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”
I am a truffle virgin.
The closest I’ve got to cooking with truffles was a recipe for Cauliflower Soup by John Burton-Race which demanded – or rather, insisted – on a swirl of truffle oil in the soup just before serving. He swore this made all the difference, so I splashed out on a very expensive small bottle of truffle oil. He was right. That ribbon of golden perfumed oil whisked through the creamy cauliflower soup worked magic. My guests asked me what had I done to make the soup taste so delicious?
But experimenting with truffle oil was as far as I ever got back in the UK – truffles aren’t exactly two a penny on the Welsh Borders. So last week, when I came across some truffle sellers in Albi Market promoting a Fete des Truffes at the nearby village of Villeneuve-sur-Vere the following Sunday, I knew I had to go. Continue reading “Do Not Trifle with a Truffle”
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”
Thirty-three years ago this month I had clocked up five years working for the BBC on a ‘rolling’ annual contract as a researcher and director when my boss decided he would offer me a permanent contract. My reaction surprised us both – I promptly handed in my resignation! The very thought of a ‘job for life’ made me feel panicked and claustrophobic. I needed ‘time out’. Having saved some money, I headed south to Andalucía in Spain, with enough funds to survive for three months and the vague idea of writing a novel. Continue reading “Tales of Blood Sausage, Civil War, and Refugees – a Spanish winter stew”
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”
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”
As children, we spent many a school holiday in the tiny hamlet of West Portholland in south west Cornwall. My parents had taken a long-term rent on a two bedroom cottage which stood above the bay, backed against a damp cliff covered in ivy and protected from most of the wild winds which would strike the coast during the Christmas and Easter holidays. Continue reading “Worth his Weight in Sea Salt”
Indian summer hasn’t materialised and London is gently drifting towards autumn. The last runner bean and courgette have been picked and spiders abound, swinging their nets across the garden so that you have to duck to reach the verging on empty wood store. Continue reading “Sons and Book Covers.”
The halcyon days of childhood, those five or so years between the ages of five and ten seem, looking back, a forgotten age of innocence. Summers were endless days of blue skies, fields shimmering in a golden haze, whilst winter nights drew us in, roasting slices of toast over an open fire and waking up to fields cloaked in white. Really? Perhaps not – but then sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it is, and remember only the good things. Continue reading “Aim, Shoot, oh do fly, Wood Pigeon Pie.”
A picnic is ‘an occasion when a packed meal is eaten in an outside setting’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The British enthusiasm for picnics is truly the triumph of hope over experience, be it parked up in a lay-by, surrounded by wind breaks on a stony beach, or on rare occasions, lying in long grass contemplating the Magritte clouds passing by overhead in a pool of blue sky. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Picnics”