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An empty week

"One seventh of your life is spent on Monday." Aldous Huxley

Actually it is now Tuesday, which demonstrates some of what I was going to talk about.

This is how I began yesterday:

"It's Monday and an empty week stretches before me according to my diary - as shown here. Well, as you can see I have written in my weekly resolutions, of which about half are generally achieved. Also, as you can see, my resolutions are mostly to do with food, and this blog, which some would think is somewhat pathetic. However, I guess it's just my particular interest in life, as others might be interested in birds, collecting things, fashion, film, gardening, bike riding, photography, etc. etc.

Back to my diary - I didn't write in my Italian lesson because I don't really need to. I also notice that in this particular ..."

And as always, with everything, life intervened. So also, of course, the week is no longer empty. Nothing ever stands still and whilst we may have expectations they don't always, in fact, hardly ever, turn out how we believed they might. Expectations are always a 'might' because we can never, ever tell what the future holds. Even the future which is one minute away.

So back to the Monday feeling of facing an entirely empty week, with mostly food in mind. With quiet anticipation I have to say. As I said, food somewhat dominates my life, and today I have decided that that is because it is probably the one thing that I can do moderately well. Better than average, but not a master. Which sort of describes most aspects of me really. And there is nothing wrong with being in the middle as it were. So when we find ourselves retired, and children grown, we only have ourselves (and any life partner you may have) to focus on. Time stretches out, most pleasantly on the whole, without all that stress of work and bringing up children and marriage/partnership - if you are fortunate enough to have that. No stress, but time to fill and here we most likely fall back on our strengths.

Mind you there are also things I could, should do - finish writing a life story for the descendants when they eventually become interested in their ancestors, do a bit more family history and break through all of those bricke walls. Both of which are really a fun thing to do. But there is also the big one - 'putting one's affairs in order' which requires a bit of dedication and effort. So, of course it gets shoved into the too hard basket. Maybe I should reinstate the eating an elephant approach and declutter room by room month by month - two months for the study! Which I started many years ago until I broke my wrist halfway and never went back to it. Another resolution broken.

But back to the here and now and that empty week. I was about to note that this week - on Saturday we begin winter, although in my head, June, my birthday month is the beginning of summer. In fact the weather today is much like I remember it in June back in the UK. This photograph was taken in Eltham on 30th May last year. Not quite winter but almost - it's a rather beautiful time of year because of the falling leaves - although this year, they have mostly fallen. But winter - yes - restaurants change their menus, and different foods are available. It should be all those brassicas, and roots, but their cost remains stubbornly high - except for carrots.

Mondays and food. I do not plan every meal and every shop, like many gurus tell you to. Partly, I suppose because I am fortunate enough to not have to worry about budgets, and also I only have to feed two people. Besides I like shopping for food - much more than for clothes, and shopping locally also affords the opportunity of a lengthy up hill and down dale walk back from the shops. Sometimes it also provides content for the blog. Supermarkets are interesting places. The whole world and its problems in micro form.

On Mondays I do however, think vaguely about what the week might offer in the way of cooking. There are two impetuses for this - one is my little list of foodie resolutions - vegetarian, fish, etc. and the other is down to what is in the fridge. Hopefully the two combine so that I can tick off my resolution list and give myself a moment of praise, as well as saving food before it goes off.

Dealing with the fridge first - I thought I had a quarter of a leftover potato omelette to use up and I started thinking of cutting it into strips and doing some kind of stir fry that would use up some green curry paste I have that needs using, and also some green beans that David bought and which need using. But then David reheated it for his dinner - I was fasting - and that put an end to that.

There is some rather delicious fish soup that I made last week that needs eating, so that will be one meal this week. One fast, I was hoping on Monday, so only 6 meals to cook. Alas that is now looking like 5 because, shockingly, now that it's Tuesday and the fast is done I find I have put on weight, not lost it, and so should probably fast again. Hoping today to cut that to just ignoring breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Breakfast is not my thing anyway. There was however, a moment of rebellion when I thought I would give up on the fasting and just get fat!

I am also conscious that in my fridge I have a whole lot of carrots, those beans, some zucchini which tend to go off quite quickly too and half a butternut pumpkin. Plus some broccolini which really is past it, so will either be for the compost or a stock pot. And I almost forgot the massive bunch of celery, which fortunately lasts longer, and some mushrooms that I bought because I thought I needed them for a recipe I was making and then found I didn't. As you can see, I am not a careful shopper. Still it stimulates the 'what can I do with that?' brain cells.

And what about those written down resolutions?

Guru. This is how I cook from an actual recipe once a week. Well try to, and this week it's Elizabeth David's turn and, moving through my Elizabeth David collection, I am up to the one below, which is a sort of 'best of' collection. Of course I have all the recipes inside elsewhere but this is a selection with pictures of many of her recipes. Ideal for somebody new to this guru of gurus, and for me, just a nice book to own.

I think that's duck with figs on the cover - neither of which are a David favourite so it won't be that. I've flicked through, was tempted by an oxtail stew, but currently am looking at Tranches de mouton à la Poitevine (Mutton stewed with brandy and garlic). A dish I know I have cooked a few times in the past - and look it seems to be served with carrots - or maybe it's pumpkin. But I will have a more considered perusal of the options.

Vegetarian. Currently thinking in terms of zucchini and beans and pasta, but will need to think a bit more on that - with lemon. Or it could be a quiche I suppose.

Fish and freezer - well I'm hoping I can work out which of the two or three half pies I have in my freezer is the smoked trout one, because that would enable me to tick off two things. Otherwise I could add the fish to the pasta, which would then no longer be vegetarian ...

Legumes - do beans count as legumes?

Using up stuff. Well tonight I'm going to concoct a beef stew with the remains of a jar of caramelized onion chutney, some carrots, and maybe some of the pumpkin and mushrooms too, served with beans. Other potential flavours are rosemary, beer (or there may be some leftover red wine), Worcestershire sauce. Garlic is a given. Maybe even dumplings instead of potatoes.

I'd also like to have a final go at a different butter chicken - this time the recipe from our own Recipe Tin Eats lady - Nagi Maehashi, just to show that Australians can do it too. Well, of course, that's to be discovered.

Chicken and rice reminded me however, that I had also thought of making a variation of a dish I make from time to time of chicken and carrots, in a yoghurty, minty sauce - probably this time with zucchini too. To use them up.

But is that too many dishes? I think it's six, no seven, so something will have to go. And, I have no doubt that five of them will generate leftovers of their own. So I have to tell myself to not buy any more food this week. Absolutely not.

I also forgot to mention that David has been anxious about the supplies of his home-made marmalade disappearing. He is down to two jars - well one and a half now and so he bought a bag of oranges for me to make marmalade with. Not as good as Seville orange marmalade but a very good substitute. So that's what happened to Monday and why I didn't get to finish this blog post. Yesterday was all the hard work of peeling, cooking and removing pips before mixing the flesh and the peel and adding the sugar. Today early riser David started the final boiling to setting point and I finished it off later before the two of us bottled it. Mission accomplished. Just labels and storage to do.

So an empty week has already changed direction somewhat. To fast again or not? Most of a day taken by marmalade. Too many meals to fit into the time. And maybe I should try and fit in a meal with our sons who have instigated a series of meals out together. I think they are worrying about us getting old. Which is rubbish but a nice thing to do.

Next week is somewhat busier and I think it will not be as excitingly open for experiment. Which is how I view an empty week - who knows what will happen in all that vacant time stretching out for exploration?

Maybe I should go for a walk now. Get rid of some of that excess weight.


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28 may
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Five stars are for R's marmalade! Breakfast - "most important meal of the day" someone once said, but probably the least varied, but if you have Rosemary's marmalade who wants variatioin!

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