I want to tell you the pleasure, the sheer unbridled joy, of cooking without a recipe… In Truth good eating depends on nothing more than fine ingredients simply cooked. Nigel Slater Appetite (2000)
I’ve loved four men in my life; they all adore cooking, and believe that providing wonderful food is a way of expressing their love for the people they care about. They are my Dad J, my brother M who lives in Australia, my friend (and former partner of 20 years) Steve who died so suddenly in April and, of course, my wonderful Chap.
None of them followed recipes to the letter; unless it’s baking – that’s chemistry.
So I decided to celebrate their love of cooking in my vase today.
Today my Vase celebrates them all, but especially my much missed and loved Dad Jay . Today would have been his 86th birthday. He died nearly 16 years ago from lung cancer. He’s missed every day especially my Mum, my Brother, me and his many friends and relatives. He was an engineer by background and said recipes are just blueprints – and could and should be adapted. He loved a kitchen gadget too. He taught my brother and I to cook when we were really small. He stressed how important it was to taste and season well, use great ingredients from a good market and try new things – and remember to turn the cooker off when you’ve finished. My mum never did so was always burning things (she’s not a good cook – she’s a much better gardener).
He could cook just about anything and I remember watching Fanny Craddock and The Galloping Gourmet (much muttering from our Dad at times). He loved to experiment with new cuisines. My Dad liked a pint of pimms (so do I) so there’s mint in my vase to acknowledge this. Whenever he called me the first thing he asked was – what have you had for tea? This always makes me smile. His wit, advice and support are with me always – ‘What would J do?’
- His favourite chef was Delia Smith but he had a big soft spot for Rick Stein
Happy birthday Dad
My brother is a great cook, though I rarely get to eat his food as he lives in Australia, we just drool over his Instagram photos. We discuss recipes often 🙂 When he was about nine, he asked our Dad if he could look Sunday Roast Lunch, our Dad said yes so the next week M watched and noted all the timings, the next week he did it all with my Dad supervising, the following Sunday he cooked the whole roast lunch including many vegetables and roast potatoes – it was delicious and perfect timings. The fourth weekend our Dad asked if my Brother wanted to cook Sunday Dinner. his reply was ‘No thanks – I know how to it now’. He didn’t cook Sunday lunch for another ten years but it was top notch when he did. He still cooks a great Sunday lunch and is an accomplished Turkey carver (I’ve never quite mastered that). When our Dad died, my brother and I split his large cookbook collection. I know my brother uses them still.
- His favourite Chef is Ray Capaldi who used to own Hare and Grace in Melbourne (yes he’s Peter Capaldi – AKA Dr Who’s cousin).
I met Steve at University in Scotland, and the first thing he cooked me was a perfect bacon sandwich; we shared a kitchen in the halls of residence. He cooked often at uni and would share his food with anyone. After leaving uni, when we lived together we’d share the cooking. He made a much better chilli than me but my risotto was better than his. He could make decent chips (grandson of a chip shop owner). He and my Dad would often talk about recipes, cookery programmes on TV and what they’d found in markets at home and abroad. He wasn’t a bread baker or cake maker but he loved catering for parties especially tapas. His favourite cuisine was Spanish but he loved Fish too. He was grief stricken, as I was when my Dad died. We were together 20 years and split amicably 8 years ago, remaining good friends. Steve and my Chap got on well and had much in common including cooking. Steve is missed by so many people especially me. I wrote more about him in August on his birthday.
- his favourite chef was Rick Stein but the Moro cookbooks by Sam and Sam Clark were well thumbed too – glorious Spanish food.
My Chap is a wonderful cook – he was a chef when he was a much younger man. He loves making bread and baking cakes but he can turn his hand to just about any cuisine or skill, so I get many wonderful meals. We’ve only been together five years so I know there will be many more meals, adventures and fun in the future. He loves mooching around markets, looking for the best fresh produce and concocting meals especially with a Mediterranean slant. He’d had an allotment, if we had the time or space and is really the Head gardener. He loves Masterchef and Great British Bakeoff. I know he and my Dad would have got on well and spent much time in the kitchen cooking together. My Chap is the last and greatest love of my life – he’s an amazing person.
- His favourite chef is Raymond Blanc – he says he’s a Master, a chef’s chef who passionate about seasonal food and the best ingredients.
‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance’. (Ophelia, Hamlet)
My vase has some rosemary from a huge bush in the front garden, leaves of the curry plant, lemon mint and two pink pelargoniums – one is a trailing one which has survived two winters in the hanging basket. It’s the same plant that appears in my blog header photo. The other pelargonium is a pink one from a ‘hanging basket set’ a couple of years ago. Neither of these plants should be flowering in late December but it’s still very mild and wet. I included rosemary, as all the four men I love, enjoy a decent joint of roast lamb.
I couldn’t take the photos outside as it’s been hurling down with rain today – Storm Frank is going over the UK – more flooding is due which is very bad news indeed.
Do have a look at Cathy’s blog Rambling in the Garden who hosts in a Vase on Monday – beautiful flowers, the moon and the wonderful blue skies of Mull (photo taken probably between dodging the rain and looking out for gusts of wind). A truly wonderful vase! I wish I was there on Mull too, as I love the sea. I love Scotland so much especially the islands of the West Coast. I must visit again in 2016.
In case you’re wondering I can cook too – and my favourite chef is Nigel Slater – good food cooked well, no one writes about food like he does and he’s a brilliant tweeter.
I’m off to Kiss the Cook – carpe diem indeed!
He made delicious smoked salmon fishcakes for tea and that made me very happy, so that’s my #100happydays photo for today.
What has made you happy today?
love Bec xxx
See my #100happydays photos here