It seems that the Grand Feu (a yearly festival in Nethen and other villages held towards the end of February, where the spirit of winter is chased away by an enormous fire, mostly fuelled by old Christmas trees) was not totally successful – the snow has come back. I was ready for it and put bubble-wrap sheeting over my potato beds, hoping to preserve any new-found warmth in the soil. My sorrel has started to push through as well so I was able to harvest just enough for a selfish treat. More on that later.
The seasons remind us that in prediction there also has to be variation. We know that something should happen, but exactly when and how are not precisely known. We expect to see things, but the weather dictates when and sometimes if. My apples failed last year because of the weather, as they did for others in the village. There weren’t enough pollinators around when the apples were in bloom.
Ghosts are very different, in that they can and do pop up in unexpected places and at unexpected times, not just their regular haunts. They can lay dormant for years and then spring to ‘life’ if certain conditions are met. Maybe a room which has lain undisturbed for years is accessed, freeing the dormant spirits. Perhaps a grave is opened…
I find ghosts from time to time, and the ones I welcome wholeheartedly are those that fall from the pages of old cookery books, awakened by the turning pages which have remained closed for decades. I like old cookery books and don’t look for 1st editions and perfect dust jackets. I like the well-worn browny-green hard covers with faded gilt spine titles and a collapsing dust-jacket an added bonus.
A recent find is ‘Mrs. Lucas’s French Cookery Book’, published (3rd Edition) 1931. Within this book was a thin sliver of blue airmail paper, with a recipe written on each side. On one side was a Zabaione recipe but on the other ‘Yung Chung Chow Sub Yutz’ or at least that’s the best I can make out. You can see for yourself:
I would love to know what the name of the recipe translates to. It is a simple stir fry, with sherry added, presumably as a rice wine substitute. It is served with boiled rice and soya sauce and must have seemed very exotic at the time. I also love the airmail paper as that transports me back to a pre-email time when I was living in Peru, sending my mum letters every month. Or at least that was what I intended.
Now, back to the sorrel and my selfish act. This is a rite of spring and I share it with no-one, there simply not being enough jeunes pousses d’oseille to go round. Young enough, they don’t need stripping from their stalks. This will be necessary later in the year when Paling in’t groen is wanted.
You will need your favourite 2-3 egg omelette pan, some unsalted butter and warmed plate. In addition:
Sorrel, young and fresh, straight from the potager
3 eggs, straight from the chickens
A little fresh cream, as good as you can find.
Melt a bit of butter in a pan and wilt the sorrel down slowly for a few minutes, 3 – 4 should do it. Add a little cream to bind, not too much. Keep warm.
Make your omelette in your usual way, not forgetting to season well. When just set, add the sorrel to one half and then flip the other half over the filling. Slide onto your plate, sit down and eat immediately. Now you can kid yourself that spring has well and truly sprung.