I am not quite sure as to the title of the book I once read, but it opens with a man, an Englishman, in England, walking along the road, at the same time, every day, heading for the pub. Each Sunday, during the summer, I become that Englishman, although I am in the heart of Texas! I stroll along, cool-bag over my shoulder, and float under my arm, heading for the pool. I can hear the sound of the trombone playing, as it did in the book, indicating to the player the time of day. Sometimes I am joined by others, but most of the time, at 2pm, I am alone, due to the heat. I am definitely the Englishman (or woman) and the only other creature that would venture out in the midday sun, would be the 'mad dog'!
We may have had a couple of days this week where the weather did not reach 100, although the 'feels like' gauge was well over the century!
The rain fell on Monday afternoon, after the clouds turned the sky from a magnificent shade of vivid blue, to that of dark purple, with grey surrounds. This would have been perfect for an haute couture autumn catwalk, but for a summer's afternoon, it was a little daunting. Thunder had been rumbling for quite some time and the extra swim was definitely out of the question. I stayed at my desk until six thirty and managed to clear some backlog that had amassed during the day. Although I had taken some fish out of my newest life altering appliance at lunchtime, I chose to let Dana take me out for dinner.
The Haute Couture autumn catwalk item would not have been necessary for the culinary delight that was tempting my taste buds as we headed in a northerly direction. What did I want to eat? Crying out for something fried (which is unusual) I gave into the craving, and we went to Ihop, where I thoroughly enjoyed a plate full of chicken and waffles. Although the 'mad dogs' may have been playing in the rain, this Englishwoman was going to have some 'soul food'. Although the origins are unknown, this spectacularly superb (in my opinion) mixture of fat, chicken, fat, gluten, fat and syrup was just what (the following said, 'without prejudice') the doctor ordered! I cleaned my plate leaving not a morsel!
Rain did not stop play on Tuesday, and the storms did little to quell the temperature, which once again soared. There was a slight breeze in the morning, but this soon gave way. After the sad demise of one of my neighbours, I had promised to host our neighbours' gathering on the fourth Thursday, rather than the third, in honour of the man who first came up with the idea. His widow was quite thankful, as she had contemplated continuing with the 'tradition', and was the first to respond to my invitation. It seemed a little surreal as I was going to be in my element (in the kitchen creating) due to the passing of one of our friends. However, I shall not digress!
As I walked to the pool at lunchtime, I once again heard the sound of the trombone in my head. The English(wo)man was walking out in the midday sun, to the sound of a dog barking, somewhere, no doubt wanting to come outside, but being sensibly kept in the cool! I swam for my allotted time and then came back up to my condo, where I took the four dozen bite size pastry cases that I had made earlier, and placed them in an airtight container, in the hope that they would remain fresh for four dozen hours!
By Wednesday, the gardeners that take care of our 'common area' were napping under the shade of the trees at lunchtime. Wearing large hats with neck flaps, and adorned with long sleeves and trousers, no doubt to protect themselves from the burning rays, they took a well earned siesta. (I use the word in the true Spanish sense and without political agenda! One has to be so careful with one's speech these days!) I did not snooze. Instead, I marched across the road and down to the pool, where I promptly dumped my towel, flip flops, water bottle and phone, and jumped into the water.
I had taken an hour and a half leave of absence first thing to make some puff pastry horns, and meringues. I had vaguely promised myself that I would not over burden myself in the culinary department, but I knew that it would take a pack of 'mad dogs' to stop me! My invitation had read, "I will no doubt over cater....".
Stopping to chat to one of my neighbours, who had responded in the affirmative to my invitation, I remarked on the difference I had encountered between England and (specifically) Texas, particularly in the food. I noticed (at least when I first arrived) the variety, and the diversity. Hot peppers and jicama are part of the everyday produce, and brisket is is not just for stew! "How do you make a good, hot queso?" would never have been a question that was pondered, and shepherd's pie was a necessity to curb waste rather than a delicacy for which a fortune could be charged! I cannot count on two hands the variety of tomatoes, and if mini tacos and quesadillas were not available there would be uproar! The list went on. My invitation had hinted that there would be shepherd's pie, and of course, dessert!
With less than thirteen hours until 'blast off' on Thursday morning, I was rather more calm than I had anticipated. I took another hour off in the morning to 'clear away', and was reasonably delighted with my progress. Samantha had taken on the mundane task of mashing potatoes and decorating the meat mixture with the creamed spuds. I drove my car to the office and parked in as shady a spot as I could find. The temperature was rising rapidly, and I was thankful for the air conditioning.
The lunchtime swim was not easy. Although the pool is mostly shaded, my path puts me in the sun for a little bit of each lap. The changing of skin colour around parts that are not usually exposed to the sun, indicate quite how strong are the sun's rays! The walk too and from the condo zapped any extra energy. Only the English(wo)man was out in the midday sun, as even the maddest of dogs found it too hot to venture out!
Swimming was not an option when I returned home on Thursday. I had to fill my four dozen pastry cases with a variety of mixtures. I divided them into four uneven groups, and started with the caramel sauce, atop which was put the caramelised apple. Next were the Belgian tartlets; creme patisserie covered with strawberries and grapes (not together), and finally the lemon curd which had a meringue swirled atop, which was then blasted with my blow-torch. I cleared away some of the mess and then sandwiched the meringue whirls with a strawberry cream, before filling the horns with Toblerone cream. The shepherds pie and chicken whatever was put into the oven. In the crockpot was a mixture of peppers and tomatoes, and rice was simmering in its own pot!
My kitchen resembled Samantha's bedroom at its worst! My floor was considered a work surface, as well as any flat workspace. Even the freezer top took part! Dana returned home just as I had finished loading the dishwasher, and looked around with a slight expression of despair. I had fifteen minutes left to make good! I softened the blow by letting him know that if he had arrived five minutes earlier, he would have probably run away! He asked, helplessly, "Do you need anything". I replied that the only thing I really needed were the invisible people on the baking shows that come in with the trolleys and take away all the dirty equipment when no one is looking, and leave the work surfaces completely sparkling. He said he did not know where to get one of those!
"Wow", was the expression from my neighbour with whom I had discussed the ability to over cater because of the variety! "When you said over-cater, that was an understatement". Standing with a place of bright red, tempting water-melon, she looked rather forlorn when she approached the 'dessert' table. I assured her that the water-melon would not go to waste!
Although there have been times when we have taken the 'Third Thursday' to the pool, I would not have been able to manage to set up and 'deliver' in time. This particular time, however, it would have, even at seven in the evening, probably have been too hot to contemplate. Apparently the ground had been too hot for all of the dogs paws, and that is why only the English(wo)man was seen walking up and down the road during the day! Autumn here has its advantages!
Almost all left overs were eaten by the end of the day on Friday, as I took them into the office. I had not tasted the final products beforehand, and decided to see if they were really that good. I had brought a new variety to the 'place of plenty', and this foreign takeover was accepted with delight! I swooned when I munched on the apple tart. I had to stop myself praising the taste, as self-praise is no praise, so I am told! The lemon meringue was just as good. I stopped as enough is as good as a feast, and the fruit tartlets were no longer on offer!
Saturday saw another 'heat advisory' warning, and the temperature soared to 106. It was hot! Again, I marched down to the pool at two, with my trusty side-kick. We were the only two for a few hours, and then around five hours after the midday sun had coaxed out only the English(wo)man, several people came to 'cool off'.
Today, the temperature is only forecast to reach 102, which although hot, will be a little more bearable than yesterday. I spoke to my daughter earlier, and mentioned that I did not know what to write about this week. She had a gathering at her house last night, and had followed in her mother's footsteps in the culinary department! I had provided scones, sausage rolls, and trifles for the soiree, all of which would not be missed if they were not present, but were accepted with glee. Samantha had made her famous cup cakes and macarons. She had also ventured out in the queso sector, and produced a dip like no other, adding meat to the fabulous concoction. It was delicious! Edward grilled! "Don't know what to write?" was the sentence my daughter repeated back to me, after I had said that there was not much that happened this week, apart from me cooking and it being hot, all of which I have covered many times. "Well, sometimes," she started, "You just cook, and it is just hot. End of!" She suggested that this be the extent of my post. Her final comment on the matter was that I should just put "I cooked, and it was hot", and then add the dots, for a one line post, which of course would be completed with the words ..... another story!