Hoogerheide, Netherlands, January 22, 2006
This week I've learned a bit of English cooking. Three out of the five residents (Canadian Dave went home) hail from Great Britain and are keen on sharing their culinary traditions.
To celebrate the mingling of cultures we invited Harry, Amelia, and Joscelin over for a proper English dinner. Dinner or tea (the English term) started with a trip to the grocery store to stock up on potatoes and winter root veggies. The meal plan was to have cheese on toast, followed by cottage pie finishing off with trifle. For those that don't know what cottage pie or trifle is (like myself before this week) here's the lowdown on English peasant food. Cottage pie is browned ground meat and onions with beef stock, carrots, parsnips, and turnips topped with mashed potatoes and baked. I made my own pie without beef or beef stock. It had carrots, onions, parsnips, turnips, mushrooms, peas, and hot peppers (a deviation from traditionally bland meals) topped with mashed potatoes. Trifle is a beautiful layered dessert that will haunt my dreams for years to come. You start with sponge cake (500g) on the bottom of large bowl, dump a can of fruit cocktail (1 litre) on top mixed with red liquid jello (2 litres). This is chilled until set than layered with vanilla pudding (2 litres) and whipped cream (1 litre). The whipped cream is decorated with multicolored sprinkles and one maraschino cherry.
The grocery store didn't have flavoured jello so we settled for fruit juice and gelatin. Cherries were only available in large tubs so we skipped those. Helen started the trifle Monday night so the jello had time to set. Tuesday afternoon we started on the rest of the meal, beginning with peeling 10 lbs of potatoes while watching TV. The stove here has a few quirks. It is incapable of boiling large pots of water. Even if you put boiling water into the pot it stops boiling and will never achieve that state again. The potatoes went into three separate pots. Harry and Ameila showed up as the pies went into the oven. The cheese on toast is just that, cheese on bread popped into the broiler until it bubbles - top with black pepper and soy sauce or ketchup. We had intended to server Guiness with the meal but Keirin forgot to buy any and so we had to settle for wine instead. The pies were delicious, even though the veggies in mine were closer to fresh than overdone. Dessert was delicious - I thought it would be overly sweet but was actually quite enjoyable. The trifle's tremendous size provided several nights of leftovers.
Tuesday morning a reporter and photographer from Gazet von Antwerpen drove to Tielt Winge to interview me. I spoke with someone from the Gazet before the race in Lievin and expected to be interviewed over the phone. Guy, the reporter, had seen my pleas for sponsorship money on Cyclingnews, was intrigued and made the drive to Tielt. The photographer arrived first and snapped several photos of me and my bike. Then I chatted with Guy for well over an hour about racing at home, racing in Belgium, the pink wig, and the origins of Barbarella. The most exciting part or this story came on Friday morning when the interview was published. My story was deemed interesting enough for an entire page complete with colour pictures!
The next morning one of my worst fears came true; I woke up with a fever. This was almost to be expected as three out of the five residents here are currently sick. I spent the entirety of Wednesday moping around watching TV and eating vitamin C when I could have been checking out the world's course in Zeddam. Getting sick before an important race can really mess with your mindset. I just had to keep reminding myself that missing a day of riding doesn't affect my overall form. Thursday turned out much much better as the fever seemed to be gone. Helen and I practiced a bit of cross in a nearby field and hiding behind a municipal building I found a Smurf house. Deep in my dim childhood cartoon memories I seem to remember Smurf's living in France - it seems that they live here too! This past weekend the world cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands - details from that adventure will follow.