I’m a huge fan of Anne Tyler, so when a friend lent me a copy of her latest (her 17th) novel: Digging to
In 1997 two very different families meet at
On the first anniversary of the babies’ arrival Bitsy throws an “Arrival Party” complete with a cake iced to look like the Stars and Stripes, a video of the scene at the airport, and a jolly anthem. The Yazdans are of course invited to the party as Jin Ho and Susan arrived on the same plane. The following year it is the Yazdans who hold the “Arrival Party” with the same video and song and a vast buffet of Iranian food. From then on, the two families host the party on alternate years as the girls grow up, and the description of the parties serves to point out how the Yazdan’s are becoming more and more American even as Bitsy is trying to keep her daughter culturally separate. As the book progresses, the main character emerges almost from the sidelines, Maryam Yazdan, the mother of Sami and adopted grandmother to Susan. Even after 35 years as an American citizen she feels herself to be an outsider, and stands aloof observing the cultural dislocation of the Iranians, and both admiring and being repelled by contemporary American life.
Lighter in tone than some of
It was only after finishing the book that I discovered that Anne Tyler’s late husband was Iranian, and from him and his family she must have gained the insight into the yawning gaps that lie between the two cultures, just waiting to trip the unwary.
What do all these pictures have in common? And why would the dreaded gauleiters of Dorset County Council's Trading Standards Department be on the case of one of them? No idea? Here's a clue. There are NO Shepherds used in the making of Shepherd's Pie.
There are NO 'dicks' - spotted or otherwise - used in the making of Spotted Dick.
There are NO toads used in the making of Toad-in-the-Hole.
We are all used to funny peculiar names for certain foods, they are part of our culinary tradition and we don't expect the name of the food to be an exact list of the actual ingredients. We are not fools. Recently Val Temple who has run the Sgt Bub Bakery in Weymouth for almost 30 years was paid a visit by the local Trading Standards Inspectors who said that "someone" had made a complaint that the names of the cakes didn't relate to what was in them. What, you mean they had really thought that the Robin tarts, the Pig Tarts, (just like her Froggie tart pictured here) contained Robin and pork and that the Paradise Slice came from Paradise? Oh what baloney, I don't believe anyone complained at all, I think this was just some under-employed, thick as pig-shit, meddlesome little jobsworth in the Trading Standards department causing trouble.
Ivan Hancock, the county's trading standards manager, said: "The fact is that food needs to be properly described so that the consumer can tell what it is."
Oh, that's consumers from Outer Mongolia or Mars is it? the rest of us know fine well that when we buy a little jam sponge tart iced with the picture of a robin redabreast and called - logically - Robin Tart, that it has no real robins in it. Presumably if it DID have robins in it the Trading Standards w***kers would be satisfied, but then the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds would be breathing down Mrs Temples neck before she could sing "Rockin' robin, tweet, tweet."
Don't these people (paid for by the great British public by the way) have better things to do, like sort out dodgy car dealers, Nigerian scamsters, and crooks selling counterfeit perfume? Renaming cakes at reputable local bakery is just ludicrous.
I bet they'll be round at the local Indian take-away having words about Bombay Duck in a day or two.
At this time of year the strawberries which are piled up in the supermarkets are all from abroad, and don't have the flavour that makes you want to eat them unadorned, however they are ideal with other ingredients.
I had 10 for dinner last Saturday, and having seen some rather large Spanish strawberries (which were reduced in price) and the tail end of the fresh rhubarb, I decided to combine them in these individual tarts. Strawberries and rhubarb are a combination made in heaven; when I was first married, my late M-i-L told me her tip of adding a couple of tablespoons of strawberry jam to rhubarb when stewing it or making crumble - deeelish!
I originally spotted this recipe in an execellent food blog called Joy of Baking, and tried it out on the family who gave it the thumbs-up.
RHUBARB & STRAWBERRY TARTS
400g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded tablespoon caster sugar
230g chilled butter cut into pieces
60ml cold water
500g rhubarb (only use the really pink/red sticks of rhubarb)
50g plain flour
200g granulated sugar
Pulse the flour, salt and butter together in a food processor until it looks like white breadcrumbs (this only takes seconds, don’t overdo it). Add the sugar and whiz together briefly. With machine running add the water and process until it forms a smooth ball of pastry. Wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. If you want, you can make the pastry the previous day to save time.
Wipe the sticks of rhubarb and cut off the green ends of the sticks; then cut into 2cm pieces. Hull the strawberries and if they are large cut them up so they are similar in size to the rhubarb. Mix together the flour and sugar. In a large bowl mix the rhubarb and strawberry pieces and then the flour+sugar mix; make sure all the pieces of fruit are well coated.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
Take the chilled pastry and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out to form a circle approx 18cms in diameter. Trim the edges. Line two baking trays with baking parchement. One by one place the pastry circles on the baking trays, filling each one with about ½ cup of the fruit mix which you spread out to within 4-5 cms of the edge and then fold the pastry up around the filling, pleating and pinching it together but leaving the central part of the tart open.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is soft and bubbling.
Remove from the oven onto a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or very slightly warm, with either some crème fraiche or a scoop of vanilla icecream.