19 April, 2009
I don't know why I'm celebrating the blossoming of ANY growing things, given my sneezing activities lately, but something about this view in my living room was irresistible. Our landlords said that if we pulled some of the climbing jasmine plant indoors, it would bloom more quickly, and I can assure you that the scent of climbing jasmine is worth almost any number of sneezes. It's just magical, so I'm sacrificing. Around 3 in the afternoon, these days, the living room is suffused with a warm, celebratory light that shouts, "Spring is here. Enjoy." We've been spending a lot of time in there, and when it's not sunny, we can light the fire!
I've often observed here before that in my life, planning ahead to do anything but sitting and typing, or reading or cooking, is absolutely crucial, because if I wait to be inspired at the moment, I'll never leave the house. Never has this been truer than on Friday night, which had the temerity to follow Friday day. Let me explain. Friday, it rained in the way that it can rain only in London. All day, relentlessly, sometimes heavily so you raise your brolly, sometimes in spits and spots that make you lower the brolly and say pathetically, "I'm sure it's clearing up," only to find that you've become a poodle for the sixteenth time that day, hair curling in obnoxious ringlets and standing out all over your head. The brolly goes back up, you smack someone in the face coming opposite you on the pavement. Crashing bore.
And invariably, on such a day, I find that my main goal for the day is to get Avery to the ice skating rink, which is like asking Dante to go get a root canal on his way to the Seventh Circle of Hell. It's just awful under any circumstances to spend two hours there: screaming teenagers, school trips for troubled boys, loved-up adolescent couples who think nothing of aiming their skate blades at my child's gentle head. Above it all floats an indescribable smell of ostensible foodstuffs: horrible waffles with fake toppings, pizza, hot dogs, panini filled with fake cheese... and strobe lights, and loud music. I feel such an old fogey hating it so much, but truth must out.
So Friday I got Avery to the rink, suffered through the endless requests for fake fruit slushies to drink, ice cream to eat, pound coins for the arcade (no, no and let me think about it, NO). Watched her go out on the rink and then spend the entire hour lesson glued to the precise four-foot section of the rink that I couldn't see, the space between me and it being occupied by several screaming French children whose parents had apparently left them there as if at a foundling hospital.
By the time we got home on the bus, in the rain, through several construction blockages, it was all I could do to inject a quick cocktail into my veins and then head out again to drop Avery at her sleepover date and try to race to dinner and theatre. Wet, wet, wet!
But once we sat down with my friend Jo at Kulu-kulu Sushi, my current mecca, and fed ourselves from the conveyor belt with yellowtail sashimi, salmon sushi with plenty of wasabi, chilled steamed spinach with satay sauce and a soft shell crab roll, I didn't care about the rain anymore. It was good to be with her, sitting between me and John, appreciating her special brand of irreverence, energy, roaring laugh and potty mouth. A total infusion of humor, even better than a shot of vodka. The three of us have such fun together: she described John later as "as good as a girlfriend, only masculine! You are a very lucky woman." Couldn't have put it better myself, my dear.
From there we headed to the Duke of York Theatre and A View from the Bridge, an Arthur Miller classic I'm ashamed to say I've never read, or seen before. My God, Ken Stott is talented. Dessicated, depraved, yet somehow heroic and ultimately true to himself, this character walks the postwar Brooklyn streets like a living cadaver, filled with forbidden love for his niece, raised as his daughter, overcome with wordless hatred and jealousy for the boy she's fallen in love with, and then revengeful antagonism for the illegal immigrant system he's inadvertently become part of. He was brilliant: hateful and yet pathetic. Go see it.
On a completely different note: congratulations to Prince Philip on his slightly creepy milestone: the longest serving Royal Consort! Imagine kneeling to one's wife and swearing allegiance. Actually perhaps that would be a nice addition to the current rather too lightly observed marriage ceremony. I'll write up a little speech and see if I can get John to recite it. You know you're living in an old, old country when someone breaks a 191-year-old royal marriage record.
Well, we're facing the last day of this very long, very uneventful Easter holiday. Avery has become quite addicted to her days of inactivity: learning all the lyrics to "Grease," finger-knitting, crocheting, drawing fairies, skating and the like. She dreads returning to school on Tuesday. I myself think it will be good to get back to a rather more regular writing schedule: I've accomplished only one chapter over the whole three-week holiday. But I did produce tonight Avery's absolute favorite pasta dish and it's worth reproducing, since it's been a very long time since I told you about it. I invented it many, many years ago as a detox dinner: try it on your vegetarian friends or just after too many evenings of flesh. It's lovely.
Orrechiette With Two Broccolis, Tomato and Pinenuts
1/2 pound dried orrechiette (or farfalle or another sort of stubby pasta)
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, minced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup pinenuts
1 soup-size can plum tomatoes
8 florets broccoli
8 stems tenderstem broccoli
1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan
Put water on to boil for the pasta. It will need to cook for about 12 minutes.
Heat butter and olive oil in a shallow skillet and cook garlic and onion till soft, then add Italian seasoning and mix well. Set aside while in a food processor or blender you mix the pinenuts and tomatoes till completely blended and a pleasing sort of reddish pink. Pour the mixture into the skillet with the garlic and onion and heat until bubbling, then turn off heat.
Steam the two broccolis until they smell good, and like broccoli. I can't explain it better than that: you'll know they're cooked (five minutes or so?) when they smell like you want to eat them. Plunge them in cold iced water and drain.
When the pasta is cooked through, drain it nearly all the way and dump it into the skillet with the sauce, then throw in the two broccolis and toss all together. Serve with the cheese, and ENJOY.
Avery ate so much of this tonight, and so quickly, that she then retreated to the sofa and lay like a beached whale, recovering. John said, "Can you move, please?" and I had to point out that he was speaking, essentially, to a snake who had swallowed a rat, and that we had to give her time to digest the beast. Maybe it will rain tomorrow and we'll be stuck doing... nothing, for one more day. How I will miss her when she's back in her element. I told her this and she said sweetly, "Oh, I will miss you too," and I said, "No, you'll be too busy at school to mind," and she put her arm around me and said, "Even when I'm busy during the day I often think about you and want a hug." That makes everything, even rainy days, worthwhile.