Some town mice come with us in the packing boxes when we move to the South West. Literary types, they stow away in the crates of books where they make finely-nibbled nests out of a couple of novels. And after a good nap they set about systematically breaking into all the dry goods. Thin, grey and organised they seem quite a different species from the rounder, browner country cousins who restrict their store room damage to delicately whittling walnuts. Not taking out Foodie’s finest risotto rice collection.
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.
Big things come in small packages, an aphorism as true for gifts as it is for the diminutive Polish Delicatessen in Weymouth. Located opposite the train station, the Tardis-like shop sells thousands of Polish foods and drinks in an area the size of a large living room, and though a visit to the shop may not be the same as going to Poland, it is certainly the next best thing.
In mid December I made the fatal claim, quietly and only to myself but still a dangerous articulation, ‘this is going to be the best Christmas ever.’ I know when Foodie says ‘this horse cannot lose’ to distract myself, leave him to his delusional compulsion, ultimately secure in the knowledge that after all these ‘life changing’ bets he comes out even – else over the cumulative years we would have become destitute or loaded. But I really did think I couldn’t stumble.
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.