Boiled eggs. The ideal ending to a bluesy Sunday.
You are far too lazy and far too depressed to even consider cooking anything which requires more than three ingredients. Frankly, the idea is absurd. But thank you, thank you for eggs. Easy, simple, beautiful eggs. What could possibly tarnish these precious planetary orbs?
The term ‘dippy’ springs immediately to mind. Let’s have dippy eggs for supper. DIPPY? They are not stupid. They are bright and brilliant, eggsclamation mark. Thus, if you are one of those philistines who uses this derrogatroy label to describe your boiled eggs, I suggest you boil yourself and indeed your attitude along with your prospective dinner. Little sister, you have henceforth been publicly disgraced.
Of course, an egg, smart or dumb, is not an egg without soldiers. All in a row. With identical suits of black armour. It has to be my mate, marmite. For those who are too rich, too cultured, too “Rome daaarling” for poor man’s soldiers, spears of asparagus are the next best thing. Either way, these troopers are defenceless, doomed to a digestible fate. A fate which is inextricably linked to the consistency of the yolk. More fiercely debated than the philosophical question of ‘the-chicken-or-the-egg’, the correct method of boiling the perfect egg is hotly contested. It has become, courtesy of Delia Smith, an art.
Whether you are, by nature, hardcore, mellow or somewhere in between, we are all aiming for that ‘pierce-and-ooze’ quality that our brave little soldiers can paddle in. Step one is easy: water in pan. Boiling? Cold? The jury is out. What you are more concerned with is how to get those delicately suicidal eggs out of the fridge and into the pan all in one piece, without burning the skin off your fingertips. Spoon them in, roll them in, catapult them in but for goodness’ sake do not allow them to touch the metal bottom. The dubious crack that oozes white pus signals game over.
Two bald ovals bump and bubble like silly twins riding the dodgems.
Minutes on the clock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
Timing is everything.
So is the eating. The real question is, are you a Fisher or a Whittaker?
Egg eaters the world over will fall into one of these categories which relate to the method of attack used by my grandparents’ respective families.
If you are a Whittaker, like my grandfather, you will possess a merciless demeanor and a guillotine sharp knife. In the manner of The Queen of Hearts, Whittakers wield their blade with a firm hand and emit a bloodcurdling “Off With His Head” as their target is struck. A resounding crack of terracotta shell and it’s all over. Beheaded and bleeding sunshine, your victim awaits enemy invasion. Alas, your valiant soldiers meet a similar end, drowned in golden glue.
Or maybe, like my grandmother and the Fisher clan, you advocate a rather more nonviolent demonstration which does away completely with the savage knife. Instead, Fishers commission mirror shine spoons which skip happily to assistance. Concave meets concave. Gentle tap. Carefully and with love, Fishers peel the jigsaw pieces away to reveal a milky moon. A smooth edge sinks into pale skin with ease, uncovering the roof of a golden pool. Here, off duty soldiers bathe and melt in a snug jacuzzi, laid back, relaxed, perfect.
Whittaker or Fisher, we all mourn the empty, melancholy shell. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t manage it but you can. So, without hesitation, put Humpty Dumpty back together again with a condescending pout. Hurrah!
Scrambled. Poached. Boiled. Fried. Sunny-side up. Sunny-side down. Raw with meat. Chocolate and sweet.
The Mother Earth of Sweet.
Generalise if I may, it seems to me that the sexes are divided once again by chocolate. Men, for example, forever insist on cooling their precious bars in the fridge. Is this a bid to hide a secret habit that might cause emasculation or is it because, as they claim, chocolate is like revenge: best served cold? Whatever the reason, this behaviour is idiotic. Chocolate should be revered, respected. Chocolate belongs in the cozy cupboard next to the desperate times, desperate measures jar of Nutella that doubles as a drinking glass. After all, no household is truly complete without a cheerful mish-mash collection of Nutella glasses void, of course, of spoon hacked hazelnut traces.
The best chocolate is chocolate. Everything else is an imitation. That includes Bruce Bogtrotter chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate biscuits and chocolate ice cream. Don’t even get me started on the overwhelming disappointment that is hot chocolate. Give me a river of chocolate. Give me an ocean of melted cocoa. Do not give me warm brown water with sodden pink and white marshmallows bobbing amid islands of artificial cream that prides itself on being ‘squirty’.
Give me a bar. The bigger the better. Let me indulge, devour, polish off the whole lot in one sitting. An illicit slab of finders-keepers, all-mine, get-your-own cocoa ecstasy. Break off a triangular square of mouthwatering joy and like an alchemist, transform chocolate cubes into liquid gold. You are the protagonist of your own chocolate advert. Cue a close-up of sultry lips enveloping praline heaven while long-lashed lids melt shut in an expression of indulgence. Switch off your sense of sight to heighten the taste. Close your eyes, trust me. Honeyed taste buds will luxuriate even more as swirls of sweetness coat every inch of your mouth. Maximum gratification is attainable through savouring each and every chocolate chunk. That means lollipop sucking not chomp guzzle swallowing. If the latter occurs, it is advisable to relinquish the remaining mahogany block to its gold foil and purple paper.
Chocolate bars are selfish. Choc-boxes were created for sharing. This doesn’t mean, however, that you will be more inclined to generosity. Take, for example, the dinner party fiasco. The polite box of chocolates offered dutifully at the beginning of an insipid meal, largely surrendered in the hope that your hosts will return the favour at the end by laying the chocolate tray atop the wine stained table cloth. When it’s your turn to host, a subconscious battle rages within you throughout the duration of the meal, cunning plans reveal themselves to help postpone the awkward moment when the fleeting chocolate prize must be sacrificed: stall guests with coffee, ply them with heavy food, let the wine floweth, enthral them with riveting conversation, anything but chocolate. Keep them away from my chocolate. Then the inevitable: a satisfied pat on pregnant tummies, the leaning back in the chair, the irritating smack of indulged lips. Finally, the typically English suggestion-demand: “Oooooh, I wouldn’t say no to something sweet. Round that delicious meal off nicely”. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Need I say more? Acquiescent hosts give in at the first hurdle, while others will ignore the hint with a pedantic air, nose lifted ceilingwards, saving the treat for themselves.
Rounded cardboard corners are stroked lovingly then prised apart to reveal silky treasure, a pair of heart-shaped rubies glittering boisterously amid cadences of sepia: chestnut, coffee, beige and ebony, caramel, tan, hazel, mahogany. White chocolates join the growing list of extinct species while milk chocolates are hunted relentlessly but manage to endure to the bitter end. Camouflaged against safe black plastic, dark chocolates crouch tentatively, hoping to escape consumption until, like the unpopular schoolchild waiting to be picked for the team, all the best have been chosen. Never, since the introduction of Michelin starred restaurants, have menus been so diligently studied. Eager eyes peruse classic and exotic combinations in search of the perfect partner for their too-sweet tooth. Wrappers twist and sing only to be tossed recklessly in the direction of the rubbish bin. The lucky few bounce off the rim like a basketball and are recycled in a betting game between two competitors who both claim imperious authority in the AIM-SHOOT-SCORE department.
That joyful moment when the rejects are finally plucked from a near empty top layer, chomped hurriedly and swallowed alive, in the manner of Augustus Gloop, impatient to unveil the darkened under-layer. Alas, you’re too late. The sacred chest has already been plundered. This counts as a criminal act and should be punishable by law. The culprit should be subjected to eating the strawberry creams. Unless, of course, said culprit has a penchant for fruit flavoured chocolate. See below for more details.
Research has recently revealed that the secret of relationship longevity and happiness is directly proportional to the degree of opposing preferences in chocolate. Not sure if you and your partner are ‘meant for each other’? Complete this simple test. When you next find yourself in the Willy Wonka aisle of the supermarket, bypass the astronomical selection of chocolate on offer in favour of a lucky dip style packet. Orange, strawberry, coffee creams on one side. Nutty, caramel, raisin centres on the other. They say opposites attract. This could not be more applicable to harmonious chocolate sharing. If you’re an tangy orange cream, your ideal match would be a smooth caramel or a nutty nougat.
In the same way that binge drinkers and ‘social smokers’ meet their downfall on Friday nights, the resolve of chocolate addicts is tested to its limit at the petrol station check-out counter. One for the road.
Lessen the guilt. Go organic. Choose Green & Black’s.
Cinema Foyer. The scent of spun sugar and well trodden carpet permeates the claustrophobic space. Step up to the front of the queue. Reluctantly, you purchase your extortionately expensive tickets for the film whose name you have trouble recalling under pressure. You wait for the question that will ensure your dignity remains intact:
“Can I get you anything else?”
A pretence at unexpected consideration follows, littered with the customary ‘ummmms’ and ‘aaaaahs’ as you inspect the golden treasure that teases you through the sticky-hand glass. Refusal is out of the question. An affirmative nod stalls the usually adolescent attendant as you peruse the prices, furtively comparing them with the size of the paper bags.
A hushed deliberation between you and your guilty looking friend ensues. The debate is always the same. Medium or large? The large is only 30p more expensive, it’s ten times bigger than the medium, we don’t have to eat it all, popcorn really isn’t that bad for you, it’s like having a bowl of cornflakes…
“Okay, yes, we’ll have the (ahem) large popcorn please. To share. Obviously.”
The next part of the popcorn buying process can be quick-fire reply easy or compromisingly painful. This is entirely dependent on whom you have bestowed the honour of receiving the free counterpart of your precious ‘Orange Wednesday 241′ code. If life were fair, your friend would concede willingly to your decision to live on the wild side by combining sweet and savoury. Life, however, is not fair; a mantra drilled into you as a kid as a last ditch attempt to curtail a supermarket tantrum on the ‘I want one of those’ aisles.
“Sweet or salt?”
A jarring chorus delivered in unison cries: “SWALT!”
Raised eyebrows. The obligatory act of martyrdom fills the next minute or ten, then follows the breakthrough that gives compromise the cold shoulder.
“Make that two large popcorns, one salt, one sweet.”
You smugly decline the offer of the Coca-Cola that’s twice the size of your head; two more modest bottles of sugary fizz snuggle stealthily beside crumpled receipts and a phone that claims to be more intellectually advanced than Einstein.
Two tickets balance precariously on the yellow mountain and so begins the impossible task of surviving the journey into the womb-like depths of ‘Screen 3′ without allowing any bids for freedom or suicide attempts to take place. Those lucky or unlucky enough to escape digestion, jump ship and land safely before being stamped into gold dust.
Muscles melt into velvet darkness. A firm hand cuddles the bundle of golden crunch protectively to your chest, perching innocently on your lap like a happy child.
The first chosen few are scooped hurriedly into sweaty palms, the incongruent corners of each morsel hugging the other to form an edible jigsaw puzzle. Their siblings, nestled safely at the bottom of the bag, tremble in anticipation of their fate as appetites fluctuate and flounder.
Tastebuds delight at the miscreant piece of corn that dares individuality by dressing itself in a coat of clashing sugar or salt. Some take it too far and, having enjoyed the warmth of the oven for too long, sport an audacious black whose bitter aftertaste assumes residence at the back of your tongue.
Etiquette dictates the cessation of crunching amid the silent pauses between advertisements. Yes, that’s right, even if your mouth is full to bursting, your jaw locked around the gradually disintegrating corn and that bold speck lodged in your windpipe is threatening an embarrassing eruption of coughs. A collective inhale of breath lasts an eternity until earbusrting sound engulfs the night and stifles unappetising noises.
Before the opening scenes tumble into your field of vision, your half empty or full (delete as appropriate) bag has been demoted to the gummy floor and your tummy is grumbling in admonishment.
Good film. Should have got the small popcorn.
Do yourself a favour. Next time, just stay at home.
The best sandwiches you will ever taste are those made for you by someone else. This does not include shop bought sandwiches, even if the label boasts that the contents have been assembled ‘fresh and with love’. These sandwiches are shameful and should be sent to the head-teachers office.
Ideally, you want a sandwich that is made by someone you know well, even better by someone who you care about. Want to know if your feelings are reciprocated? It’s all in the sandwich. Appearances are crust deep and have no great significance, all of which is derived in the mouthwatering goodness of the flavour. Pay attention to the frequency and intensity of your involuntary ‘mmmmmmms’ of approval as you lift the bread from it’s cold and lettuce strewn resting plate, and attempt to stuff its entire contents into your too small mouth without choking. It is advisable to gently press the sandwich together in order to combine flavours and ensure minimum embarrassment.
Mayonnaise is not optional. It is, however, in both the sanwiches’ and your best interests to ensure that it remains glued to the interior confines of your bread of choice. White, brown, granary, wholemeal, stale, lightly toasted, warm from the oven, jeweled with sundried tomatoes and olives, half frozen, baguette, best of both. Whatever your choice, watch out for the rogue dollop of mayonnaise clinging to the corners of your crumb littered mouth. A paper napkin is customary.
The most important question when it comes to sandwiches is whether you want yours cut into…
… Squares or triangles?
Post your favourite, weird and wonderful, all time, sandwich combinations below.