Tag Archives: Food

Some more literary ladies who lunch

Where else would Scotland’s children’s authors want to go on a mediocre – weather wise – Wednesday in June, but to Bookwitch Towers? Admittedly, some ended up going to America or to Singapore, even Orkney, but many were kind and headed my way.

They were far too kind and generous in other ways, too. You might have thought it was my birthday. I spent the evening unpacking gifts and admiring my flowers.

Some of my guests have come every year, for which they deserve a medal. One each, obviously. Some were new and ‘had heard so much about my lunches.’ And still they came!

As in other years, it was nice and noisy. They do know how to talk. It could have been the Prosecco, I suppose. The wine cellar of Bookwitch Towers (i.e. the IKEA shelves in the garage) has for some time been well stocked with Prosecco, but this is no longer a pressing problem. If only I’d known this earlier!

And it’s odd. Yesterday morning I told myself I’d never do this again. But as I waved goodbye to my guests I started thinking ahead to next time. Could there be something wrong with me? (No need to answer that, btw.)

Lunch aftermath

Advertisements

Cooking the books

I had a good long moan to the Resident IT Consultant a few days ago. Good thing I did it then, or it would have seemed as if I’d read Phil Daoust in the Guardian and didn’t have an original thought in my head. Zeitgeist, maybe.

In Phil’s article Recipes, schmecipes he basically says that writers of cookbooks might not be as open or honest as we’d like them to be. And anyway, you can always adapt a recipe without world-shattering consequences. After that, I had a look at Yotam Ottolenghi’s summer recipes and immediately found things that illustrated my and Phil’s thoughts, so had another lovely little moan.

But never mind that.

I spent a few days cooking in Switzerland last weekend. Quality time with Daughter and all that. It was nice.

She had a new Indian cookery book (I forget by whom or what the title was) and had post-its all over to mark what she might consider eating, as long as recipes were adapted to have ‘no bits.’ And you can do this when cooking for yourself. Daughter felt it was high time she cooked something proper, rather than merely throwing the odd thing in with pasta or couscous every time.

I chose a cauliflower dish, which was lovely. But even without the excessive chopping to pulverise chillies and onions, that was no midweek easy dinner as it said. It was not much faster the second time round when I went home and coooked it again. And that cauliflower was massively al dente after the suggested cooking time.

The second night we went for Bombay eggs and homemade nan bread. We had to adapt like mad, seeing as we had not shopped for it and it was Sunday in Switzerland (no shops), but it still worked just fine. That photo in the cookbook was never of the –  recipe quantity – egg dish, or the author had access to the most enormous coriander leaves I’ve ever seen. Ignoring the way the author’s baking specialist ‘aunty’ makes her nan bread still got us [faster] to the best nan I’ve ever eaten. Why make it harder for yourself? (Yes, Ottolenghi, why?)

Bombay eggs

So, why lie? Why this need to improve on reality, when results can be got anyway?

I’ll calm down now. The food tasted divine. And some serious quality time was had by both Daughter and Witch. Even with chopped frozen spinach sourced at the local railway station’s tiny Sunday shop.

Full circle

Five years on, Candy Gourlay and I were back where we started. No, not on Facebook. At Carluccio’s St Pancras. When thinking about what we might do – briefly – before I got on my northbound broomstick, I realised that we could finally have some more of the coffee ice cream we have reminisced about over the years. We both like it, and we both eat it sometimes, but never together.

I got there early, and was sitting reading, completely engrossed in Lucy Coats’s Cleo, when I realised someone was standing there, staring at me. But I suppose it’s fairly suitable to be found nose down in a book when you have a brunch date with an author.

And over my poached eggs we discussed lots of publishing stuff and books and writers. None of which I’ll tell you about. Children. Interior decorating. How to stay warm in our old age. Yes, really. Actually Candy believes she’s already too old, which doesn’t leave much hope for me. But we agreed that you need to have lived before you can write worthwhile stuff.

After the eggs, and the coffee ice cream, Candy accompanied me across the road to the other station, the one with a perennial queue for platform 9 3/4, but I said there was no reason for her to wait with me. I promised to leave town even if not escorted, and I did so by following the sudden stampede towards platform 4, once the Aberdeen train had been announced.

It’s good to have gone to London, but better still to get home again. I’m too old for all this big city life, seeing lots of people in crowds. I’ll have to set up meetings with people one at a time in future. If anyone ever wants to see me…

(The recipe for the coffee cheesecake will, possibly, turn up some time if I don’t forget.)

Preserving books

Much to the bemusement of the decorator, we started making marmalade when he was here to paint Son’s bedroom. Pardon, I mean the library. I’ve come to the conclusion that Son and any other over-night visitors we may have, will be sleeping in the library. Not at the same time, naturally.

I think we’re past the stage where we put books into Son’s room. It will have to be a library of sorts, in which one can also put sleepers. Dusty, perhaps, but with plenty to keep an insomniac company.

Where was I? Yes, we were making marmalade. And by that I mean that I chop citrus fruit until I’m blue in the face, while the Resident IT Consultant puts the largest cauldron on the hob and boils Seville oranges and lemons for hours on end.

I reckon it was this that struck the decorator as odd. If he eats marmalade, he gets it out of a bought jar. I feel it’s odd that in all his visits to people’s homes – and in his job he makes a lot of house calls – that he hasn’t come across more preserving going on.

So he asked lots of questions on the how and the what, and a little on the why.

‘We’ make two kinds. The marmalade with loads of peel in it for the Resident IT Consultant. And the – nicely bitter flavoured – jelly for the peel-hating witch. Although, I have to admit to occasionally scraping a peel-free spoonful out of his marmalade jar, because it does have a very good flavour.

I sent the Resident IT Consultant out for some last Sevilles yesterday, and he panicked because they were coming to an end, and he had to go to one more supermarket in his search. But we should be all right now.

Just wish I’d hung on to more of my empty jars in the move. I used to have a very nice jar collection…

The marmalade books

The RCL

Yesterday I saw the Retired Children’s Librarian.

That is a phrase I have so far been unable to say on this blog, which makes it noteworthy. Saw her the day before as well. And before that it had been eight years. Bookwitch is only seven, which is why I’ve never said it on here. The RCL doesn’t travel much these days, and I find that the town where she now lives is – quite frankly – on the wrong side of the country.

It is far and it is not on the railway. That’s where the Resident IT Consultant comes in, because he can be made to drive witches to places not so easily reached by other means. (Before you ask, the broom suffers from heat exhaustion.)

The town where the RCL lives is a lovely town. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s just not convenient. So, in-between lunch at her place one day and dinner at a restaurant the next, we went to see her niece at Växplats Nybyn, which is where the RCL does most of her work in the summer. My old mentor might be gasping for air in the hot weather, but she still helps her niece with serving coffee at her herby heaven in the countryside, almost daily donning a pretty purple pinny.

Växplats Nybyn and the RCL

If you think the photos look a little dark, I’ll just mention this was immediately before some magnificent thunder and lightning. Which did make it a teeny weeny bit colder. Not to mention wet.

It’s a lovely place, even if it does have a geranium room, which is a sort of witchy hell on earth (me and geraniums don’t mix). Beautiful, but smelling of geraniums.

Geraniums at Växplats Nybyn

With a Pippi Longstocking hut for children, the niece has clearly had the same mentor I had. She used to have – pet – pigs, who all bore the names of children’s literature characters.

Växplats Nybyn, Children's corner

Rude

Church of the Holy Rude

I took the day off. And so did Helen Grant. We went to look at the Church of the Holy Rude (which is not rude at all), up next to Stirling Castle. They have stained glass and carved heads and stuff, which is the kind of thing Helen likes.

Church of the Holy Rude

So on a day when she didn’t write her next book, Helen walked round the church and photographed everything, while I did what I do best; sat down and rested. We had elevenses before, and a spot of lunch after. Looking at stained glass takes a lot out of a person.

Church of the Holy Rude

They wouldn’t let Helen climb the tower. After all, she might have ‘killed’ someone up there.

The witch is not for turning

Looks like this post could very slightly be brought to you by the letter R. And if you’re wondering what happened to Q, that would have been yesterday…

There were some rowan berries outside the house, lying in wait for me. Doesn’t rowan ward off witches? I’m just hoping it wasn’t deliberate.

While slouching in my reading chair, I noticed something red streaking down the trunk of one of the pine trees. It moved like a squirrel, but was the colour of a fox. Foxes don’t march down treetrunks upside down. It was a squirrel. Two, actually. Red ones, and much cuter than the rat-like creatures we see at the regular Bookwitch Towers. Daughter got quite excited by the sheer redness of them.

This late in August entertainment is limited. (Squirrels…) While the sun was out we went to ‘Stinky’ for some tea and to stare at the rocks. We caught the bus. It was fine.

We sampled this year’s first – and presumably last – tea at Göstas. We sat under the new roof, half inside, half outside, enjoying our repast. Then it was photos of rocks. It’s nice without all the people. Might have seen the owners of your future duvet swimming around.

Getting the bus back was a different affair. Buses here are usually not (very) late. This one was, and I blamed it on the school run. But as we got on, we couldn’t help noticing various parts of the bus strewn around the interior. Parts that are more commonly found on the outside of buses.

As it was the same bus we’d travelled out on, we concluded the driver must have had an accident while we frolicked on the beach.

It was one of the odd buses, that go in a different direction just before our stop. Which is OK. We just walk home from there instead.

But you guessed correctly. It didn’t. It went the usual route. Except I suspect the poor driver heard his onboard auto-guide mentioning the next stop would be the school. And there was no school where he was heading. The driver asked us if he’d made a mistake.

We said he had. He asked if we could help him reverse the bus. (Honestly! I can’t even drive a car.) It was his first day on this route. So we stood guard while he reversed (have I mentioned that Swedish buses are very large?), and then he was on his way, by now a mere 25 minutes late.

What a day, though! Late. Wrong route. And half the rear of his vehicle missing…