I loved that episode of “Ab Fab” in which the two girls try and cut down on expenses and so decide to give up having a driver. One day they decide to shop at the supermarket (http://www.episodeguide.us/absolutely-fabulous/poor/episode/36226/summary.html) and: “Supermarket shopping is a first-time experience for both women and they fill up three trolleys. By the time they reach the alcohol, Edina is exhausted and refuses to stick around and buy some. They steal a crate of champagne and go to Harvey Nichols, parking the car on the pavement outside where it is clamped. They continue to break more laws and are caught driving under the influence of alcohol by police. They end up in court and Edina faces a long list of charges. The charges of attempted murder and robbery are dropped. In total, Edina must pay £50,000 in damages and a further fine of £2,000. It appears that getting rid of her driver was a false economy…”
As I enjoy spending money when it solves problems and/or brings happiness, an expense which I like to call ‘investing’ money to distinguish it from its ugly cousin ‘wasting’ money, I am sometimes taken to task for being too ‘generous’ — which of course is just a criticism in disguise. I have learned to take it on the chin now and just shrug my shoulders but I have to admit that it really is hard work having to deal with people who are smug about not spending money, as opposed to spending money ‘judiciously’ (which is what I think I do). Despite the fact that no one would dream of associating me and ‘poverty consciousness’ in the same sentence, I too have had to find clever ways of making ends meet over the past few years, ever since the economy started playing hide and seek with us in 2008. I realise just how expensive feeding a family can be and count my blessings in being able to afford good food regularly. Those few time when I do find myself having to go to supermarkets (I started boycotting them after having read Felicity Lawrence’s “Not on the Label”, the corporations that own them are quite vile even though their wares might be good), it breaks my heart to see mostly immigrant individuals begging for a euro or two outside the entrance and I nearly always buy them something or other. This does little to assuage my sadness and guilt and anger over poverty … and makes me want to avoid supermarkets (in Italy even) more.
Anyway … back to the subject of good husbandry and thrift. I thought I’d do a clever act of buying only a few veggies and get rid of any leftovers in the fridge not so long ago, and swelled with inner pride at the thought of the money I would be saving that day. And so, on my way to driving home, I stopped at a veggie shop and went in to take a look …. and of course I immediately fell in love with the wild asparagus once I set eyes on it! Wild asparagus are nothing like the other kind and need to be foraged by people with attitude (it is a very time consuming and tiring enterprise), so they do not come cheap – that much I remembered. To be honest, I do not recall what else I bought … probably some tomatoes and potatoes and fruit. But boy do I remember the bill: Eu 27 ! I just smiled as I paid over the money and waited for change … I thought of the above-mentioned Ab Fab episode and realised that people like me are better off NOT trying to cut down on expenses: it is an exercise that all too often turns into a False Economy !
Here is the delightful bunch of wild asparagus. Unlike the other kinds of asparagus, these wild babies have very woody stalks, and you need a knife or sharp pair of scissors to cut them off. Here are the woody bits. However, they are not to be thrown away. They are excellent for making stock. I was using them, that evening, to make a pasta dish. After washing the woody bits … I put them on the boil. I let them boil for 15 minutes. Here, instead, are the more tender parts. To follow, are the other ingredients : I began by lightly cooking some garlic in olive oil (make sure the garlic does not brown). I chopped up the tomatoes and sprinkled salt directly over them.
I then set them to cook with the olive oil and garlic, on a low heat. After 15-20 mintues, I got rid of the asparagus which would have been inedible anyway … I grated some parmesan cheese …I added the tender parts of the asparagus to the saucepan …
But I kept the most tender parts, i.e. the tips of the asparagus, to add towards the end.
I cooked the asparagus for a few minutes, mixing well and making sure that it would get coated all over with the sauce, and then added a lid so that it would steam to completion. While the asparagus had been cooking, I was also cooking the pasta. When the pasta was one minute away from cooking time, I drained it and put it directly into the saucepan. I then added the tender tips … and finished cooking the dish until it was just right. On the table and still steaming … A shower of grated parmesan … and enjoy! P.S. Another extravagance …. peonies …. which I adore! Very good, really yummy.