For the past few days I’ve been holed up in bed with the “lurgie” (a tummy bug).
In a reversal of roles, Meredith has been cooking and caring (she was ill first)–serving up simple, delicious, restorative vegetable soup and scrambled eggs.
Yesterday I had stomach enough to read a brilliant piece in The Observer newspaper by food writer Jay Rayner challenging people’s reluctance to give a second try to food they have detested eating (or in my case, the thought of eating)–tripe for instance.
It transported me back nearly 35 years to Madrid.
Angharad and I were in Spain to promote Poldark, which was proving enormously popular there.
At that time there were only two TV channels–and the other one was devoted to parliamentary debates.
The visit was an extraordinary experience.
Two thousand plus fans at the airport to welcome us. We were mobbed everywhere we went–it felt momentarily like being a Beatle. (Nobody waiting for us at Heathrow on our return, however….)
Years before Angharad had spent some months in the city au pairing for the family of a well known psychiatrist–a friend and professional colleague of her father Professor Lynford Rees.
Her return had a particular resonance for her and the Spanish family.
To celebrate, they threw a lunch party for us at their home.
It was a moment of peace, an escape from the craziness of the celebrity culture that was new to me and which I was finding both exciting and at times hard to handle.
(At one point, the tabloid johnnies were crowding me with questions about how it was that at the age of 35 I wasn’t married. Angharad–sensing the danger of an explosion–whispered in my ear, “Smile, Robin, for heaven’s sake, SMILE!”.
The party was delightful, of course, except for one detail: The main dish was tripe in tomato sauce.
Tripe, I’m told, is a delicacy in Spain–and cooked by an expert (I have to take Jay Rayner’s word for it) it’s delicious.
I eat most things–growing up in the fifties, fussiness about food was not encouraged in our house. The starving children in India featured often at meal times when a reluctance to polish off the last crumb was shown. My mother never tried tripe on us though.
I remember looking down at the plate I’d been offered and after a moment mastering feelings of politeness, guilt and hunger, turning discreetly away from the crowd and parking the plate of offal, untried, behind a palm tree.
There have been moments since–in Florence for example where street stalls selling steaming piles of tripe are a regular sight–when I have thought about giving it a second try. So far I have managed to resist the temptation.
Anyone else willing to own up to a food phobia?