Friday, March 27, 2015

A pleasant meal, then a ‘right-wing’ revelation: just how meaningless are such political labels? Totally meaningless, a complete waste of time and space or just more bloody twaddle??

Another meal. A triumph? Well, as I was the cook, I don’t know. It’s not for me to say. I enjoyed it, but then I can enjoy a nicely peeled orange, so I’m not the go-to guy an matters haute cuisine. I enjoy cooking - and given that I always stick to simple dishes rather than fancy shmancy stuff where the chances of coming unstuck increase exponentially, I really should describe my cooking more honestly as ‘preparing a meal’. And as ‘a meal’ is, as far as I am concerned as much about entertaining people (and I never entertain more than two others, three at a push, but never any more), chit-chat - some people call it conversation, others just call it chit-chat - and general enjoyment in the company of those whose company you enjoy as food, even going wrong - which I didn’t do today - doesn’t matter that much.

We had, to start, prawns gently heated in very thinly sliced garlic, a little tomato paste, smoked paprika and olive oil, accompanied by a small dish each of little gem lettuce, very thinly sliced onion and very thinly sliced radishes with a drizzle of olive oil. No great expense there, and no great culinary adventure - it’s just my take on ‘gambas al ajilo’ (prawns in garlic for those who, like me don’t ‘have’ Spanish) which is a bog-standard tapas dish. I substituted smoked paprika for the very chopped up red chillies which I use when I do it for myself because my stepmother, 78 the other day, can’t really take chillies to well. After that it was ‘fried herring with tartar sauce and roast potatoes’. Well, it seems now is not the time of year for herring so I got fresh sardines instead and I loved them. My stepmother wasn’t too fussed on them, but I don’t know why.

I chose that dish because I have never before attempted to make tartar sauce from scratch or, for that matter, mayonnaise on which it is based and I wanted to try. It isn’t rocket science as long as you don’t rush it. And I didn’t. Finally, we had meringue with whipped cream and fresh raspberries, something I chose because I have always wanted to try making meringue. Sadly I came unstuck Pflümli - the German version of slivovitz) and a raspberry liqueur which I found knocking around my stepmother’s kitchen, or in my case a glass or two of all three.

and my meringue wasn’t quite what you are usually served, but it tasted great. I don’t know where i went wrong, probably because the oven I put the meringue into was too hot. I don’t know. I’ll try again. After that black coffee and, in my case, double cream, there was a choice of Cointreau, plum brandy (in this case

Before the comrades all yell ‘you fucking plutocrat wanker’ and ‘it’s all right for some, you rich bloody bastard’, the only expensive ingredients of the meal were, arguably, the liqueurs though each bottle should last at least two years or more (seeing as booze doesn’t go off). But that’s the thing. I haven’t actually costed the meal but it most certainly didn’t break the bank.

My big bugbear and I speak as a guy who loves food (but is by no means a glutton or overweight) is that simple, home-prepared meals are not only tastier and better for you than almost all the pre-prepared, pre-cooked crap people buy, but at the end of the day a lot cheaper. I had to buy a kilo of fresh sardines, which set me back £7.50, but we only eat half of them, and the rest are in the fridge to be eaten another day. The tartar sauce consisted of four egg yolks, olive oil, a tablespoon of capers and two small gherkins. The meringue was made from the egg whites of the four eggs and a little sugar. The fresh raspberries were £3.

My stepmother’s guest was the potter Seth Cardew who I have gone to visit in Spain these past three years and who has invited me again to visit this summer. He used to have his pottery - Wenfordbridge pottery - just down the road. It was started by his father Michael Cardew. Seth is always good company, though he surprised me this afternoon by declaring he was ‘right-wing’. Well,

I for one would never have guessed, not in a million years, given that I, and I’m sure many reading this, tend to associate - rightly or wrongly, though I suspect rightly - ‘right-wingers’ as thick shits who don’t know the time of day. But that’s what he said, so I can only take him by his word.

His announcement led into a long discussion over ‘right-wingism’ and ‘left-wingism’ which I shan’t reproduce here except to repeat the assertion I made - and which I truly believe - that the terms ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. They describe nothing, they are utterly vacuous. They are about as useful in describing people as dividing folk up into ‘left-handers’ and ‘right-handers’ and treating the one group as ‘good’ and the other group as ‘bad’.

The two terms are, at the end of the day, meaningless (and I have not once in the years I have known Seth heard him make any off-colour pronouncement about anyone, not gays, Jews, foreigners, the ‘working class’ or morris dancers. Writing this - and smoking one of my cigars, while drinking a last coffee and one more glass of plum brandy - I am rather conscious of what some might think. OK, for some, might be the reaction. Well, you are dead wrong: for example the cigars - La Paz Wilde Cigarros - are bought on the net from a tobacconist in Holland at €13 - £9.50/$14.61 at today’s exchange rate - for 20. I smoke about four a week and a tin of 20 lasts me for over a month.

Compare that to the cost of 20 cigarettes: around £7/8 for 20 and some folk are on 40 a day. So let’s knock that one on the head. As for the liqueurs, the Cointreau - a half-litre bottle - cost me £12 and should last for more than two years: someone might go down the pub and spend around that on just over three pints. If he goes down the pub twice a week and is a cigarette smoker, who’s the moneybags, me or him?

I  cannot rid myself of a niggling feeling I am protesting too much, and some might even accuse me of that. But am I? Am I really? Britain, unfortunately, is still totally hung up on ‘them and us’. ‘We’ are appalled at the fact that the country now has food banks. ‘They’ don’t care about that. ‘We’ are apt to condemn ‘privilege’ and cite the fact the David Cameron ‘went to Eton’ as ‘proof’ that the man

is a completely unfeeling twat who doesn’t know how ‘the working man’ lives. ‘They’ - well, I don’t know what ‘they’ would say about that because I am neither ‘they’ nor ‘us’ (or, if you like and you have that kind of dull, logical brain which usually make conversation with you something of a chore, I am neither ‘us’ nor ‘they’).

One of the reasons I am glad that in many ways I am more German than British is that, for all their faults, and I’m sure some are queuing up to slag off ‘the Krauts’, the Germans don’t have these daft, boring, unproductive and essentially utterly meaningless class hang-up.

In Germany some smoke cigars, some don’t. Some like liqueurs, some don’t. Some would prefer their SDP to run the country, some are happier with the CDU or FDP. But an attitude they all share, even though they might disagree fundamentally on ‘how the country is run’, who ‘the bastards’ are and all the rest is that your ‘background’, ‘what school you went to’, ‘what your accent is’ and all the boring bloody rest of it is as important as whether or not flies fart too much and what to do about it.

This whole entry, apart from wanting to write about the - though I say so myself - very tasty meal we all enjoyed this afternoon - was essentially sparked off by Seth Cardew’s claim to be ‘right-wing’ and the subsequent discussion on what exactly being ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ actually mean. You might have gathered: in my view fuck all. They are meaningless terms.

Yes, we can disagree on various matters: whether or not Britain’s benefits system could be fairer or is being abused; whether there are ‘far too many immigrants’ (and in my view that is again a totally spurious concern, though anyone in the U.S. reading this might have definite views about whether the country’s five million odd ‘illegal immigrants’ should be granted citizenship - I’ll keep quiet on that one because I don’t live there and don’t know that much about it all, though I do know which way my heart beats and you might possibly even guess what I might say).

We might disagree on just how much should be spent on Britain’s ‘nuclear deterrent’, given that, with a bit of luck our nuclear weapons will never be used; we might disagree on whether

or not Britain should remain a member of the EU (and I think it should, though that EU is long overdue for a root and branch reform). But basing our evaluation of the other on whether they are ‘right-wing’, left-wing’, ‘centre’ or simply a ‘don’t know’ is a pointless waste of time. But the meal was good. There, I, the cook, said it. Modesty? I spit on modesty!

PS In my humble opinion, Seth, bless his cotton socks and whatever he might think, is about as ‘right-wing’ as the boot of my car. Furthermore, he’s a bloody good potter.

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