Saturday, June 7, 2008

Domestic goddess or domestic disaster?

"Oooh, don't you just love Nigella" exclaimed a visitor the other day espying a copy of 'Nigella Bites' propped up on the bookstand in the kitchen. "What's your favourite recipe?" "Errrrm, well, any of her chocolate ones" I blagged, guessing that as she's a little bit 'broad across the beam' as my dear Papa would say, chocolate must figure somewhere.

I could, of course, have just have fessed up and admitted I've never even opened the book and that in actual fact, I change the cookery tome on the bookstand every few weeks to make it look as if I do actually read, nay, cook from them. "Do you like to cook?" asked visitor. "Oh, all the time" say I, hastily shoving the wrapping from a Lidl lasagne in the bin. Lidl! Do I hear a collective gasp? Well, let's be honest, without Waitrose, what does it matter where you shop? While visitors often wax lyrical about French supermarkets, I am just constantly amazed at what the French manage to shove in a tin and I long for Waitrose, or an M&S Foodstore at the very least.

"And all this lovely fresh produce too!". Well yes, fresh when it left Spain or Morocco but then at least it may be less coated in pesticide residue than your average French offering. I recently did some research into this after a fatuous comment on a web group I used to belong to about how much safer you are eating French fresh produce. Wrong. It has, on average, double the levels of pesticides, herbicides and other cides than anything you can find in Blighty. The average French fruit, vegetable or cereal farmer sprays his fields with no less than 24 chemicals according to my organic neighbour, although she may of course have a hidden agenda.

But back to my cooking. I don't actually own a single cookery book. I live in a house full of them but they all belong to CH, who is, fortunately an excellent cook. It was one of the qualities I was looking for in a mate. A good cook to make up for my failings in that area, with long legs to offset my short ones and a small nose to improve on our 'family' one. We recently discovered a long lost (since 1910) branch of our family in the US and well, put me in a dress and call me Martha, there it is, the family proboscis, alive and well across the generations! It was a gamble that paid off, by the way, as I subsequently gave birth to two leggy children with cute little noses.

CH thinks I fell in love with his dark good looks and witty repartee, but in reality it was his genes - or at least some of them.

My culinary disasters are legendary as you would expect from someone who cooked for their first dinner party with their mother on the end of the phone giving step by step instructions, or who left their sausage plait in the school toilets during the summer holidays leading to a rat infestation, or indeed made a trifle, forgot to put the fruit in until the custard was already atop, left it (again) in the school toilets and had to suffer the indignity of the headmistress, while trying to track down the culprit, referring to it in assembly as a 'milk pudding' - the cheek!

My absolute triumph though was my Weevil Curry. Back in my dim and distant past I was living in the Middle East (with a flatmate who was a superb cook so I must have some sort of inbuilt radar). After a drunken day out waterskiing I offered to make a curry for the assembled masses, curry being one of the things I was pretty good at. I made a lovely fruity Iranian curry with marmalade and big juicy raisins but, my mental processes being slightly impaired by a surfeit of alcohol, I forgot to check the raisins for weevils first, absolutely de rigeur in the Orient. So, in they went with the raisins, hundreds of the little blighters.

I started trying to fish them out and rinsing the chicken under the tap but realising that it was hopeless task I thought 'hey, extra protein' and turned the heat up under the saucepan to make sure they were all nicely cooked at least.

"Wow" exclaimed my guests (of whom only one is now dead) "this is the best curry you've made by far".

"That'll be my secret ingredient, it's a little something I bought in the souk" I said, not entirely untruthfully, while pleading lack of hunger as my excuse for not having any myself!

Slightly food related but equally as bizarre as my cooking, I took DD shopping in Agen today (a fairly large town). We were walking along the rue de la Republique when we notice a large, very dead fish lying on the pavement. Being as we were a good kilometre or so from the nearest water source and with no Poissonnerie in sight, it was rather surprising. After a quick check around for a bearded bloke in a long white dress with a basket of loaves and 5000 followers, then a glance skyward to see if it was raining cod and herring - after the weather we've been having anything is possible - I had to admit defeat. There seemed no rational excuse why there was a dead fish lying on the pavement. Weird.


Edward said...

I'm delighted to find you, Lost in France, and astounded that I'm the first to comment (am I? or is it your fussy moderation that's keeping the riff-raff away?). But anyway, laughed like a drain (that's a good way to laugh, in case you've been in France too long) and boy! does that weevil curry sound tempting?

(Very) Lost in France said...

Edward, you are a gent. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind words. I've had a few comments now and I'm a kind moderator and let any riff raff through. I could probably rustle up another weevil curry if you were interested.... VLiF

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for your comment on my blog, VLIF.

I am also a hopeless cook. When I was a teenager I thought it was amusing that I had nearly burnt down the school kitchen and got banned from further lessons, relegated to the art and pottery classes.

As an adult it is not really so hilarious and in trying to become healthier I think I may have to start learning a little bit about how to make a basic meal!

LIDL? I didn't think those trendy, foodies in France would have LIDL? !!!

(Very) Lost in France said...

Ah Sharon, we're in the South West. Nothing trendy about this area. Aubergine hair and wellies are the order of the day, not to mention line dancing and marrying your cousin! Most restaurants serve duck, duck and more duck, even the parts we'd normally throw away! Lidl are everywhere, as are Aldi and even Netto. VLiF

KTB said...


Just found your blog tonight - found a link on Sharon's Goodbye to All Fat blog.

I'm in SW France too, near Fleurance in the Gers - sharing the wonderful weather with you!! I'm just wondering when the summer will start!

Anyway, will link to you and carry on reading.


(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi KTB and welcome to my blog. Summer? What's that? No sign of it here. I had the woodburner on last night. It was only 10 degrees. Grrrr! VLiF

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi again. Have blogrolled you...the Summer seems to be here up in Northumberland! (Can't believe it.) Am crap cook too..thankfully hubbie feeds me and les enfants exceedingly well!!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

That's the trouble when you cook pissed - anthing can happen!

That curry sounds nice and chewy! Will you be publishing your own cookbook soon I wonder? Please don't!

Jaywalker said...

Weevil curry, I like your style.

My belle mere is good for confounding the stereotype that all french people are good at cooking, and as well as her peculiar fondness for those tinned goods you describe (tinned mussels, anyone?), her apple tart replacing sugar with couscous due to misplacing her bifocals was a recent (crunchy) triumph. The pie with charred whole bird heads poking out a la four and twenty blackbirds is also deeply ingrained on my consciousness....

I share your pain without Waitrose and M&S food halls and am known on Eurostar as 'the bag lady', shedding mini sausages,sugar snap peas and bagels all over coach 18...

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hadriana - thanks for blogrolling me. Will return the compliment.

Jaywalker - I always come back from the UK with suitcases full of sausages and bacon, Sainsbury's Onion Chutney, cheddar cheese, the list goes on....

MOB - I'm planning to liaise with Jaywalker's mother in law to create a truly special cook book. Don't miss out!! VLiF