Monday, 27 June 2016

Why Would Anyone Choose To Shrink ?

When I go into town during the day , I'm passed by throngs of students all talking about everything under the sun . Chinese , German , Iranian , Spanish , Canadian , Italian , Dutch and Danes . They're exchanging ideas , networking , chatting each other up ... learning about the world and all its possibilities . Learning about each other , how to work with each other and how to get on .

 That Europe consists of a lot more than hen nights in Amsterdam , making out in Magaluf or getting frustrated in a traffic jam on the way to a tent in Brittany . That there are many different ways to organise  train networks , schools , theaters , hospitals , hotels and libraries . That not everyone remembers the 20th century the same ... 

These students aren't the future elite , our college is the equivalent of an old polytechnic , but what they pick up in the next few years will affect daily life for us all for years . 

British students need to be able to join them , they need to have the freedom to get work experience in Bremen or Bologna . To sofa-surf in Munich or Lisbon or to commute in Salzburg . To eat something ribsticking in Budapest and to swing through Antwerp in a tram .

I want this for my grandchildren and their friends . But thanks to Brexit , it's just got a lot harder .

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I've Been Left Behind ...


Do you actually like  roasted cauliflower ?
Or is it just me ? Perhaps I didn't cook it very well ... but I come from a generation that ate cauliflower decently cloaked in cheese sauce or later , influenced by Mahdur Jaffrey , as Gingery Cauliflower soup . I watch young cooks now making couscous from it ... and rather wonder why they don't just use couscous .

But then , I'm post Fanny Craddock and pre no-carbs . We post-war children were encouraged to eat everything in sight by grannies who'd battled through rationing , and experimented on by Festival of Britain mothers who wildly added gherkins or pineapple chunks to things .
My generation  , armed with Elizabeth David and complete ignorance , burst with brio into a world of olive oil and After Eight mints .
I have memories of cheerfully deciding to make Beef Wellington for a dinner party ... I was 20 , I think , and only had a rough idea of how to make pastry but we and the guests survived ... though both I and the beef had turned grey with worry by the time it was served  .
Still , we all learnt and ventured into moussaka , chilli and kebabs . Chicken became clich├ęd , cod scarcer , rabbit stew a curiosity ...
 I ran away to Spain and lived there for twenty years , so I learnt how to clean and cook fish , make tortillas and hearty lentil stews and what to do with pigs trotters  . Then we came to Holland and ate lots of good cheese and searched for a decent tomato and non-watery cucumber . More and more North Africans appeared and they opened shops , filled with olives and feta , proper tomatoes and chick peas . The world slowly became more organic , bread better and pineapples broke free from their tins . Had it stopped there , all would have been well ... 

But somehow or other , the last year or two have taken another giant step forward ;
 gluten's bad , milk's bad if it's been anywhere near a cow , carbohydrates are unmentionable in polite society , butter was bad but is now good , and this week's taste sensation appears to be ice cream made from coconut milk , green tea powder and vanilla .
 And anyone worth their salt can perform miracles with cauliflowers . Well , anyone except me ...

Still , I'll just celebrate a recent brunch , simply and perfectly delicious  and eaten in the best of company :  perfectly fresh free range eggs with green asparagus 'soldiers ' to dip in ,  and  freshly baked , still warm Turkish rolls from a nearby baker .  And best of all , not cooked by me .
* A rather tatty recipe leaflet given out in 1928 by the Dutch Confederation of Potato Merchants , containing 90 recipes ranging from mashed potatoes to mashed potatoes with cheese ...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Who Knew ?

Had someone told me a few years ago that the best way to widen one's circle of acquaintances was to hang over a bridge with a handful of similarly idle adults , exchanging breathless updates on a bird's nest , I wouldn't have believed them .

The eight eggs have become three plump fledgelings and are , as of today , allowed out of the nest , carefully shepherded by both parents  . The gloomier among us who predicted instant disaster in the form of ingestion by huge fish or being turned into mincemeat by outboard motor have been proved wrong .
The woman who won't feed them even a crust of bread in case they become "too reliant on Fast Food" is being ignored by another fan who buys them biscuits .
And the man who knows everything now says he knew they'd have three , because coots always do  ... even though at first he'd said it was a ( adjective deleted ) stupid place to have nested and no good would come of it .
And , so far , I've managed not to drop my camera in the water  .
I've only lived here for twenty years so can't hope to know everyone yet  , unlike an extremely elderly neighbour who pointed out a wizened old chap in a scootmobile to me , yesterday , "He was my mother's milkman , you know " .
But now  I'll be able to say in fifty years time , "That's the Gwyneth Paltrow woman of us waterfowl fanciers , you know ."

Of course I have been doing other things , too .

The Annual Scarf gets a centimeter longer every day . It was inspired , in part , by this poster

And by a couple of recently painted  houses in Groningen

Oh , and talking of posters ...

I now find myself considering every cat I come across ...  The power of advertising .