"After a thousand blog posts you should be getting better as a writer." Black Mark
Six years ago on the 15th July, 2016 I began this blog - well its previous incarnation - with my Home page headline "I like food and I'm bored" and a piece called Inside my Fridge. Well I still like food although I'm not quite as bored as I was back then, because a good part of my day is taken up with THE BLOG. Its' fun, challenging and exercises the mind. Which doesn't mean I still don't get bored from time to time.
Coincidentally I had also nominated this day a David's special meal day, and he suggested something to go with the bottle of bubbly in the fridge that he had put there for his wine night and which didn't get opened. So a very appropriate thing to consider on a birthday. Because it is a sort of birthday. And bubbly is a celebration thing.
So here are a few rambling and random thoughts about turning six, bubbly and what to eat with it.
I began that first blog with these words:
"This is where it all starts.
My leftovers book made me realise that the starting point for what I cook is always the fridge - the staples that I try to keep there all the time - milk, yoghurt, cream, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables, bacon - and then all the little jars of stuff to enhance and flavour."
It was accompanied by a photo of the inside of my fridge - below left - so I just took one of my fridge today - on the right.
And at a quick glance I could say that nothing much has changed there. And going back to that comment about the starting point for meals, nothing much has changed there either. Mostly how I cook is by going to the fridge, and sussing out what needs to be used up. I rarely cook from a recipe these days, which I find rather sad.
So today because of that coincidence of the champagne, I was immensely pleased to find a recipe that included various things I had that were waiting to be used. But I'm slightly ahead of myself here.
My first step was to find what indeed you should eat with champagne. No, not champagne, just bubbly - and an Aldi South Point bubbly at that - even if it has won a couple of gold medals and according to someone has a score of 96. I mean for $4.99 it surely can't be good? Well we have had it before, and whilst it is not one of the very best on offer, not even the better Australian ones it is actually really quite nice - much better than the price tag would suggest.
The first thing I found as a common theme amongst all the wine connoisseurs was salt. Champagne goes with salt and crunch apparently:
"If you want to fine-tune a match with champagne, you have to play with salt. Salinity has a great impact on champagne ... champagne asks for texture ... you should have in any dish, an element of crunchiness that will equal the effervescence" Benoit Gouez - Moët et Chandon Cellarmaster
And oiliness too:
"What happens when you eat oily food, whether it's fish, duck, or some type of meat, it leaves a texture, a greasiness on your tongue, and what's beautiful about the champagne - which is quite acidic - is it actually cleans that oiliness off and lets you carry on with the next mouthful". Kyla Kirkpatrick - The Champagne Dame
And then I think both of the above, or at least various wine buffs thought the ideal food was fried chicken. Which appealed to me immensely. I mean a drink that is associated with glamour and wealth pairs best with fast food fried chicken. How great is that as an idea? So out of left field. KFC anyone?
So I started looking for a reasonable recipe and the very first one I came across - Crispy fried kefir chicken with rosemary and garlic from good old Nigel Slater, was so perfectly attuned to 'inside my fridge' in that the chicken was sitting on fried yellow capsicum and I bought a 'bargain' sort of box of yellow capsicums the other day, that I decided there and then that this was it. The capsicums were not really a bargain of course, because capsicums, like iceberg lettuces are currently ridiculously expensive. But in terms of today's prices, they were a bargain, and they need using up, though some will go into that ratatouille for Sunday.
Rosemary too - I have rosemary in the garden. It's one of my few herb plants that has any greenery on it at all at the moment. Besides - Rosemary - it's my name and it's my blog. So why not?
Having found serendipitously the perfect recipe I looked no further but later - as I was perusing the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's newsletter I saw Beijing hot chicken from Rosheen Kaul's new book Chinese-ish. It looked really nice and sounded nice too, but chilli - no - of course not. This is David's special meal after all. Another time perhaps.
So what to have with it? Well I was just thinking of a green salad. Yes I know - very extravagant in these times, but it's one of the things I have not stopped buying, although I mostly stick to cheaper options than iceberg. But then I saw this from Tony Naylor in his How To Eat series of Guardian articles - this one being on fried chicken:
"Fried chicken meals - By which HTE means fried chicken and chips. Because what else would you eat it with? Salad? If so, why? Perhaps it is feasible you could produce an impressive meal of fried chicken and salad but – the road to good intentions being paved with hellish moments – you are going to eat many terrible meals on that journey, while fried chicken’s perfect partner already exists. To be clear, when HTE says chips we of course mean fries: rustling, taut, tanned, glistening sticks of starch – each fistful a hot ‘n’ salty, blandly carb-y lull between mouthfuls of assertively savoury chicken."
At first I dismissed this idea - after all they are just so bad for you, but then I thought, that yes, I might be able to make some oven fries with the leftover marinade and flour. I'm sure they will not be crisp - or even 'rustling, taut and tanned' - my oven chips are always a bit soggy. But I'll give it one more try.
As for that salad, well Nigel Slater suggests:
"a salad of shredded white cabbage to go with this, seasoning it lightly with white wine vinegar and dill"
Mmm, possibly - I do have some cabbage in the fridge. Perhaps mix it with the lettuce.
The final confirmation that this was the right dish to make were the closing words from Tony Naylor's article when he discussed what you should drink with it:
"Something fizzy that will periodically scrub your mouth clean, whose brash, bustling flavours (craft keg IPA, full-fat cola etc.), are sufficiently in-your-face to hold their own amid all that heat, salt and fat. Delicate still drinks – water, white wine – are not only ineffective, they will make the whole meal die in your mouth."
True he doesn't mention bubbly - but defiinitely fizzy. And bubbly is not really 'in your face' but nevertheless I see that as an endorsement.
But really this post should have been all about blogging for six years. I don't know that by merely tapping away on the computer for that long my writing has improved all that much. I flicked through old blogs, focussing on the Julys of my six years and saw that I often repeat myself, but also that the content is fairly varied and the writing is up and down. But that's the good thing about food - it reaches into so many corners of our lives. It's so fundamental to - well life I guess. So what did I write about in those Julys?
The birthday date itself, when I remembered it that is - was often reflective - like this one, so here is a list of titles from each of those years - the two days after the celebration:
2016 - not strictly a celebration as this was the beginning. But my second post was called Purple Food, and the one after that Oh to be Skinny Again
2017 - we were actually away in France for the birthday date, and I was not blogging then, but on our return on the 20th I wrote Renewal in the Bleak Midwinter followed by La Bergerie, Aragon, France and Michelin Stars - which was a reminiscence from that holiday.
2018 Pecorino Wine Goes Well with Cheese followed by Tiramisù - Common but not to be Scorned - both of which were inspired by lunch at Florentino Grill with my 3 lovely pseudo daughters.
2019 - Paul Bocuse and Celebrations - on the birthday day- but I just loved this photo and had to share. The day after that I wrote about Spring Greens - much more everyday - in England anyway.
2020 - What happened to Chateau Quercy and Stéphane Apelbaum? followed by Lucky Dip - Indian Pancakes
2021 - Roses and Sesame Seeds followed by Graters - from Sex to High Tech
Which brings me up to date. Six years of essays. Almost every day. Some good ones there and some not so good, maybe even totally uninteresting - and, dare I say, boring. My Wix statistics tell me that to date I have written 784 posts in this incarnation of the blog which began in 2020. There are probably around the same in the first version which can still be accessed here. So a lot of words, and thank you for my faithful few followers who have stuck with me over all that time. I think there are probably hundreds of thousands of people tapping away in their little corner of the internet with just a handful of followers. It's our small attempt at doing something creative. A kind of graffiti that says 'I was here'.
I never set out to seek fame and make a fortune with this blog, and it is interesting to see that many articles about writing blogs are about how to achieve that, assuming that that is what you want to do. No, this was merely an attempt to keep my mind active, and to amuse myself. I have learnt a lot in the process, had my eyes opened to all manner of issues old and new, revived so many memories.
"When you start blogging it can swiftly take over your life. You’ll be photographing your dinner, dreaming about blog posts and drafting them in your head on long journeys. Your days out will turn into blog fodder, you’ll start filming your holidays and you’ll be well and truly sucked into social media." What the Redhead Said
All of which is sort of true, although I have yet to be really sucked into social media, much as I am sometimes tempted by Instagram and TikTok. I don't film my holidays - not that there have been any of them of late - but I do photograph them. I photograph lots of things. Just to amuse. But I do draft posts - or at least think of ideas - as I go for walks. I don't think I dream about them, but yes, it is a bit consuming, and maybe I should stop for that reason. I suspect it's not really a good thing to be consumed by anything.
Enough. Happy birthday to me and on to cooking fried chicken. I had to read the recipe several times, because I didn't understand what happened to the garlic and rosemary that you fry at the beginning. They then seemed to disappear but I had been ignoring the last lines:
"Lay the peppers on a serving dish then place the chicken on top and season with the salt and garlic mixture."
He forgot to mention the rosemary. But yes - salt and champagne. Off I go to cook it. I didn't have any kefir - well I'm sure he meant plain kefir, not blueberry flavoured kefir which we do have. So I used his suggestion of yoghurt and lemon juice.
Crossing fingers that it will turn out alright. As I do for every blog post I begin.