Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food / Calendar - GE­ORGE SMITH

Be­tween Christ­mas and New Year, get­ting out of the house and en­ter­tain­ing my two daugh­ters was al­ways the pri­mary ob­jec­tive. Stuffed full of turkey, pud­ding, and an un­told quan­tity of sweets, the best plan was to head out the front door, across the road, and into the sur­round­ing fields.

“I’ll take Hol­lie and Robyn for a walk and go see Farmer John.” The girls put on their coats and Wel­lies, and their mother told them to wear gloves. And then we headed out.

An old dirt track led away from the wind­ing road that di­vided the half dozen houses from the flat green fields. Cows had once grazed here and pro­vided milk for the peo­ple of Nor­wich. Now the fields lay empty and fal­low, pro­vid­ing a home for small ro­dents and a hunt­ing ground for hawks and foxes. The barn and milk­ing par­lor sat aban­doned part­way be­tween a group of wilt­ing conifers and the farm­house.

The smoke bil­lowed white from the chim­ney as we crossed the road and started up the track. Hol­lie ran to­wards a pud­dle and jumped into the cen­tre of it. Robyn held tightly onto my hand as a group of rooks flew up from a nearby field. A hare leapt from a clump of tall grass onto the track and stopped. It looked at us and pulled its ears back be­fore jump­ing off the way it had come. A hawk screeched as it flew low over the field and landed on a gatepost. It sat and waited, per­haps hop­ing a mouse would wan­der from the grass and be­come its evening repast.

I knocked on the door of the farm­house and waited. It was a heavy wooden door with large iron hinges that stretched half­way across its front. The knocker was round and heavy. The door opened and, tak­ing his pipe from his mouth, Farmer John wel­comed us in.

The first time I met him, I saw a moun­tain of sugar beets. Not be­ing sure what they were, I asked if they were turnips. He smiled, prob­a­bly thought here was an­other “city slicker” come to live “the good life”. We be­came friends and would of­ten walk through the fields as he showed me the plants that grew there and the crea­tures that lived amongst them.

Later, I left Nor­folk and moved to Guild­ford in Sur­rey. I would send him a post­card every now and then, ask­ing how he was, and telling him of some ad­ven­ture or amus­ing in­ci­dent. Once af­ter cook­ing a din­ner for a group of bankers from Lon­don, I sent him a let­ter. Dear Farmer John, I hope that you are well and that all this rain is not play­ing havoc with the sugar beets. Last week, I cooked din­ner for a group of well-heeled bankers from The City. They had re­cently joined The Curry Club and had ac­quired a copy of the cook­book. One of their num­ber had sug­gested that they eat a curry at their next Backgam­mon evening and asked if I would cook it for them. It was a large house with a long drive and flood­lights that came on as I ar­rived. They lit up not just the front of the house, but the lawns and nearby fields. I rang the bell and a whole se­ries of chimes sounded which went on for ages. The lady of the house opened the door and showed me into the kitchen. Hav­ing opened the rel­e­vant cup­boards and draw­ers to show me the where­abouts of things, she grabbed a bot­tle of wine, opened it, and said, “En­joy”.

Hav­ing pre­pared the curry in ad­vance, I took a pan from the shelf, put rice into it, and put some wa­ter from the tap over the rice. Next thing I knew, the good lady came rush­ing back into the kitchen, scream­ing at the top of her voice, “Stop!”

I stood hold­ing the pan won­der­ing what I was do­ing wrong. She walked over to the stove and took sev­eral bot­tles of sparkling min­eral wa­ter out of a box on the floor.

“Use only this wa­ter for cook­ing, please”.

I am sure this will amuse you, Farmer John. I was an­noyed at the ab­sur­dity of it at the time, but now, it only amuses me too. Here is the recipe for the curry.

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