Hard as it might be to believe, I have been known to engage in a little hyperbole from time to time. I know what you’re thinking, it can’t be true right? Well sorry to burst your bubble but I can’t help myself. It is a sort of guilty pleasure if you will. I blame it on my genes and my culture. Yeah that’s it, a genetic and cultural addiction. There is probably even a self-help group for it somewhere.
Not so long back, I was on a trip to Spain with a group of work colleagues and while out for dinner one evening , I was called on my tendency to exaggerate. How very dare they! Usually, I get away with murder, but it only takes one idiot cook to spoil the broth and one Smart-Alec to dig his heels in…and there’s always one isn’t there?
Anyhow it began with a simple enough exaggeration. I ordered beef carpaccio for my starter and the ‘idiot’ who poked the bear, was a younger member of the group, foolish enough to open the door. He had to ask “What’s carpaccio?”
Now there are a variety of versions of this classic dish, but on a basic level we explained, it is raw beef served with in this case rocket, pecorino cheese and a balsamic dressing. It would have been fine if he left it there and we all thought he had. It was sometime after the starter arrived and just as I dug into it, that the follow up question came from the same young man, “How’s your carpaccio?”
OK, I only have myself to blame for what happened next. I could have said, “Delicious.” Oh no not me. Instead I said, “Not as good as the one I make.” I formed a circle with my forefinger and thumb and kissed them, “mine is far superior.” Most of them would have let it go. But there’s always one.
“You make carpaccio?” I acknowledged that not only did I make this dish at home, but it was the best version to be had anywhere. Again those who know me well, usually don’t want to go beyond this point because they know, I will fill the room with BS. Now of course I went into some detail about my delicious carpaccio until Alec the smart interrupted.
“Where do you get your beef?” I answered, “From the butchers,” but made the schoolboy mistake of gilding the lily. “Well – Joanna gets the beef.” It was the beginning of my unravelling. By the time smarty-pants had finished I was defending, “…so basically, someone else gets the ingredients and all you do is put meat and rocket on a plate with a sprinkle of cheese and dressing on top?” I was caught rapid as we say in these parts. But I never go down without a fight.
“Well on that basis, you could say that basically all Michelangelo did was splash a bit of paint on the ceiling of a big church. A recipe is more than just the ingredients. The great chefs are all artists. Anyone can make any dish of your choosing. All recipes are ultimately about arranging food on a plate… if you are a Philistine! The great talent is in how you create your own signature dish.” The more experienced members of the group smiled as he looked for support. They knew better and he retreated.
Now of course I had to change it so carpaccio was my ‘signature’ dish as though this made it somehow special but it worked. We now place bets on various work related events and if I lose, I will have to present my signature dish for lunch. If I win it’s doughnuts from the others. So far it’s been doughnuts which I decline for health reasons (the old ticker) but in truth I’ve never been fond of them. Turning defeat into victory is never easy, but there would be no fun in stretching a tale if it was. But it doesn’t stop there.
This week I was tradesman extraordinaire. What began as slapping a bit of paint onto walls, ended up as a full kitchen redesign and overhaul and electrical installation? How incredible you might think. Surely we must have employed a range of highly skilled crafts persons to complete such complex redevelopment you are thinking, I know. But it was just me, all by my lonesome… well sort of…
After I did a bit of painting, the auld knees and back were knackered so I had a sit down and a cup of tea. It was at some point along here, the real tradesperson in our house came in and identified some of the many flaws in my delicate handiwork, before taking over. I thought it was probably unnecessary but I chose to be the better person and allowed her feel a little superior in her ability… largely based on fact… but for the sake of this blog, let’s say it was a kindness on my part.
Unfortunately the pump for our heating system gave up the ghost and while my darling Jo rolled up her sleeves to help sort that one out, ( I had some small input, but I didn’t want to overshadow her) I got on with the major electrical installation.
Ok now she might say “You put up three spots.” But I’m afraid, there is a bigger picture. There was, as I later explained to the love of my life, multi-disciplined work going on with those ‘three spots.’ There was the electrical work, which did involve a bit of cable and there might even have been a plug re-wire involved let’s just leave it at that – I’d hate to overstate the detail of the task. impressive as the end result was, I’d prefer not to blow my own trumpet. There was, as I explained to my darling later, all the carpentry involved.
“CARPENTRY?!!” I think that’s how she responded but there was a pelmet made of wood and some cutting and drilling and screws into wood type stuff going on so technically …yes carpentry.
When I mentioned the plumbing she drew a line. I reminded her about the work around on the new taps, to which she replied, “Working your way ‘around’ the taps doesn’t count, but I think that’s just semantics. At the end of the day, the pump was fixed…and I did have some input, we have the kitchen painted, let’s not get bogged down on who did what or how much of it any one person may or may not have completed – in this regard, that’s not important and ultimately I ‘installed’ a new lighting ‘system’ as I prefer to call it. Yep I basically redesigned the kitchen when you add it all up.
I excelled across all construction disciplines, electrical, carpentry, plumbing, we might add fitting, architectural even… and finally as I left for work this morning, feeling quite manly, I laughed off my dearest sweetheart’s attempt to reduce the grandeur of my efforts, by reminding her that I’d forgotten about the tiles.
“Tiles?” she laughed. Now to be fair, she had done some tiling and I hadn’t been a party to that, but I wasn’t talking about the walls.
I asked her how many floor tiles were left over, after they had been laid and as I had assumed, there were only a couple. “There you go.” I explained. “Another example of my many construction related skills.” When she asked, in fairness through laughter, how I could possibly exaggerate any connection to the floor tiles to my new found expertise in building, I told her straight that I had measured the floor and got it bang on the money – expert measurement. As she tried not to choke from the laughter she wondered aloud, “and what does that make you?”
Now I think she may have had a different answer in mind, but I clarified in my usual modest way.
“Quantity Surveyor” I told her. All she’s thinking about that point is “A woman’s work is never done.” Me? I’m thinking “Yep there is no end to my talent…”
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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