Yesterday was VE Day, 75 years after the end of the Second World War in Europe. What we are going through at the moment may feel like we are suffering by being stuck at home but it’s nothing in comparison. We will get through this and our homes, the cities and all other places will look the same. When I first started working in the early 1970s, there were still bombsites around that had not been rebuilt, used for the most part as car parks. That is unimaginable now.
Without planning to, we spent yesterday planting a couple of oaks that John’s father had grown from acorns and given to us, along with a load of other oak and horse chestnut seedlings, a number of years ago. How these two were not planted out I’m not sure, but they have been growing in pots at the front of the house for the last few years. With hindsight it’s appropriate that two English oaks, nurtured by a Second World War Navy rating, should be planted on VE Day. We have two corners for the other oaks and horse chestnuts but these two have gone to fill gaps in the hedges. In years to come, they will just be part of the countryside. Looking further back, English oaks were used for the keels of ships in Elizabethan times. We can be thankful that we do not have to face the thought of all our trees being chopped down for such purposes.
But you don’t come to my blog to read history or serious subjects. What about the cocktails? All in good time. All the jobs we were doing we’re still doing, everything seems to take an age when there’s no urgency. I did try a remote piano lesson on Zoom but we were getting some strange feedback. Possibly my (very untuned) piano, possibly my playing, let’s be charitable and say it’s a problem we can solve. It does concentrate the mind when you know someone else is listening. I might have an appreciative audience outside but maybe these partridge are deaf to my music.
JD had his birthday in the middle of last week so I tried a cocktail out in advance. This week’s ingredient is Aperol, an Italian aperitif. For those of you who have never come across it, this is the bright orange stuff that people in the UK “discovered” a few years back and made into Aperol spritz (Aperol with prosecco and soda water) to drink in the long hot summer evenings. Well, I could be boring and stick with that but I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous. The Aperol website says the colour is due to a blend of sweet and bitter oranges, accompanied by a secret mix of herbs and roots. The recipe was perfected in 1919. https://www.aperol.com/en-gb
Go back to Blog Post 87 of 12th April and you’ll see that I’ve already used it in Rimbaud’s Right Hand. Can’t do that again. I came up with ten new recipes, some still with absinthe. I guess both were around in about the same era. There’s one called Scotch Bonnet which includes Tabasco. I don’t know if the Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper is used in Tabasco but it’s not my idea of a refreshing cocktail. An Aperol Royal is similar to the Spritz, with champagne. I decided upon a slightly more festive one for John’s birthday, called Bois de Rose. Mix 20 ml elderflower liqueur, 7 ml Aperol, 30 ml gin, 7 ml lemon juice and top up with pink sparkling wine. Very enjoyable.
Despite my cake making, we had a professionally made one for the actual birthday. I have also been making desserts, mostly of the mousse variety so I can prepare a batch to freeze, otherwise we’ll be eating the same thing for a week. I was allowed to cook for JD’s birthday (I usually eat what has been prepared for me) so we had smoked salmon with pink grapefruit, grouse and lavender & maple syrup bavarois, which is a mousse to you and me (well, certainly to me. You can decide what you’d prefer to call it). As we couldn’t have a proper get-together, there were a lot of parcels delivered from the family for JD to unwrap on the day. Mostly food and wine so we’ll be OK for the next few months in lock-down.
And there I think I’ll call it a day as the cocktail hour beckons once again. The sun is shining so we can drink al fresco and call it a sun-downer.