Historically speaking, more than a few auspicious things have happened on October 14: in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize; the first gay rights march was held in Washington DC in ’79; Katherine Mansfield, Usher, Ben Whishaw and the All Saints’ Shaznay all were born, and in 2007, I started this blog. I mean. Wow. I may not be on the Wikipedia page for “On This Day In History Yet”, but I stand by my Wow.
I went back and read through some blog posts from that time eight years ago and was struck by two things: firstly, I was vigorously earnest. In a way that I’m going to insist upon thinking of as endearing, for self-care purposes. Secondly, I’m kind of impressed at how hard I threw myself into this blog. In October 2007 alone I wrote 22 posts. That’s almost as many as I’ve written this entire damn year. And I was so adventurous – every single post is all like, “Well, I got home from uni so I thought I’d make three pavlovas for my flatmates” or “just marinating two kilos of pork” or “I made this steamed pudding and this loaf of bread and this tray of brownies for while we caught up on Outrageous Fortune which is basically like studying for uni since the title is a Shakespeare quote, zing!”
But here I am, many addresses, story arcs, jobs, sub-plots, identities, hair colours, recipes and one cookbook later. And this blog is still one of the most important things in my life, and it’s still going. I think that’s impressive, yeah? Much as I feel vaguely cringey occasionally looking back at my old blog posts, I mean, it’s not like I’m that amazing now at being not-cringey. If anything, it wouldn’t hurt to try and harness that fresh-faced 2007-level of energy.
But, today is not that day. Earlier this week I thought it would be cool to make myself an enormous birthday cake to be all “yay hungryandfrozen!” but instead I went to work and then went out dancing and then slept for most of the next day in an embarrassingly unproductive off-brand manner and suddenly it was several days later, so instead all you’re getting is my introspective introspection and this potato salad.
Fortunately, it’s an incredible potato salad.
For all that Nigella gets framed as someone who is wantonly extravagant (and frankly I would be too if I had her millions) if you dig around she has so many recipes that are extremely accessible to the average living-paycheck-to-paycheck human. Which is why I was able to throw myself into her cookbooks as a ludicrously broke student many years ago – although admittedly it’s because I would often buy, say, pomegranates or dried porcini while sticking bits of cardboard in the bottom of my shoes to block the holes in the soles and tying the broken shoelaces together instead of buying more – and in hindsight, I frankly don’t know why on earth buying new shoelaces seemed like such a personal sacrifice but I guess it explains something about who I am as a person.
Within her excellent and fairly underrated book Forever Summer, I found a recipe that perfectly straddled my particular needs on a particular day: cheap enough to make on Payday Eve, and fulfilling my bid to eat a vegetable occasionally.
baked potato salad
this is how I made Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her book Forever Summer.
three medium-to-large floury potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
Set your oven to 200C/400F and give the potatoes a quick stab with a fork or other stabbing implement. Wrap them snugly in tinfoil and throw them in the oven for an hour or so until a sharp knife slides right into them without the slightest hint of resistance.
Carefully unwrap the potatoes and half them lengthwise, and allow them to cool just enough that they’re not entirely resembling the surface of the sun. Use a spoon to scrape out the soft baked potato flesh from the skins, and pile it all onto a large flat plate. That is all the hard work done: now just drizzle over as much olive oil as you please, squeeze lemon juice over, scatter with salt and sumac and finally adorn it all with parsley leaves. This is nicest when it’s right at room temperature but eat it how and when you choose.
Meanwhile, because the universe is occasionally bountiful, you can also turn the oven to grill, put grated cheese in the cavities of the remaining scraped-out potato skins, and grill them till it’s all bubblingly melted and the skins are crunchy and everything is good.
Sumac is a spice that is similar to pomegranate and tamarind in that it imparts a fresh, punchy sourness along with gorgeous colour – so if you don’t have any on you and are unlikely to find some anytime soon, consider just blanketing this with tendrils of lemon zest. Sometimes recipes can seem almost too simple, as though you have to explain them contritely to whoever you’re serving them to in case they’re like “wait so is this just a potato on a plate or what” but simplicity of this salad is what makes it so perfect. The olive oil sinks into the crumbled, tender potato, the parsley gives a slight stab of peppery leafiness, the sumac and lemon juice subtly yet tartly liven everything up, and it really doesn’t matter how much of any particular ingredient you add. I guess this technically serves a few people but I ate the entire thing all at once; if you want more just add more ingredients, silly.
Aside from achieving eight years of being in a relationship with this blog, the only other real significant things that have happened recently are: I finally finished watching every last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Kate and became an emotional unfilled brandy snap as a result (that is; hollow and fragile and fairly outdated); and I dyed my hair bright red. My parents also visited Wellington for the first time in ages and I was able to show them around my stomping grounds (that is, work) and it was lovely to spend time with them. Unfortunately they didn’t bring the cats along on the visit, but I won’t hold it against them.
So I didn’t manage to get my act together to celebrate my blog’s birthday in a suitably jaunty manner, but I think it will be okay. I mean, look how far I’ve come since this photo I posted here eight years ago. I still have that plate, and for some reason that year our flat got sent a LOT of Scientology literature and pamphlets, which is what it’s sitting next to. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this though, whether for years and years or merely for regretful minutes – I appreciate every set of eyeballs, every kind email I’ve got, everyone who has lived through my life along with me. As I said in my very first blog post, “what I’ve been cooking and what I’ve been up to lately are often the same thing”. Bring on six seasons and a movie.
title from: The Veronicas’ mercilessly sad song In Another Life. There’s actually a bit where you hear an audible sniffle (followed by me audibly breaking down)
Millencolin, Penguins and Polar Bears. I heard this song for the first time in forever at Kim’s goth-themed birthday party recently and have been listening to it nonstop ever since. It contains many of my kryptonites: a gratuitously adorable song title, angst, and a lead singer who sounds like they’ve got a blocked nose.
Roxette, She’s Got The Look. Oh my gosh, this SONG. It came on the other day when I was out dancing and I hadn’t heard it in actual years and it slays me, all that 80s-ness and minor keys and frantic-ness.
Tom Cruise, Dead or Alive. I mean. I rewatched Rock of Ages with Kim recently and was so irritated at how hot he is in this. Also Bon Jovi is another of my many kryptonites, so. But seriously, just watch this and then deal with your feelings.
next time: maybe a better-late-than-never cake?