05 May, 2010

continued adventures in the shires...

Before I devote myself to the continuation of our Wiltshire story (ponies!), I must tell you that not only is today the UK General Election, in which we'll get a new Prime Minister, but also tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe Day, and as such, I've been reading several books that I would recommend to anyone even remotely interested in the Second World War. I confess it's the period in history that interests me more than any other, partly because it still feels present here in London (in America we're not accustomed, for example, to walking past buildings with pockmarks labelled as war damage). But also we've been watching "The Pacific", the nominal sequel to "Band of Brothers," not so much as entertainment, I must say (hideously violent and depressing), but as a tribute of appreciation to the soldiers who lived through such horrors.

I offer you Citizens of London, a fascinating account of several famous Americans who chose to stay in London during the Blitz... and Americans in Paris, the same story in that beleaguered, occupied city. But perhaps even more overwhelming have been In Memory's Kitchen, a cookbook (imagine) written by Czech ladies in a concentration camp outside Prague. A COOKBOOK written by starving ladies. And In My Hands, the story of a Polish teenager who became a Holocaust rescuer. You will cry with horrified sympathy, you will wish you could meet these people, express your gratitude, you will look around you at the riches and freedom we have and see the tiny, thin, wavery line that separates normal life from unbelievable suffering. All worth the read. And thank you to my friends Anne, Bina, and Alyssa, who made these heartbreaking, enriching books known to me.

Happy VE Day.

Well, I felt I couldn't leave you all with the last post, the story of our adventures at Salisbury Cathedral, without some marvellous photos of those times, those views, those places. We were up SO HIGH! I can't explain exactly what happened to me in Salisbury - was it lack of oxygen? - but it contained for me a sort of magic, a cocoon of safety, kindness, historical fascination and peace that will stay with me always. I can't sing enough the praises of the Landmark Trust, and I hope you will spend your next holiday in one: to be enveloped in a property who exists for us only because some very far-seeing brilliant archaeologists and architects decided to save it, to be surrounded by its history, to find in each and every house the most minimal but perfect furnishings, always quite the same in each one, to read and write in the extensive Log Books... to follow in some places 30 years of visitors and their stories! Go, do, and write your story. I have passed the reins of this job to Avery.

And now for something completely different: my current obsession with... teriyaki sauce. Now, before you jump down my throat, I am fully aware the "terikyaki" is a method of grilling meats, and does not refer to any specific sauce. In this, I think it shares space with the Western concept of "satay sauce," because "satay" really refers to the skewer method of cooking, but we all think it means a peanut sauce.

My point is, drop your skepticism for a bit and imagine what you think of as "teriyaki sauce." You know what I mean: dark, salty, spicy, sticky. I know. That's what I mean, too. And here it is.

Teriyaki Sauce
(you arrange the amounts, I'm giving the proportions)

2 parts dark soy sauce
1 part Japanese mirin
1 part honey
1/2 part sesame oil
zest and juice of limes
fresh grated ginger (to taste)
fresh minced garlic (to taste)

So imagine you want to make enough of this sauce to coat fillets of salmon for four. That's what I typically make.

You will want 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup mirin, 1/4 cup honey, 1/8 cup (just a drizzle, in short) sesame oil, the zest and juice of 1 lime, and a 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated, and 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Mix all in a saucepan and simmer till the sauce bubbles like a toffee, perhaps 3 minutes.

Cool and pour over the salmon fillet, then bake at 425F, 210 C for 20 minutes.


Believe me when I tell you that this sauce is DIVINE. Simple, wholesome, spicy, sticky. Try it on chicken thighs and breast fillets, which you can then saute in a frying pan. For a vegetarian meal, you can easily toss steamed broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, baked squash, in the sauce and serve with rice. Sublime. Make it.

But back to Wiltshire. At least, it's strictly speaking Hampshire.

The New Forest! It's a protected area much like Exmoor or Dartmoor, with ponies standing by the side of the road, and in the hillocky areas in parkland. Big ponies and small, brown, black and white, as you see: simply there for the petting! Well, actually we were told off by a park worker who at first claimed we might be bitten, then once Avery's extreme equestrian experience was made known, said that petting them encouraged them to demand petting! And what's wrong with that! John's mom was the perfect paparrazza, following Avery everywhere to get the best possible shot. We repaired then to nearby Lyndhurst for a pizza lunch at Prezzo, lovely and relaxing in the garden.

Oh, the adventures we had. Back to town finally where the volcano hit and forced us into tourist destinations FAR off the beaten path (plus Avery blissfully shopping in Regent Street! did you ever see such a happy shopping face!), and my own personal ambition to cook something different for EVERY night of John's mother's stay, which by the end was approaching the four-week mark! But I did it. And now I just notice how often I repeat things, our favorites like... teriyaki salmon.

Quiet reigns here tonight, then, and election coverage is beginning NOW. So I shall love you and leave you, and tomorrow, we have a new Prime Minister.


Bee said...

I'm so happy to have your teriyaki sauce recipe (with suggestions for using it). Maybe it's because I didn't cook for nearly a month, but I seem to be entirely without inspiration for dinner these days.

I agree that the shadow of WWII lurks here still. Last night I was reading Lynn Barber's An Education and she mentioned, rather casually, that her mother's teeth dropped out after the war because of the prolonged calcium deficiency. Of the recommended books, was there one that particularly appealed to you?

Post-election: Hung parliament and I wonder what will happen? My daughter stayed up past 11 pm last night because she was so curious to hear the results. I think that this is the first election that she has been intellectually engaged in . . . and that she will properly remember.

Becky said...

Your posts leave me with a smile each time I read them. What a gift!

Kristen In London said...

How faraway this post feels now: just as I signed off, Avery was vividly and awfully sick, and was so all night, into today... cooking feels impossibly far away.

Bee, I am so deep into the horrors of "In My Hands" that I would recommend it, where the two about London are quite adventure-y, although with pockets of horros.

Becky, I miss you terribly. We owe ourselves a chat on the phone. If only in person were possible... :)

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh those ponies. Were they as soft as they look?

We arrived in London soon after the PM stepped down. It was so surreal--our taxi driver told us the news. The streets were empty. Very strange.

I'm going to add those books to my ever growing to-buy list. Thanks for the recommendations.

Kristen In London said...

Oh, JaPRA, those ponies! Normally I do not touch them, allergic as I am, but I could not resist. Total FLUFF.

And yes, do get those books. I have been absorbed, and also by many other darker Holocaust books... let me know if you want to know...