We’ve taken to getting our supermarket shopping delivered this year. Lots of people have: you can tell that from the way they’re now offering tokens that can only be spent in-store, instead of giving you money off for shopping online. So it goes.
Anyhoo, the arrival of our groceries – mainly from Morrison’s or Sainsbury’s, if you’re interested, since Asda’s one trial resulted in 12 of the things we’d ordered not turning up, and Tesco still being the biggest, baddest embodiment of the Big Four of unbridled capitalism at all costs (how watered down have my youthful socialist ideals become, dear reader) – is generally mainly without incident.
Not so last Friday, however.
I don’t know how you deal with your supermarket delivery in these Covid-straitened times. However, given that the rules here mean that the delivery driver can’t hand you anything, or even touch the same thing at the same time, and instead stacks up crates of your stuff on your doorstep, we’ve evolved a slightly mad pantomime where I kneel on the other side of the door, frantically passing back individual items of our shopping to Mrs F, in the manner of some form of supplicant to the great God Mammon, abasing myself before the fresh produce.
So it was probably because of that, what with being fully engaged in emptying the first crate of what we’d mostly ordered, that I didn’t clock the identity of the delivery driver until he spoke.
‘Hmm. Thought this was the same place,’ said a voice like sand and glue, with that unmistakeable emphasis on random words. I looked up, and right enough, it was indeed Bob Dylan delivering our supermarket shop. He winked at me above his mask.
Now, regular readers of this blog will understand why the appearance of the Greatest Living Songwriter on my doorstep was not quite as discombobulating as you might otherwise expect. He has previous turned up in the Morrison’s supermarket we usually use, searching for fresh turmeric; after another encounter in the queue for our local pharmacy, he ended up living with us for some of the first lockdown.
All the same. ‘Bob! What are you doing delivering groceries?’
I might as well have asked him to tell us definitively who Mr Jones in his classic ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ was based on. He looked a mixture of confused, mysterious and plain shifty, and then said, ‘Well, y’know, got to keep movin, keep on keepin’ on…’ he tailed off, then spotting what I was just unloading from the crate, changed the subject. ‘Hey, is that a cauliflower I see before me? And that’s a mighty fine wine you got in your other hand…’
I took the hint. ‘You want to come in for a bite to eat? I’m making that cauliflower and potato tikka masala recipe you like. When do you finish?’
‘Why, round about when you finish unloadin’ that crate…’
Which is why, any readers who are also neighbours, there was a Morrison’s delivery van parked outside in our drive all night the other Friday.
I left it till the main course had been cleared away before continuing my cross-examination. Up until then, His Bobness had been full of chat about what he’d seen on the telly since returning from the States (big fan of our crime dramas, and I Can See Your Voice, apparently).
‘So, Bob,’ I said, pouring him another glass of rioja (Campo Viejo Reserva, on offer currently at £7.33 – just as well I ordered two bottles). ‘Why are you back in Glenrothes? What have we got to offer that you can’t get back home in Malibu?’
‘Hmm, well. Uh, you see, there’s this woman…’
And so he told the story. Shannon, one of the checkout operators at Morrison’s, had had a deep and lasting effect on the Sage of Hibbing. So much so that he had been drawn back to our home town, and was currently living with her and her three kids in a maisonette in Caskieberran. He’d even got a job at Morrison’s as a delivery driver so he could see more of her, when their shifts coincided. ‘Not exactly the Neverending Tour,’ he said, ‘but at least I’m still moving. And Shannon, well, she’s like a breath of fresh air, even if I only understand about one half of what she says to me.’
‘She’s like, my Muse,’ he mused. ‘Never written so many songs so quickly since 1965, and that was with a bit of, y’know, pharmaceutical help. I’ve just about got an album ready, but I’m struggling with the rhyming scheme for the title song.’
‘Let me guess,’ I said. ‘There’s not much rhymes with Shannon, is there? Cannon? Gammon? I suppose linen’s a half-rhyme.’
‘Hmm. “your skin’s like linen…” Nope. And gammon’s just not helping.’ He took another swig of red wine.
We kicked some ideas around, but nothing stuck. Later, we adjourned to the sitting room, and he talked a bit about the old days, the current times, and his then-upcoming 80th birthday.
‘To be honest,’ he said, sipping at some of his own-brand bourbon that we’d moved onto by then, ‘Shannon’s great, but it’s also pretty handy hiding out here in, uh, Glenrothes. Nobody’s ever heard of me here. All these ‘Times They Are A-Changin” headlines… I mean, they think I need to be reminded?’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Still. You’ve got family back there, haven’t you? They’ll expect to see you for your birthday.’
‘Mmh-hmmh. Yeah, you’re right. I ain’t too good at booking flights online, and Shannon says her laptop keeps crashing, though I’m not so sure. Going to Barrhead Travel tomorrow, see what they can do.’ He swilled the glass of Heaven’s Door round in his glass, staring into its depths. Mainly to change the subject, I suspect, he said, ‘Anyways. What you working on at the moment?’
‘I thought you’d never ask…’
As I played him the track below, and topped up his bourbon glass, I reflected that life has its way of turning up some surprising moments. One minute you’re checking your emails for what desserts Morrison’s have run out of, and the next you’re making a vegetarian curry for your all-time hero.
The track came to an end. His Bobness stared at the bourbon glass. I wondered if he was looking for inspiration in it, or just hinting he needed another top up. At length he said, ‘Not bad. Production’s improving. Sounds a bit more like Bruce Springsteen than me, though.’
The words were out before I had time to engage my brain – too much bourbon, I suppose. ‘Well, Bob,’ I said. ‘Despite everything, it’s not all about you.’
He regarded me with those eyes bluer than robin’s eggs, those eyes that had faced down the half of Manchester Free Trade Hall that hated him, and then laughed and said, ‘Hmm, I guess that could be true. Incidentally, how about “doors slammin‘?” to rhyme with Shannon, I mean?
‘Bob,’ I said, mightily relieved, ‘You found something to rhyme with ‘kelp*.’ I’ve every confidence in you.’
Cauliflower and Potato Tikka Masala recipe below the track
*In ‘Sara,’ Desire
Cauliflower and Potato Tikka Masala
1 head cauliflower, chopped into smallish florets
4 – 5 waxy variety potatoes, cut smallish
Cup of peanuts, and some more peanuts for adding in at the end.
chopped garlic; some chopped ginger to taste
tsp spice mix of your choice
½ tsp pimentón
Tsp yellow Thai curry paste
250 – 300g yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. Scatter some salt, the spice mix and pimentón over the cauliflower florets on an oven tray, then a generous slug of olive oil. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes till still firm but not too hard – you might want to turn them a couple of times to make sure they’re evenly coated in the oil and spices.
Salt, then boil or steam the tatties for 22 minutes or so until cooked.
Meantime make the sauce: grind up the cup of peanuts, fry the garlic, ginger and Thai yellow curry paste, then add the ground peanuts and yoghurt, stirring well. Salt to taste. When the cauliflower and tatties are ready, add into the sauce (it may have to sit off the heat for a bit till they are) and then extra whole peanuts if desired.
Serve with rice or nan bread/flatbreads.