Thursday, January 27, 2011

A table for two? How tasteless!

If, as Twelfth Night head honcho Orsino mused, music be the food of love, why have we yet to ditch the idea of ‘a romantic meal for two’ instead of simply letting the band play on instead? If we’re totally, utterly honest about it, eating isn’t the ultimate sexy, aphrodisiacal pastime we’ve all been force-fed to believe it is. Yes, the women in the Cadbury’s Flake/Galaxy/Baileys adverts turn otherwise prosaic food and drink into soft porn fantasies, but that’s because they’ve been primped, preened, softly-lit, digitally enhanced and directed by an army of experts. Nigella Lawson? Ditto. Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, the oyster scene in Tampopo, the arty stuff in Eat Drink Man Woman? Ditto, ditto, ditto. And anybody who may be considering replicating ‘those’ scenes in 9 ½ Weeks this Valentine’s Day, take note: blindfolding your loved one and feeding them the detritus from the back of your fridge might well lead to scenes more akin to some of the more gruesome bits in The Wrestler - you have been warned.

First date dining, meanwhile, is strewn with anxiety attack-inducing potential. Too many women obsess over details such as how much make up/cleavage/perfume is too much/not enough, whether ordering anything but salad will/won’t make them look like they’ve got an eating disorder and whether pasta will make them fart, to the point where they’re so wound up by date time that all they can manage is three large glasses of wine for a starter (in itself, never a good look). Many men, on the other hand, don’t obsess over any subtle details at all, tending to focus entirely on their badly dressed, ill mannered, unselfconsciously greedy selves as those cringingly awkward hours drag by. Fancy ‘coming in for a coffee’ after negotiating that particular minefield? No thank you very much; I’d rather go home and put some music on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January at The Disco

It’s January, and suddenly it feels as though the whole world has gone back to work at once. The weather in the UK - just a few short weeks ago, sharp, sparkly and properly winterish - has gone back to business as usual too: grey, dreary and bone-chillingly cold, some days it feels as though even the daylight can’t be bothered to do its thing. Some people have embarked on diets, others have given up drinking, more are attempting to give up smoking, and coughs, colds and other nasty, bitter bugs are rife; for me, the only light on the horizon is in the kitchen.

The Family Disco treated ourselves to both a bread maker and a slow cooker in the January sales; ah, what bliss! As I write, I’m eating a bread maker bread roll filled with slow cooker Seville orange chutney and a wedge of cheddar cheese while chicken and barley melt into each other in the electric pot in the kitchen (aided and abetted by a few sprigs of sage). Last night I made slow-cooked goulash and rosemary ciabatta; the day before, beef curry and flat breads (you don’t need a bread maker to make flat breads, but I couldn’t have done them without the help of a recipe from River Cottage Everyday, a Christmas present that I intend to have eaten my way through by the middle of February). Okay, I do know that neither a bread maker nor a slow cooker are absolute kitchen must-haves; both bread and stew have been around for longer than electric wall sockets, and I’ve been comfortable around both yeast and a traditional crock pot for years. But still, there’s something nice about convenience that doesn’t negate creativity. This weekend, I intend to slow cook either lamb shanks or oxtails until the bones are close to dissolving, and I’ll be adapting both sourdough and bagel recipes until I’m satisfied with the result. With the oven freed up for other projects, I’m going to make Nigel Slater’s coffee and walnut cake tomorrow (in the ‘traditional’ manner, natch) and there’s a lemon tart in the freezer that I rustled up yesterday ‘just because’ but haven’t been presented with an occasion on which to serve it.

The other bonus that the current blast of kitchen creativity is that it’s inspired me to get blogging again; Happy New Year to all.