The timing seemed charmed: my first thorough reading of Diana Wynne Jones’s new manuscript, Enchanted Glass, at the same time as my acquisition of a garden with our new apartment in Brooklyn. The first seemed to somehow communicate and conspire with the second. I’m a huge fan of Diana’s work, so of course I dove straight into this one, and immediately decided that my favorite characters in the book were the housekeeper and the groundskeeper, Mrs. and Mr. Stock (no relation). Though they are supporting characters in that story of magical doppelgangers and Shakespearean-inspired mistaken identities, their curmudgeonly demeanor and stubborn resistance to change made me laugh every time. Both of them love to torment Andrew—the manor’s young new master—in curious ways that I absolutely adored. Mr. Stock, who takes care of all the gardens, would let some of his vegetables grow to enormous sizes—imagine gargantuan turnips, giant squash, and foot-long pole beans—and then force Andrew to eat them as punishment for something or other.
After reading this, I remember coming home one day last August and perusing my garden’s many mysterious vegetables (the previous tenant planted them), and coming upon the tangly, dangly cucumber vines that were creeping up one of the thick stalks of a sunflower. I had looked at them the day before and seen nothing—but wait a moment…hiding behind a leaf was an enormous cucumber! About a foot long and as thick as a child’s leg, it was a green, warty monster. I felt funny carrying it upstairs to show my husband, who looked at it with such horror that I imagined Andrew’s reaction to Mr. Stock’s vegetable behemoths was probably about the same.
Mrs. Stock’s favorite punishment for Andrew was to make loads and loads of something called “cauliflower cheese.” If Andrew moved the furniture, or asked her to cook something, he would get another casserole of apparently detestable cauliflower cheese. Andrew hated it, but to me, it sounded delicious. So one day I bought a cauliflower at the farmer’s market, brought it home, and made myself a big dish of the dreaded stuff. This time, my husband’s reaction was much different from Andrew’s. The entire casserole was gone by the end of the day. Who’d have thunk it? Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Stock! Thanks, Diana!
Want to make it yourself? Here’s the recipe I used for Traditional English Cheddar Cauliflower Cheese. Mmm, cheesy.