in your mouth under the slightest pressure - the perfect comfort vegetable if such exists.

I was nearly put off it as a child when one day my sister and I were given a bowl of caulifower each. I think we were being pests in the take-away so were sent off into the front reception room to play with food. We added tomato ketchup and mashed it up. It was horrible. However, rescue was at hand - my dad used to sauté some garlic and a sliced pork chop in some oil, then add cauliflower cut into chunks, followed by a little water, seasoning and a dash of oyster sauce and soy sauce. Simmered until tender it was salty, chewy, lumpy perfection.

And the leaves are perfectly edible and actually rather lovely to eat. I hate to waste food, so I try to use as much of the vegetable as possible. Here's a great way of using the whole thing:

Sautéed Cauliflower (I could eat half a cauliflower by myself, but then I'm a bit weird so quantities are arbitrary)

Cut all parts of the cauliflower (leaves, stems, florets) into chunks. Lightly boil for about five minutes, then sauté in olive oil with sliced garlic, dried chilli flakes and a few anchovies for a good 10-15 minutes or so until there are nicely browned patches on the pieces of cauliflower. Check and adjust the seasoning and serve. You can add parsley, pine nuts, capers... anything you think would work. I could eat this with anything. I bet it's a marvel just on its own with toast, or maybe as a side dish with some fish.

the weekend...

was busy. We spent four and a half hours cleaning the house and getting back to its normal state on Saturday. It was boring to say the least. The football on Friday was great fun - Wembley Stadium at night is magnificent. Sadly, Tottenham sucked and we finished up third place out of four - ouch.

We were watching the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind yesterday. In a similar vein to what I was writing on Alternative Eagle today, this film is successful because of good storytelling - such a simple premise told with wit and imagination. I like how it sits on the boundaries of being funny and sad, sweet and cynical. It never leaves you feeling just one thing - you run a whole gamut of emotions, and that kind of story, to me, reflects life better than something that is purely funny or grim as hell. Beneath its relatively light mood it has an intriguing dark heart - an exploration of whether anyone could hurt you so much that you'd rather not remember them at all, good or bad. Even through its surrealist filmic devices it says something very resonant - that in the end it's all about the balance between the good things and the bad.

Friday, 24 July 2009

we did it!

We've finished the kitchen floor! I am inordinately, ridiculously happy. It looks good, which is rather surprising given how little we knew about tiling before we embarked on this. We're bloody experts now... We wiped the last grout off at 11.45 last night, having only started the grouting after dinner, first spending a good hour or more dithering over how thick the grout should be. Cheapo vanilla ice-cream is the texture we went for in the end. Half melted.

Here is a before and after... We had to let it all dry out, de-mould it, seal it, then lay a flexible underlayer before tiling... it took up too much of our lives.

(above) Before. Sodden fungal mess.

(above) After. Huzzah.

The verdict is that whilst we like to think that we would one day like to renovate a house, really we're not the world's most enthusiastic DIYers. I think we won't be tiling anything for a good long while after that. And all that was because the washing machine leaked and destroyed our old kitchen floor. Nothing worse than non-self-inflicted DIY emergency repairs.

Today we are off to Wembley stadium to watch not one but TWO games of football. My beloved Tottenham are playing Barcelona in this random competition called The Wembley Cup, but first we have to watch Celtic play an Egyptian team called Al Ahly. We couldn't get Tottenham tickets so we will be sitting with the Al Ahly fans. I'm quite excited. Sad, aren't I?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

oh dear

I've been neglectful this week. I have not written any pointless posts here until today. I have not even had any pointless thoughts recently, nor any weird dreams to talk about. I've been busy.

I cannot understand why anyone would be a tiler for a living. It destroys your hands and is boring as fuck. That is what we have been busy doing. snore!

Sunday, 19 July 2009


When I was very young we used to occasionally have gammon with pineapple. I always took the pineapple off immediately and ate it separately, but the gammon had already tainted it and vice versa. Or there might be sweet and sour pork with pineapple chunks loitering in the sauce like a gustatory ambush. And what on earth is the deal with ham and pineapple pizza, or that abomination, cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks? I remember having the latter inflicted on me at birthday parties in the 1980s like a punishment. As you can see, I wasn't too sure about the whole fruit and savoury thing as a child (or was it just pineapple?). Later at university, friends would turn their noses up at the occasional apple parading as a suitable partner for pork, or cranberry with turkey, stuff like that. I think we called it 'course-mixing' - I mean, what on earth is dessert doing in my main, dammit?

I have to say, though, I've grown to like fruit in savoury dishes - it adds a frisson of uncertainty. Is it going to work? Will it be horrid, or just unnecessary? I like the pineapple in sweet and sour now because I'm still not all that sure about it and it's a bit exciting eating things that are a bit weird. Like the bloke in Oldboy who eats a live octopus - or not that weird :-). Yeah, it was on TV on Saturday night but we chickened out and went to bed after that scene. We loved how the tentacles were wrapping around his nose as he ate it but I think you have to mentally prepare yourself for such wilful oddness, so we quit early.

Anyway, back to the subject. A few weeks ago at our friend's house the husband and I mentioned a recipe that we had been wanting to try out: strawberry risotto. Our friends were slightly dubious when we said with glee: 'no, this isn't a sweet rice pudding, it's a full-on savoury risotto with Parmesan cheese, no less!'

The recipe is from Twelve, a Tuscan cookbook by Tessa Kiros. Her books are wonderful. Her recipes and writing embody how I think food should be: homely, comforting, delicious. The design and styling are magnificent, especially in the child(and grown-up)-friendly Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries, a collection of family recipes from around the world. I could look at them for hours.

So yesterday we tried out the risotto recipe with lovely English strawberries. Here is my best picture of the result:

And here is the recipe:

Risotto alla fragola (adapted from Twelve by Tessa Kiros, serves 2):

(Tessa uses 20g butter - half to fry the onions, the rest added at the end - we leave it out for the sake of our health)
1/4 medium white onion, very finely chopped (she uses 1/2 a French shallot)
125g strawberries, hulled and halved
75ml white wine (she uses 1 1/2 tbsp brandy, which we don't have)
90g risotto rice
750ml vegetable stock (she uses chicken or meat stock)
a small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, sweat the onions in butter (we use light olive oil instead) until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put your stock in a saucepan over a low heat and keep it simmering. Add half the hulled strawberries and cook for a further two minutes. Then add the wine or brandy and simmer until the liquid has just about evaporated. Then add the rice and stir to coat all the grains. Season with pepper and salt if you wish, depending on if your stock is salted or not, then add a ladleful of stock to the pan and stir until the liquid is absorbed into the rice. Continue to add stock by the ladleful, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next. Keep going until you have used up all or most of your stock. This should take about 20 minutes. When the rice is cooked but still has some bite, turn off the heat, stir in half of the Parmesan and the rest of the strawberries, then cover and leave the pan to sit untouched for two minutes. Serve with black pepper and the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top.

Was it good? Oh yes. The strawberries that are stirred in right at the end are quite sweet and took a little getting used to - in some ways I thought I might prefer it if I'd cooked them in a bit more. They were a bit desserty, perhaps. But the risotto itself was lovely - not at all sweet, it had a tangy note from the fruit that cut through the risotto's inherent richness. I wouldn't serve it to people who have full-blown course-mixing issues, it's probably a step too far, but if you like your food to be a bit exciting I'd certainly recommend it.

There are plenty of quite unusual risotto recipes floating around - Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy has a few wonderful recipes, in particular the cauliflower risotto and another with roasted mushrooms and lots of parsley. I'll waffle on about them another time.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


I don't like to laugh at people, it makes me feel mean, but sometimes it's just too bloody funny. Thanks to the magnificent Barry, here's a bit of, uh, eye candy from a seller on eBay who has touchingly painted this tribute picture of Michael Jackson's chimp, Bubbles, alongside old MJ's glove and hat combo. I'm hyperventilating with disbelief. Here's the description from the seller:

Here is a painting of a child's impression of Bubbles, Michael's beloved Chimp.

The painting is done in acrylics and measures approximately 7" x 10". Painted on good quality acrylic paper, it is not mounted or framed, and leaves the buyer to choose a suitable mounting/frame to suit their own decor.

This lovely chap is bound to enthrall a young child - or maybe and older one too!

It is a tribute to a great star, who sadly died this week, far too soon, and now is reunited with Bubbles.

To suit their own decor?! I'd advise fire, or at least a bin. Starting bid is 99p. Any takers? It's too much. I think I need to lie down.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Went to Bridge End Garden in my local town yesterday with a friend and got lost in a hedge maze for quite some time. It didn't help that all it made me think of was that scene at the end of The Shining where he's chasing the kid through the maze - plus I was regaling my companion with this story so didn't take note on where we had been or not. Sadly it wasn't snowing, which would have made it more fun, but it was starting to rain.

I've been busy doing random things with friends since last Wednesday, so haven't had time to think much at all.

I ate a small but decadent chocolate pudding yesterday without looking once at the nutrition label. For someone who's a bit fussy about fat and sugar content this was a feat of brilliance. I think it enhanced the experience of eating it. From the way it tasted, it probably had enough calories to fuel a rocket.

Friday, 10 July 2009

night-hunger II

well, last night I had some horrible dreams about buildings collapsing and being stuck inside with my family without being able to get the padlocked door open and stuff like that. Not good. I also had a dream in which my dear husband was eating a piece of chocolate cake with some kind of vanilla icing, oh yes, I remember the icing very well. He was meant to leave a bit for me, but as I turned around, I saw the last piece disappearing into his mouth. All he did was shrug and say 'want?'. Jesus, was I annoyed. So annoyed that it woke me up.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Last night I dreamt about a huge canteen in which I was queuing for lunch, but I lost my meal ticket not only once, but twice. What meal ticket? I think I've only ever had about three such things in my life! I think there was chicken involved, and possibly tomatoes. Those kind of foodstuffs are certainly within my experience, but the panic of not being able to have my lunch because I kept dropping the damned ticket was pretty new and quite frightening. Funnily enough, I woke up just after those dreams absolutely ravenous with hunger. There is nothing worse than night-hunger, the kind that talks to you in your sleep and wakes you up feeling cavernously empty. I think I'm quite anxious this week.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Monday, 6 July 2009

the weekend...

was strangely symmetrical. Drove to my parents' house whilst listening to poor old Andy Murray losing to Roddick at Wimbledon; drove home on Sunday listening to poor old Roddick losing to Federer. By the way, the world has me to thank for ending that increasingly boring latter match. Yup, I went for a pee in a service station about two points before it was over, leaving Mark to listen to it in the car. When I emerged from the harrowing bowels of the McDonald's loo, he was standing there grinning because I had done SUCH a good job of finishing off the match. It's true, you know.

Families are screwed up, aren't they? I sometimes feel like mine is scarily near the tippy top of the pile of crazies. There are some things I won't write about here, but one of the more minor (yes indeed) things was that upon our arrival on Friday night, my mother took me out into the hallway and showed me that she and my dad have just covered the entire wall next to the stairs with mirrored tiles. I nearly died of horror. Apparently they have been listening to some random quack feng-shui-inspired friend and decided to make a few 'changes'. This also involved my dad hanging a heavy art-deco mirror somewhat precariously over my bedroom door like some kind of booby trap. Nice mirror, bloody weird idea. They are nuts. I love them, but they are absolutely out of their trees.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

this is how things are

You cannot imagine the trouble we've had because of our washing machine...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I am getting to grips with Chinese-style dumplings, the ones filled with vegetables and minced pork and then steamed, boiled or fried. I think I have them pretty good now. I always seem to be lacking one ingredient or another when I'm making these, but somehow they always turn out OK. But maybe I'm kidding myself and my Dad would wrinkle his nose at them or laugh at me. I'll maybe write up a recipe one day, but that might be telling...

The ritual of chopping, mixing, making dough, rolling and filling is something best shared with other people. It's something I remember doing at home as a teenager with my parents teaching us how to make these little purses over the kitchen table. I never had the patience in those days to do very many, so I'd wander off after a while. It is the kind of thing, though, that brings with it that marvellous feeling of tradition and familial closeness, like pasta making, or the kneading of bread. And then you all sit down to eat it together, which surely is the best thing in the world.

So it is that with my surrogate family of university friends, some of my best memories are of the dumpling 'parties' we used to throw, sometimes with just my flatmates, other times with friends too. We used to gather in the kitchen whilst I made the mix for the filling and kneaded the dough for the cases, and then they would all have a go at filling them and striving to make the perfect shape, curved and pleated like a pair of plump horns. It would take so long that we wouldn't sit down to eat until late, slightly delirious with hunger, but it was always, always worth the wait. I would make a whole load of different dipping sauces and we'd steam piles of baby pak choi to eat with it. Even when we were all full up, if there were any left over there would always be room for a couple more.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Not what I was looking for

I just came across a link from Google images to a site which teaches you 'how to draw anime hot girls'. I'm not joking. It's so pathetic: I imagine these men who can't get a real girl to like them sitting in their bedrooms at night fantasising about these impossibly proportioned, big-breasted woman-child creatures, trying to draw their own and then having a wank over them. Jesus!

Why, you might wonder, would I be searching on Google images for girls? Well, I'm doing a little job drawing a female character for a charity website. In search of inspiration I innocently (but half knowing-squirmingly) typed 'girl drawing' into the search bar. Really, the stuff that comes up when you hit return is not exactly inspiring me, put it that way.

Monday, 29 June 2009


Firstly, it is obscenely hot. We have just devoured the leftovers of yesterday's lunch, seated in a most civil manner at the garden furniture outside. I knew it was hot, I know I don't burn easily, but I was definitely getting a little pink out there by the end of the meal. Not good. By the time I'm fifty years old I'll be wrinkled as a scrotum. It's so quiet out there, as if nothing can be bothered to stir itself to do anything. I certainly can't stir myself into action today. I put in a titanic effort to get some roughs sent off before lunchtime, and having crawled painfully, brain bleeding, up to that difficult target at 12.17pm, I duly scoffed as my reward the wondrous foodstuffs we had brought home from our friend Naomi's house. I am now back indoors, belly full, watching my skin gradually grow less radiant and writing this.

Naomi's salads yesterday were a triumph. Pearl barley, tenderstem broccoli, butternut squash, red onions, pumpkin seeds, all brought together companionably under a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and parsley. I could eat that salad until I'm sick. Which would be obscene.

Speaking of which, the obscenity I intended to write about was something that I thought I was alone in noticing. That bald one from Masterchef - Gregg Wallace - is it just me or does the way in which he eats make you shudder too? I mean, what kind of weirdo puts cutlery in his mouth so deep and for so long that you think he's trying to eat the bowl of the spoon or see what the metal tastes like? Those poor forks sometimes get fully two seconds of in-mouth action, I swear. When it's his turn to taste the food, I have to look away. It grosses me out. To my delight yesterday, I discovered that Naomi shares my horror - we laughed like drains about it.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

I mean, seriously,

what is the matter with me? I spotted a word I recognised whilst being traumatised by those pictures of the mucous plugs and typed it into the enlightening Wikipedia. What horrors awaited me! Meconium is this horrible dark brown shit that babies pass in the first couple of days after birth. Go on, go and look at the pictures in the link. Sometimes the babies pass it in the uterus and breathe it into their lungs by accident. I need to lie down, this is too much.

I must stay away from these things! I should be working on an illustration and I'm reading about childbirth?


Dear lord, I was just doing a bit of light reading (ha!) over on Dooce and came across this post on mucous plugs. When you're pregnant, a plug of mucus (unsurprising, given its name) forms at the neck of the cervix to block it up. Now sometimes it falls out when a woman is close to her due-date, yeah, it just slips out like some kind of slug or a giant vaginal bogey. I have never heard of such a thing. I Googled it for images, which was probably a big mistake cos now I NEVER NEVER NEVER want to have a child. I thought it was already pretty gross to have to squeeze an enormous thing out from between your legs but holy Christ this was properly sick. I can't believe she wrote about that. Dooce is very funny in places, but it also scares the crap out of me when she jokes about childbirth and other random stuff. That's one brave lady.

Homicide Saturdays

Today is one of those days when you wish you'd never got out of bed. Everything is a chore, even eating breakfast. We've been to town to do our weekly food shopping. I thought I might die, or at least someone might die at my hands. Saturday mornings in Waitrose easily induce thoughts of homicide - you get the grumpy mothers with three brats in tow, who treat you like you've personally offended them if you don't move out of their way; you get the dozy old couples who can't find anything or reach it once they've found it; you get the impatient young couples like us, who spit out swear words scattershot at adults and children alike. I don't care if your fucking daughter hears me swearing - leave her at home if it matters that much. It would certainly make me swear less or maybe I'll just run my trolley over her head next time. How does that sound, hm?

Right. Calm. Spouse is making soup. I'm sure it will cheer me up. It worries me that food makes me so happy. We bought a crab to have with some pasta tonight, and that will probably make me the happiest person alive for about eight minutes while I'm eating it.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Cheese Fridays

Nah, I'm just kidding. I can't remember what we ate on Fridays, only that as children my sister and I were left to our own devices on Friday and Saturday nights. Both of my parents worked incredibly hard in the take-away when we were young. I never really appreciated how much they did for us - they sent us to private schools from infancy because they cared for us much more than themselves, and we lived quite an impoverished early existence, sleeping all in one bedroom and sharing the upper floors of the take-away with our employees and other friends. My childhood was filled with their many different faces, most of whom have gone away, but some who remain very dear to me - my aunt and my cousins especially. Most of the people who worked for us always had time for my sister and I - I don't think as an adult I am quite as patient or indulgent with children as they all were.

So on Friday nights, when everyone was busy downstairs with the orders of chicken chow mein and chips with curry sauce, we would run amok, making tents and pretending to be tramps, creating trains of cardboard boxes, trying to brew our own perfume. Our upbringing was crazy - the antithesis of careful parenting. We watched the TV adaptation of Susan Hill's 'The Woman in Black' far too young and I'm still scarred by that experience many years later. I still remember the terror of having to go to bed that night. I'm sitting here in the middle of one of those almighty June thunderstorms and watching clips like this. This bit nearly killed me as a child of eight years old.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Duck Thursdays

When I was very young and we lived above my parents' take-away, Thursdays were always duck days. My dad would be preparing and roasting ducks all day in his enormous oven, hanging them up on big hooks as they became ready. On those evenings we would each have a leg of duck for dinner accompanied by pak choi or Chinese broccoli and plain rice, with plum sauce for the duck and lots of soy sauce over the whole plate. It was divine, one of the greatest pleasures of my early life.

My dad is probably the best cook I have ever known; his knowledge and skill are so instinctive. I really need to get him to show me how to make some of the things he used to feed us, things that to me are still the purest taste of home. It would be tragic if he didn't tell me the secret of braised belly pork or his unparallelled Hong Kong curry, how to make that weird steamed pork patty or what on earth fish he uses to make homemade fish balls. These are things I must know.

The best Duck Thursday I remember was when one day after school, instead of being brought home, we were taken to the local forest for an impromptu Chinese-style picnic. It was just normal food, which to us was our roast duck dinner, eaten out of foil trays whilst sitting on the water tanks that are dotted around that bit of woodland. I can still recall the way my food looked, all crammed into the tray with the dollop of plum sauce starting to seep and disappear into the rice. I still recall climbing with my sister on those water tanks. My parents were full of surprises, making the ordinary just that little bit extraordinary.

Tonight should be Duck Thursday, but I watch my waistline these days :-).

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

So now what?

What on earth have I done? It's not like I've got anything interesting to say.

Pillow talk last night was on the subject of the 'value' of art and whether the monetary value of a piece of art (well, we were actually talking about ceramics) is directly linked to its emotional value. How much are we influenced into liking something simply because it is expensive, or is it the opposite case that if we like something that we give it a higher monetary value? Is this always the case? Was it ever the case and if so is it still now? We digressed onto the exclusivity of modern fine art and how buyers such as the Saatchi brothers take it upon themselves to be the tastemakers for the wider population. Are they to blame for all this shite, wanky modern art that is expensive as well as ugly and pointless? I don't think I want to write about that too much today. It was too much of a headfuck last night. This is what you get when two over-educated people get married. It's that thrilling.

But you know, I found it thrilling. I couldn't sleep afterwards.

Monday, 22 June 2009

here we are again...

So I've decided to start this blog because there are sometimes things that I'd like to write about that don't really fit into my other blogs. I like to rant. My soapbox gets lots of usage in normal life, but these kind of things aren't always suitable to put on a blog based on illustration, design and other arty pursuits. So here I am, writing crap for no particular reason, just being me...