A Wave in Mexico

Herbs infuse so much of my cooking these days that I cannot imagine ever having done without them. They bring food to life, whether a handful of freshly chopped, fragrant, leaves at the end of a dish, or some dried herbs working in the background of something deeper and richer. And yet, there was a time, not so very long ago that I refused the call of the herb for fear that it wasn’t for me. Yet.

And it is the word “Yet” which says it all. It’s not that I was afraid of herbs, or that I thought that they weren’t for me; it was that I wasn’t ready for them yet. I had more to learn in order to get there. And it isn’t just food where this applies: I own a lot of music which I am not ready for yet; I own a lot of books which I am not ready for yet. It’s a form of delayed gratification, if I’m being kind to myself.

And don’t think for one second that any of this is deliberate. Now that I routinely cook with herbs, I rue (not roux) the days when I did not. Food wasn’t as good then, and I was a far less good cook because of it. I buy albums in good faith, but then fail to listen to them, but know in the back of my mind that I will get round to them one day, and be thankful that I bought them when I did. Usually.

Lightbulb moments are great things, even when they are very bittersweet: I find that I have had something in my possession for a decade or more – as recently happened to me with the album “The Thirteenth Step” by A Perfect Circle – and I have resolutely ignored it, but I am now captivated by it.

It happens with pieces of music more than with anything else. I bought “The Thirteenth Step” and put it to one side, either after listening to it half-heartedly and realising that it was not the same music as the album which preceded it, or after not listening to it. Either way, it gathered digital dust.

I have done this again and again – with foodstuffs in my cupboard, with DVDs in my no longer real DVD collection, with gadgets and gizmos – with such regularity that I have begun to suspect that it is in some way a deliberate ploy of my mind to keep me interested in things at some point hence.

Or it is part of a compulsion of mine, and something which I need to grasp by the thorny base and take control of. Am I simply a compulsive shopper/hoarder, with an oddly repetitive response to his own inevitable sense of buyers remorse? Am I merely full of hope and excitement and giddiness?

Spain is not the answer; nor does it point us closer to a solution. It was there that I saw a gadget that I just “knew” was going to revolutionise my writing experience: A Bluetooth keyboard from which I could write whenever the desire struck me (And the desire so often strikes me). The problem was it couldn’t connect to my tablet – which was the intention – so it would not do what I wanted it to do.

I wrote a few blogs with it connected to my phone, but it could not cope with the formatting of the files I was using, so I found myself having to heavily edit the result on a laptop later anyway. It was also not stable enough for me to just use anywhere, and would bend and rattle all over the place while I was trying to type, unless I was doing so at an actual table, rather than sitting on the sofa.

I wrote a few shopping lists with it, and that worked a treat, but that was not what I had imagined myself doing with it. It found itself being shuffled further and further out of frequent use, to the point that I now have no idea where it is, and if I want to bring it out to use again, I am going to have to charge it first. That is the death-knell of any partially relevant electronic device in my experience.

Starfish chocolates decorate a beach of biscuit crumb and sugar sea glass. The beaches, in their little containers surround two cakes: one a mermaid, and one a Narwhal. Laser-cut name signs proclaim the girls to be six years old; this is only partly true. A stream of people run back in to the building, gripping themselves from the bracing winds outside: today was not a good day for rock pooling.

My partner had put so much effort in to that party that it was such a disappointment that so many of the people didn’t engage with it as well as we would have liked them to have done. On the other hand it was such a relief that the months of work and planning were over again, and that we could go back home and relax once more. Our expectations had not been met, but it was almost fine.

I find myself pinning so much hope and so much importance on so many little things, and I get so vexed when things do not go according to the plan I have had in my mind. I need to learn that nothing goes to go to plan in life, and that I should just hope for the best. Other people choose to expect the worst – dressed up as realism – but they don’t seem any happier with the same results.

A sambal splashed over a plain bowl of rice will make an exciting eating experience, more than the rice on its own. If the sambal is disappointing, however, it risks ruining the rice. We have to ask ourselves was it the choice of adding the sambal which ruined things; was the rice perfectly good without it. Do we throw more ingredients in to the rice – spring onions, prawns, tofu – in the hope that that can bring balance to the bowl of food? Is any of it worth getting quite so annoyed about?

Conversely, what if we have the sambal, but we have it stored away for future use, in case we have become bored of the rice we have? Was it ever a waste buying the sambal, if the quality has no chance of diminishing over time? It is a different thing if there is a time pressure on its use: renting a film puts this pressure on me. I feel the need to watch it immediately, and I enjoy it less as a result.

A bit of spice or excitement, whether in the form of a song or a book or a spicy sauce, is a joyous thing, when it captures the mind. Before that, it is just taking up space in the cupboard, and that poses questions about the joy it is currently bringing in to our lives. Please don’t throw it out.