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My prior experience of asparagus has tended a little too far to the side of "like miniature tree trunks, a little greener but just as fibrous". Chewing like a beaver when you don't have the teeth for it gets old very fast. For this reason, I hadn't bought asparagus for over a year.
But these seem to be an entirely different creature: slender young stalks, making up nearly twice as many in a bundle of the same thickness. Just right for tossing quickly in a hot pan before adding cooked pasta and then, immediately after the heat is switched off, tearing in pieces of smoked salmon and a quick shake of freshly ground black pepper. Grated Parmesan over the top if you like, but the fish and pepper are all the flavour that most would need.
The vegetable world has its version of beauty queens: those showy, shiny ones proudly presented by their growers at agricultural fairs, those winners of ribbons and medals, those much-photographed models admired by the masses.
Then, I think, it also has its version of the mousy bank teller, the janitor with the smile nobody notices, the bus driver. Quiet beauties who do their work and pass their days unnoticed by most, yet treasured by the ones who do see them.
These two were waiting for me at the Wanneroo Markets. A shapely squash, and the shiniest, smoothest onion I have ever seen.
It just seems to me, we're surrounded by so many of these -- vegetable and human alike. They aren't loudly acclaimed but we'd notice their absence. Each one is unique, yet we allow our stereotypes and preconceptions to take away their individuality. Seems such a waste to me, that we'd so let the beauty pass us by.
Unlike other meat-free dishes I've tried, this one has enough flavour and texture not to have me missing the meat. It's something that frequently confounds me, that in spite of my animal-loving, compassion-for-all-living creatures ways, I enjoy the taste of meat. They are uncomfortable roommates in my consciousness, these two characteristics.
The first time I tried this, I thought, "Sure, it tastes good, and sure, you don't long for the filling wholesomeness of meat. But is it worth all that time?"
The 15 minutes or so of slicing?
The nearly two hours of pre-roasting the slices? And then nearly half an hour arranging everything in careful layers? And then another 45 minutes of baking?
The second time I made it was after I decided that yes, it's worth the time, but I'd feel the pinch much less if I paid in instalments.
Hence, on the Sunday, the slicing and roasting, the transport of the frozen mushroom-and-potato puree from freezer to fridge. The recipe calls for white sauce, which is made of butter and white flour. I pooh-pooh your refined carbs, your empty calories, Recipe People. (Save them for the pasta sheets.) A few weeks ago I had tried and failed to make a mushroom soup thickened with potato rather than flour. The failure turned out to be quite a success in making a respectable white-sauce substitute for lasagne.
Then on Tuesday, after a hairy day at work that made me think those hard-nosed Temperance types with their wholesale shunning of alcohol consumption do have a point yes they do oh someone please get me a nice dim room with no stimulation and also hmm only about a kilo of chocolate yes milk is fine but at least 50% cocoa please, I came home needing to bake and voila! For once, something was already all set to be baked. Well, layered first, but after a day like that it was nice to have something so tactile and structured and real to turn my hands to.
And again I did that thing where I forget to photograph a cross-section before storage, when these vegetables with their watery cells tend to lose their shape and photogenic attributes. But before I took a knife to it, there it was. Inviting me to partake of the stretchy and the gooey and the crunchy and the mushy and all that is around and in between, to remember that what had happened that day at work and what sat before me in a baking dish had equal place in my life. That "life to the full" doesn't always mean what I imagine to be "life to the perfect", but it is good anyway.
I followed Andy Bellatti's recipe for Oil-Free Autumn Buckwheat Granola, using the sweetener-free option. I can't call mine "oil-free", because I incorporated a tiny knob of butter during the last stirring. Neither is it Autumn over here in the southern hemisphere.
Nonetheless, it's a recipe I'm glad I tried, and will probably keep using. Conditions are much less rumbly and churny after eating this, compared with oat-based mixes.
While the mix was still warm, I filled my silicone teddy bears with it and stored them in the fridge (something that Mr Bellatti doesn't mention, but maybe his apples were completely dried and maybe he doesn't live in a place so humid that kiwi fruits sweat).
I have finally discovered a delicious breakfast that will not have me weak with hunger one hour later:
The bear and rye bread go in the toaster oven together, for 4 minutes. Warm, re-toasted granola as a chaser to a soft-boiled egg just done, interspersed with mouthfuls of nutty rye: it's a nice way to see 6.30am in, if you possess a brain that for some reason won't register that you live very close to work and really don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn every day.
Because I moved west just short of missing one Queen's Birthday holiday, and then stubbornly stuck it out here when all human instincts were telling me to just throw in the towel already and return to the ol' birthplace, I got to experience the holiday twice this year. And the irony is: neither one made a difference to my usual routine. The first, dreary, soaking wet one out East, I was unemployed. The second took place at the end of my first week (a very happy, satisfied, fulfilled week) at work... on the one day a week that I wouldn't ordinarily be working anyway.
Nonetheless, it was a great day. I hope the birthday girl enjoyed all that my home city of the moment held out to her. (Going by the news, that would be more bouquets than even the most crowded English parlour could hold, and a chance to slum it with the sizzled-sausage-clutching masses.)
I kept it low-key, with crochet overlooking the Indian Ocean.
I'd carefully packed all the supplies needed to continue with the current work in progress, because I knew that the path back from my morning meeting at Hillarys would include many enticing places to stop and listen to the waves.
It was a productive time, with not too many incidences of my starting with a foundation ring too large, neglecting to change colours, or forgetting how many rows I'd gone. And I haven't sworn out loud for years, but that day I didn't even think it, that's how well the crocheting went.
And then, while I was busy figuring out which angle to photograph from and quietly savouring the song of the waves... I felt something.
What was this sensation? Hair on my brow? Couldn't be, it was too... active.
I had a brief flash of hairy legs before they darted back on top of my sunglasses, which I happened to be wearing as sunglasses are meant to be worn. I quickly pieced together that there was an unidentified arachnid with discernibly hairy appendages scurrying back and forth not two centimetres from my left eye.
Thanking God all the while (all the 0.5-second while that this was happening) for my unflappable demeanour, I calmly whipped them off and placed them on the table, avoiding sudden movements in case I'd got a specimen of the biting sort.
There were no bites, but all the same, I would be perfectly fine never to see another spider again.
There appears to be something wrong with my camera. I'm very sure that creature was at least five times as big in real life. Silly machine must be messing up its perspective.
Thanks for visiting my little corner of the great big Internet. This blog is my attempt at making the world seem smaller and more kind. And for immortalising the occasional terrible pun that I come up with.
Unless otherwise stated, all text and images are my own. You may borrow my work for non-commercial purposes provided you credit me (Sharon Toh) and link back to this site. And if you could let me know as well, that would be the frosting on the cake.
(Don't eat frosting if you can help it. Just eat more cake.)
(But frosting is really pretty when it's done right.)
(This blog is also the online receptacle of my randomness.)
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