Worry not gentle readers (if any there be), the continuing saga of TSB and fear will continue shortly, but contemporaneous events have delayed the final publication of the last two parts.
I blame my Beloved.
My family have always prided ourselves on our robust digestive systems.
Many are the times I've seen my Dad consume vast amounts of Haggis and Whisky with no obvious ill effects. If the meat in the larder (we didn't have namby-pamby fridges when I was a lad) had a slight tinge of blue (fuzzy or not) or an iridescent green coating, then it didn't bother us.
|Covers a multitude of foul tastes|
Down it went, accompanied by copious amounts of Branston Pickle to mask any less-than-delightful flavours.
Now my Beloved is an absolutely splendid cook.
Her dumplings would make a Saint sin in gluttony.
Her congee (a Chinese savoury rice porridge) initiates a copious salivation at the very thought.
Her stir-fried green beans with garlic, onion, chili and minced pork would grace any table for about 3 minutes, the time it takes for 2 hungry blokes to empty every dish in sight and lick the bowls. (Well I do. Lick the bowls I mean)
But she outdid herself when she cooked dinner for m'son and I. She prepared an absolutely delicious plate of Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes and Cabbage.
I only had 2 small potatoes, as I have to be careful about my carbohydrate intake, so I had extra cabbage, and my Beloved thoughtfully left a large serving bowl of the stuff on the table with us.
The pork was delicious, very slightly crunchy on the outside where the roasting process had caramelised the fat, mixed with some special spices my Beloved rubs in, yet gloriously moist on the inside, each mouthful releasing trickles of savoury juices.
The potatoes were perfect, floury and fluffy in the middle, and nice and crunchy on the outside.
|Absolutely delicious cabbage|
But the cabbage was something else.
The cabbage was where my Beloved demonstrated her overwhelming mastery of the culinary arts.
The cabbage had been cooked perfectly, the texture being firm but not hard, and definitely not soggy.
(I had been introduced to the delights of cabbage by my Gran, who was of the old school when it came to vegetable preparation and cooking.
I say the old school, but if there ever had been an exam, she would have failed. I think she approached every meal like a soldier approaches a battle. She was determined to smash every morsel of food into submission, either by prolonged boiling or in some cases by the application of a large hammer.
I was 6 before I realised that cabbage was actually green. Every piece I'd seen on my plate up to then had been white.
Of course, any vitamins present at the start of the cooking process had been unceremoniously disintegrated by my Gran's approach, so the real reason for eating cabbage had gone out of the window, along with any flavour. (It was verging on the miraculous, that we didn't all expire from Scurvy) Only by the addition of copious amounts of salt, pepper and Worcester Sauce, could any taste be produced.
The texture of my Gran's cabbage could be compared with soggy cotton wool; the cotton wool probably winning. It probably had more flavour as well)
Anyway, back to my Beloved's cabbage. As I said, she had cooked it to perfection. She had added small pieces of cooked bacon during the cooking process. Some pieces were crispy, some not, and they gave an admirable mix of textures while chewing. She had also added small amounts of garlic and onions and had cooked the cabbage, not in water but in some ham stock. Finally she had added some of the juices from the roasting pork.
I admit it.
I pigged out. With some help from m'son, the bowl of cabbage was completely emptied. It was absolutely delicious.
|The Kelvin Hall, Glasgow|
Many years ago, in the 50s, as a boy in Glasgow, my Dad took my brother and myself to the Circus at the Kelvin Hall in Argyle Street.
The old hall was huge, with space for a Carnival as well as the Circus.
There were Dodgems, Waltzers, Chair-o-Planes and my favourite ride, the Rocko-Planes. These were hydraulically operated "fighter" planes, rotating from a central spindle, their height being controlled by a joystick in each plane.
|Die you Nazi Bastards|
I could zoom up (well zoom is probably an exaggeration, as an arthritic tortoise could probably go faster) and imagine I was a Spitfire pilot trying to shoot down a Dornier 17 or a Heinkel 111.
Or I could go into a power dive and imagine strafing the Bosche (the other customers milling about), accompanying each manoeuvre with authentic sounding ratatatats. I did get very strange looks from other participants on the ride, but I didn't care. I was killing Nazis.
Other than the rides and stalls, the main attraction was of course the Circus.
This was in the days before PC, and animal rights meant that animals had the right to die and feed us, the right to be experimented upon to give us new drugs and antibiotics and the right to act in many ways to entertain us.
The Circus was packed with animals.
To earn extra money, the Circus owners had set up a menagerie, so that paying customers could view the animals before they went into the circus ring for their planned show.
We could see the Lions and Tigers, still in their cages, with their trainer nonchalantly puffing a cigarette before he too had to go into the ring. Both animals and trainer looked bored.
The trained horses were lined up in their stalls, and allowed us to gently stroke their noses, and feed them with apples (which could also be bought. These Circus guys never missed a beat when it came to parting the Rubes from their cash.)
The Sealions were a delight. Always looking somehow cheerful, but I rather avoided them, as they were just being fed, and I could see that they had a mouthful of very sharp teeth, and would probably be able to remove my hand with one snap.
My favourite however were the Elephants. Being able to see these huge beasts at close range was quite an experience, and even now, even after over 50 years I can smell the almost overpowering aroma emanating from them and their dung (The Circus owners also sold the dung off as an Exotic Fertiliser. Seeing the amount of dung produced by ONE Elephant made me wonder if they made almost as much profit form the fertiliser sales as the show itself.)
One whiff of that smell nowadays, would whisk me back to those innocent times.
And that's what happened after I had to make a rather urgent visit to the toilet 12 hours after the gross consumption of the cabbage.
I had been gently releasing puffs of methanogenic gas for about 6 hours, when the urge to "clean out" caught up with me.
Dear (non-existent) God. The stench was incredible. Normally (as you all are probably aware) our own personally produced aromas don't impinge strongly on ourselves, but this was different.
My eyes began to water, and I could swear that the room darkened.
It became difficult to breathe normally as my air passages clamped down in a self-protective reflex.
My Beloved likes to keep a couple or three aromatheraputic candles burning in the bathroom, to give a pleasant ambience, and the gases being produced had a rather unsettling effect.
One candle guttered and died.
One candle just went out completely.
|NO, NOT my Beloved after smelling the "roses" but the Dread Yama-King, Chinese God of Hell|
"What in the Seven Hells of the Yama King are you doing in there to produce that f*cking stench?"
"The dog's run out into the garden and howling it's head off, your son has put a cushion over his face and seems to be choking himself to death, and my eyes are beginning to water."
"I don't care if you're performing what you would call a natural act, the effects are distinctly unnatural and stop it at once"
"Can't you keep until you go to Nuova Lazio High tomorrow?"
"They'll never notice the stench amongst the kids"
With that she stomped off.
I blame my Beloved.
|Please note: This is a genuine poster from the 1940s|