December the 16th is, in my opinion, one of the most auspicious days of the year; without it, my life would be immeasurably poorer. The reason it’s such a happy day is because it’s the birthday of three (three!) of my favourite people. I know it’s not the done thing to choose favourites but let’s face it, we all do, right? And the favouritest of them all, is the one beginning with F. Also, the word “favourite” is beginning to look as if I spelt it wrong so I’ll stop using it now. Also, it would be weird if the month of December went straight from the 15th to the 17th, don’t you think?
Without the events that unfolded on the 16th of December a number of years ago there wouldn’t have been anyone to tell me about Duvetwochen, an Austrian celebration of the end of winter whereupon all the people of the village bring their duvets to the market square and throw them in a pile. The most elderly are then invited to choose a new duvet followed by the next eldest, and the next and so on. It is possible I have heard, to buy key-rings with tiny duvets attached to them as a memento of this, frankly odd, festival. No-one ever mentioned what happens if two people are born at the same time but I like to imagine that they have it out, right there on the street, and the last one standing is the first to choose.
Had the 16th of December been skipped that year, there’d have been no-one to inform me of the importance of consuming a boiled egg on the first day of snow (the famed Snow Egg) which is supposed to give one strength for the impending
doom, I mean winter.
No 16th of December, none of these, the most imaginative of my numerous nicknames: Sarakue, Sayakue, The Hashbot, Shiksenbaby, Monkey Lady and The Bogbot.
Without the 16th of December I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet the person with whom I’ve spent many of my happiest hours.
So, December 16th, thank you for existing. You are a special day. A great day.
What’s your favourite day of the year?
Fettucine with Guanciale and Courgette Flowers for One
Guanciale is dry-cured pork cheek. You could use bacon or speck, or for a vegetarian version use olive oil instead of the rendered fat and finish with blue cheese instead. Needless to say, since this is a very simple dish, the quality of the ingredients is paramount.
120 grams fettuccine
2 small cloves garlic, sliced
1 slice guanciale, diced
3 courgette flowers, halved
A baby courgette, sliced
Handful of parsley or basil, minced
Bring 1.5 litres of water to a rolling boil and salt until it tastes as salty as seawater.
Meanwhile, put the diced guanciale in a cold pan and turn heat on to medium. Allow the fat to render from the meat.
When the fat has rendered, add the garlic and courgette and fry gently and add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente.
When the pasta is done, drain it, and add the courgette flowers to the pan with the guanciale, garlic and courgette and fry for a minute until just wilted.
Toss the sauce and parsley through the drained pasta in the pan and serve with parmesan and lashings of black pepper.