Friday, 27 May 2016

What I'm really thinking

(with apologies to the weekly feature in the Guardian of the same name)

What I'm Really Thinking... The Charity Volunteer

I'm standing in a busy public space, wearing the tabard with the charity's name emblazoned across it, and I'm holding a collection bucket for people the drop coins into.

I'm not saying anything nor approaching people, just standing still and smiling, holding the bucket. There are 3 other volunteers at the train station with me - one near the barriers, one near a display about the charity, and another near the other main thoroughfare to me. We're not close enough to speak to each other, so we're each on our own trying to look friendly and approachable while people walk past.

I wish I could say to you all "It's ok. You can smile and I won't take is as a commitment to give money. I'm in the middle of you all, and I am going to look at you and smile. I'm a friendly person, smiling comes naturally. You don't have to avert your eyes so obviously.  Making eye contact, smiling back, acknowledging someone... it doesn't mean you are obliged to make a donation. "

Instead I thank those who drop coins in, and wish people a lovely bank holiday weekend.

After about 40 minutes I'm a bit bored so I amuse myself by finding something positive about each person walking towards me.  Great haircut; nice jacket; shared book taste from the WH Smith purchase; warm smile as they greet their friends.  It makes it easier to keep being friendly.

But again, the carefully averted gaze, the swerve to avoid passing near the collection bucket. I'm feeling like a pariah. I've had about 20 donations (mostly small change)  but a good 300 people carefully *not* looking in my direction as they walk straight past me.

Guys. Seriously.

I am not so desperate for your pocket change that I'm going guilt trip you into it with big puppy dog eyes. That 20p the girl dropped in the bucket just now? That's nice of her, but not the sort of contribution to badger and harangue people over.

If you'd like to drop some money in the bucket, ACE. That's kind of you. It's a really worthwhile cause. But if you don't, that's OK too. No one is judging you. So there's no need to look sharply away like you've been caught. I know everyone has her own priorities, preferred causes, money worries, busy lives or just self-absorption. Relax. Catching my eye is and smiling back is just that - a smile.

And have a great weekend.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Summery food for sunny days

A burst of sunshine in between the rainy days had me in the mood for food that tasted of summer. I started browsing the Guardian and BBC food sections for something new to make that is suitable for celebrating warm and gentle days. I found it on a round up of Nigel Slater recipes. 
I've cut and pasted this recipe directly from the Guardian article so I won't lose it. When read it I suddenly remembered an amazing tiny taster of gazpacho we were given before our meal in Cancalle 8 years ago, looking over the oyster beds in the sunshine.  It was one of the most delicious things I'd ever tasted. 
This wasn't quite the same but was still utterly gorgeous. Today I'm making it for the second time but I'm going to leave out the crab. Maybe try tuna or prawns? It won't have the same contrast of heat and sweetness but at £5 for a small pot of white crab meat I can't afford to use that ingredient often.
Actually, I'd have this gazpacho without any seafood at all and still love it, I think. It is dead easy and so delicious.
Nigel Slater's Cold Crab Soup:
See that tiny green chilli?
That was TOO MUCH
Serves 4
garlic 1 small clove
cherry tomatoes 300g
cucumber 1
romano peppers 2
bird’s-eye chilli 1
sherry vinegar 2 tbsp
white crab meat 300g
mustard and cress or watercress to finish
Peel the garlic and place in the jug of an electric blender or food processor. Tip in the cherry tomatoes. Peel the cucumber, then halve and cut one half into two or three pieces and add to the tomatoes and garlic. Finely dice the second half of the cucumber and set aside.
Roughly chop the romano peppers and add to the vegetables in the blender. Process the vegetables until you have a brilliant red puree, then season with the sherry vinegar and a little salt and black pepper.

Chuck it all in the blender
Fold the reserved diced cucumber into the white crab meat, taking care not to crush the flakes of crab.
Pour the soup into four bowls. Spoon the crab on top of the soup, add a pinch of mustard and cress and serve

Ready for the fridge, chilled for later

Note from me - White wine vinegar was fine instead of sherry vinegar. I think I could use a normal red pepper too, but I did buy the long romano peppers this time. I charred the skin off before using them as I find pepper skin a little tough when not cooked.
I would also go very cautiously with the bird's eye chilli - they pack one hell of a punch and could easily overwhelm the other flavours. We love chillies and it had us gasping.
If you put the soup in the fridge before serving, it really thickens up.
If you skip the crab, I suggest a little spring onion in the diced cucumber. Up the salt slightly and maybe a dash of Worcestershire sauce in the soup itself.