20 June, 2008
if it didn't move...
today, I ate it... I can hardly move tonight. It sort of snuck up on me: I just kept choosing things at Taste of London, and eating them, and it was all glorious and made me very happy, and all the bits jiggled up and down happily together in my stomach as I walked along (choosing more bits). Then I took a brief break to watch Avery's skating lesson, and then it was onto... dinner. At nothing less than my favorite all-time Chinese restaurant in Queensway, so I could certainly not skimp on any of my favorites. And I didn't even think much of it, until... we got home and I sat down and now I feel that all the foodstuffs in the greater London metropolitan area are trying to be digested all at once. Still, I don't regret a single biteful, and while I'd separate them by a day or two, I would recommend my two foodie activities today to anyone.
I think as a matter of public record I must list all the things eaten today. Perhaps it will serve as a cautionary tale, if in fact I am unable to get up from my desk chair in an hour or two. In fact, I may pour myself a digestif before I'm rendered static, and see if a spot of brandy does the trick.
But what trick? All that is required is the passage of hours and the ingestion of nothing more tomorrow than a lettuce leaf, and bob's your uncle. First I must tell you that I did not suspend myself from a tall pole and take this photograph - Channel 4 did, and it must have been last year, because the weather here has been very odd lately and certainly would not encourage people to sit upon the ground in shorts. However, the fact remains that I wanted the festival to look appealing because it's on for two more days, and you'd love it.
So what happens is you buy little tickets called "crowns" and each is worth 50 pence, and all the little tidbits cost a certain number of crowns, usually 6 or 8, but a couple of fancy lobstery things cost 10 crowns. I bought a ticket that included 40 little crowns, and that was just about right, except that I was going out for dinner the same night. But I did think ahead, and in my long gossipy coffee with my dear friend Gigi this morning I restrained myself from having breakfast and stuck to iced coffee. Then I meandered off to Taste and here is what I did.
First of all, I got lost. Then I made a number of the happy mistakes that I specialize in. I thought I had figured out the tiny little map and reached Tom's Kitchen, where I reckoned the single most delicious-sounding dish of the day was being served: seven-hour braised lamb shoulder with balsamic onions and potato mash. Totally divine. Tiny little portion, about three bites of each thing. Only then I realized that all the time I was eating I thought it was by chef Tom Kitchin, when it was in fact the famous restaurant called "Tom's Kitchen." Tom Kitchin was nowhere to be seen. Do you suppose other people confuse them, or only me?
Then it was onto Le Gavroche, where I was planning to have lobster bisque with brandy cream. It came cold, and bright green, and even dim I twigged to the possibility that I had made an error. As I ate it, quite happily, I realized I had misread the booth number and ended up with Benares' chilled pea soup, redolent of cumin powder and crowned with edible flowers. Not sorry about that! It's the first time I've eaten at the hands of Atul Kochhar whose recipe for chickpea and broccolini salad I gave you the recipe for and which I've enjoyed several times since.
I decided I owed it to Le Gavroche, though, so I wandered back and there was the winning chef of our beloved telly programme "Masterchef"! James something or other. Typical me, again, I went up and ordered the smoked chicken and foie gras terrine and told him how much we had enjoyed his work on "Great British Menu." Wrong programme, Kristen! What on earth. Being accustomed to dealing with the foolish public, he merely smiled and said, "Thank you, enjoy," and I did. Unusual terrine: studded with lentils! And accompanied by a very subtle truffle mayo-ish sauce. Lovely.
Finally I staggered over to Sumosan and had the largest scallop I have ever seen, marinated in teriyaki sauce and served over a shitaake mushroom and topped with fried leeks. Delicious, lovely.
Mind you, my journal to date does not take into account the numberless things I sampled: balsamic vinegar on strawberries, pesto on foccacia, lamb sausages, Welsh beef burgers, Isle of Man pepper cheese, some random Indian jalfrezi sauce on a little cracker (I always think I'll like bottled sauces but I never do, somehow). And I people-watched, but I didn't see anyone but our BBC chef. So finally it was time to pick Avery up at school and I could not eat another bite, but had four crowns left, which I happily spent on two bottles of the new Firefly vitamin water, and took them home. I did not regret the long walk through Regent's Park to get to school, I can tell you that! Perhaps without it my heart simply would have stopped beating, with overwork supporting my belly.
Then dinner: two softshell crabs, without which life would be much less tasty, my favorite chilli and ginger dry-fried chicken, steamed pak choy, barbecued pork to keep Avery and her skating chum Jamie happy, goodness. Those two girls are so much fun to have around that I'm always pleased to get them together. They dished about their classmates, their exam results this week, ranking their teachers in order of competence and sense of humor, the works. Then we put the top down on the car and took Julia home, and I must say I am now recovering. Whew. Tomorrow I shall be spending all day doing guess what... cooking for the horse show picnic on Sunday. But eat I shall not. Definitely not.
Instead I shall devote myself to working on my next homework assignment for the increasingly successful writing class! People are so funny. This week Angela said, "If I might speak?" and Keith immediately said, "As if we could stop you?" I have found my niche, I think. So far I've written and presented and had critiqued two pieces: one a collection of memories of macaroni and cheese, and then the recipe, in a chapter called "Comfort Food." Second, a similar sort of memoir and ode to Moroccan meatballs and our trip to Marakkesh and the friend who took us there, and the recipe, in a chapter called "Exotic Comes Home." I have got the most helpful comments about themes, and tone, and voice, and detail, so that I feel ready to write lots more of them and finally have something to show an agent.
Next week I must write something that's been rolling around in my head for nearly 20 years: memories of the year (on and off) that my husband and I spent in Moscow, and the recipe that I brought home, for very simple oven-roasted chicken wings. I'm going to call it "Golden Domes and Chicken Swings," which is how our Moscow hostess pronounced the chicken part, and I have felt in all the intervening years that those two elements (one so luxurious and one so spare) encapsulated what it was like to live in that place in that time. When you could hop in an ordinary citizen's car, give him a dollar, and be taken anywhere in the city. And not be kidnapped and murdered for your pains.
Then I think I'll write up a lot of my blog bits, like taking Avery and Anna apple and blackberry picking and then bringing them home and helping them create a pudding from their efforts, and call it "Pick Your Pleasures." And I have in mind a chapter called "The Chicken That Kept On Giving," about when you're embroiled in some dreadful ongoing event like moving, or children's exams, or a work crisis, and you need food that cooks itself in several different ways: all-day braised on Day One, chicken salad on Day Two, and chicken noodle soup on Day Three. I'm getting all excited! I wish I could print out the blog but I think that would be directly contravening all environmentally sound strictures against stripping the world of our tree supply.
Well, I'm recovering. I think it's time to do a spot of laundry and kick back, but NOT with a snack, for sure! Ah well, tomorrow is another day, and no doubt... another meal. To quell my appetite, I must concentrate on these latest pictures of Crush Actor Richard Armitage: he would not, most definitely NOT, go for a girl who wasn't fit. Be still my heart!