It is not by coincidence that I called this blog ‘my’ home food …’my’ home is subject to two very great irritants for any self respecting maker of good home-cooked meals: short notice and a short time frame – and this tends to make ‘my’ meals not quite mainstream, not quite kosher, not quite traditional. Nobody seems to mind, I have to say, but many do complain that I cook too many dishes or too much food.
Little do they realise that this is my only way of ‘coping’.
When I am not rushed, when I have ‘proper’ time to organize myself, when I am allowed to cook in peace instead of (a) having to spend half the time on the telephone or (b) being interrupted by a neighbour with a query about a matter of some importance or (c) by my dinner guests whom I love naturally but who, likewise naturally, engage me in conversation so I can’t concentrate on cooking … you get the drift … well, then, under those former circumstances my meals are indeed very nice, very proper (not too much nor too little food) and just right. I think this happens about three times a year …
The rest of the time, I ‘plan’ (ha ha) on inviting so-and-so and think that such-and-such a menu will work out fine … and then on the day, somebody else features into the equation and this somebody is either allergic to my planned menu or hates the stuff and so I have to add something else. I plan for 6 people and the next thing I know it’s going to end up being 10. I kid you not … in some respects it’s like running a mini restaurant.
Even within the immediate 4-people family unit of ours, for instance, I have very often cooked two or even three meals in one go. Daughter hates mushrooms and couscous and polenta and loves spinach and artichokes. Son hates spinach and artichokes and loves mushrooms and polenta. Daughter loves nearly all fish, son hates nearly all fish. Daughter used to prefer tomato-based pasta sauces, son used to prefer ‘white’, i.e. non tomato-based pasta sauces.
Darling husband loves every thing and is always a pleasure to cook for.
And then there are people who are on a diet … so it’s nearly always a case of ‘no fats’ or ‘no carbohydrates’. Shall I or shall I not make pasta can keep me awake all night at times. The amount of olive oil I use is not a problem … I just don’t tell people how much I actually use and everyone is happy.
But all this can be very stressful on occasion. One works very hard all day at something important and fulfilling and the dinner is supposed to be the moment to celebrate it all, so it is very easy to get one’s knickers in a twist and ruin things. And THAT is when one simply must remember Zorba. Zorba the Greek. Famous novel by Nikos Kazantzakis turned into a very famous film starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates.
When Zorba is asked by his young English friend whether he is married, this is what he answers:
“Am I not a man? And is not a man stupid? I’m a man. So I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe.”
And at the very end of the novel and film …a business partnership that these two set up by way of a lignite mine goes terribly wrong, a real fiasco on the very day of its launching. And Zorba, bless him, instead of wringing his hands and tearing his heart out … well, he starts laughing and clapping his hands and saying,
“What a beautiful Catastrophe!”.
And that is what comes to mind in the kitchen very often when I don’t know what I am doing, cooking bits and pieces that seemingly make no sense. I remind myself that in the end, it is the friendship that matters and that any ‘mistake’ is simply a ‘beautiful catastrophe’ !
I shall be giving you a few examples of ‘beautiful’ catastrophes over the next few days …
On the above occasion, for instance, one of my esteemed guests didn’t like roast lamb. Which was my pièce de résistance that evening …
What a beautiful catastrophe …! he ended up eating it any way and saying it actually wasn’t too bad … and I had had enough wine by then to not worry about it too much!