Just read an interesting book, "Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal" where Terence Kealy claims that forgoing a "serious" breakfast could be beneficial. He claims that the concept of breakfast (i.e. eating as soon as you get up) being the most important meal of the day is a myth perpetrated by the likes of the Kellogg brothers and by the makers of breakfast cereals.
This is a huge departure from common belief.
But we have been encouraged to base our food consumption on what's called the Mediterranean Diet (heavy on vegetables and grain, easy on the fat and protein). Friends who were brought up in "Continental" households e.g children of Italian or Greek migrants, eat very little for breakfast. (Think Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti in Venice, coffee & biscotti on rising and a delicious little tramezzino at around 11.00 a.m.) Doesn't look so silly, does it?
I’ve been trying it. It gives me time to unload the dishwasher.
Other food books read in the last month are...
The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating - by Anthony Warner (appeals to my cynicism of super-foods and new age fads. He also does a blog. Warning – he rants and says f..k a lot to illustrate his point.)
French Children Don't Throw Food - Pamela Druckerman (The idea is to teach them to be involved and includes a delicious biscuit recipe that children can make themselves.)
Toxic Oil: why vegetable oil will kill you and how to save yourself - David Gillespie (Did “Sugar” now onto vegetable oils. Passionate, partisan but makes sense.)
This year, we have around 300 avocados on our tree compared to 30 last year. Must be the bees we "hired" in to pollinate the garden. Roger wants the classic half avocado with vinaigrette in the centre but with so many, I need some variety. I've been playing with this chilled soup (no cooking) and sent it to Meryl (Tankard) for further deliberation.
Avocado & Coconut Soup
For 4 people
1 large or two small ripe avocados
1 spring onion, roughly chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
salt to taste
To garnish - 1/2 green apple, finely cubed, some pink pepper corns and/or espellette pepper, (ground roughly in an electric coffee grinder or by hand). BUT while the apple is good, the rest could be anything. The recipe is still on the drawing board.
In a food processor (or blender) mash up the avo with the spring onion and help it along with some coconut milk. (This will chop the onion for you.) When it’s smooth, add the rest of the coconut milk and the stock, either in the blender or all moved to a bowl and whisked. Check for seasoning and check for texture. It might need more liquid so as not to be one of those very thick hippy soups we all suffered in the seventies. It should "flow" like velvet. Chill. For some reason, it won’t go brown like a cut avocado. Must be the other ingredients.
I'm a fan of tap stock (i.e. water) in vegetable soups but here more flavour is needed so get some chicken or vegetable stock. I buy it .
If it’s just RTV and me, I serve it in individual bowls and top it with the apple, in the centre, along with pepper (1) and pepper (2) but when you were here, I used a soup tureen. I put the garnishes at the bottom of the empty individual bowls, and ladled in the soup at the table.
What else could we put on top? Crispy bacon? Fried shallots? Cubed pear? Finely chopped chilli?
Nothing Fancy -
just pumpkin soup is fine.
In a rare show of wit, Ronald Reagan said that the nine scariest words in the English language were “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
For Gore Vidal, the three scariest words were “Joyce Carol Oates”. (Not a fan of her novels, I guess.) For Seinfeld's friend George, "We have to talk".
My heart sinks when someone says, “You must come to dinner”.
What is being said here? Am I naughty that I have neglected to come to dinner? Surely I can only come if I’m invited.
Am I expected to turn up, a bottle of Shiraz under my arm, next Wednesday? Do I knock on the door and say I’ve come to remedy my lack of manners. I'm here for dinner. Hope I'm not late.
Why do people say this?
Might it be better to say “I’ll ring you during the week to make a time for you to come over. Haven’t had a good chat in ages.”
“You must come to dinner.” Stop saying this.
Is it my fault or yours?
Jamie Oliver can do no wrong, in my opinion, but what's with the 15 minute meals? I understand what he's trying to do - get us all cooking - but why encourage the idea that it's all too hard and takes too long. This is your body, your family, your friends, your pleasure we're talking about.
Get into your car and drive to the gym. Get changed and participate in an hour's pilates class. Shower, dress, have a foul tasting health drink, get in the car and drive home. What's that? An hour and a half?
But we can only give 15 minutes of our "hectic" lives to prepare a meal to eat with others (or on our own, self-celebrating).
Stressed? I suggest winding down over a chopping board to prepare a meal, taking it very slowly. (Involve the household, if you'd prefer company - peeling the parsnips, washing the salad, setting the table.) Don't look at the clock, eat when you're ready.
How long do you spend?
Love receiving flowers, yes? (Not everyone. To an African friend (Ghana) they represent death in the house and an insult.)
But what do you do when someone comes to dinner with a huge bunch of gorgeous flowers and you are in the middle of introducing everyone to each other, of making sure they have a drink and their bags are carefully stowed and the nuts are being passed around? Flowers can be a bloody nuisance.
Do you stop, pull out the step ladder, reach for a vase, find the secateurs to trim the ends in the back shed, then clear a spot in the kitchen to arrange the flowers, ignoring everything else that’s going on?
An old French book on “le savoir-vivre” suggests one should never bring flowers. One should of course send them before or after the event when the hostess or better still the housemaid can receive them, and at leisure, arrange them.
Life doesn’t work like that for most of us. But what to do? Who wants to knock back flowers?
Hint / Life Hack
If you’re the giver, a just-opened rose from your garden picked on the way out is fine but keep the florist bunches for occasions other than lunch, party or dinner (or bring flowers already arranged in a planter or pot).
If you’re the receiver, make a bucket in the laundry part of your party preparations. If flowers arrive, admire them, thank the giver effusively and say “I’m looking forward to arranging these properly tomorrow.” Take the flowers away and put them in water in the bucket.
The following day, take your time to arrange them beautifully. Take a photograph of them on your phone and send this to the giver with a nice note.
How do you handle flowers?
In the Trobriand Islands (North East of New Guinea) there’s a tabu against eating with or in front of others, even family or friends. Anthropologists have failed to find a reason why.
We take it for granted that we mark special occasions by eating with others, often with special foods to mark the occasion. Think of births, deaths, weddings, arrivals, departures, engagements, birthdays, christenings, bar or bat mitzvahs, religious holidays. We eat with people we’re close to (family, friends), we eat with people we’d like to get close to (from romantic dinners to the business lunch).
So where to now? How do you keep in touch or forge new friendships? A coffee, breakfast, standing around at an art opening with a warm Chardonnay? Do we still share a table (both formal or informal)?