Saturday 26 October 2013

Gone Nutting

A little harmless law-breaking does wonders for your soul (or for your "well-being" if you must - but let's steer clear of that mental-health-speak) by reassuring yourself that you are a free spirit and enjoy independence of action which transcends even the social contract in our democratic state.

Cripes, I hear you say, where is he going on this one - announcing an anarcho-syndicalist manifesto? Or allegiance to a new Caliphate?

Not quite, reader, let me explain...

It is a fantastic year for chestnuts - a profusion of prickly casings and big, conker-sized nuts within. Mrs Blog is competing hard with a local Chinese family and the canny Polish population in West Wales to gather in the nuts available on publicly-accessible National Trust parkland. I suppose this is technically theft as I point out to Mrs B (to snorts of derision).

However, I am too lazy to pick over the same territory and so take a further moral leap (past a sign officiously forbidding public access) and then a physical one (over an 8 foot deer fence - extremely carefully in view of my back trouble) to find a remote, natural sweet chestnut orchard where you can pick up as many as you want in a minute or two - Shangri-La (or should I say Avalon?).

And what to do with the nuts? Roasting on a fire is traditional and hard to beat (prick them before roasting and serve with a glass of sherry: that's exactly what I'm doing as I write this) and I have previously mentioned using them to stuff the Christmas bird.

Mrs Blog also puts about 4 oz of cooked chestnut as an extra layer for each lb of potatoes in a Dauphinoise recipe (see this standard version not including the nuts of course - that's pure Mrs B): sheer luxury, kind to your wallet, and seasoned delightfully with the recollection of mild criminality.


My father's last words were "Gone nutting" - scrawled on a note and left on the kitchen table. It was doubtless the strain of illicitly climbing a farm gate (aged 85) into a neighbour's field to collect hazelnuts which caused his heart to finally give up. A good way to go in many respects and it would have pleased him as a lawyer with anti-establishment tendencies that he was technically both trespassing and thieving at the time.

Not that he had a spotless criminal record - he was done in 1980 for refusing to pay his TV licence during the famous campaign for S4C - but that is another story.

Although it occurs to me that perhaps we should be campaigning for a posthumous pardon...