Food, fear and films


100_0087Village life takes ingenuity in a tight spot, and stamina – plenty of it!  These are the times that test men’s souls! Well, we haven’t actually had any chicken stealing like Mr Woodhouse in ‘Emma’, but life has been pretty hairy in our neck of the woods in the last few days.

Where do I start? We are a quiet law-abiding community, we look out for our neighbours, share our garden goodies, swap cuttings and seeds, and admire each other’s grandchildren. Our greatest excitement is the weekly testing of the fire alarm by the volunteer firemen.  But the other night the peace of the four hundred law-abiding souls was rudely shattered. A dog began barking as dusk fell, and continued without end for the rest of the night. I woke every hour of the night, and heard all the other dogs joining the chorus. I overslept and arose bleary – eyed, and then had to rush to attend a veteran’s memorial service in the graveyard.

I came away somewhat disgruntled that the officiating clergywoman should in-appropriately refer to the Somme as a romantic name. The Battle of the Somme was the day that the British Army lost 20 per cent of its men – 60,000 killed or wounded on one day in France, my step- grandfather being one of the badly wounded. No! Not romantic. Naturally I aired my disgruntlement back at home, and felt all the better for it! So I was quite gruntled when the phone went later that afternoon and a friend rang to see how my husband was; and since his wife was overseas, I invited him for supper that night – three hours later in fact..

Putting down the phone, my mind raced through the possibilities. We were going to have cauliflower cheese, but could I give this to a man accustomed to gourmet cooking from his talented wife? I thought of various alternatives, but I was always missing one vital ingredient. Cauliflower cheese it would have to be! We were already having Brussels sprouts and carrots with it, and toasted almonds sprinkled over the cauliflower, so I added some chopped and baked golden kumara – crisp and crunchy on the outside – soft and sweet inside. Washed down with pinot gris.

With some pumpkin soup from lunch, thinned with a little cream and jazzed up with a sprinkling of coriander, served in little gold rimmed coffee cups before we sat down, it seemed a reasonable meal, topped off with  hot chocolate sauce poured over locally made coffee ice-cream. No-one wanted coffee after that, but smoky lapsang souchong tea went down well.

Later that night, I heard the dog again. I thought: I cannot face another night worrying about it. So I jumped in the car and scouted round the neighbourhood in the dark. In the next street, I found a frantic pit- bull terrier on the loose – pacing back and forth and barking ferociously and fearfully outside a darkened house. We have no hedges or fences, just grass flowing out onto the pavement. So there he was, and I was available to him…

I went next door, where I could see a light on, knowing the people there, and hoping the resourceful man of the house had a solution. But they were visitors, who’d borrowed the house, and were dreading another night of torment. So it was up to me! The husband told me the dog had been alone for two days, was dangerous and and had frightened two children, so I revved off back home to deprive my husband of six pork sausages sitting in the fridge for him to enjoy the next day.

Back at the house, Daphne, a friend living across the road from the deserted house, was talking to the other neighbours. When I got out of the car, she hurried across, sounding so relieved to see me that she made me feel as if I was the US Cavalry. She warned me to be careful. The poor dog had now retreated to the back of the house, so while I strewed sausages around the front lawn, she went to get some water to fill his empty bowl.

Home, and a glorious peace settled back across the cottages and gardens, the only sounds the restless sea surging onto the rocks and an owl calling. So I rang the lovely Daphne, and she told me the renters had come back not long after. I tried not to regret the sausages, and hoped the dog had managed to eat them all before his somewhat callous-seeming owners returned. (There are dark rumours that they are on drugs and are up to no good!) But a good night’s sleep was apparently had by us all, both the (slightly) wicked and the (mostly) virtuous .

After all this mayhem I took myself off the cinema in the next village in the morning, as I feared the film might go off before I’d seen it -‘Performance’ – about a quartet, set in a snowy and romantic-looking  New York. When one member of the quartet has a crisis, all the others go to pieces, with all their repressed emotions and frustrations about their lives welling up. The famous quartet is in danger of dis-integrating, until they finally put their art before their distress, and play the glorious Beethoven Violin Quartet No 14 Opus 131, music which reverberates through the whole film.

A simple story, and I was glad I hadn’t read the dreary reviews of it before I saw it, as they were all uniformly patronising. So, ignorant of the fact that apparently the film had so many fatal flaws, I loved every minute, and came out walking on air, feeling joyful that art had triumphed over all!

This was thirty six hours in the life of our village for me – mundane and busy – no mystery or profound or significant events… just the daily round and common task. A spiritual teacher once said to me that our spiritual destiny is to be in the right place at the right time. So I have to accept that however mundane, this is my destiny these days – right place – right time… food for friends, fearful dogs, and flawed, enjoyable films.


Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Kumara is the New Zealand equivalent of sweet potatoes, and I love the golden ones best. I cut them to the size of a walnut, this time – normally I’d have them bigger. They were then parboiled, and when the water had been drained off, the kumara was slammed around the saucepan and flour sprinkled over them. So with a rough surface covered in flour, hot oil spooned over them and quickly baked in a hot oven, they were crisp and tasty – the crunchiness was just the texture we needed with the soft cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Food for Thought

I don’t know where this comes from:

Weak people revenge, strong people forgive, intelligent people ignore.






Filed under animals/pets, battle of somme, british soldiers, cookery/recipes, great days, humour, life/style, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized, village life, world war one

47 responses to “Food, fear and films

  1. Life to it’s fullest your destiny…


  2. Glad you rescued the dog, and all your neighbors, from another distressing night, Valerie! I rarely read movie reviews since I’d rather form my own opinion. I’ve loved movies hated by critics, and hated critics’ darlings. Oh, well! xoxoM


  3. Anonymous

    Found this so entertaining and pictured it all as you described each event, my mouth watered over the kumera, Keep them coming.


  4. Funny how it is in the ordinary that we find the extraordinary!!


  5. And I am just ever so glad you know how to be gruntled. It’s a very under used word.


  6. LizzieJoy

    Oh Valerie, I do love your description of your village life – a small quiet community where everyone shares with one another and looks out for each other. It appeals to me greatly and is a particular dream of mine. One of my all-time favourite programmes is “Murder She Wrote” with Jessica Fletcher [Angela Lansbury]. She lives in a similar caring, sharing community by the sea, in Maine, New England. [that is, when she’s not travelling the world solving murders]. I dream of being like her, even down to the old black typewriter!! [minus, of course, the murders]. Oh, I do love to dream!! Thank you, dear Valerie. You never cease to awaken new memories and yearnings from deep within me. We are surely kindred spirits. Bless you.


    • Oh Lizzie, I love hearing from you… funnily enough, Maine has always appealed to me… I love the sound of it… I also love little English villages… there must be some near you!!!!
      So glad you enjoyed… I thought it might give readers a giggle !
      And yes, dear friend, I think you’re right… we are kindred spirits….
      whenever I look at your glorious pictures, I feel the same… especially when you share the country around you…


  7. Valerie, I like the quote at the end of your post as well as your village life too. Having lived in New York City for so long I think I want to relocate to a quaint little village.


  8. Amy

    “The only sounds the restless sea surging onto the rocks and an owl calling”, how wonderful! Love how you put the food, fear, and film in one beautiful village life story.


  9. I think you should wear a Superman cape as you dash about the village securing food and safety for all its residents! 🙂


    • NO NO Kathie, I’m an undercover agent, trying to do as little as possible!!!
      Not on any of the worthy committees or voluntary causes…mostly keeping my head down and trying to remain inconspicuous !!!!


  10. lucewriter

    What an exciting life in a sleepy village! Thank you so much for taking care of that poor dog!


  11. I am so glad you were willing to got the ‘step beyond’. I’m sure the dog was stressed and frantic…his people were jerks to him….but we all know that so I shan’t rave about it (although I want too). Truly it is those of us who go the ‘next step’ that make the rest of our lives lovely.

    Thank you!

    Now for the food…Yumm…I’m putting these into my recipes and will follow with my own meal made of your recipe soon!



  12. Poor dog, barking all night he was obviously suffering. One has the feeling this is not the end to this particular story.

    I just saw the other Quartet last night, the Dustin Hoffman version and loved it again, having seen it with my Uncle in London first (who was the Production Designer – good old kiwi talent!) and then with friends here last night.


    • Your instincts serve you well Claire! I heard that someone had called the dog ranger, who came out and warned the delinquent owners!
      Those English actors in Quartet make it so wonderful as well as the settings ( still thinking about those tea-cups) I loved Michael Gambon’s caftans and embroidered pill boxes, as well as his beautiful hands, and glorious ego,
      Maggie Smith’s clothes… I could go on, but won’t … how lovely to have an uncle who is so talented!


  13. What a deeply sensible answer to that infernal yap, poor dog, someone must have some a cropper somewhere along the way, unless this is a regular occurence.. I hope you did not have to feed the poor fella every night until someone turned up! I have not been to a movie in so long.. terrible, and I was working in the industry for years, but then there was Daisy! Milking at 6.30 and living 80 minutes from a movie theatre puts paid to movie nights. I might just start going by myself at lunchtime,Ii love watching movies by myself. have a lovely day … c


  14. Yes, when we lived miles away in the country I also gave up films, but now in the next village we have a boutique cinema with three little studios with big arm chairs, where we can take our coffee or wine in with us !
    I love going on my own – usually in the morning or afternoon… my husband can’t sit for long, so it’s always a solo trip….


  15. If I ever come to your neck of the woods, I am going to pretend to be hungry so you will invite me to dinner. Please do not do anything more than you did this day….oh my this dinner sounded spectacular.

    Poor puppy, so alone and hungry. You are so kind to feed him.

    Like your husband, I can’t sit long so rarely go to the cinema anymore but instead wait till I can watch a movie at home where I can turn it off and get up and stretch. You small boutique sounds wonderful though, I think I would sacrifice to attend.

    As always Valerie, your small slices of life bring a smile and a sense of serenity.


    • Hello Val, you wouldn’t have to pretend to be hungry – we’d have the red carpet out, champagne on ice and all the best china, as well as a feast awaiting your arrival… Maybe you will get here one of these days – what fun it would be !!!! Thank you as ever for your lovely comment, Val


  16. I have this wonderful image of you prowling around in the dark armed only with your sausages. I love your posts Valerie, they bring a smile to my face 🙂


    • Ha-ha, Dory, I don’t limit myself to sausages, I’ve been known to drag a hambone out of the deep freeze, waiting to make pea soup, and give it to a desperate dog! So glad you enjoy my posts – as you know I love yours !!!


  17. So glad you explained kumara later in the post, sounds delicious and I shall be trying sweet potato cooked like that. You are much braver than I! I’d have had to drop the sausages from an airplane! I hope that delicious supper was appreciated – I wish I could have joined you all 🙂


  18. I would be honoured if you accepted this WordPress Family Award. You have meant so much to me! Your words of love and encouragement have sustained me through horrible, grief filled times. Thank you for caring.


    • Dear Tersia, Congratulations on your new award.. you’ve certainly earned it! I’m so touched that you should have nominated me, and even more importantly so glad to know that any of my words might have been able to sustain you on your journey. It has been a hard one, and I do hope you are beginning to reach calmer waters. Our bloggers world is such a wonderful discovery of goodness and friendship, isn’t it… As for the award, I just haven’t got the skills and know- how to manage the requirements of awards, so I prefer to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart for thinking of me, but have to say I’m not up to it !!! Blessings…


  19. It sounds like a life well lived Valerie.


  20. The Somme is romantic??? Did they not have any idea what actually took place there??

    The pumpkin soup lunch sounds quite delightful, Valerie. That’s the mark of a clever cook, one who doesn’t need all sorts of fancy things to make a great meal!


  21. Oh, Valerie, what a wonderful story! You do have a way with words that touch both the heart and the soul. ❤


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