Saturday, April 25, 2020

A dear friend has just brought me four fat spears of purple asparagus, from the Wye Valley via Marks & Spencer. The first of the season. And I have butter and eggs and lemons. I think the coronavirus trumps fear-of-cholesterol. I will make hollandaise (if I still can) and feast with the gods.

Not much knitting. And an unexpected problem – I can’t get through to Sunday Knits. I keep getting server-not-responding messages although everything else is working fine. I’m near enough the end of the Virus Scarf that I wanted to look at Machu Picchu again (I’m not going to pause to verify the spelling) and also perhaps order her yarn for a brioche shawl I am considering and indeed also look again at a brioche cowl of her own.

I had another good Italian lesson this morning. I think Federica is as happy as I am to have left grammar behind for the nonce in favour of literature. And individual cantos of the Divine Comedy are a perfect length for a week’s lesson.

Then Helen came around again and purged the kitchen while I had a bath, and we walked around the garden and picked some more wild garlic – it’s coming into flower; it won’t be with us much longer. So I lunched on wild garlic pesto and conchiglie – which the gods must enjoy as well.

I’ve finished Laura Spinney’s “Pale Rider”, about the 1918 flu epidemic. A certain amount of speed-reading was involved (on my part) in the later chapters about the long-term effects. I have collapsed, as so often, into Ruth Rendell’s arms – Barbara Vine, in fact, “The Brimstone Wedding”.

My husband’s father (who died young – I never knew him) was a conscientious objector in WWI. He was involved in the foundation of the St John’s Ambulance, served with it throughout the war, and co-authored a book about its early history. Our copy includes a letter to his parents (Alexander and Helen, of Edinburgh – some things don’t change) telling them which chapters were based on his own experience.

I thought it might be a good idea actually to read it, in 2014, but I didn’t get very far. Maybe I’ll try again now, in the hopes that there is something about the “Spanish flu” towards the end.


  1. Please be aware that having raised cholesterol is protective if you suffer infection. Whatever it does or doesn't) do to the state of the heart, people with high cholesterol have a certin mortality rate. People with low cholesterol have a higher mortality rate, from a wider range of causes.
    Personally, I would go for just butter with the asparagus, but then I have never tried hollandaise. It is such a treat just as it comes.

  2. I had to look up conchiglie. I have butterfly pasta in my pantry and will have to look and see if it has an Italian name as pretty as the shell does.

    Speaking of food, I have just taken a pan of brownies out of the oven and I expect to be raising my cholesterol soon enough. The house smells terrific! Wish you were here, Jean, I would share.

  3. Butterfly pasta is Farfalle. I had to look up Conchiglie, but still not sure of pronounciation.

    I am listening to Pale Rider on Audible. So fact-filled that I had to slow down the reading. Perhaps in the latter part I will speed it up. It is fascinating in a gruesome way, especially now.

  4. Oh, Jean, I hope you have made the hollandaise! I remember when I discovered how easy it was to make at home — I felt miffed that I’d previously thought it a “restaurant only” treat. Of course, it cannot be an everyday treat, but as an occasional indulgence, even when NOT in isolation, it is such a pleasure. Now if only we had some asparagus....

  5. Failing hollandaise I like melted butter and a squeeze of lemon. My mouth is watering.
    I'm glad Helen can come and do your kitchen. My father (91 this year) lives in a flat in sheltered accommodation nearby; we drop by to chat outside, and take this and that with us, but I don't go in... They have a HUGE notice saying please no visitors, and I have health issues which mean I should stay at home. I'm bracing myself for his kitchen in due course...! At least the staff there are able to help, and food etc is all organised. And there's the computer, so we can stay in touch.

  6. Ah yes - asparagus! A local farm has a field of it and we enjoyed our first taste of it for this year for supper this evening - plain butter for us. Funny how seasonal foods seem like a real treat, like the first of the rhubarb. I must say, jeanfromcornwall, I'm liking your science, although I have recently succumbed to statins, so my previously high cholesterol is more moderate now.

  7. =Tamar11:24 PM

    One of the few things I miss from the days when I had a garden is fresh asparagus.

  8. Jean, every morning I inspect the asparagus beds to see if there are any signs. Nothing yet. So happy to hear you received such a gift. I don’t object to Hollandaise, but I love it with butter and lemon. I remember a history professor once who when he discovered that I could recite the Pater Noster, asked me to do it so he could time me. Apparently a medieval book he was reading discussed cooking asparagus as long as it took to say one (or two?) Pater Nosters. I don’t bother, I just do it until it looks right.

  9. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Some years ago I bought a special pot for cooking asparagus. It is very high with a wire basket inside so that the asparagus is standing upright and not cooked in water but steamed. It makes a huge difference because the spears are tender without the tips (or tops?) getting mushy.
    And I use the Pater Noster to time my hand washing instead of the stupid Happy Birthday!
    Hilde in Germany

  10. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Oh I love it. Now I WILL wash my hands for the prescribed 20 seconds. Some of the time. Chloe

  11. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Also conchiglie are shells. Think '"conch." Not as fun to say, though, as Farfalle.. Hope you can open Carole's site, Jean. She has a new pattern on there. It's a beaut. I have been getting those "server not responding messages" lately also. Chloe

  12. Jean, have you seen Ms. Sunday's Stars and Stripes? It's really pretty.