Slutty Spaghetti, and Other Stories

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Ack. That’s the only word to use to describe the last few days. Work has been terribly, terribly busy, and even this, my half day off, is turning out to be something of a tricky one. But anyway. I’ve made some serious progress on the domestic goddess front. For instance, I have learnt that there is in fact a right and wrong way to cook pasta, and rice. There ought to be a cup of rice to two cups of water when cooking. And on Wednesday I’m planning on making muffins or cookies, and something nice from the Nigella Lawson Kitchen book. It’s turning into a necessary part of the day. I think my Mum is enjoying all the cooking.

I rather want to make white chocolate and raspberry muffins. The trouble is, I haven’t got a recipe that doesn’t make me want to cry. If anyone has any recipes that are tried and tested, I’d be most appreciative!

Something else I tried last week; Slutty Spaghetti, or Spaghetti Puttanesca. I think the Slutty Spaghetti nickname has more of a ring to it than the latter, but there we go. The sauce was perfect, and the bitterness of the capers seemed to counteract the building heat of the chilli flakes. It wasn’t that difficult to make either, although the smell of fresh garlic is rather pervasive, and lasts for days afterwards. I think that might just be a kind of homely smell; the smell of home cooking, and not using powdered garlic. In culinary terms, it seems that garlic powder is akin to devil worship.

Because I have a house now, I will be able to put little plant pots on the window sill, or on the patio (it’s really odd, knowing you have your own patio, complete with furniture), and grow little fresh herbs. I draw the line at growing vegetables (I don’t like mud, and gardening, and I like having clean fingernails), but I like the idea of growing herbs.

I think I might try cooking some kind of chicken dish this week, or fish. Rick Stein has some excellent fish recipes, and I might see if I can make a decent jambalaya. I think my family would quite enjoy that, and I think my housemates will enjoy it, too. Y’know, as long as I don’t set fire to a griddle pan, or make the microwave explode. Whilst these things sound a little far-fetched to the normal, adult person, it’s all entirely possible if I happen to set food in the kitchen. This is because my clumsiness knows no bounds; just yesterday, I was carrying hot food at work, and my napkin slipped, and as I caught the dish, I touched a pan that had just come from under a red-hot grill. I seared my thumb, and I have a little blister for my trouble.

There’s little news from the literary sphere from me, at the moment, because I’ve been caught up in the wonders of domesticity, and learning things about cooking, and lifestyle. So that’s what might be cropping up more often on here; perhaps there’s a food blogger in me yet!

(:

(1) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_KznaiPtvdRw/TMW_KSx14gI/AAAAAAAAAMs/ZOHD_OrJeG4/s1600/Kitchen+Nigella+Lawson.jpg

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Sarah Alice Becomes a Domestic Goddess

 

Lately, I’ve decided that due to my new house, and to a certain extent, my Mum goading me into learning how to cook, I will have one of those houses that is always full of people, and food. I’m not an amazing cook; see the episode with the brownies. But with a degree of vigour, I decided to make learning some recipes into nothing short of a revision session; note writing, studying. Like I would study for an exam.

And so, like any British woman in times of great culinary trouble, I called on the services of Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. I now own a wonderful volume called ‘How to Cook’, written by Delia Smith. And Delia Smith is my new domestic inspiration. She honestly has me believing that with a turn of the hand, I could summon up a casual three course dinner for eight people with homemade chutneys and apertifs to follow. The power of the woman is simple unbelievable.

Nigella Lawson as well, is just as inspiring. She doesn’t exude the same wholesome air as Delia, but she gives of a kind of naughty aura, as though cooking can be rebellious and exciting. I suppose that she wasn’t christened the queen of food porn for nothing. I always thought that this was more to do with her love of silk dressing gowns, as opposed to anything else, but I’m starting to think the connection here between food and sensuality extends beyond her choice of nightwear.

I’ve also been caught on several occasions lately scouring shops for place-mat sets and coasters (I’m happy to announce that I’ve found the perfect set). I seem to enjoy searching the internet for casserole dishes, something I never realised was a necessity. But according to the biblical writings of Delia, Nigella and Nigel, I think I’ll have to invest in one specially for my ventures into the culinary sphere.

I look like this everyday whilst I’m preparing dinner. (1)

So, last week, all this inspiration was going admirably, I was plodding on with my learning, and planning grown up dinners, and learning recipes for things like aromatic shoulders of pork. And then the unthinkable happened. I was struck down, (and down I did fall), with some kind of horrible stomach complaint. Everything hurt; the sides of my tummy were agonisingly painful, and the space between the bottom of my ribcage and my bellybutton felt horribly full, for want of a better word. I spent much of the morning facing the bottom of the toilet bowl. And after a distressing trip to the doctors, I had a shot of whatever they give you to halt the spontaneous volcanic eruptions, and things improved slightly.

However, all the resultant lying around in bed gave me plenty of time to ponder casserole dishes, and chocolate rum cake. And once I started feeling better a couple of days ago, I continued on my mission until I needed to take another nap, or eat another dry cracker. Which happened every two minutes. But then again, I suppose the path to perfection never ran smoothly.

(:

(1) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/21/article-1322394-0BAEDB03000005DC-542_468x376.jpg

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Cooking May Never Be My Forte

Food is one of the key ingredients to life, however most of us in the Western world spend a fairly large portion of our lives wondering about food. It’s nutritional value, whether we eat too much, or too little, or whether we ought to follow a diet. Food impacts our lives in such a massive way, and it contributes to whether we are larger or smaller, slim, or curved. In the image crazed world in which we live, food underpins the way we all feed about ourselves, whether we’d like it to or not.

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I am admittedly, a dreadful cook. Examples of my culinary expertise have been discussed in previous posts, purely because they provide the basis for so many amusing stories. I’m a legend in my house, because of my ability to burn everything, including peas, of all things. I’d like to note that I’ve been compelled to improve though, because I didn’t want to starve at university. I have got much better, although my use of the hob unsupervised is still prohibited, because, and I quote “We don’t want to be burnt to death…”.

Food is one of my favourite things, and it’s one of the reason’s I’d love to live in a big city one day; there’s always a huge range of choice, and many varieties of cuisine to be tested. I love to be adventurous with food, and I love spicy things, especially. I also thoroughly enjoy fish, in particular, sushi. I’m not a fan of the one with the omelette on though; I’m not quite sure why, really.

Eating in posh restaurants however is a minefield of its own; the more hyped up the restaurant, the more pretentious the food, and inevitably, something called “jus” winds up on the place, usually next to a teaspoon full of mashed potato. Cep jus is by far the worst of the “jus'”, because it looks like spittle. And it’s thoroughly unappetizing, in my opinion at least.

However, I’m not a food snob, at all. I’m perfectly happy with sausage and chips. I just like eating fancy things sometimes too, possibly because my parents are excellent at cooking. By far the best thing about coming home is eating my Mum’s cooking again. She says I could cook the same things, however the problem is I couldn’t; I couldn’t make it taste as she does, and I think it’s something to do with having your dinner cooked for you, by your Mum.

(:

(1) http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman8657l.jpg

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University Life Collides With Reality

Monday morning has arrived again, with the same reluctant manner as usual; a busy week, dominated by revision, essay hand ins, and lectures. However it is the last morning of term, which does provide a modicum of relief. The next Monday will be spent shopping, and the Monday after that will be spent at work; a return to the working world, to my job, back at home. Home and work feels remarkably different to university life; a person goes through a whole adjustment phase, every time they move back to the place they came from. It’s a constant movement, and a person is constantly in flux, preparing to move.

This form of nomadic lifestyle is at best, confusing; by the time one has adapted to living on campus properly, it is time to start looking for a house for the second year; this is done working on presumptions such as your friends will remain the same as they were last year, and you will pass the year, in order to progress onto the next one. Location is central to where a person wants to live. Near campus, or in town; in a village, or in a nearby city. Transport costs have to be taken into account; are lectures within walking distance of the house, or will you have to take the bus in? This is all fundamental to choosing a nice house, and when you’ve found a house that is acceptable, whether you can put the deposit down before anybody else gets to it first. (1)

Anyway, I’m preparing for my next trip home; I’m incredibly excited, because I simply cannot wait to see my Mum and Dad again; three months pass by, where I have to do my own washing and cook my own food; the magnitude of this is unrecognisable, until you have to actually do it, yourself. I have a flatmate who had never used a washing machine before, and to the day, we haven’t seen him cook. Life skills are learnt in a crash course of university life, ironically in the same week as Freshers. During Freshers, we have one priority: meet people, make friends, form bonds. The second priority is how many parties can be crammed into one week, or in our case, into two. It’s possibly one of the most turbulent periods of anyone’s life; all routine is poured down the drain in favour of partying.

Once you get over this particular period however, you can start to recognise opportunities; employability courses, endless societies, cheap gym membership. University offers far more than a bar full of cheap liquor, and offers access to people from all walks of life, people whose research is quite literally at the forefront of their fields. That is an extremely unique opportunity to have. Those who remain as drunkards on campus for a year tend to fall behind, at some point, whilst the rest of us sit in our rooms, at our desks, and ponder what on earth will happen, when we have to leave the safety, of the bubble. I mean, we might have to get a job, and everything.

(:

(1) http://thebackpew.com/backpew/images/lordsaveme.jpg (Credit to Jeff Larson)

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An Overheated Evening In Hell’s Kitchen

So this evening has been eventful, on the basis that firstly, I did lots of work, and finished a presentation. And secondly, because I caused a small pan fire, in the kitchen. Which obviously is not good for the health of a flat, one’s flatmates, or oneself.

Now, you might be wondering how such a magnificently daft feat was achieved, and the only answer I have is that apparently, frozen peas into hot oil causes something of a combustion type effect. However, previous to the frying pan fire, I didn’t realise this, and so when I borrowed my flatmates hot pan to save on the endless pile of washing up, I didn’t quite realise what might follow. However, when I put the peas in, and immediately afterwards, two foot high flames rose into the air, I thought this might be a rather flammable concoction.

A recreation of this evening's events. (1)

As the flames licked upwards, towards the plastic overhang of the extractor fan, I stood there like a rabbit caught in headlights. In fact, I stood there looking profoundly more useless, because I just didn’t know what to do. I’ve never had a pan fire before. Now we know however, that unless it burns out, then a damp tea-towel will (hopefully) prevent your university allocated accommodation from becoming a small pile of cinders, on the floor.

When I phoned my lovely mum to tell her about this, she was both amused and exasperated I think. My dad was less amused; he expressed this by saying “Sarah, I worry you’re going to set fire to yourself, or somebody else one day soon.” I reassured him that it was okay, and that I have learnt, and from this day forth, I shall never put water into hot oil, ever again. I really should have revised basic combustion before bravely attempting to tackle the frying pan and hot hob combination.

And that, dear reader, is my contribution to describing the life of a university student for the day. Now, frankly, I advise you to take heed of these wonderful words of wisdom:

Hot oil + water = two foot high flames.

Ah, university. An endless learning experience.

(:

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/9151.preview.jpg

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Sailing Through Campus

So here we are. I am quite literally, sat outside a lecture theatre forty-five minutes early purely because it’s raining so hard that walking home will turn me into a water storage unit. And to cap it all off, I’d have to walk all the way back too. The prognosis for the week is not looking much improved either; it’s set to continue in this diabolical fashion for some time, which leads me to wonder how on earth I’m going to survive the twenty-five minute walk to town this evening for my philosophy reading group, without drowning on the way. Six centimeters of rain is expected, most of which will try to embed itself in the fabric of my jeans, in my hair, and in my socks. That’s what living on the south coast will do for a person.

However, I’m thinking of taking up sailing next semester; I think it’ll be one of those healthy and wonderful activities, which “blow away the cobwebs” and give your skin that slightly sunburnt look. It’ll be a companionable way to spend a Saturday, instead of lying around in bed, making supernoodles, and planning how to spend your ten pounds in such a way that allows you to do a ten bar crawl around town. It’s a mathematical mystery if there ever was one. However, I think sailing would be a much more productive use of both time and money; it might even become a valuable life skill.

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There are a number of problems I shall have to overcome first though; firstly, a lack of boating apparel, something which in all reality, shouldn’t be too difficult, since I live in a seaside town, which has all manner of weatherproof jackets and boat shoes a mere fifteen minute walk away. The second problem is that really, I don’t like boats. I get terrifically seasick. Ferries render me a nervous wreck. I think I may have to take a “mind over matter” approach and hope that the sea isn’t too bumpy; it’s slightly alarming, having absolutely no idea what lies beneath you in the water, and being so very alone (with the exception of a flat-mate and some friends) on the open sea. We’ve all seen Titanic.

I’ve only really been sailing a few times in my life, and on all occasions, I was the captain: the captain of the cheese sandwiches and strange tasting boat tea. I prepared all manner of refreshments, but in practice, had no real contribution to the actual sailing of the vessel. I liked sailing because I got to sit in the sunshine and float about a little bit, and then come home and have a warm shower with the classic “wind-swept” look. It’s not quite the same though, when you live alone. Things don’t really “happen”; dinner, much to my horror, doesn’t prepare itself, and if you wish to eat, you not only have to cook, but actually buy ingredients all by yourself. I’ll have to buy the bread and cheese for the cheese sandwiches, as well as make them.

All in all, I think sailing may be a bit of a learning curve. I think it’ll be worth it though, especially since I get to go with friends, and maybe this time, I’ll be allowed some navigational capacity. So… I’ll update you when we end up in a Spanish port on the north coast, as opposed to the Isle of Wight.

(:

(1) http://www.anniebees.com/Tahiti/images/Bora%20Sailboat%20Sunset.jpg

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I Love the Traditional Christmas Dinner

As far as dinner with my beautiful flat-mates goes, yesterday’s Christmas dinner was nothing short of phenomenal. Out table heaved, our stomachs stretched, and we all changed into stretchy trousers and baggy t-shirts. This bounteous feast included roast beef, pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrot and swede mash, apple and onion infused red cabbage, steamed sprouts and broccoli, bread sauce, onion gravy, and finally cranberry sauce. It was excellent, an amalgamation of all that is the British Sunday roast and/or Christmas dinner. We ate until we could eat no more. And then we took a quick break to do some washing up, and came back for the Christmas pudding, chocolate gateaux, mince pies, and brandy sauce.

The British ability to munch through a feast of this magnitude took me aback last night; I usually try to avoid feeling vaguely nauseous when I eat, but last night, in view of this fantastic feast, I felt it was more of a pain barrier that once pushed through, would never again affect me. Obviously this was not true, but it was amazing nonetheless; why do we seem to feel it’s appropriate to resemble the stuffed turkey after eating on Christmas? I’m fairly sure that according to the Biblical tale, there were no pigs in blankets or red cabbages on the table.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the embracing of tradition. I’ve always liked things to have some root, and some meaning behind them, perhaps due to my perception of the world, and somewhere along the line, it probably has something to do with my capacity as an English student. We seem to have a running tradition of relating everything back to English studies in my flat, the joke being “it’s cause you study English”. I’m even more looking forwards to making a big bubble and squeak to use up all those vegetables, with poached eggs and bacon later.

It’s been the first Christmas dinner of the season, and probably the largest. On Christmas day I shall have to waddle into work immediately after, so smaller portions may be a prudent action. However, the turkey will be succulent, and I shall simply content myself to wobble around all day, and being very happy about it indeed.

And so Christmas begins… Merry Christmas!

(:

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