The secret to humour is surprise.
A moot point perhaps, but oblivious in this case to the signifiers that make the ‘everyday’ flow seamlessly from one interaction to the other; if they weren’t, you’d find yourself hopping madly all day. Whatever it may be, obvious, deliberate, debatable, moot? A couple of years ago my mother discovered a reservoir of previously untapped ‘ridiculous’. It’d become, after a fractious few years— a pleasure spending time with her, if not for the first time— but the first time in a long time. She’d seemed to be a little more understanding and accepting of my foibles, and I of them, which makes all the difference in the world. It helps relieve a little of the ‘complicated’. The fact that my mother’d discovered comedy and was making me snort on a regular basis was merely a bonus.
But this is irrelevant, a long-winded introduction and steady build up leading to a crescendo of noise— which is not entirely bunkum as it happens. It’s a story involving balloons…
My nephew loves balloons, especially the kind that when released, fly around exulting a harrowing scream, flitter then drop excitedly with one good spasm before expiring. Louis and I had been synchronising the take-offs of them all morning, much to the delight of the little man and thought what a wonderful idea it would be to release even more. Amz was on her laptop, but my mother was hands-free…
So Louis and I filled some balloons, gave them to her and instructed her that under no circumstances was she to release them. Even now, I feel as though I should’ve added something.
Anyway, Louis and I expended what little breath we had left into the remaining balloons and poised at the ready. The scene was to be spectacular; six whirling tubes of shrill screech, dancing unpredictably towards an enthusiastic death-knell. However, I failed to entertain the one element of unpredictability.
‘Ready,’ I said, ‘on one . Three… two… one… release…release…release!’
Louis and I had a successful launches. But my mother held firm. Even upon the final release! Even though the room was filled with the sound of screaming babies Even though the launch command had become a desperate, personal plea for her to relinquish her grip…
‘Why the bloody hell didn’t you launch? We’ve just done this ten times … at what point did you not think I was talking to you?’ A reasonable question in the circumstances I thought.
‘Because,’ she said, ‘you told me that under no circumstances was I to release them.’
Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled…
Not unlike those sodding balloons!
Food is an important part of a balanced diet—
I like my kitchen, always have— I’m in it at the minute. I’m close to the kettle so a nice cup of tea is never far from reach; I tend not to snack particularly, but if I fancy a hearty round of ‘wiches, I don’t have very far to move.
As it happens, I’m also quite partial to cooking. I have a few signature dishes that I whip-up every now and then but one night decided to cook a simple mince-dish: easy-peasy right?
I like to think of a meal made from mince like a bicycle accident— easy to do but occasionally hazardous to health. I’m sure that if time were no obstacle I’d add mince to my already brimming list of clutter which really deserves a graph of some kind. But it isn’t on my list, yet— it’ll have to wait its turn along with experimental mathematics, back-burners, high-hopes and the probability of inevitable things.
Anyway, I’m digressing because my culinary plan was flawed before I’d began but it wasn’t until the mince had started to defrost that I realised I had too few ingredients. No peppers or mushrooms or any vegetation for that matter— greens-schmeens, just details, a minor over-sight, I thought. I’d learned long ago that any delicacy, mince-wise or otherwise can be made all the more fragile by bombing it with anything healthy.
I like to think of what happened next as a kind of playtime— egged on by the uncontrollable childish regression genie that’s almost impossible to re-bottle once out. I had what I thought was the wonderful idea: I could use kidney beans and tinned tomatoes to make up for the ingredient that wasn’t there … and blending the be-Jesus out of them.
Out came the Kenwood and with it, my utmost to make a mess and a mockery of the most basic kitchen etiquettes … and blend. Not because it would improve the meal in any way, in fact I distinctly remember thinking, how horribly wrong it could go, but— because it felt sneaky, and after realising, again long ago that cooking was just a caper for grown-ups; that knives and hand-held mixers were really just toys: how could I not? I decided to add three whole onions and blend those too.
And then I found the garlic…
I do like the stuff, but since I was being typically over-zealous, I got a little carried away and started mashing it, adding clove after clove— mainly because I enjoyed playing with the crushy-handle-thing you use to kill it. I couldn’t stop.
If you can imagine the properties of freshly mixed cement, you’d be on the right track in imagining what I had recreated it in my kitchen. It didn’t actually taste that bad at first. It was pretty fucking bad, don’t get me wrong— I managed to finish what I served myself up, bat I did with the rest is another matter.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then the best dish warm would be mince; I shudder still, recalling it.
By the following day all the sense of fun and wide-eyed joy I’d had beating my ingredients as though harbouring ill thoughts against them was gone. The tearing and shredding and the foaming at the mouth over the really good bits was a distant memory. It was all replaced with the disappointment of allowing exuberance get the better of me. You see, If you cook in bad-taste; without any doubt, your product will be plentiful in it.
Leaving it over night a couple of times however gave me ample time with which to pull out all the stops and solve it’s mysteries and in due time found inspiration in The Great Escape— if you recall, they needed to destroy the dirt from the tunnels and found they couldn’t— not one of their most ‘positively brilliant’ pieces of thinking but maybe, just maybe … I could dilute it? Wean some of the vast quantities of garlic in it to a more palatable level. If I couldn’t, I’d just disguise it…
I remember it was an idea which had me grinning at the myriad possibilities. I even toyed with the notion of filling up a couple of socks with grated cheese, placing them in my trousers and using my feet to hide the offending taste, but I abandoned it, worried about becoming just another statistic. I don’t think any of us like to think we’re influenced by the what we watch— especially whilst preparing meals in a kitchen during peace-time.
It was such a horrid waste of cheese…