You know, it’s amazing what eating communally can do for a family. My Nan “likes to eat something a little bit different for dinner on Friday night”. We eat together every evening, but this “little bit different” has proven to bring more joy to an evening than I could have imagined. My first Friday here we bought fish and chips at the Octopus Fish Shop on Mount Street. I have to say, they were seriously good fish and chips. The fish was of the highest quality, cooked to perfection, in a perfectly crisp batter. The batter in fact blew my mind. Most enjoyably, we ate them in the park. Burnie Park is really very lovely, and I can’t imagine anything better than sitting there in the early evening at a picnic table with my grandparents sharing fish and chips from a torn open paper parcel. The next Friday we had scallops for dinner – a total winner in my book. Cooking scallops is a team effort. Nan makes the batter, I make the salad and Pop fries them in the wok.
Last week we had cheese fondue (as opposed to chocolate fondue, which we are not likely to have for dinner, though we have been toying with the idea for dessert). I have to say, this fondue definitely beat the one I had in Switzerland. Pop and I stirred and stirred the cheese on the stove, willing it to melt through the wine. This process itself was very enjoyable. But I could not have imagined the fun in dipping pieces of crusty bread into a communal cast iron pot of cheesy goodness. Sometimes the pieces of bread went missing, fallen from their forks. Sometimes a piece would be dunked, only to be bought up with another. I have to say, I did like going fishing for the strays. But that stringy goodness, twirled around some bread is something quite joyous. We cracked a very good bottle of Best’s Great Western Reisling, some of which went into the fondue, and some into our chilly glasses. Nan doesn’t drink much, but even she enjoyed passing the bottle around.
This evening I made paella. I think it’s a bit of a process to make, but paella is a wonderful celebratory dish. I worked on it throughout the afternoon, adding extra (prawn) flavour to some frozen chicken stock, tenderising calamari, and podding peas. I quite like that though, taking my time to put together a lovely meal, especially on wonderfully slow days like these. It’s nice to lovingly build the layers of flavour in a dish, and prepare it prettily for the table. That’s the thing I think: I took the paella to the table in the pan and we sat there helping ourselves, swapping our favourite seafood and taking as much rice as we wanted. We opened a bottle of wine. It is lovely to take that time, having made that effort, to sit and enjoy food and drink with your family. Enjoying it casually, comfortably; treating each other to “something a bit different.” We had a lovely fresh dessert (strawberries I’d macerated, saving them from the disgrace that is a comparison with home grown) and even shared an aperitif. What, I ask you, could be more enjoyable than that?