Wednesday, November 25

Job Hunting Blues

Earlier in the year it was agreed that I would stop working at the production company in October and do cooking for a living full time.

I am looking for work in London, a lovely friend has loaned me her apartment to use as a job-hunting base. My friends are concerned, they write to ask if I’ve found a job yet. This is one of my recent progress reports:

Dear Em,

I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while, London’s been a bit up and down, well quite a bit of down actually, and I’ve been waiting for an up before writing.

Last Tuesday I put on a smart black dress for an interview with a titled lady who needed a cook for business meetings. I spent 2 hours in a Holland Park basement listening to an aide telling me all about Her Ladyship's 'funny ways', she asked me no questions at all - not even about my axe-murderering past. I met the Lady very briefly on my way out.

Wednesday: a fashion company asked me in to cook a lunch for 60 staff members then totally sabotaged my efforts - I couldn't start before 10 am, they changed the menu, didn’t order what I asked for - it all became so bad it was funny.

Thursday: An aide to that fancy pants photographer Rankin rang to ask if I’ll come in and cook for a day (lunch for 20, top models, hysterical assistants - you know the thing) and will I lower my rate by two thirds!

Friday: cooked lunch for 10 vegans, 2 babies and a very bouncy dog, that went quite well actually - I think I even enjoyed it and they've just written to tell me that they thought it was marvellous!

This week all the meetings I set up have been postponed or cancelled, it’s also been a week since the monologue from the titled lady's assistant, I’ve not heard back from her - I guess she’s found out about my axe-murdering past!

Much Love

Monday, November 23

Old Money, New Money, New Order

People with inherited titles are a subsection of celebritydom. Wealth and privilege seem to make most people peculiar but there are significant differences between old and new money, I've also noticed that the way people behave about food reveals a lot about their insecurities:

Many years ago I cooked for Kaiser Bill’s great-grandson, known to me as Prince Nicholas. The Prince's wife at that time had been a debutante and her teenage years were spent being groomed as a suitable marital prospect for Prince Charles, but Charlie went off with Diana so the deb had settled for Nicholas. This setback wasn’t going to be allowed to dampen regal standards;

At the beginning of each week the Princess would hand me a very royal set of menus, every day the meals involved lots of richly sauced game, accompanied by side dishes and desserts swimming in alcohol and butter - and there was always a soufflé, the weekend menus would require two soufflés in the course of one meal. Not that any of this was actually eaten, the Princess preferred to eat salad and her husband was watching his cholesterol, so the ducks, the soufflés and the trifles would come back to the kitchen untouched.

I have never yet known Old Money admit to a food allergy, they simply bark a command such as: Never serve mushrooms! or There must always be gravy! Popstars, models and actresses, on the other hand wear their food fads like identity badges. Working at recording studios I got used to serving food that allowed for various diets and allergies. There was a period when a great many wheat-and-dairy averse clients from California were staying at the recording studios, and the food had to get really esoteric. These were overlapped by an English band called New Order, everyone sat and ate together in the large dining room. After a couple of days I had a visit from the New Order boys

Can you do normal food? - shepherd’s pie would be great, or sausages, we love sausages.

Thursday, November 19

Telling Me How It Is

My husband has finally come home after spending many weeks in Africa, he's been away for most of the year and I'd forgotten that our sartorial tastes don't often coincide.

I have items of clothing that he really dislikes, and I've been buying more in his absence. He is not a stupid man and never criticizes what I am actually wearing, instead he puts a lot of emphasis on the positive, I set off for an interview this morning with this compliment ringing in my ears

Now that's nice, much nicer than the cardboard skirt and fishermen's boots

Wednesday, November 18

The Luck Of An Attenborosaurus

A few years ago, during a BBC shoot in Switzerland, Sir David Attenborough arrived for a single day to narrate a piece to camera.

SDA has a reputation for having miraculous luck and one of these events happened on this short little shoot.

During breakfast we discovered that SDA didn’t have a blue shirt. For continuity reasons he always wears a blue shirt and the producer usually carries a spare but today no-one had a blue shirt.

The nearest town was at least an hour’s drive in a direction away from the filming location, a big logistical nightmare was brewing as we discussed the options.

On the way to the location we had to pass through a tiny town consisting of a baker and a newsagent, none of these unpromising-looking shops were open yet. But as we arrived three vans were parked and starting to set out their wares; a ladies underwear seller, a tablecloth seller ... and a man wheeling a rack of ladies blouses out of his van, we screeched to a halt, I snatched a short-sleeved blue blouse off the rail, held one against Sir David and said 'how much?

We were charged a ransom for a really badly made nylon blouse with buttons the size of cds but the colour was right and it saved the day.

Monday, November 16

Celebrity Gossip part I

Some of my readers are feeling toyed with, a couple of my posts have mentioned famous people and it is felt that I am holding back - I should stop teasing and start spilling beans.

I have worked for quite a lot of famous people but there are some problems with telling stories about them:

a) The people that I think are famous are probably unknown outside the UK

b) The best stories would get someone into trouble (mostly me)

c) Famous people aren’t necessarily gossip-worthy – hey guess what! David Attenborough is a really nice man and he’s not that keen on guacamole*

Ok - here’s a Paul McCartney story:
Macca was due for lunch at the studio where I was working, his wife Linda was coming too and we were all a bit nervous. The main door to the studio was also the kitchen door - my job was effectively cook/receptionist and I was trying to get the place tidied up before the celebrities arrived.

The rubbish bin liner was overfull and was wedged in it's container so I got one of the engineers to hold the bin while I hauled at the sack. We were at maximum strain when four things happened simultaneously:

1 the door opened and the McCartneys walked into the kitchen

2 the liner popped out of the bin and I fell backwards

3 a mouse was flung out of the bin, into the air landing briefly on me before running away

4 everybody screamed

then we all laughed, the ice was broken and we seemed set for a comfortable vegetarian lunch. During the meal Linda started getting a bit ranty about the cruelty of fishing. The engineer got the devil in him and changed the subject by saying how delicious my tart was - everyone agreed and made yummy noises, then he said

And she's not just good at veggie stuff, we all had a bit of the goat she killed last week and that was great too

I had in fact recently slaughtered one of my goats and shared it with my colleagues so I couldn’t deny this and the atmosphere went icy.

My punishment came the following week. Linda had recently expanded her range of pretend meat products (TVP sausages and mince) and she had written an accompanying recipe book. She sent some recipes to the studio head, asking if the cook would try them out on the studio guests and fill in reports about how well they went down. Everyone hated them and I had to bribe the testees with extra special cakes whenever I made a Linda Lunch.

* Actually I do have an Attenborough story – the last time I saw Mr A was at an event at London's Natural History Museum. Towards the end of the evening he led me through the museum’s corridors until he found the specimen he was looking for – He grabbed my arm and pointed up at a big old fossil and said

Look! Attenborosaurus Bakker – how cool is that?

then he said

Right must go - Goodnight!

and he danced backwards down the corridor waving at me as he disappeared out of sight.

Thursday, November 12

God's Gifts

Light Man had spent the morning mending holes in the roof and would shortly be going out to re-hang the front gate that has been lurking behind the bins since it fell away from it’s pillar a couple of years ago. We’d stopped for lunch and during the pear and hazelnut tart* we discovered that we had all listened to the same Radio 4 programme that informed us about Kate Winslet’s need to wear a merkin while filming The Reader.

That prompted lots of hair/wig-related stories, including a declaration by Miss Whiplash:

That is one area I don’t have to worry about, I spend my life controlling hair everywhere else on my body but my lady garden is naturally neat – I like to think of it as God’s way of giving me a little treat.

*top tart tip – pound together some fresh thyme with sugar, put a spoonful of thyme-y sugar in your pastry and in the cream when you whip it up, thyme + pears = yum!

bearded couple image found here

Tuesday, November 10

Putting The House In Order

The production office personnel is suddenly expanding rapidly, Zena our Swiss warrior-princess has come back to help plan next year’s ant-filming, Whiplash is firmly back in the saddle and the Camera Boy now known as The Pepper King is busy practising his ballroom dancing moves in the kit room.

The filming team will be back here in less than a week bringing trolleyloads of kit and several million terabytes of material that will need organising in short time for an edit that will go on through the winter. It would probably be better if our building is waterproof, it should also be warmer than the outside temperature and there should be lights working in more rooms than just the kitchen.

For years I have been living in a state of denial about the steady deterioration of this house, fixing the kitchen lights last week activated the ancient law that states that 'once one thing is repaired you notice how much else is broken‘ – this is ok because we have discovered Light Man who has the power to mend things and is also extremely attractive! Today he replaced the panes in the sash windows that had cracks taped over with bits of gaffer tape, this necessitated Miss Whiplash holding onto his legs while he applied putty to the outside of upper-floor windows.

More Bad Hair
I have also been in denial about the steady deterioration of my hair and finally took myself for a haircut last week, I tried to visit Laura but her barber shop has shut down. I walked on and into a place that looked like a hairdresser's from the outside, it turned out to be run by boys wearing trousers belted below their underpants. I let one of them do something 'interesting’ with my hair. Then I had to go on further and find another hairdresser, one run by grown-ups who could make me look 'normal’ again, my hair is now several inches shorter but I no longer look as though I have escaped from an asylum - this is important because I am cooking for a new client tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 3

Passing Time

I’m back in the production office for a few days. Until recently it's been a hornet's nest of frantic activity here, all the parts of the filming team finally got off to Africa a week ago but then there were inevitably extra lorryloads of hard drives and cables to be sent out and lots of argy bargy about camp charges and filming fees, but Miss Whiplash sorted it all out and now it’s all gone a bit tum-ti-tum here - on the upside we finally have a chance to catch up with all the online horoscopes, Facebook and Guitar Hero.

When we’ve had enough of these activities, Miss Whiplash, the Youngest Camera Boy and myself entertain ourselves, and any passing guests, with tea parties and lunchtime events. Today a lovely man came and made the kitchen lights work - to celebrate we invited him to join us for lunch. YCB won several gold medals with his splendid stuffed peppers.

Light Man told us about his other job as a DJ;
I used to do toasting - but then I got shy.

I noticed a trendy new clothes shop today so I went in to investigate, I had a question to ask the sales assistant who was Welsh and very camp - I had to wait while he finished telling his colleague about someone he’d met at a party the previous night:
... well he made me really cross, I wanted to kill him and stab him and burn him.

Sunday, November 1

New Porridge Invention

Yesterday I made porridge for breakfast and just as it was ready the phone rang, turning off the heat I picked up the call from my father. When we'd finished talking the porridge was lukewarm, I added a bit more milk to the pan and reheated it ... but the phone went again and by the time I came off that call it was lunchtime so I abandoned the porridge and went out.

Coming back later and seeing the pan of solid porridge I decided to test my husband’s assertion that everything is better fried:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...

Bubble and Squeak Porridge
(loud applause please)

Served here with bananas, dates, maple syrup and cream, the crunchy bits are good, if it’s the wetness of porridge you object to, this is definitely a dish for you.
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