02 July, 2009

The Roof is On

How I wish interesting things would space themselves out: in JANUARY for instance, or the more boring moments of October. But NO, it all happens at once: Lost Property Sale, visitors, bill-paying, permission-slip-filling-out, packing to go away for the summer, end of school, Wimbledon!

All made slightly more challenging by the fact that I've been sick as the proverbial dog for a week, with what my doctor immediately feared (hoped?) was a return of scary digestive things from several years ago. Days of misery, medication, worry. Then up comes a test result: a rather rare "food-borne bacteria." What, where did I eat? John and I nearly always eat the same things. A mystery. But so much better than a lifelong diagnosis of something life-changing. Still, the bug floored me for quite a while, and I still find myself longing for a chance to lie down in the middle of the day. One day finally John pushed me down on the sofa, gave me a glass of water, and left the room saying, "You just sleep," and that 45 minutes or so saved me for the rest of the day, which included having friends to dinner! Let nothing slow me down, is the motto of yours truly.

In the meantime, while I was coddling myself, it's happened, history has been made: the roof over Wimbledon Centre Court has been moved into place, Monday evening, for the historic Andy Murray win over Mr Swiss Person (I cannot remember his name). How I wish we had been there to see it, and I'm not even (yet) a huge Murray fan. But he is the Great British Hope, and for that, I'll fight for him.

The British commentators breathed deeply, "Never thought we'd see the day," the cameras returning again and again throughout the evening to the glowing, surreal lights of Centre Court surrounded by the darkness and the nursery coverings of the other courts, as well as the rest of the City of London which goes to bed with much more finality than Manhattan ever does. And I simply dote on the phraseology of the commentators. Andy Murray, was, they claimed, "asking awkward questions" of his opponent, and as the tension became quite unbearable and the cameras veered to Mrs Murray, one expert asked rhetorically, "Who would be a mother at the moment?" And there's always the laconic cut-glass designation of "Juice!" which of course we Americans pronounce "Dooce." Two people separated, as always, by a common language.

Speaking of language (or "talking of language," as the British would say!) Avery and I have decided that we a new Pet Peeve as far as expressions go, and that is "which is FINE." As in, at my recent writing seminar, "This cover letter you've written, So-and-So, is one of the worst you can write, WHICH IS FINE." Which it patently is NOT! So condescending, so annoying. "Which is fine, since everyone does it, or which is fine, because for £300 I can tell you how not to do it again, or which is fine, because I would never be stupid enough to do it in the first place, but since you DID..." Awful! I hope I've never said it.

So the Lost Property almighty Preview and Sale have come and gone under my fearless (ish) leadership, and the truly fearless help of Annie. As usual, all the expected personalities emerged: the shouting, quirky, slightly scary head of Expensive Clothing, grabbing little first-years and holding jumpers up against them saying, "Hello, little alien, this jumper looks just right for you, and YOU [to her friend standing nearby staring as if at a train wreck], little Friend of Alien, this t-shirt is perfect for YOU."

I myself came away with a cunning felted crocodile brooch! Which had sat disconsolately in the jewelry drawer, feeling inferior to the fake gold bracelets and lone earrings, for months. Now it's mine. A bright orange cashmere scarf emerged from the months-old pile of scarves, to be snatched up for a pretty penny. Cups of tea were brought to us in the sweltering heat by dining room staff, our hands grew filthier and filthier, countless girls identified items at the sale as "definitely mine" when of course they hadn't missed them for aeons. Nothing new under the sun.

Now my thoughts are turning ever more to our Connecticut paradise (or so it always seems from the vantage point of London responsibilities, schedules, obligations). I picture my old green and white quilt on my bed under a sloping ceiling, wavy glass to look through to the meadow, Avery's room strung with ribbons and all the old paper dresses she makes every summer. Laundry room humming with bathing suits (swimming costumes!), towels, khaki shorts, dishtowels that form the basis of our laundry loads at summer time. After a few days, John's beloved birds and our groundhog and wild turkeys and red foxes and blue herons will return for food, poor things, for six weeks! They do it every summer. Avery will trap crayfish, we'll haul her trampoline and seesaw from the barn, disturbing the bats who will fly at sunset for several nights, in alarm.

But until we get there, we've still got Avery's orthodontist appointment tomorrow, my reception and lifeguard-paying duty at her school pool to put in during the evening, and one more day of school, one more ice skating lesson, one more play to go to. What to take for the picnic, in Regent's Park, under the glorious summer sunset? I'm thinking chicken wings with blue cheese dressing, or slow-roasted pulled pork in wraps with sour cream and black beans. Or I could go all Indiana childhood and make a meatloaf in the morning and turn it into sandwiches? Avery votes for simplicity: egg mayonnaise sandwiches on good English white bread, crusts removed, of course. In the meantime, there's the post-pool dinner. And it's a winner. Although I must ask: can anyone tell the difference between rainbow trout and salmon? I surely could not, either in appearance or taste, and I admit guiltily that I didn't note the price difference. It went down just as happily no matter what the fish it ultimately might turn out to be. And if you lack Fox Point Seasoning, substitute another savoury salt mixture.

Grilled Rainbow Trout with Red and Savoy Cabbages and Celeriac Slaw
(serves 4)

1 side rainbow trout
1 tbsp olive oil
Fox Point seasoning

2 cups each: shredded red cabbage, Savoy cabbage
1 cup celeriac, cut into matchsticks
1/2 red onion, sliced very thin


2 tbsps chilli-infused olive oil
3 tbsps mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
big dash celery salt
loads of fresh ground black pepper

Place the trout on a large platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Let arrive to room temperature before grilling.

Place all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight lid, and shake till mixed thoroughly. Toss with the cabbages, celeriac and onion and refrigerate till needed.

Grill the trout skin side down for 4 minutes at high heat (210C, 425F), then on the other side for 4 minutes. Remove skin.

To serve, mound the slaw on a plate and place the serving of fish on top. A nice side of mashed potato is very good with this dish.


You'll LOVE this slaw. If you make it right before eating, it will be quite crisp. If you refrigerate it for awhile, dressed, before eating, the fibers wilt a bit and produce more the texture of an American cole slaw. Pure nutrition, really crunchy, and beautiful to look at with the red, green and white.

Right, I'm off to begin packing. Who cares what I take? Red Gate Farm is a place where NO ONE will care what I look like (as if anyone does here, either, to be honest!) for at least six weeks. The pile of books to take is much more compelling...

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