Chicken and Spinach Pasta: The Visit of the Ham Truck

Chicken and Spinach Pasta

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.

There’s always the exception: the person who loves big, barking dogs, and wouldn’t dream of waiting on the outside of the gate when they can just reach over, open it, and come in.Ham

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 pepperChickenspinach
1 onion
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.


27 thoughts on “Chicken and Spinach Pasta: The Visit of the Ham Truck”

  1. Katie, I think you mean “J’arrive”! (says the queen of typos).
    And Fab is so horrified by the fact that I don’t always get dressed if I’m not going out for the day. I will admit though that this has caused me on more than one occasion to pretend I’m not home when someone’s at the front door!!

  2. Umm I have such a memory. One never forgets the surprise. I was closer to Bryson’s state than your’s I think.
    Love Bryson!! any of his books!
    I’d go for the smoky paprika for sure with this; this has some of the best flavors around.
    The bacon sounds lovely.

  3. You made me laugh so hard this time that you deserve a virtual hug and two kisses!!!!!! What glorious 3 minutes reading this post… Thanks! I might buy some books of this writer he seems to be hilarious 😀
    You do love olives, don’t you?

  4. I loved living at our house in the country. If you stepped out in the backyard and kept walking I don’t know where you would end up…wilderness for miles, the occasional bear, deer and the resident pheasant and coyotes.No one to see me in my housecoat having a leisurely cuppa before work:D

  5. Sounds like a very tasty pasta dish! I look forward to seeing what you do with that ham, which also looks like it ought to be something.
    Luckily, when I’m dressed up, I’m already not too fashionable, so the bar is low…so I can get away with (or am oblivious to the stares) walking the dogs in my pajamas, lol.

  6. I seem to gravitate toward geeky/dorky people…that is to say, I am a geeky/dorky person myself. This is why I love Bill Bryson. He seems dorky. I can relate to dorky. In fact, geek/dork is in fashion these days. Yes, it is! Of course, I’m not implying that you are a said geek/dork, but tights with holes in them are soooo 80’s.

  7. Hmmm… I used to dress the way you describe when we lived in a warmer inland valley, in a TOWN! Even now I would oontinue dressing in such a manner except for the fact that it’s too @#!%*@#ing cold where I live. Visitors be damned! Funny story, Katie. And I love everything Bill Bryson. All that and a great pasta to boot!

  8. Peter, none at all. I rarely use salt – you can see why ;-))
    Sam, you are so right – I ‘fixed’ it…. I don’t know which is worse: my command of the language or my typing. Tell Fab to relax….
    Tanna, as I said, it’s apparently something beyond my learning (to not put myself in these situations) Bryson is great!
    Liberalfoodie, roasted peppers would be wonderful… I tend to horde mine…
    Nuria, his books are funny – and, yes, I love olives. I miss the olive bars of Spain…sigh!
    Val, thankfully the animals don’t care what I’m wearing (or not) and they can’t talk. I’m never having a camera phone…
    Mike, that ham gets many and varied uses… It does have to be cooked, though – it’s sliced very thickly and a bit chewy as is. Pajamas….yeah, I could try that…
    Colleen, so, does that mean that somwhere in the multiverse (if I could manage to cross over) I would be in fashion? What a thought!!!
    Christine, when it’s cold I put on an even rattier sweatshirt (gray) and sweatpants (gray) over the rest….

  9. I’m laughing, too. I love to nap in the mid-afternoon, sometimes for just a few minutes, to compensate for not sleeping much at night. Often I’ll wake up and find a package on the front porch, or on the kitchen table — left there by someone while I was asleep! Ah, the joys of living in the country….

  10. I do miss living in the country in Ohio, oh those were the days when we had the occasional scorcher, just hanging out in the buff after a nice dip in the pool…as one evening while dipping, let’s just say a few police cars come zuming up the drive way lights a flashing, me just out of pool, now thinking, hey, who could see me to report me…I run for a towel…seems that they had the wrong address. Someones security alarm DOWN the road went off but they thought it was our house…oh my!
    I love Bill’s books. Your story was better! Wow, a man delivering ham! I do miss the rural life!

  11. HA HA, I love Bill Bryson’s writing, and can completely ID with being caught all grungy when you least want to be 🙂 It almost always happens that when I wear ordinary old comfy clothes and go to work that I find out I have a meeting for later in the day!

  12. Don’t I know that feeling! We have the double protection of ferocious dog AND a garden gate which is impossible to open unless you know how. So far no intruders..
    But even in the city you can get caught in the act, one of my best friends who is a business woman in a high position recently went to the tax department and thought “wow, I must look great today” because everyone was looking at her and she felt great until she later realized that she had forgotten to take out the hair rollers she had put in her hair (she does that before important business meetings when she has to look her best) while driving there…

  13. As always, I love reading your posts..usually I laugh until I cry and often I’m reminded of a similar situation.
    I bet you look great in your naturalness!
    And that pasta looks sooo good I’m drooling as I write. Thanks for sharing with PResto Pasta Nights. The ham looks awesome,by the way.

  14. Katie I just wrote a long comment about how much I love “Notes…” and somehow it wouldn’t go through…
    Boohoo, I don’t feel like writing it again. I’m busy making pasta with peas (but without asparagus) inspired by one of your recent recipes…

  15. I really really love your writing. Never mind the recipes, you are a wonderful and witty story-teller, easily one of my favorites in the blogosphere. Thank you so much for sharing, and keep writing!

  16. Lydia, people think nothing of walking into the house – of course, in the summer when we have the doors open (no screens) it’s even easier!
    Deb, us, I remember doing that in MN, when we had both the pool and the alarm…. One cannot hide in a lit pool at night…
    Sra, someone, somewhere is pulling our little strings and laughing at us.
    Ilva, I know that feeling… I always pause to make sure I remembered to put all my clothes on…
    Ruth, maybe 20 years ago…. scary would be more apt now!
    Betty, damn computers! I haven’t read his book on OZ yet… but I love all the rest! No Asparagus!?!?!!
    Neen, thanks, that’s so sweet – and I love the encouragement…though mon mari assures me I don’t need it….

  17. Oh, so funny! I, too get lulled into that same sense of “no one ever comes to the door so it doesn’t matter if I’m baking bread in my pajamas at 11:00 am.” And I’ve been caught more than once.

  18. Ha! I just snorted. hee hee. I wish I could live in the country….a little country home with a wonderful garden (that someone has to teach me to keep alive), and no students to worry about. 🙂 some day…
    Lovin’ the pasta!!

  19. I often walk to the mailbox in my pj’s…always on the look-out for any vehicle that might be coming down the dirt road. And the make-up doesn’t go on unless I have to leave the house. Perfume? That’s a horse of a different color. I put it on daily. Have for years.

  20. You and Bill Bryson are soul mates! Both hilariously funny and able to write about it so that all of us laugh, too! Thanks for the smile!

  21. Ah, see, I can’t move to France. I go to work with my hair wet, pulled back, jeans and a t-shirt. Work, mind you. Public. You can only guess how I look on weekends.
    Nice recipe!

  22. Lynn, Hmmm, I’d have a problem with that one – I don’t wear them! That doesn’t mean I don’t make dashes through the house to turn out a light… I’m asking for it, aren’t I?
    Baking Soda, If only they were a little more reliable. They are so easily bribed – esp. now that they are on diets!
    Chris, if I could figure out how to keep the plants alive and the weeds dead I’d be happy…I was out playing in the mud today!
    Farmgirl, I gave up on the perfume – attracts to many bees… As to the makeup, just runs in my eyes when I sweat, er, I mean ‘glisten’.
    Susan, yep, that’s it… the news from the hicks from the sticks!
    Kevin, the ham is excellent! – A little tough… but very tasty!
    Awww, thanks, Pam and your welcome!
    Expatchef, I hate to say, it kind of runs over for me. I’ve found myself out shopping before I realized I was still wearing my rubber garden shoes…and no make-up, hadn’t combed the hair, etc…. At least I was wearing clothes!

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