Shell shock…..


During my lifetime the word “simple”, or should I say its inference, has become the antithesis of that which I originally understood. My schooldays were passed in those halcyon days before society had become so cowed by the pinched face of PC that we lost the joy of speaking freely. I remember being told that conjugating the present subjunctive of βουλεύειν was simple, that algebra was simple, that doing what I was told was simple and if I couldn’t understand that, then it was clear that it was I that was simple. At that point I hadn’t associated”simple” with either “easy” or “stupid” in the same way that I took no offence when the headmaster referred to us boys as perambulating gargoyles as I had no idea what he was talking about and it made us laugh. My memories of those times are joyful as they were a time of innocence in the true sense of the word as we lacked the wherewithal to be anything but innocent; very like happy people before the missionary arrived. I was vulnerable to sticks and stones but immune to subtle insult.Time passes, dull innocence is left crying for “Mummy” and we create about us, like a snail’s shell, an individual armour which we call our personality from which, depending on the strength of the armour, we can bear the brunt of hurled insult and, putting our heads above the parapet, chuck a few back with impunity. But the shells have been impounded by PC and we are revealed as the defenseless, thin skinned beings that we really are.  I ‘m not sure how I got side tracked but it was about shells that I intended to write. As long as I’ve cooked, I’ve made pastry and as long as I’ve made pastry, however good it may have tasted, I’ve always felt that it was a bit too thick. I am going to dismiss from my mind the diatribe that is festering therein on the subject of day time television mainly because, having roundly condemned it, it would then fall to me to explain what in the fuck I was doing looking at it in the first place. Suffice it to say the lapse became an epiphany. The words “roll it out so it is very thin….thin enough to see through” were followed by the presenter holding up the rolled out pastry to the beams of sunlight coming through the window of his kitchen and the pastry was illuminated, as was I. This Pauline conversion happened but a couple of days ago and since then I’ve been cooking and rolling a lot. The tarte fine aux pommes, in the picture above, is a wonderful thing to behold and to eat. The recipe is uncomplicated and the dish created is the epitome of simple food….that’s how I use the word now….and the result makes me very happy.

The recipe for the tart is from Stéphane Reynaud’s wonderful book “Ripailles” but the pastry recipe is taken from the equally wonderful “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells. I have to admit that I’ve reached the point where I find that I exclusively use the pastry recipes from that book as they have never, to this point, let me down.


pate brisée035

I’ve added, below, an old picture of me and some friends on holiday before the arrival of PC…and the removal of our shells.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2016, apples, baking, Bistro, Childhood, Childhood memories, Cookery Writers, Cooking, cous cous, Cuisine bourgeoise, desserts, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, harmony, Humour, Pate Brisee, Patricia Wells, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, Stephane Reynaud, tart, tarte fine aux pommes, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Shell shock…..

  1. Sally says:

    A real thing of beauty Roger. Perambulating gargoyles- love that one.

  2. Michelle says:

    Now all I can think of is “snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails.” 🙂 We use Wells’ pâte brisée, too. Though I think Steve adds a little extra butter. Couscous? That’s interesting.

  3. ghetran says:

    wow! You´re a master of words, Roger! 😉

  4. linnylouise says:

    Nice photography and thanks for sharing the recipe. ❤

  5. Misky says:

    A completely enjoyable read. The tart’s not half bad either.

  6. A joy to read and the tart was indeed a joy to behold. Loved your holiday snap too 😉

  7. Ripailles is one of my all time faves… A nice one for us simple sorts 😜

  8. Mad Dog says:

    KISS – some snails will be coming home in my suitcase and I might have my eye on a piglet!

  9. Lovely photo and yummy recipe and I just love it when someone uses the word “halcyon”. Happy Leap Year Day!

  10. Eha says:

    Perchance the shells may have gone but methinks the layer under them has thickened and logic has taught that it matters little what the ping-back on the PC is : one enjoys the positive and wonders what problems the writer of the negative has for his angst . . . as you can see I am still happily ‘simple’ 😀 !!

    off topic: Well: first came Rick Stein, and then Heston Blumenthal arrived [NOMA daresay does not count with no British blood!]. Guess who has just arrived as the latest MKR [My Kitchen Rules] judge – Rachel Khoo for her second long sojourn in Melbourne . . . what is it with British chefs – food or weather 🙂 ?]

  11. Vasun says:

    Came in for the tart but stayed because I had to find out what ‘halycon’ and ‘perambulating’ . At least I knew what you meant by ‘fuck’ 🙂 lovely writing as always.

  12. ardysez says:

    This post has made me a little melancholy, feeling very much like a soft shell crab. Lovely writing and segue from introspection to pastry shells.

  13. Francesca says:

    I enjoy reading your posts aloud to Mr Tranquillo- it’s one of life’s little pleasures. Love that pic of you with your un PC friends.

  14. catterel says:

    I’m drooling again … and chuckling at the perambulating gargoyles!

    • such good pastry…as for the perambulating gargoyles: they were an invention of my headmaster at prep school…he was a tall, cadaverous, classics scholar who had a fantastic turn of phrase …most of it wasted on us children:)

  15. Your ramblings are as delicious as your recipes and your photography! I depart from each post more than sufficiently suffonsified. (I’m Canadian, eh?)

  16. Conor Bofin says:

    One phrase that boils my ageing blood is “It’s political correctness gone mad”. For a long time now, I have a reputation amongst many for being racist and quite insulting to people of other races, religions and even political leanings. Funnily enough, the people who take the offence are never the targets of my humour. Rather, they are the ones who seek out offence and take it at every opportunity available. My Chinese friend Zang and I have great sport with this. It’s the only way to bear the nonsense.

    Nice tart too.

  17. Conor Bofin says:

    Very, very nice tart.

  18. ChgoJohn says:

    Damn, Roger, I wish I could roll out pastry dough like that. I’ll worry about the filling later.
    “Perambulating gargoyles.” All teachers should be instructed to only berate their students in language that they’ll understand. Very early on in my French language instruction, our teacher caught me goofing around and chastised me in words I never was able to translate nor could anyone else, for that matter. It was a great source of laughter, however, and to this day I smile — just like I am now — whenever I think of it.

  19. Ruta Ly says:

    Your blog is just beautiful

  20. Lovely, beautiful simple food – which I find often requires more skill than “complicated” food. And thank you for the shells illustration 🙂

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