Friday 23 November 2012

Thank you and…….

When I lived in America the one holiday ..... the name given to any day of mass celebration...... I really embraced was Thanks Giving. It’s brilliant. Absolutely everybody goes to see family and if you’re a foreigner abroad they insist you join in …. all are welcome. Everything shuts down from Thursday through Sunday, tumbleweed blows through the empty streets. Even in Manhattan. They eat turkey and cranberry which sometimes comes in a can …… a can shaped lump of cranberry jelly sliced…… and stuffing and sweet potatoes. Sometimes they put sweet marshmallows in the sweet potatoes using recipes that their great grandmother’s used and it’s really sweet. And pies. Americans are mad for pies. They call pastry crust. Where as we might call a crust base with loads of apples or plums or pecans on top, a tart, they call it a pie. Where as we might call a tart with a pastry lid, a pie, they call it a double crust. They make pumpkin pies for Thanks Giving. They also make apple pie and cherry pie and cream-cheese pie and blueberry pie and…. I could go on. All the pies are good… just like mom used to make……and come with cream or ice-cream. Americans love their ice-cream too. When I was a teenager I briefly went out with a boy who lived with his parents in London. I went to visit him and he gave me walnut and maple syrup ice-cream, American ice-cream, kept in the freezer in a large silver tin, bought from a special shop that sold things like walnut and maple syrup ice-cream. This was food of the gods. And Americans. I had never tasted walnut and maple syrup ice-cream. Such things only existed in the movies along with blue-cheese dressing, sushi and Mexican food. The most exciting ice-cream event in my house was the arrival of the Arctic Roll, knocking the slab of Neapolitan off its exotic perch.
Back in Blighty I don’t usually celebrate Thanks Giving but this year, having been in touch with my Manhattan mates to make sure they’re all safe and sound, I got a taste for turkey. So, after much searching I found a small, ready-to-roast piece in M&S and we had our own little celebration. I did a kind of Ottolenghi version with red rice, puy lentils and butternut squash, crispy onions, chili and cranberry stuffing. I didn't make a pie, I made Nigella's Bakewell Tart which turned out remakably well  ……. and I gave thanks.

Top tip: respect flood water…..stay in!!

Monday 12 November 2012

Movie magic.......

It's not just 007 who's confused by the modern world. While standing on the platform waiting for the tube train, I read an advert on the wall opposite and honestly I understood not one word. I think it was something to do with apps but frankly it could have been for anything....... to me they were speaking in tongues.

I went to see Skyfall and I loved it...... on every level. I can remember discovering the intriguing covers of the well thumbed paperbacks by Ian Flemming, on my Grandmother's bookshelf, amazed that the films were once novels. As a child being taken to the pictures is what my family did ...... as a family. And a new Bond movie was a big deal. To me, they are as much about my Dad as they are about Bond and he would have loved this one. After the horror that was Casino Royale, Daniel Craig's first outing as our hero, I emerged from the cinema definitely shaken but certainly not stirred. So dreadful was it I didn't even bother with the next one, feeling sure it would be a quantum of crap. But Mendes .... Sam Mendes..... has indeed saved the day. It wasn't just that craggy-Craig is so much better than wet-Craig, and that Javier Bardem cutting his toenails would probably be worth at least an Oscar nomination..... in my book. It was like being wrapped in big, fluffy blanket of nostalgia....... a reminder of a world I understood, a world of radio transmitters, exploding pens and my Dad. I loved it so much I went again, just like I did when I was a kid.
I read an article.... in a newspaper....... about children in a remote village in Ethiopia with no school, almost untouched by modern technology, and with not a word of English, who were each given a, not a pill, a computer........ but not given any instruction on how to use it and hay presto! Within 3 months they had not only sussed out how to turn the tablet on but were learning to speak English and singing the ABC song. I wonder how far I'd get if some one gave me a tablet?

Top tip: Go see Skyfall.......... Javier Bardem is worth the price of the ticket alone.....