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One of the pleasures of being from home is how life is suddenly various. I am a creature of habit who enjoys changes, so long as I don't myself have to make them. I am not a natural volunteer; I like having stuff thrust upon me.

Last weekend, staying in Cambridge, I was totally cooked for, by a Marquis who clearly loves to cook and does it very well indeed. Love that. This week, staying in Henley, I have been totally the cook in the household. It makes sense, as both Helen and Mark work late most days and get home later; and I love this too. It's very different from cooking at home, though: all-new meals, mostly from recipes, in an unfamiliar kitchen.

It's regatta week in Henley, and on Thursday we took a picnic down the river. I've never catered a picnic before. Cold food far from home, with a minimal provision of comforts, condiments and fall-back positions? Hmm. So not what I do.

It did work, though, so I'm chalking that up on the repertoire: Chaz now offers Picnics. Chicken and rice salad with chickenskin crackling (the best bit: I made that up), chorizo and mushroom tart, beef rolls, raspberries with maple cream and shortcake. I forgot the olives, but that was not catastrophic.

The beef rolls were stuffed with breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley and pine nuts: maddening as a recipe ('spread the mix on the steak', it says, but how do you spread something so entirely dry and disintegratory?) but nice as a mixture. And there was lots left yesterday, so I reinterpreted it as a tuna tart. Which was entirely easy - add tin of tuna including oil, add half a carton of creme fraiche, sloop it all together and bake in a pastry crust - and entirely cheating, because the pastry came from Waitrose.

It's not my fault, guv. Pastry is my weak point. Which makes me bleed inside, because I read once that no man can consider himself a good cook unless he is a good pastry-cook, and I'm just not. It's the rub-the-fat-into-the-flour bit that troubles me; I was never good at this, and these days it actively hurts my fingers, so I tend to avoid it. At home I let myself use the food processor, as legitimate pain-avoidance that produces a competent result, but there isn't one in this house. Hence, Waitrose. I did at least buy baking-beans and do proper blind baking, which makes me feel a little better, but still. Bought-in pastry.

I'm trying to put it down as another factor in the variety, and hence a good thing. But I'm still blushing.

Also, it's all avoidance. I spent lots of time yesterday considering how to rework a bowlful of breadcrumbs and cheese, mostly because I'm barely getting any work done. I have started three stories, and can finish none of them; I can't even think about the novel. Long walks along the river are no substitute; nor are young godlings in boats or out of them, with loud posh laughs and silly blazers.

Still, I have finally read "The Princess Bride", so that's something achieved at last; and now I'm reading Patrick Gale (with thanks to [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de for both) - and see how swiftly, how deftly I turn away from the subject of the work I am not doing? It's like that in my head too. As is this whole damn long entry, chuntering on about other stuff, heaping a haystack over the needle lest it prick me again.

Ouchie.

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desperance

June 2017

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