Z is a Sentimental Old Bat

The Sage has just poured me a second glass of wine, and as soon as the painkillers kick in, I’ll feel marvellous. Al and co. are at the theatre this afternoon so I’ve been at the shop and I think I pulled a muscle a bit – first my back had that hot ripped feeling and then I had a pain in my chest, quite high up, at breastbone level. I was fine, and it was a lovely afternoon – for a long time I was too busy but then I took a stool outside and sat and read in between customers, with the sun on my back. The Sage came to help me pack up, which I was ever so grateful for and which I mostly left to him because my hip/knee hurt too It’s no big deal, just that I’m a bit feeble after this chest infection. I’m feeling better and will be quite well by next week – it’s a beastly thing and the Sage is still coughing; he didn’t get it so badly as I (who didn’t get it so badly as Al) but it really lasts.

Al and Dilly bought me a gizmo to go on the bike to tell me how far and what speed I’m going. They bought it for Mother’s Day (Mothering Sunday if you prefer, but that is actually a church thing and this was for me!) but didn’t realise they had to buy a battery, as it should have been included, so it’s all taken a while. Darling Al gave up quite some time on Easter Sunday to fit it up for me. I ride along now, inevitably, with one eye on the gizmo.

Tonight, as it’s Wink’s birthday, I have planned a celebration meal. The first course will be Norfolk asparagus. The very local stuff isn’t around yet, but Al has been delighting his customers for a week with it. Then, sea bass with English tomatoes Proven├žal (olive oil, garlic and parsley – I hope the way I do it is the way my mother did when I was a little girl; it tastes right) and local sprouting broccoli and Jersey Royal potatoes. Then pineapple. Neither Wink nor I wants a fattening dinner and I hope she likes it.

You know, it’s moments like this when I miss my mother, when she was still well and the person I knew (this is shorthand, I may explain one day but not now). She would get this meal exactly and know just how much of a treat it feels like in exactly the same way I do. I first felt this a couple of months after she died, when I served a baked fish, our first digging of potatoes and first picking of broad beans, and asparagus out of the garden. I wanted to cry because no one else felt the perfection and the satisfaction like me and probably wouldn’t and I didn’t expect them to. The family enjoyed it, but it wasn’t meaningful. I didn’t say anything, it wasn’t a criticism.

Betjeman said that ‘childhood is made up of sights and sounds and smells’ – being very lacking in qualities of observation, I’d probably say smells and tastes and feels.

5 comments on “Z is a Sentimental Old Bat

  1. Dave

    I’m sure if I were handed a dish of boiled gooseberries and lumpy custard it would bring back memories of childhood.

    It would also remind me how much I enjoy being an adult and eating what I choose.

  2. Z

    I forgot to mention, with the tomatoes Proven├žal, the fresh breadcrumbs.

    My parents were superb cooks, early followers of Elizabeth David and we were encouraged to be interested in food. I have never eaten boiled gooseberries and lumpy custard in my life.

  3. martina

    My mother (who very thankfully is still around, fiesty and healthy) got into gourmet cooking when I was a kid. She had four recipe file boxes filled with recipes, and cross referenced. Mom made one dish, creamed tuna over cauliflower that I especially liked. It sounds ghastly now, but at the time it was delicious. She also made fabulous roasts, casseroles and desserts. She thankfully has taught me how to make many of these favorites. HAPPY BIRTHDAY WINK!!! Your birthday dinner sounds delicious.

  4. Blue Witch

    Ah, Elizabeth David. One of my cookery heroes. There are too few people around who can cook (or even know how to cook) these days.

    Hope you all had a lovely meal.

  5. Z

    When my parents married, and were running a quite large hotel, there was still rationing on and they were restricted in what they were allowed to charge. Once a wide range of foods finally became available, they were always the first people to use the new ingredients.


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