This is Bear.
Bear is my oldest friend, drinking companion, boogie partner and as of this year, my housemate – so called ‘Bear’ as when he was little, his parents would call him Guy Bear (Guy being his official name); I in return am called Squeak, as Pip Squeak was the nickname given to me by my parents. Since we were both in nappies we’ve lived just down the road from each other, brought together by our parents’ friendship; it was only by extremely lucky coincidence that we wound up going to the same uni and now, unexpectedly, living in the same house.
Now, I’m an only child and so have had no real previous experience with living with boys – I say ‘real’ because technically I’ve lived with dad for the entirety of my life, but dad’s the kind of man that volunteers to do the hoovering and takes the greatest pleasure from cleaning the oven and mowing the lawn. Not so much a boy/man as a housekeeper. This new experience has thus left me with a number of observations on the habits of boys.
- There’s shit everywhere. Not literal shit (that I’m aware of), just mess all around me. Pairs of pants on the sofa, the kitchen floor, the stairs, my doorknob. Why, I have no clue. But I’ve started to retaliate by putting my bras in obscure places around the house – it doesn’t have the desired effect.
- Tiny hairs on, in and around the sink.
- ‘I will wash it up – I’m just leaving it in the sink overnight to soak’. ‘To soak’ – the shittiest excuse for not washing up, as it usually results in either me or Lucia (the only other female of the household) washing the offending pans up the next morning whilst bitching to each other about every other annoying habit we’ve started to notice.
- Contact lense cases complete with the fluid inside, and sometimes even the contact lenses themselves, are left discarded around the house like cartridge cases in a warzone. As I’m writing, I know for a fact that there are two contact lense cases sitting on the mantlepiece, one outside on the patio, one on the cistern of the toilet and one pair of lenses sat drying out on the sink (these have been there for a good 4 or 5 days) – this particularly enrages my housemate and best friend, Alex, and I.
In spite of all this (and more than I’ll refrain from mentioning at the risk of sounding ‘just like mum’, which I’m accused of if ever I bring up any of the above observations), I absolutely 100% completely adore living with my house of 4. This house feels more like a home than I thought possible, and the past month has been the most relaxed and content that I’ve been probably in years.
Tonight I decided to cook for Bear after a long, semi-hard day of not-very-hard work (although my drama rehearsal did consist of some very intense interpretive/’instinctive’ dance to Britney’s ‘Work Bitch’). Credit goes to Bear for successfully peeling and chopping the parsnips for my chicken in pinot noir with cherries and thyme, accompanied by creamed parsnips and greens – you did a marvellous job, Bear, as always. Here’s the recipe – adapted slightly from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand, which is now one of my favourite cookbooks despite this being one of the only 2 recipes I’ve tried from it so far. Being a student I’m reluctant to buy any meat other than chicken due to cost and the versatility of the meat, so I’m keen to try out a bunch of these recipes on the rest of the house.
Chicken in pinot noir and cherries, served with creamed parsnips and greens (served 3-4)
For the chicken:
4 chicken legs (thigh attached), or 6-8 chicken thighs
Virgin olive oil
8-10 shallots – I used echalion shallots
400ml pinot noir
200ml chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
1-2 tbsp cherry conserve
30g dried cherries
For the parsnips:
2-3 large parsnips, chopped into large chunks
A knob of butter
A dash of almond milk (maybe about 2 tbsp?)
Spinach, or any other greens
- Pour the pinot noir into a saucepan and heat on medium – reduce this until there’s around 200ml left.
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Once hot, add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove the chicken once browned and add the shallots and garlic, deglazing the pan as you cook them.
- Once the shallots are soft and beginning to go brown, add the chicken again along with any juices collected, followed by the dried cherries, red wine, chicken stock, and thyme. Season well and add 1 or 2 tbsp cherry conserve depending on how sweet you want the jus – I used a little more than a tbsp.
- Reduce this on medium for around 30 minutes, or until the jus has reduced to about half the volume. It shouldn’t need thickening – it should be thicker than a stock but runnier than a gravy.
- Whilst the chicken is bubbling, boil the parsnips until tender. Drain, add the butter and blend with a stick blender. Add a dash of almond milk at a time as you are going until the parsnips reach the consistency of a creamy mash. Season well.
- Serve the mash and the chicken with plenty of jus, and some steamed greens or wilted spinach.
Considering the meal for 4 happily served the 2 of us tonight, and by the satisfied look on Bear’s face, I’m guessing this was a success (despite, again, the shitty quality of the photos – I am planning on getting a real camera some time soon).
p.s. In case you haven’t noticed yet, the only thing missing from our snug little home is a dining table of any sort – hence why the majority of my food has been photographed on the sofa, on my lap, on the floor or in my bed. It all ends up in my mouth anyway.