Month: December 2015

Potted Shrimp

We pass through the Peak District. The hills are heavy with damp. The train stops at yet another Northern mill town on its long journey back to Norwich. I always do my best thinking on long train journeys, especially once the view fades into black and my reflection is the only thing staring back. Apart from the trials and tribulations of finding a new job and a new flat for the new year, right now I’m thinking about potted shrimp. We decided to make it for starters on Christmas Eve, alongside mackerel pate and a pile of homemade melba toasts, and I learned that making potted shrimps is one of the best ways to forget your worries (namely new job, new flat, new year). It’s a therapeutic, unfiddly process that begins with butter. First take a whole golden brick of the stuff – unsalted, but salted is fine in a pinch – and melt it slowly, stirring far too much with a wooden spoon because let’s be honest, who can resist? Line the top of a Read More

Letters to Santa Lucia

In Verona, children don’t leave letters by the fireplace for Father Christmas, but for Santa Lucia – the patron saint of the blind. She visits on the 12th December with gifts for the good, coal for the bad, and for the nosy, a fistful of ash thrown in the eyes. The girl I look after confessed that she is always a little scared that night. Yet, this saint has captured the hearts of the Veronese. I’ve watched a full-grown man well up while trying to explain her importance to the city, his stories marred by the bleary inaccuracies of nostalgia. Verona’s love of Santa Lucia is unmatched (apart from in Syracuse where she is their patron saint), and she will be welcomed this year as she always is – with a sprawling Christmas market in Piazza Bra and a flurry of fried, sugary treats. But as the children count down the days until her arrival, I’m left counting down the days until I leave: six to be exact. I’m going to miss dear old Verona. It’s a Read More