Sunday

Watching




It wasn't that long ago when I first put big fingers to little keys, extolling the virtues of taking early retirement, no time restraints and the general feel-good factor of no longer having to obey the clock. Strangely enough, that now appears to have changed. Siobhan, who used to bemoan my early morning zest, now likes to hurry me along after breakfast so that we can be assured of taking our much favoured table in a small, but very busy alfresco coffee shop near to the town square. From our vantage point we watch the world go by, sip endless espresso's, sample at least one-a-day of their endless, exquisite array of Utopian desserts, as more or less the same people go about their day. People watching, if you have a like-minded partner with a sharp wit and a good eye for detail, is fun. Siobhan excels at our watching game and is very astute. She notices every small detail about our daily subjects, of which we collate and compare before awarding points for tardiness, the very often lack of table etiquette and of course sheer entertainment factor. We are not vain enough to believe that we have been overlooked by the other 'watchers' out there. We merely enjoy the characters in our now matutinal game.

First up on our 'regulars' list is a fellow, late 60's. He wears outlandish sunglasses and a different matching watch every day. His dress code is strictly supermarket slacks, sandals and tee-shirts with varying different foofaraw on both back and front. Today it is Steve McQueen, Andy Warhol style. He badly needs an appointment with a good tailor and a new razor. He has ordered thick pea soup in a raised bowl. I notice the chef has adorned the surface with chopped sweet red peppers and a scattering of thin scallions and mint. He munches noisily on large, rather odious cold sausages, of which he slices delicately into perfectly vertical strips. He is meticulous, always ensuring that his spoon is immaculately clean before making the dreadful faux pas of drawing the spoon and its contents towards him. In the ashtray, a thick cigar, half smoked and with the makers name on the band still in place. Och... no etiquette at all. Strangely, he doesn't look the slightest bit Australian. His bush of silvered hair is backcombed in such a way that it resembles a chickens wing. Every so often he will look around nervously before easing his rump casually to one side to emit, what we can only imagine to be a somewhat borborygmus moment. He agonises over his daily newspaper crossword puzzle. Sometimes to the extent where he sucks the end of his pencil as he throws back his bulbous head, searching for a 3-letter riposte. We both note, to our constant amusement, that he sometimes bends the words to fit by using the blacked out squares.

Behind him is the Lambretta man, tall, late 40's. He arrives at precisely the hour, never before, never after. His fastidious punctuality tells me that he cannot possibly ride far through the dense and seemingly chaotic mid morning traffic. The fact that he always wears white socks is also an indication that he lives somewhere close with an elderly mother. He converses loudly in honeyed, but broken, French clichés, into a Samsung Galaxy phone, the one with the sparkly case that looks as though it was designed for 'Fiddy Cent'. He scurries from his scooter in a hubris manner and strides into the restroom to ensure that his seemingly unnoticeable hairpiece hasn't slipped during the short journey away from his momma. He collects his usual tutti-frutti milkshake from the counter, pays by card and perches himself theatrically on the wooden stoop inside, legs akimbo, displaying the fact that he has quite purposely neglected to wear under-crackers. Siobhan laughs as she recalls the significance of the pickled walnuts her wee granny puts out in a jar at family occasions. I notice him covertly trying to look at my wife as his lounge lizard lips pucker at his straw. His gaze shifts between her breasts and her legs. He is obviously people-watching himself. He catches my eye, squares his shoulders and tilts his head in an amusing alpha-male moment. I give him my best full on psychotic Glaswegian smile, the one that says 'if you continue to appraise my wife, I will happily come over there and slowly eviscerate you with a blunt spoon.' I normally accompany this smile by tracing my index finger v-e-r-y slowly the entire length of the scar that hangs off the side of my mouth. He looks quickly away, convinced of my seemingly chthonic connections in regard to his health. His legs close like that of a butterflies wing. I continue to smile. I sense that his bravado is rapidly disappearing along with the swift gathering of cloth  that is currently hurrying to safety up his rear end. I continue to stare. I am totally fascinated by the millions of tiny diamonds of glistening light that reflect so beautifully from the glue attaching his hairpiece to his scalp.

Next up, our table waitress, a rather unhappy young lady, aged somewhere in her mid-teens. Her choice of clothing is never consistent with both the weather and the surroundings. Oversize shirts, various dark leggings, on occasion even a rather baggy sweater that does nothing for her. As parents we feel a wave of protectiveness rather than mockery at her appearance.

"Teenage pregnancy, Catholic upbringing probably, the poor wee soul" whispers Siobhan, "and I bet she is still to tell her parents about what we already know"

Knowing what some Catholic fathers can be like on finding out such news, we always like to leave her a larger tip than is usually required. Just in case she needs to leave in a hurry. She constantly scans the piazza, clearly looking for someone. Possibly the weans father? Maybe...  I would gladly give her the keys to the remains of the "on loan" Fiat 500 that is sulking against the kerb only a few streets away if it meant she would find happiness with the obviously worried young man who enrolled her into the pudding club. If only they had gone to the cinema instead of that quiet place on the beach on the night in question. It could have course been much worse. Wiggy Lambretta himself might have offered her a ride home on his scooter while momma was away out at the bingo. His tutti-frutti wouldn't have been the only thing with a cherry on top, that much is for sure. Eventually, a teenage boy carrying boxes of fruit catches her eye. She flushes slightly and we notice a secret wee smile. He makes an unnecessary detour towards the wooden stoop. I hear Siobhan make that now familiar female "awwwww" sound.

Finally, a person  of whom we are both loath to watch has finally arrived. Tall, slightly military in stance, possibly Cuban, always resplendent in a perfectly pressed white summer suit, lilac shirt and a weather-beaten brimmer hat. 'The General' as we have christened him, is lead into the seating area by a very dedicated Labrador. A kind young couple, freshly arrived from Britain with their pale faces and polyester windbreakers, move their chairs for him. The General, still in his mid-50's is officially blind. Not partially sighted. Blind. It says so on his dog. Yet we once witnessed him in another part of town, stoop down and collect a large denomination bank note that had been carried off in the wind and deposited rather conveniently in front of him. There is not a seeing-eye dog in the world that can pass that information on to its owner, that I am certain of. A large bowl of ice cream is brought to his table. It is deliciously vanilla. The young sad-faced waitress has forgotten the spoon. He already knows it is not there as he clumsily forgets to grope around for it. She returns with the spoon and the owners harsh words still hanging in the air. I notice that the proffered lagniappe is both malted and expensive. It is accepted without thanks. He has a vague resemblance to W.C Fields, his nose a broad red button in the middle of his round face. We discuss quietly how he manages to notice a tiny silent drip of ice cream on his jacket lapel. His little secret is further rumbled when he pulls out a pocket watch and tells the time without the use of either braille or holding it out in front of his seemingly telepathic wee dog.

I afford him a knowing smile and a discreet wink as we stand up to leave. He glances away to hide the exposed egregious habit of which he is undoubtedly the master. Meanwhile, the cockerels wing, has as ever departed in the direction of the leather market, while Wiggy Lambretta continues to babble loudly into the cell phone that we doubt is even switched on. A small stubborn weave of synthetic hair protrudes alarmingly at a rakish angle. I glimpse a smooth pate beneath, ivory in colour, a glaring inlet to the nothingness beyond. The waitress and her bump bend lissome-like on a cleansing pilgrimage to wipe both spilled sausage and melted tutti-frutti from the sun bleached wooden floor. Her eyes never leave the fruit carrying boy. I make sure she sees the folded tip beneath my plate before the General decides to enhance his detestable daily take. Siobhan suggests that perhaps there is a hell after all, an eternal dinner party with at least three of the above gracing my table. I pray to a god that I do not believe in, my soul is indeed eventually placed into a fiery brimstone lake instead.

Time for lunch.



 

Chef's Autumnal Soup


1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small Spanish onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh scallions, chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 dash of agave sisal, blended until it reached liquid form
1 cup kale, ribs removed, chopped
1 cup Swiss chard, ribs removed, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 builders handful fresh green parsley, whole
1 small handful cilantro
1/2 – 3/4 cup cashew cream, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or high-quality vinegar
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in large pot and add onions. Cook over medium-low heat until starting to brown. Add celery, half of the zucchini, scallions and garlic; saute for a few minutes, but no more. Add vegetable stock along with kale, chard and a dash of agave liquid. Bring to a boil, then quickly drop to low heat and cook for a minute or two until the greens are slightly wilted.
Transfer soup to high speed blender, in batches if necessary. Add reserved zucchini, spinach, parsley, cilantro and cashew cream and blend until creamy. Return soup to pot and reheat gently over low heat. Add lemon juice or vinegar, if using. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Garnish with a drizzle of cashew cream, cracked pepper with large dods of crusty bread to serve.

39 comments:

  1. Ah, the first day of Autumn and I'm so READY for cool weather! Never was a summer gal...rather unpopular a notion for one raised in the south.
    No, I love my sweater collection and can't wait to free them.

    Hubby and I started the people watching game when we were dating and restaurant service was very slow when the patrons were teens. Still do it, trying to assign an occupation to go with the observation. Glad you have good company whilst doing the same. :)

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    1. I hear you doll, I never thought that I would ever tire of being in a warm climate, but I really do miss the changing of the seasons. Simple things, the rain on my face, the chill morning wind as we used to walk the dogs over the hills. Not forgetting of course the magnificence of a large open fire in the heart. Och, I'm homesick like never before.

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  2. Wiggy Lambretta could be turned into a series on C4 with the amount of potential his character has going forward. Christopher Lloyd would make a great leading roll. My only moan with your recipe has to be the cashew cream. What's wrong with good old fashioned country cream?

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    1. Siobhan tells me that Wiggy Lambretta is a dead ringer for a character portrayed in an American sitcom, by the name of Cosmo Kramer. I can neither confirm or deny that Mr. Kramer wears undergarments.

      Good old fashioned country cream is just that... old fashioned. Time to throw away your Little Chef pinny and come into the light again my friend.

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    2. After a full day cooking in the dungeons of Corby I am too weary to come home let alone into the light. Why don't I send you a list of my latest kitchen requests including the guy who sent his eggs back because he couldn't get his toastie soldiers into the neck.

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    3. Many a time I have come up against a customer/client who has thrown stupidity up in front of all possible logic. I have always found that saying nothing can be more thought provoking to those who joust with lances made of pure shite.

      Moral high ground and all that.

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  3. Although it isn't considered a very nice practice to watch other people and pass comment I will have to admit that the human race in its entirety are a warm humorous and friendly bunch who sometimes can be misunderstood. It is only when we get together in groups that our feelings for each other can be joined in harmony and a general good feeling to all mankind. Have you ever tried making kidney bean soup? It is nourishing and delicious.

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  4. "...the human race in its entirety are a warm and friendly bunch who sometimes can be misunderstood"

    Does that include the murdering mob of bastards currently shooting innocent weans in the shopping mall in Kenya perhaps? Aye, they are all god-fearing devout followers beneath the AK47's alright.

    Kidney bean soup is not really my thing. Not a lot of taste, hell of a lot of movement in the bowels though.

    Congrats by the way, you nearly had the makings of a half decent comment.

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    1. I thought the same thing as well! A spark of actual humanity in his comment. Putting the aul rhetoric on the shelf for a few lines. Maybe his comments aren't generated by a demented computer after all.

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    2. Credit where credit is due UB. In fact, I came close to making public his first thoughts before the above comment. Practice does appear to make perfect. By 2050 he may well have it!

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  5. Autumn has always been my favorite season; the cool air, changing colors, rustling leaves .. all of it!
    I also get to tap into my inner Chef and make all the comfort foods I love .. stews, casseroles, roasts, etc.
    Mmmm .... your Autumn Soup looks fantastic!

    I can just picture you staring down Wiggy Lambretta! lol

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    1. I am expecting many recipe swaps to commence forthwith young lady. In fact, I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

      Sometimes hen, a man can say more with his eyes than with a book full of words. Glaswegian I am, Glaswegian I stay.

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  6. Thank you for adding me to the list - "eunoia", Jessas, a lot of vowel movement there - and thank you for giving me the idea what to cook today, a bowl of potato soup will do this evening: Soup holds the world together. (And a bunch of Suppengrün costs less than one Euro.)

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    1. A wholesome bowl of hearty soup flavoured with the delicious combination of veg used from the bundle of mirepoix is definitely the way to go as the weather draws in around the world. Suppengrün, and the remnants of suppengrün is particularly tasty when used to baste root vegetables prior to being oven roasted. Potato, leek and lentils form a prestigious base for the suppengrün to add their flavour to perfectly. I always serve mine in wooden bowls for authenticity, along with crusty bread and rich butter.

      You have been added to the list purely because you contribute and contribute most admirably at that.

      I was betwixt eunoia and intertwingularity, but eventually lethologica kicked in and eunoia it was, and eunoia you remain.

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  7. My father-in-law was an executive at AT&T and took early retirement. He's terrible at it. He still wears business casual attire around the house, like he's about to leave for the office. I don't think he owns a sweatshirt. It's sad. Not everyone can handle early retirement well. You can. I should send him a link to this post.

    Don't you think autumnal food is the best? Thick, tasty gravy and roasts.

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    1. UB, I still find myself contemplating cracks in pavements, loose roof tiles and the price of cement. There isn't a single post, wall, pavement or pillar here that needs my attention. I have the garden looking as though I have a team of gardeners working around the clock, plus I still cannot walk past a DIY store without browsing the builders section. I've even converted one side of the garage into a workshop, complete with bench, tools and a used mixer I picked up in a yard sale. I do jobs for my neighbours, I've tiled and retiled their pool area, laid paving and am currently extending their patio area as we speak. Retirement is all in the mind.

      As for Autumnal food, yes, it is the best. Nothing is as welcoming after braving the cold when you walk through the front door and the aroma of steak and kidney pie is there to greet you. Lashings of piping hot mash and the thickest of gravy, pure pleasure in its wickedest form.

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  8. i would probably watch "Wiggy and The General" as a sitcom - two wacky roommates, sort of an 'odd couple'. Only one season, though, as the only proper finale would be to have them both hit by a bus. The toupee ends up sailing into a clear blue sky (slow motion, of course) and landing squarely on the head of the Labrador as he escapes to safety...

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    1. I like your way of thinking hen. Wiggy was actually late today. When he did finally arrive he had on bright blue socks and ordered an ice tea. I felt as though he had done it on purpose, as if somehow he knew. Perhaps the General's pup told him about my thoughts. Do you think he comes here to have a wee look on occasion?

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  9. My remark was perhaps taken out of context. There will always be exceptions to the rule.

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  10. It isn't up to me to judge if your comments are taken out of context Pew, neither will you be judged for your beliefs. You may even find that you get a better response and more credibility when you drop the religious speaking of tongues. Everyone here contributes sensibly, why not try it for yourself more often?


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  11. I always have that feeling that someone is watching me, keeps me on my toes. (Man I'm giving you SO much to work with here!)

    I make soup quite a lot, no recipes, just what ever is in season/on offer/about the larder.
    I shall try this one. Now parsley, a builders handful you say? :¬)

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  12. The Glasgow recipe for soup is simple. Turnip, spud, ham hock, steeped pulses, barley, carrot and onions. Basically the way our parents did it back in the day. Nothing fancy, just as you so honestly describe whatever is left on the larder shelf will usually suffice. See me? I much prefer the simple wee things in life, especially as too much grandiose gives me the boak. A builders handful of parsley is the equivalent of three singers handfuls, unless of course the singer is fae the cooncil end of Limerick, which would then equate to two and a half. If we look at your wee paws scientifically, the reason you dropped that tray of drinks becomes more and more clear. I blame myself, never should I have sent a wee man to do a big man's job where 12 year old malt is concerned.

    Starting Monday, I am putting you out with a few of the boys who are shovelling the black stuff across in Ballymena for a new car park at the Masonic lodge. Your job will be to fetch in milk and make the tay, clean the shovels of a night and empty the pish bucket in the van. For the love of all things Celtic, try not to feck this job up as I am running out of options on where to put you next. Feel free to throw rocks at the windies, but do try not to fall foul of the locals this time. Your wages will be left behind the bar at Jintys, minus of course what you have drunk for the week. I'll catch up with yis at the back of eight on Friday. We,'ll see if your wee hands have grown any after your week of graft, eh?

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    1. Please, give me wages to one of the lads, the tab is adding up at Jinty's and I'm a bit short this week. :¬)

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  13. Lol, they don't do the soup packs in the south like they do back up the road. You forgot to add leeks to your list and plain bread.

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    1. Och, away. Leeks is it? Plain bread is a given Anthony oul son, but leeks?

      As for no doing soup packs in Corby, away with yourself man, if you turn up Earlstrees Road and follow it round until you come to the big ASDA, go in and ask for Charlie Docherty in the fresh produce aisle, tell him you want sorting out properly.

      Be polite though, we shared a weekend chalet once in Barlinnie.

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  14. Should retirement hang heavy on your hands I've a house in Spain that needs attention....and a brother in law, though not in Spain...
    Cement involved in both projects.

    Friends told us we would miss the seasons moving to the tropics.
    Well, if you want rain, we have it. May to November. Duration and intensity variable.
    Wind we have it. In December.
    We can even manage cold - at altitude for us, whenever it drops to 18 centigrade for the locals who are then resplendent in woolly hats with dangly things hanging over their ears resembling a knitted version of male Orthodox Jewry.
    Fires...at New Year in the open heating cauldrons of boiling lard into which are dumped potatoes, plantains and chunks of fat pork - surprisingly digestible if accampanied by enough Nicaraguan beer.

    Soup too. Black bean soup...chicken innards soup....

    You can't wait to visit...?

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    1. I've eaten much worse sounding food hen. I once spent a long weekend in Budapest. Never again.

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  15. It's those small acts of compassion that can mean a great deal to people.

    I have a great deal of sympathy with what Bruce Chatwin said, at the point at which some of his mythical travel stories were beginning to unravels with little loosening bits of insonsistency: "I don't believe in coming clean." But faking blindness--that's a high bar to set yourself.

    Grey text on black background; Chef, your eyes are better than mine.

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    1. Och, there are none so blind as those who cannot see.

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  16. Looby - did Bruce really say that?

    Chef I would happily swap a morning of mists and mellow fruitfulness for a chair at Siobhan's and your table - great fun.
    Sitting in the basement of a coffee shop in Bath my son introduced me to his game: we are producers looking for the most convincing interpretation of someone looking for the loo. If they pass the audition we indicate where it is - they have a choice of four corners.
    It's quite fun and their looks of heartfelt gratitude - with not a word spoken is pleasing.
    What a blessing I didn't write about it - you know what you are like - but just remember - 'Great minds...'

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    1. What I am like hen? Why, you make me sound as if I am some sort of evil ogre who eats small children and is rude to middle-aged English roses from Devon. One of the above may be correct actually.

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  17. i'm cooking only for myself right now, sugar, so i'll just have to wait until the MITM returns to try this recipe! xoxoxox (thank you for the very lovely words on your sidebar!)

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    1. Lovely words for a lovely lady methinks.

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  18. Guinness & Beef stew I did the day, and nice it is my friend, room at the table for friends still. :¬)

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    1. Room at the table indeed, I'll bet you are chuffed you bought that extra chair the noo, eh?

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    2. Chairs? Now there's posh! :¬)

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    3. If only people knew the truth about your fortune son. Your hoose is bigger than mine!

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  19. I shall say this only once: Minehead is in Somerset.
    Middle age is stretching it somewhat:)

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    1. I stand corrected dear lady.Your point has been made. I now understand why my flowers were returned 'unknown' on your 49th birthday last year.

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Thank you, the chef is currently preparing an answer for you in the kitchen. Do help yourself to more bread.