Monday, January 28, 2008

Something not right

On Saturday night I made my famous* prawn risotto for supper. Nothing earth-shattering about that; it's a recipe I cook maybe once every couple of months. Risotto is one of those great ways of using up leftovers, but sometimes it's nice to do something from scratch.

I like prawn risotto. I like pea and ham risotto, and chicken risotto. I can't be doing with mushrooms though. They make me sick.** But on Saturday there was a problem quite unrelated to fungi.

I started to feel a little nauseous as the rice was bubbling away in the stock; put it down to the fumes coming from our faulty chimney, even though I was in the kitchen and so not breathing them. I've made the recipe many times before,*** so I didn't have to think too hard about what I was doing: cook the onion and garlic in butter until soft but not brown; add the rice and get it nice and coated; bung in a slug of wine; follow up with good chicken stock. There's a touch of chilli in there, and some lemon zest and juice to tickle things up. Parmesan and pepper, of course, and then finally the prawns get about four minutes - just enough time to warm the plates in the microwave but not so long that they go all rubbery.

All this I did on Saturday evening, but as the meal came together, I realised that I couldn't bring myself to taste it. The appetite that had been building since lunchtime disappeared and a tight little headache began to grow in my forehead, reaching down into my sinuses every so often to give them a tweak.

Still, food is food, and The Horse Doctor was hungry even if I, mysteriously, was not. So I served up two platesful and settled down to eat. She scoffed hers, with encouraging noises of appreciation. I toyed with mine, managed a couple of bites, and then had to stop. It was making me physically ill. If I wasn't careful it would all come straight back up again.

Curiously, the last time I made risotto, about three weeks ago and with some leftover chicken, I'd also been unable to finish it all. At the time I put it down to the lurgy, then in full swing. But with hindsight, I can see the exact same symptoms hiding behind my general feeling of unwellness even then.

I make my own chicken stock, so it's possible that I've had a bad batch. But I taste the stock as it's cooking, and it doesn't make me feel sick. And besides, the last two risottos were made from stock from two different chickens. As I type this blog post, the simple thought of Saturday's meal is enough to get that little headache working away between my eyes, that unsettled feeling churning in my stomach. My body isn't being
subtle at all; it's screaming: 'No risotto! Get away from the arborio rice! Stand clear of the prawns!'

Many, many years ago, when I was still in short trousers (and much shorter than I am today) I had an unfortunate experience with some mature cheddar cheese.**** For a long time afterwards, the smell of cheddar was enough to make me leave the room, and even thinking about it could bring that familiar nauseous headache and churning gut sensation.

But here's the odd thing: I've never had a bad experience with risotto. Not recently and not in the past. Unless, of course, it was such a bad experience that my brain has erased all memory of it. For some unfathomable reason I've just gone violently off what was once one of my favourite dishes.

Which is a pain, because there's about two kilos of Arborio rice in the cupboard. Anyone got any other recipe ideas?

* among those who know of it
** people often ask me whether all mushrooms make me sick or just particular varieties. To which I invariably answer: 'I've not really tried experimenting.' I mean, would you try eating something on the off chance that it might not make you projectile vomit when the overwhelming evidence to date is that it will?
*** most memorably (oddly enough) about a year ago, when I was dog-sitting in Fife and Mr Stuart had come to stay. That time we were both on our second Martini before I even began cooking, but it was a good meal nonetheless.
**** the sort of experience best left to the imagination. I lost a stone in weight, which for a young lad is a big deal.

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Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

Mmm, risotto. We're having that for tea tonight. Chicken and asparagus, with lemon zest and stringy chunks of melting Edam.

If you don't want all that Arborio rice, you can always make your own greetings cards with lots of PVA glue, rice and glitter*.

*Not Garry though, as that would be sick.

January 29, 2008 9:48 am  

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