Monday, November 16, 2020

Lockdown diaries day eighteen, guilty pleasures

French Village Lockdown diaries day eighteen guilty pleasures Paris portraits
Paris portraits, 1998, aged and wrinkled, like us

Day eighteen, Monday 16th November 2020


Guilty pleasures

Monday morning, the sun is doing its best to shine, the kitchen smells of freshly baked cake and in a brief nod to life before Covid-19, I appear have the house to myself. There is just the reassuring hum of muted voices coming from behind closed doors to remind me that I’m not really home alone, just that the men are busy with their online worlds, in their respective dens. I am free to flit from task to task, and roam from room to room as I choose. 


I play that annoying game of putting the washing out, then notice the sun has been replaced with a hovering dark cloud, so bring it back in, then when the dust motes in the bedroom dance in the sunlight, I put it back out once more. I get back to rearranging my books in the bedroom, then realise the portraits we had done in Paris in 1998, (you know, the touristy sketches from the street artists in Montmartre) hidden away for too long in a dark corridor, actually look pretty good dusted off and placed on the chest of drawers. Aged and wrinkled like us, they offer a glance back to our youth and a time when France was a holiday destination not a home. 


There are still too many books to sort through and decisions to make on who stays and who goes. After a shelf or two, where I’d lovingly picked up so many and made promises I couldn’t keep about reading them next, I turned to my kindle and the book that was becoming increasingly difficult to put down. The characters all doing their best to hide their pasts and their real reasons for being where they are just now. Their different stories weaving through the book, emotionally charged situations and decisions made in the past that have repercussions on the future had me hooked. In one day, lives were changed forever, but who really knows the truth and who is out for revenge? Oh, I whiled away a good bit of my afternoon snowed in at a luxury chalet in the French Alps waiting for the plot to fall into place, doing my best to second guess who was who. Of course, this did mean that I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing, but there is always tomorrow to get back on track.


Days like today are my guilty pleasure, as I’m sure any bookworm will agree and it’s nice to break from routine every now and then. I sometimes wonder if certain things have become too routine at the moment, especially mealtimes. Without realising it Saturday night has become homemade pizza night, Sunday night, risotto, Monday, a spicy vegetable couscous, Tuesday, lasagne and Thursday, moules frites. That only leaves two nights of variety or surprise. Then again, as no two meals I serve up are exactly the same, even if I’m following a recipe, I guess it’s not too bad and I know they are all healthy and homecooked. 


Frugal meatballs

I think as a treat this week, to spice things up a bit, we’ll have homemade meatballs in a homemade spicy tomato sauce, served with spaghetti. Not tonight, as my late yoga class means I need a lighter meal on a Monday, but as our diet is now mainly vegetarian, contains hardly any processed foods, and is low in salt and fat, meatballs (like lazy days spent in books) are a rare treat. 


I tend to make them in large batches and freeze in portions, so I always keep an eye out for the short-dated burgers and sausages in the supermarket anti-waste fridges. The last batch I made were great value. Six pork and veal sausages, reduced to 1.50€ and eight pure beef burgers, reduced to 5€. Four of the burgers went straight in the freezer and four into the meatball mix with the skinned sausages, crushed garlic, homemade pumpkin and chestnut purée, a grated apple from the orchard, black pepper and piment d’espelette. 4€ of minced meat made twenty-five meatballs, which will be enough for five individual portions which works out at 0,80€ a portion. The best thing about them is that every batch I make is a different mix of meats, flavours and spices. Do you have a naughty but nice family favourite, served up for special occasions?

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