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Smallville: What’s Cooking?

Make sure you get your timing right when you start to cook. Peter B Farrell tells of a hair-raising experience. Or should that be hair-blazing...?

Watch out for more of Peter's sizzling columns.

‘If music be the food of love, play on.’

Shakespeare’s immortal line is stuck firmly in the 16th Century, and ‘it don‘t mean a thing ‘cause it ain’t got that swing.’ In fact if Bill walked into the kitchen right now the message would be ‘If food be the music of love, eat on,’ because there is evidence that Cookery is now the new Rock ‘n Roll.

Juliet’s desire to set aside household chores and be free to realise childhood dreams, widen her horizons and generally disappear off the radar would fit in neatly with Romeo’s new found interest in the culinary arts. The time he had previously wasted, slavering over endless repeats of ‘Baywatch’ and surfing on the Amazon could now be spent slaving over a hot stove and taking a degree - BA (Hons) at the University of Mayhem, Noise and Abuse. Staffed by Chefs of every size, shape and colour the campus sprawls across the TV channels and bookstores of the land.

Playing my part, I drove my wife to the library, where she was to meet up with the local reading group, a weekly event where escapees, realising childish dreams, mingle with those on Community Service.

“We’re discussing ‘Spend, Spend, Spend,’ by Viv’ Nicholson, I’m hoping to get some tips.”

Well don’t go via the betting shop Jules. In the 1960s Viv became a heroine of the working classes when, after winning a fortune on the football pools (£5 million in today’s currency) she bypassed the FTSE 100 and Dow Jones and had a good old-fashioned knees-up instead.

When working and living abroad a decade later, I had belonged to a small coterie of expats whose wives’ raucous shout of “We’re going to spend, spend, spend,“ welcomed the monthly pay cheque. Well done Viv.

Back at the seat of learning I soon realised that in order to complete my thesis I would need more than Trex Cookery by Janet Bibby, 5/- ,or five shillings if you can’t read English. Show me a recipe containing Osso Bucco and I’ll give you a diatribe on the lack of English players in the Premiership. Mention Tiramasu and I’ll be leafing through the travel brochures. On that basis, with pans on the hob and the oven ready chicken already in the oven, I set the timer for dinner, before leaving the campus and closing the kitchen door behind me.

According to TVQuick, a suitable tutorial was now in progress and I was able to continue my studies while sprawled on the sofa in front of the TV. At first I thought I was watching ‘Pearl Harbour’ until I noticed that the terrified, pathetic screaming wretches emerging from the smoke and flames were brandishing woks. At the sight of the angry head chef in top bleeping form, bleeping away at some poor bleeper competing for the bleeping position of a bleeping galley slave, I felt compelled to switch over to an extended omnibus edition of ‘Baywatch’ to calm down. The sight of lifeguards running in slow motion, interspersed with earthquakes and shark attacks had me calling for more and more shark attacks until stupor followed torpor...

*
Recipe for Disaster

Consult Janet Bibby

Place chicken in oven, pans of vegetables on hobs.

Set incorrect temperature (Fahrenheit died out with 78’s and the Rag and Bone man)

Set inoperative timer to 2 hours before kick-off

Switch on oven (forgetting to switch on extractor fan)

Fall asleep in lounge

Awake when smoke alarm goes off

Call at pharmacy for plasters before contacting injury lawyers

Contact Skip-U-Like (‘Household waste collected. Demolition and Site clearance a speciality.’)
Set up Standing Order with electrical repair man

Bon appetit

*

After switching the smoke alarm off and recalling my recent lessons on anger and how to express it, I surveyed the charred remains and the burnt pots and pans through the clouds of steam and smoke. Cursing, I went into the customary rage, condemning the whole bleeping cast of ‘Baywatch'. I had been unaware that the timer didn’t work and with my wife due home shortly, where was the copy of ‘Kwik-Kleaning - When, How and What With’ when I needed it?

“Who on earth reads that rubbish?“ Driven now to talking to myself I nonetheless consulted Gypsy Kerry’s column for the star struck. 'With Mercury in your sign, mundane tasks are not your forte. Lucky sandwich, Tuna. Unexpected visitor, Insurance assessor.’ Uncanny - and with time rapidly running out I leafed frantically through ‘Preparing Sandwiches - When, How and What with.'

“Tuna? No thanks, but you go ahead. I’ve never used the timer. It’s useless. Anyway we’ve been needing a new oven for ages and you‘ll soon have the mess cleared up. I’ve had such a good day. Had a bite out, with Tristan....”

Who apparently each week guides the Reading group through the selected tome and being employed by a local bookstore provides the volumes of his choice at a discount.

“Nearly everyone enjoyed the book and expressed their opinion. At first we just thought it a gripping yarn or a rattling good read, unputdownable even feelgoodable. But Tristan pointed out examples of how it expressed the working classes' subtle need for emotional fulfilment.“

I made a mental note to read the book again to find the ‘feelgoodable’ part.

“We then went on to a local pub, well most of us, to discuss it further. The Bull's Head. We just had a couple of drinks and they do food all afternoon, crab salads, scampi and cucumber sandwiches. I told him of your interest in cookery, then guess what? He took us to the local bookmakers to see at first hand the psychological effect of winning and losing, the excitement, the adrenaline.

“They all seemed to know him there and he even gambled on a horse race. It was shown on a big screen, from Australia of all places.“

As a regular on Derby Day and a chap who has the occasional flutter on the Grand National, I tried to look surprised. I was not surprised however to hear that, as a favour, he was going to supply me with the latest and no doubt more expensive editions from the Booklists.

Inevitably, and much sooner than I was hoping for, an unmarked and suspect vehicle parked at the rear of the house, well out of sight from the main road.

“Sign here Guv.“

The cheerful delivery driver was courtesy itself, helping me unload my definitive reference library from the back of his truck.

Hardback, paperback, coffee table, new, old and collectable. True to his word, Tristan had plundered every list, ‘Worst 10 ever’ as well as ‘Best 100'.

“...And he wants to know if you need any more bookcases.”

I declined this kind offer. It brought up too many visions of flat-packs, instructions in Chinese and missing parts.

While waiting for the oven to be replaced we are depending on the microwave, which. like myself, suffered only superficial burns, and blistering.


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