Monday madeleine moment

Max Halley (op. cit.) reminded me of the addictive delights of a malt loaf. So I just had to buy a Soreen loaf, the thought of which took me back to Sunday afternoons at home with Mum & Dad and siblings, when we’d get slices of malt loaf — as thickly buttered as I could get away with — to eat in front of the fire and the TV. Sheer joy. How could you not love something that markets itself as “deliciously squidgy energy”?

Soreen malt loaf

So, with some truly amazing self-control, I’ve yet to broach this pack. I’ll be going in thick with the butter though — Mum isn’t here to growl at me — using some of the wonderful cultured, fermented, butter from Ampersand.

Ampersand fermented butter

I found out only today that (a) Proust started out using toast rather than madeleines in his “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” and (b) that malt loaf was actually a Scottish invention from the late 19th Century and thus not as exotically foreign as I’d thought before.

The Sandwich

Val & I are are working on a joint project. It’s loosely based around sandwiches, and in this case around “The Korean Gangster” from the book “Max’s Sandwich Book” by the inimitable Max Halley...

The Korean Gangster sandwich

This short piece is thanks to her questions:

He was a simple man, he lived simply, he ate simply, he cooked simply. His sandwiches are simple. But in that dedication to simplicity lay their genius. The ingredients were commonplace. Not poor, just the ones he’d find in the cupboard

His kitchen was a little room, a few feet square, all he could afford. But he had a small work surface, a sink, a double burner cooker and an overhead grill. With that he could cook everything he needed.

He always ate a sandwich at midday. Every day, on the dot of 11, he decided on the ingredients. And then decided how to get that into the the sandwich. To get his hot, cold, sweet, crunchy, soft & sour mojo working.

There was only ever him eating it now. His companion of many years had died a few months ago. He had no relatives. His only friends lived in another city, miles and miles away. He’d not seen any of them for a year or more. So just him. Each day. 

He ate it at the same kitchen table that he and his wife would use each day. Battered, scarred, with some burns. That even sounded like him. His life in the shape of a table. But it was reliable. Like him. It was steady. Like him. It was a fixture. Like him

Every day, midday, on the dot of 12 he’d eat. A routine. One that he felt he needed more everyday.  He missed her. He missed her laughter, her teasing, her jokes. She kept him happy. And in return he’d fed her. It wasn’t the same now. 

He used to prepare her sandwiches as though she’d bought them from a good sandwich bar. Encased in grease-proof paper, tied with colourful string, sometimes even a little note tucked inside, a thought for the day or a poem he’d enjoyed.

Today’s one smelt strongly of kimchi. That and garlic and that gravy Mayo that he loved making — even now — with the remains of the roast he’d had the previous day.

He knew what it would taste like even before he tried it. Because he was good. He knew he was good, he knew how things would work together, work in harmony (or as a counter balance for one of the strong elements). This one would be sharp, rich, deep. 

There’s that first crunch as his teeth sunk through the bread, down into the deep fried noodles, into the lettuce. Then almost a splash as he met the mayo and the gravy and the beef. The sound inside his head was a melange. 

The sandwich was deep, full, bulging. His always were. Even if there were only 4 or 5 ingredients, there was no hint of parsimony. His was a generosity of spirit. And that was her doing.

The noodles were his secret weapon if truth be told. He’d no idea that shop bought noodles and packaged ramen would work so well when deep fried. It had been a revelation when he’d experimentally dripped them into the hot oil. 

If he was selling this in a shop, he’d charge at least £7 for it. Damn, it was worth every penny. His skills, his use of ingredients, his effortless expertise in his subject. People would pay that much for this delight. To him, free of course, but he always thought of a shop. 

He’d never have a shop of course now. He had no savings, no real income, no way of starting out afresh at his age. But he knew he’d have been a success at it. She’d told him so many times. He wished she was here. He wished she was still pushing him…

Offal calls to offal

As Thom Eagle pointed out in his piece from the Oxford Symposium in 2016…

Calf offal

…(his talk on vegetable offal or using off-cuts starts at around 51:00 minutes in but the other two speakers are also worth listening to), a reminder that the expensive aroma that truffles exude, is very similar to that of the hormones emanating from pigs testicles, in an inspired evolutionary move to get their spores dug up and moved around the countryside. Offal really does call to offal…