Monday, August 02, 2010

Plum vodka, salsa, pizza sauce, hmmm, I love August

Had a good day yesterday although if I am honest I didn't really feel the best still.  Today was the same.  If I had been at home I definitely would have been having a nap.  It also meant that my eating was all over the place yesterday.  I was invited to a friend's house for breakfast at 10 so when I got up at half-eight I just had a cup of tea.  Did a few bits and pieces and headed to E.'s house.  Had a lovely breakfast, bread rolls and cheese and tomatoes with fresh herbs.  Then we went off to have a look at some allotments just around the corner from her.  E. is a colleague from work who I have gotten friendly with over the last year - we don't often have anything to do with each other in terms of work but we go for lunch together every couple of weeks and get on really well.  We've had some great conversations and I loved it when she told me she thought I was a bit of a 'querdenker' just like her.  The correct translation of that is 'lateral thinker' but, as happens sometimes, when she said it I immediately translated the two parts of the word separately in my head and came up crooked or crossways thinker.  Which describes it nicely I think.

Anyway, she knew that I had been interested in getting an allotment when I moved here but then found it too expensive.  She's really interested in the idea as well and so when she spotted this allotment club hidden around the corner from her she went in to have a chat with someone she spotted working on their patch.  He suggested she come back on Sunday and chat to the head of the committee.  So she asked me if I would consider going halves on an allotment with her and we went along to see if we could at least get our names on the waiting list.  I had explained to her that it's expensive but I don't think she really believed me and I was interested to actually get in and look at something anyway.  As it turns out there are two available but it is just as expensive as I had been led to believe since getting here.  The annual costs are very manageable (approx 360 per year and between two of us that would be even better) but it's the initial costs that are high.  There is almost always a little house and that, along with whatever mature fruit trees etc might be on the plot already have to be bought from the previous owner.  One place we looked at was 6,000 and the other, which we just saw through the gate was 5,000.  On top of that, last year every allotment holder had to pay 2,500 to the town hall for improvements made to the underground canal and sewer system - it wasn't an option and anyone taking on a plot now is expected to pay that as well (as the years go by the amount people are expected to compensate their sellers buy will obviously diminish).  So we'd essentially be looking at four grand each and that's before even starting to think about buying compost or tools or seeds or plants or, or, or.  So we're shelving the idea for now but will possibly revisit it next year and see if we can save towards it.  She knows that I have debts to pay off and, with a daughter who is in her early twenties and still studying but not living at home, she doesn't have wads of money to throw around either.

But it was lovely to see a plot up close.  The one we saw hasn't been used since January so it wasn't in the best of shape.  But on the other hand it was mostly grass (allotments here are often just used as gardens although technically at least one-third is supposed to be planted up) - lots of work to make beds out of all that.  It was about 300 sqm with a 20sqm house (a room and a toilet).  But it had a hand-operated water pump (which would mean not having to use water from the tap, which has to be paid for) and some kind of fruit tree although there was no fruit to be seen on it and no-one seemed to know what it was.

The plot we saw just through the gate was fabulous.  Hidden away right at the back of the whole place it had, among other things, a huge apple tree groaning under the weight of apples and grapes! growing up a trellis.  But E. didn't like that one so much as since it was at the back and nice and quiet (good), it was also on the edge and on the other side of the fence there was a huge, not very attractive block of a factory or offices (not so good).  But I have to admit that I didn't even notice the building until she pointed it out.  How and ever, which plot was nicer is kind of a moot point for us at the moment but it would be lovely to be able to get one.  More reason to hunker down and get on with ridding myself of debt and saving more!

After that we went back to her house for another cup of tea and then her landlady and a friend arrived so it was more tea and chat on her balcony and then they went downstairs to the flat below her, which they were trying to clear out.  It's a terribly sad story.  I was bemoaning the lack of a gas connection in my kitchen a few months ago and she told me that her downstairs neighbour was dying of cancer and would be moving to a hospice soon and the flat would be available.  I can't afford to move but it was a nice thought.  A week later she told me the poor guy had died but seeing the reality of it yesterday was just heartbreaking.  He was only 46 (I had thought he was much older), received his diagnosis in the first week of May and died far more quickly than expected in the second week of June.  There are so many reminders in that place that someone lived there not long ago.  You would expect them to come walking in the door any minute to be honest.  A half-full packet of gummibears on the bedside locker beside the still switched on alarm clock.  A signet ring and watch kept in a shell on a dresser in the bathroom ready to be put on.  A coat hanging on the door handle waiting to be put away.  Empty crates of bottles waiting to be returned for the deposit.  Apparently this man did not have a lot of family but did have debts and so his next-of-kin decided to reject the inheritence.  So the landlady has to dispose of all his belongings.  It's one thing to have furniture to get rid of but it's all his clothes, knick-knacks and photos as well.  E. said that she hopes one of the family will at least ask to take a few personal momentos.  It was just terribly, terribly sad.

Having stayed longer than planned I was glad when another friend, C. txted me to ask if I would rather come to her house than her coming to mine.  I had offered to bake scones and have her over for tea.  But instead I bought some cake at a bakery that was still open and headed straight over to hers, where we sat on the balcony chatting, eating cake and drinking yet more tea for a good three hours.  Far longer than I planned to be there as well but it was really lovely and we had such a good chat.  She is coming to the end of her two-year stint in Germany in a few weeks and I'm really going to miss her.  But I think that is the life of the ex-pat.  Not all the other ex-pats are here permanently so you just have to get used to people coming into and out of your life sometimes.

So when I got back home, I quickly ate the chips I had picked up along the way and started to actually do something with my farmers market haul from the day before.  Used 2 kilos of tomatoes to make pizza sauce - got just about two litres worth, which is in the fridge at the moment but will be put into freezer bags and into the freezer shortly.  Also made two large jars of salsa, using lots of different coloured tomatoes and I don't even care what it tastes like, it looks lovely.  And used a half-kilo of plums to start making plum vodka.  The plum gin I did in 2008 went down very well so I decided to give this kind of thing another go.  Even if I don't like gin or vodka or pretty much any other spirits you might use to make fruity alcohol, it's a pretty cheap way to make something which you can then give to lots of people as very impressive presents.  I did forget about the two cobs of corn I had bought though so this morning before work I blanched them and sliced the corn off the cobs and put it into the freezer.  I've invited a few friends over for dinner later this week and after hitting a mental block on what to serve to a crowd which includes a vegetarian, a vegetarian just starting to eat meat again and at least one very committed carnivore while still taking into consideration that it's too hot to do a lot of actual cooking I decided on fajitas.  So I bought some turkey and beef at the market on Saturday which has been sliced into strips and put into the freezer.  Have made salsa (which hopefully will be as tasty as it is pretty) and have corn ready to just be heated up very quickly as well.  All I need now is to get some salad and sour cream.  Some guacamole if I can find some (or I could try making some but I may already have enough to do) and I'm going to get strawberries for dessert.  And I need to practice making tortillas.  But C. has already promised to bring tequila so maybe no-one will care what they're eating anyway!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do you go about making plum vodka? It sounds wonderful and I've never seen instructions for doing it...