Mussels, Hustles and Bustles

Mussel and Fennel Soup 

Yesterday was a pleasant day. It didn't rain, the spouse brought me breakfast in bed (despite his having been out on a "mini-tear" the night before) and we weren't in a rush to get anything done. After I observed last Wednesday that I hadn't made much progress through the fish section of The Soup Book, I decided to have another go. I checked with the two offspring that they would both eat mussels and asked the spouse to see if his favourite fish shop had any while he was out doing the shopping. Obviously, they had otherwise I'd be writing about a completely different soup today.

So, the ingredients for my forty-ninth soup included mussels, dry white wine (I used Sancerre), tomatoes, leek, parsley, thyme, a bay leaf, fennel, orange peel, potato and saffron. The advice from the fish monger (not the same as the one I spoke to earlier in the week) was to put the mussels in a bowl and cover them with a plate. I did this and before putting the bowl out in the spare fridge, I lifted the plate and the smell of low tide assailed my nostrils! The plan was to have the soup for dinner at around 6pm, and the spouse would help me to clean and de-beard the mussels in advance of the "prep" stage.

Minnie's mussels before de-bearding

Making the most of the good weather and the absence of appointments, the spouse, the younger offspring and I caught the bus into town and went to view paintings ahead of an auction. Still at a leisurely pace, we came home and I went out to do some tidying up in the garden (a few of my meagre collection of plants had been crushed by the snow last December). I even climbed up on the flat roof to clear out leaves and moss from the gutters. Then it was time to start on the mussels. I checked on line and found instructions on The Kitchn. The spouse offered to do the job for me, so I let him. Just as he was finishing up, the phone rang. It was the older offspring ringing to say he'd been injured while playing rugby. We waited for him to come home, then the poor spouse brought him off to a clinic for assessment and treatment.

So, somewhat behind schedule, I prepared the soup when I got the signal from the spouse that he and the offspring were on their way home. A couple of hundred Euros poorer, we sat down to dinner. Everyone enjoyed the soup. It was quite tangy, slightly bitter, which was probably due to the fennel, orange peel and saffron. It's on my list of soups to make again when I have completed this project, i.e., cooking all the soups in The Soup Book.

Minnie's mussels, de-bearded and cooked in wine.

Another Swarm of Bee-Related Items

In my last blog (16th Feb, 2011) I wrote about how I had just started reading Edmund de Waal's biography "The Hare with the Amber Eyes." I came across a second bee/honey refererence: "I'm standing outside Leon's outpost on a honey-coloured hill in the 8th arrondissement" (p25). I'm really enjoying this book, partly because it comes close upon my recent trip to Japan, but partly because I looked up what netsuke are and the pictures and de Waal's descriptions of them make me want to see them, hold them, examine them, turn them over in my hand ... I searched for pictures of netsukes with bees. Click on this link to see an ivory netsuke rose with bee. During my search I came across a bee and honeycomb doorknob by Martin Pierce, photos of bees and bee jewellery and charms, information about the beehive mark on Bohemian porcelain, and a beehive jewellery pincushion.

I also came across this quote from the Bible: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs, 16:24). I chose this version (from the King James Bible) because the address at church this morning was about the development of the King James Bible. This version was published 400 years ago (one of the women in my book group has been keen to read this for one of our meetings). Coincidentally, there was a quote from Psalms 19: 10 included in the readings: "More to be desired are they [God's words?] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Here endeth the blog.


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