Friday, 24 July 2009
Lunches, true friends and kitchen gadgets
Today I had a most enjoyable lunch with a friend. My lunch friends nearly all seem to have the same name as mine - what a generational giveaway. We met each other on a trip to Italy, but did not get to know each other very well, but I discovered that she was keen on archaeology, old walls, and is a bell-ringer. This means she has a fine mathematical mind and memory, which is awesome in the true sense of the word.
We got together a couple of years later, as it turned out she played bridge at the same club frequented for umpty years by Dr P. It is a small world. I don't play bridge at all, not having that sort of mind or memory - but never mind, most of us can't do everything, and he can't sing! We decided to meet for lunch and have been doing so regularly ever since. I said to M that Dr P commented that she and I lunch together very frequently, and I replied that it was only about once a month. She told me her daughter said the same thing to her, and was given the same reply. We had a laugh about that.
Our times together are an acute pleasure. We really like each other, which to me has been a great gift, having moved away from family and friends (fool that I was) and finding that making new friends was slow and difficult. We laugh about lots of things, and have a lot of fun together (not 'very fun' as in USA parlance). We can let off steam to each other, and laugh or mourn about the vicissitudes of life, family idiosyncracies, and what we can or cannot do about any or all of these. She has had various serious medical problems in the last couple of years, and I have been able to give her sympathy, and understanding of some of the things which I too have experienced, as well as useful advice (not covered by Medicare, but free anyway), and she is always very sympathetic and helpful when I whinge about the Problem Person in my life, aka the WSD, so that I come away feeling greatly cheered and stronger. But what we both really enjoy is the fun we have together - the way we can laugh, and that we can think through to solutions.
She was married and had five children - who all love her and care for her greatly, and, when her husband left her, she had a hard time of it for many years - now made somewhat easier financially by her ex (and so he should). She is in the process of exploring cookery, and so we have been discussing recipes and cooking techniques. To this end we visit shops with cooking implements, as I recommend various useful tools. She is very happy with the microplaner graters, has bought a blender, and today's little jaunt was to seek out a mezzaluna. This is a curved double-handled blade which is just wonderful for chopping parsley and other herbs, nuts, and it also does a wonderful job in chopping dried fruits for Christmas cakes and puddings. No home should be without one. I have had mine for very many years now and could not contemplate life without it. I have given them to my children and sisters - and hope they appreciate their good fortune.
They are surprisingly hard to find. There is a double bladed variety available, but it is a fool of a thing, small and fiddly, and the herbs all get stuck between the blades and have to be scraped out. I did a bit of a hunt around, and finally found a knife shop which had several different models. So after our lunch we went to investigate the options. She was able to test-drive them all and to decide on one. We also explored various other kitchen gadgets. You can buy silicone egg poachers, and I came across a gadget which makes spaghetti like strings out of carrots (it comes out looking like plastic!), and curly fine slices of cucumbers. Naturally I had to buy one. It is a toss-up whether I keep it or give it to a similar gadget enthusiast. In fact, I was so enthusiastic about all the kitchen marvels in this shop that they offered me a job!
I dearly love a well-equipped kitchen, and enjoy giving kitchen tools and gadgets away. Zyliss potato peelers are excellent, and they now have a versions with serrated blades so that soft fruit and vegetables can be peeled, and there is another with savage little teeth which can produce julienne strips. What is more, I give away little sharp knives, so that the recipients can chop their meat and vegetables more easily. My sisters had few and appallingly blunt knives, so I have improved this situation. A good heavy cleaver is essential for the smashing and chopping of garlic and ginger. We lesser mortals, who will never even think of applying to go on a reality TV show, will probably never learn to chop onions evenly, let alone without tears, or be able to manage an elegant garnish. For us, good tools make life easier and more enjoyable and satisfying. My risotto stirrer is wonderful. However I have to admit that I have never used the fresh cocoanut grater which a similarly kitchen-gadget oriented friend gave me. (She also gave me a hand held electric beater, as she could not stand the sight of me beating cream by hand because it was too small a task to justify getting the Mixmaster out.) The cocoanut grater is a rather savage looking tool, so I always opted for the tinned cocoanut variety. Perhaps its day will come.
However I must rather sadly admit that these days I need very few new gadgets or implements, and that when the sales come around, there is practically nothing I need to buy. Although Dr P has been cooking sweet corn in the smallest possible saucepan over the largest gas hotplate, so that the plastic handle is being burned, and nasty and probably toxic fumes produced. I have pointed this out to him, but he is impervious to advice, let alone such facts.
When I die, will my heirs fight over my kitchen implements and gadgets? I sure hope so! I will be looking down from Heaven to double check.