Wednesday, 25 February 2009

You get Mardi Gras ...

... and we get Shrove Tuesday. And pancakes.

Don't get me wrong – pancakes are great. But compared to Mardi Gras ... well, one can't help feeling a little shortchanged.

The English, being a people of obvious restraint, don't do fiesta at any time. The idea of authorised anarchy – that chance to really let down the hair, with permission – isn't one that we know.

We don't get to go wild before Lent (or at any other time): we get to use up our eggs and flour before 40 days of denial.

Not that I personally do the denial bit, you understand. But I did the pancakes – after a few beers and rather a lot of white wine.

I sifted the flour, à la Delia, then whisked in eggs and milk and a little water. I'd never made pancakes until last year, but was inspired to do so by the purchase of a very good, copper-bottomed French omelette pan.

Melt a knob of butter and get it piping hot. Ladle in some of the batter and swirl around to thinly cover the base of the pan. You know it's ready to turn when you see the edges lifting away from the metal.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice on them and sprinkle with sugar; roll up and eat. Delicious.

There was some criticism last night that I don't toss, and was using – what a culinary faux pas! – a metal spatula to flip them over, but the results were tasty enough to earn thanks.

But why don't we English do fiesta – Mardi Gras?

Perhaps if we had those moments, we wouldn't have the distinctly unauthorised drunken brawling that characterises most English town centres every weekend.

Perhaps, because we're still not over the prudery and Puritanism of the Victorian era, we go to extremes more often in an effort to escape it?

Still, at least such attitudes don't invade pancake making.

Risotto, for me, used to be the Protestant work ethic transferred into the kitchen. Taking cookery books as conveying a literal truth, it was probably the one dish that left me with a real sense of having had to work at it.

You chop, you peel, you grate – and then you stand over the stove and sweat for 20 minutes as you stir stock into the rice.

It's only recently that I've discovered that risotto can be made much more easily – that it (and cooking in general) doesn't have t feel like such hard work in order to be good.

So tonight, in my continuing search for culinary simplicity (particularly in the middle of the week), it's going to be some of the weekend's left-over roast chicken, with a salad of a few boiled potatoes, some grapefruit segments and thinly sliced red onion, all served on a bed of lamb's lettuce, with a classic dressing of grapefruit juice, virgin oil and dry mustard.

It might not be Mardi Gras, but it's not the stifling refusal to enjoy life either.


  1. No running down the street dressed as an Eric Idle housewife, flipping your pancakes? I suppose it's a Northern thing.

  2. ~~ROTFL~~

    Not quite – although as a northerner myself, perhaps I should have.