WAYS WITH THE HUMBLE CUCUMBER
Things have not been as good as they might on the domestic harmony front ever since the accursèd boar broke into and laid waste the Wife’s tobacco patch. This was one of that class of cataclysm that is deemed, for some unfathomable reason, to be my fault. I managed to save a few of the plants though, and they are hanging now, attractively arrayed, beneath the tin roof on the patio. It’s a shame; the tobacco harvest would have been good.
The tomatoes on the other hand have been poor this year – all sorts of blemishes and diseases and absolutely no flavour… and a summer without tomatoes is no summer at all. I shall let you into a secret: the gazpacho that featured in the picture that headed my last article came from a box. The first time that I have been reduced to such a scurvy shift in twenty five years… and the worst thing about it is that it was delicious. And when I think of the hours that I spend every week in the summer gathering fresh vegetables and herbs and then pounding the daylights out of them in the pestle and mortar… well, one wonders. It was cheap, too.
There’s usually some sort of compensation though, and this year it was cucumbers. We had a prodigious crop, cucumbers coming out of our ear’oles. But there’s only so much you can do with a cucumber: tzatziki, cucumber soup, cucumber stir-fry, cucumber sorbet… As summer drew to a close we never wanted to see another cucumber, but still they came, like beached green zeppelins all over the vegetable patch.
We flew to England last week for a family affair in the West Country. We checked our bag in; it weighed twenty two kilos.
‘You’ll have to pay extra,’ said the girl on the desk.
‘What’s in the bag?’ I asked the Wife; packing is her department.
‘Cucumbers,’ she said.
‘Cucumbers?!’ I cried, aghast. ‘Why on earth are we taking cucumbers on a plane?’
‘Presents for people; it’s a good way of getting rid of them.’
‘Will you be paying the extra at all? It’s fifty Euros,’ said the girl, getting a little tetchy now, as there was a big queue behind us.
‘Not bloody likely!’ I said. ‘Fifty Euros for a couple of kilos of cucumbers? I’ll put them in the hand baggage.’
‘Cucumbers are not allowed in the cabin,’ said the girl, getting officious.
This of course is absurd. Whoever heard of anyone hijacking a plane with a cucumber? But it wasn’t her fault and besides, she had a nice smile, so I offered them to her.
‘We’re not allowed to accept gifts from passengers.’
I wasn’t going to dump them in the bin, so I tried Starbucks and the other purveyors of vile coffee. Predictably enough they were not interested; after all, what would a coffee-shop want with a cucumber?
I wandered the concourse for a time in search of a home for the fruit (yes, fruit) but to no avail. A man at an airport brandishing cucumbers seems to invite only suspicion and, indeed, contumely.