The Plastic Hippo

January 14, 2017


Filed under: Cooking,Society,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 3:00 am
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rice If the weakness of the old is a stubborn and irrational reluctance to accept a shift in circumstance, then surly the strength of the young must be the wilful, recalcitrant ability to undergo a change of mind.

Friday morning dawned with the happy coincidence of a planned day off and the first significant snowfall of the winter. The plan had been to dispatch the less than eager sixth former to school and wave off to work the older virago career girl sibling, wait for rush hour to die down and then take a leisurely drive to a middle distant Shropshire market town for a nice day out. A glance at the weather and a quick look on social media confirmed that every motorist in possession of a valid licence but lacking any actual ability to drive was out on the roads sliding into things. The walk by the river, the pub lunch beside a roaring log fire and visits to a favourite butcher, baker, grocer and fancy delicatessen would have to wait until another less apocalyptic day.

Instead we climbed into coats, hats, scarves, gloves and wellies and went for a walk in the Arboretum. It was stunning. Dog walkers sniffed indignantly as if they had never seen a couple of geriatrics running around and throwing snowballs at each other before. Their dogs, however, like the barking mad Labrador I once walked in the marvellous Arbo, wanted to join the game. One miserable young bastard suggested that we were being “irresponsible” by lobbing snowballs up in the air for the dog to catch on the descent. The owner was annoyed because we made his dog “over-excited”. It seems that dogs and old people are not allowed to enjoy the snow.

The first casualty of spontaneity was the evening family meal. With no provender procured in the posh Shropshire town, we decided that we would phone for a pizza when the children returned home. We were fine because we went to the local Carvery for lunch and gently steamed up the windows like semi-dormant Icelandic geysers. Walking home, it was probably the three pints of Guinness that led to the dramatic announcement that “no child of mine” will, after a hard day of study or labour, come home to a takeaway meal. With most of the snow melted away, I stated that I would cook them a meal and blamed black ice for the unfortunate collision with a bush that was clearly unfit to drive in these wintery conditions.

Back in the family igloo, the initial search of the fridge discovered several cans of Guinness, a leftover cooked chicken breast from the previous evening, a lonely yellow pepper, a solitary chorizo sausage, some bacon rashers, spring onions and a handful of mushrooms. In the “basics” cupboard I found a jar of Arborio rice, a bottle of olive oil, garlic and some vegetable stock cubes. In the freezer was a pack of unopened frozen peas. As I chugged the second can of Guinness, I wracked what is left of my brain as to what kind of meal I could rustle up from such diverse ingredients.

The trick is to chop the stuff quite small and not over fry the onions and add the stock in small amounts to allow the rice the absorb the moisture. When it`s nearly cooked, turn off the heat and leave the lid on the wok for about ten minutes. There was Parmesan cheese in the “basics” cupboard and the aroma of the kitchen drew the recently arrived academic and not far behind professional pre-millennial to my kitchen kingdom. I don`t want to boast by my wok is huge and it didn`t stay full for long. They came back for a second helping.

It would be wrong to gloat, so I didn`t. But I could not help recalling the big man sixth former saying how much he hated that “spicy Spanish sausage rubbish with the white bits in it –innit” and the virago who considered mushrooms to be the spores of Satan himself. They have asked me to cook it again and wish to invite their friends to tea.

If the young can change their minds and not feel in any way compromised or hypocritical, then perhaps they can teach us old folk to lighten up a bit and question our own peculiar decisions and entrenched prejudice. Even on a purely pragmatic level, it would be wise to be nice to the young after the mess we have made otherwise they will be justified in consigning us to expensive “care homes” where cruel entrepreneurs will extract the fillings from our few remaining teeth to pay for the shareholder dividend.

In theory, the Friday night Risotto did not cost a penny because all the ingredients were available and even though all the ingredients originated in Europe, nothing comes from nothing as the barking mad, justified and ancient King Lear observed. Observe the Kings of France and Burgundy and consider our ruin as we crawl toward death.

I will never support a government that intentionally sets out to harm its people or a government that seeks to divide communities or a government that will blame doctors and nurses for its own failure or a government that holds children and young people in contempt.

Astonishing as it is that my kids ate chorizo and mushroom and then wanted more, is the breaking news that they are not intending to hang me from the nearest lamp post for what my generation has done to their generation and what my generation has done to the planet that they are unfortunate enough to inherit.

Imagine not having a fridge or a “basics” cupboard. Imagine not having a planet. It`s not just our minds that need changing.

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