As I’ve covered some fairly serious issues over the past few weeks – politics, the economy, bullfighting – it’s time for something a bit more light-hearted (and indulgent). In these times of crisis (OK, 0.1% growth is, at least, positive – only just, though), we need something to take our minds off recession, unemployment, chaos in Greece, and general economic gloom.
As I write this I am in thrall to various websites – AENA, NATS, Eurocontrol’s Twitter feed – to keep up-to-date as to the chances of taking my planned trip (boarding passes already printed and ready to go) to the UK this week, uncertainty caused by the reappearance of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. I am supposed to be flying the only day of the week the airline has its flight at a civilised hour. All carefully planned to create as little disruption as possible to the schedules of small children and seldom-visited elderly grandparents alike. All now in jeopardy. So that’s another good reason why I can’t be doing with any complicated topics today, I’m afraid. I’m worried and pissed off – and it hasn’t even happened yet. How silly is that? Apparently this dastardly ash situation may continue to cause havoc for the next two years, so I suppose we expats had better just get used to our visits back to the motherland being subject to circumstances beyond our control (she says, grinding her teeth).
So – let’s talk about food, one of my favourite subjects. Having two small children and living in the country, I don’t get to eat out as often as I’d prefer, especially compared to when I lived in the city, and popping out for tapas was dead easy. So I like to have a well-stocked fridge and storecupboards, with unusual and exotic (where possible) foods. Fresh passion fruit? Not always, but sometimes. Raspberries? Usually. Blueberries (make great baby food when stewed gently with bananas)? Often. Crunchy mixed sprouts? Sometimes. As I don’t eat meat, I consider these my little luxuries, for an interesting and varied diet. Along with plain chocolate with orange. A harassed mother needs chocolate. Can’t live without it. It keeps you sane, you see.
Other peculiarities that I’ve tried lately include korma sauce in a jar – wonderful in a tofu curry; Gu puddings – sheer heaven – no longer available, but fun while they lasted; and moussey cheese with herbs – great for the ultimate lazy pasta sauce, just add to cooked pasta and voila.
My biggest indulgence is sushi (El Corte Ingles and Carrefour), which is horribly expensive but oh-so-easy-and-healthy. Fast food which requires no preparation (a boon when the children still often need two separate meals), but doesn’t come with massive amounts of salt and fat, is so hard to come by that it’s worth the premium for a monthly treat. OK, fortnightly. (Prepared meals are something I try my best to avoid, but any working mother who says she makes all her own food for the family, including baby mush, is either a liar or a saint, and I am neither.)
What do I miss, and stock up on when back in the UK (weight limit allowing), or on the occasional trip to Morrisons in Gibraltar? Fruit cake, naughty chocolate biscuits, and fresh yummy puds and tarts that aren’t based around fake cream and egg (natilla? barf). Cadbury’s creme eggs (in season). Orange squash. Fancy spice pastes. Interesting crisps. Exotic dried fruit. Bagels (great toasted for teething babies to gnaw on).
Of course I could live without all of these, but life is just that bit nicer with extra goodies to brighten up one’s day. If southern European airspace is closed on the day of my flight, I will probably use up my entire stock of chocolate and fruit cake to console myself, and end up feeling quite sick, so that my physical state matches my mental one. OK, better go check those websites again.
By the way, if anyone else has any good food tips, on where to find hard-to-come-by culinary specialities, then I’d love to hear from you.