This article is from the April issue of Total Politics
When I need to relax and get away, at least briefly, from political life, there are two things I love to do. And which I prefer depends largely on the weather.
The first is cycling. I use a bike as my main form of transport. I’ve been a member of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign for many years and I’m fortunate to live in a part of the country that has more cyclists than anywhere else in the UK. Cyclists are very well catered for in Cambridge, with cycle paths and cycle lanes that make getting around the city very easy. It’s great to see people of all ages, including schoolchildren and the university students, riding their bikes and enjoying the experience.
But real escapism for me is taking out my road bike (a Trek 1.7, for anyone who cares) for a long cruise. It’s wonderful exercise, and the repetitive pedalling motion is a great way to let the brain think slowly and calmly about anything – or nothing.
It’s also one of the best ways I know of seeing the countryside. Driving is too fast, and the glass stops you from really engaging with the outside world. Hiking, although great fun, is too slow.
And it’s surprisingly easy to take everything with you as you go. If you travel lightly, it can all fit into a saddlebag.
I’ve taken some great rides – around Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, Cornwall and Scotland, and even Australia and the Slovenian Alps. I’ve had day-rides and week-long tours, under blazing suns and through rain, and it’s been just fantastic.
When it’s dark, however, and the weather turns nasty, I turn to my other pleasure – cooking. Unfortunately I don’t get to do it enough these days, but there’s something extremely satisfying about pulling together an interesting new meal. I’ll happily spend much of a day preparing and cooking for something really worthwhile.
A few years ago I did a cooking course, and I really recommend it. There are courses ranging from the extremely basic to really top-notch. So there’s something to suit everyone – and there’s so much to learn. It certainly increased my confidence with more unusual cooking styles. I’m now far happier about preparing a whole squid than I would have been. I once threw a garlic-themed dinner party – two bulbs per person, from chicken kiev to lime and garlic Sorbet. We did warn the guests in advance…
My cooking style is fairly Asian-influenced. I have a particular thing for hot and sour soup, for which you can use up almost any vegetables to hand, and fresh Vietnamese spring rolls – not the deep-fried versions. But there are also British and French staples. Like any cook, I have favourite dishes I can throw together when I don’t want to plan too much.
And, of course, after the cooking, there’s the great pleasure of eating.
Julian Huppert is the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge