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Archive for February, 2010

Life of a Peach

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

My father’s beans

I’m at the table alone and eating my father’s beans for my dinner. He’s 99 and I’m eating his beans. I don’t care about anything else, I am just so happy for the moment. They’re scarlet runners – the best kind of beans – meaty and sweet, and I’ve got them nestled on top of four potatoes I’ve just pulled from our garden and lightly steamed, and I’ve slathered them with butter and sprinkled them with a shocking amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. God, they’re good.

* *

One of my favourite family memories is of my dad, who has always grown beans, with my brother-in-law Billy, sitting around our big black wooden table with a mound of steaming beans picked from the garden just some moments ago and a stack of thickly sliced generously buttered white bread in front of them. There were three other accompaniments: salt and make-you-sneeze white pepper, and of course, beer. Billy’s dead now. We miss him terribly. But I see him in my mind’s eye as if it were yesterday, at the table with my dad eating beans and buttered bread, sipping through foamy white heads on top of golden beer, no sound or interaction just an occasional grunt and nod of the head, but their eyes were smiling.

My father has always eaten an extraordinary amount of vegetables, and many of them homegrown. He reckons that is why he has led such a long, fit and well life. He’s probably right. He’s been right about most things he’s told me and I’m not going to start arguing now.

Life of a Peach

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


Ah. They’ve finally all gone. Every last one of them. Thank God. The pool is a mess. It’s sort of cloudy and full of leaves and bits of body that I’d rather wasn’t in there, like male sweat, fluff and testosterone – all floating unseen in that big expanse of water. Ugh. Even though the filter is working on ‘overload’, there’ll be no skinny-dipping for me tonight, just in case. Oh, so I’ve got a pool. Yeah. Instead of a car. Seriously. I don’t care about cars as long as they go when you stick in the key. But a pool I love. I can hear you say, ‘Yeah, but you can’t ride a pool to work’. Right. But, hey, haven’t you heard of car-pooling? Ha! Got you there. Actually, I work from home, so that doesn’t bother me. Oh, yawn, think I’ll leave this for awhile.

* *

Just eaten. Last night’s leftovers. Reheated, but in a china plate. A pasta bowl of course. NEVER reheat in plastic, you know that, don’t you? If you don’t, go online and find out about it. Knock back the exaggeration and hone in on the facts. It takes 10 seconds to transfer food from a plastic container to a china or glass one, then you can be sure you’re not going to be eating chemicals with the food you’ve just heated up.

Anyway, I’m just rid of 7 strapping young men flapping around in the pool like seals playing ‘getchya’ or ‘gotchaya’, depending how unlucky they were because skill doesn’t seem to come into it, and daughter having cooked herself some pasta and dressed it with generous spoonfuls of my gorgeously sweet tomato sauce I made this afternoon from our homegrown tomatoes, is now enjoying a glass of Riesling on the verandah with a friend before going out. Her laugh is infectious. The most glorious sound, starting mid-range, but then falling down in layers before building up again. Crescendo. Decrescendo. Her laugh starts at just the right point, for me, and fills the space, the air, with happiness.

Life of a Peach

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I’m going to have a tomato instead. Instead of anything I’ve mentioned or thought about it. But it’s not an ordinary tomato, this is a 312g (11oz) home-grown stripey thing tinged with green bursting with goodness type of tomato. I’ve probably got the only one in Auckland right now balanced on a kitchen scale. So it’s unique. My dinner is unique. I’m going to slice it up and pour a puddle of extra virgin olive oil over it, dust it with flaky sea salt and a good grinding of pepper and add a squeeze of lemon. That’s all it needs. But first I might cook the eggplant. I might regret it if I don’t. Fry it in oil, serve it all rich and unctuous. All slippery, silky, charred-edged, and, like all black foods, a bit sort of spooky, only safe if you’ve cooked it yourself, sinful and rich. The Italian name for eggplant is melanzane. Mad. Madness. Mad apple. Bad apple. Who knows? 180g (6 1/4 lb) of spookiness. Gorgeous spookiness. I’m up for it!

Small pan. Get it hot. Cube eggplant. No smell of green pepper (a sign of unripeness and bitterness). Add good slosh of oil. Get oil hot. Add eggplant. Splatter screen on top of pan. Big sip of wine.

When they’re mostly brown, lower the heat then let the pieces cook until they are tender. That’s a mistake too many people make. They think once the eggplant is brown, that’s it, you can eat it. Wrong. It needs to be TENDER. Otherwise it will be astringent. A few minutes before serving it (resist the urge), throw in as much sliced garlic as you like, stir around, season with a good few flakes of sea salt and a little pepper, then dish it into a bowl. A pasta bowl. You’ll find they’re a convenient serving vessels for one. They make it look like you’ve got more food than you have as it sort of spreads out rather than getting lost in a deep bowl like those trendy noodle bowls. Don’t go there. Not for this kind of food.

Then do the tomato salad. The trick is to slice it into thick rounds – big rounds – this is not the kind of thing to do with a wossy tomato – and again, you serve it in a pasta bowl. A proper Italian pasta bowl, not a modern deep bowl. This is the only way to do it. You should serve lots of things in pasta bowls. That way you would use these bowls more often and get your money’s worth.

I can’t possibly eat a 300g tomato.

A piece of sourdough. The last piece of sourdough. Actually it’s a crust. A dried out crust that would choke a seagull. Bin it. Soft floury supermarket roll instead. Toast it to dry it out and get some crunch. That’s the catch isn’t it? I want something crunchy but not too crunchy.

Set the table. Always. With a cloth. And a napkin. An old red checked faux Italian napkin. Except it IS an Italian napkin. I bought a set of red-checked napkins and a tablecloth 22 years ago in Tuscany at the place that had the lucertolas crawling up the wall, and we’ve used the napkins regularly every since. They don’t match the cloth I’m using now. But so what. They never had a hope in hell of matching the cloth.

The food’s enough for three people but you sort of hope no one comes home on a night like this.

The fork hits the side of the bowl with a sort of ‘ting’, like an announcement saying ‘start eating now’. I look at it, then I hear the fan again.

I don’t know if it is what I want to eat, but it is what I have cooked, so it is what I will eat. Willingly.

Help! I ate the whole tomato.

Life of a Peach

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

There’s always an egg. But that is solitary, reflective. Think I’ll make the effort and do the eggplant. Remo grew it, and he was born with an eggplant in his mouth, well nearly, (he’s Sicilian), and he’s hungering for it, but he’s not here. I can’t let it rot.

There’s just the sound of the fan now, not the whirring of an overhead fan, which I would quite like- it’s electric – but a sound like some big tank farm engine warming up. Like what you hear outside a fish mart, with a thousand freezers heating up the atmosphere, but on a smaller scale. If you listen, it’s deafening, if you don’t listen, you don’t hear it. Sizzling eggplant will suffocate it. Or music. I’ll just turn something on in my head, and, really, it’ll go.

You’ve got to be hungry to cook for yourself, otherwise why bother?

You may as well just have a glass of wine and stare into the sunset until the cold, or dive-bombing mosquitoes, make you come inside. The fire in winter does the same thing. You just stare into it until your eyelids close, then totter off to bed. The food will still be there in the morning. Uncooked. That’s the irony of it, the food doesn’t need to be eaten. It’s you who have the need.