Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Monday, 30 September 2013
Handy desert household hints
These prickly pears are just part of the cornucopia on the hillside of our friend's Spanish mountain hide-out. It is very easy to have accidents with cacti - they seem to invite them.
My brother-in-law once stepped out of a car in a hot and dusty country to admire the view, and bumped into the only cactus in sight for miles. It was standing alone, as tall as he was. I think he was walking in one direction and looking in the other.
I was at a friend's house having dinner one night, when I stood up and tripped, landing in one of those huge cacti which have tufts of fine, red spines which sting horribly. My left forearm was covered in them and pulling the hundreds out one by one would have been impossible.
I asked if my friend had any PVA wood glue, and when he brought a bottle I coated my arm with it, then carried on with dinner. About half an hour later, I took the dried glue off in one sheet, taking the spines with it. It's worth remembering this trick (which I believe I invented, btw) if you suffer the same fate. Luckily, I don't have hairy arms, but that would be a sacrifice you would have to make.
A few years ago, H.I. and me were walking through a late night street market in Istanbul, when we came upon a seller of prickly pears at a fruit stall. Before neither I nor the seller could stop her, H.I. reached out and picked one up. I spent the rest of the night in the hotel room, operating on her with a pair of tweezers, for the lack of PVA.
What she was supposed to do was point at one, then the seller would have picked it up in a gloved hand, peeled it and handed it over to her.
I ate one of the ones above, following advice from our friend. I broke a forked stick and put it round one of the fruits, pulling it off with another stick. You then roll the cactus around in the dust, which breaks off most of the spines. Then you peel it, and then you eat it. They are quite nice.
Another friend of mine found himself in a desert recently, and chose the only cactus for miles around with poisonous sap to drink. You have to know what you are doing with both cacti and mushrooms.