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In the name of the recipe, and of the ingredients, and of the oven temperature preferably in Celsius. AMEN

I’ve been nesting.

(NB If nesting includes housework, I’ve been too generously interpretive with the artistic licence again. I’ve never been a keen fan of housework – apart from a fastidious approach to my kitchen. I am known to wipe down my kitchen cupboards on a daily to hourly basis. I also practice an aggressively contemporary approach to laundry.

However, a legion of dust-bunnies would have to be annexing the west wing and most of the south and east before I’d apply a duster. One of the main reasons I married Andrew was because he hoovers VOLUNTARILY ENTIRELY OF HIS OWN VOLITION WITHOUT BEING ASKED.

I know: he is A Treasure. Although Andrew thinks it was due to other attributes/charms, I’m pretty sure the hoovering was why I had to beat other women off with a broken Tequila bottle when I first met him.

It’s probably important to reiterate here that this is the sole expression of Andrew’s feminine side. I would like to remind you he also performs extreme car maintenance and once crumpled a beer can against his forehead.

Where was I? Oh, yes: basking in my own smugness.)

When I say ‘nesting’, I mean I’ve been spending a lot of time baking. Much to my shock, Bunqueen recently gave up her powers – without my even having to threaten her with a broken Tequila bottle – when she lent me her book Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston.

The author is a historian whose hobby is cooking, and the book is a compilation of traditional recipes from community newsletters and old cookbooks. Although most of the recipes have a distinctly Kiwi flavour, many of them were staples of my own childhood (perhaps because my parents lived in Australia when they met): shortbread, pavlovas, pikelets, gingerbread biscuits, rock cakes, queen cakes, sponge sandwiches. The book also includes slaver-inducing recipes for Anzac biscuits, afghans, neemish tarts, cinnamon oysters, miracles and custard squares.

According to NZ Women’s Weekly, many people burst into tears upon opening the book. Which makes me seriously question the mental stability of many antipodean people, so let’s move on.

I embarked on a baking bonanza, making ginger crunch (Husband’s request), shortbread, almond macaroons, miracles, queen cakes and ginger kisses. In fact, I have limited interest in the end result. It’s the batter I snort by the dessert-spoonful; and I also love sitting around gazing adoringly at my ginger kisses.

While in Oamaru, I picked up a Sunbeam Snowy ice-cream machine to replace my old Krups, which was leaking freezer fluid into the bowl (lent a disturbing synthetic overtone to frozen desserts). So we’ve also been enjoying Irish coffee, almond praline, and white chocolate and toasted coconut ice-cream.

In case you think all we eat these days is biscuits and ice-cream, we do occasionally eat potatoes and – what are those things again? – oh yes, vegetables. My culinary crusade also embraces homemade pasta and breads; vegetable chili with sour cream and cheese; garlic bread; hot treacle griddle scones with butter and jam; spicy bean burgers with yoghurt and sweet chili; parsnip and potato mash with parsley sauce; spanakopita; Mediterranean rice with toasted almonds; potato bake; pancakes and/or waffles with chocolate sauce, fresh fruit and yoghurt; fettucini with pesto sauce; homemade baked beans; egg mayo sandwiches with watercress on herby Parmesan bread; and Cajun fries with sour cream.

Despite my being 17 weeks pregnant, Andrew and the dog appear to be the only members of the household putting on weight. Really, it is a mystery how I am even in the vicinity of 60kg, never mind remaining stationery.

Unfortunately, this fresh enthusiasm for all things boiled, baked, grilled, toasted, fried or waffled has suffered a couple of setbacks.

The first is that I’ve been having problems with vegetables. Gangs of turnips roaming around graffiting the garage . . . no, sorry, that’s just my imagination. Normally I’ve nothing against vegetables particularly parsnips and any pregnancy book I’ve read somberly stresses the importance of whangin into spinach. Yet there’s absolutely nothing that makes me crave a packet of salt and vinegar crisps like a broccoli floret.

I try to deflect any potential vegetable deficiencies with soups. Also, I had a carrot last week.

The second is that my brain appears to be broken. I used to be proficient at scaling up or down recipes on the fry, usually making 3/4 or 2/3 portions. These days, dividing by 3 yields at least four different answers. The problem is further exacerbated by somehow scaling all but one key ingredient, such that I end up with about four times too much salt or tabasco.

Conversely, I appear to have increased ability to multi-task – which would be useful if I were ever fully aware what I’m actually doing at any point in time. The other day, I flung two teaspoons of yeast and three tablespoons of flour into the bread machine before I realized I’d forgotten to insert the bowl.

I’ve also managed to refer to the opposite page for cooking instructions, resulting in hamburger buns which were – I’d like to go with ‘crusty’ but regrettably for the sake of accuracy it’ll have to be ‘charred to the consistency of calcified coal’.

Unfortunately I’m not an instinctive cook, investing a sort of religious faith in my cookbooks: ‘In the name of the recipe, and of the ingredients, and of the oven temperature preferably in Celsius. AMEN.’ The oven has to be belching fire and brimstone before I smell a- well, anything at all really.

We might be in danger of burning to the ground – but hey! At least we’re not about to starve.

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Iceland is easier to spell

Before leaving Oamaru yesterday morning, I checked the newspapers and the Emirates and Christchurch Airport websites to see whether Husband’s flight had been cancelled due to the volcano in Chile. Not Iceland. I really feel the media could have been a bit clearer about that.

Thankfully, the ash cloud appears to have blown over.

Agent of Death and The Welsh Giant loaded the trailer while I supervised i.e. criticized Agent of Death’s knots. Due to a previous blog entry, wherein I lamented the quality of send-off staged by the in-laws when Husband was not around, a full complement of in-laws presented to issue hugs, kisses and trailer adjustments. Couldn’t fault them. On the one hand, balloons could have been a nice touch, but on the other they might have suggested celebration at the prospect of my departure. In retrospect, a sound decision.

After gleefully slagging off my in-laws in my blog, I suppose it is appropriate here to mention how overwhelmingly grateful I am for their hospitality and care over the last two months. Evidently I chose my in-laws well and feel privileged to be part of the family.

They were stunned when I left ten minutes before stated, at 09:50hrs. Somehow, I seem to have a reputation for being completely disorganized and eternally tardy. Which is a mystery to me.

The weather on the drive to Christchurch was miserable; grey and rainy. I took it easy with the fully loaded trailer. This included Andrew’s KTM dirtbike and a coolbox full of an ice-cream maker, a bread bin, three freshly sharpened knives, and a set of fish-themed coasters. There was also a tin trunk containing biking gear and tie-downs, and another full of partially-digested tennis balls. 

I reached the airport with plenty of time to spare. Husband rather optimistically/foolhardily/manfully strode out of the airport wearing a t-shirt. I have to say his welcome left much to be desired; Jed got a lot more pats than me. Admittedly, he didn’t snog the dog.

The plan was that Andrew would take on the bulk of 5.5 hour drive north, but after a while I resumed driving because his mach-speed cornering was making me nauseous.

We decided to stop in Kaikoura for a light dinner. For some reason, I absolutely had to have spicy potato wedges and nothing else would do. Since leaving Oamaru, I had been preoccupied imagining the tearful reunion with Husband – and a big, greasy plate of spicy wedges, preferably with sour cream and sweet chili sauce and maybe even some grated cheese sprinkled over the top *slaver*.

Luckily we located a Monteith’s bar; it seemed portentous that there was a double-parking space right out the front. Sure enough, the menu featured spicy potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. I persuaded the Irish barman to throw on some cheese by leveraging his lack of Guinness.

Andrew had spare ribs, or something.

Quick stop at New World for some staples – milk, bread, eggs, coffee – and we got home at about 21:30. It was raining and we couldn’t find the key for the gate padlock; it didn’t appear to be on our keyring. After some prolonged torch-lit rummaging through glove box, centre console, door pouches, and my bag, Andrew eventually hunted it down . . . on the keyring.

We’d planned to collapse straight into bed, but our landlords/neighbours had left a tub of pumpkin soup and some of their freshly-baked white supremacy bread on the sideboard. And I can’t recall ever having seen anything so welcome ever – even that time Andrew got dressed up in . . .

Yes, well.

I suppose it’s all about timing and appropriateness.

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