It’s early evening, I can’t remember when exactly, and I’m trying to pull a day back from the brink of unproductivity. I couldn’t settle on a café so I’ve settled on this take-away chai and this concrete slab. There are two distinct rays of sun tracking my pupils with unerring accuracy, and I shift constantly. Everything is hot and everything is burning, including my retinas, definitely. I can’t see a thing. I scrawl blindly in my notebook, or at my notebook, or around my notebook, or somewhere. What I’m scrawling is an anti-homesickness note-to-self. I note that what I have here is exactly what I wished for: None of me is cold. All of me is warm. At least warm. SO WARM. It’s completely silly how warm I am. My hair is warm, my elbows are warm and I’m pretty certain my bones are warm. The air around me is heavy, no, heaving with WARM, and it hugs me close. The bits of me that the air can’t quite hug, are cradled by concrete. And the concrete is WARM. Satiated by a day’s worth of sun, it radiates generously. I continue on a desperate scramble for things to be grateful for, and alternatives for the word
Stea-I am interrupted by the cold spritz of a stranger’s saliva. Cool and refreshing. A great relief. Oh boy. The spray prances across the extremely short distance between the stranger’s face and mine on heavy bursts of beer-laden breath. The space between us is made tighter still by a dense mass of coarse black hair (his, not mine). The strands are so thick that they fall in sharp bends rather than curls. He attempts a greeting, fails, then drops on to the slab beside me. His positioning blocks the sun and restores my sight. It’s a miracle.
Some nice, shady time passes.
Then: ‘What are you writing?’ He’s growling at me. ‘Read me some.’ Another growl.
I look to my page and read over what I have just written: ‘…cold spritz…saliva…beer-laden breath…’ I take a telling pre-lie pause, and follow it up with ‘nothing?’
More growling. Oh, and a whimper.
‘You don’t care about me.’
‘Oh?’ I reply, matching his hurt tone, ‘I thought I did.’
And I did! I do. I do think I do. There is something familiar about him. He feels like my friends feel, you know? And I think to myself, if only I were drunk or he were sober, maybe this would be the start of a beautiful kinship.
‘What accent is that?’ Another question! Maybe he cares about me the way that I care about him!!!
I hardly have time to complete the two syllables: ‘I-rish’, before he interrupts with a ‘LOOK!’ and swings his arm at me with such incredible force that it boomerangs right back into his own gut. Then, returning it, more gently this time, to float unsteadily under my nose, bumping lightly off my chin, he repeats, softly, ‘look…look at me.’ And I do, I look to his arm, and then back up, questioning. Now, he is both physically and emotionally wounded, and it tells in his voice, ‘I…I’m…I-rish.’ I look again. I take his arm in my hand, twisting and turning it from side to side, holding it up to the light, looking first close-up, then at a distance. What I have here is the arm of an Irish man that has been on his summer holidays for a minimum of three generations. I sigh. I guess he’ll have to do. I return it to him, because he needs both arms, and everything else he can muster, to push himself up into a standing position. He’s up, and falling forward, but on a mission, he tells me: to the police station to report a petty theft that was committed against him three years ago! He raises his Irish arm in determination, the knuckles on his fist reflecting the pallor of his ancestors, and I raise mine in solidarity. I wish him well, and nestle his beer in beside me for safekeeping. After all, what are friends for.
Not Quite Granny’s Porktato & Apple Casserole
I now have an official hand-me-down recipe from my Granny. The paper is all yellowed and everything! The text is fading away! I’m delighted with myself. I cooked it one day when I needed something from home and something from the oven, sure these two things go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, I also needed many more ingredients, and money with which to buy them. So I made do. There will be no prizes for guessing that Granny’s recipe had no miso or quinoa flakes. And, look, I don’t remember the quantities I ended up using very well really at all. Anyway.
Click below for the (kind of, sort of) recipe…
2 apples, sliced
100g red cabbage, sliced finely
2 onions, chopped
450g baby potatoes, thickly sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
40g grated cheese
75g quinoa flakes, or rolled oats, or breadcrumbs
500ml miso broth
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan, 200 degrees conventional.
2. Place sliced apples in bottom of casserole dish
3. Heat some oil in a large pan and fry up the onions, red cabbage and smoked paprika until softened, then lift out and into the casserole dish on top of the apples.
4. Fry the potato slices in the same pan for a few minutes, add more oil if needed.
5. Transfer the potatoes to a saucepan and add the miso broth and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until you can just pierce the potatoes with a fork. Tip the whole mixture into the casserole dish.
6. Combine the quinoa flakes or oats with both cheeses, and sprinkle on top of the potato miso mixture.
7. Place the dish in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
8. Text your Granny.