Sam is on the mend, though still so fragile, poor mite - and so I had 20 minutes to myself this morning while my husband looked after both children downstairs.
Surfacing after a baby's illness, (your ass entirely belongs to them as long as they are unwell), always reminds me of when I was out in Namibia with Raleigh International and every three weeks we would come back to base camp after being out on expedition.
You would unpick your hair from whatever hideous collection of clips, bands and sticks were holding it together and try and make sense of it with a hairbrush. You got actually clean with an actual long shower - with shampoo!! - in the showerblock. You dealt with neglected areas of your body - your toenails, fingernails, eyebrows, underarms. You put on clean clothes and weighed up whether or not to try to get the clothes you had been wearing for three weeks clean or to just burn them on the nearest campfire.
We would all unpack our bags and lay them out on groundsheets "Kit explosion!" we would all shout as karabiners and water steriliser sachets and walking socks and sunglasses went everywhere. I was reminded of that as I took everything out of the bag I had hastily grabbed in my flight to the Royal Free on Friday. I relocated my usual handbag and sourced from various corners of the house my wallet, my keys, lip balm, hand cream and put it in its usual spot by the front door.
A thing I did during this illness was to assiduously use hand cream. When your child is unwell an awful lot of hand washing goes on for one reason or another and your hands take the hit badly. I also have the regrettable and pretty awful habit of cuticle-picking. Pretty much at all times unless I am typing, I am harassing my cuticles. My husband hates is more than anything else in the whole world and thinks if I love them then I should stop. I tell him that it is compulsive, pathological - he says that I am just not trying hard enough. If we ever get divorced I am confident that he will cite it as unreasonable behaviour.
Anyway so if my hands actually get dry and there are bits of snaggly hangnail to actually get hold of then I can, within about 30 minutes or so, if I am anxious enough, reduce a finger or a whole hand to a bleeding, painful mess. A well-moisturised hand is harder to pick at but when there is an ill child somewhere I am likely to skip the hand moisturising part because I just can't be bothered. Anyway this time I made sure there was a pot of moisturiser next to every sink and it made a real difference to the post-illness clear-up I tell you.
I suppose I was able to focus on this act and do it because I was less stressed by this illness than I have been about previous ones of Kitty's. It is not that I am less anxious and concerned about Sam than I am about Kitty - it's that I am so much less anxious and concerned about myself. I have given up fearing for my own sanity, my own free time, my own sleep, because there is no point.
The next thing I do is gingerly open the fridge and assess quite how big a shop I'm going to have to do to re-stock its ravaged contents.
My new butcher is closed on Mondays, so I can't have the steak tartare tonight that I was thinking about having all weekend. But I can tell you about the sweetbreads we had the other week, which were terrific although I understand that this is useless to anyone who doesn't live near a really good butcher.
I have written about sweetbreads before, but it was a long time ago and they are worth mentioning again. If you feel really squeamish about offal then I'm not going to force you to have these but to anyone inexperienced but curious, they don't taste offall-y at all. They are very creamy and luxurious and it is good to eat the whole animal, not choice cuts - are you with me? (Though I draw the line at kidney.)
Lamb sweetbreads with a parsley salad
Some lamb sweetbreads
salt and pepper
large bunch parsley
a very small onion or shallot
1 Rinse the sweetbreads and put them in a pan of cold, unsalted water, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Set aside and leave to cool. Once they are cool enough to handle you can cut any very big sweetbreads in half if you want
2 put about four tablespoons of flour in a bowl and season heavily with salt and pepper then dust the sweetbreads in the flour and set aside
3 heat about 6-7 tablespoons of flavourless oil in a frying pan and get it nice and hot then fry off the sweetbreads for about five minutes (use a timer) until they are golden brown. you don't have to worry about undercooking these as they have already been cooked in the hot water
4 For the parsley salad, chop up the parsley finely with the capers and a small amount of onion - add lemon juice, salt and pepper
5 This is also nice with a thin, crisp slice of sourdough toast