Byronic potatoes

I dedicate my lunch today to Lord Byron.

One look at the photo above, and you may think that is an insult – either to Lord Byron or to the carapau assado, a typical Portuguese dish, depending on your opinions regarding either or both.

Before I explain, and since I am talking about Byron, I should quickly mention that at about fourteen I fell in love with a girl whom I never knew because on the strength of her beautiful handwriting, and the thick-nibbed fountain pen with which she had written the following in the back of a school textbook:

If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

It is from Byron’s the short lyric poem, When We Two Parted. It is said that ignorance is bliss, and so it was for me. It was only years later that my enthusiasm for Lord Byron was somewhat besmirched by the less savoury aspects of the poet’s love life, and the fact that his visits to Portugal in 1808 and 1809 resulted in a host of insults against the Portuguese nation as a whole which are thought to have originated merely because he incurred the wrath of one Portuguese man with whose wife he had conducted a shameful affair in public.

So now, you have the link between Byron and Portugal. The potatoes part is a bit harder to explain, but I shall try.

For most of my adult life I have tried to “listen to my body” when it comes to what I eat and drink. Today, my body told me that I need to ingest a little vinegar. How fortuitous that I had potatoes!

It should be known that the love of my life who is now in decline thanks to Multiple Sclerosis (for which I have yet to discover a sufficiently vile epithet) used to have a little known talent for retaining a diverse range of unusual facts chiefly gleaned from quiz shows, avid watching of factual documentaries and several intense friendships with quirky and very intelligent friends. I mention this because when she said that pigs can indeed swim two years ago at a community quiz, I knew from over two decades of domestic experience that I could unreservedly tell the team that my mostly silent partner had the correct answer.

It should, perhaps, also be revealed that when in the kitchen I am frequently given either to singing arbitrary verses from my favourite hymns, or quoting snippets of poetry and then in cheeky imitation of another friend of long standing ask, “Who said that?”

One evening about twenty years ago, I was busy serving potatoes not unlike the ones pictured above for João (my beloved in decline) and I happened to quote the verse above and ask, “Who said that?” João’s forté is really odd facts, not snippets of poetry, so I immediately told her that it was bad Lord Byron.

“Actually,” she said, “I would not mind some Byronic potatoes.”

I had no idea what she meant, so had to ask. It was then that I learned that Lord Byron was reputed to have had a fondness for boiled potatoes seasoned with salt and vinegar.

As we sat down to our dinner of fillet steak, mushrooms, creamed spinach and Byronic potatoes, I began musing as to how many words rhymed with Byronic: moronic, sardonic, catatonic, gin & tonic…

Well that’s about as far as I got, because João told me to shut up and eat my Byronic potatoes. So I did.

Allison Wright ©2015

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