I caught myself salivating over the appliance department in John Lewis last week. It happens, ever so often i find myself walking round these beautiful polished chrome, mounted and immaculate toys with the glee of a Jeremy Clarkson and a hankering in my pocket for something i don't really need, can't really afford, and could never keep in that immaculate condition anyway (if the appearance of my Le Creuset casseroles are anything to go by).
I was staring headlong at a beautiful sleek chrome hand-blender and thinking of my rather sadder, old stained plastic version back at home. With the look of something-naughty-for-the-bedroom it drew me in. My old one has done fair service : orange stained from seven babies-worth or pureed carrot and the lazy answer to blending just about every soup I've ever made. The impending loss suddenly started making me feel possessive and nostalgic. The urge to go for the new, the improved, the better looking was suddenly being eclipsed by the thought of loss of old friends; and that's what so much lurking in my kitchen has become.
I have a wonderful salt pig made by a lovely potter in Northumberland with whom i spent a pleasant afternoon passing the time of day - he, free of his soliciting activities (in the legal sense) and me sprog-free for a few precious hours. There is a pot for jugged hare which belonged to my granny and which i keep wooden spoons in. The recycled herb jars i bought in Woolies when i first set up home. I bought 40 and filled them with all kinds of strange spices like Mace and Fenugreek and then proceeded to work out when to use them all. The cast iron casseroles are markers of all the places I've ever lived - each one a house-warming present from my mum for a new home. Everything has a history and a place and is somehow part of my identity.
I'm fattening up a load of stick-thin Yoga friends tomorrow. What started as an invite to a couple of friends for a soup and bread lunch has turned into eight of us packed round my table. So I've made the Moroccan chickpea and spinach soup again (as i think this will go down well ) and some smoked salmon soup for dear little Olive who is eighty nine and lithe as a whippet. I don't want to finish her off with the other soup which is quite spicy. I think what i admire most about Olive is not just that she can put us all to shame in the class, but the fact that she didn't start until she was fifty - I want to be like Olive when i grow up, helping people twenty years or more younger than herself and bombing round town like a crazed city banker.
I've also made Bread - four loaves of Malted Granary - an oak smoked flour from Bacheldre watermill which is new to me. Bread is something i can only make when i'm happy. At times in my life when I've been really happy i've knocked out up to 24lb a week to keep up with the demand of a large family. Lately there's been a bit of a lull. I want to get back there though. Andrew Whitley runs wonderful Breadmaking courses just over the border in Scotland and I've been promising myself for a while that i'll go and learn to make sour-dough bread properly.
You've been making Spaghetti Bolognese - wonderful news, I've long been looking for something to make mine taste like something i actually want to eat every week, as the kids love it. I see you use pancetta and a little Nutmeg, and maybe that's the mystery ingredient that's been missing in mine. No one looks at a recipe for Bolognese. We all think we know it; we bung a little bit of this, a bit of that, and it tastes universally depressing.Mine's always had the addition of a dash of Worcester Sauce, but i guess that's not very Italian either. Think i might try your version in the interest of 52 Mondays for every year for most of the rest of my life.
Looking forward to Mondays,