Monday, 21 May 2012

May 21st - A simple sandwich in the sun and the nesting of crows

Dear Nigel,

I see you are making your own version of a deli sandwich today. You are late getting to the corner shop and all they have left is a 'soft, open-textured ciabatta.' Too often these breads are the last to go, and a shame really as they make a splendid sandwich. I often buy up a whole lot just as they hit the reduced counter and shove them in the freezer for another time when quick and simple is imperative.

Your version is drizzled with a good olive oil ( - no one's counting the calories today), and layered with thinnish slices of fat-marbled coppa, rocket, black olives and parmesan, which you shave off with a potato peeler. I have noticed that, whenever i need to add parmesan to a dish, it somehow tastes so much better if peeled into curls rather than grated, for some completely inexplicable reason.

My sandwich was a large soft beef salad bap, and  i didn't even make it myself, I'm afraid. Sometimes, the main ingredient in the best of food has simply to do with its context. The taste of that sandwich was soaked in glorious Spring sunshine (of which we have seen so little this year), embellished with the sound of uncharacteristic peacefulness and gentle birdsong in the distance. Heated by the warm wood slats of a simple picnic bench outside the little village shop, and enlivened by piquant conversation with an old local, in the pretty little village of Hartington.

It is rare to find this village so peaceful and relaxed. An over-attractive destination for tourists and walkers alike, it usually heaves with traffic and an abundance of walking poles. It can be very hard to discern the simple quaintness that brought people flocking in the first place. We discuss the weather, naturally; whether the crows are nesting high this year, (and whether that makes any difference at all to the outcome), and how many years it might be necessary to live in a small place like this before you might be considered a local. He favoured the several generations approach, so there's not much chance for me in the little village nearby we're moving to.On the plus side, he thought that since so much of local trade is dependent on tourism, there was a far greater chance of being welcomed ( - perhaps not with open arms) than in many small communities.

Probably looking to impress me he mentioned that he was going to look for the early purple orchid in nearby woodlands that afternoon. I had to confess that we'd already tracked it down in nearby Tideswelldale a couple of weeks earlier on one of our walks. I hoped he wasn't crestfallen; i really wasn't trying to score any points.


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