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Meat

Hermione – One of the many frog adornments in my Mum’s house.

“No” replied the waiter. “It’s these pants, they are a little too tight.”

Now, let’s dispel the myth. The French are not great lovers of frogs legs. Just in the same way as true Italians look down their nose at Spaghetti Bolognese and the British don’t enjoy getting Toad in the Hole when out in restaurants (One needs to be careful how one puts that.).  All stereotypical ‘National’ dishes.

Our European leaders can’t agree on the future of the Euro. Here in Ireland, we were lucky enough to be the first bailout boy of the current financial shambles. The God-like Greeks stepped in and took on the mantle of shame for a while. The poor chaps over in Cyprus were hardly noticed when they asked for a couple of billion to keep the dole queues queueing and civil servants civil. As I write, Spain is attracting the interest and Italy is only a few bond auctions away from the fun.

I have carried the weight of this around for more than a decade and now I have to clear my conscience. We had been holidaying in the Poitou‑Charentes region of France. We had made the short trip into Saintes for the weekly market. I was feeling ambitious and wanted to prepare a butterflied leg of lamb. I circled the market and located the lamb butcher, having previously tried to buy beef from a boucherie chevaline (horse butcher), causing much mirth for the butcher and embarrassment for me. In my dire French, I conveyed that I wanted the joint boned. With much smiling and what I thought was comprehension, the master craftsman set to work.

When my youngest was a lot younger, she would rarely be direct about anything. If she wanted something out of the ordinary like some new clothes, or something ‘girly’ of which I probably would not approve, she would do something daft like write out a request (along with a smiley face) and slip it under the sitting room door. While she was a little thing and cute, those notes always got the desired result. As she has aged and the ravages of time have started to take their toll (she is 20 now), she trys more subtle methods of influencing me. 

Why does Anthony Worrell Thompson stick celery in his and sprinkles it with parsley?

Why does Julia Child crumble bay leaf into hers?

Why does Jamie Oliver needs two bottles of wine?

Why does Nigel Slater use one bottle in his?

Why does the Belfast Telegraph shove a chicken stock cube into theirs?

Why does Gordon F***** Ramsey recommend Irish Soda Bread with it?

Why does James Martin say to have it with mash?

Why does AWT above say to have it with new potatoes?

Why do ‘all recipes dot com’ not use carrots in theirs?

We were sitting looking at the view of Scotsman’s Bay in Dun Laoghaire. “Provenance old man.” said L as we enjoyed one of those barely warm, sunny spring mornings.  “Take those apple and sage sausages you enjoy so much. What’s their provenance? You haven’t got a clue, have you?” I had to admit that I had no idea who, how or where they were made. I have faith in my butcher. L is less trusting than I and he chastised me for my naivety. I don’t like having my shortcomings, real or imaginary, exposed. So I resolved to redress the situation by preparing my own range of sausages from scratch. 

Yes, I do have a son. This my come as a surprise to some of you. It would be a surprise for the Wife if I had not come clean on the matter with her. Before I get into that, I’ll bet you know the parable of the prodigal son. I’ll also bet you that you have never referred to somebody as being “prodigal”. You have never rolled down the car window and shouted; “Ohi, You. You Prodigal. Move that heap.” Or perhaps, you ladies, behind a gloved hand, over a double frappachino laté, whispered to a friend; “She is sooooo prodigal. I don’t know how her parents put up with her.” Admit it to yourself. You probably don’t even know the exact meaning of the word.

Rib of BeefI’m an Irishman and proud of it. I am married to an English lady. These are both good things on a number of levels: She has put up with me for over 20 years. We have two mostly wonderful daughters. Because of her origins, I can get away with stuff others can not. I can talk in slightly derogatory and jocular tones about ‘The Brits’ and excuse myself by admitting to being happily married to one.

I want you to imagine my youngest daughter. She is an innocent thing who likes small animals and fluffy things. She loves Disney cartoons. One of her favourites is Bambi. She finds the various scenes of innocence touching. When she watches it, she will be heard to say things like “Ahhh, so pretty.” and “Ohhhh, aren’t the chipmunks so cute.”

I am telling you all this because I recently suggested that I cook a rabbit stew for the family. This led to the following unfortunate conversation:

Cha Shao Beef cooked smallIn the fairytale, Beauty falls in love with the Beast, without knowing that inside the outer ugliness was the handsome prince of her dreams. It is a bit like my Cha Shao Roast Beef, crispy and crusty on the outside with lean deliciousness within.

The Beast, on the other hand, saw Beauty and immediately fell deeply in love with her and her obvious charms. It’s a bit like that with me and Bill Granger‘s wonderful Mango Pudding. It was love at first bite.

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