Virginia Barton

25 January 2019: Intruders, part 2


25 January 2019


I got somewhat carried away with mice last time I wrote about intruders in the kitchen. What I actually meant to write about were the number of weird items brought in by my thoughtful family, possibly for myself or more likely for them when they visit, which they frequently and kindly do.

I have never in my life had 13 different kinds of tea and coffee in the flat. I had no idea they even existed, let alone might find a lodging with me. There are cereals galore and several types of porridge oats. There are milks in the fridge from things I never knew could be milked; my pint of semi-skimmed looks boring – worse, cheap.


In the cupboard there are pulses to set your pulse racing (sorry). On the whole I dislike pulses unless cooked to a tasteless mush, and my digestion most certainly objects to them. There are multi-coloured lentils, bullet chick peas, garbanzo beans, fava, kidney, pinto and borlotti. The very sight of them makes me clutch my middle.

And what can quinoa be? Highly dangerous I would say – let alone soya.

Good old Heinz baked beans, yes; just a few on toast.


The fruit bowl has been transformed into a profusion of exotica: ropes of run-of-the-mill garlic, a sort of orris root of ginger, multi-coloured netted chillies and several things I don’t recognize, well-travelled though I think am. Where have the jugs of fresh herbs come from and for whom are they intended, I wonder?

The window sill is lined with dill, coriander, mint, several parsleys and thyme. They smell marvellous anyway. (My herbs are either conveniently dried — and possibly out of date — or wilt in the door of the fridge, forgotten.)


Nervously I open the freezer. Ha! More familiar ground. The next generation cooks fresh, and the one after takes away, as far as I can tell.

So my fish fingers are still there, a few sausages, chicken bits and stand-by ready-mades for old persons.


I love my children and grand-children and am fascinated by their habits. They are huge. Much taller and bulkier than ever we were. They have magnificent teeth, silky hair and huge feet.

We were brought up during the second War on occasional shepherd’s pie, fried Spam and corned beef. Heaps of potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

I, the tall silent one of four sisters, am 5 foot 1 ½ inches. I won’t go on about the hair, teeth and feet.





  • Dr J says on: January 25, 2019 at 2:24 am


    Ginny, I’m old enough to remember that all you needed in the cupboard was a jar of Nescafé Gold Blend freeze-dried coffee and your guests were happy as clams. That would not past muster today!

    • Ginny says on: January 25, 2019 at 2:15 pm


      I am tempted to say what’s a clam, Dr J? But I do know it’s a shell fish even if I have never eaten one.

      As for Nescafe, one asks (hoping your guest will say of course not), “Do you mind Instant?”

  • Mary says on: January 25, 2019 at 7:36 am


    Speaking as one from the (upper end of) middle age, I’m going to defend the lentil: delicate, orange (my favourite colour), so easy to cook — as easy as most sausages — so delicious. I make Dahl once a week, it’s a revelation.

    And so cheap! (would have been a perfect wartime staple)

    Embrace the lentil, Ginny (and the spices and herbs that accompany)! It’s never too late.

    • Ginny says on: January 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm


      Now that you mention the war, Mary, I do remember a sort of thin pale yellow soup called lentil, of a vague saltiness with a bay leaf in it. Can it have been ham and lentil soup? I don’t remember any ham though, not even a shard.

      Your Dahl sounds good.

  • Nadine says on: January 25, 2019 at 8:33 am


    I loved this Commonplace about your kitchen and its contents and the eating habits of your children and grandchildren. A friend of ours calls all the new pulses and beans the sort of thing he would feed to his pheasants.

    It made me laugh a lot. Better than mice!

    • Ginny says on: January 25, 2019 at 3:32 pm


      This will amuse you, Nadine. Today being Burns Night (and BH’s 90th birthday) we had haggis, of course. One of the party opted for vegetarian haggis, a contradiction in terms surely. Its contents your friend’s pheasants would have pounced on! Every kind of seed and oat you can imagine. We carnivores all tried a little and it was delicious!

      Next year, a vegan haggis.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(c) All Rights Reserved. Site Designed by Magtype CR