Monday, 30 May 2011

Squats Entertainment

Sunshine! We've seen incredibly little of it this month, and May is usually the best month for weather in the north-west Highlands. Instead we've had twice the usual rainfall and what feels like a never ending cycle of storms. One of the few moments we were able to make it out of the house this weekend we spent rebuilding the blown-over 'trellis' netting for the beans to grow up. The beans don't look too keen in any case.

Never mind. I want to discuss party food. My wife managed to get hold of some Squat lobsters ('squatties' or 'squats' as we call them) for the party. This was no mean feat given that some poor soul had to take his boat out in decidedly non-clement weather specifically to get them! I'm very grateful, anyway, because they were delicious. I prefer squatties to prawns - they have a meatier texture and are, in flavour, more like lobster than prawn. You might assume this, given the name, but they are not really lobsters at all and are more closely related to certain types of crab. The variety we mostly get here - the Long-clawed Squat Lobster Munida rugosa - definitely has the look of a big unhoused hermit crab.

Talking of crab-like things, one of my more unusual gifts was a miniature bottle of vodka with a scorpion in it. The text on the bottle informs us (reassuringly) that it's a 'farmed scorpion' and quite edible. Now that would be a job-title to have - scorpion farmer. I'll be quite happy to chow down on the scorpion. I have no particular fear of eating insects and I find it odd that we are happy to eat insect-like creatures from the deep but turn up our noses when they come from the land.

We also had some fantastic meat and cheese at the party. My wife ordered up a Spanish Salchichon (cured sausage) and a whole (one kilo weight) Manchego cheese. If you've never tried Manchego I heartily recommend getting hold of some and eating it with the traditional Membrillo quince jelly. I should have tried some with the orange tequila jellies my brother had made - could have been an interesting combination.

The enormous cake, bagpiped in by my nephew, went down well, although I singularly failed to get the joke intrinsic to the cake (something to do with fork handles and four candles). Then there was the brain: my wife and friends had made a thick raspberry-flavoured jelly custard and set it into a mold to form a neat cerebral hemisphere. It was hilarious to see the reactions as guests were handed wobbling dollops of simulated cortex on black paper plates. The kids didn't bat an eyelid - they're right at home with gruesome-looking food.

Another blog post and I still didn't really fit it all in. This is a great way of spinning out the birthday fun! I really do believe in making the most of those precious gatherings with family and friends. I have a large family and it's not easy for us all to get together. When we do manage it, in the good times, I think we make a pretty good job of celebrating in style with food, drink and music.

I'll leave you with that thought and with this beautiful sunrise photo taken by my wife as we meandered home after the party. I think it's a testament to her keen eye and steady hand that I only had to straighten it by 3.5 degrees in Photoshop.

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