Posted by Tania Kindersley.
All right, I'm going to get it over with. It's like ripping off a plaster. The quicker the better. I was WRONG, wrong I tell you, about the American elections.
A kind reader graciously said I was half right, because I predicted the Dems would keep the Senate. But I did categorically say they would not have such a bad night as all the doom-mongers insisted, and in this I was incorrect. It was partly wishful thinking. It was partly that I could not believe that voters would bring back a party which had such a shocking record on jobs and the deficit, after only two years. I am not a fan of President Clinton, but the one thing he did do was leave a surplus. The Republicans took that and ran up a deficit of $1.2 TRILLION. In this country, if the party of fiscal probity and small government did that, they would be out of power for a generation. They could not just say oh well you know we are different now, and be back in the driver's seat after only 24 months.
My conclusion: I understand nothing. Back back back to the drawing board I go.
In order to take my mind off my own idiocy I spent the morning doing practical things. I am going away for a while, and I decided to fill up my mother's freezer before I left. So, there was cooking. I may know nothing of the whims of an electorate, but I damn well know how to make soup. In times of confusion, I like to return to first principles.
Today I chose a soothing courgette soup. I used a little onion, some courgettes, a leek, and a handful of watercress at the end to give it greenness and pizazz. I whizzed it all up in the blender with a dash of olive oil, for flavour and velvet texture, and a spoonful of Marigold bouillon powder because I had no chicken stock, and there it was.
Then I did the famous soda bread. I admit that it is famous only in the confines of my own mind, but still. I have given several different recipes for this, because I like to play around with it. Lately, I had come to the conclusion that the secret was to use half white flour, so that it would not come out too heavy. The danger with soda bread is that it becomes so dense that it turns out like that loaf in About A Boy, with which the enchanting Nicholas Hoult actually kills a duck. There will be no duck-killing in my house.
However, today there was no white bread flour in the cupboard, which slightly ruins any pretensions I have to be a domestic goddess. I could not be fagged to go to the shop, so instead I used a combination of two different kinds of wholemeal flour, a dash of pinhead oatmeal, just for kicks, and some fine oatmeal. Then just the usual thing of a big pinch of salt, a teaspoon of bicarb, a tablespoon of yoghurt, and enough water to bind it. I fashioned the mixture into little rolls, because that will be easier for the mother to defrost, and cooked for about eighteen minutes instead of the usual twenty-five. I have to admit that while I may be an abject failure when it comes to political prognostication, I am a champion when it comes to soda bread. The little rolls were perfect circles of heaven, and some of my battered confidence returned.
Finally, there was a purist's tomato sauce. There are as many different recipes for tomato sauce as there are cooks, and it seems almost gratuitous to give my own. Also, it is so simple it hardly counts as a recipe. I like it so plain it is almost austere. It is just: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, chilli and salt.
Today I took three different kinds of tomato: plum, vine and those little bright scarlet baby ones. I chopped them roughly and cooked them in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat for about fifteen minutes until they had reduced to mush. I added a pinch of chilli and three crushed garlic cloves and cooked for another five minutes. Then I realised I had no basil, which is what I would usually add at this stage. But luckily, the dear old marjoram outside my door is still bashing on, despite the coming of the frosts.
So I took a good handful of that:
Chopped it finely with a big old knife, and threw it in:
A couple more minutes, and the thing was done:
Still in practical mode, I took all my old boxes and rubbish down to the incinerator. As I was hurling in huge cardboard things, mostly saying FINE WINES - THIS WAY UP, I bumped into a very nice gentleman. We proved we were British by making conversation about the weather.
Then I took all the food up to my mother.
'Oh, darling,' she said. 'How lovely. Is that flour on your face?'
Back in the car, with the dear old Jayhawks blasting away at full volume, I looked in the rear view mirror. Sure enough, a huge smudge of flour covered my left cheek. So much for impressing the nice incinerator fellow with my sparkling remarks about the autumn sunshine.
A quick glimpse of the two creatures who gaze at me adoringly no matter what I have on my face, and then I am gone: