At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, September 20, 2013


People all have certain memories that spell home, often related to food and physical comfort. For my father, as an example, a long soak in the tub with a tea tray alongside was an essential weekend ritual. Walking past the bathroom, I could hear the rustle of paper -- either the local news sheet, or the Saturday Evening Review -- and mingled with the whisps of tobacco smoke there would be lingering hints of Assam and soap. The occasional clink of porcelain. Late afternoon on Saturday or Sunday meant that the old man was "occupied".
Please do not disturb unless the world is ending.
And something can be done about it.
If not, deal with it later.

In consequence of that, you might well think that my mental sense of home involves smelling a middle-aged man immersed in water, with tea and a pack of smokes. Well, yes......... But I am the only middle-aged man in my life, and I neither smoke nor drink tea in the tub. It's just quiet time. The long moment when the world slows down, the sun crystallizes in the airwell, and dust motes dance.

Twiddling toes in warm soapy water is good for the soul.

My apartment mate does the same, and I now know enough to head somewhere else while she's soaking. Even though we're no longer a couple, haven't been for years, the image of her in warm water is perhaps not what I need to visualize.

At such times I might consider going off to get a bite to eat instead. Thinking of certain foods and smells instead induces peacefulness, and some things just scream home-comfort.
Tea and toast. Cinnamon. Scotch whisky. Marmalade.
Pipe tobacco. Fresh coffee. Coconut cookies.
Soup. Noodles. Hot chicken curry.
Chicken curry noodle soup.


Brown a large chopped onion in oil or bacon fat, add minced ginger and garlic halfway through, and add spices in stages when they have started to colour. First four teaspoons of ground coriander, then one teaspoon each of turmeric and ground cumin. When all this is nice and fragrant, decant to a bowl, and in the remaining oil gently gild large chunks of chicken (bone in), about a pound and a half.

When nicely soft golden, add the onion mixture, a hefty tablespoon or two of hot chili paste, some cracked peppercorns, a small piece of cinnamon stick, and, if you have it, a fresh stalk of lemon grass. Plus chicken stock and coconut milk to very generously cover, about two cups each. And a very hefty squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Simmer on low for less than an hour. Adjust the taste at end with a sprinkle of salt and the merest pinch of sugar. If you used fish-paste and a dash of shrimp sauce, as many South East Asians would, the salt is unnecessary.

Putting cooked potato chunks into the soup at this point is a good idea. Dumping in several whole green chilies at the very beginning of the simmer time is also splendid; they will yield their fragrance but hardly any heat, and they look festive. As does the generous strewing of fresh cilantro mere seconds before turning off the heat.

Apportion the wet curry-soup to individual bowls, leaving plenty of room. Add some chunks of peeled cucumber.

Boil the rice stick noodles as you normally would, merely three minutes or so. When done, rinse under cold to stop the cooking, and dump a clump on top of each serving.

There will be enough for two or three people. If you are alone, use only the amount of curry, cucumber, and cilantro for one person, and put the rest in the refrigerator for tomorrow or the next day.

For a truly degenerate bachelor experience, eat in front of the teevee when Fox News or the Real Housewives are on, muttering "shut up you clods" while slurping. Dump crumbled cashews on top of your noodles, and the chicken bones on an old newspaper.

There is no small naked woman in the bath.
And the world is manifestly not ending.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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