November 18th

Hope you're all having a good weekend. Here's something to wet your appetite for Sunday:


Ambry Carbonado

A delicious fish and pasta dish of Sicilian origin first introduced to this country in the 1870s by Signor Antonio Vespucci, the Italian ambassador to the court of Queen Victoria. The sauce is a blend of shredded ambry (a shellfish once found in deep waters off the rocky coast of Sicily), green onions, green grapes, white wine, and thick cream.

Signor Vespucci was determined to impress a deputation of Italian dignitaries, including La Contessa Maria Aligheri de Vincenza, reputed to be one of the most powerful women in the Italian court at that time, so arranged a banquet for five hundred guests in the presence of Her Majesty.

Two thousand ambry had been caught, packed on ice, and shipped to London a few days earlier, and when the silver salvers were uncovered by two hundred and fifty waiters and the sweet scent of ambry flesh poached in Frascati with the plumpest green Tuscan grapes reached the nostrils of the homesick Italians, a shout of Magnifico Vespucci! echoed around the Great Hall at Buckingham Palace, followed by spontaneous applause.

Neither Her Majesty or the guests, however, were ever made aware of the outrage felt by Sicilian fisherman whose fishing grounds had been voraciously depleted of this delicacy, an irresponsible act that threatened the shellfish with extinction. They protested at the central government buildings, marching around the main square dragging their nets and spitting as they chanted Vespucci’s name. But they hadn’t counted on the weight of the Contessa’s influence on the island and their protest was broken up by the Italian Royal Guard, two fishermen losing their lives during the stampede of the soldier’s horses.

Within twenty years not a single ambry could be found around Sicily and today’s recipe books use white crabmeat or monkfish in its place.


  1. She watched the flour cascade like snow into the blue striped mixing bowl, then scattered perfectly square cubes of organic butter on the top. Her flawlessly manicured hands thrust into the ingredients and slowly rubbed the glistening fat into the pure white flour. She was careful to lift her hands above the edge of the bowl to allow the mixture to cool as it fell back. Warm hands could do more harm than good sometimes.

    The mixture gradually metamorphosed into golden breadcrumbs, whereupon she drizzled ice cold water over. Gently replacing her hands into the mix, she lovingly kneaded the gooey dough into a smooth, blemish-free ball. The huge cream rolling pin, inherited from her Grandmother and heavy enough to kill a man, always rolled perfect pastry. Producing two circles of just the right thickness and shape, she laid one into the pie dish.

    Bramley apples, fresh-picked from the tree in the garden, came next. Washed and dried, their greenness splashed colour onto the flour-dusted surface; she sliced them skin thin and laid them in formation on the pastry. A kiss of cinnamon and a sprinkle of earthy Muscavado sugar added just that twist of flavour she liked. Another sheet of pastry neatly tucked the apples in, her fingertips fluting the edges to keep it all together.

    Cracking a gleaming brown egg on the side of a bone china tea cup, she slid the thick yolk and runny white into the cup. A silver fork pierced the yolk; she watched its brightness ooze out and fade as she whisked. Her wooden pastry brush danced across the silky surface of the pie, leaving trails that would ripen in the heat. She placed the pie into the welcoming warmth of the oven, and sat to watch and wait for half an hour.

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  3. Not long ago, in a town only eight miles from this one, there was a large, ugly grey building and inside this building on the third floor was a series of rooms connected by a long corridor. At all hours of the day, they took people there, they put them on beds for hours and hours and sometimes cut their stomachs open. Sometimes, they injected them, covered their faces up with masks or stuck needles in their backs. At all hours of the day, you could hear the piercing screams of women and babies.

    Not long ago, in a town only eight miles from this one, there was a large, ugly grey building and on the ground floor was a series of rooms connected by a long corridor. At all hours of the day, people were taken, strapped down; sometimes they had been scooped up off the roads, sometimes, they had been taken from their own homes, from shopping malls, theatres, bus queues, football matches, from outside pubs; all sorts of public places and it happened so quickly that you just wouldn’t believe it. Often the people weren’t even awake.

    A long, long, time ago, a handsome young man with nice teeth got rid of the evil ruler by beating him. Lots of people in the land could be seen singing and dancing merrily in the streets because that bad man who had forced them to do what his slaves had said and taken their money had finally gone.

    In time, the handsome young man grew wise and he started to think about how he could make the lives better for the people. The people were his helpers and all over the country, they set about getting rid of those ugly grey buildings until eventually, there were hardly any left.

  4. ‘I can’t be the only woman,’ the Countess paused to blow out a plume of pale blue smoke, ‘to have had some fool try to impress her by hunting a species extinction.’

    My pen waited for the rest of the story, but she took my wrist gently in her crimson fingernails. ‘This is pleasure, my dear, not business.’

    So I laid my pen on the inlaid table before and perched forward on my seat to hear the story.

    ‘It was in the 30s, before anyone thought about conservation. We had been dancing after dinner, and had retired to the billiard room. I played rather well in those days -- I paid my maid’s salary on the winnings, you know -- surprised you did I?’

    I hadn’t realised I had looked surprised, but I nodded, commenting that it seemed at odds with her stance against gambling.

    ‘Well it simply was not my night. I lost game after game and got crosser and crosser. The more angry I got, the worse I played, until at last I refused to play any more. I said that I was playing badly because I had been woken early by the twittering of the red-headed house finches in the tree outside my bedroom window.

    ‘The next morning, I slept until 11 o’clock, when my maid suggested I might like to dress for lunch. When I looked out of the window, the ground was littered, just littered, with feathers.

    ‘And when I sat down to lunch, there was a silver dishcover on my plate. One of those smug young men came up behind me and whipped it off. There on my plate was a brace of red-headed house finches, quite dead.

    ‘That was when I gave up my maid and started putting my winnings towards protecting birds.’

  5. It’s tempting after reading the historical blurb behind ‘Ambry Carbonado’ to write about different culinary dishes with crabmeat and monkfish in it. I googled ‘Ambry’ just now as I hadn’t heard of this shellfish before and Google came up with:

    1)Did you mean ‘emory’? (A university in Atlanta) – Ah, no.
    2)A computer website – Definitely not.
    3)Cystic Fibrosis testing – Depends really but not in this context, no.
    4)A rock band – Near enough to the Crustacean species but not quite what I had in mind, no.
    5)THE AMBRY German & American Restaurant – Getting there, slowly but very. I even took a peek at their Lunch and Dinner menus to see if I could ‘espy’ a shellfish dish with a similar recipe using crabmeat or monkfish in place. No, nothing, null, nada, zilch. No, just Shrimp Scampi under the Seafood section on the ‘Lunch Menu’ and Alaskan King Crab, Florida Lobster Tail and of course the Shrimp Scampi dish on the ‘Dinner Menu’ in the Seafood section ( last but one section on the menu listing. Interesting that!).

    In all, sadly our consumption of certain species of seafood has diminished the sea population to an extent that we can no longer say to the next generation, ‘Sicily is renown for its variety of shellfish including the ambry.’ I can’t even see an illustration of it anywhere which emphasises my point that if we allow fishermen to deplete the ocean in the name of Consumer Demand, we’ll only have a graphic memory of what once made the ocean a vibrant community of the most colourful and spectacular array of salt water species we’ve ever had the opportunity to discover and marvel at. Beginning to understand the severity of this long-term dilemma is a step towards tackling this battle, practically.


  6. Like my father and my grandfather before him, I am a fisherman. I know all the coves and promontories along our island shore. But, more than this, I know the sea.
    I know her swell and I know her curl, her unfolding, her secrets and delights. She has been my study and my passion.

    My grandfather fished for the ambry, deep among the rocks. Sweet and white, flesh fit for a queen, an empress. My father remembers it as a child – the crack of the shell, revealing its tender delight at the family table, bustling and joyous. I have only tasted it in restaurants on the mainland, brought by stiff waiters, diffident but superior. I, after all, am not royalty. But soon I will no longer need to sift the sea for her meagre gleanings. Like my grandfather, I will casually crack shells and taste the finest at my whim.

    I know the sea. She is closer than blood to me. So, when the foreigners left, sour and frustrated, cursing maps and weather – everything but their own stupidity – I began my courtship. Wooing the waves, I played to her moods, flattered her fickle promiscuity and read her depths. I gave myself up to her and, in giving, learnt her heart and made her mine. Wrapped within her shifting embrace, I know myself free and know that soon she will unfold her final and most precious gift.

    Any day now. Yes, any day I will claim her dowry, pluck the most precious jewel from her breast. She believes she is my mistress, but I am her master. I have suffered in my long suit, but soon I shall draw in my reward. Then, father, I will sit at the finest tables and taste sweet perfection. Yes, any day now.

    I dive.

  7. When my mother died I was left to look after my father at the tender age of fifteen. He was one of those working class ‘real’ men who had no idea how to cook for himself let alone a child; straight from his mother to the air force to a wife.

    I had a crash course in cooking. Luckily, my sister lived near enough to pop in daily and had a car to do the shopping. I developed a routine of getting home from school – often shopping between the two bus journeys – and cooking.

    He ate my spaghetti bolognaise in silence; my cod in white wine and butter with indifference and my chicken carbonara with studied disdain, glowering over the sautéed shallots and scalloped potatoes. “Why can’t we have real food?” he said. “Less of this foreign muck.”

    I tried, I really did. His capability with the stove extended as far as making bacon sandwiches, fried in the same grease that lay in the pan from one week to the next. If he was especially hungry he’d dip a piece of bread into the two-inch deep lake and eat it still dripping, wiping the grease from his chin with the cuff of his overalls.

    I made him whiting baked with rosemary and sea salt and crisp, deep-fried slices of potato on a bed of asparagus and minted peas. He was somewhat mollified by my catering to his wishes with a plate of fish and ‘funny looking chips’ and actually said thank you as he slid the plate into the sink.

    He’d never eat beans, though, saying they reminded him of being in the air force and being faced with death every day. Perhaps that’s why I have beans on toast in preference to just about anything else now. Thanks, Dad.

  8. From the moment he saw her looking down through the glass panes into the kitchen, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. He usually took no notice of the people milling up and down the stairs that led to the rooms where coffee and pastries were served. He knew he was on show; the pastry cooks always were at Dehmel’s. When in Vienna, one went there for the best pastries in the world. It was probably Schnitzler’s fault that the old coffee house exploited a touch of Blue Room voyeurism.

    On the way down from the first-floor rooms, although you had to keep moving, you could see through the glass how the marzipan was rolled. Finished products were displayed in a vitrine at the entrance: the mini ex-Chancellor waltzing with his tall blonde Minister of Foreign Affairs; Tina Turner; Bill Clinton.

    A pause in the movement on the stairs caught his eye. She’d stopped the traffic. She was staring at his fingers rolling the mixture of fine almonds and sugar. He felt her gaze caress them as he kneaded. He added a drop of rum to the mixture and felt a look in her eyes silk over his cheeks. He blushed, kept on kneading. Then his fingers began to move more quickly as he rolled and tweaked the thick fragrant paste. Sensing a movement, he looked up from his ministrations. The figures on the stairs again had taken up their perpetual motion, blurring the pause that she had been. With new fervour his fingers began sculpting the marzipan mass. He wanted no colourants. Wanted it natural. Although he couldn’t be sure if she’d ever know how he felt, he piped a thin stream of chocolate onto a white ice-sugar label: Reclining Nude. Maybe she’d see it in the vitrine.


    Take one universe with a sun. Add a planet into the sun’s orbit, not too close but not too far away, so that you can maintain it at a reasonably even temperature. Add water to the planet (but not to the sun – it may spit). Wait 100–150 million years until your planet forms an attractively uneven crust, which should be covered with water in places.

    Sprinkle organic components lightly over the planet’s surface. Leave for another billion years while cellular structures develop. Green algae should become visible. Fungi will then begin to develop on the crust, and fish in the waters. From this point life will take on different forms without much intervention, but it is important to monitor carefully for sudden changes of temperature (adjust as appropriate) and any life-forms that appear too dominant (wipe these out with a clean cloth).

    Once your planet is thoroughly covered with life, it is ripe and ready to eat.


    ‘Canobee? Canobee! Did you take your eye off this planet?’

    ‘Not really, Mum.’

    ‘What do you mean? There’s a seriously dominant life-form here. Ugh, look at all the smoke!’

    ‘It can’t be that bad, I checked it a million years ago. Oh. I see what you mean. Even the waters have gone all yukky. How can it have happened so fast?’

    ‘Look what the recipe says. You have to monitor carefully. That means keeping an eye on it at least once every 250,000 years.’

    ‘But Mum, that means I’d be stuck in here the whole time!’

    ‘That’s right. That’s what ‘monitor carefully’ means. And I wanted this planet ready to share with your aunty Jaramay. She’ll be here any century now, so I haven’t got time to start another one. You are thoughtless sometimes.’

    ‘Sorry, Mum.’

  10. I’ve just put the oven on to get nice and hot. Now where’s my list? Today, everything has to be perfect. Hubby’s boss is coming over for dinner. The kids have been scrubbed within an inch of their lives. The best tableware is out.

    And the butcher has promised to get me something a bit special! That’s the trouble these days. Appearances are so important aren’t they? Next door have rabbit for dinner, so we have to have hare. The Johnsons have deer, so we have to have stag. Over the road have scallops, so we have oysters.

    It’s a lot of pressure always having to think of something different and cook it just right. Frankly, the recipe books haven’t been very helpful with this one. I’ve flicked through ‘Celia’ and I’ve pored over ‘Fenella’. Neither of them are any help. Maybe their butchers aren’t as … resourceful … as mine.

    There’s the butcher’s van at the door. I’d better go and make sure everything’s OK! How much! They certainly know how to charge! I saw Mrs Johnson twitching her curtains – some people are so nosey! Still I’d quite like her to know about this – she’ll be bright green!

    Right, the sauce looks perfect now. All my vegetables are seasonal. I always think that looks better, don’t you?

    I’ll just get everyone sat down I think. Best napkins, expensive flowers in the centrepiece.

    This is the bit I like best. All the admiring glances. People sighing as they take in the aroma of the food. And today it’s even better as my husband’s boss looks suitably impressed.

    He cuts a piece of steak and lifts the fork to his mouth. I hold my breath as he chews.

    ‘This is lovely’, he says. ‘What is it?’

    ‘Unicorn steak!’ I say smugly.

  11. "Never fall in love with a powerful woman... I'm telling you Lorenzo, nothing but grief will come of it."

    My father's nearly last words. For a fisherman, he had a long exhalation, managing to orate even on his dying breath. He was always talking in circles and not a straight line, he always hinted rather than saying anything directly. The day before the protest, we ate spaghetti puttanesca without anchovies:

    "Do you know why we are eating this, Lorenzo? Because I want you to know what it's like to eat a whore's pasta. In fact, maybe I should send a portion to La Contessa Maria Aligheri de Vincenza. Because of her suitor Vespucci, we are forced to suffer."

    My father could barely say her name, but when he said Vespucci, some spittle and tomato sauce came out the side of his mouth. My father looked like Caravaggio's cardsharp contemplating his cards. I remember seeing the contessa once, she was very beautiful. It was just surprising that she didn't support fishermen. I remember she nodded at my father. But my grandmother said that Signor Antonio Vespucci, Italian ambassador, could court the contessa even if she was married already. And we were their pawns.

    "Find someone who doesn't want to be better than you, who will not fill your ears with sweet words that intoxicate you like rotten fermented Tuscan grapes..."

    My father always talked a lot during meals. He couldn't speak to the ambry, all they did was quiver, gasp, and die. Father died tangled in his fishing nets, trampled by the Royal Guard. I became a monk. One day, the contessa came to the confessional.

    "Father, the only man I ever loved, I betrayed. He was a fisherman. I wish his son would forgive me, I still love his father."

  12. I am eating myself back into the world. I start with the contents of the fridge, yoghurts, cottage cheese, a bag of organic carrots past their use-by date, a tub of hot salsa. Then the leftover cereals in the cupboard. The packets and boxes. The tins and jars and bottles. The tea and coffee caddies. All the fruit, the fruit bowl, the salt and pepper mills. Silver cutlery twists its way down my throat like rivers of forgotten ice. The kitchen table groans and shatters around my teeth and gums. I gnaw on chair legs, tear the seat covers to shreds. I eat my way through the back door, the brass key, the glass, the plastic cat-flap, seize the edges of the concrete path between my teeth, bite through the decking, the garden furniture in my way, a patio heater, the hedge at the end of the garden and into the woods. The bark of a pine is spicier than a birch. Saplings are a honeyed green. The last crisp leaves taste of fire. Undergrowth is burnt coffee, nutmeg. Moss, mulch studded with acorns, wet earth, worms, grubs, small stones, flints. Striated layers of rock, the earth’s own memory. I swallow everything. My mouth runs with blood, my eyes close. I will make myself whole again. I will not go back to the place in my dreams: the field of picked bones, the hard furrows of earth, the sun on the horizon a slice of white light sharp enough to cut out my eyes. I will lie down at the earth’s hot core and remember a time when food was something I shared with you. I will tell myself that you never meant to die. And I will forgive you. I will wait for the time when I will rise.

  13. BROTH

    This recipe, circa 1850 (in the reign of Queen Victoria) has been handed down through the generations.


    One Highland croft with no electricity and no running water.

    One large family with seven young children to feed.

    One thrifty Scottish housewife.

    Any vegetables that are currently able to be harvested from the garden.

    ... and a boiling fowl. (You may wring your own chicken's neck or, if squeamish, get a neighbour to do this for you. Your nearest neighbour is likely to be around three or four miles away. Planning ahead is therefore advisable).


    Put fowl (de-plucked) in large pan of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour. Remove bird. Add chopped vegetables. These are normally carrots, leeks, kale and potatoes. If some stray sheep have eaten your kale and carrot tops, improvise. You can, for instance, add more diced potatoes. It would then be more of a soup and less of a broth. However, names are a luxury when there are hungry children to be fed and a husband who has been working the land since sunrise. If you can find a nice fresh sprig of parsley, so much the better for the flavour of the broth/soup.

    If the local cattle have been dining overnight on your patch of kale, simply omit. Your children will not notice and your husband will be too dog-tired to notice. The aim is for something hot and nutritious.

    On bitterly cold winter days when the snow is piled high and most of your precious vegetables have been killed off by a sudden overnight frost, the doughty Scottish housewife will need to improvise on her improvisation. Add a handful or two of pulses, the store cupboard essential.

    Lentils or pearl barley will suffice.

    When cooked, serve and eat instantly.

    Louise Laurie

  14. The response is usually the same did you say Amber, can you spell that please,
    A-M-B-R-Y, that’s unusual, ah-huh.
    Ambry stretched her brown legs and flexed her perfect pink toenails, it was early in the day, four hours still to pass.
    She sent a text to her friend Mary, but Mary would probably be shopping, picking out some ready meals to pack in the freezer for her teenage kids. They hated fresh vegetables, hated eating round the table, hated everything that Mary provided in a warm, comfortable family home.
    She thought about her own parents, dad a fisherman, dead at forty five, mum re-married in later life, eventually her big heart gave out, all that nursing of men.
    Ambry opened the shutters, Cefalù winding its magic, in the distance the remains of The Temple of Diana, once used as a chapel. Plenty of time for a swim, perhaps the spirit of Artemis would have some ancient words of wisdom to offer. Legend has it she swam in these waters.
    Ambry picked up a towel, sunglasses and flip-flopped through the village curves. One or two shopkeepers waved as she passed, she would not be buying any bread or cheese today.
    Ambry floated on her back, the early morning cool, calm sea, felt strangely ruffled today, clawing at times.
    Walking uphill towards her apartment she stopped to admire the extraordinary carvings on the church door, she ran her fingers over the old, smooth wood, lingering on her favourite figure of a lone fish.
    In the apartment she showered, dried her hair, tidied away the last traces of her time here.
    When the taxi arrived, she gave one last glance, grateful for her six month stay, picked up the proof of ‘Unhook Your Man’ by Ambry Carbonado and headed back to London.

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  16. Hobo Dodo Gumbo

    Most do not remember the infamous Hobo Dodo Gumbo. It was a dish created in Paraguay during the 1800's as a way to feed the homeless. The country had been overrun with homeless people looking for work or places to stay and had been drawn to Paraguay because of the sun, sand and beaches.

    Canto Del Halliway, a world famous chef at the time, created the recipe after mistakenly killing his son's pet Dodo bird. Wanting to dispose of the evidence as soon as possible, Halliway created a deep, thick red sauce that was sprinkled with spices.

    In reality, the sauce was thick and red to hide what type of meat it was and the spices served to make the concoction smell good; dead Dodo had a very distinct smell of burnt toast and Halliway was allergic to most wheat products. They caused him to have seizures.

    After he was done mixing the dead Dodo into the hot soup, Halliway added anything he could find in his kitchen: rotten cucumbers, carrots well past their best buy date, onions that had gone hard and no longer had any scent. In short, the Dodo Gumbo became a catch all, a melting pot, for all things unsavoury; particularly murder.

    Halliway gave the entire pot to a hobo man that was passing by. Halliway breathed a sigh of relief at having the evidence of his misdeeds taken away.

    The next day, however, the hobo returned with other hobo's in tow. He had told them of Halliway's kindness. Each wanted to taste the Gumbo. Soon, other people, most notably Mother Teresa, heard of the Hobo Gumbo, and Halliway's fame spread.

    Since the death of the Dodo, no one has been able to enjoy the dish, but the Hobo Dodo Gumbo will live on in infamy.

    Jamieson Wolf

  17. The Red List exists to raise awareness of endangered and extinct species in the world, it can be animals or plants, anything threatened, for any reason, but it is mainly caused by the action of mankind.

    To date there are forty one thousand four hundred and fifteen species listed. Sixty five species now only exist in captivity or are cultivated. There are seven hundred and eighty five extinct species on the list. More information about this can be found at the World Conservation Union (ICUN) website

    After centuries of denial we are finally seeing the fruits of our labours. The entire animal kingdom is threatened. That includes us, global warming is continuing apace, but developing countries would argue that the older industrial nations did it first. And it is a good argument, it seems unjust that we, after reaping the benefits of industrialisation now say to others just reaching that point, you must stop.

    We must pay developing nations not to pollute in the same way that we did. We must allow them alternative routes to growing their economies. Above all we must come together as a global nation to try and protect ourselves.

    Energy is everywhere, it is the easy containment and transportation of that energy that will provide the solution to many problems. If more money from extracting fossil fuels went into finding alternatives I am sure a solution would not be long in coming. While we wait for things to run out we should be doing more to find alternatives, not ways of eking out what we have, making it more and more expensive.

    The only way to make a difference is to make a difference. Obvious I know, one person recycling is very small, everyone, and the snowball rolls. Demand more from yourself and others.

    Jim Barron

  18. Every Saturday when I was a boy my father walked me to the chip shop by the railway crossing down Saint Dunstan's Street, where the old guy who worked there was rumoured to gob in the fat to check the temperature. The door dinged as it opened. The air was thick with grease that clung to your clothes and skin. The rotund woman behind the counter, who had a growth on her neck, smiled at us like an old friend, and Dad would order a portion of chips with 'scraps' and hand over sixpence.

    The chips came piping hot and wrapped in the Kentish Gazette. I'd eat them with my fingers as we walked home, examining each scrap of batter to see whether it could be old man's gob.

    Dad always timed it so that we had to wait for a train to pass and I'd wave at the people on the train as though I was doing them a favour. The railway man would swing the gates open afterwards and always had a fresh joke for us.

    Today I walked my son down Saint Dunstan's Street and bought us cod and chips. The place is run by Cypriots. The door no longer dings, the air's cleaner, and you can't buy scraps. The old man who gobbed and the woman with the growth on her neck have been replaced by a young girl. The food comes in polystyrene trays wrapped in greaseproof paper with wooden forks, and the train barriers are automatic.

    I couldn't help thinking that our trip to the chip shop will hold no memories for my son, the way they have for me. Although, at least he'll be able to look back and tell his children that he can remember eating cod when he was a boy.

    Bob Jacobs

  19. Loretta had been married a year when her husband Tom asked her to provide a meal for six people one evening. She didn’t mind serving pot luck for guests as long as it was understood it wasn’t a four-course dinner. And she always had something in the freezer for an emergency. She remembered some chicken she’d casseroled, adding yoghurt at the end, before freezing, to give a creamy flavour.

    She planned a simple meal so all there was to do when her guests arrived was heat up the chicken. She took her new cast iron wok given by an uncle in China. She had primed it as instructed by wiping it over with oil, heating it and giving it another oiling. While her visitors were having a drink, Loretta went to re-heat the chicken. She decanted it into the wok and started warming it gently, her mind wandering to her guests and their conversation so far. After several minutes she noticed a dark line forming where the chicken mixture met the cast-iron wok. Puzzled, and using a wooden spoon, she mixed the discoloration back into the chicken. The chicken got hotter and a thicker darker line began to form at the side of the wok. She looked in dismay. The iron wok did not get on with the acid in the yoghurt! She decided reluctantly she couldn’t give this food to her guests.

    Going to the sitting room door she asked her husband to ‘come to the kitchen for a minute, please, dear.’ He came. She said, “Don’t say anything. Just go to the Chinese Restaurant in town and get eight duck dinners.” Like the good soldier he once was, he turned on his heel and 55 minutes later came back with eight duck dinners at a cost of £69.85p.

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  21. Capreolus Mori, the yellow-spotted or golden deer, was hunted for meat in the Elizabethan era. Pursued at one time in twelve of the royal forests, according to the Boke of St Albans, at last it became rare to the point of extinction – a creature near as mythical as the unicorn. A peculiar delicacy, referred to by Shakespeare as ‘that hart of darknesse’ and often associated with witchcraft and evil spirits, the deer’s flesh was both poisonous and addictive. Those who ate it and survived the experience gained semi-mythical status themselves. Hence pale skin and dark-ringed eyes became fashionable among the nobility and ruddy, peasant complexions were decried.

    The Duke of Marlborough went out one fair summer day to hunt the beast, though with no true hope of finding it. He was accompanied by his wife and a party of nobles. They came to where sunlight filtered through beech leaves and the duchess wished to rest in that pleasant glade – so the duke and his companions left her seated on a fallen trunk. A young forester stood guard in the shadows of the wood. As she dreamily mused, taking pleasure in the sun’s warmth, two deer appeared: a hart with yellow spots upon its rump and a hind of golden sheen. They grazed awhile, the duchess watching enraptured. Then the forester raised his bow and they were gone.

    That night, the duke dreamed he saw the forester embrace the golden-haired duchess. He woke in anger; issued commands. The forester must straightforth provide venison of the golden deer for the duke’s table. A skinned beast was sent. The duke ate of it, but remained in good health, and therefore ordered the forester to suffer the opposite of a poisoner’s death by boiling. They waited till winter and popped him through the ice.

  22. Queen Victoria’s dislike of fish, especially shellfish, is well recorded.
    She had once been served Ambry Carbonado, a pasta dish whose sauce included shellfish caught off the coast of Sicily. It had not agreed with her. Her guests, a deputation of Italian dignitaries, witnessed her clutching her throat, eyes bulging in terror as she attempted to swallow. This was followed by such projectile vomiting, that an ornate chandelier in the Great Hall at Buckingham Palace was splattered, never regaining its former glory.

    The Italian Ambassador, Signor Vespucci, had never been her favourite. She had taken offence at his introduction of unfamiliar dishes, his mincing into her quarters to discuss such issues. His politeness was not as marked as that of Herr Helmut Heinz, the German Ambassador, whom she favoured. His heel clicking was as sharp as a rifle shot; his head swept the pile of the Persian carpet as he bent double. To his advantage, he had been a gymnast in his youth, unlike Signor Vespucci who had been propelled into his position by dint of grovelling.

    He was certainly out of favour after the shellfish incident and made a hasty retreat to his homeland where he became somewhat of a hero. He was praised for introducing Italian delicacies to the nobility of England; ambry was in great demand and Sicilian fishermen became exceedingly wealthy.

    Queen Victoria was frowned upon for insulting one of their national dishes:
    ‘Phut, that monarch is no example to her people,’ being the general opinion. ‘All that venison and those ribs of beef are such bloody food; so unimaginative,’ they shrugged.

    Signor Vespucci was canonised shortly after his death.
    ‘Long live Saint Antonio. Long live Saint Antonio,’ is chanted throughout Italy on Fridays, as the fish course is served. Ambry Carbonado remains the favoured dish.

  23. When Nellie sits back down to her second chicken dinner it is cold. She asks me why I haven`t eaten mine and I explain that I have gone off chicken. "It`s to do with bird flu isn`t it? I`m the same now, I won`t feed the ducks or pigeons anymore," she says.
    " A combination of that and other things. I watched a programme about the terrible ways they`re kept, then killed, BSE back in the nineties, other stuff."
    "Are you a veggie Joe?"
    "I suppose I`m heading that way, yes."
    "We`re never offered a veggie option here, perhaps we could put in a request?"
    Nellie pushes her plate away. Liquorice lips picks it up, singing, "Veggie options? I predict a riot!"
    "But everything is chicken," I complain. "Chicken kebabs, chicken tikka, roast chicken...sorry, what`s your name?"
    "You`re kidding!" I laugh.
    "I know, everybody sends it up. My mum is a huge fan, so I`m sort of stuck with it. I`ll get your dessert."
    "What is it?" Nellie asks.
    "Tinned peaches with vanilla ice cream," she replies apologetically.
    "Just a cup of tea for me."
    Nellie nods in agreement. "Me too. What happened to that cake in your dream Joe. I forgot to ask you about it?"
    " We cut it up into pieces on the coach home. Everyone on board had a piece and there was even some left over."
    " Doesn`t the saying `Let them eat cake` come from France?" Nellie asks.
    "Well, the French Queen Marie Antoinette was supposed to have said it when her people had no bread but I don`t know..."
    "Maybe that`s how cake appeared in your dream."
    "Maybe... I never really thought about it... And the poem Nellie? You laughed at that."
    "I know. I wasn`t expecting it. I am sorry Joe."

  24. As sumptuous a vision of culinary exquisiteness these recipes and serving environments created, they weren’t quite enough to inspire Susan to put in the gargantuan effort the complex monkfish recipe seemed to require. Like most women, she had always had a close and complex relationship with food, and her favourite parts of classic novels that focussed upon the upper English classes were the descriptions of the fine feasts and the rustic but in no way simple flavours upon which the characters dined.

    She fantasised about taking the delicate flesh of crab, cooking it with such culinary precision as to preserve its strangely creamy taste and its rich texture, and then to present it with scallops and crisp lettuce leaves inside its steam-cleaned shell. At work, she doodled these masterpieces on post-its and papers, then scoured the internet for recipes that would fit her visions. Then she’d go to Sainsbury’s, be overcome with the wildly cold freezer aisles and the pulsating florescent lights, find the fish counter completely lacking in anything close to what her reasonable demands were, and want to imprison all the out of control children that roamed and tore apart displays and shelves like goats, then finally stalk home to cook something that read ‘for best results, microwave’, later dreaming of her steamed crab and simple but complex sauces.

    The novels had taken up residence atop the microwave now under the belief that repeatedly submerging herself into the atmosphere of the meals and feasts the well-leafed pages created would spurn her on to actually finishing preparing and cooking one of these meals. Susie’s latest idea was to start small – start with complex, made from absolute scratch and flour sauces and apply them to straightforwardly grilled chicken breasts. She could always get onto the crab, lobster and springbok later.

  25. Some evenings, a silver cloud drifts over the estuary on the incoming tide.
    If it were an unpleasant thing, you might call the water's movement insidious, so slow but steady, relentless, creeping it comes.
    If you stare and stare, you will not really see it come. Only if you turn away will this stone or that patch of weed be overtaken and drowned when you look back.
    It is secretive; beautiful; awesome in its coming.

    From late spring, maturing Sea Bass come with the high tide, keening through narrows at the estuary's entrance.
    During winter, soundless water far off the Cornish coast, warmed by the gulf stream, has kept them fed and fit. Their offspring will now wander the food rich shallows until they are grown. Constantly on the move, eating or being eaten.

    Even I who love them cannot claim to be their friend for, if I can, I will consign them to my kitchen as eagerly as the Osprey will tear them apart and feed them to her children.
    Their truest enemy is the factory ship which will be waiting in the Western Approaches with echo sounder and GPS tuned to detect every move; tooled up to pipe them aboard, thousands at a time.

    So I stand on the capping stones of the granite quay, saluting their arrival, as my grandfather welcomed their ancestors.

    In a few weeks, when the days shorten, many will run the gauntlet back to the depths where their eggs will form.
    For now Harry and I will try to tempt a few to take our bait and stay indefinitely.

    As the sun sinks, silhouetting the distant hill, and the water slowly ebbs taking the bass with it, Harry grips my finger; in his other hand the empty basket.
    "We try again tomorrow, grandpa?"

  26. Small Fishes

    This is the story of how I lost my faith in God.

    My brothers and I have lived happily alongside the fishermen of Lake Tiberias for generations. It is a beautiful area, this part of Israel. We spent many hours swimming with my parents, enjoying the sun, larking around and exploring the mysteries of the lake's depths.

    My father also brought us up to love and revere God who had made all creatures on earth and the small fishes in the sea. Not everyone had his faith though, and with just cause. Life was sometimes kind, sometimes harsh for us all under different political climates. My father tried hard to avoid getting caught up in religion's political nets. But in the end it happened against his will, and my brothers and I could do nothing to help him or my poor mother.

    One day large crowds gathered to listen to a famous speaker; a man my parents would have loved to meet under different circumstances. But that was not to be. The speaker tried to escape to the lake's lonely north-eastern shore, which was untainted by man. But at least five thousand people followed him there.

    The man spoke for hours. Even the birds were quiet; perhaps they too were listening. The crowd was so carried away by his words that no one noticed the setting sun bleed into the hills and the lake's shimmer turn to shadows.

    Suddenly, someone realised how late it was; everyone was hungry and there was nothing to eat. Then one small boy came forward with five barley loaves and two very special fishes.

    People say that speaker was a great miracle man who saved the world. But I heard him laughing as he ripped my parents apart to feed the greedy crowd.

    Sarah James

  27. Recipe for Recalling One’s Childhood

    Serves: one typical adult


    1 familiar childhood object;
    5 favourite family photos;
    250g of memories;
    a pinch of nostalgia;
    a handful of often-repeated phrases;
    1 packet of love letters or a Valentine’s card;
    some imagination;
    3tsp related tales.

    Start with a clean white bowl.
    Choose an old, familiar object
    – a favourite teddy bear, ears worn,
    or your dusty striped school tie
    which has lain forgotten
    for years in the attic.
    Add the much-loved family photos.
    Stir the mixture. Using a metal sieve,
    slowly sift in several half-formed memories
    – fragments of colour, boiled cabbage
    smells, the sound of seagulls squawking,
    the feel of sand beneath your feet,
    the taste of Mother’s home-baked bread,
    that first kiss with Rory Martin.
    (Be careful not to add these ingredients too fast
    and do keep stirring, as they may separate
    or clump together into lumps of confusion
    instead of forming the desired smooth, even mixture.)
    A little pinch of nostalgia
    will give flavour to the blandest base,
    some well-chosen phrases lend weight
    – like Up the wooden hill to bed,
    or Snug as a bug in a rug
    and a packet of love letters
    or carefully kept Valentine’s
    card from a teenage boyfriend
    will hopefully give the blend some added sweetness.
    Now pop it in the oven. Cook for three hours
    on a medium heat. Brush with imagination
    and lightly sprinkle the surface
    with related incidents to taste
    (those tales parents tell
    of when Johnny first met Kate
    and Claire chased the neighbours’ kitten).
    Then serve it straight up
    on a large warm plate and enjoy.
    But please don’t feel too disappointed
    if your concoction is not quite the pièce de résistance
    your adult mind was looking for,
    as childhood is a subtle dish
    – always best savoured while fresh.

    Sarah James

  28. The ease of our love dissolved three years after we first met in a four-star restaurant. At first, I resorted to dressing as sexy as I felt comfortable with. I wore mini skirts, low-cut tops, high-heels to seduce him again. For a while it did the trick. The passion returned, he was again attentive to me, bringing me flowers, telling me he loved me. Things couldn’t be better.

    But the flowers withered, the gift-wrapped chocolates became rare. I was desperate. Then I remembered the place we met, the delicious food there, the outstanding wine. I thought if anything could re-ignite our relationship, it was food. Tasting it together, experiencing it. I went to the market, bought fresh veggies, spices, herbs. I cooked with momentum, I stirred, poured, mixed, chopped, sauted.

    I laid the table, lit five candles, one for each year we were together, I arranged a bunch of tulips in a vase. I made sure everything was spotless, I danced around the kitchen with gusto, enjoying planning everything for a perfect, romantic dinner. Expectantly I went to open the door when I heard the knock. I silently prayed he’d like the food. He ate and drank and complimented and thanked me. And for a while it did the trick.

    But the food eventually lost the flavour for him. He stopped complimenting my cooking, more and more often he ordered in, in the end he didn’t share meals with me anymore, we only had an occasional coffee together in the afternoons.

    Now, I eat alone. As we lost our passion I also lost my desire to cook, so I only eat out nowadays. But the restaurants feel empty, the tables are too big for one, the food is bland, the wine goes to my head. But it does the trick.


  29. As a pure born vegetarian, and a practising vegetarian, I have never, in my life attempted to know the recipe of fried fish , nor tasted pasta dish with fish, of course , nor,did taste the delicacies of Meat fish, nor did make any endeavour to know about crab meat or monkfish. Anything
    Relating to green chillies, green peas, green onions, green corianders, my mouth waters, ah!
    What a lovely wonderful delicious recipe I make, love to sit on the green grass, write a Poem on parrot in its green colour pouring its lovely song, write an essay on green Revolution, even saris green colour I love, and I go green, ever green.

    Yet I like very much the blue waters of the sea beneath the seabed of which these watery
    Species breed and multiply and fishermen go about fishing , a pastime and trade and living
    Which we all know as fishing .
    As per the narration goes in ‘Ambry Carbonado’ two thousand ambry had been brought for a Banquet to be arranged in The Great Hall at Buckingham Palace , in the presence of Her Majesty
    Queen Victoria, in London, what a lovely name and what a lovely event! But is there any
    Credibility in the statement that the fishermen’s protest in the street of LONDON, was not
    Known to Her Majesty and to the guests. The fishermen’s protest resulting in the extinction
    Of the shellfish as a result of the delicacy of the depletion, what a make believe story! If human Effort is more potential, more efficacious than Nature, what about the cyclic current of sea beds of Mighty ocean, what about Sun and many unexplored galaxies? One must send fishermen to those shores of Sicily to do something to resuscitate those delicious shellfish, ambry.

  30. She’s just moved into one of the new pensioners’ council flats on our estate. A week after she’s settled in she receives the news. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth would be visiting and this lucky woman has been chosen to provide the afternoon tea.

    On the great day, she knows at once that she will make one of her specialities for the Queen in honour of her Great, Great-Grandmother. A Victoria Sponge which would be as light as a feather, guaranteed never to fail. The letter stresses that Her Majesty must not be presented with an overwhelming assortment, but assures that a home-made cake would be most acceptable. She sets to work, doesn’t possess an electric mixer but prefers a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease for creaming the butter and sugar.

    It needs only fifteen minutes in the trusty old gas oven; she takes the timer from the shelf, sets it and goes outside to sweep and polish the porch.

    Back indoors she checks her Majesty’s time of arrival. Four o’clock. She spreads a hand-embroidered cloth with matching serviettes, lays small knives and makes a pot of tea.

    Her heart pounds as she realises the timer must have gone off while she was outside polishing the doorstep. She looks at the oven regulo which registers 9 instead of 5, removes the overcooked offering within as the front door bell announces the royal arrival. The burnt contents of the tins turns out obligingly on to the cooling rack. She spreads home-made strawberry jam between the two halves which resemble cardboard discs.

    She rushes to the door forgetting to remove her apron. She endeavours to curtsey but her legs, already shaking with the miserable turn of events, give way completely and she falls in a mortified heap at Her Majesty’s feet.

  31. My son has returned to me. He is not the same man that he was when he left, but at least he has returned. I am grateful for that.

    But I fear for him. The war is over now, won not by battles and swordsmanship but through trickery and patience. But at what cost I ask myself. For there is always a cost.

    The cost is my son.

    It is the dampening of the fire in Orlan's eyes that hurts me most. His spirit is broken; the adventurer tamed.

    When he was young I despaired at his inability to see the danger ahead. I wanted to wrap him in a seaweed blanket to soften his falls; and there were so many falls. Now as I watch him he is picking his way through the rocks, each foot placed with due thought and concern. The bucket of seawater is lifted more than high enough not to be jolted. His gaze retuns often to it, just to be sure.

    It is a painful sight.

    Once I would have been scolding for water spilled, unnecessary rush and risk to ankles. For all those years that I wanted him to be careful, now I wish that he would let go.

    But you do not let go when you are a soldier to the king. You do not let go when the only way to save your people is to stay, ignoring every instinct that tells you to fight and annoy. No you close yourself down, you toe the line and one day you'll go home. Free. Changed, subdued, but not alone, and that is the key. You must not return alone.

    The freedom of my people has cost my son his spirit, but while I must mourn for that, I delight in his presence.

  32. She always flew economy: the firm was strict about expenses. She didn’t mind. Truth to tell, she liked flying: she even liked queueing, hanging around, delays. Madness, people would have said, if she’d admitted it, but she never did.

    It was time to herself she savoured. Anonymous time away from colleagues, children, even her poor husband, desperate as the rest for a share of her attention. Useless time she could defensibly not spend working, even in these days of laptops and wifi and Blackberries.

    It reminded her of being a teenager, killing whole afternoons hanging out in shopping malls. She remembered the indolent feeling of time stretching out: being neither bored nor fulfilled, happy nor sad. That was what airports gave her, now. She’d let her mind wander, watch wretched mothers dragging gaggles of children, scour duty-free shops for things she would never buy.

    She loved the food outlets, too, open round the clock because it was always time to eat in one time zone or another. And it wasn’t just plastic burgers and soggy pizzas any more. New places kept appearing: satay bars, tapas bars, sushi bars, oyster bars.

    One day, in a European city’s main terminal, she saw a stall selling food she didn’t recognise. The smell was intoxicating: seafood, she guessed – some fabulous aromatic herbs – a fruity edge; perhaps wine? It was only an hour since lunch but suddenly she’d never felt so hungry.

    She smiled, pointed, paid, began to devour. God, it was good. Like manna: manna for the weary traveller. She mustered her few words of the language to enquire. Today’s special, she understood. Very rare. Probably you never taste again. Well, she couldn’t risk that. She counted her Euros: enough to keep eating until her flight was called, certainly. And after that, who knew?

  33. When we were growing up, washing up after the family meal was the responsibility of the children.
    “Your mother’s made the meal – so you can all work together to clear it up. No arguments,” my father would instruct as he retired to the other room.
    On good days we would get on with it quite amicably, laughing and joking or singing hits from the musicals at the top of our voices. Or we would recite ‘Knock Knock’ jokes, tirelessly, each trying to invent a new one funny enough to outdo the others.
    But mostly we just bickered our way through it, arguing about everything and nothing. It didn’t matter what. We hurled insults across the room along with fistfuls of soap suds and splashes of water, until our father appeared and roared at us to behave like civilised human beings. We would return to our chores, holding back our retorts until he’d gone back into the sitting room to watch TV. Then we’d start up again, at a slightly lower volume than before. Sometimes, though, he’d catch us out by pretending to close the door and quietly listening to see if we had taken heed of his words.
    My brother was fond of what he called the tea towel flick and became an expert at landing stinging blows on exposed arms or legs, painful enough to make one cry. He always knew he would get away with it, safe in the knowledge that none of us would ever tell tales.
    It was fish pie day we dreaded most, when dishes were encrusted with remnants of grainy mashed potato, burned on and stuck to the china rim. We sometimes managed to get away with leaving the dishes to soak until morning, knowing it would be our mother who would finish off.

  34. A skillet of apples, with cinnamon and a dash of sugar—no more than a tablespoon for the lot; it was forbidden—was the closest thing to a meal that weekend at the mountain retreat.
    Sister Joan did the cooking. Apples were her specialty. The smell was enough to hold the Sisters of Deprivation in thrall. Nine young women crowded around the stove, edgy and salivating, watching the fruit melt into a pulpy, sweet-yet-sour, gloppy mess. Each chopped bit dissolved slowly into a liquid whole without boundaries.
    Before the food had been the run. It was the way. The Sunday 10-miler. Sacred as always. Really, the run was the point. That’s why the sisters drove the van tipsy, topsy, turvy up to the mountain days before. There was nothing for miles but hills and roads and empty tourist cabins. They were sequestered. Lead us not into temptation.
    The run started off jovial enough with chatter and scattered laughter. But soon sweat ran down their faces like holy water and the talk petered out, breath and heat trailing behind them like steam from boiling water. Then Joan took off, with a couple of girls on her heels, the rest hanging on as best they could before dropping off the pack one by one. By the end they spread over the mountain like forager ants.
    Afterwards, back at the cabin, they waited with concave stomachs and cramping intestines for what seemed like hours. No one dared dip the first spoon in the skillet before Joan declared the concoction ready. The whole bit filled nine bowls. The Sisters of Deprivation clutched their bowls like orphans. They didn’t pray over the food. Theirs was not a religious order. But they savored every spoonful, slurping and sucking their spoons, licking their bowls clean.
    Valerie Gregg

  35. To this day, there still remains great controversy surrounding the exact extinction date of the species ‘Canis lupus familiaris’, or more commonly employed term of reference, ‘Dog’. During their millennium of greatest popularity, analysis of linguistic deviances highlight liberal and frequent use of the moniker ‘mans best friend’ when describing the classification.

    Despite millions of detailed primary sources still in existence, all painstakingly observed in their authorship, it is clear great divisions existed within eminent chroniclers of the day. Roberts and Snow, prodigiously productive with their writings during the actual purges, clearly identify a timeline capturing the demise of the genus between the years of 2347 and 2412.

    Such was the global prevalence of the animal; methodical decimation was a painstaking, stressful process, requiring copious planning and manpower. Further to the burden of planned eradication, healthy underground movements maintained deliberate breeding programmes of specifically targeted strains, predominantly for purposes of illegal gambling through means of blood fighting.

    Another authoritative observer of his day, Issac Zavikas, puts a final estimated extinction date of 2421, providing evidential, statistical reports of sightings and encounters beyond all four quarantine borders of earth’s life support zones. Such testimonies are yet to be discredited, therefore cannot be dismissed out-of-hand.

    One area of investigation all sources align with is the global decree of 2344, reluctantly ordering wholesale destruction as a result of the solar episode of 2340, whereby all mankind - canine interaction evolved into random encounters of life threatening nature, burdening risk entirely for genus Homo erectus. Human fatalities of between 40,000 – 150,000 are commonly recorded.

    Considering the unsatisfactory misalignment covering even the most basic salient points, we can still only estimate with an 80% confidence interval the accurate extinction period, pending interpretation of recently discovered transcripts recorded using an ancient, specialist transcript known as ‘English’.

  36. Just down the coast was a fishing village, a picturesque little port at the bottom of a steep hill. The only parking for visitors was at the top of the cliff so we would leave the car and traipse down the hill, passing tiny shops and cafes.

    The beach was home to small colourful fishing boats, the large pebbles littered with nets, lobster pots, ropes and crates. We children would treasure hunt for shells, cuttle fish and starfish amongst the crunchy dried seaweed at the top of the beach. There was a distinct odour of fish everywhere, a reminder of the trade that had formed the lifeblood of this small community for centuries.

    But it was a trade that was slowly dying. Youngsters were moving away to the towns, to jobs of which their fathers and grandfathers could only ever have dreamed. The village was turning to tourism above fishing. A café specialised in crab sandwiches. The shops were filled with gifts. Some sold cheap gaudy souvenirs, alongside shrimping nets and flip flops. Others were crammed with lovingly-produced crafts, ceramics, wood carvings and paintings, which we would admire through the window.

    We often visited this tiny village, its charm as yet unspoilt by second-home owners and television crews. The fishing industry was only just surviving. Fish stocks in reach of the small boat fleet were depleting, the market was shrinking as even the locals moved away from traditional fare and embraced foreign dishes.

    Over time the village has more than survived. Fish cookery has become popular again, led by a celebrity chef just down the road. The local coastline has become the playground of the wealthy, attracted by the wild surf and stunning scenery. Life moves on.

    I haven’t been back for a very long time. I probably never will.

  37. Food, good food, is made with more than just ingredients. It’s made with emotion, care and attention. Like a love song or sonnet it tells a story. Let me give you an example. A really good spicy chili sauce can only be made with just the right touch of anger and passion in the cook. If there isn’t a little bit of anger it just won’t have the right piquant and with not enough passion, well it might be hot but the flavor will be lacking.
    Keeping this in mind I began to cook a meal that hopefully will be remembered and shared every time we tell “our story.” The meal that I had waited my whole life to prepare.
    For the appetizer, something with a bit of spice and flavor to whet his appetite. Little bites of something delicious that leave him still hungry for more. Of course, I’ll make shrimp kisses – shrimp, bacon and cheese – mmmm – but of course not too many. It would not fit into my plan if he were satisfied so soon.
    The salad will be crisp, icy cold butter lettuce with a colorful blend of cut up peppers and sweet grape tomatoes. Something pleasing to the eye and refreshing to his palate. Again the need to leave him longing for more. Looking forward to what’s to come.
    For the main course, I think teriyaki skewers. There’s that exotic flavor, hints of island escapes and having him barbecue them for me will make him see that he’s needed. A light rice side dish and fresh string beans.
    Dessert …. Home made apple pie with home made vanilla ice cream … a little comfort food, a little something that lingers on the tongue, a little flavor to savor, homey and comfortable that says “I love you.”

  38. Aberdeen

    Dad was a fisherman. He worked trawlers off the northeast coast.

    Aberdeen. The town meant a missing dad, nothing else. It meant waking at five am to the sound of his razor tap tap on the bathroom sink, thud of boots on the stairs, slam of a door; knowing it might be another two weeks, three weeks before he came back, unshaven, smelling of salt, smoke and fish.

    I grew up with this cycle of him being at home, being at sea.

    When I was younger, I slept with one of his shirts. Fillets of cod, whole cod, their eyes filled my dreams, the twisted bones of their heads. Later, I got used to it. The quiet when he was away, just mum and me. No ‘hurry hurry’ to get his tea ready. No, ‘go to your room son, me and your mum need to catch up’.

    He was away longer each time. Not much work, he said. He needed to take the trips the others didn’t want. Sometimes, he didn’t come back at all, stayed in a hotel near the harbour waiting for the next sail.

    Last time I saw him, I noticed his stale clothes, sweat rings in the arm pits of his shirt, and a pub smell. I heard them arguing. Mum asking him for money, no good son of a bitch, we need money for food and the bills mounting up, how do you think we can manage on this?

    In the morning I heard his tap tap on the sink, and slid from under the covers. I padded to the bathroom barefoot, and told him about a poem I wrote, about him on a far away trawler with seagulls filling the sky.

    He patted my head and told me, never be a fisherman, son.

    Annie Clarkson

  39. I had trouble with the word ambry from the start.

    Google returned 277,000 relevant pages. The first few links were for a computer parts company (, a genetics lab (, a music site (, and a restaurant in Florida ( There was nothing about Sicily, shellfish, or Antonio Vespucci. It seemed sensible to narrow the search a little.

    “Ambry Carbonado” returned one page: “”. After marvelling for a moment at how quickly Google finds new stuff, I realised I was a little confused; Google knows everything, surely.

    I looked ambry up in my pocket OED. No entry. I looked it up in the Concise. Ambry, var of Aumbry. I looked up Aumbry, n. (pl. -ies) 1 a small recess in the wall of a church... [ME f. OF almarie, armarie f. L armarium closet, chest f. arma utensils].

    Okaaay. I phoned my Dad. He has a copy of the complete OED (two volumes, 4,100 pages of two-point type, 7.5x10.5”). He had to get the magnifying glass out (one comes handily supplied in a little drawer).

    Well, it had an entry: eight inches (in 2pt, remember) detailing semantic derivations, cognate forms, meaning, phonetic development, history of uses since 1600, examples of uses… and that was just the first definition. There was a lot about holes in walls, but no mention of shellfish.

    I went back to Google, and searched for ambry AND shellfish. It returned a page from Webster’s Online Dictionary. I read it, then phoned my Dad again.

    Niche, …recess or hollow formed in the wall of a building… [F niche, ad. it. nicchia of doubtful origin (by Diez connected with nicchio mussel shell).

    It just goes to show that you can prove anything if you're prepared to waste enough time.


  40. In the long run I could be eaten up by a shark or someone else. I am a fish. But prior to this crucial day I leap through ultramarine oceans along beautiful coastlines, through mangroves rich in birdlife. I like to spot birds from below the surface. It requires strategy, and time and dazzling crystal clear water. It is somehow dull, and sometimes dangerous, and very often meaningless, but it makes me happy. Birds are my relatives.
    I have seen fishermen catch all sorts of things, including stingrays and sharks off the pier. I’ve seen weather-beaten men catching everything from Sander Vitreus, Sander Canadensis and white bass to Esox Masquinongy, catfish and so on. Elsewhere I saw fishermen catch a dozen fish in a few hours. I know they know that there is no charge for this type of fishing. I have even seen fishing from space and how it looks like when rows of Chinese shrimp trawlers disrupt the rivers and oceans. And I still find places that have not seen fishermen for weeks.
    When I dive my snorkel provides me a conduit for air. Occasionally the whitecap of a wave may enter my snorkel – reach my lungs and then my bloodstream, my heart and then my brain and then I have got waves not only around but also in my body.
    I don’t eat fish, because I don’t like the idea of eating myself. I once tried a bit of nailbiting. I didn’t like the taste, so I quit. To stop nail biting, one requires patience and awareness. I am a happy fish, and no one can catch me. That is why I am slightly lonesome. I would be happier with another fish perhaps with ascendant Libra. But I don’t care as long as the fish loves me.

  41. Got any threes?

    It’d been three years since I’d seen her. Living so far away had its benefits, but there were costs as well. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed her until I moved back last winter.

    Only one, and now it’s yours.

    She was once the Baroness of Bridge. She taught me how to play, when I was a teenager. I’d sit next to her for hours while she and her sisters tossed back Rolling Rocks in highball glasses, shared each other’s Winston 100s, and bid on trumpets (at least that’s what I’d heard). She’d been the The Princess of Pinochle after church on Sundays. The Empress of Euchre on rainy weekends at the cottage.

    How about hearts?

    Mine sinks a little. Has she really slipped so far?

    Wrong game, silly.

    That sly half a smile (she was always teasing, and testing), the left side of her mouth reaching back ever so gently towards her unpierced, yet never naked earlobe. She wouldn’t leave the house without a dab of lipstick (Maybeline, candy apple red) and a pair of clip-ons. Even now, at 92 and after all she’s been though, she still makes the effort. Especially for a bed-side game of cards.

    I knew that, dear. Any fours?

    She hated this game, but it’s all she can muster most days. And she seems content. So I sit here with her (sometimes her son, sometimes her brother, sometimes her pastor, and one uncomfortable afternoon her first husband), breathing in talcum powder and White Shoulders. The day care worker’s in the kitchen, having a Coke and a smoke. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind one herself, but the oxygen tank next to the bed snuffs out any chance of that.

    A pair. You’re on a roll.


    Go fish, Grandma.

    bob [at] bobzyeruncle [dot] com

  42. This is not place I would normally come to eat. Billik vi borshch but too familiar, too cosy. That night the Moskovitch wouldn’t start again, so I have to go back into shop to call help, and they say they will not come possibly for hours. And I grow wet and cold with the waiting. So I go inside this restaurant right next to shop.

    ‘Ah, my friend! You walk past us so many times! Now, finally, you come!’ the rounded man throws a teacloth over a shoulder and starts to pump my hands in endless embrace.

    ‘We are honoured!’ he shows mouth of crooked teeth, overloaded in his gums. Antonio – I learn later this is his name – makes show of seating me at table in front of his bar. I grow flustered with his attentions. I do not like people to know me; to know how I take my coffee or eat my eggs.

    Antonio takes my order and I panic. I order first thing I read on menu. Spaghetti a la vongole. I am allergic to clams, but after this one time, I take weeks before courage to explain. Antonio brings me best clams night after night and each morning I take more antihistamines to bring down welts on arms and legs. I should come no more, but this meeting, this restaurant; it is bashert that brings me here.

    These old words form in my mind like a train, to remind me I have life before this place. Before leaving Ukraine. I leave for freedom, I tell people then. For being able to say I am Russian Jew. For things that are important. Now though, I know other kind of hardships. Ones I did not feel so much when riding on back of cattle truck in our mountains.

  43. I hadn’t counted on the weight of despair when not being able to register
    with server, but rescue arrives from my cyber guru.
    GMT (from ‘messages’ instructions) catches my eye. We are lounging on the settee/sofa when Arabella Carbonado, Our Mutual Friend, (link, Dickens,) -
    who has just flown in from foreign parts - traces with her index finger across the Atlantic Ocean on the atlas to show how the line from Greenwich curves to Portugal. So that’s why there’s no time difference! Wish we could accept her invite - get there by boat…too seasick…by plane…oh dear, those airports! My protest was broken up by the daily necessity to take up our skiing sticks and trudge round the fields.
    My thoughts are busy, exploring all the possible meanings in one single word.
    Cross a border, especially one cut from a selvage.
    Reach an obsolete boundary, with Shakespeare
    Become a knight ready to joust.
    Come forward to do battle.
    Take up ploughing using double mould board plough.
    Consider an architectural fillet on a building of special historic interest.
    Find yourself in a Scottish community home for young offenders?
    Notice a division of parted hair.
    Try too hard to please.
    Have pleasure in desire.
    Cause to heel or lean over.

    What is it about words….about poetry?
    A tingle/ shiver factor. An unexpected word which opens
    up the whole world in a poet’s perception.
    Or an image which is so vivid, it can encapsulate some intangible feeling that’s
    been floating without anchor through a whole lifetime.
    What did Dylan Thomas mean when he suggested rage, raging into the
    dying of the light?

    Did he mean us to set out to cross the globe; or go down into the
    mysterious caves and up into the cyberspaces, of our own mental fields?

    Geraldine Cousins 18th November 2007

  44. Anonymous: My son has returned....



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