Treasure on a Thursday

As the light streamed through my window this morning, I began to wonder if Alicia had forgotten to wake me up. Perhaps I had overslept class, I thought. I decided that I didn’t care, and curled up to go back to sleep. Alicia announced that it was 8:45ish, though, and that catapulted me into action, as much as I catapult at that hour of the morning.

I got ready in record time. It was cold outside, Ala said, in spite of the brilliant sunshine, so dress in more layers than usual. I pulled on dark jeans, topped them with a teal camisole, my ASK convention t-shirt, yellow corduroy jacket, orange scarf and teal gloves, and hoped that would be sufficiently layered. Ala and I didn’t think we’d have time for breakfast in the five minutes before we needed to bail for class, but I decided yogurt was in order (my experiment of not eating breakfast before walking to class having been such a huge failure that I did not feel like repeating it.) So Ala and I stood in the kitchen together, and popped open yogurts to her count of “Ready, set, inhale.”

I decided to walk with Alicia to school today, in hopes of arriving on time. This might have worked, except that we took the hard hill, (Constitution Road), which I have not taken at all lately, preferring the longer, slower, much prettier and somewhat easier route zig-zagging through Dudhope Park. Constitution hill did not go lightly on my knees, and by the time I got to the bottom they were angry. My ankles were also voicing their displeasure with the incline. By the time we got to the Blackness, my muscles felt like they had turned to water. I told Alicia to go on ahead, and I’d meet her in class.

I arrived 5 minutes late, which was not bad, all things considered. Alicia, as she was speeding away from me this morning, agreed with me that I was going to have to alter my methods in order to start getting to class on time. We have toyed with me leaving earlier, or perhaps switching to different shoes. But then she disappeared into the distance and I was left to trudge on my own. It was a hard morning. I think it would have been better had I had the chance to drink the tea Alicia made for me.

Class was all right. We discussed design processes. Gill, a tall, statuesque design student, made me a cup of tea and shared with me a tea cake. The tea cake was a delightful experience. It was a cookie, topped with a gushy bit of marshmallow cream, and covered in chocolate. At the time it reminded me quite strongly of something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Now, describing it, I see that it reminds me of s’mores!

We had a meeting after class, and Dhruv bought me a sandwich for lunch. He actually bought two sandwiches, and asked me to choose the one I wanted. Only one was vegetarian and one was not, and since he’s hindu and a vegetarian, I was supposed to choose the one that was not vegetarian. We ended up splitting the vegetarian sandwich. The meeting went reasonably quickly, and then I headed home.

It was on the walk home that the real magic happened. I walked through the city center so that I could drop by Lidl and pick up some toilet tissue, or WC-paper (water closet paper) or whatever they call it here. I bought some made out of 100% recycled paper, and then mozied through the city center heading towards Hilltown. I took detours through alleys and admired the moss until arriving on Hilltown proper, where I promptly found a hammer lying abandoned on the sidewalk. The very end of the handle was chipped a bit, but nothing major. It seemed well worn, perhaps antique. I looked around to see if maybe it had fallen out of a window. Seeing nothing to suggest that anyone was looking for it, I almost picked it up, but thinking better of it, I walked on…for roughly two paces before I changed my mind and collected my prize.

I am becoming a prime scavenger. If it’s abandoned but could be useful, it’s mine, suckers.

I am also getting better at climbing the Hilltown Hill (steepest way to get up to my house.) I climbed it with only two planned rests today! (And two unplanned rests, but I’ll get to those in a minute.)

As I was trudging up Hilltown, I smiled at an elderly woman making her way down the hill. She smiled back and said something about needing a rest, climbing this hill! I heartily agreed with her. Shortly thereafter, I passed a shop with pots in the window, and decided to go in.

I discovered paradise.

It was a Halal! I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with Muslim dietary restrictions. Whatever the case, it was a treasure trove of food! There were huge sacks of flour next to the door, and spices all along the wall, in huge quantities for little money! There were dried beans, dried fruit, rice, and–get this–GRAHAM flour. GRAHAM FLOUR!!! I can’t even get that in the states! I walked around the dry goods area, marveling at the variety of things that I could take home with me, and then stepped up into the butcher area, where two middle eastern men were chopping what I think must have been racks of lamb into smaller cuts of meat. It was this window that the pots were situated in. The pots were selling for 2 or 3 pounds a piece! This is a great price for a stock pot, of which there were several. They might not be my glorious stainless number, but they’ll sure as hell do the job! (But not for jam.) (Not that I’m making jam.)

Next to the pots, but situated along the wall, was the fresh produce. Spinach, herbs, and hot peppers! Okra! Ginger! Diakon!

I was in heaven. I promised to come back when I had more than three pounds on me, and when I had space in my backpack!

Two doors up the hill, I found another such shop, only with even better produce!

Words do not accurately describe my delight.

So I practically skipped home, sore legs and knees and ankles forgotten in light of a place to buy whole wheat flour, and bulgar, and beans.

That was definitely the highlight of my day. I edited an essay for Brian, and ate a slice of apple pie (still as delicious and epic as it was two days ago). I brought the blanket in from the courtyard where I had hung it to make it lose that funky smell it has. Two days of airing did nothing to improve it, so it still smells of metal and mildew and skank. I noticed that the deadbolt on the door to the courtyard has been severely damaged, compromising its structural integrity to the point that I highly doubt it would keep out wandering junkies. It’s like someone threw themselves against it so hard that the screws holding it to the door frame came loose. I am going to pick up a screwdriver and try to repair it.

I made beer can chicken for dinner, which involved running up to the Spar to pick up a can of beer. I picked up a can of Stella Artois, because it’s a good beer and would be good for flavor, but the can was huge –a whole pint–and that puts the chicken in such a position as to totter precariously. I looked for a shorter can, but all I could find was a 9% “Strong Lager”. I am generally suspicious of high proof beers, as they tend to have a stronger alcohol flavor, but the can was the right size, and the chicken doesn’t end up tasting like beer anyway, so I figured it would work. I explored a worn and uneven corridor that led into an overgrown courtyard area on my way home from Spar, and then set about cooking dinner. I made beer can chicken, a slaw of red cabbage and yellow peppers, and roasted pears filled with cream cheese and drizzle with honey. I was eating alone, but it was still a magnificent spread.

I learned a cool trick with the beer can chicken today. I’d been using sheet pans to put the chicken on, but inevitably I knock the beer can and chicken over, spilling beer, which then burns onto the sheet pan regardless of how well I’ve covered it with aluminum foil. This is, in part, because sheet pans are so flexible. The solution to this is to use a stainless steel skillet for standing the chicken in! It’s not flexible, so it’s a much more stable base and the beer and chicken tower is much less likely to fall over during transport. If you do, however, manage to knock the chicken beer tower over, however, the beer is all contained in the skillet! So no more beer burning to the bottom of the oven, or covering your floor. Finally, if you do spill beer in the pan, and it burns on, it’s safe to use steel wool to clean it off! Brilliant!

I am tickled with my solution.

Alicia and I finally broke down and turned the radiators on. We both slept much better and more satisfyingly last night. Even though I only netted 5 hours (from procrastinating my homework), I woke up feeling reasonably refreshed, and more healthy than I have in days.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. I am going to take the blanket to a laundromat that I found (maybe), and perhaps buy a stock pot to make stock out of the chicken carcasses I have saved. That stock could then be turned into bean and cabbage soup! I am toying with the idea of making a rustic plum tart, as I have several kilos of plums that need using.

Saturday Alicia and I are having a pirate themed flat warming party. Perhaps I shall drink rum and make merry!

Treasure on a Thursday

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