Problem is, I'm not a sensible cook. I've seen one too many shows where chefs measure seasoning and spice in handfuls rather than genteel turns of a grinder. What I always forget is that they're catering for a small army when they prepare television dishes, whereas I'm catering for three; two of whom don't really like spicy food that singes as you swallow. As a result, my chilli con carne is enjoyed by me and tolerated by Vanessa & Henry. Either that or I dumb down the seasoning, they love it and I'm left wondering why I bothered making a bolognese sauce with added kidney beans.
So to get back to the point, I have a birdseye chilli plant that produces around 80 chillis a season and a family whose idea of spicy is a KFC Zinger Burger. Those two don't make healthy bedfellows and I cope with this chilli mountain by making chilli jam (which I always make with two capsicums too few and 200 chillis too many, it seems - double Scorchio and an extra Chrissie Waddle for good measure). I also give a whole heap of the things away; to my colleague Paul (who makes chilli jam much more successfully than I manage, the bastard) and our neighbours, Brian and Maria (who like their spicy food). The end result is that I really grow chillis for the simple pleasure of growing them, watching them mature and then cropping the bush and drooling over my haul before I start wondering how I can use them all.
Despite this chilli glut, I went and bought another chilli plant earlier this year. It was meant to produce the longer, curved kind of chillis and I planted it and waited for it to yield results. Months passed, the weather turned colder and more rainy and nothing happened. Then winter gave way to spring and the temperatures began to rise. I noticed that my new chilli plant was beginning to get buds and watched as it began to produce chillis, much earlier in the season than my birdseye plant. Before I knew it, I had a good handful of green chillis so I harvested them and tentatively added one to a pasta dish I made yesterday. Then, after having chopped it up, I licked my fingers to see whether my tongue would swell to twice its normal size in an inferno of pain. There was heat, sure, but nothing quite as intense as the birdseye chillis. All in all, I think I may have found a chilli that I can use in meals and which Vanessa & Henry will enjoy; one that will augment a meal rather than roll through it with all the subtlety of a panzer convoy entering the Rhineland. I was so pleased that I took a picture just so that you could share the moment. What makes me even more excited is that this first crop is just the start of the season. By the end of it, we should have more chillis than we know what to do with. Or to put it another way, Brian & Maria will have more chillis than they know what to do with.
In other news, I attended Henry's final familiarisation day at Merewether High School yesterday. The school summer holidays are coming up and then when the schools return, Henry starts high school. I have to say that I was really impressed with Merewether from what I saw. I think - and hope - that it will serve Henry well. Vanessa & I even signed up for the parents & caregivers association's gardening team. They get together and look after the school's gardens. From what I gather it's a project which is relatively new and which still has work to do rather than just maintain the existing garden beds. I'm looking forward to it. If nothing else, I might be able to hawk some spare chillis off on the other volunteers.
Because I went to Merewether yesterday, I wasn't able to go to Henry's Celebration Day at his school today. His current school has Celebration Day towards the end of every academic year. It's a way to say goodbye to the outgoing year six kids and tell everyone which of the current year five kids will form the student executive for the next school year. I went to last year's Celebration Day when Henry was made a prefect and really enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately I had to be at work today so I wasn't able to attend, but Vanessa and Steve and Jacky went along to support Henry. He didn't win any accolades this year but everyone seemed to have a good time regardless.
In closing for now, here's a picture of Vanessa & Henry taken today. Henry might not have won any school prize this year, but he can take comfort from the fact that he's already taller than his mother and will most likely outstrip me for height by the time he's 13. Still, I can eat chillis and he can't - who's laughing now, lanky boy?