Spontaneity requires organisation

"Spontaneity has long been one of my favourite ingredients in the kitchen" Nigel Slater

This is my older son, many, many years ago on the first day of one of his biggest adventures - and he has had a few - returning to Australia with his then girlfriend, overland. It took them eight months. I love this picture, however wobbly his cartwheel is, and how awful the blonde spiky hairdo which you can just see, is. Because to me it shows such joy, and such spontaneity. How many people do cartwheels at the Louvre I wonder? He was happy and in love and about to embark on a big adventure and this was one of the ways he chose to show it.


That picture also has a high degree of poignancy. The date is 12th September 2001 - 10/11 in fact. The day after 9/11 and we all know how the world has changed since then. And that relationship has had many highs and lows - and currently it has a kind of happiness. It just goes to show that a moment in time can express so much and hide so much all at the same time. Disaster strikes but life goes on.


Tomorrow we embark on our ten days in Port Douglas. It's our third attempt to take the family there to celebrate David's 80th birthday which was in June last year. So it is not at all a spontaneous trip. Much planning has gone into this. And the planning continues. For us - I am sure not for my son - it has been a somewhat gruelling day packing and accumulating all the information, bits and pieces and cables - so many cables for a short break. Anxiety reigns and will until we are sitting on that plane.


We are not spontaneous holidaymakers. We have many friends who are. They browse the deals on offer and when they see one, they pounce. Many of our 'oldie' friends who are now retired are hardly ever here. On a whim they will pack up the caravan, or book that deal and off they go. Were we like that when young? No I don't think so - maybe my university student trip to America was a bit spontaneous but once decided that also required a fair bit of organisation. Camping trips with friends post university were semi spontaneous I suppose, and certainly nothing was booked. These days everything is booked. We have even had to book our meals out for this trip - COVID and a large number of people in our group dictate that.


Impulse buys maybe my only remaining bit of spontaneity these days.


But I am here to talk about spontaneity in cooking. Well that was the impetus for this brief post. I saw that quote from Nigel Slater recently and thought that it was worth a tiny bit of rumination. And here is a confession because, a little like my sons cartwheel, I took the quote a little out of context because it finishes with: "but coming home to dinner half prepared is not bad either." And indeed the recipes that then follow are semi prepared in advance - marination being a theme.


Before you even get to spontaneity with respect to the actual cooking there is the spontaneity of gatherings. We don't do this anymore. So sad. Back in the day - when we were young - at the weekend we would ring our friends and invite them round for a meal, or arrange to go out for a meal with them. Then we would think of somebody else who could come, and invite them too. People would drop in unexpectedly. As we 'matured' events such as these became less spontaneous. I used to cook elaborate meals planned and worked on for days in advance. Those were my executive wife days. But there were also dinner parties with friends.


Now there are very few gatherings, although family gatherings tend to be more spontaneous. COVID, of course, helped in putting paid to this but it has meant a diminution in the circle of friends I think. Well - no the friends are still there - but we see them less often. A revival is needed.


As for cooking at home à la Nigel I think it is virtually impossible to be completely spontaneous unless you are out at the shops when you decide to throw a party that evening. You can be spontaneous in organising the party, but you need to be organised, in the sense of having a well stocked pantry and fridge so that you can rummage around and create something.


And ditto for the everyday meal which as we know is often made from what's in the fridge. Something I have been very conscious of these last few days as you know. But if you always have some fresh vegetables, herbs and staples like potatoes and onions on the vegetable front, pasta, rice and so on in the pantry - not to mention dairy, flavour boosters of every conceivable kind and tins of this and that then you can make something superb at the drop of a hat. And it's fun.


Apologies - brief, not very deep and only one picture. It has been a tense day of planning and worrying about what we've forgotten. The topic deserves a rather more organised, and less spontaneous ramble.


I'll try to keep blogging whilst away. Should be more interesting anyway.

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