Friday, 12th November, 2021

[Day 606]

Today was the day when our domestic help calls around and – as always- we have a good old natter over the obligatory cup of tea (which has become additional upon her arrival) As it happened, there was something that I wanted to have a word with our domestic help because I always trust her on all things culinary. I had put a little bit of last night’s homemade soup in one of those special, microwaveable beakers because I wanted the experience of her tastebuds to act as check on my own. As she is a great soup lover, we were exchanging recipes about the types of things that I might try out in the fullness of time.

The weather was competely indeterminate insofar as we could not work out whether it was raining hard enough to go down into town by car or not raining hard enough so that we could venture forth with a walk. Anyway, the question was determined for us by our University of Birmingham friend who wondered what our intentions were for the morning. We all quickly decided to rendez-vous in Waitrose where we had a cappucino and some teacakes – good on a wet and windy morning. There is an Asian member of staff who I know well and whose opinion I sought as to the most suitable type of curry/curry paste to tart up my root winter vegetables soup if I wanted to avoid the extra calories associated with a ‘korma’ cooking sauce. My Asian friend went on a quick tour of the shelves which are groaning under the weight of specialised spices and eventually chose one for me to try which is called ‘Baharat‘ which occording to the blurb on the tin was an ‘aromatic and peppery spice blend used in Middle Eastern inspired cooking’ which sounds as though it was going to be suitable. Moreover, you get a beautifil little tin in which the spice is held within a little plastic bag but I am sure I can find a use for the little tin afterwards. When I get home, I compared the ingredients wth by Bart’s version of ‘Curry Powder’ where there is about a 60%-70% overlap in the spices deployed in the mixture. So now I can try both and work out which gives me the flavour I want without the calories. Lunchtime is the by now traditional sea-bass which is incredibly fast both to cook and to serve. Basically, it is three minutes on the skin side, two minutes on the fleshy side, cooled with some capers and served on a bed of young sweet lettuce leaves. I am sure you would pay a fortune for this type of meal in a restaurant but we now enjoy it every single Friday. A bonus is that the entire meal only takes 5-6 minutes both to cook and to serve and we treated ourself to some Vinho Verde (Portuguese white wine from Aldi) whch seems the perfect accompaniment.

We decided to utilise some of our eating apples to have with our custard for an evening meal. They were delicious and I threw a few sultanas in to add a little extra spice to the overall mixture. This is another experiment which is well worth repeating and we also have some left over for another day.

In the early evening, we had a FaceTime call from one of our Hampshire friends who is in Florida visiting some of his wife’s relatives (his wife had died a few months ago but he is still contact with friends and family over there) We were regaling ourselves with the various problems we were having with banks on both sides of the Atlantic. In our friend’s case, of course, it becomes difficult to open an account if you are not an American citizen and basically, all such procedures require a form, signed by a notary, followed by more forms. Like us, he had been stuck in a bank trying to get a relatively simple procedure underatken but this required authoriation with code numbers and goodness knows what else. Like us, he had entered the bank at a particular time and left about 2½ hours later. We agreed to carry on discussions via FaceTime next week and there does seem to be difference in transmission speeds between Hampshire UK and Florida. By way of comparison, I am reminded when our son spent an academic year in a university in Mexico before he went to his university course in this country. Basically a letter took three weeks to get from the UK to Puebla in Mexico (the third largest city)and then a reply, even if written on the same day, took another three weeks to get back. This was the period in history when emails, although known about by the cognoscenti, were not in general use by the rest of the population. When modern technology delivers results like this across continents one can still only marvel.