“Do you have trouble cooking?”
“Yes?” Maria frowns, pen poised over ‘No’. I’d not reported trouble dressing, washing or cleaning. But cooking?
“Well ActorLaddie is such a good cook, you see. He’s a hard act to follow. Also, he does the shopping so he knows what we’ve got in the cupboard. If he’s out for the evening, by the time I’ve staggered in from school, I have terrible trouble cooking. It’s all I can do to make porridge.” Maria is looking perplexed, so I relent. “Tick ‘no’,” I tell her. “I can cook porridge.”
“I’m from Sicily,” Maria smiles. “Men don’t do cooking.”
As, it happens, I know all about Sicily, having watching countless episodes of Montalbano, and, now she mentions it, I can’t remember much macho kitchen action. It turns out that before she did her nurse training, Maria lived by the same beach as the intrepid Inspector but thankfully she’s managed to escape un-murdered. I ask her where she is living now, fearing a move to Oxford or, even worse, Midsomer. Luckily she’s now in Dalston. No-one ever gets murdered in Dalston.
Actually, I am being a bit mischievous. I have cooked through necessity from time to time but AL is definitely Head Chef. I have a vivid picture of looking down the hall into the kitchen one winter’s evening when I had staggered in from a teaching practice. AL was at the hob, one hand holding the Infant Phenomenon to his hip, the other stirring that night’s meal. Bliss.
For years, ActorLaddie managed to keep us all afloat, catering for: a veggie wife, a veggie son who wouldn’t eat mushrooms, a veggie daughter who wouldn’t eat vegetables and a diabetic GrannieBorders whose dream meal was meat-and-tatties. She’d have a bit of veg, if you insisted, as long as it was familiar and boiled to a pulp.
Given his valiant years of service, I think ActorLaddie has been very restrained this week as suddenly I have Discovered Cooking.
In the staff-room, a couple of the armchairs are always covered with samples from cut-price book companies. It’s mostly books, plus a few gifty type odds and ends – and we spend our lunchtimes attempting to dissuade the Deputy Head from ordering yet another singing stuffed toy.
There’s always a few cook-books up for sale and last week I idly opened one called “A Girl Called Jack.” I glanced at the first recipe and found myself thinking that not only did I like the look of it but I thought I could actually cook it. Randomly, I opened another page. Same thing. It only took a couple more pages to persuade me to tick the order form. I’ve now had the book for a week and have actually cooked three recipes.
I’d never heard of the author, Jack Monroe, when I bought the book. However, within two days I’d heard her on the radio and read a piece of hers in the Guardian. I gather that she’d worked for the fire-brigade, left to bring up her son and devised her recipes while trying to cook for them both on a very low budget. She published first on her blog (link here) and she’s now working on a second book.
I thought ActorLaddie was remarkably restrained when he came back from his course on Friday to find that I’d moved his kitchen around. Tonight I’m making falafels. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Because I have signed up to GiveAsYouLive, the books for school I bought on-line, raised 52p to help fund Parkinson’s research. It cost me nothing and has brought a cure that wee bit nearer. The link to GiveAsYouLive is here.
The Jelly Chronicles Volume 1 is available as an i-book here. Any proceeds to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.