07 October, 2007

pick your own, anyone?

But before I get to that, picking apples that is, some lovely person left a very nice comment on my last post, describing one post as "Ramseyesque." Anonymous Reader, would you be so kind as to tell me what this adjective means? I feel very ignorant and would like not to be. Please?

We will, though, go apple-picking next weekend, I think. Apple (and pear, come to that) picking was a cherished tradition in our New York lives, always shared with Avery's beloved friend Annabelle's family. I remember we began going in September or October of 1999, and the following autumn it was enough of a tradition that I, the least crafty of all possible mothers, painted little tin pails with "Apple Picking With Avery and Annbelle 2000" the next year, and the girls used them every year after that. I wonder where that pail is now? Something tells me it's gathering dust in the cupboard over the refrigerator where things we never use can go, because it's too hard to get to. But I've got to dig it out and find something for Anna to use, as well, because she's going to join us. I've found the perfect farm.

Home Cottage Farm have a stand at the practically perfect Marylebone Farmer's Market, and I bought several varieties of apples there this morning, revelling as I do every Sunday in the delightful atmosphere of the market. It's filled, every week, with good people making good food and selling it happily to other nice people, and their dogs and children. It reassures me that humanity is not all something scary, to see purveyors of produce, fishes, ducklings, every cheese you can imagine, bread of every description, all smilingly handing over their wares and paying their bills and feeding their families thereby. Of course, I am a sucker for food-shopping of any kind, but it's still my favorite hour of the week, just about. So I came away with a variety of apple I had never heard of, Lord Lambourne, with a curiously waxy (the man behind the stand called it "soapy" skin, nothing you need to wash off, just a funny feeling that he says keeps the apple itself incredibly juicy, and it was.

So the guy at Home Cottage stand tells me it's a 15-mile drive from where we were standing, and I think that's our brief for next Saturday: up at a decent hour, collect Anna, and head off, in time to be back for Avery's acting lesson mid-afternoon. She's loving it: gets dressed up and imagines what she would do if some casting person came looking for a teeny-weeny version of Scarlett Johansson (Avery's a dead ringer for her). They're doing all sort of improv, and role-playing, and she's in the 11-14 age group now, so seeing as how she's a month shy of 11, she's in with the big girls and boys.

I seem to have spent the entirety of last week making plans for things to do in the future, as opposed to actually doing anything right NOW. As a result, we have tickets to go to York for Avery's actual birthday, and we're hot on the trail of a tiny, tiny castle in Somerset (with a moat!) for the weekend in the middle of the month when half-term will be over and she can take her friends Anna and Jamie off for two days of adventure. Her greatest wish is to see Exmoor ponies in the wild, and since her two friends are nearly equally horse-mad, it should be great fun. Then, John got tickets for us to go back to Connecticut for Christmas with all the family, and I got tickets for us to see the Olympia Horse Show, an annual favorite, right before we fly off. Whew.

I must say, some festivities are in order because she is working incredibly hard getting ready for these exams in January. Oh, that's the other thing I spent last week doing: filling out admissions forms for next year's school, wherever it shall be. It strikes me that most of our lives, right now, feature an uncomfortable degree of uncertainty (I hate uncertainty!). John still has no job (not that he minds), we have no house, we don't know where Avery will be in school next year. I know it's criminal to wish any time in this life away, but I will be happier when I know a bit more about how we're going to be arranged for these several really important things. Shiver. In the meantime, though, every day after school has been a struggle, to tell about results on practice exams and be reassured that it's all going to be fine, to hear stories of unfair homework practices, horrid judgmental teachers who refuse to acknowledge that she's already perfect (sigh), reassurances that coming second in the Poetry Competition is not tantamount to excommunication from the school (and all of England, she seemed to feel). She takes everything so to heart, poor child. My parents laughed when I told them this, asking, "Doesn't any of this remind you of anyone?" Well, I don't think I was accomplished enough at Avery's age to feel it as intensely as she feels it.

I'm trying to use some of my experiences at my new writing course to help her accept criticism from her teachers, but so far I have to say my technique is falling on deaf ears. "Look at it this way, Avery: I'm willing to PAY people to listen to my writing and tell me what's wrong with it. Try to listen to what the teachers say so you can improve." Alas, a piece of Dover white cliff would have been more receptive. Sigh. The writing class has been extremely enjoyable: a large-ish group of people all seemingly quite committed to turning up regularly, producing a piece of writing, being willing to read aloud. I walked out afterward this week with two late-middle age ladies, one from Dublin with a gorgeous lilting accent. She actually said, "Sure, and..." just like in books. We seem to be forming a nice supportive group, ready to follow the class rule of "the soundproof box," in which the person who's read aloud must listen to all the comments made, but any response has to wait till the end of the comments. Anything the reader would say before the end could not penetrate the soundproof box! It's so hard to listen to criticism and not jump in with "Well, what I MEANT to say..."!

In any case, the best thing to do is look toward the future and some adventures to come. This week will bring the first meeting of the Form VI Mothers' Singing Group! Becky says she's getting cold feet. What if it's only five or so of us, and the music mistress at school decides we should entertain the Christmas carol concert? I still think we'll be fine. I for one adore to sing, and I've missed singing since my old college days, making extra money as part of a rather rag-tag but still pretty good band, back in Indianapolis. I think we'll have a great time.

I'm sitting here sniffing as the aroma of day-long-cooking brisket floats into my study. John and I just came back from a five-mile walk through the Park and back, and Avery spent the entire day mucking out stalls and cantering down Rotten Row, so I feel fully justified in serving, with my brisket, a nice dish of Shetland Black Potatoes, from Morghew Farm, fried in...goose fat. Really. I bought a jar of it at the supermarket and tonight's the night. I love crazy heirloom produce, so plentiful in this country of ours. I will appease my conscience, not that I need to, harumph, with an enormous dish of roasted beetroot with balsamic vinegar. For some reason this vegetable, so repellent to so many people, is Avery's near-favorite. Go figure. She's cozy in a post-barn bath, John and I are about to watch a side-splitting episode of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" (featuring two British comedians either of whom would make, most of us believe, a more competent Prime Minister than any candidates we have now). Enjoy your Sunday...

Roasted Beetroot with Balsamic Vinegar
(serves four)

3 beetroots per person, leaves removed
generous splash balsamic vinegar

Wrap the beetroots in heavy aluminium foil and roast in a hot oven (400-ish degrees) for at least an hour (for small beets) and as much as two hours (for very large). I find that most average-sized beets will cook, therefore, in an hour and a half. The nice thing is that they can stay in longer if the other thing you have in the oven requires a lower temperature (like brisket), or shorter if you're cooking at a higher temperature.

Let rest in the foil package until cool enough to handle, then open it up and one at a time you can squeeze the skin right off. Trim the bottom bit that can be a bit woody, with a sharp knife. Quarter the beets, if they're small, or cut into bite-size pieces if they're large. Sprinkle with the vinegar and continue to toss them occasionally as you get the rest of the your meal ready. Superfood!


jane222 said...

You can try roasting the potatoes in goose fat too, it's the traditional way, really! It's good, and I don't suppose a little bit every now and again does much farm.

Oh, and I wasn't the previous commenter, but I would assume it's a reference to Gordon Ramsay.

I must check out Marylebone farmers market one of these Sundays, I have meant to ever since I read a previous post of yours about the raw milk one can buy there... I must get me some of that.

Kristen In London said...

Hi Jane222,

The only thing that gives me pause about "Ramseyesque" and Gordon is that he's spelled "Ramsay." Hmmm.

The potatoes were gorgeous! A little rosemary sprinkled on at the end. You suggest roasting them in the oven with goose fat? That sounds good. We did them parboiled and then in a skillet.

Lastly: the raw milk man has been absent from the farmer's market this autumn. I don't know why! But I miss him.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Hello Kristen. It was indeed a incorrectly spelled reference to Gordon Ramsay. If you have seen his F-Word tv show, he often finishes a recipe with the word 'done'. For example 'Curried shrimp with ginger and lemon grass. Done!'. It made me smile when you used the same at the end of your recipe. I'm afraid its as simple as that, no major mystery unfortunately.

Goose fat for roast potatoes is quite 'a la mode' at the moment. I use it for saute potatoes as well. I also use duck fat reserved from roasted duck which is equally as good. It can be kept refridgerated for a very long time. I'm sure you probably know that anyway.

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, Anonymous: would you believe I've never seen a Gordon Ramsay cookery programme? I don't know if we get the channel he's on, as we're the last people on earth without cable. But I did love his Maze restaurant, so I'll have to make an effort to catch his show.

Jack said...

Well. I've just registered an account and am no longer anonymous (hooray).

The F word usually airs on channel 4 which is terrestrial so you should get it. I don't know when the next series is, but here's a link to video recipes from the show, on the F Word website, if you want to get an idea of what its like.


Jack said...

That didn't show up properly so here it is again. www.channel4.com/life/microsites/F/fword/

S said...

I found your blog through a link in another blog, and I'm enjoying it very much!

I love cooking and I've been reading all your recipes. However, a lot of the ingredients listed are sometimes hard to find here in America. There are some great recipes, though! I've already jotted down quite a few.

Greetings from Texas!