The Importance of Not Being Ernest
The small wooden tram approached us on ancient rusted rails, fuscoferuginous and ginglyform through overuse, they protruded dangerously from the rain-slicked cobbles like strangely coruscant snakes. Clithridiate in all the wrong places, a thousand centuries of rain had not improved the road that held the gnarled iron above potholes large enough to ingest a small bovine creature. A tangible order of boarding was clearly not to be. Around me, supermarket jeans, garish faux leather zip-up jackets and the obligatory shapka-ushanka dictated the dress code. A strange odour of liquorice hung in the fetid air inside the closed carriage. A large woman draped in a mans overcoat with an elongated liripip, oozing viraginity beneath her mullet-shaped head, stared knowingly at the twisted remains of savagery that forever hangs from the corner of my mouth. It was an under-lidded gaze that finally alerted me to the fact that her left pupil was in fact constructed of a replica porcelain and dead to all but the touch. I took in the re-used and crumpled brown paper sack upon her knees. One corner had ripped to expose a parsimonious bag of blackened oranges and an elasticated wrap of scallions edging towards the last few remaining hours before the inevitable vegetable slime set in. The ersatz coffee, jentacular of course, from the hotel lobby, had begun to work its way perilously close to my exit door. With every groan, creak and substantial twist of the bogey wheels, my lower intestine, brontide and borborygmus to the extreme, made many an orchestral tuning noise deep within my bowel.
The uniformed man, pyknic, very adept in the art of grapholagnia, yclept Ernest, according to the faded brocade name tag on his breast, quite notably a dedicated autotonsorialist, sat audaciously puffed up within the confines of an overtly prominent metal cage. Green in fabrication, thickly coated with decades of obligatory municipal paint. The dull doubled eagle insignia adorned the very apex of the structure. A symbol which appeared on everything from gable ends on tall buildings down to official looking uniforms that littered the Slavic market area as frequently as the drab weather-worn statues of Radegast. Beneath his low brow protruded a nose so perfect in curvature that it ended with a ski-slope flourish as curtly as it had begun. Its symmetry took into account the lank curl of his damp, grey hair that gingerly refused to lean itself upon the frayed collar of his shirt giving him a cartoon-esque appearance. His predilection for nidorosity enough to make a corpse boak. Before me sat a man who had reached the very summit of nothingness. I proffered a handful of brown coinage in the centre of my palm towards him. My eyes told him that he could take advantage of my monetary offering. His eyes told me that I was beneath him with my western lack of currency as he slowly extracted the exact amount and placed it into a compartmental tin with very few paper monies in evidence. He placed a quarter roll of thin shiny lavatory paper before me as he used his foot to click access to the worn brass turnstile that guarded the entrance to the public conveniences. His eyes followed me as I rounded the iron corridor and gazed upon row after row of doorless stalls as other men squatted nonchalantly about their daily business.
The heels of her shoes sloped at alarming opposite angles as my eyes followed her rotund behind as it rolled and bucked its way across the dark wooden floor of the restaurant towards the kitchens. Just before she reached the double doors she reached up and removed what appeared to be the plastic plate that held her two front teeth in place to hide the indignity of her prematurely sagging face. I wondered if domestic violence or the malnutrition of a cabbage based diet had so vociferously dislodged her from her youth to face the world as it now saw her. Alphamegamia, the eternal curse of all vulnerable women, a common practise amongst so many broad-jawed of her ancestors. Maritodespotism, I pondered if an invisible husband beat her on a regular basis or just the ravages of such an impoverished backdrop was rapidly taking its toll and speeding her towards the somewhat familiar look of most Croatian females east of Bohemia. I noticed that she had an opened book by J. Rostafinski at her tall pedestal desk situated by the entrance to the dining hall. A probable sharp brain inside her sadly sack-like body promptly reminded me that we are each as we are and not at all like the image we project to others. I found myself distracted by her total lack of attractiveness to the male gender and reflected on the brass ring that adorned her finger by way of a wedding band. LSD, frottage and 60s images of naked women permeated my mind until I closed it before further flashbacks could turn me from my soup. I doubted that she had ever experienced the pleasure of removing the agraffe to the roar of cachinnation of friends. Batrachophagous quidnuncs were her only audience behind the tightly pulled curtains that held her captive when the swill-room was closed. Ennui, seeking life, her only pleasure the long forgotten dusty books, lambent amongst the scullery shelves she sat.
The curtain closed ceremoniously after the second act and a short interval was to take place while hired hands hurriedly changed the poorly constructed wooden props that hid thinly behind a lick of paint that had once advertised the Esso company and its oil based products. It had taken me several minutes during the first act to decide that the white light of the overhead rigs badly reflected the fact that history overlooked the apparent relevance between the tragedy of operatic performances and the significance of topping up your engine oil in between services. My thoughts were interrupted by the barman, a displeasing osculator of patrons, saprostomous, jumentous, he handed me what he very proudly described as 'genuine Scotch whisky'. The fact that the over-used word ' Scotch' only really exists in American movie writers minds did not curb my enthusiasm for the taste of something deliciously strong. I did not have the heart to tell him that the liquid he had served me should never be taken with ice or any type of mixer. Unless, of course, you are somewhere where the locals still wear paper train drivers hats and leather pantaloons to go about there weekly shopping. I removed the ice and again rebuffed his attempt to pour soda water into my glass. An assuage of drunken patrons, stentorian and severely lacking in zeitgeist pertaining to the role. I watched as he discreetly consumed the contents of a local liquor used as a preposterous apotropaic. I returned to my seat for the final act, my throat dry and raw while his offering of whisky continued to remain untouched.
As the blackest of rain beat hard upon the windscreen of the battered taxi and continued to retard my onward journey, my eyes glimpsed towards the faded sign that barely spelled the word airport. My thoughts turned once more towards food. Tarantism, visions of deliciously smooth chilled Guinness, warmed rum and the piping hot mutton stew with plump carrots at the long wooden table in the welcoming home of my old mumpsimus, usually capernoited friend in Limerick was again calling me home.
Mutton Máirtín Stew
several large scrubbed spuds
fresh organically grown plump carrots cut into small chunks
1 large white onion, chopped
3lbs boneless Scottish leg of lamb
fresh sprigs of thyme
a builders handful of flat-leaved parsley
4 cloves of garlic, smashed, not chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of ground black pepper
a dozen bottles of Guinness (for the love of all things holy, never use cans) 12 ounces to be used in the cooking process, the rest for your table.
2 cups of homemade chicken stock
a handful of decent closed cup mushrooms
a cupful of garden peas. Frozen can be used, but hang your head in shame while you slip them out of the freezer.
Preheat your oven.
Layer the spuds, then the carrots and onions into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove the string or netting from the lamb, open up the roast and place it, cut side down, on top of the vegetables. Rub the olive oil into the meat by hand and season. Combine the rosemary, thyme and parsley into a small bundle and tie with kitchen string. Tuck it under the lamb for the best results. Sprinkle the lemon zest and garlic over the lamb. Pour the Guinness and chicken stock over the the veg.
Use feeling when adding the glorious essences of the stout. It must be done with grace and as delicately as a virgin gently weeing into a spring mountain stream on a cold morning. Be advised that those of you pouring from a great height or with a certain fluster will swim in the pools of an imaginary hell for all eternity should you get this important procedure wrong.
Finally, cover and allow to simmer for three hours before adding the mushrooms. Remove from the oven after thirty minutes and add the peas, cover and allow to stand for five more minutes. Use forks to pull apart the tender plump meat before serving into medium-deep white dishes. Sadly, if you do not have the appropriate colour crockery you must not partake of this dish. We must adhere to standards of a traditional nature. This isn't Las Vegas. Cover with the veg and tasty gravy, add the remainder of the parsley and serve with crusty bread slathered in rich butter and sprinkled with white pepper. Pour the Guinness into chilled glasses and enjoy with good friends.
Created & prepared by Chef Files