They Had Bacon

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My sailor was invited to lunch at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul last week.

He looked forward to getting away from the camp for an afternoon. I had mixed feelings. As always, I worry when there’s any alteration to his routine and off-base travel is a change that makes me especially anxious, but I wanted to hear all the details.

I’ve never visited an embassy for lunch or even just to say hi to a diplomat, but I’ve seen enough James Bond movies to have a good idea of what an embassy in a European city is like. The decor is formal, the people are all dressed like they work in a high-end department store and the food is fancy.

But an embassy in Afghanistan? There’s still kind of a war going on there. Surely corners have been cut and normal embassy conventions are not followed as strictly as in more stable areas. (By normal embassy conventions, I mean the ones I imagine.) I couldn’t wait to hear the nitty gritty when we Facebooked.

“They had bacon.”

“They had bacon?” I said. “You had lunch at an embassy, and that’s all you’ve got for me?”

“They haven’t served bacon at the camp since Ramadan, but they had it at the embassy.”

Like that explains it.

“It was good bacon.”

We’re so in tune that we often get a busy signal when we call each other because we’re both phoning at the exact same time.

We have near identical views on politics, financial planning and child-rearing, yet we’re so far apart in our bacon appreciation levels it’s scary.

The Proof is in the Pudding

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My mother wasn’t much of a cook. (I was fifteen before I realized lasagne didn’t come in a box from the freezer), but she did have a couple of fabulous signature dishes–a killer steak and potato pie that caused me to give up my vegetarian tendencies every time she made it and smooth, dreamy rice pudding that filled the house with a heavenly milky scent while it baked.

British Blokes Cooking were kind enough to post a recipe for traditional baked rice pudding.

Theirs was rich, velvety and undoubtedly delicious, like the rice pudding I so enjoyed throughout my childhood.

Sadly, mine was more solid than creamy. (My boy said, “Where’s the pudding? I only got rice!” when I served him a slab.)

The recipe called for short grain rice, but all I could find in Wal Mart was long grain. Rice is rice, I thought tossing a bag into my cart.

Apparently not. I learned today that size does indeed matter.

Trouble started at step one when I rinsed the starch off the rice prior to cooking. I discovered the holes in my colander are bigger than grains of rice. (This was actually a lucky break–if I hadn’t lost so much rice down the sink, my pudding would have been too dense to cut with a steak knife.)

Things continued to go down hill when I converted the baking temperature from Celsius to Farenheit. It seemed far too low to cook anything properly so I added about fifteen degrees because nobody likes raw, crunchy rice. Note to all inexperienced home cooks: the baking temperature given in a recipe isn’t merely a suggestion.

Other than rice size and baking temperature, I followed the recipe to the letter, well, except for not adding quite enough milk because Canadian cans of evaporated milk are smaller than British ones. Instead of adding extra regular milk to make up the difference, I added less because I wanted to preserve the ratio of canned to fresh milk. Yes, I know, thinking about it now, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

But the experience wasn’t a complete failure.

I have a rice pudding starting point now, and that’s gold. After years in the rice pudding desert, I can see the oasis of creamy, mild comfort food on the horizon. All I have to do is get the right kind of rice, use enough milk and cook it at the proper temperature. It’s easy peasy!

One Lovely Blog Award

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A Story A Day nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award. (Thank you!)

As well as mentioning the blogger who nominated me, I get to list seven fascinating facts about myself. (I love talking about myself, so this should be fun!) and nominate five other blogs for the One Lovely Blog Award. I post a comment about the nomination on each of these blogs and, voila, the chain continues from there.

First, my seven fun facts:

1. Years ago, I won a Halloween story contest held by the local newspaper. Because I wrote the story in the first person, some of my friends assumed the protagonist (who may have been encountering ghosts or may have been slipping into insanity–it was all very creepy and mysterious) was actually me.
2. I don’t like bacon–can’t stand the smell, the texture, the taste and the mess it makes when you try to cook it.
3. People are shocked to learn I have a tattoo.
4. I once broke a bone in my foot when I slipped on the stairs.
5. The grossest thing I’ve ever heard was the sound of that bone snapping.
6. My first job ever was at a public library.
7. I’ve been told I get a little grumpy if I miss my morning cup of coffee, but I don’t believe this.

Here are the blogs I’m happy to nominate for the One Lovely Blog Award. I hope they’re as excited about this as I am!

1. British Blokes Cooking (britishblokescooking.wordpress.com)
2. Second to the Right (secondtotheright.com)
3. Charoltte Hoather (charlottehoatherblog.com)
4. Aweigh With Me (aweighwithme.com)
5. countingducks (countingducks.wordpress.com)

Special Delivery

DSCF1168My sailor emailed that he’s puting together a parcel of wonderful things from the Friday markets and will be mailing it shortly.

I can’t wait!

The main article is a hand-woven wool rug. Over the months he’s been away, he’s sent photos of various rugs for my input on pattern, size and colour.

Big ticket items like room-size rugs are sold at the men’s market, which is held three Fridays a month. I’m looking forward to recieving the carpet. I adore patterned area rugs like this. We even have a couple of cheaply made polyester ones that are getting a bit threadbare so a vibrant wool rug will fit into our home beautifully.

But it’s the smaller things from the monthly women’s market that really intrigue me–hand crafted articles like a table runner and a collapsible wooden serving bowl. I can’t even picture this in my head and I didn’t ask for pictures because I want to be surprised when it arrives.

Not only am I looking forward to getting something new and beautiful, but I’m happy my sailor was able to support these women in this small way. I can’t begin to imagine what life is like for them, particularly the mothers raising children in such an unstable, dangerous place.

Born in Britain and raised in Canada, I truly won life’s lottery. Unlike many immigrants, we didn’t move because we were fleeing hardship or poverty. My family had a comfortable, middle class life in Wales. My dad just had itchy feet and a desire to experience what was over the horizon. (Hmm–maybe he should have been a sailor instead of a millwright.)

My mom finally put her foot down when he got the wander lust again and proposed a move to Australia. She just wanted a home and place to raise her kids. We were all settled in Canada, and she had no intention of uprooting us again.

I used to regret that missed opportunity until I read about some of the nasty critters down under. Australia has quite an assortment of poisonous snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies. I’ll stick with grizzly bears and cougars–at least they’re cute and cuddly!

This reminds me–I need to tell my sailor to be vigilant when he’s packing up my loot to mail it. I’ve read about the camel spiders in Afghanistan. As big as the palm of your hand, they can run up to thirty miles an hour and they’re REALLY scary looking.

At least you never have to worry about a grizzly sneaking into a package before you mail it.