To say that these weeks coming up to the end may be incredibly special may sound deluded, but right this minute what I want to write about is the pleasure I’ve had eating with some friends. No big deal I know, but for me I’m not doing all the things I usually do, and the thought of food – always important to me – has become paramount.
First, the amazing breakfasts made for me by Martin, melon and berries and nuts, and sheep’s yoghurt that I fought against for ages, thinking it was too healthy.
And last Saturday I had this craving for a hamburger. Now in America you don’t care because you get a hamburger everywhere, any time you want, but I assure you, I don’t. My friend Richard walked in with his usual flat white coffee for me, and a croissant, and I said Richard I have to tell you the truth, I want a hamburger. So he stayed on till 12 o’clock, and went to a local supermarket and found an organic black angus beef burger, which he grilled for me, with a large tomato; it was absolutely fabulous, God’s gift to me.
Julia came over with a huge spinach pie – where did that go? It disappeared into the refrigerator, and it was only me eating it, and now it’s not to be found. Then it’s not my fault that the coffeeshop downstairs from me makes their own icecream, the best in London. Asa my friend and I gorged on it (while she read her Weightwatchers magazine). We did the chocolate, the hazelnut, and the cherry yoghurt, oh my gosh too good too good, made me slightly ill but it was worth it. My longest-standing friend Susie left me 2 great pots of chicken soup, Jewish penicillin, that she made while she stayed with me. Antonia also came over, we work on the blog but she’s also a good cook, everyone in my life is associated with good cooking, I think I’ll keep it that way.
What the hell, what a way to go out, my last few weeks, just eating the great food my friends make. The steroids keep me hungry, and my friends keep me fed, a good combination.
There’s a difference between this and paid-for care, no matter what. My friends are foodies. In fact it’s one of the few things they all have in common. Asa and I used to play golf, it’s true, but we also used to peruse the chowhounds site on line, and find the best ribs and breakfast in Las Vegas, and boy did we find some strange places for great food. It’s hard to duplicate memories like that.
I started to become a tv addict. Masterchef wasn’t on enough, so I would watch ‘Come dine with me’, which has to be one of the worst foodie programs. People get invited for dinner, and the host or hostess is supposed to make a sumptuous feast for them, and the guests are chosen to be highly critical. Some don’t eat vegetables, some don’t eat fish, others have never seen caviare, and they never warn their host of their idiosyncrasies. The hapless host goes off to make vol-au-vents full of curry, throwing all the spices into the Magimix together, never tasting anything, and his guests accuse him of making them sick. If that wasn’t enough they have to provide entertainment – I’ve seen them dress as animals. But no matter how hard they try, they will be criticized.
This is actually the opposite of any dinner I’ve ever given – if people came and criticized I don’t know what I would do. My specialty has always been Thanksgiving dinner, which I’ve done for about 40 years, and I try to invite non Americans, because I don’t want people trying to tell me that their grandmother makes thing a different way. We’ve had in the past a turkducken, which is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, incredibly hard to do and ending up looking a disaster, but still we all thought it was amazing. I was given due respect. Every year I would try to make a significant number of pies – say 15 if 30 were coming. For ideas I used to lean heavily on the Gourmet magazine, which has now gone out of business. It was lots of fun, and people remembered it for years.
Recently I have loved watching ‘Two greedy Italians’ eating their way through Italy, stopping at grandmothers’ houses, heading for festivals, or finding sausage heaven. If there is anything you need to know about mushrooms, these are the experts. I love the fact that they cook what they find over a jury-rigged fire, maybe just in a can.
I dream about cooking at night, hallucinate making recipes (I can feel the knife in my hand, chopping herbs), and it’s always a shock to wake up and remember I’m no longer safe even to go into the kitchen. So I leave it to my friends, and am very thankful that we share this passion.