Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.


April 30th, 2011

HOUSEMAID'S DESPAIR they called it back in Victorian times     I'm referring to asparagus and the all-too-short season for this delicious spring delicacy has begun again.

As with most fruits and vegetables it's the early pickings that taste the sweetest – probably because we've dreamed all winter about those first tender spears swimming in sinful butter or hollandaise sauce.

My father claimed you should never drink wine with asparagus, but he was an inveterate whisky drinker and inclined to freewheeling excess in some of his opinions   My own experience is that a flowery, dry white wine such as a Riesling is an ideal accompaniment – whisky most certainly isn't!

So, what was it that accounted for the long-suffering housemaids' despair?

In the long-ago days before that inventive master plumber Thomas Crapper developed the  €œflush-out toilet € we relied on chamber pots, shoved below the bed, to ease those moments of disturbed sleep in the middle of the night   In the morning it was part of the housemaid's daily routine to dispose of what Mrs Beeton, in her unrivalled guide to Household Management, discreetly referred to as  €œthe slops €.

A potentially embarrassing side effect of eating asparagus is that our digestive systems metabolise an apparently benign vegetable to produce an unmistakable and powerful bouquet in the slops.

A housemaid's life was hard enough as it was, but the description tells us how offensive they found it to go into their employers' bedroom and be greeted by the fragrant memory of the previous evening's asparagus supper, which obviously added unwelcome tribulations to their already onerous duties.

All this isn't exactly dinner table small talk but sometimes it's an unlikely combination of ideas that triggers off my train of thought when I sit down to write my weekly article   Anyway, you can't just flush away disagreeable aspects of social history because they might be a bit  €œiffy €.

Daughter-in-law Katie gave us this tasty recipe   Snap off the tough, woody ends of the asparagus spears   Wrap bacon (or parma ham) round bundles of 4/5 spears with a sprig of rosemary (lemon thyme is even zingier) in the middle   Place in an ovenproof dish with quarters of lemon between the bundles   Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cook in the oven for 20 minutes at gas mark 5 or 180 degrees.

Once cooked, squeeze the juice from the lemon segments and add to the other juices in the dish   Sprinkle with slivers of parmesan and serve with a hunk of crusty brown bread.

Numerous medicinal benefits are attributed to asparagus, and in Greek mythology it was prized as an aphrodisiac because of its supposed erotic shape.

Others can get excited about the eroticism of food; I'm more interested in exploring textures and the food's true flavours – there's more to taste than meets the tongue   Which is why asparagus is so moreish.

Written on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 at 9:33 pm for Weekly.