The Selfish Spatula

The city is cooling off. It only occasionally tip-toes over 30 now. Walking is a pleasure again, not a perilous skin-troubling gauntlet. The shops are selling jumpers. No more shorts for the fashion-conscious.

The economy is dripping ever more into junk. This morning I read the news - among the Steve Jobs laments and the everyday war stories - that Spain's debt has been downgraded again. AA-, whatever that means. Joyless news. How to console oneself during these times?

Well, the ever-constants: walking/eating. They never get tired and they never require too much expenditure. Whether it is strolling up and down the grand 20th century ornate bombasity of Gran Via, through the meandering lanes of La Latina, or around the city's many parks, walking is always an option.

Food, as those who have read my blogs or have met me will know, is as important to me as breathing. The joy is as much in the cooking as in the eating. Last Sunday I made a caramelised onion chutney. It is sitting in the pantry, 600g of sludge, waiting to be opened at the start of December. I fear the sugar genuinely caramelised and what will appear in two months will resemble a hard block of black sugar-tar with bodies of sweet onions entombed within it. Then there are the garbanzos, chickpeas, which, when bubbled with chunks of chistorra and garlic, paddling in tomate frito and a blob of chilli bean paste, are quite delightful.

I make tortilla española now. The Spanish will say that the best tortilla is the simplest style: potatoes, eggs, salt and cooked in oil. I agree to a point. It's tasty. But served ad infinitum it does have the potential to bore the palate to the extreme. I actually cook tortilla paisana, which is the same but with tasty extras. I experimented first by adding red onion and red pepper. It was a success. I even flipped it well - a moment of intense personal triumph. For a friend's leaving party - ever with undercurrents of sombreness - I cooked a chorizo and black olive one as well as a spinach and cabrales cheese. The mm's and aah's are what makes cooking so lovely. The gooey smiles and sleepy eyes when nice food is masticated.

The next plan is to try my hand at the hearty and sphincterally windy Asturian stew fabadas and then, one day, the king of average-but-famous dishes, paella.

I can do this now. I have an early timetable. So I work 8-5pm. I have time for a life. Time for cooking, for shopping, for thought, for a girlfriend, for productivity and poetry.