A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

One Fine Day.......

My beloved book, that will always live in my bedside table.....

Mayonnaise smudged recipe...

Egg Salad

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'The day promised to be hot.
The village was no great distance from the sea. Hikers who went toiling up the chalk track among the foxgloves and the crooked thorns to the top of Barrow Down could see it, like a grey-blue rim to a green saucer, but Wealding turned its face away from the blue towards the green,  snug in its leafiness which the low circle of hills protected it.  Here, the presence of the sea could be felt only as a sort of salty vibration in the air, like a watch ticking in the pocket, reminding the landlubber of his islander's destiny.'

I first read these words about 30(gulp) years ago....a teacher of mine had retired early and opened a secondhand book shop in a room at the front of his house, that opened onto the street.  The shop was the other end of the town from where I lived and was all that such a bookshop should be. The bookcases were basic and lined the walls and filled all possible gaps of an already small space, sideways was the best way of negotiating the shop. There was, however, an old sagging easy chair and wooden desk  facing the window at which my teacher sat, daily, reading whatever took his fancy.  People used to turn up with boxes of musty books, and mostly he bought them, not wanting to upset the bringer, and these added to the heavy scent of the shop, old house, old book, a whiff of furniture polish, a hint of lavender.  I can't think he ever made a penny, I think mostly he wanted something to fill his days and indulge his love.  So, here was where I spent many hours reading and looking and touching the spines of old and loved volumes.  I bought poetry books, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Paul Coelho, art books and anything to do with fashion,  the beginning of my personal library. Easy pickings and affordable. Everything to me was less than a pound, I am not sure that I ever paid the real price as nothing was priced and I am quite convinced the amount was decided by some quirky calculation of the proprietor, depending on who you were and how much he thought the book really should have you as its owner.  And there is where I found  One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downs, I read that first paragraph and needed to read no more, I was hooked. It is set, as the title suggests, on one day, one year after the end of  World War 2. Its central character is Laura a gentlewoman, not only in position but nature. It is a delightful word painting of a time gone by, an England that I longed for (secretly) and fed my nostalgia and love of that time, that until then, had been  through old black and white Mrs Miniveresque films... then there was One Fine Day.  I have read it most years, if not in full, part of it, a chapter that comes to mind because of an occurrence, a thought, a day, and today it came to mind once more. 

It is unseasonably warm after a dreadfully disappointing summer, a longed for Indian Summer, and it made me recall Laura's longing to take her daughter and 'cut and run to the sea' at the same time her daughter on seeing her dash across the high street from behind the school longed too for a day by the sea  'If only we could be at the sea today, thought Victoria, just the two of us, swimming and splashing, eating hard-boiled eggs and lettuce amongst the sand dunes'  The book is full of longing to seize the moment, seize the day and not get bogged down with the ordinary hum drum of life, particularly after the savagery of war and being close to death for so many years.  A gift of such a warm sunny day made me feel that all should be put aside and I too should take my daughter out of school and spend a day by the sea as I am lucky enough to live with its 'salty vibration', maybe tomorrow, if the weather holds.

Boiled egg and lettuce would not cause much delight if unpacked from my picnic basket, instead I think egg salad sandwiches would be more welcomed.  I spent many years avoiding egg sandwiches, too many childrens' parties in the 1970's with eggy smelling bridge rolls, boiled eggs with green rims mixed with salad cream or worse one horror of scrambled eggs daintily piled onto the aforementioned bridge rolls.  We grew up with parents who were children of the war or just after so food was placed on plate and was eaten, without question.  Only in recent years after eating a friends delightful egg salad sandwich did I realise, when done well, I love said sandwich filling. So, here is my recipe, it is very good, in fact excellent, it is inspired by the one to be found on www.101cookbooks.com  and as the title says:-
Egg Salad Sandwich (the only one I'll eat) 
..........my version
6 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
bunch of chives chopped
iceberg lettuce
8 slices of good bread, personal choice here, I like a nice grainy one, not too dark or it will overpower the salad.

First the eggs, this is the definitive way to get them cooked to perfection without even a hint of mouldy green rim....and spookily enough I watched a Barefoot Contessa programme today on eggs and this is how Ina does it too......
Place the eggs in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling remove from the heat and lid the saucepan.  Leave thus for 7 minutes. Meanwhile fill a bowl with iced water. At 7 minutes put the eggs into the prepared iced water and leave for 3 minutes. Crack and peel each egg, shell comes off better if you roll the egg under slight pressure over the counter. The fresher the eggs the harder they are to peel, mine were straight from under the hen fresh, thanks to my friends Karen who gifted them to me on my way to work!
Place eggs, mayo, salt and pepper in a bowl and mash with a fork, not to much at to make a mush but well enough so all the egg is covered with a slick of mayonnaise.  Stir in the chives taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Assemble the sandwiches by placing lettuce on a slice of bread and topping with the egg salad, add second slice and cut in half.  
Makes 4 sandwiches

If you care to look closely at the picture you will say 'they are not chives' and you would be right, it was parsley as my chive plant has disappeared from the garden (ok died) parsley is an adequate substitute but does not have that wonderful flavour that lifts the richness of the egg and mayo, you could add watercress or rocket for a wonderful peppery addition but only use iceberg because its crunchy coldness is exactly what is needed here.

So, I hope this becomes your favourite too and that the weather will hold so we all get chance to pack a picnic 'cut and run to the........sea or park or river or....paddling pool in the garden.... just be outside this weekend, winter really is just beyond sight waiting to roll in.....

Post Script
One Fine Day can still be found published by Virago.  Also the wonderful Persephone Books has published other works and gives a wonderful bio of her- http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/pages/authors/index.asp?id=55

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