Although there are lots of things I miss about living in a city; like access to bars and cinemas and live music, second hand bookstores, great bakeries and coffee houses, and places to get brunch, among others, I can’t say that I ever look out my window or step outside and don’t love being in the country. There may be less brunching, but there are wonderful things too, like seeing the buttery orb of a full moon against the inky night sky, without the rude interruption of streetlights, the undiluted sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong, and even something so simple as growing your own food. It’s just another way of living, with its own quirks and appeals.
One of these quirks which I am getting used to again is the countryside barter system. For instance, a friend of my family’s grows a lot of rhubarb in her garden, so this Spring she gave us bags of it, which I used to make lots of cakes and jam, some of which I send her way. Another keeps chickens and is always in need of egg cartons, so we stack ours up and keep them for her, and then every so often she brings us a dozen of lovely fresh free range eggs; with their bright orange yolks and still bearing the traces of the farmyard, they’re a million miles away from the uniform white eggs of intensive rearing.
There are also lots of great exchanges to be had when a member of your family is involved in rural sports. My father happens to be an angler, and lately the gift of a few trout to a neighbour brought a really unique exchange: two fresh lobsters. I have seen lobster crawling around in tanks in restaurants before, but this was the first time I have ever seen them up close, and fresh from the sea. They scuttled around on the draining board as I tried to find a suitably gigantic pot, and then get lots of heavily salted water up to a lukewarm temperature. Then it was time to, carefully and avoiding contact with pincers, lower little Lenny and Louis into the water and pop on the lid. I was very aware of the scene from Julie and Julia, where the lobster makes an escape attempt from the cooking pot, but my guys were clearly less spirited as they stayed put.
I gave them about 25 minutes boiling time as they were about 2lb each, but in any case you can tell that they’re cooked when the shells are completely bright red with no hint of blue. Once they were cool enough to handle, and with the occasional aid of a hammer, we extracted all of the meat from the body and claws.
I’m afraid that when it came time to eat everyone was too excited, and it all disappeared so fast, that I neglected to take any photos. In any case, I tossed the lobster meat in lots of melted butter on a frying pan, with a little fresh thyme and some lemon juice, and then piled it up on brown toast. It was absolutely delicious, and free to boot. Now, to find some friends who are truffle hunters..