Thursday, March 22, 2012


The sap is rising, the geese are getting fat.  Or it feels that way to me anyway.  I'm still not in tune with the seasons here.  One the one hand:

a pear tree in blossom, definitely spring.  And:


the new, rhubarb-coloured leaves, tender and gleaming, on the roses.  That says spring too.  On the other hand:

broad beans (aka fava, liver and chianti beans) also in blossom.  This means summer.  As does:

rosemary covered with flowers and bumblebees.  And in the vegetable garden:

cabbages, brussel sprouts, cos lettuce, self-seeded rocket, garlic almost ready to harvest and chard that's been in there for a year and is still going strong.  What season is that?  I'll tell you.  It's the season they were watching out for in The Chrysalids; it's cats and dogs and ghostbusters.  In short, it's no' right.

And then there's the fact that there are houseplants outside in the open air acting like they're not houseplants at all:

Ah well, that's California for you.  And I've got the poppies to prove it:


Happy new seaon, whatever it is.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lee's, Lee's! Lyrics won't please.


I'm guest-posting today on dying for chocolate with a recipe for macaroon bars.  I made them for a literary salon at Janet Rudolph's recently, because Val McDermid was the guest of honour and I thought she might be missing them.  You know because it had been days and days since she'd been in the UK where they're sold.  (Sense is optional.)

Now, macaroon bars are made in Glasgow by a firm called Lee's and when Val bit into one she burst out in a spontaneous round of the Lee's song.  I'd forgotten it.  Blocked it out perhaps.  But I'll share it with you here.  It's not on Janet's site because when you're invited over as a guest there really are limits to what you should do.


Lee's, Lee's, more if you please.
All of us beg on our bended knees.
For piccaninnies and grandpapas,
It's Lee's for luscious macaroon bars.

Yes, really.  And the thing is, being written in Scotland in the 1960s, not only is the word offensive but it's so gratuitous there's no way to explain how gratutious it is.  Scotland - even Glasgow - in the 1960s was about as mono-ethnic as it's possible to be.  Even now, in large parts of Scotland you look around and all you can think is "Where's everyone else?"  So it was an offensive reference to people who weren't even there and didn't need to be referred to.

Maybe the good people at Lee's like the sound of the word.  Like pernickety and rambunctious.  Some words are fun to say.  And being unfettered by any sense that maybe Black kids (when they were actually there) could just be called . . . you know . . . kids, they bunged it in.

Maybe.  But consider this:  nobody in Scotland says Grandpapa either.  And in a Scottish accent it doesn't rhyme with bar anyway.  So what was going on?

I think the song might have been written by someone who had been observing our earth and was ready to make contact.  Lee's was a front.  They thought they'd slow us down with a sugar offensive and then swoop in. 

They picked the wrong country.  Macaroon bars are admittedly quite sweet, but to a nation of children brought up on sugar sandwiches as a healthy lunch, rhubarb sticks dipped in egg-cups of sugar as a fruity snack, and tablet for treats, they didn't have a prayer.

Anyway, check out the recipe at dying for chocolate, won't you.  But be warned.  Your kitchen will end up looking as if the sugar aliens have landed.