Absent Idiot

I left the house this morning to go to my regular contact session with students learning English at the local Technical College. A group of volunteers are at the disposition of the teachers to encourage the students to practice their english and it is a lot of fun. I have learned from the students how to cook beans properly, Costa Rican style…which is the best pizza takeaway in town…how you gain admission to public universities…what is reggaeton– dance music……a real breath of fresh air. The students are well behaved, responsive and really nice young people. They do me good. I hope they benefit from it as much as do I.

We have discussed all manner of things….why a true Scot wears nothing under the kilt, who are the kings of rock, the war in the Ukraine….and have worked on the skills they will need to find success in their future careers, not just language competence, but networking and continuing professional education.

So, on a high, I returned home.

One look and I would have done well to turn on my heel….the kitchen was in chaos. Higher Authority was directing operations, every surface was covered and the cleaner was brandishing cleaning cloths and dusters.

He had found all the kitchen gadgets which I had tucked away…out of sight and hopefully out of mind. Their discovery while I was out qualified me for the apocryphal Russian translation of said phrase…absent idiot.

Higher authority has a weakness for gadgets…..but he isn’t the one using them.

Some are useful….the one I use for steaming pan haggis, for example. Apart from steaming it claims to cook and fry as well, but I already have provision for these activities so apart from haggis and Christmas pudding production it remains in its lair.

A sandwich toaster has long been abandoned to a dark corner. Such is its shape that it requires supermarket sliced bread which is as vile here as in Europe and, what’s more, the major supplier of which rejoices in the name of Bimbo. Bimbo is also the sponsor of one of the major football clubs in the country whose supporters buy and wear copies of the team’s kit, thus the sight of gentlemen of all ages, shapes and sizes strolling about in tee shirts emblazoned with the name of the firm in bold letters across their chests. It gives an anglophone pause for thought in these days of transgenderism…

The blender had been brought blinking into the light. Not only do I not make ‘smoothies’ but the cup is a real beast to clean, the designer having given it internal ribs, so it rarely emerges from obscurity.

Not too much of a problem so far….the gadgets were being dusted and replaced…but too soon to breathe easily.

He had discovered the electric saucepan. To be fair, he had bought it thinking it a slow cooker, but having a sufficiency of normal saucepans I had put it aside.

Why had I put it aside? Look, it has temperature control! Ideal for making ersatz golden syrup!

To Britishers of our age, life without a stock of golden syrup is unthinkable.

No golden syrup, no brandysnaps, steamed puddings, gingerbread or, most importantly, treacle tart.

In the days that the British Embassy had some care for its citizens, there used to be a celebration of the Queen’s birthday in the garden of the ambassador, complete with highland dancing but most importantly with a stand supplying British essential consumables. Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies, Bird’s custard powder, proper loose black tea, pork pies – and how they got those through customs is beyond me unless they used the diplomatic bag – prepared suet, Mars bars, golden syrup…….the stand was mobbed and it was handy to have been trained in how to use the elbows at church jumble sales in order to get to the front.

These days the embassy could not care less if its fellow countrymen took a running jump…they are there for trade purposes only, and, being so commercially virtuous, there are no more cakes and ale for the hoi polloi. Thus, no more golden syrup. You have to make a substitute and for this, I am informed, the electric saucepan will be ideal. It is placed on the work top, ready for action.

Then, lastly, my particular bugbear…the air fryer. I hate the thing. Chips, french fries, call them what you will, are not meant to be cooked without fat. I loathe the results. I loathe wrestling with the thing, trying to release its basket for cleaning. I loathe burning the backs of my fingers on it when turning out its contents.

We ought to have another go…I’ll look for a recipe.

And look he did.

With the result that I have wrestled with the thing and burned the backs of my fingers again.

Air fryers? Humbug!