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Meat

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.

It’s my own fault. I suggested that as I was cooking for the Wife and myself, I might include my eldest and her boyfriend in the pot. They gratefully accepted my offer. Then they did what great negotiators the world over do when they have a deal over the line. They changed the terms.

Not my usual way to start a post but circumstance has forced my hand. My two grown-up (in age only) daughters were having a conversation in the way that only the female of the species can. L (the elder) looks up from typing on her computer and says “It’s great that Laura and Paddy are coming to dinner on Sunday.” Without lifting her head from deep study of Facebook, S (the younger) replies; “Who the hell is Lord Paddington?” Now, just over a week hence, my nurse niece Laura and her fireman boyfriend Paddy have become forever the single entity “Lord Paddington”. 

For centuries now Fortnum & Mason have made and sold some of the most delicious foods available on these islands. They even pioneered some populist fare. A number of decades ago, that bastion of fine British food was the first retailer to stock and sell Mr Heinz’s now ubiquitous baked beans.

My love of Oriental cooking came from a period in my working life when I ate in Chinese restaurants at least once a week. I have spent over 30 years in advertising and during the late 80s and early 90s, I would dine out, often in excellent Chinese restaurants including  the Orchid Szechuan on Dublin’s Pembroke Road or in the Imperial on Wicklow Street (great for Dim Sum). In those days, it was perfectly normal enjoy a three course meal with wine (often lots of wine) for lunch on an almost daily basis. Those habits have been diminished by time, social convention and economic change but my love of oriental fare and cooking have not been eroded.

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