I left work on the stroke of midday and hared up the road to Bristol University's Great Hall to listen to one of my heroes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The talk was part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas and Hugh was using it to promote his new book Three Good Things. He shared his observation that some of the best dishes he cooked at home or enjoyed eating out were 'little more,and little less than three good things on a plate'. He cited fish and chips and mushy peas; scones, jam and clotted cream; rhubarb, crumble and custard ... I have come up with a few of my own: the classic French steak, frites et salade; rice, dal and pickle; haggis, neeps and tatties ... Feel free to share your own personal favourites.
I admire Hugh not just for his culinary skills, but for his passion, his language and his efforts to persuade us to consider where the food on our plates comes from. And I'm not alone. The Great Hall was packed to capacity.
Then it was back down the hill to so some cooking of my own.
For some time now I have been cooking for our local church's Messy Church, which is best described as an extended Sunday School on Friday afternoon with tea attached! Parents bring their children along after school for a carousel of crafty activities, followed by singing, a story and a simple meal. Which is where I come in. I arrive shortly before the children, offer a welcome cuppa to the mums and dads and set about preparing tea.
Yesterday I abandonned the relative safety of supermarket convenience food to cook from scratch. I was rather nervous at having to produce two plates of food for up to 30 children, so I decided to keep it simple. The menu consisted of pasta with tomato sauce and grated cheese followed by pear and apple crumble with ice cream (from a tub!). (Coincidentally three good things each!) The sauce and crumble topping were prepared the evening before so all I needed to do was to cook the pasta and prepare the fruit.
Despite a few moments of panic when I leaned that there were in fact 44 children to feed I managed (with the help of a willing parent) to get the food on the table in time. What's more, it went down a treat, with children - and adults - coming back for seconds.
I've now got a month to come up with another suitably versatile menu. Any suggestions?