11 February, 2009
I have risen from my metaphorical bed of misery to post this darling photo of Avery reunited with her beloved Anna and Ellie. It has been an absolute and utter joy to see Becky's family again: the lazy fun of shared memories and experiences, "remember when...", "You'll know what I mean when I say...", "Of course you were there when..." The dark Scandinavian side of me bows its depressive head and says woefully, "But they go home on Sunday," but the slightly sunnier John-influenced side shakes itself and says, "Enjoy the week." I got in a short but satisfying lunch with Becky today, albeit coughing all the while, but the whole illness thing is gradually getting better. Then we have another lunch with all her girls (alas, Avery is in school) at Becky's old favorite steak place in Marylebone, and ice skating and dinner together on Friday, shopping and hanging out on Saturday. We are monopolizing them as much as we dare.
Friendship is, I believe, the fifth basic food group. Although Avery assures me there are no more food groups, anymore. It's a pyramid, or some such nonsense. What happened to meat, dairy, fruit and veg and starch? Weren't those the categories? I still think of food in those groups, and my old-fashioned dinner plates reflect it: a chop, a pile of beloved mashed potatoes, and stack of something green. Nine nights out of ten, I am ashamed to say. Now for lunch I can branch out into your legumes and pulses, your grains and oils, seeds and such. John will eat anything that doesn't move. But Avery is quite the rabid little food conservative.
Anyway, we are rejoicing in our reunion. I have been undeservedly lucky in my friendships: Alyssa to share all my loves and hates in Tribeca, Becky to step up and gossip and commiserate on raising daughters here in London, and then when she departs, my dear Annie appears in the next street to talk cooking and Lost Property. Peppered in and out are Dalia, Gigi, JoAnn, all the girls who make the process of living a little less isolated and mysterious, a little funnier, more hopeful. And what would I do without the friends who pop up in emails throughout the day? The spice of life.
It has been heartwarming to see Ellie fall right back into her brother-sisterish relationship with John: he throws her upside down, tickles her relentless, inspects what teeth are loose, pokes her in the side and chases her around the room. Avery and Anna are just the same: endlessly supportive of each other, sharing obsessions with animals and fashion (although their version of fashion is to find innumerable ways to arrange one t-shirt: there are no labels in our lives, YET). Mark is his usual imperturbable, generous self, a sort of living embodiment of intelligence and kindness. Only Becky could deserve him, although she never lacks a certain twinkle in her eye to let me know that some gossip would not go amiss. Ashley, the supreme teenager, has been completely inaccessible. "In eight days here," Becky moaned to me today, "I will have seen her for two hours and forty-five minutes!"
We all natter on about how much we love living in London: the theatre, the food, the architecture, the schools, the history. But you know what is NOT nice about living here? There is an unspoken awareness that however much you grow to love people, this is essentially a temporary town, filled with peripatetic, restless people. We all live in the total understanding that any of us could pack up and leave at any moment, and most of us will, at some point. Coming here from New York, from Hong Kong, from Toyko, from Paris, from Moscow. About to go back to one of those places, or to Chicago or Greenwich or Houston. On the one hand it makes you very flexible, but on the other hand, your heart breaks. I suppose if I were wise, I'd decline to get so very involved with everyone, but that never seems to be an option with me. So I pine.
Let's see, what else it happening? John fell down the stairs, creaming his ankle in the process but of course saving his beloved computer from damage. Somehow I'd rather he'd thrown the computer aside and saved his own body, but no, he had his priorities firmly in place. So he's been limping around with an ice pack and Ace bandage wrapped around the offending limb, by and large taking his infirmity fairly well, but feeling bad that he can't run errands for me while I'm puny, so he lashes out. "Lie down! Stop moving around! We won't die on a Tuesday at twelve if you don't cook three things for dinner!" We have ordered pizza. Twice. I waited for the sky to fall, but nothing happened, so I am learning I'm not as indispensable as I thought. But tonight is an old favorite, because I just can't help myself.
Avery's Favorite Baked Salmon with Brandy and Creme Fraiche
1 pound salmon fillet
3 tbsps butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/3 cup brandy
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup light cream
squeeze of lemon juice
dried thyme (enough to fit in the hollow of your palm if you cup your hand, is a good measuring tool for a little girl)
sweet paprika, same amount
salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and saute garlic and shallots till soft. Now pour in the brandy, taking time to explain "deglazing" to your child. Cook down until reduced by half, then whisk in a little more butter till it's glossy. Then whisk in the creme fraiche, cream, lemon juice and herbs. Taste and season.
Place your salmon in a glass nonstick-sprayed dish and pour the sauce over the fish. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. Glorious.
And guess what will be on the plate with the salmon? A nice mound of mashed potatoes and a stack of sauteed sugar snap peas.
Avery's coming home late tonight after a rehearsal for the school play, which airs tomorrow evening. One hopes by then I will not be a chattering, coughing pile of bones. I think the salmon will help.
And my latest food find? Yogurt from Stapleton Farm: I picked some up at Waitrose just on a whim, passion fruit and peaches, was it, or apricots? and was delighted to find that although very low in fat, it was beyond creamy, very fruity, and flavorful enough to penetrate my congestion-fogged tastebuds. I love to find little tiny purveyors, and am even happier when I find they're being supported by the big bad supermarkets. Get yourself a pot or two. Maybe the live bacteria will save you from The Virus That Ate London. Then I can give you a hug and all bets will be off.