There’s a post coming about The Incident, but it’s still a bit (and please excuse this next word) raw. My typing is terrible- I’m dictating, and clearing up grammar as I go- and, besides, cocodamol makes me woozy. Besides besides, this seemed like the right dish for today: the first day I could really smell spring.
This is comfort food at its most simple: both in terms of taste, and in terms of process. It is so simple I almost think it’s silly to write a recipe, but perhaps you’ve had this kind of day, too, and perhaps you need a very simple, pretty nursery tea. Just right for a person cooking one-handed, just right for starch to mop up painkillers, just right for the beginnings of a grim little cold- and just right, too, for a London just beginning to show signs of spring. Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter, little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here: as I write the long sun is setting over the Mile End Road, and the irises are spreading purple wings wide over the windowsill, and I can, even with one arm in a sling, feel myself coming back into myself.
I feel I’ve been gone a long time, but like the crocuses, I am returning. I learned the other day that yellow is the base state of crocuses, and you can tell a feral population of crocuses by their golden-ness. The lilac kind are planted, the gold kind mostly over the East End running wild. The East End is good in spring. It has been terrible all winter long, but it’s coming up spring, and it’ll be all right.
I have been saying to myself, it’ll be all right, it’ll be all right, a lot since the Incident- and I do think it will be. I honestly do. Not just my finger, but everything. Spring is coming. Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right, da da da da da da da.
Post-Incident Pea-Parmesan Pasta
One or two nests of vermicelli- I think this is the same kind I used to call Angel Hair, but I might be wrong.
A biggish chunk of Parmesan
A big handful of frozen peas
The very best olive oil you can afford
A chicken stock-pot
Set on the stove a pan of water to bring to boil, and add the stock pot, and a splash of olive oil. You don’t need the fancy oil for this, just any. You could use chicken stock here, but since we only need a little of it, it seems wasteful. I also didn’t have any, and I am devoted to the humble stock pot. Grind your black pepper, grate your Parmesan. (Tall Man did this for me. I had my arm in a sling at the time.) My noodle-nests took about six minutes, and in this six minutes I had a very small cry and buried my face in the irises.Actually, for five of those minutes I had a small cry, and on the sixth minute I flung my peas into the bubbling stock with the vermicelli.
I cannot stress enough that you must watch your peas. Frozen peas are horribly easy to overcook: you want to catch them the minute they go that beautiful bright fresh green, and float. (I will not hear a word against frozen petit pois. I love them. They are not garden peas, but if you haven’t got a garden, and it’s March, that’s irrelevant.)
The instant they are the right green, drain your pasta and peas, reserving about a tablespoon of starchy chickeny broth in the pan with the noodles and the peas. Add the parmesan. Stir. Add the olive oil, all melty gold. Stir. There is a magic here, an alchemy: together the parmesan, the chicken-starch and the oil make a buttery, bittery, tender sauce, better than cream, like a hassle-less carbonara. Tip into your bowl, and scatter with black pepper, maybe a little sea salt. Oh, this is nursery food done beautiful.
(The steam fogged the camera lens, and made it sparkle.)
Eat alone, with a very small glass of white wine, and a deep breath. A deep inhale of soft, sweet-pea steam. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Here’s to spring.