Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Anchor Inn and tomatoes

Evenings out have been few and far between since Husband and I had the kids. In fact, even the wedding got put off, twice, by each of them respectively, so that in the end getting married was really almost about having a night out. But this weekend was out first wedding anniversary, and we went OUT out. Admittedly, I was nor expecting wonders of the local hostelries. But I reckoned without a little local gem at Sutton Gault, The Anchor Inn. I won't be reviewing often, and I won't be going out often, but if I go out again this year, I will try to go out to Sutton Gault.

As I go out rarely, when I go out I want maximum entertainment for my pound. Nowdays this does not mean what it did in my youth (when it would mean all manner of wonders and weirdness,in London, invited and univited), but an entirely different thing. I want, on my child free evening out, no children. I want good food, and I want it a bit fussy, the sort of fussy I can't be bothered to do. I want meat I rarely cook, wine I rarely buy, and a nice setting with good beer on tap.

The Anchor Inn is perched on a drove road between Chatteris and Sutton. It presides over the river Bedford, aka as the 100 foot drain. In its' Fen incarnation, straight as a die and contained as far as the eye can see, it is Vermuyden's vision incarnate, although he probably wasn't holding the big glass of rose wine I was. The pub garden is riverside and offers a Fen view which is as pleasing as it is unusual. I sat and sipped my wine and watched the sun go down, and pondered the menu, which was extensive, and not (too) expensive. I settled on the duck, husband had pork. The duck was as perfect as I could have wanted it, just the right side of rare and beautifully presented with gorgeous gravy, or jus or whatever and a potato cake of the sort I cannot make. And in a generous portion that didn't leave you feeling short changed. We ate, and drank, and it was all, very, very good indeed, and the service impeccable (even removing a wasp from us as it blundered into our meal, and locating a rare taxi back). I urge you to visit, but book, it's busy!

Oh, and tomatoes. FINALLY, they are coming, and the best ones are yellow. Here they are, in a bowl, while I figure out DOF on my swanky new camera.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Nursery rhyme correctness and grills.

I recently found a copy of Ladybirds nursery rhymes for daughter. This is ideal, because she likes anything gruesome, dead-ish and messy. This book was published in the years of full glory, when nursery rhymes were still violent, crazed, misogynist, and fun. As an ex-history teacher (although please let me back one day, please), I love how so many of them are basically a history story.

Take "Mary Mary". Poor Mary Stuart. Piggy eyed, despised by her dad, her mum shucked off like a cloak for some strumpet, and so, so desperate for an heir and baby she went through false pregnancies. Took her mind off burning people. I do feel for her though, shut up with an ostracised mother for her youth, only allowed back to court on the understanding that she accept her fathers rule and attitude to her mother. Brave, in many ways, to stick to her Catholocism. But not, by any measure, popular once she DID get the throne by dint of Edward dying. So the rhyme shows us: Mary Mary quite Contrary (Mary, why the flip are you burning everyone, leave it out!) How does your garden grow? (And anyway, what's wrong with you? Pop one out you barren cow) With Silver Bells and Cockleshells (Spend less time at Catholic church (silver bells) and sort your husband (Philip of Spain) out, he's cockleshelling all over the place but not on you) OR (silver bells was a nickname for thumbscrews, and cockle shells was a nick name else screws), and Pretty maids all in a row (reference to many miscarriages she went through). So, when I hear it, I feel sort of sorry for her, even though she was quite clearly a crazy woman. This illustration makes it clear it's about her.

And h0w about this. This charming illustration, showing a woman with a machine (!) for whipping her kids' bums. How amazing. Can you imagine this being in a book today? I love it. I like to think of that woman going "go on! Hurry up! Get the soup down yer, whup, and into bed, so I can have me wine!" Originally, this was about Queen Caroline/ King George, who had 8 children. George began the fashion of white wigs and was often referred to as the "old woman". The notion of whipping may be pointed too: the children referred to in the rhyme were the Members of Parliament, who needed to be "whipped" (not least because they were trying to dethrone him half the time), and we still have whips today to keep politicians on the party line.

And look at this for extreme violence for kids. This poor old soul being thrown head first over the bannisters.This dates from the Civil War, where "left footers" (Catholics) were prosecuted by the Cromwellian rule, and refers to sniffing out Catholics from their priest holes and dragging them off to justice, or, just throwing them down the stairs.
Finally, did you know that "Mary had a little lamb" was the first thing Edison said over his phone? They're deep in there, those rhymes. And the Grills bit? Husband had his first day out catering at the Skylark Showground. It went very well, you can see some photos on my Flickr stream. Another event booked for September, soon we will be barbecue millionaires.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Bubba Grills, Barbecue and motorbikes

Well, I've been making up 1000 portions of hot barbecue sauce for this weekend as husband road tests his Bubba Grill at the International Motorbike Festival at the Skylark showground this weekend. It's been all action stations on the Boston Bean and Pulled Pork front. I am just crossing my fingers and hoping the rain holds off, so the bikers can enjoy, hopefully to our full economic joy, husbands ribs, pulled pork and beans.

There's been a lot of interest in the kit. Men have randomly stopped and asked about it as they've seen it, Americans from the local area have stopped by to admire it. Bubba in the USA is cool, and Jamie Oliver saw them for his last book. Husband visited to learn their arcane barbecue arts, and now we are all stations go! It's a barbecue X10. I just hope we break even for a first venture. And man, my chilli sauce is HOT!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

half arsed politics and combining

I have really gone off the boil, politics wise. I was pondering why, and it hit me: I can't face watching the news because it's too like the 80's, it seems like a replay and I don't want to watch it. I can't be alone in this. I am filled with apathy: when I should be geting angry and waving placards. It will come, doubtless.

And on a similar bent, at least, about the possible futures/pasts, I have been waxing lyrical about harvest, as the combines chug up and down outside my back garden. And it made me search out this poem by Edwin Muir, about the one-day return of the horse, machines abandoned.

Barely a twelvemonth after

The seven days war that put the world to sleep,

Late in the evening the strange horses came.

By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs ; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter,
Nothing. the radios dumb;
And still they stand in our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its' children quick
at one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep
Curled blindly in its' impenetrable sorrow
And the thought confounds us with its' strangeness.
The Tractors lie about our fields; at evening
they look like dank sea monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust;
"They'll moulder away and be like other loam"

We make oxen drag our rusty plough
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers land.
And then, that evening

Late in the Summer the strange horses came.

We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming, it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet, they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long lost archaic companionship.
In the first moments we had never a thought
that they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then, they have pulled our ploughs and bourne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed, their coming our beginning.

I just cry at this. It says more than I can, you get it.

straight backstitch, berries, spice,kindness and chickens

Well, lacking a sewing machine, and not wanting to fall back on drinking huge quantities of wine in the evenings in the absence of anything good on telly, I decided to start on son's quilt anyway. I chopped the material into 20X20 squares and 20X40 rectangles. No silly little bits this time. This quilt will be a super fast quilt, and an opportunity to practice sewing in straight lines. Plus, the material is really the star for him, all dinosaurs and airplanes, so lots showing is what he wants. I will get all fiddly with the quilting and binding, after all. Chopped up, I patterned it all out into one rectangle by 2 squares for each (big) block and commenced. My backstitch is now getting very tiny and straight: i'm pleased with it. And the blocks look nice anyway, even though they are big. I am doing 1 or 2 an evening and popping one in my bag for when the kida are busy at the park. So it might get done before Winter.

And then I started baking, or tried to, with the huge glut of blackberries we have. 25 bags in the freezer so far. I haven't found one cobbler recipe I like for them, they all seem to come out stodgy, but this could be the fault of my heavy hands, again. So crumble it is. Nobody else likes it, but I do, so soon I will be fat as well as balding.

As for the week of cooking 70's, it ended badly, with me yearning for spice and chillies. Everything was so bland, and whilst the kids can eat endless potat/cheese based meals, I cannot. I drew the line at a recipe that required spaghetti hoops from a can, and leapt into the arms of Rick Stein for his yummy malaysian broth, searing the roof of my mouth with chillis and making the kids cry. Mee Goreng tonight. Although it is VERY hard to source galangal in the Fens. Garlic is something they use to scare off vampires, the more exotic ingrediants simply don't get up here. Luckily, husband has a Chinese supermarket next to him when he goes to London.
And beautifully, a super act of kindness from a fellow set of Fenland bloggers. The kind lady here , Tina, rang me today to say that she has found a sewing machine for me, and I am overcome that someone who hasn't met me has been so kind! There are other ladies here in the Fens who are conspiring to get me sewing as an obsession, and I thank them. They are all too talented, they may have to show me how to thread the machine, let alone actually use it. you can visit their pages here to see their skills. I am not sure how to make the links look tidier.
And lastly, the coop is up and treated, the run is on its' way, and the chicken breeder sourced. In a fortnight, we will have our chooks. I have been reading up on redmite, lice, foxes, and the propensity of chickens to die, and frightening myself, but the kids will be sanguine should they kark it, I am sure.