Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Trust and Sweet Potatoes

A couple of days ago, alarming graffiti started appearing in our kitchen.
The likes of "Dirty Pole Bastard", "F***ing Jew", "Whore, "Dirty Welsh F***" and others I cannot bear to repeat, decorated the cupboards of the residents in my hall.

This prompted a flurry of investigation from the inept British police officers who seem more intent on keeping their shiny uniforms clean than doing any real investigation. Sensationalized school press only encouraged the vandalism.

The next day, unpreturbed by the extra lock placed on our kitchen door, more graffiti decorated the halls:

"R+L Will Burn in Hell"
"Die, die, die"

A hangman was drawn in the showers and cross eyed men stared out at us from the mirrors. One of my friends happened to be visiting this past weekend and nearly got smashed over the head with a broom when she went upstairs to make tea.

The worst part of this whole thing is that the vandalizer is someone who lives among us. He (or she) knows whose locker is whose (even though they don't have any identifying personal effects) and times the vandalism just right. I went in to the kitchen to put my sweet potato to bake at 4:30pm and at 5:00pm, the words had appeared on the cupboards.

Rumours started flying about who the "Midnight Scrawler" could be. I was convinced that it was the guy who lived across the hall from me. Someone else said it was the guy who lived next to me. You can be sure I locked my door at night!

Among the people accused was a 3rd year archaeology student. They all thought that he was so annoyed by the lack of interest the college had in the food theft that was going on in the kitchen that he decided to up the ante. Furthermore, he was the one who discovered the graffiti everytime fresh ones appeared.

The trouble was, if there was anyone I didn't want to suspect, it was him. He was from Bristol, a bit brash and proud, but otherwise very nice. I could tell that the other students were prejudiced against him because he was an outsider, not a first year student who was into clubbing like they were (a bit like me, really). They made snide remarks about his girlfriend just because she was shy. We always had interesting conversations in the kitchen and he would inform me of the complicated nature of British politics.

But as I thought about it more and more, it seemed possible that he was the guilty one. The handwriting certainly seemed similar and the logic made sense. Plus, he lived on the third floor and so would have a lot of opportunity to sneak out and decorate the kitchen. And I hated to admit it, but I could tell that he had a sense of humor that might find the ridiculousness of it all somewhat funny.

Apparently, the police thought the same thing because they questioned him rather harshly, asking him how his record would look to graduate schools if it had an arrest on it. He came into the kitchen in tears and I was shocked.

Yesterday, he came into the kitchen and gave me a bag of sweet potatoes, which he knows I eat like candy.

"I might not be coming back tomorrow," he said.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Well my advisor told me that anything more happens, I won't get any extensions on my final thesis. So he recommended that I move out."

I gave him a hug and said good-bye. I still didn't know whether or not this was his way of backing out of a situation that had gone out of control or whether he genuinely didn't feel safe here anymore. It doesn't matter. Sometimes, you just have to trust someone on their word.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
2 chicken breasts
2 sweet potatoes
1 large onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
6 white button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup sweet peas
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper

To Cook:
1. Place chicken, mushrooms, onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a pot; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on medium for about an hour.
2. Add sweet potatoes and cook for another hour.
3. Add in sweet peas and cook until peas are done.

Serves 2.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tapas Fit for a Dragon Slayer - Spanish Omelette Recipe

This past weekend my friend Lena, who is studying abroad at Saint Andrews University up in Scotland came to visit me. I didn't realize how much I missed her and everything that had to do with the United States until after she had come. The minute we sighted each other at the train station, we ran screaming to each other and into a humongous hug - one extremely tall Norwegian girl, and the other extremely short Asian girl. It was perfect.

The weather gods smiled upon us because I swear, it was the first time since I've been here that the sky was clear and sunny. York must have known that Lena was coming to town because it was also the weekend of the Viking celebration. We both dressed up in Viking garb and were dubbed the Wolf Hunter (Lena) and the Dragon Slayer (me).

On top of that, there was a continental farmer's market in the city, which is where merchants from all over Europe come and entice Yorkers with their nibbles. They had everything from fresh olives from Greece to Dutch pancakes made on the spot. It was heaven for a foodie (and anyone, really). I had a Spanish Paella for lunch which wasn't that great, but the Spanish Omelette I had for dinner was amazing. Plus, I got two slices for the price of one because the stall was closing down, and that made it taste even better!

The next day, when Lena and I said our good-byes, a wave of happiness intermingled with sadness hit me, like a sea breeze does. Her visit reminded me that we don't fully appreciate all the wonderful things in our life until we miss them.

Spanish Omelette Recipe
300ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 large waxy potatoes such as Jersey Royals or Charlottes, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
6 medium eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches of spinach

To Cook:
1. Pour boiled water onto spinach slowly until wilted. Squeeze all water out of spinach and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame, add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and brown.
3. Add the potatoes let the vegetables stew gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are softened. Strain the potatoes and onions through a colander into a large bowl (set the strained oil aside). Stir in the spinach.
4. Add the potato and onion to the beaten eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste and leave to stand for 20 minutes.
5. Add olive oil to your frying pan on medium heat and tip the omelette mixture in. Felicity Cloake on Word of Mouth Blog suggests, "Cook until it comes away from the edge of the pan, and looks about two thirds set."
6. Put a large plate over your pan, and flip it over so that the cooked side is face up on the plate. Then slide the uncooked side back into the pan. Cook until it is springy to the touch, moist in the middle. Don't overcook it!
Serves 4.