Snails crazy about chilli, and other food encounters

Because there’s so much shit going down in the world at the moment I thought I’d journal in an escapist manner.

We’d bought some searingly hot chilli sauce from the inappropriately named ‘farmers’ market’ at Valentine’s Mansion in Ilford. We ate it for a couple of weeks but it must have begun to ferment because one day I heard hissing and moaning at the lid. I felt sure it would explode so Matt took it outside and called me an idiot when I urged him to remove the lid. Anyway, it continued to emit. That evening Matt noticed a strange thing – a snail had climbed the bottle seemingly attracted to the chilli gas. I chalked that one down to dysfunction but the next evening some of the chilli had begun to seep out and a slug had climbed to the bottle neck. It had a deep hole in its body (update: Uncle Monkey below has identified this hole as the slug’s respiratory opening, or ‘pneumostome) and some crud at its hind end. I wondered if perhaps sick slugs self-medicate on chilli, and made a mental note to ask B21.

Then at some stage the next day, there was an eruption (I was right, I’m always right) which blew off the lid and fired chilli sauce as high as the guttering where it’s still caked, a stain on Matt’s judgement. And there was the bottle, a mess of chilli sauce, being licked by something like 3 snails and 6 slugs.

Are we the first to discover this – and where will it lead?

More food tales.

Yesterday Matt and I walked down to Gants Hill and got a table at Idly Dosa (41 Perth Road IG2 6BX, 020 8554 5777) which is a newish idly and dosa joint at the roundabout opposite the Chabad Lubavitch House. Despite referring to itself as “fine dining”, it initially strikes you as more of a take-out place with seats. But then you settle in and begin to realise that the atmosphere is great, very reviving. There are local South Indian food fans with their families, chatting and laughing early on a Saturday evening, the plate glass window with the busy street beyond, the interesting blue and green ceiling bevelling with the myriad lights, the comfortable wipe-clean upholstered chairs, the steel cups, the keen service. I had paper dosa and it was good. Matt had onion and it was good. We didn’t have idly but did in the end have some curry, however, the curry is subordinate to the idly and the dosa, so better go for those. There wasn’t much in the way of greens on the menu, either. The lemon rice is excellent – one portion is plenty for two. A lot of it happens to be vegan.

Further on food, I had my hands in what had become of our discarded vegetable parings and left-overs today as I planted out 5 cucumber plants, several lettuces, some rocket, chilli and parsley which I’d grown from seeds. I wonder if its too much pee that makes my compost so much more like mud than anybody else’s compost.

The strawberries are ripening – we eat them one by one before the woodlice or slugs get them, and they’re sweet. I’m remembering to cut the thyme and oregano for drying before it flowers. We have fresh mint tea too at this time of year. Today we had breville sandwich with a loaf I made last night, fake Redwood cheese from Barkingside’s new Holland and Barratt, with oregano and some parsley from the garden. Blanched and preserved in brine what I pruned off the vine – dolma for next visitor. Hot brine smells surprisingly good. The lettuces will soon be ready – if I can only remember to water them. This all takes a lot of time, and on my worse days I wonder if I shouldn’t pave over the garden and read a book instead. I always conclude that it would be a bad mistake to do that, on account of water run-off, hostility to wildlife, waste, and (even more profound) alienation from my means of existence. Anyway, I was raised to garden. Before he got his allotment, my dad used to negotiate to cultivate the neighbours’ gardens in return for tithes.

There’s somehow an asparagus crown in the front garden – one of the few unpaved gardens in the street, note, and see how Gaia rewards me? – which bolted before I noticed it. The shoots before the flowers come are, in my view, tastier than asparagus spears.

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