In the annals of my memory, the most resonant echo is that of afternoon tea. It is the meal to which the term ‘treat’ almost invariably applies. Tea is an occasion, to be taken occasionally, a set-piece with, like all Read more »
June is the start of it. That endless blue sky, long-light, lazy-lunch feel that carries us through the summer and the holidays and puts us in mind of al fresco picnics, garden lunches, rugs and showers and easy food where the temperature of the food is less important and critical than the temperature outside. That peculiarly British thing of braving the breeze and the cloud on the horizon and taking food outside no matter what.
The game is over. Country-dwellers will not mourn the loss from their plates, they are attuned to the gentle music of the seasons’ rhythms, the onward march of nature and March’s early, hesitant notes of spring. If city dwellers realized that cutting country corners involves, at the season’s end, untrained surgery, nipping and tugging out game birds breasts, discarding legs and wings to avoid the misery of flying feathers and torn skin, and wrenching out clusters of guts high with hanging, they’d doubtless be shocked. But that is the way with farmers whose braces of birds have already graced the table to the point at which a delicacy has lost its cache and the deep-freeze is still stocked with a flock. The skinless breast which I have abjured for ever as the root of much lazy cooking evil is upon us.
Dark days dishes. The time has come round again. The West-country word ‘dimpse’ is so onomatopoeically apt at this time of year, when the light leaks away so early, so abruptly, and all we can do to counter light-lustrelessness is cook hearty, gutsy, bright, light citrussy dishes and pretend. Pretend that we are in the scented orange grove that fills the kitchen when we make Seville orange marmalade or a steamed pudding dripping with an ointment of lemon, orange or lime-curd. And pretend good intention after the excesses and overkill of Christmas despite the fact that we tend to fail resolutions well before we admit we are defeated, that we have cheated.
I won’t eat puddings in January, I’ll give up drink, I won’t eat cream.
You can almost see my courgettes grow. Maybe not quite as impressively as the 9 inches a day I was once told an asparagus spear can push aside soil and stone to launch itself on to your plate, but enough to make me head for the garden through the summer and way into autumn, right up to the first opportunistic killer of a frost, with a sense of pride, anticipation and always, despite its continuously generous-natured bounty and reliability, surprise.