Monday, 12 September 2011

Olfactory Highs and Lows and the Travesty of Sweet Pizza

MONDAY: I can't believe how gorgeously delicious my lunch is today. I've got a houmus and cream cheese sandwich with chopped spring onion and chopped red pepper -- nothing unusual for me, except that the houmus is made with black-eyed beans instead of chickpeas and flavoured with basil. It's unbelievably good. And the cream cheese is proper Philadelphia. I suppose houmus is like pesto, in that there is no reason one can't make it with beans other than chickpeas and flavourings other than just tahini, garlic, and lemon. I used to make not only basil pesto but pesto with dill and almonds and pesto with thyme and walnuts. What a joy this is -- I'm so glad I picked it up off the Reduced shelf.

THE FOLLOWING THURSDAY: As I've been going to work only two days a week this month, it's been a slow time for writing my blogs. Now that I'm back to working 5 days next week, I'm sure I'll have more to write about. Today, as I nibble a simple Stilton sandwich with hot lime chutney -- accompanied by red pepper and radish slices and Minneola and nectarine slices, as well as raspberries -- I need to quickly add to my previous rant about British food being obsessed with sweetness. Last week I had a Co-Op Stonebaked Roasted Vegetable Pizza that wasn't bad for a store-bought pizza except for one thing: a distinct and somewhat unpleasant sweetness in every bite I took. When I fished the box out of the recycling and read the lists of ingredients I was appalled. Under both "pizza sauce" and "sweet chilli sauce", sugar was the second ingredient; and under "roasted vegetables" and "rust", sugar was also a main ingredient.

Is that sick or what? Who in the world wants a sweet pizza? Mind you, I'm living in the country that loves pineapple pizza…

THE NEXT MONDAY: I'm back to working 5 days a week. I've just finished a book on postmodernity in which I've discovered that everything I do -- other than my University job -- is postmodern.

My sandwich is a JC traditional, however: basil marinated tofu and cream cheese. Fruit is another exciting combination of raspberries, blueberries, nectarines, and one lone lychee for a perfumed dessert. The perfume of the lychee reminds me of the incense cones of my childhood, first discovered at a shop in the magical Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Hollywood. Most people think of a "farmers' market" as smelling like fresh vegetables, with rows of just-picked produce and possibly some homemade cheeses and jams. But the magic smells I remember in the Hollywood Farmers Market were the moulded-plastic smell of the fascinating toy stall with its plastic Klik-Klak Blocks and Duncan whistling spintops, caves full of scarves scented with sandalwood, garlicky falafel vendors, and of course the smell of stardom, as the market was located in the shadow of the massive CBS building. One never forgets childhood smells: our collie's lovely warm fur, my mom's hot apple pies, the caramel corn counter in Zody's, that unique aroma of Yardley's lipgloss, and of course the inside of my mother's handbag, a bouquet of spearmint gum, lipstick, keys, and fresh white tissues.

And here I am smelling the very un-British smells of palm trees and banana plants -- blended, of course, with the British smell of packaged cakes and egg mayo sandwiches mixed with that global smell of take-away coffee.

But there is something I smell in Sheffield that I never smelled in my home town of Long Beach, California: the smell of stone-built history.

WEDNESDAY: My sandwich is vegetarian sage and marjoram sausages with cream cheese, Dijon mustard, and the usual chopped vegetables. It's not bad, although the sausage would be nicer if it were hot -- but there are no cooking facilities in the Winter Garden. Continuing on the subject of olfactory joys, I experienced the opposite yesterday on my way home from work. As I was walking past the Town Hall passing the group of protesters waving "Save Our NHS" placards, I was suddenly pelted on the head and shoulders by a boxful of ballistic chips. It's bad enough being pelted by greasy chips, especially at the end of a working day, but the insult was accentuated by the fact that the chips were soaked in vinegar, splashing me with Eau de Vinaigre de Malt. I have a friend who finds the smell of malt vinegar uncontrollably emetic; and I was tempted to run over to the youths who unintentionally caught me in their boisterous crossfire and vomit all over their shoes.

But I didn't. I extracted a leftover swine-flu-era bottle of antibacterial hand wash from my rucksack and doused some on my jacket and hair, creating a new perfume to spices up my bus ride home: antibacterial malt vinegar.

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