JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Meme: fantastic four

We've been back since Sunday morning, and I haven't posted - it's not just the washing mountain, I've fallen out of the habit of writing daily, slightly scarily, since I was only without an easy connection for a week. There's been plenty to blog about, too, and not just playing catch-up with our travels: last night's dinner was duck in lavender sauce - delicious, although not very obviously lavender-y.

Fiona at Cottage Smallholder has tagged me for the Fantastic Four meme, and I'm hoping this will kick-start a bit of renewed enthusiasm for blogging (although, if I'm honest, I think it's a lazy avoidance of the work involved in sorting out the photographs).

Five areas, four points for each. This is coming straight off the top of my head ... I'd do it differently tomorrow.

Four jobs I've had in my life:

1. the first job I ever did for money was mucking out a neighbour's stables. I was probably nine, or ten. I remember being paid 2/6d, but I don't remember whether that was per session or per week. Or even for a whole holiday's worth of work.

2. the first job involving PAYE and National Insurance was as an assistant in a clothes shop. They thought I was there forever, I knew I was only there for the summer holidays. I lasted about three or four weeks before I got the sack. I really disliked the owner, whose only interest was in money and who treated his staff badly. With all the arrogance of youth, I didn't trouble myself to hide my dislike. Surprising I lasted so long, really. The very nice shop manager still works in Henley, in a different clothes shop, and always gives me a cheery hello.

3. when I first went to live in London, I worked as a temp. My first temp job was as typist in the engineering department of the umbrella organisation for the independent television companies. All day I typed incomprehensible gobbledegook for a very nice engineer, who tried to explain what it was about. Years later, I realised that he was responsible for developing CEEFAX. There was a very good deli down the road, where I used to have lunch.

4. when I first went to Hong Kong in the mid 1970s, I worked as a very junior PR for the Miss World competition, which was being held there. The phones rang all the time, there was a frenetic atmosphere, the permanent staff looked down on us temporary staff (unsurprisingly, as we had very little idea of what was going on), and there was a lot of shouting - particularly when the woman who owned the competition arrived. What I principally remember about it was the total ruthlessness of every aspect of the enterprise.

Places I have lived:

1. I was brought up in Henley on Thames, a smallish market town in the Thames Valley, world famous for its annual five-day rowing regatta. I still live within a mile or two of the town centre, rather to my surprise, and am thoroughly rooted here.

2. In my early 20s I lived in central London, in various short-term flats. My favourite area was Pimlico, then a rather sleepy unfashionable village. There was a terrific Italian deli in our street, it was our corner shop. (I remember buying smoked cod's roe there and making taramasalata from a Robert Carrier recipe, none of us having any idea at all what it was, but everyone loving it.) Pimlico is "within the division bell area" (which means that MPs can install in their houses the bell which rings in the House of Commons shortly before a vote is to take place), so there were a few MPs living around, including one next door. One evening, when I had uncharacteristically gone to bed early, I was woken by a loud explosion nearby, then another and another. It was the start of the IRA mainland bombing campaign, that particular night directed against politicians. Life has never really been the same since in this country.

3. I lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years in the mid 1970s, first in Wanchai, the red light district, where there were late-night triad fights, and where you might occasionally get propositioned by a drunken sailor. Later I went to live in a small fishing village in the New Territories, where I was the only white woman. I spoke kitchen Cantonese (mostly forgotten now), and haggled for all my food in the market.

4. I have lived, in short bursts, in northern Somaliland - a country quite unlike anything you have read in your newspaper. It is peaceful, well ordered, the only fully-functioning democracy in Africa. A little piece of my heart belongs there. The swallows you see in Greece during the summer spend their winters in Somaliland.

Four places I have been on holiday:

Hard to choose ... Brittany for years and years, both as a child and with our children (Erquy and the north coast, like Cornwall with better food - at least, then). Scotland, ditto (Hebrides, Edinburgh, Fife). Italy - mostly recently Friuli (by train, recommended). Suffolk (Britten-austere, rather than nouveau-Aldeburgh, such a shame). This leaves out some memorable holidays, places I love. Another time.

Four of my favourite foods:

This is SO hard.

1. Vegetables ... well, obviously you'd like me to be more specific, so I'll reach for my pin and say - broad beans.

2. Fruit - nectarines (but only because I'm eating them like crazy at the moment, now that the raspberries have gone over).

3. Oily fish, any really, but, if you press me, then clearly I'm going to say salmon when I might easily have said mackerel. What about kippers?

4. Now here is the moment when I have to decide whether I'm a vegetarian in my soul (although not in actual fact) ... and I rather think I am, because, honestly, I'd rather have a tin of anchovies in olive oil. Well, at least, that's if you count non-meat eaters as vegetarians, which probably you don't.

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. In my garden. Although it doesn't look the way I'd like it to (and I'm never going to reach that nirvana), I love it ... the scents, the textures, the colours, the things to nibble at (I don't grow anything on an allotment scale). And I should be there right now, because the sun has suddenly, unexpectedly, started shining.

2. Reading a book under an apple tree. Preferably a good cookery book. Perhaps Centaur's Kitchen by Patience Gray, which has been sitting on my desk unread for quite a long time.

3. With Lucius at a performance of anything by Verdi, or perhaps Norma, by the Welsh National Opera, either in Cardiff (I haven't been to their new premises) or in Bristol.

4. In my kitchen, cooking something delicious for all my family and one or two best friends to eat for dinner. That's real happiness.

The last part of this meme is to tag four other blogs, always a hard decision, especially since some great bloggers don't "do" memes. Here are four I like, picked almost at random, except that yesterday I sorted out my feed reader, and these are in the category "blogs I read daily". David, a naturally inventive chef at Book the Cook. Hannah, like David a Masterchef finalist, who makes the most exquisitely decorated cakes you have ever seen, at Hannah's Country Kitchen. Sophie at Mostly Eating, who writes about the food she eats from her point of view as a nutrition scientist. And Amanda, at Figs Olive Wine, a beautiful blog from New York, where you'll currently find a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes which you preserve in olive oil.


Hannah said...

Thanks for the tag Amanda and for all your lovely posts on my blog! I will do this tomorrow - it will save me having to think of a recipe!!!


Hannah said...

No idea why I wrote Amanda - in another planet this morning - should have said Joanna - sorry

Rooble Mohamed said...

Thanks what you've said about Somaliland. It is true but most of the people lack that information.

You are welcome in Somaliland anytime.

David Hall said...

Hi Joanna

Thanks for the tag! I'll TRY and respond to it but snowed under at the moment, mostly with holidays as I'm flitting all over the country at the mo!


Figs Olives Wine said...

Thanks so much for thinking of me! I am all over the map until mid-September, but I promise to make a concerted effort, and I really appreciate your kind words. Duck with Lavender sounds like another stroke of genius - no matter how subtle the flavor was!

I worked in a clothes shop for about 3 weeks when I first moved to New York. I was such a pain in the ass, but I beat them to the punch and quit before they could get rid of me ;)

I was fascinated to read about Somaliland - do you think it's a good place to visit on holiday?

Figs Olives Wine said...

PS. I mean: yet another stroke of culinary genius. Not that it was a stroke of genius to tag me. Hope that didn't read wrong...

Holler said...

Hi Joanna,

I enjoyed the meme! I would like to be out in my garden, it is growing like wild fire! It is just rain, rain, rain, here!

I can sympathise about the blogging, it is hard to keep up sometimes and you are bound to be worn out after your trip!

Sophie said...

Thanks for tagging me Joanna - it was quite nice to write something off the top of my head for once!

Cottage Smallholder said...

I really enjoyed reading your meme, Joanna. How wonderful to have lived in so many different places.

Somaliland sounds wonderful.

Working for the Miss World contest must have been a real eye opener!

Thanks for an inspirational read.

Charlotte said...

We would love you to try out this activity if you have a mo...
Vegetable Faces.
I know, its a strange one..