Jun 01 2007
River dart Smoked salmon
Home Grown Rare Roast Beef with Horseradish & English Mustard
Jersey Royal potato Salad
Tomato salad with Basil
Green Salad with French Dressing
Brie de Mieux and crisp White Rolls
Strawberries and Clotted Cream
Picnics have been on my mind for some time recently which surprises me because I usually hate them, rather in the same way that I hate barbeques, well, usually anyway. Rain, feel cold, uncomfortable, food full of grit, stodgy burnt sausages, charred raw chicken, beer, bon-amie, please can I go home, oh Sally, so anti-social…..
But it was my father’s ninety eighth birthday recently and we decided to take him a picnic. He was thrilled. Aunty Molly, ninety nine in August; was invited. She and Dad first cousins, friends and playmates since childhood, companions now, both razor sharp despite failing sight and hearing. Dad started planning the menu two weeks before the day; each time I phoned he checked I had it right…. “Scottish smoked salmon, not that Dart stuff” ( sorry Dart salmon fisherman, we have now established some serious mis-information on his part….!), with lemon and black pepper. Avocado (I bought organic, they tend to taste less like soap I think….) with good olive oil. “Not that stuff from Boots, Dad, you put in your ears?” I asked wickedly thinking of my very un-foodie mother. “Don’t you remember, I lived in France, Lyon, 1927…” Ah yes, whoops , sorry.
Main course: Rare Roast Beef, our own Sussex boys raised on the farm, probably be in trouble, it’s not Aberdeen Angus, but I’ll risk it.
“Must have mustard”.
“No,” me “oh, OK. “
“And Potato salad, Jersey Royals of course and a tomato salad, get English tomatoes, more flavour.”
“And a nice green salad with a really good French Dressing. Can you do that? And, if you can, make a big bottle and leave it with me.”
“Yes, Dad, yes Dad”
“Now, really crispy rolls, never get them here, I’ll probably eat two. Molly likes them, got all her own teeth, you know” … all her own teeth at ninety nine, good heavens.
“And French Brie, must be French” Yes, yes, French brie, Brie de Mieux, ripe and delicious from Simon in Dartmouth.
“I know its wrong, got into terrible trouble from a Frenchman once, but do I like butter and bread with my brie”. “Yes Dad”.
“Oh, and then we’ll have Strawberries, can we have yours?” “Um, no , that blackbird…” “And Devonshire Clotted Cream”. Big hint here, Dad is a Devon boy and Paul a Cornishman; ah, the ongoing cream debate, I’ll leave it there, I think.
The day came, the sun shone, we filed into the dining room. Oh joy, not on the lawn. I served the whole from my old ice box onto a elegantly laid table. They live in a beautiful place. Why is it that older people so often have to put up with dreary, depressing surroundings and yet here at, The Old Vicarage at Otterton, all is uplifting? But that is a whole other story. I digress.
“Delicious” said Dad, tucking in, “I just wish I could see what it is I’m eating though” “Yes” agreed Molly “so annoying not knowing what’s on your fork,” as all before her vanished. “Hm “ said Dad, ever the actor, “ It’s lovely, darling but I’m reminded of Shakespeares’ Seven Ages of Man; sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything.” Later we sat together in the sun and drank coffee and I wondered if I had inherited the Windsborrow gene. Would I be doing the same in nearly forty years time? Best keep breathing, I thought, reaching for my inhaler.