Sunday, March 04, 2007

Blind optimism

I seem to be riding on a rare crest of control over my weaknesses for addiction. It will be short-lived, you can put your house on that, but that makes it all the more tense. For with each waking minute it threatens to die away or crash. The whole image could also very possibly be a deluded fantasy dreamt up while as I am every night as high as a kite. But its seems I have found myself at this point partly because it’s en route to a year of being alcohol-free and partly because I am still just about managing to convince myself that this one-off bag of knockout grass is going to be one of only a few more and hence my springboard to building a proper relationship with it, a success-story which I shall then transpose to my alcoholism and, finally, be free. Etc.

At least it is keeping us well fed, since this wave of optimism is coupled with life outside my own head and is somehow fuelling confidence in my kitchen, not to mention the Office. Indeed, in the latter I have unknowingly struck gold – having had a “business idea” which provides on a plate a desperately needed Shining Example of their tens of thousands of pound’s worth of corporate strategy being put into action. While trying to sell its merits I found myself fumbling in an attempt to avoid terms and phrases such as “monetize”, “move forward” and “exploit potential”, and just when I found myself resorting to vague and vacuous sketches accompanied by some grand hand-waving and thoughtful frowns, the MD suddenly interrupted me:

“Stop right there,” he said, with his hand out and a reassuring but deeply troubling smile on this face.

“That’s called a Vision”.

It was fucking priceless. It had taken their most cynical employee in his desperate bid to escape a dead-end position to bale them out of the sinking ship that is their Corporate Strategy. Before I know it I’ll be being hauled out of the Christmas-do to pick up my engraved silver cup and three-figure cheque, the rancid tang of industrial brandy butter still keen on my breath.

At home my period of clarity is materializing in slightly more style. Yesterday I made a fish stock with the fleshy frame of a large halibut and a few aromatics. It had the look and feel of a thick chicken stock, like nothing I’ve seen with other fish. I put a litre or two away and the rest into a fish soup. The Wife, possibly due to her rampant and enviable rediscovery of cigarette smoking, has been in need of creamy meals – ones that are comforting too, ideally, so as to blot out the need for a painful drink.

This stock had the complexion of bull semen. I ladled it into a heavy pan of reduced wine, leek, shallot and lemon grass and threw in a couple of tatties. Then I used it as a bath for the meat: first the haddock for a minute or two, then two fat twitching langoustines for three, followed last by a handful of mussels. It blitzed to a smooth sheen and was made table-ready with a handful of Maldon, a pile of cream and a few stems of flat-leafed parsley; crusty white bread; good quality, salted butter.

I have no idea what sort of culinary culture my children will inherit, however. Earlier today I noticed the Eldest being fixated with my hacking out of the eyes and ripping out the gills of a triangular fish-head the size of my sink. And, later, I quietly enjoyed watching her taunt the sleepy langoustines that I had merely intended to show her for general-education purposes. Couple that with my odd and uptight behaviour at mealtimes generally and you’ve got a classic recipe for disturbed teenage tendencies.

So I march onwards to fuck-knows where. Because I am perpetually caned I’ve been cooking up some oily and Malden-encrusted treats. This evening was a super-rare lump of Barrow Gurney topside with wedges of soft maris pipers roasted in rosemary and garlic, sweet Italian cherry tomatoes rolled around in hot olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a portobello mushroom and some rocket coated in a Dijon vinaigrette. The food was so juicy it had no need for a gravy. A forced rhubarb & oaty crumble with vanilla ice cream for a munch.

But it’s all temporary and will end soon once the mundane bores back in. I cannot afford to consume cannabis of this strength with everything else that’s happening around me, not least my family. It will crumble. But it’s good to be here one-last-fucking-time again.

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