Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Somewhere Delia Smith is breathing a sigh of relief

Well, it’s back to work for me today; it’s nippy in New York at the moment, it was snowing when I got off the subway to work. I love the snow and I’m so used to the coldness of New York now that I find it fairly easy to deal with. It’s a dry cold, so I find that as long as you wear enough layers you’re fine, unlike the damp cold in England that seeps through all your layers and chills you to the bone. Brrrrrr!!!!

Surprisingly, it was lovely and quiet on the trains this morning. Well, relatively quiet. It wasn't 'find-a-seat' quiet, I still had to stand, but it wasn't so sardine like that my nose was lodged in someone's armpit either, which is always a good thing. I imagine a lot of people must be taking the rest of the week off and returning to work on Monday the 8th. Personally I like returning to work after the festivities when it’s a partial week, I find it less pressurized. No-one expects too much of you on the first day the office is open in the New Year. My boss once told me that he didn’t consider these days as part of the proper working week, which is more than okay by me. In fact everyone seems a bit shell-shocked to be back in the office, so it’s ends up being a fairly easy day of checking emails, shuffling a few papers, drinking coffee and catching up with colleagues to find out if they had a good Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/New Year, by which time 5pm has rolled around and it’s time to go home. Very few people work late on the first day back if the 5pm crush in the lifts is anything to go by.

The rest of the partial week generally continues at much the same pace, gradually building momentum, so that by the time the weekend passes and the first full week begins things are pretty much back to normal. The people who take the partial week off and return to work for the first full week miss out on the opportunity to ease themselves back into work, it’s in at the deep end for them, and as a result they always seem to have that rabbit caught in the headlights look for their first few days back.

Potentially big changes afoot in the office, the dreaded ‘restructuring’ word has been bandied about more often than I care for. These are covering your arse times and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my so called career recently. I’m still not entirely sure I know what I want to do when I grow up, but there’s a question mark over whether I want to continue working in marketing. I’ll have to ponder it a bit longer.

I certainly won’t be giving up my day job to become a chef that’s for sure. I made the
New Covent Garden carrot and coriander (cilantro in the US) soup sans coriander yesterday as planned and I have to say it was delicious and a very easy recipe too. I was quite surprised by how good it was, because I’m not what you’d call naturally gifted in the kitchen and as a rule I don’t tend to cook, not that I order in all the time either as many people assume is the case if you live in New York. It’s too expensive to do that on a regular basis and I’d much rather put my disposable income towards footwear, no, what I tend to do is assemble meals from ready prepared ingredients purchased from the likes of Wholefoods or Trader Joes. I’d give my eye teeth for an M&S food hall, although since that’s unlikely I’m quite excited by the fact that Tesco has branched out to L.A., hopefully a New York store is on the cards. I’d be happy with a Tesco, I love their ‘Finest’ range, but then UK supermarkets seem to be so much more accomplished at ready meals than the ones I’ve come across in the US. Hmmm. Clearly that doesn’t say a lot for the state of home cooking in Britain.

Funnily enough despite the fact that I don’t cook, I LOVE cookbooks, I have a whole pile of them at my apartment, purchased with the best intentions of actually using them. I never do, but I do enjoy looking at the photos, I don’t see the logic behind a cookbook without photos. I need to be able to drool over glossy photos of perfectly prepared food. Cookbooks are my porn.

“That’s cooking” exclaimed Megan, pastry chef extraordinaire, when I told her of my assembly approach to meals. Bless her heart. I appreciate the support, but I beg to differ that it could be classified as cooking. My method of food preparation is as akin to actual cookery as Ikea is to fine furniture, not the most beautiful or well made, but it gets the job done.

However the carrot sans coriander soup went well and I was actually quite impressed by my efforts. The recipe was actually quite straightforward and I was patting myself on the back at not making too much of a mess in my tiny Manhattan kitchen. Usually when I cook it looks like a food parcel has exploded. I blame it on my limited counter space, and when I say limited I am not exaggerating. My counter is exactly 18 by 24inches. It’s titchy!!! Forget all those movies you see where the characters always have ginormous kitchens in their humungous loft apartments, they’re as close to reality as sugar plum fairies. My entire kitchen is exactly 7ft by 9ft, which actually doesn’t sound THAT tiny, but believe me, there isn’t any room for cat swinging, especially when you factor in the size of American appliances. You should see the size of my fridge and cooker, they’re suitable for feeding a family of 20. Erm…hello New York apartment developers, pay attention, European sized appliances would be so much more appropriate in our tiny apartments!! Sigh!! Oh and God forbid there should be room for a washing machine among my giant appliances – seriously they’re all so big I feel as if I’m in Jack and The Beanstalk sometimes. Actually it’s probably best not to let me get started on the fact that there’s no washer and I have to pigging heft my stuff to the laundrette of a weekend. Pht!!

Anyway, back to the soup. It was all going marvellously; I should have realised things would take a disastrous turn given my history in the kitchen, but I was too busy patting myself on the back for a job well done, pride, fall and all that. I’d gently cooked the finely sliced onion and crushed garlic clove – ready chopped from a jar, life is too short, my knife skills limited and my fingers too precious, for me to be finely slicing garlic – in butter, taking care not to let them brown. I’d added vegetable broth - from a carton of course, the recipe suggested I make my own ha ha ha!! - and chucked in the roughly chopped carrots and a pinch of nutmeg, that was something else I forgot to buy at Agata & Valentina, but I checked the back of the top cupboard and lo and behold I found a sealed jar of them tucked that must have been there at least 2years – the last time I decided to cook. The ones in the middle had a fluffy covering of mould on them that caused me some hesitation, but I thoroughly checked the top one for spores and it looked okay, so I took a risk (hey, it’s penicillin) and grated a bit to add to the mix. It was the piece de resistance in my opinion; a little nutmeg goes a long way

So, all was well until I arrived at the point where the carrots were cooked and I needed to puree the soup prior to returning it to a clean saucepan, adding a touch of seasoning, heavy cream and a handful of grated carrot for ‘texture’ and voila, nutritious homemade soup for one.

I took the soup off the heat, plugged in the hand blender, stuck it into a pan and switched it on.

Big mistake!!

You’d really think they’d mention the high splatter risk on the instructions of the Braun Multiquick hand blender!! Droplets of piping hot soup went EVERYWHERE, including the bare flesh of my arms!!


Not fun.

So what did I get in return for my culinary efforts??? Burns!!! Oh and a few stubborn bits of carrot that are still stuck to my kitchen tiles having resisted my attempts at removal with fresh scented Clorox disinfected wipes. Clearly I need something a bit stronger for removing errant root vegetables.

Nevertheless the soup was delicious (who needs coriander), but I won’t be risking life and limb to make it again. I’m off to Wholefoods tonight.


sid said...

Cookbooks areyou porn? I suffer from the same problem but so far I have resisted the urge to indulge my fantasies.

Amel's Realm said...

Oh dear, sorry to hear that, but I agree with Sid. Cookbooks are your PORN?!?!?!?!

You know something, Fish? Have you ever thought of selling your blog somewhere to be made into a book? It can be the next "Sex and the City" series, you know...

I ENJOY your writing style and your wit and sense of humour and I bet lots of people LOVE that, too. ;-D

So if you're considering on a new career, DO consider selling your stories HE HE HE HE...

I bet there are plenty of people here who agree with me. C'mon, guys and girls, RAISE YOUR HANDS if you agree with me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Btw, I never lasted long in an office, so I TRULY enjoyed reading your description about it. ;-D

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Sid, thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year to you. Yup, cookbooks are most definitely my porn - is that weird ;-) Fish x

Hi Amel, you are such a sweetie I'm thrilled you enjoy my writing style. I did consider writing a book and did start one, but my God it's hardwork, however if I'm ever approached with an advance I'd definitely consider it ;-)

Amel's Realm said...

I know what you mean. I used to want to write something, as well, but I never could finish it ha ha ha...

Anyway, you're really a WITTY, FUN writer and if you ever finish a book, I'll buy one, BUT on one condition: you have to give me your signature for free and write something for me in the book HUE HE HE HE HE HE HE HE...

So DON'T STOP considering writing, will you? Maybe you don't have time to write an entire book now, but in the future, who knows?

In the meantime, I'll still enjoy your posts HE HE HE HE...

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Amel, you made my year so far :-)

Amel's Realm said...

Hey, my pleasure...I'm your fan already! HE HE HE HE HE...;-D

Dylan said...

I SO miss Covent Garden soups as well, although my mum bought me their cookbook one Christmas a few years ago, so I can content myself with the homemade versions every so often. Although never black bean soup...even theirs tastes like bean skins suspended in tasteless gravy...

Happy New Year to you and yours, Fish!

Ha Ha Sound said...

Happy New Year!! Hope your holidays were a lot of fun, and glad to hear that you had an easy transition back into work. And I'm jealous that you got to spend Xmas in London. =+)

And BTW, in reference to what you wrote about your career... I think that it's best to never grow up. But maybe that's just me. =+)

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Dylan, I've yet to find fresh soup as good over here, so if you spy it, let me know. I'll be sure to avoid the black bean soups. Ugh!!

Hey Ha Ha, I think I'm with you on the not growing up thing :-)

the little medic said...

ahhh cookbooks, we already have loads and I can't help feeling we're going to go on aquiring them for a long time to come. We'll need whole new bookshelves to accomodate them.

And by we, I mean my girlfriend

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Medic, thanks for stopping by. Your girlfriend is a woman after my own heart :-)

Agnes Mildew said...

The best way to avoid splattering soup is to bung it into a Smoothie Maker. My Smoothie machine has only ever made two smoothies, both of which were cack. It makes a corking veggie soup, though!

Glad you are back and hope you had fun in the UK. Happy New Year, Fish.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

A smoothie maker!!! Agnes, you're a genius.

Happy New Year to you!!

Flowers On A Friday said...

covent garden soups!!! oh how i miss you so! the chicken one was always my fav...with a nice crusty bread. yum.

i'm still getting used to the almost constant deluge of beetroot soup here in poland. oo what i wouldn't give for an old cgv.

p.s. happy new year, fish!

p.p.s my favourite smoothie has to be soya milk, frozen banana slices (so it makes it thicker) and crunchy peanut butter all blended together in an arm-shakingly big glass.

p.p.s. hand raised!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Flowers, beetroot soup!!! Shudder! I hate beetroot. The smoothie sounds good though. Happy New Year :-)