Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to be embarrassed

I've been visiting friends and gardens in Taranaki. This is one of the many enviable potager gardens I saw - it's in Maureen and Mervyn Saywell's Fringe Festival garden in Inglewood. They've managed to fit an extraordinary variety of different "rooms" into a medium-sized town section.

Yesterday morning I worked as a volunteer at the giant DCM Bookfair in Wellington's TSB Arena. This always used to be one of the red letter days on our calendar. I started volunteering last year, partly because DCM (Downtown Community Ministry) does such a great job, and partly because if I was helping, I'd have to spend less time hunting for books I really didn't need.
      But I did need to get some to take to my son in China, and of course I couldn't resist a few for myself as well - especially on food and cooking, always one of the most popular sections. And that led to one of my most embarrassing moments ever.

I'd been very restrained and confined myself to just two books. One was this quirky, enticing Italian number by Laura Santtini. I'll probably ignore the gold and silver flakes she likes to sprinkle on various dishes, but her "flavour bombs" sound sensational - variations on 10 basic preparations,
from pestos and salsas to wet rubs and pastes. Chili chocolate wine paste, anyone?
This book looked brand new, and had a little white sticker on it telling me it was double the usual price. Apart from the really valuable, special items, every book for adults is $2 unless it has a sticker on it. This one was $4 - a bargain!

It was my other food book that got me into trouble: Elizabeth David's Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen. I'd pounced on it, because I knew that after Harvey had read David's biography, he'd spent hours trawling second-hand shops for this title, without success. It was a slim Penguin, and I put it happily aside with the seven other paperbacks I'd collected.
        At the end of my shift, I went to pay for everything. I was in a bit of a hurry by then, so I helpfully told the person dealing with me that I had exactly $20 worth - one at $4, and another eight at $2 each. She took them out of the bag, and then she looked at me. "This one", she said, holding up the David, "is $10." And she pointed to the sticker on the spine.

I was completely flustered. In my excitement at finding the book, I'd failed to notice the special price. (Once I got it home, I realised why - unlike the other stickered books I'd seen, it had no little white bits showing on the cover, and my hand must have covered the spine when I was looking at it.)  I did my stumbling best to assure her that I just hadn't seen it, but I don't think she believed me. "Do you still want it?" she said. I paused for a minute, but of course I did want it and it was all for a very good cause, so I paid the extra $8 and scuttled away, mortified.
          Fortunately we had a little food bloggers' get-together this afternoon, so I was able to show them the book, tell them the whole story, and then console myself with the delicious goodies they brought for afternoon tea, to go with my  taramasalata on crackers and cucumber sandwiches (as made at the Ritz)*: fingers of chocolate caramel crunch, and strawberry custard tarts with pistachio crumble on top. After all that, I felt much better.

*Ritz Hotel cucumber sandwiches: Peel the cucumber and slice it into very thin rounds, using a vege peeler. Sprinkle with vinegar and salt, leave for half an hour, drain and pat dry of any remaining juice, then layer the slices in thin brown buttered bread.

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