17 June, 2007

FIRE! wait, no...

Fire? In fact, no, despite having been awakened "rudely" not even beginning to describe our chagrin, at 4:45 A.M. this morning to the dulcet tones of the building fire alarm. I have been, all day, as a result, CRANKY. How did I ever get through the months, even years, of interrupted sleep with Baby Avery? I have no idea. At any rate, my attitude toward wakeup, always verging on hostile, today reached epic proportions. All cats under Avery's bed in terror, so I spent the hours from 5 till 8 crouched down, lying down, turning on my side so I could see them all, convincing them it was safe to come out. Tacy was, not surprisingly, the bravest, but surprisingly Hermione was next out, then Keechie, the ultimate scaredy-cat, and coming in a distant last, the giant Wimsey. In fact, he stayed underneath the entire time, his big white hands stretched out in front of him and every white whisker and eyebrow an exclamation point of dismay. Poor boy.

Finally the porter (Giovanni, replacing the aristocratic Laurie while he's on a well-deserved holiday) came and shut the *&^% thing off. By then it was school time, so bleary-eyed Avery made her way to the car. "Call me immediately if you need to come home," I said, but she seemed intrepid. School day finished, she was up for a round of horseback riding.

I can't tell you how busy we've been. Of course, the fulcrum is Avery and her schedule, so John and I spend most of our time taking her places, waiting and watching while she does things, then taking her someplace else. And looking at houses, and I taking my writing class, and looking at more houses, and then there was last weekend, which included Sunday in the park with... Swans! Yes, you can rent a paddleboat and pursue them, offer them dried apricots, and have friends for life.

Then my life being a daytime rather than nighttime one, I have been having lunch with friends. My chum 6point7 and I met up for lunch at the Royal Court Theatre Cafe, which I would highly recommend for excellent soups (6 had "green" soup, which proved to be watercress, spinach and broccoli, while I went for the spicy tomato), and an unexpected gluten-free foccaccia that made 6 happy. We happily dished about our shared favorite actors (Matthew Macfadyen and James McAvoy), and compared English English to American English. There aren't a lot of English people who are fluent in both, but she is nearly there. A quarter to twelve, or a quarter of? Different to, or different from? Does "rubbish" mean "not true," or "worthless?" In America, of course, it means "garbage," and a bin has become a can. Lots of fun.

Speaking of which, each Saturday from 12 to 1 has been an hour most mysteriously spent for Avery, or at least for us having taken her to acting class and picked her up an hour later. "What did you do today?" elicits nothing more forthcoming, normally, than, "I don't remember," which is odd considering she's usually a very good storyteller. Maybe it was an activity too amorphous to describe? But last week we got this gem: "Today we did accents." We jumped on this. "You mean, Italian or French or something?" "No, American. I had just made up my mind to confess that I'm American, since I've been English in class so far. Then the teacher asked, 'Who here thinks he or she can do a good American accent?' so I raised my hand. And mine was really good!" "Well, yes, Avery, seeing as how you're American, "I objected. "But so then I confessed, and he said that my English accent was just as good!" she chortled. That's some sort of odd milestone. She can be either.

Well, I must leave you right now with a couple of foodie bits. One is simple: SPROUTS. Did you know that sprouts are a living food? That left to their own devices, they would continue to grow? And boy are they alkaline, which I have now, lately, decided, is a bit of a key to good digestion. Since observing some (I do everything halfway as far as diets go, can't take too many restrictions!) of the rules of more alkaline than acid, I have totally got rid of indigestion. I'd recommend a bit of attention to the rules, totally. Anyway, no one can do any harm by eating some radish sprouts, which are gloriously crunchy and spicy, and some bean sprouts which take me back to old Indianapolis Chinese food days of my childhood. Chick pea sprouts I decided I don't like, preferring chick peas themselves, which are elderly and dead and lack the emotional wrench of eating a living food (or "embryonic food," as 6point7 pointed out, ICK). Make yourself a really packed-with-flavour dressing, and even add a can of fancy tuna, and it won't matter what's underneath:

Crazy Flavour Dressing
(make as much as you want)

olive oil (I am favouring chili infused lately)
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
soy sauce
Dijon mustard
chopped chillis
chopped rosemary
dried oregano
tiny minced garlic
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

The key here is three parts olive oil to one part other liquids (so mix up your vinegar, lemon juice and soy, and then use three times that much oil). Then season it as you like with the rest.


Then you can't beat a nice fruit crumble in the summer. I will go on record and say that, along with a nice hard-boiled or scrambled egg and a glass of apple juice, it's the perfect breakfast for a little kid trying to get through a day without lunch. Now in England, rhubarb appears from late May until a second harvest in late August, so we're eating it now.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble
(serves one little girl for four breakfasts, ish)

2 pints strawberries, hulled
2 stalks rhubarb, peeled lightly and chopped rather small
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 dark brown sugar
1 tsp each: cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, allspice
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in large cubes, plus a little extra for dotting
juice of 1 lemon

Nonstick-spray an oven proof container, and lay in the strawberries, left whole. Top with the rhubarb. Then in your Cuisinart or Magimix, whizz together the flour, sugars and spices with the butter, until it is completely mixed and starts to lose its powdery texture and begins to look like it might stick as a dough. Don't let it become a dough, but stop it when it starts to stick. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fruit and scatter the flour mixture on top. Dot the top of the crumble with some bits of butter and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the fruit bubbles and top browns a bit.


Lastly, for now, I have two scallop recipes for you. I adore scallops and I don't know why I stopped cooking with them. Yes, I do, because Avery said she didn't like the texture. Well, here's the solution. I got some beautiful scallops for a crazy-reasonable price (six pounds for a dozen!) at Marks and Spencer. Then, too, I had leftover bresaola and mozzarella from the school Sports Day picnic that afternoon. Who knew Avery would decide that dried cured aged beef was GOOD? Well, bresaola it was, in my fridge. So I stopped for some flat-leaf parsley, ground up the leftover baguette from the night before in my Magimix and was in business.

Two Pasta Dishes in One Evening:
Scallops with Fresh Herbs and Olive Oil AND
Linguine with Bresaola and Mozzarella

(serves two adults and one anti-scallop child)

3/4 pound linguine

1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
sprinkle red chillis
12 scallops, muscle and roe removed (don't like roe, sorry)
large handful parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in the oven till crispy

4 slices bresaola, sliced in slivers
1 ball mozzarella, cubed very small or shredded
parmesan cheese to grate over

So, boil your pasta water and put in the linguine. Now, you have 11 minutes to work with. Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic and chillis and sizzle until garlic cooks gently. Turn up heat and add scallops turning constantly and covering with hot oil until cooked, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and stir your pasta. When the pasta is done, put the scallops back on the heat and add the parsley, drain the pasta, and have two hot bowls ready: put most of the linguine in a big one for the scallops, and the rest in a small one for the bresaola. Immediately throw the scallops and oil on the big bowl, and add the breadcrumbs. Throw the bresaola and mozzarella on the smaller dish of pasta. Toss both thoroughly.

Voila. Everyone's happy.


Now, I must to bed. I still haven't told you about my writing class! Or Avery's Summer Concert (teary-making, I'm ashamed to say). And tomorrow's a picnic in the park, so writing may have to wait. Enjoy this beautiful London weather...

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