One of my favorite passages ever put on paper was written by Bill Bryson.
I think it was in “Notes from a Small Island”.
To summarize it briefly, he writes about being all alone, in the kitchen of his house in the country, early one morning.
No one’s around. No one is expected. It’s private.
He’s in his underwear; he starts doing things people do when they’re all alone:
He turns the radio on full blast.
Dances wildly, arms waving.
Plays air guitar.
Belches loudly, going for a new personal best.
Farts loudly, to the music, going for a new personal best.
Sings to his coffee cup.
Scratches wherever it itches.
All of a sudden he notices the post (mail) on the kitchen table, just behind him.
It hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier.
Unbeknownst to him, the postman had come into the kitchen, quietly, delivered the mail, and gone.
I laughed so hard I cried. I still smile whenever I think about it.
But, now I understand just how easy it can happen.
When one lives out in the country, (the sticks, the boondocks, the middle of nowhere) one can forget some of the former trappings of civilization.
Before moving to the Vendée I rarely left my bedroom, let alone went outside, without being properly ‘dressed’: hair done, make-up on, fully clothed, etc.
Here, we have a tall hedge on the 2 sides of the property open to the odd bit of traffic (postman, bread truck, neighbor’s tractor), and our own pastures and gardens on the other 2 sides.
One gets lulled into a sense of security; of privacy; of being alone.
I no longer bother with make-up unless I’m going into town; my hair gets tied back, out of the way; and, normally, when I crawl out of bed I crawl into my ratty old gardening/exercise clothes; none of which I would have even deigned to use as rags in my previous life.
I happily go about my day, secure in my surroundings, knowing that if someone actually comes to the gate, the dogs will warn me and I will have a minute to, er, get presentable, before facing them.
One merely shouts
‘J’attende!’ ‘J’arrive’ (I’m coming) to acknowledge the intruder guest, who then waits politely at the gate. Two, very large, barking dogs normally insure proper behavior.
I mean, this is the country: we’re all friends here!
(Besides, one never gets the good gossip by being outside the gate.)
Thus it has happened, on more than one occasion, that I have come rushing around the corner of the house, sweat dripping, dressed in my favorite and finest workout/garden clothes: tight, knit, short leotards, complete with holes in auspicious places, and frayed, dingy, holey knit, tank top, thinking to give a shout then dash into the house for something to cover up with.
And, there, standing patiently, petting my traitorous dogs, is the: (insert one) handsome young postman with a special delivery; volunteer firefighters raising money for something; or, as on Saturday, the guy selling ham.
One would think I would learn.
Yes, one would think that!
I did get a nice lot of home-cured ham, though. It’s all divided into dinner-size packs, and in the freezer. I don’t know what spices they use on it, but it smells faintly of cinnamon, cloves, cumin…in short, wonderful.
No ham in the pasta this week, though. Maybe next week…
My plan for this pasta dish was some nice fresh spinach, it being spring and all.
The best laid plans, as they say. No spinach in the market this week. Not to be deterred, I used frozen. Still good.
And I do like to get my spinach in once a week…good for the eyes.
Check out Presto Pasta Nights, at Once Upon a Feast, on Friday, when Ruth will have the recap of the weeks best and brightest pasta dishes!
Chicken and Spinach Pasta
2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1/2 green or red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbs paprika, smoky is nice
1 tbs olive oil
15oz (450gr) chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
8oz frozen (or fresh) spinach
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
6oz (200gr) feta (cubes if you can find them)
1/2 cup dry-cured, pitted Greek olives
1oz (30gr) grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups pasta (lumache)
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Slice the pepper, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Cut olives in half. If using fresh spinach, pick through leaves, discarding any that are bad and tearing any that are huge.
In a large skillet heat oil. Sauté paprika in hot oil for 1 minute. Add onion, pepper and garlic, sauté for 5 minutes. Add chicken and sauté until cooked through. Add wine, herbs, tomatoes and spinach, and cook, uncovered until spinach is cooked/thawed and sauce has reduced and thickened. Add olives, feta and cooked, drained pasta. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.
You do know that no proper Frenchwoman would ever be seen less than perfect?
You do know where that leaves me?
On the other hand, think of all the money I’m saving on clothes and makeup….
And if you’re not familiar with Bill Bryson… And like humor, I highly recommend his books.
I’m just so grateful that I haven’t been caught at his, um, level of free expression.