21 March, 2008

Happy Easter Eve

I love Easter Eve. I love dyeing eggs and making a mess, and ever since Avery was two and a half, she's been an enthusiastic sidekick, donning her apron (at first a Hello Kitty specimen, but now she's graduated to plain white as befits the budding gastronome), and we used to put wine glasses in the sink, filled with dye, and let her dip to her heart's content, secure in the knowledge that any drips would run down the drain. I'm happy to report that at age 11 1/2, she's still very happy to spend the day with her mother and father dyeing eggs. "Whoa, this blue is too intense. Let's add some red and dilute it, and see if we get lavender..."

We are completely caught up this weekend with, if you can believe it, politics. Now mind you, I haven't been truly political since graduate school when I campaigned for Dukakis (lord, that's a long time ago now), but I've always been happily Democrat. My beloved has, by contrast, always been a stalwart Republican. We always voted anyway, knowing that we cancelled each other out. One has to vote, after all. Well, since listening to the Barack Obama speech on race issues in America, I am pleased to say that we are united for the first time ever. Any presidential candidate who can combine his intellect and peace-loving nature with the ability to use "complicity" in a sentence (and I bet he can spell it too) has my vote, and amazingly, John's as well. To Avery's chagrin, we brought her in to watch the speech, and she was soon transfixed. "How can anyone not see the sense and the goodness in this speech?" I asked rhetorically. "Well, Mommy, if there weren't some of those sad people out there, he wouldn't have to make the speech to begin with." It takes the wisdom of a child.

Which led to a very interesting discussion of the "I Have a Dream" speech and the Gettysburg address. Did everyone listening to those speeches stand up and applaud? No, sadly, much as we all wish to think so now, and to revere these people, they were shot dead. Something to learn about what sounds like absolute received wisdom: for some people listening, it takes awhile.

But enough about serious things. We went out this afternoon for a nice brisk walk and found ourselves, in the Marylebone High Street, in a HAILSTORM! Something between hail and snow, but at the end of March? Come on! Our heads lowered, we pressed on to buy our Easter weekend's worth of food, and by the time we got home, blue skies prevailed. But as my friend Becky reported later, it didn't last long. These storms time themselves for the moments one is out of doors and unprotected. Ick!

I must tell you about these last photos from our Cotswolds holiday: the Cotwsold Farm Park! You must all go, right away. Situated just between Stowe and Chipping Campden, it's a nirvana filled with baby everything you might want to hold: chicks (you can't even see anything but a tiny black head in my hands!), lambs, goats, guinea pigs, bunnies, you name it. We were able to see a lamb being born, believe it or not, and then the guys brought over a lamb needing a mother and covered it in the birth fluid and voila: the mother adopted it. I felt quite woefully inadequate in my fussing over Avery's birth lo these many years ago: the sheep said nothing! Out in the acres beyond the birthing pen there were Exmoor ponies, pigs, goats with dreadlocks, bison and sheep and ducks and peacocks, a heaven of animals. Do go, you'll be so glad you did.

Before I go I must tell you about a lovely tart I made for our lunch today, in between madly juicing beetroot, celery, ginger, carrot and pear for breakfast, and dyeing eggs. Here goes:

Goats Cheese and Parma Ham Tart
(serves at least 6)

1 full package short pastry, squeezed and prodded to fit a 12-inch tart pan
2 tbsps butter
2 shallots, sliced thin
8 button mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
6 slices Parma Ham, torn up into pieces
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup single cream
100 grams goats cheese
grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle

This is so heavenly simple. Just saute the shallots and mushrooms in the butter and drain them on kitchen paper. Then cover the bottom of the tart crust with the goats cheese and the Parma ham. Beat the eggs with the cream. Pour them over the tart and top with parmesan cheese, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the tart looks cooked and the top golden brown. Delicious hot or cold, as Avery and John can tell you, having eaten slices both ways all afternoon.


Tomorrow, once the Easter Bunny has come and gone, I shall tell you about two things: my new cooking method for all meats and fishes done in a skillet, and Avery's invented strawberry tart. Both are worth a look. In the meantime, set out those carrots for the bunny, and... wait.

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