Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Challenges

Each day I must face the fact that the dollar is a weak currency and the pound is really strong. In order to make my money go farther, I must cook most of my meals at home. Not a problem, but I prefer cooking for more than one person. My biggest hurdle to overcome in the cooking arena is the fact that Sarie and Robin do not have a frying pan. Nor does their stove have hood or any ventilation whatsoever. When I cook, I must open the front door and the window by the television to create a cross draft. This helps keep the smell of fish/garlic/meat/etc. to a minimum. No frying pan. I can't scramble eggs. There's a grill pan, and a nasty looking cast iron skillet. I wouldn't call it seasoned. It is more like a corroded mess. I refuse to pay a lot of money for a frying pan. I'm not here that long and they cost at least $20. I've looked at all of the thrift stores and I've checked Woolworth's. Nothing cheap for me to use. I have had to plan my meals around what I can do with saucepans, a grill pan, the oven, and a broiler. I poach my eggs. I grill my bacon. I've been roasting or mashing my potatoes. I made a stuffed trout wrapped in foil and baked it. No failures yet.

My biggest cooking success: bacon-wrapped goat button salad. Per a suggestion from Nick. I took a goat button, which is a small, soft goat cheese that we make, and wrapped it in streaky bacon (very similar to American bacon.) I stuck it under the broiler and cooked it until it started to brown. I turned it over and cooked the other side. It was incredible. The cheese turned molten. The fresh, warm goat cheese with the warm bacon with a light balsamic vinaigrette and crisp, cool butter lettuce combined into a phenomenal salad. It was so pretty I had to photograph it.

They eat pigs, don't they?
The English diet seems very Midwestern. It is a meat and potatoes diet. They eat a lot of pork and they drink a lot. Bacon is a common ingredient. One of the benefits of all this is featured at breakfast. A highlight of a traditional English breakfast is the fried bread. It's been fried in the drippings from the bacon and sausage. Lots of locals seem to make their own sausage. I like it. Nick's were great. Pork pies are a comfort food. Sausage and mash, or sausage rolls are popular meals. I don't eat a lot of pork back home. Bacon occasionally, spareribs twice a year. I've reached my quota over here and I've still got three more weeks to go. Oy!

Drinking age is 18 in the UK. All of the barmaids look to be 16. Pub life is English life. It is the community center. Almost every village has a pub. If the pub goes away, the social life of the village dies with it. According to Nick, when a village built their church, the builders would build the pub first, across the street from the church so they'd have a place to stay and socialize while the church was erected. It's true; there is always a pub across the street from the medieval churches. Pubs are not just for adults. Kids are often there with their parents. There are even plenty of pubs that are dog friendly. Perhaps it is the area. This is a big vacation destination, so the pubs cater to that crowd. I have yet to find cottage pie or bangers and mash on any pub menus. They usually feature local fish, local meats, and local produce. They even tout their local ice cream. Devon is a big dairy region, so this may explain the local ice creams.

There also seems to be a big "free food" movement locally. Nick is big on mushroom hunting. I think I mentioned the mushrooms he gave me last week. He keeps pointing out the prime spots to find chanterelles, ceps (porcini?), morels, oysters, and many other varieties. He's got them all sourced. His kids used to collect them, then sell the mushrooms to local restaurants. They'd make some good money each weekend. Right now the berries are everywhere, as are the nuts. It is almost game season, so I should be seeing more pheasant, grouse, and other game birds on the menu next week. Yum!

There is a downside: I keep hearing gunshots at night. I was scared out of my wits the other night. I imagined a strange hedgerow killer, shooting every ten minutes. One shot, pause, then another. I asked the guys about these things that bang in the night. Nick looked at me calmly and said, "rabbit hunters." I guess guys go out into the fields around here and shoot rabbits. There are often dressed rabbits in the window of the butcher in Totnes. Now I know where he got it. Poor Mopsy got unlucky and my neighbors shot him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Such wonderful descriptions. I hope you print them out as well. I feel as if I am there with you. And I loved the wicker woman. You'll have to read the story "The Wicker Man" which I read years and years ago. Very scary. I think it was also a movie.
All ok here. About 75 degrees; the pain has let up in intensity, now shooting pains occasionally instead of 24/7. Yesterday I was so depressed at the thought of this going on forever (it seems like that after 9 days) that I just couldn't function. Went to andronico's and bought some Everett and Jones Barbecue sauce and some calimari salad. By the time we got home, I just wasn't hungry so we put the roast chicken we bought into the fridge, I had another chicken turned into chicken soup with matzo balls, and we just ate a bare minimum meal and went to bed. Ian seems better today as the vertigo is releasing its grip on him. Old age is not an easy passage!
Dogs are fine, and we took Mercury and Nikki down to have nails trimmed at the vet this morning. Nikki emerged a nervous wreck, but at least she isn't tap dancing across the floors. She will be 9 years old this Sunday. Which is amazing, considering the rest of her line are all gone. So we are pleased she is in as good a shape as we think she is.
Ross walked the doggies last night; I am so grateful that we have neighbors like Wayne and Ginger, and our other neighbor, down the hill, Deeanne (they have Aucker, the australian shepherd) called to ask if she could do any shopping or anything for us. I thanked her, but we've done it all. I'll rest this afternoon.
Good, good writing SairBair. You are a natural.
Love, Mom