Not Mincing my Words about Chilli

To write this now in the 21st century feels like the start of a Victorian novel; to say that I was given an allowance by my first husband, for housekeeping and my own personal expenditure. But it was so. I managed to work in Ghana, our first posting abroad, but by the time we reached Zambia, two years later, their government had brought in a moratorium on accompanying expatriate wives working. Like many before me, bored with few other options, I got pregnant, learnt to cook and got to grips with how to stretch a small budget. My financial acumen was virtually nonexistent despite having been the first female management trainee with an international bank, so was my knowledge about choosing cheap cuts of meat and what to do with them. Continue reading “Not Mincing my Words about Chilli”

A Question of Taste

It’s half term week and Grandson no.1 has come to stay. The north wind has blown in and a damp artic chill is hanging over London. Our visits to the local park are therefore curtailed as, no matter how many layers I wear, I am shivering and my fingers are turning a whiter shade of pale.  Neither Boy nor Dog feel the cold and are reluctant insiders unless given something to do. We retreat to the warmth of the kitchen and bake. Continue reading “A Question of Taste”

Emergency Rations

As an eternal optimist I’m not risk adverse, but more of a calculated risk taker. In the late 90s I was offered a year’s assignment in Northern California. I jumped at the chance. It was America, what could be risky about that?  There was much muttering from my two younger daughters because they were being uprooted from friends and family, but the muttering didn’t last long as they soon adapted to the world of yellow school buses, western saddle riding and friends living on ranches. It wasn’t until the day before we left London that the husband of a friend professed his shock on hearing that I was planning to take the children to live on the San Andreas fault line. First, I had heard about it. The wooden deck house in Portola Valley we were renting was cute, airy and situated in a beautiful valley with ten other houses.  Sour grapes, I thought, until my children started to return home from school with stories of regular earthquake drills and the fact that other parents kept store cupboards stocked with emergency rations. The 1989 earthquake that had rocketed the Bay Area had been a lesson in preparedness for all. Continue reading “Emergency Rations”

“Oh, Lardy, Lardy” in praise of fat

It’s cold. It may not have snowed here in London but when the sun disappears in the late afternoon, the chill ices into your bones. Middle daughter and I suffer from bad circulation that materialises in white fingertips when the temperature drops below 10C and white toes when it hits minus figures. Thawing is mildly painful as the extremities turn bruising blue before returning to pink. Middle daughter doesn’t do hot either. She is a temperate child. The family GP, a pragmatist at the best of times, diagnosed a possible mild form of Raynaud’s syndrome where the arteries spasm and blood flow is reduced. His recommendation is that if I didn’t want surgery to cut the nerves in the back of my neck, then I should wear gloves. I do, regularly. Continue reading ““Oh, Lardy, Lardy” in praise of fat”

The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas

My father died when I was 12. Christmases were a little less perfect after that. Grandmother did her best to make the holiday special, but her heart wasn’t in it as she watched my mother slide into alcoholism. My brother left home. As soon as school ended I headed for grimy, raw edged London determined to create my own life and Christmases. Continue reading “The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas”

Travels with my Taste

November has slid into December and the barometer has dropped overnight warning of record lows. Snowflakes can be seen on the Met Office forecasts north of the Watford Gap. The High street glitters with red and gold, Ho ho hos and prancing reindeer decorate shop windows whilst sleigh bells tinkle away even in the corner shop. Continue reading “Travels with my Taste”

The Spice of Life

An attraction to the exotic started early in my childhood. At primary school, the pink territories of the British Empire covered the world map on the classroom wall. The adventures of Sinbad the Sailor and Gulliver’s Travels inspired our imaginations of other more colourful worlds. Continue reading “The Spice of Life”

Spicing up an Anglo Dutch War

Great Britain has a long tradition of being at war with the Dutch. From 1652 to 1784 there were four wars and then more conflicts during the later Napoleonic era. As both nations were sea-faring and had economic policies bent on maximizing their global trade and accumulating gold and silver, their policies led to colonization and then to war, mainly with each other. The Dutch/Anglo relationship therefore has had its share of ups and downs but a strong bond was forged during and after the Second World War. Today, however we seem to be heading for another down after the shock result of the Brexit referendum and the UK’s desire to exit out of Europe. Continue reading “Spicing up an Anglo Dutch War”

A Sikh Presentation

My love affair with everything Indian started more than four decades ago. At seventeen, straight from the confines of a Wiltshire market town, I moved to London, to the safety of a Knightsbridge based YWCA hostel. Here, girls under the age of 21 could live in shared rooms for just under five pounds a week, which at the time was just under half of my weekly wage packet. Continue reading “A Sikh Presentation”

Creating Cookie Monsters

How do we learn to cook? I remember my grandmother assigning me a variety of tasks in the kitchen: scraping out the last of the cake mix from the mixing bowl with a spoon –  her adage of “every last bit could feed a starving child in Biafra” – ringing in my head, crushing a clove of garlic and a pinch of salt against the back of a teaspoon on a saucer until it became a puree, and stuffing mint into the rattling hand mincer to make mint sauce for Sunday’s lamb roast. Was that learning? Perhaps, because I was always encouraged to taste but never made to do the washing up until I was much older, kitchen duties always remained enjoyable and never a chore. I learned by osmosis, by tasting and by doing. Continue reading “Creating Cookie Monsters”