When I was a breakfast TV reporter my producer Brian, who longed to make arthouse films, used to groan that we were being forced to explore ‘the u-bend of British television’. He said we’d plumbed new depths the morning I did a live parachute jump strapped into the same suit as a member of the Red Devils sky-diving team.
I thought of Brian today when I discovered the truly awful novels of Amanda McKittrick Ros. Born in 1860 and a shocking social climber, she thoroughly deserves her title ‘the best worst novelist ever’. Brian would have wept if he’d ever read this: ‘The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthly future, and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.’ It’s no wonder that J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis used to read her work aloud to each other to see who would collapse into giggles first.
Miss McKittrick Ros was clearly addicted to the schoolgirl art of alliteration so I have a feeling she would have adored my Pecan Pear Pain Perdu. Since it’s Valentine’s Day any moment, I’ve produced a heart-shaped Pecan Pear Pain Perdu. But feel free to dump the soppy hearts if you’re not in the mood.
Pecan Pear Pain Perdu
For two people
1 large egg
4 teaspoons caster sugar
2 thick slices stale white bread — hence the term ‘perdu’ or ‘lost’. The slices can be no-nonsense oblongs or you can snip them with scissors into hearts — whichever shape matches your sensibilities or the state of your love life.
Handful pecan nuts
Halve the pears, peel and core them and then cut lengthways into 1mm thin slices. Put to one side. Break the egg into a shallow bowl, whisk with a fork and add 2 teaspoons of sugar and the milk. Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture, turning over to coat each side. Melt approximately 40g of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot and frothy, add the bread and fry for a couple of minutes on both sides until golden brown. Put each slice on a plate.
Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper and then melt the remaining 40g of butter over a medium heat, along with the rest of the sugar. Stir until dissolved and then add the pear slices and the pecan nuts. Cook gently for 4 or 5 minutes until the pears are soft and golden and the nuts are well coated. Arrange the pears and nuts artfully over the bread.
Serve with creme fraiche and eat while reading Amanda McKittrick Ros aloud to your partner and staring into his or her ‘globes of glare’ — McKittrick Ros’ truly hideous term for eyes. Make sure you’re wearing sexy ‘southern necessaries’ — her term for knickers — and don’t, for goodness sake, break into ‘globules of liquid lava’ — that’s sweat darling, sweat.