You Shall (Not) Go To The Mall

Thinking that I was alone, friends telephoned on Saturday to see if I would like to go to the wonderfully named Multiplaza…a shopping mall between our town and San Jose .

Unaccustomed as I am to the mall concept I would have loved to have gone as the experience is fascinating…

Level after level of a multitude of shops none of which offer me the least temptation to buy anything.

A ‘food court’ with offerings varying from smoothies to the deeply fried…and that’s only the customers…

A high price supermarket where the mushrooms are inevitably going off….

Women jogging round the walkways in the mornings in matador pants and sunvisors…

It is so bizarre it is irrestistible.

But I was obliged to resist.

The Men had returned from their sojourn in San Jose – an urgent need to return a ladder and do some painting over the Valentine high risk period – and my husband had been exercising his hunting and gathering talents on the markets of the capital, the fruits of which enterprise were presented to me by the sackload.

This being the tropics the sackloads needed dealing with pronto…so no mall.

There were highlights.

Thanks to a change of staff at the regular bakery and the new staff not being up to date on his order he had had to try another one round the corner.
He had remembered my request for a baguette – and presented me with the best baguette I have eaten since leaving France.
I should make it clear that the baguettes I liked in France were not the razor edged bricks produced from readimix by the local artisan boulanger, but the crisp articles turned out all day by the big supermarkets with their onsite bakeries, and this offering approached that standard.

The bread in our local town is dire….a wholemeal loaf that looks as if a flapjack had had ambitions and hastily abandoned them; sliced bread to rate with the best or worst that the Chorleywood process could devise; a baguette that subsides into two soft crusts with pap on meeting the breadknife….but for some reason the San Jose bakers get it right and as my bread making hand has lost its cunning we buy there for the freezer.

So, apart from the baguette, enough loaves for a fortnight to be bagged and frozen.

Eight kilos of ox kidneys for the dogs…one batch to cook, the rest bagged for the freezer.
Ten kilos of soup bones…one batch to the fridge while soaking black beans, the rest bagged for the freezer.

A large box of distinctly ripe tomatoes…sorted for those which might stay whole long enough to use in the week and the rest to process and pass through the mouli legumes to be packed for the freezer.

A large carrier bag of sweet peppers to grill, skin, de-seed and pack into the jar of olive oil in the fridge.

Avocados…two ripe, the rest equivocal. Two out for the evening, the rest in the fridge.

Lettuces…wrapped in newspaper and in the fridge.

Spiced vinegar to make and cool to souse fish…..following the success of soused shark a few weeks earlier I had been presented with a half kilo of corvina to try…and more shark.
The trial piece had been amenable to handling…thin enough to roll round the onions and be stuck with a toothpick or two.
This piece was considerably thicker and it was as much use trying to roll it as trying to manhandle an uninflated bouncy castle with a mind of its own.
There is a succint phrase obtained from an old boy when I was young which describes the futility of the effort….you might as well shit in your hat.
So, to keep an unsullied hat the shark piece was chopped in half and put into an earthenware dish with onions sandwiched between the layers; cool vinegar added, into ziplock bag and in the fridge.
Corvina likewise…sod toothpicks.

Prawns..straight into the fridge until I could work out what we would be eating in the next twenty four hours.

The half kilo of baby squid I had asked for had been transformed into one kilo of cuttlefish, to be cut into fine strips to be
a) marinaded in the juice of the limon mandarina (tree handily by kitchen door)
b)mixed with prawns, grilled pepper and garlic in a marinade of half olive oil and half vinegar.
Both to the fridge.

Onions to sort through for the thick necked ones to use first.

Potatoes to be put into a light-free box.

In the midst of the maelstrom the hunter gatherer offered to make lunch…..and made one of the best stir frys I have ever eaten: strips of cuttlefish, peeled prawns, grilled pepper strips and crushed garlic in olive oil with a squeeze of limon mandarina….

The mess was unbelievable….but it beat the smoothies and the deeply fried – into a cocked hat..