Wednesday 27 August 2008

Never too hasty

14st 0lb; 4.5 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,258; Iceland.

Although I have a filing cabinet which contains, among other things, various mouldering certificates which prove beyond reasonable doubt that I am an educated Bloke, I do have a number of hideous cultural blind spots. For example, I can take art galleries in small doses, but find museums hideously boring. It probably tells you all you need to know if I say that my favourite is the National Railway Museum; but I’d want to mull it over for a while if you asked me to choose between a lovely day trip to the NRM in York and just sitting in my conservatory admiring the view, or even watching some high quality paintwork dry. I can just about bear wandering around a country house, but only if it remains in the ownership of its ancestral family and has not fallen under the ghastly dead hand of the National Trust.

I rather enjoy reading history, in which I have a degree, but it was not just being too lazy to master any foreign languages (living or dead) that led me to focus on the modern British variety. Well, it was mainly that, to be honest. There are few limits to my idleness. But I am genuinely most interested in the bits of history which lie in that tantalizing period just beyond my own living memory. Ancient history I have always found the most colossal bore, with my own view only being a hair’s breadth from that of my 80-something next door neighbour who, on being told by one of my visitors that she was much looking forward to visiting Hadrian’s Wall, responded “The Romans! Aa nivvor knaad any of the buggers – and they’re aal deed!”

It follows that my eyes glaze over at the mere mention of archaeology. Yet, despite myself, I do get quite excited on days like today when I defrost my two freezers, and the layers of ancient ice are chipped away to reveal long forgotten treasures, which would probably have been utterly delicious if I had had the wit to eat them immediately rather than squirreling them away for future use.

Women, in my experience, are very literally minded about these things (as about so much else). If a thing has got a use-by date and you haven’t used it by midnight on the date in question, into the bin it goes. If it says “freeze on the day of purchase and use within one month”, then that will be the answer. Whereas I, as a Bloke, typically freeze things a day or two after they have passed their use-by date, as a last resort alternative to binning them, then leave them on ice for years. Today for supper I feasted on some uncovered gems: pasta that could be guaranteed 100% non-GM as they had not invented the technology when I froze it, accompanied by a ready-made sauce which bore the brand of a supermarket chain which has long since ceased to exist. Then strawberries from my very own strawberry bed, which was dug up in the course of some garden improvements in about 1991. None of these things tasted particularly wonderful, but they were all right and they did not kill me, as any female observing the making of my meal would have warned. And, for a Bloke who is famously extravagant, not to say profligate, and likes nothing more than blowing a couple of hundred quid he has no longer got on dinner in a top restaurant, it was most refreshing to eat so economically. I felt a warm glow of self-satisfaction, though I suppose the symptoms might also have been those of low level food poisoning.

With my meal I drank the remains of the bottle of Chateau Musar rosé, which all my guests on Sunday had urged me to tip down the sink. Left standing around for three days, open and unrefrigerated, it had blossomed into something subtle, intriguing and delicious. Which is so often the case with wine, I find. So here is perhaps the first bit of useful advice to appear in these pages: it you open a bottle that is not to your liking, put it aside and try it again after a day or two. Or by all means ask me round to try it for you.

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