I’M IN A PICKLE!
Friday, 31 October 2014

I’M IN A PICKLE!

This year’s bumper allotment harvest has left VG Lee with too much cabbage and no time for a cuppa

Written by VG Lee
This morning, my neighbour Ted appeared at my open patio door.

‘What should I do with this?’ He held out a butternut squash the size of Cinderella’s pumpkin.

‘Don’t tempt me, Ted,’ I snapped. ‘I told you not to let it get engorged. Now it’s big enough for a family of 10.’

‘Can’t you knock up some soup?’

‘I haven’t got time to make soup, I’m making jam.’ I waved my hand to indicate laden table, work surfaces, hob – even my plastic bucket was being utilised to accommodate apples and pears.

‘You haven’t returned your Tupperware container from the last lot. Anyway, why don’t you ask your ladyfriend to make soup?’

Ted smirked – a facial manoeuvre I find unappealing. ‘Alma doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen.’

I could tell he was dying to elaborate on which room in her house Alma did spend time so I nipped possible innuendo in the bud by abruptly closing the door on him.

‘Any chance of a cuppa?’ Ted mouthed through the double-glazing.

‘None at all,’ I mouthed back.

Writing this at my kitchen table I realised that I would never finish another novel, never hoover thoroughly again, never have a moment to iron my pillowslips or duvet covers – I might not even feed the cats and most certainly won’t get another piece written for The Lady! I am totally swamped by my harvest of fruit and vegetables and the responsibilities that arrive with the blighters!

For instance, why had I imagined it would be a good idea to grow and pickle over a dozen red cabbages? Last year I’d pickled just two and only my brother, who appears to have a castiron stomach, was able to eat them. Did I think pickled cabbage would taste better this year? Was the unpleasant taste and texture, rather like the pain of childbirth (or so I’ve read), soon forgotten?

Oh, it wasn’t so bad. A couple of tweaks in the pickling process and this time it will taste as good as shopbought. Which I don’t like anyway!

Due to an abundance of just about everything, even Ted has been forced to make chutney, which I am loath to try, being highly suspicious of his jar sterilising routine, as in – I don’t believe he has one.

And talking of jam jars, instead of friends bringing me bottles of wine, possibly chocolates, this summer all they’ve delivered are jars in all shapes and sizes.

With great pride, Deirdre announced, ‘Mine are no ordinary jam jars, they’re Bonne Maman Wild Cherry Conserve jars.’

‘I can see that. You’ve left the labels on,’ I said.

Deirdre, who since her trauma over Ted’s defection to Alma, has become increasingly ‘above-stairs-Downton- Abbey’ in her manner, replied, ‘I thought you could match my labels to your conserve.’

‘Jam, Deirdre,’ I corrected her. ‘And you’ve got a choice of courgette and lemon or courgette and lemon.’

VG-lee-Oct31-00-quote-590

She neighed a dismissive laugh. ‘I’ve heard it’s more of a juice than a jam.’

I’m not known for my culinary prowess, possessing only two cookery books: Forty Ways With Chicken and The Reader’s Digest Cookery Year – the year being 1974 – but this wonderful summer, combined with sharing an allotment, has meant I have had to cook my fresh produce and I am a mediocre, reluctant cook.

I can confidently say that there is no longer anything worth eating in my house. No pies, pastries or pizza. No snacks, cheese, eggs or bacon. The fridge is full of draining courgettes, Ted’s admirable leeks, our combined less-admirable celery of which we have enough to keep us in stringy celery soup till next summer. And we’re still working our way through the potato and onion glut!

Ted has taken to eating his onions as if they were apples, which is good because I need the apples for my jam. Fortunately Alma finds the aroma of onions to be an aphrodisiac, Ted tells me. This is more information than I require and prompts me to notice that he has started wearing leather jewellery and stopped wearing woolly socks with his sandals despite the dipping temperatures, which is maybe more information than you, the reader, requires!

Cue Ted, smiling in an oily fashion and bearing my Tupperware container.

‘You haven’t washed it.’ My tone is accusatory.

‘Yes I have.’

Turn from sink where I’m rinsing red cabbage. ‘Then what is that sticky residue around the rim?’

Ted stares at the smears as if amazed. ‘I do believe it’s a sticky residue. Do you realise how offensively rude you sound?’

‘Rude? RUDE?’ My head resembles a saucepan of jam coming to the boil. ‘You try manning this preserve production line and see whether you hang on to your sense of humour.’

‘Nobody’s forced you,’ Ted says gently. He places the container on the draining board and exits.

I leave my cabbage in the colander and sit on a kitchen chair. Glance at my shelves. They are groaning under the weight of chutney, jam and pickles. If Ted, Deirdre and I live to be 110 we’ll never get through it all.

I appeal to my overhead light fitting. Someone, anyone – is there an organisation I can join to stop this obsession with fi ling jars?

Ted, brandishing a packet of Eccles cakes, raps on my patio door and mouths, ‘Any chance of a cuppa?’

This time, I open the door and welcome him in. 

Always You, Edina, by VG Lee, is published by Ward Wood Publishing, priced £9.99.


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