I have to hand it to The Hublet, that man can really cook. He’s the sort of silent ninja who doesn’t brag about his kitchen prowess, but when he steps up and takes charge wonderful things happen.
Take for example recent events. A small group of my British family are friends are visiting us in Jacksonville this week for a fairly last-minute holiday, and I spent an absolute age trying to find accommodation for the army of Brits.
Did you know that Americans don’t use the words ‘self catering.’ I found this out while trying to find a hotel/motel/holiday apartment that offered a self-catering facility. The Mothership was fairly insistent that they would have the ability to make a cup of tea in the morning otherwise she’d probably not be responsible for her actions, and the facilities to cook the occasional dinner in case they didn’t want to eat out. Now Americans are nice – really nice – and helpful – oh so helpful – so when a slightly hyperactive Brit is on the phone and explaining what she needs to be included with the tourist housing, the words ‘self catering’ briefly flag in the American mind as an unknown, but they’re too busy trying to listen, follow and understand what Mary Poppins is saying down the phone.
The Hublet steps in and explains to me that they don’t call it ‘self catering’ and I should instead ask if the accommodation comes with a kitchenette – and suddenly we have a communication breakthrough.
I eventually find nice accommodation for the Brits in a place run by a company who own an entire apartment block and have decorated each residence in different style/theme, and as it turns out the only one that’s large enough for our needs and available during the Brits visit has an Ikea theme…I like the delicious irony of family and friends traveling 4k miles to stay in someplace that resembles an Ikea showroom instead of something more homely or American.
Still, the place itself is lovely and the apartments are nicely furnished and thoughtfully stocked with gadgets and gizmos, so The Hublet and I decide to pre-stock the apartment with a few food items to make sure that when the Brits arrive they have enough things in the house to allow them to relax and not worry about having to run to the shops.
It’s Autumn, it’s harvest time and pumpkins are everywhere, so The Hublet suggests that he makes some pumpkin pie for everyone. A wonderful idea I agree, because even though the British are no strangers to pumpkins as the orange gourds make an appearance in the supermarkets each autumn, I’ve never actually cooked with one as it just seems such a hassle. In fact, last year The Mothership had her heart set on attempting to make something involving pumpkin, so she brought one from the market and put it on the kitchen counter top, where it subsequently remained for the next few months as she never got around to doing anything with it. Although I actually take the blame for the fact that the pumpkin went to waste as I was at home and bored one Saturday, and upon spying the cheery little orange ball in the kitchen decided to have some fun, so grabbed a pen. I suspect that my humanising of the pumpkin may have resulted in The Mothership not being able to bring herself to cut it up, but at least it brought a smile to our faces each time we entered the kitchen and the little orange dork was beaming at us.
Bringing the story back to this week and an enjoyable evening was spent with me doing random and mysterious things involving coloured leaves and glue at the dining table while The Hublet was merrily ensconced in the kitchen with all manner of delicious smells wafting out. He refused to allow me near, so I had to endure the distinctive aroma of cinnamon, possibly nutmeg, a hint of cloves and maybe even a little ginger (but I wouldn’t be prepared to put money on it) waltzing past my nose. He eventually strode out with a plate in one hand and a fork in the other, and scooped up a little warm pie for me to try: oh my goodness, it was an amazing spicy explosion on my tastebuds – I could definitely pick out the taste of most of the spices I had smelt while he was cooking, but none of them overrode the gorgeous earthy taste of the pumpkin itself. The pie was perfectly balanced, with the right amount of sweetness offsetting the pumpkin.
So we delivered 3 pies to the fridge in the apartment my family and friends would be staying in. I’ll admit it, I was initially critical of leaving 3 pies instead of just 1, but The Hublet wisely assured me that pumpkin pie was the perfect thing for breakfast, lunch or dessert, and the pies would definitely find their ways into British bellies very quickly.
Honestly, my family and friends were blown away by the pies, and I’ve been told how more than once when one or two of them wake up at 4 or 5am due to the weird 5-hour time difference jet lag hitting them, they invariably go to the kitchen and cut a piece of pie to comfort themselves with.
It was definitely a great choice by The Hublet as he wanted to cook something that wasn’t limited to one meal use, and that would be a new experience and would give the tourists an introductory taste of America. The result: a Two Thumbs up verdict of approval from the Brits, as well as empty pie pans less than a week later.