Thursday, November 09, 2006

Clive James you bastard

Keeping two children happy is a lot of work. There are no shortcuts. But food can be a handy device, both for fuelling the madness (done to great effect this afternoon with a perfect shepherds’ pie. Standing in my kitchen on a midweek afternoon, pouring a small pot of my fresh beef stock over a simple layer of fatty mince, onion and carrot, generally wiping dishes with butter wrappers and feeling slightly excited and deeply satisfied about the fact that most of the world, at least the part of it familiar to those of my generation throwing themselves into the fire for the pitiful return of pointless career progression, is hard at work. I feel very much alive during such moments, immersed in the effortless details of the task before me while also being acutely aware of my contentedness. And in the company of my daughter, desperate to much any morsel of the sweet shortbread dough we were making.

Gear enhances all of this. But it also fucks the brain up. Today’s shortbread is a case in point, fucking as I did the ratios to produce a rather rock-like disc which I am too embarrassed to let anybody see or taste. I will throw it and its packet of best butter away in the morning before the Wife returns.

Gear, in fact, is a case in point in itself. I knew I was going to run out this evening, so I made sure to chat to the neighbour in time for a 10-bag re-stock to tide me over until that precious day when I will stop so that I can be sure my decisions in life are not being affected by my grubby and increasingly boring addiction to cannabis. Each time it comes down to the last pipe or two the same thing happens. And my justification for not making today my quit-day was a radio monologue by that Australian cultural commentator Clive James in which he calmly described his addiction to extremity, whatever the fuck the substance actually is; the need for more of it, to abuse it until you ruin the relationship. It rang true, so true. And the simple line about how much creativity he suddenly lost once he had straightened-up struck a resonance within.

If only I could apply the same determination to other aspects of my life, including cooking for that matter. Why not try more things, experiment more instead of throwing out the same old roast-meat-and-carbs fat- and salt-fests? Like, for instance, the rose-petal jam George is making for the wedding? As for the short term, as in tonight’s tea, I could do with a lesson in frying squid. I picked up some creamy thick slices of a giant at the farmers’ today so marinated it in a sweet chilli and garlic mash, fried it in the grill oan and tossed it with some roasted tomatoes&peppers and a handful of lovely fresh rocket and flat-leafed parsley. And none of it from Tesco, as I have been going for the semi-rotten displays of veg from the languishing fruit&veg shops I come across.

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