When I walk into a cafe for my midday caffeine shot, I try to find a table that’s far away from pre-schoolers and from large groups of new mothers. The first because I get my fair share of pre-school chatter at home, and the second because I have reached a stage where I can no longer bear conversations about nappies, weaning and how “fast their fingernails grow!” In the supermarket, whenever I see two new mums, deep in conversation, I quickly move to a different aisle. Even if it’s ‘Canned Soups’.
At this point, I need to repeat an annoying cliche – it’s not personal. I really have nothing against new mothers. In fact, I know their lives only too well. A couple of years ago, I was knee-deep in the very same conversations. Like sleep-deprived sadists, D and I would be drawn into long chats with parents whose 3-week olds were already sleeping through the night. And everyday, I would groggily trudge to playgroups to catch up on the latest brands of baby food. By the end of year one, I had had enough. Now, I break into a rash every time I hear ‘nappy’.
So yesterday, at the Waterstones cafe, I became slightly concerned when the table next to me filled up with a mother, her 3-year old daughter and 9-month old son. Pre-schoolers have no concept of volume. They speak very loudly in quiet places, and whisper when you need them to be heard. This lovely little girl was no exception, and the quiet cafe was soon privy to her every word.
Mum (spooning mash into her son’s eager mouth): Sarah, eat your ham sandwich please.
Daughter (loudly): I don’t like ham.
Mum (utterly confused): You LOVE ham!
Daughter: I love ham everyday except Sat-ur-day.
The mother turns her head away, willing patience in public, and continues feeding the little boy, who fortunately can’t speak yet.
Yes, my coffee-hour could have been quieter, but this little bit of conversation made up for that. It made me grin into my black Americano, this litle girl’s utter conviction about ham on weekends. The mother had all my sympathies, but I understood exactly what her daughter was saying.
At home, we have a mix of muesli, milk and fruits everyday for breakfast. But never on a Saturday. Or on a Sunday. It just doesn’t feel right. Everything about the weekend needs to be different. Less ordinary.
So today, even though we needed a quick breakfast before going out for the day, it couldn’t be muesli! It was Sunday.
I made an old favourite – an open sandwich that Ma would often make for us on weekends. She calls it ‘Corn on Toast’. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s delicious. And it reminds me of Sundays in Kolkata. Ma’s version was harder work, because the fresh bhutta, or corn on the cob, would have to be boiled, the corn scraped off, and then cooked. My corn came shamelesly frozen, in a packet.
The sandwich was followed by fresh strawberries with honey & almond creme fraiche. A good start to a Sunday.
Ma’s Corn on Toast
The corn is cooked in White Sauce, a simpler version of the Béchamel Sauce. There’s the classic way of making White Sauce – melting the butter, sauteing the flour, then stirring in the milk, very slowly, a bit at a time, so that no lumps are formed.
And, there’s my cheat-version, for those days when you have no time to stand and stir.
For me, it’s almost always the latter.
1 1/2 cup milk
2 tbs flour
1 tbs butter
Coarsely ground black pepper
A sprinkle of chopped parsley (tarragon is a lovely alternative)
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of Cheddar and Gruyere)
2 1/2 cups corn
Salt to taste
Wholegrain bread to toast
Take the flour in a bowl, mix it with a few tbs of water and make a smooth paste.
Heat the milk in a pan.
When it’s hot, but before it has boiled, pour in the flour paste, and stir as the milk quickly thickens. Add the frozen corn. Add salt (remember the cheese will add some salt too). Stir occasionally till the corn has cooked, maybe 3-4 minutes. If you want to thicken the sauce further, add some more flour mixed with water. Take pan off heat.
Sprinkle in the cheese, pepper and parsley (or tarragon). Add the butter. Give it a good stir.
Pop bread into toaster or oven. Time the toast well. It should be golden and crisp.
Spoon the corn on the toast. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve immedietely.
Fresh Strawberries with Honey & Almond Crème Fraiche
3 cups of strawberries, all halved
1 cup crème fraiche
2 tbs honey
1 tbs ground almond
1 tbs brown sugar
Few sprigs of fresh mint
Sprinkle the strawberries with sugar and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
Mix the crème fraiche, honey and ground almond, stirring it all into a nice, smooth paste.
Divide the strawberries into bowls or cups, and top with the creme fraiche.
Pretty it all up with a sprig of mint.