Going Against the Grain

It’s fair to say that, doing the street food thing, we’ve met the BEST people ever.  Passionate, wonderful, odd – and mainly skint – people.

Not long after we started, we had a random message on Twitter.  A photo of some whisky with the tasting notes that said it would go well with souvlaki.  Er, ok, I thought. Whatevs.

And then this man turned up with a little bottle.  At Bury St Edmunds Market.  I was a little surprised.  I didn’t let it show though.  I’m a pro, doncha know?  I poured it into a mug and, serving up a souvlaki to our visitor, we decided to see if it was true.  It was.  Bizarrely.  Whisky and souvlaki.  Who knew?  (A 19-year-old Highland Park bourbon cask matured whisky, since you ask.)

That mug of whisky was passed between me, the Greek God, Whisky Man, our teetotal vegan market neighbour and the Greek God’s 16-year-old son.  It’s funny how people appear when there’s free secret booze in a mug!

18 months later, Whisky Man still pitches up, sometimes clutching fabulous goodies to try.  I’m ashamed to say  I’m never going to be a whisky afficionado (though I love the idea that, as a writer, I’ll be slurping until all hours, Tom Waits style, spilling words onto the page as it courses through my veins).  But he’s a top bloke. And he knows about gin too.  Oh yes.

There are such good people in our new life: finding awesome gin, making their own cider, feeding us 80% butter croissants.  Hoisin duck pies.  Hot, sticky, Asian coconut buns.  Punjabi samosas & pakora.  Our lives and waistbands are bulging but we have the best time.  And, as Cider Making Man said last week… “I’ve waited all my life to be in a position to be this skint.  Fun though, isn’t it?”  Hell yeah.

Cold in Kebabylon

‘Seven quid? Bloody ‘ell. What do I get for that then?’

‘Well, my fine fellow…’ I don’t say. I’m thinking it though. I think a lot of things, whilst wearing my special Dealing With The Public smile.

‘You get free-range chicken. Blythburgh pork. Pitta bread which I baked myself last night. Tzatziki made with mint I grew in the garden. For two Great British pounds less, however, you could go over there and have a cheap old sausage in a dry roll from the cash and carry.’

He glances over at sausage lady who is wearing a ‘comedy’ outfit (the only thing she could find in her van to combat the cold, apparently) and having a fag.

‘Er, maybe I’ll live a little,’ he says, counting out his change.

I despair. Not least because sausage lady probably makes way more money than us. Good food costs money. If you want high quality produce, it costs more. Simple, innit. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong; nipping to Bookers for a box of buns would be far easier than all the kneading, rolling out of dough and hoovering up of flour.

I try not to mind. People can’t help it. We’re off to Essex for an event soon. While the Greek God tries to blend in and goes all ‘geezer’, I find my inner Joanna Lumley spontaneously erupts.

‘We do try not to use the ‘K’ word,’ I’ll chirp cheerily through gritted teeth as I stand out in sub-zero winds, wearing ALL my clothes at once and lamenting the thread veins that no one mentioned in the Street Food for Dummies manual.

‘So it’s just a kebab then, yeah? For seven quid? Rip-orf…’

It was a dreadful rip-off. I might have that inscribed on my headstone when I’ve died of hypothermia, hurty knees and baker’s lung. It’s cold in Kebabylon.

Mind the (Generation) Gap

I took the Greek God to Jersey last week.  Proper Jersey; the rock off the coast of France, rather than that newfangled American one.  My home, and where most of my family still are.

My life in Blighty remains a mystery to Dad.  Well into his 80s, life revolves around the minutiae of his own little patch of that small island.  He relays the tiniest details of his neighbours’ lives… what they’ve had for dinner, who they’ve fallen out with.

In return, I tell him about my life.  By phone.  He doesn’t do Facebook.  Nor email.  Internet?  Nah, that’ll never catch on… So phone it is.  And phone would be fine but he’s stone deaf.  Conversations are punctuated as his hearing aid screams at crucial moments.

But I persevere.  I explain how street food works; alongside our Greek there’s South African, French, Venezuelan food…  I tell him tales far removed from his newspaper-reading spot at Corbiere where the waves crash and seagulls wheel.

“So you’ve got a burger van, then?”

Er, no… I explain souvlaki, again.  In person.  It’s Greek food; I bake pittas – LOTS of pittas – in my little kitchen before we go to fantastic food festivals all over the place, selling our wares.  I tell him of the long queues, of famous chefs, of mad punk band revivals we’ve catered.  He nods. “Ah, right,” he says.

I bump into a friend a few days later.

“Saw your dad the other day,” he says.  “I hear you’ve bought a van and started doing takeaway deliveries…”

Ah bah crie, as us Jersey beans say.  It’s another world, eh?




Living the Dream

‘So how’s the old law career going?’ asks a friend.

‘Blimey, I don’t do law anymore,’ I reply.  ‘I’ve started a Greek street food business instead…’

Oh dear.  It sounds a little unlikely, even to me.  I’m 48; I’m totally knacked out; I’m not even Greek.  It’s ludicrous.  Son 1’s started calling me ‘Hipster Mum’.  Hip Replacement Mum, more like.

Weekdays are spent baking pitta bread – hundreds of the buggers each week.  Radio 4 chortles quietly away in the background.   While I always thought I was a closet hippy who’d travel the world with flowers in her hair, it turns out I like staying home with flour in my hair.

‘I’ll write a blog to document this lark!’ I thought.  We’re a year in.  It’s been a bit busy.  I haven’t written the blog.  I’ve got stuff to tell you though.   I haven’t even mentioned the recovering punks yet, have I?  I’ll get to that.  I mentioned knackered though, yes?

Living the dream doesn’t, conversely, seem to involve getting much sleep…