Thursday, 23 February 2012

February 23rd - A Tart's Bouquet

Dear Nigel,

One of my main reasons for moving to a city like London would be so that i could enjoy shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables in little shops and market stalls, like the ones in Soho and Covent garden you go to most days; picking up whatever is seasonal and good and takes your fancy. Of course, i realise that this ought to be the other way round, - that the reason for moving out to the countryside should be the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in little shops, begging to be consumed at once. However, this has not been the case, certainly not here in Buxton, where the market is pretty tacky and dire, like many remnants up and down the country - not everywhere has thriving weekly markets, despite a resurgence in some areas of the country.

Anyway, today i am grinning from ear-to-ear. I have found an Aladdin's cave where jewels of ruby, emerald and amber spill out from wobbly tabletops. I have seen crates of creamy lemon mushrooms with strange caps, fresh figs with  a whitish bloom and clementines with leaves by the box-load (and not just for Christmas). This is the place where the Hotels and Restaurants all come; where the doors open at five in the morning and close not long after midday. This is the place where nothing is weighed, where a box laden with goodies may be stolen away for barely more than a tenner. Here, my family and i can afford to eat well.

I return home so euphoric i want to decorate the house in bowls of vibrant colour. There are figs on the table, clementines - newly polished and shining with whispering leaves, and a trug full of knobbly vegetables: celeriac and white bulbs of fennel with their delicate fronds.

 And, on the table, in pride of place - a large jug holding a Tart's Bouquet of champagne Rhubarb; its blushing stems and lime-coloured leaves, gathered like the  petticoats of a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. Quite magnificent. I've often thought about visiting the Rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire at this time of year just to be able to hear one of the most eerie of sounds imaginable - the sound of Rhubarb actually growing in the huge dark growing sheds. Some things are worth travelling miles just to experience in person.

For once i see the tables are turned and you have snow and ice, though it has turned to that nasty grey slush that reminds you how much pollution there is. For us there is an uncharacteristically warm and sunny day and i take the kids to the park- without hats and gloves!! No doubt this will be a temporary interlude but it raises the spirits and reminds us that Spring surely can't be far away. You turn to gravy for your solace and comfort  food in the guise of Braised oxtail with mustard and mash. I remember my granny cooking oxtail and tongue and other such meats i tend to shy away from. You follow this with a treacle tart to stick your ribs together, and complain that you think you are eating too much meat this month to compensate for the dreary weather outside. Somehow, salad just isn't the thing; and warm comfort food lasts like a hot water bottle lining the inside of your stomach.

Sending you sunshine in the form of a bowl of Sicilian lemons,


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