Tuesday, 23 February 2010

When roast carrots take wing

A happy blog today.  I want to remind you of that wonderful moment when you do something, something you care about, 110% right, and you don't know how.

It could be a party you throw or attend, a sexual encounter, a work project, a public performance.  You haven't prepared more thoroughly than usual, you don't seem to be expending greater effort, yet the whole thing floats effortlessly, gloriously, glitteringly along.  At some point, you realise all that's required of you is to allow it to go on happening.

Entertainers will recognise what I'm talking about.  An actor has been in a play for six months, banging out eight shows a week.  One night, quite possibly a wet Wednesday in Hull, the atmosphere becomes electric, the audience is enthralled, every member of the cast's performance goes up a notch.  Or a comedian delivers the same stand-up routine he's performed countless times to moderate acclaim but this time, the entire crowd is rendered helpless from the first gag.  Bouyed up by this, he tosses in ad libs and all of them, even the ones that didn't sound particularly promising in his head the split second before they left his lips, hit the spot.  What's more, on some mystical, possibly primeval level, he knows they'll hit the spot, even though he doesn't know how he knows.

Don't try to analyse it.  You'll get nowhere and, like quicksilver, if you try to grab it, it will disappear through your fingers.  But then, it disappears anyway; the following night, the play's performance is its usual, respectable, solid self.  The stand-up comic has an okay night but no-one in the audience requires treatment from St John's Ambulance to get over their hysteria.

I occasionally experience the phenomenon when I'm cooking a meal.  I've thrown countless dinner parties over the past 30 years and can probably count on the fingers of one hand the times when every component of every course has been, to my eyes and tastebuds at least, unimprovable.

To my delight and bafflement, it happened last Sunday.  My chilled asparagus spears were neither too firm nor too mushy.  They had retained their bright greenness and big asparagus flavour.  The mayonnaise I knocked up to go with them had just the desired degree of lemon and garlic.  The quantities were exactly right.

My sea bass fillets had steamed to optimum white, juicy, flaky, fishiness the first time I checked on them.  The roast roots on which they sat were crunchy without, mashy within, well-seasoned, not oily.  Both components married ecstatically with the dill dressing I spooned over.  It had that restaurant look about it.  It was still hot when it reached the diners.  They loved it.  They left their plates so clean, it seemed an extravagance to put them in the dishwasher.

I could bore you with the virtues of my chocolate orange mousse in similar fashion but you get the picture.  And, sure enough, the most fascinating aspect is that all this was achieved with less, not more, effort than usual.  It was as if some greater force had taken over and I was merely the conduit

Cherish these moments.  They are few and far between and you'll need them when you're sitting in the old people's home, bored witless.  The solitary sunny afternoon when every square inch of your garden shimmered with beauty.  The night when sex was somehow simultaneously surpising and inevitable so that you felt you were reading each other's minds.  The round of golf when the clubs seemed to swing themselves and you notched up your best ever score (and knew you would). 

Whatever your moments are, hang onto them, re-run them, smile a secret smile about them.  Nurse will think you're going ga-ga but she'll probably think that anyway.

Let her.


  1. Bill what a delightful Blog entry !!! one of your finest. like a shot of strong alcohol SUPERB

  2. Very uplifting, thank you! Want to bore us on the recipe for your choc orange mousse?

  3. Thank you both so much for your unusually kind comments. I'll blog the chocolate mousse recipe soon, I promise.