Aphrodite

Aphrodite of Cnidus.Munich.

Walking down the town high street one day, my mother spotted a shop dummy leaning drunkenly against the wall. Her perfect proportions and bald head were glistening in the rain (I am of course talking about the dummy here, not my mum).

She had a sullen pout on her face. This did not surprised me given the fact that she was devoid of arms, which had perhaps been stolen overnight by drunken pub-goers on their way home. Yet our armless, harmless heroine remained aloof and apparently unconcerned about being stark naked in front of all the passing cars, staring placidly across the road at the newsagent’s window.

Mum has always had an eye for something original, so I was not unduly surprised to see her hoist the dummy under her arm and continue walking down the street, impervious to comments by passers-by about the pair of perfectly shaped, cellulite-free legs sticking out behind her.

From that day on, Aphrodite reigned magnanimously over our courtyard. Jauntily propped up in the corner amid the plants, she was our Greek statue par excellence. None of my friends had anything like it; she was a refreshing alternative to the politically correct pottery hedgehogs decorating their parents’ gardens.

Aphrodite wearing her sensible grey wig and jewellery.

According to our mood, the weather or the occasion, Aphrodite the fit, slick chick was kitted out with wigs, hats, glasses, jewellery or scarves bought in local jumble sales. On sunny days she was a hippy Woodstock throwback sporting a straw hat and sunglasses, with strings of colourful beads dangling over her perfect, pert bosom.  On stormy days she was our version of Ellen Ripley, stoically facing the alien Cornish elements with her wigless head. We occasionally scraped the seagull droppings off her, although they did add a certain je ne sais quoi to her look.

Aphrodite stayed with us until my parents sold the granite and brick house we’d grown up in. She had suffered the persistent assaults of weather and time over the years, and finally got the thumbs-down for the removals van. Our courtyard goddess was stripped of her divine rank and accessories and relegated to her earlier status of roadside rubbish. I felt guilty to see her propped against the wall in the street once again, like an ageing hooker who’d got too old for the game. Holding her chin high, her glazed eyes fixed on the horizon, she pouted as she awaited the binmen.

When my kids roll their eyeballs at my odd behaviour, I tell them how grateful I am to have a mum who showed me that it’s ok, and even preferable to do your own thing and not follow the crowd, as you’ve only got one life to live and it’s yours, with no trial period.  So, I tell them, go ahead and do it your own way: The important thing is to be yourself.

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A load of luscious old rhubarb.

I want rhubarb.  Since I came across the great blog Caramelize Life, I have been craving the stuff. I came across this post completely by chance, and Methowmama’s gorgeous recipe for rhubarb sauce got me salivating for my favourite fruit vegetable……. edible plant stem (I’ve never quite worked out whether it counts as a fruit, a vegetable or an alien life form, but I love the stuff). My childhood was marked by those beautiful purply-pink stalks and huge leaves. Rhubarb takes me back to that time where you rode life’s train rather than driving it, back when you kicked off your shoes and asked what was for dinner. When I used to watch a cartoon called “Roobarb and custard” on T.V. When my dad laughed during the BBC news and said “what a load of old rhubarb”. Yep, we can safely say that rhubarb rocked my childhood.

As an adult, I found my ultimate rhubarb heaven in the Alsace region of France: rhubarb grew everywhere, and for ten years, I shamelessly scoffed my way through pounds of the stuff when it was in season, then squirrelled it away in the freezer for ceremonious, special-occasion rhubarb-desserts to cheer us up during winter.

When we moved down to the South of France, I desperately hunted for my favourite stalks at the market, but my request was met with shrugging Gallic shoulders.  In the supermarkets, my failure was as dismal as when I tried to find Roquefort cheese, foie gras and rabbit in a Florida Wallmart 12 years ago. The only rhubarb I once found was thin, droopy and fibrous, hiding at the bottom of a crate. In comparison to the butch, chunky rhubarb I’d been accustomed to in the past, it was undeniably a flop, in every sense of the word.

The humble rhubarb had become unattainable. I  have since resigned myself to buying it frozen, and am currently impatient to see hubby arrive, any minute now, with some frozen rhubarb. I will be throwing myself at it to make my all-time favourite: rhubarb crumble. It’s a simple English pudding that sticks warmly to your insides and glues a smile on your face for hours afterwards. It’s even more fabulous with a generous dollop of custard, or a scoop of vanilla icecream.

For those who are interested, here is the recipe…. with a special thought for Methowmama, the blogger who, from somewhere out there in cyberland, managed to jettison me into the rhubarb addict’s equivalent of cold turkey.

 

Cut around ten stalks of rhubarb into thumb-sized pieces. Put in a pan, then add sugar to taste (between 50g and100g (2-4 oz), depending on how sweet your tooth is…) and a drop (3-4 tablespoons) of water. Simmer gently until the rhubarb is just cooked (cook too long at your peril, unless you like baby food). Put into relatively deep buttered, oven-proof dish.

In a bowl, rub 100g /4oz cold butter into 150g/6 oz of flour. Then gently mix in 100g /4oz of sugar (I prefer demerara sugar, but any sugar will do), and add a little powdered ginger if you like it; cinnamon is also an alternative. Sprinkle this mixture over the rhubarb. Put into the oven (thermostat 4, 180°C, 350°F) and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the rhubarb bubbles gently around the sides 🙂 . Eat warm, with additional calories such as custard or vanilla icecream. In the unlikely event of leftovers…. it’s great cold too!

Bon appetit!