In which roughseas goes shopping.
Wrapping myself up in my Russian countess coat, because it is freezing here in Gib, something below ten earlier today, and only around 13 degrees now, I
skipped off dawdled leisurely to the health food shop for a jar of seitan.
Coping with these extremely cold temperatures means comfort food is called for, ie any sort of casserole and potatoes, invariably mashed. I had run out of tofu and so has Morrisons (nothing new there), so the health food shop beckoned.
There was an old dear in there with an andador/walking frame so I waited patiently in the doorway for her to do whatever she was doing. I know she was old because she was older than me. A bit like an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than me.
‘That’s a very sensible length of coat,’ she said, admiring the Russian countess coat which goes down to my ankles. I preened myself, or my feathers, or my coat. Take your pick.
‘Thank you,’ I replied. ‘It is very warm and hides my scruffy trousers.’ I’d pulled the coat on to conceal the totally faded and worn-out leggings. Yes, I know leggings are the fashion disaster of the last century, but not when you are tall and skinny. Possibly, if you are short and fat, but that is not my problem.
‘Is it a coat or a dressing gown?’ she asked. Innocently. I think. I gulped.
My Marella wool and cashmere coat that I bought for around £400 when I got rid of my lease car for work due to a) sciatica arse b) I wasn’t doing much mileage and c) I figured catching the bus would be cheaper? Not necessarily in that order.
Standing at the bus stop in the north-east of England merited a decent coat. ‘We’ll see how long you last without a car,’ said my secretary sagely. Not that sagely, as I lasted until I left work. Wearing a warm coat and boots, I wasn’t cold standing at the bus stop in freezing weather, chucking it down rain, ice, snow, whatever. A damn sight warmer than standing at school bus stops with a stupid short skirt and silly tights or socks plus feeble leather shoes.
But a dressing gown? It’s hardly pink or blue. I should add that Spaniards, and maybe Gibbos, happily wander around outside in dressing gowns in winter because they are the warmest clothes they own. And they don’t get up very early either. My neighbour goes out to the bread van in his dressing gown. Another wanders up the street in hers to put the rubbish in the bin.
‘It’s a coat, Italian actually, and I bought it 15 years ago,’ I said in my nicest voice which doesn’t happen very often. Patient roughseas. [An extremely rare occurence].
The shop assistant had arrived at this point. ‘How can I help?’ she asked the old dear.
‘Well last year I had an operation on my anus….’ at which point I thought it was discrete to excuse myself and disappear up the shop. Her anus wasn’t my business. I think I heard her saying she thought calendula would be good for it. Not sure what it would achieve.
I had now found not only the desired jar of seitan, but also some fresh tempeh. An excellent result. This is an extremely good seitan, made by a Dutch firm – Yaks – and is organic, in small pieces, tastes superb in casserole or fried. Cost: £7.15 for 400 gms, and the liquid it is kept in is great for stock/gravy.
Off I skipped, buoyed with my successful shopping, to the cheapo shop to buy some cleaning liquid for our block which my partner is now cleaning.
Couldn’t find it. Went off to ask the assistant for the fregasuelo and lejía español (Spanish floor cleaner and bleach). Oh yes, she said, in Spanish, we’ve got the bleach, and showed me some extremely expensive bleach which I didn’t buy.
‘What about the floor cleaner, the blue one?’ I asked.
’75 pence,’ she said.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ I replied.
‘No we don’t have that.’ [Although they did have some expensive rip-off Pledge products that I also didn't buy].
So I gets back home to prepare the comfort food casserole, using a mix of organic veg from ghastly Morries and some veg from the local Roccie van.
My Indian neighbour had told me about this Moroccan who comes in a van on Friday evening, parks in a car park and sells cheap veg. Off I went to investigate on Saturday morning.
All veg vans in Spain are white. No white vans in sight. But then I noticed a load of Moroccans hanging around a blue van. I approached. The novelty value for the day. The tall white guiri (foreigner – or to be more accurate – wog).
I waited my turn. ‘Pase,’ I said to a bloke who I thought was in front of me. Turned out he was one of the staff.
I pointed to the potatoes. ‘Papas,’ I said, helpfully, in case he didn’t know what they were called in Spanish.
Oh, English wasn’t on the agenda. At all. Spanish wasn’t doing too well either.
‘Dos,’ I says, as in dos kilos. Everything was pre-bagged so he brought me another bag. Did I end up with dos kilos or quatro kilos? Who knows.
Did they have chicarros (peas)? He ripped open a bag of cabbage and gave it to a Moroccan woman and then asked the younger bloke if they had chicarros. No, none left.
OK, I’ll have some nabos (white turnips). But I want menos (less). This caused a major problem. I can’t eat a huge amount of white turnips, this bag must have held at least a dozen.
He dived into the van and brought out a bag of carrots. ‘Zanahoria?’ he asked. ‘Do you want zanahoria?’ Since when did zanahoria sound like nabos? Just like carrots don’t sound like white turnips.
Luckily a Moroccan woman came to my rescue and offered to split a bag of nabos with me, because after all, we only use them for stews/soups, she said. I wonder if I paid for her nabos?
I don’t know whether I will go back there again. If I do, I need a crash course in Arabic.
Comfort food casserole
Throw chopped onions and garlic in pan. Add tempeh, and then seitan. Add veg – carrots and white turnips. Add dried or fresh mixed herbs at some point, liquid/stock and a couple of tomatoes.
Served with mashed potatoes and some fresh parsley or coriander or whatever you have. Easy and delicious.
Edited to add A couple of people have asked what tempeh and seitan are, so I have added a new page to the recipe section on the top bar to explain more about them.