Tag Archives: comfort food

I liveblogged my reaction to that article about fairy bread.

Epicurious posted an article about fairy bread. It was… quite something. Here I liveblog my response.

Fairy Bread.jpg
This is an accurate photo of fairy bread. This is not the photo Epicurious used.
By GemslingOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Ooh! An article about fairy bread! I can already feel the nostalgia for every kid’s birthday party in primary school except mine, because Mum wasn’t into processed foods. While I’m airing grievances did I mention we were only allowed one teaspoon of Milo in our milo, that’s not milo that’s just vaguely brown-coloured milk.

The cover photo is cute, but what’s with the long hundreds & thousands? Is this one of those weird regional variations, like how apparently in parts of New South Wales they call “slides” “slippery dips”? (True confessions: a friend once called a slide a slippery dip and I have never been able to get over it. 70 years from now we’ll be in nursing homes and every few months I’ll be hologram-calling him or whatever, to say you really call a slide a slippery dip?)

And is that confetti on the lower-right one?

“[T]he name gives it an air of complex, unknowable magic”. Sure. Whatever. If you’ve read this blog a while, you know how I feel about purple prose food writing. Also, apparently fairy bread is “sparkly and fun and colorful and weird”? That’s several orders of magnitude more whimsical than I’d have thought fairy bread warranted.

I’m getting worried… “a slice of bread generously spread with butter”. Butter..? I mean, I suppose if you live in some kind of dystopian future that doesn’t have margarine, that sickly yellow margarine that doesn’t taste anything like butter or like vegetable oil or like anything edible really. That is what you use for fairy bread. But if you don’t have that, I suppose you could use butter. If you really had to.

Oh hey, it’s that food-writing paragraph about the history of the dish. Fairy bread was inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson poem. Not by a mother of school aged kids saying will you stop whinging about how hungry you are, you know where the fridge is, fer cryin out loud.

And we eat it “as breakfast”. I dunno, maybe other kids did eat it for breakfast and it was just my healthy eating mother who made me have cornflakes instead. We also eat it “after dinner” — yeah nah, in my family it was tinned peaches and evaporated milk if we were lucky.

But more to the point… Toast. What. “Fairy toast”. No.

No really, toast??!!

Isn’t the purpose of fairy bread — to get all food-writerly — to show off the varied textures of the ingredients: the chewy soft white crap-bread, the crunchy layer of hundreds and thousands that are slowly dissolving into the slick greasiness of the margarine below them. How does toast possibly fit into that picture?

Effin’ toast. I am done.

Ok, I’m not quite done. They not only want me to use butter, they want me to make my own butter. Get out of here.

And “sparkly sanding sugar”. What even is that? I ask the friend who posted this on facebook. Probably a known carcinogen she replies.

“And don’t think you have to be a child to enjoy fairy bread: everyone deserves a little sparkle in their snack, even grown-ups.”


Update: My mum comments on facebook…

I must have made fairy bread at least once when you were a kid because I’ve still got a jar of hundreds and thousands in the cupboard But I agree about the toast. Mum xxx

Orecchiette with zucchini and parsley

Every easy pasta recipe I know, for future reference (part 1)

This post is inspired by my experience last Friday of going from, “I’m going out for dinner with friends” to “Ok, change of plans: I’m hosting dinner with friends” to “What the heck, I’ll invite more friends” to “Hang on a second, what am I even going to cook for these people??!” over the space of a few hours.

I mean, pasta, obviously, that’s pretty much the full extent of my cooking skills, but it’s amazing how my mind blanks when it comes to the question of what to put on said pasta.

So here, for future reference, are some dishes I know I can cook at short notice that are still nice enough to serve up to other human beings.

  • Orecchiette with cime di rapa (turnip greens): This is what I made on Friday. It generally requires a trip to the shops since I don’t usually have fresh orecchiette or turnip greens on hand, but it’s dead easy: Get a big pot of salted water on the burner. In a frying pan on very low heat, do a good amount of olive oil with finely chopped garlic and anchovies and some chili paste, leave it to go all soft and flavoursome. Wash and chop the turnip greens, put in the boiling water, give them a few minutes to soften then add the orecchiette. Once cooked, drain, and then toss together the pasta, greens, and the garlicky-anchovy-y oil. Add salt to taste. (Here’s a recipe with actual quantities and cooking times; in Italian but it has lots of pictures.)
  • Pasta with radicchio and olives: I wrote about this before. It’s my winter comfort food. I don’t think it’s “authentically” anything, besides, you know, delicious, but whatever.
  • Puttanesca: Not going to look for a recipe to link, since the whole spirit of this is to throw together whatever tasty things are lurking in your fridge/cupboard: tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, chili.
  • Carbonara: I keep those supermarket tubs of pancetta bits in the freezer along with a bag of pre-grated parmesan/similar cheese for carbonara emergency dinners. PRO TIP FOR LIVING IN ITALY: if you’re in conversation with a group of people from Rome and there’s a lull, try asking them how many whole eggs vs egg yolks you need to make carbonara for four people. Assuming you have an hour free for the ensuing discussions, that is.
  • Zucchini “carbonara”: I learned this from a friend in Florence who cooked it for an easy Sunday lunch once. (Ugh, I know, that sounds like something you’d read in a tedious food memoir, but it really happened.) Thin slices of zucchini, cook in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, cook your pasta. Toss everything together along with eggs and cheese like you would a carbonara, add fresh parsley and black pepper. (Here is a fancier recipe for basically the same thing; in English.)
  • Potato pasta: This isn’t as quick as the others, but I’m reasonably likely to have all the ingredients on hand and it involves double carbs, which endears it to me forever. I do something in between this recipe (in English) and this recipe (in Italian) except I’m lazy about washing up so I do it as a one-pot dish: cook the potatoes until they’re just at the point where you can stick a fork through them, then add the pasta and a bit of hot water/stock to the same pot, stir occasionally and/or add more water as needed until the pasta’s cooked. (It will take longer than the cooking time given on the pasta packet.)

What’s your favourite easy recipe?