"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

September 9, 2011

At the Weekend

"Canning Day" by Janet Kruskamp ~ I could just jump into this image,
just like Mary Poppins and Bert and her charges did in the London sidewalk painting.
Don't you love that expression? The Brits always would say at "University" (instead of 'college') and my friends would say "What are you doing at the weekend?" Often I would hang at my dorm, Ifor Evans Hall on Camden Road, and come up with some sort of grub with findings from Marks & Sparks (eg. Marks & Spencer) from a short walk to Camden Town. In addition to great jumpers (eg. sweaters), Marks & Spencer was known for its fabulous prepared food (this was nearly 30 years ago so I don't know what it's like now). On weekends our dining hall was closed so we had to forage and make use of the kitchens at the end of the hall. We often put together marvelous meals, like our memorable Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a Butterball turkey and American fixings purchased at Harrod's. [Of course Harrod's was the food hall to end all food halls but not always affordable for a college woman who was not given much per diem and saved up for her spending money!]

Back when I had eyebrows and eyelashes and oh, well, we just won't start, shall we?
Sometimes I would be fortunate to go visit friends in the country––new college friends, family friends or people whom friends in the United States and written ahead for hospitality. In those days, of course, these weekends were generally arranged by letters in advance. I still have them all, somewhere, as well as the memories tucked away (like sleeping in the small upper bedroom of a medieval English farmhouse in Hawkesbury Upton, swaddled in long underwear, a flannel nightgown, flannel sheets and a giant down "puff" –– and a warm cuddly hot water bottle that my hostess, the Dutch mother of one of my mother's dear friends and former employers, handed me as I climbed the stairs –– I have never had a better sleep!). Weekend days were spent touring the countryside or ambling along many of its footpaths, or parts of the Cotswold Way, often eating hearty pub lunches along the way. Yes, I've always been a country lass at heart.

I never found English food to suffer from its bad reputation (which I understand now is quite in the past): I loved the stodgy gravies, the crispy potatoes, the custard-laden desserts, the afternoon tea fare, the Scotch eggs with seeded mustard. When I wanted affordable prepared whole foods I would go to Cranks in Camden Market. They had the best apricot crumble and wonderful whole wheat cheese scone sandwiches with a bit of butter and lots of sprouts. I have their original Cranks Recipe Book, from many years ago, and once in a while I replicate those treats at home.

Our dining hall food was a bit lackluster (no salad bars in those days and 'salad cream' on what did constitute a salad - blech!) but the memory of a sweet plum or apricot crumble, gently warmed and slathered in Bird's Custard is comfort "nursery" food at its very best. Of course, my homemade vanilla custard is far superior to Bird's––anyone's is––but there was just something about it. My friends and I––mostly Brits but some Americans, too––would linger over our dessert in long conversations with our requisite cups of tea.

See what I mean?

12 quarts of plums await jamming!
So, all of this blather because of a plum: a luscious cache of Stanley plums that I won at the Casey County Produce Auction yesterday. I will blog about those soon, and what I have done with the purple, plummy little testicles (OK, that's what they look like!).

And here is what I plan to do "at the weekend":

  • Corn relish (today, in fact)
  • Plum Jam (perusing books and internet for recipes)
  • Canned plums (I have 12 quarts so I can't can all of it)
  • Shred large zucchini for the freezer
  • Make vanilla extract with vodka (and some with rum)
  • Stuff more peppers for the freezer (the last of them!)
  • Take Henry basketball gear shopping
  • Check out the Nancy yard sale with Eli
  • Hit the POST OFFICE at last after being sick for a week (it's also in the completely wrong direction from where we head most of the time)

Here's what I'm planning to cook:
  • Buffalo steaks thawed from the freezer (a gift from Cousin Ben)
  • Macaroni salad (new recipe I want to try from Heartland by Marcia Adams)
  • Tomato salad (with some of Anna's heirloom tomatoes)
  • Leftover chicken curry and rice (tonight, after a busy canning afternoon)
  • Something plummy: likely a crumble and/or a plum küchen (with custard!)
  • Prepare something exotic with the beef heart and tongue in my fridge (if my boys will let me!)

I promise a catch-up with recipe blogs, soon, after I catch-up with the can-a-rama that has engulfed my cottage kitchen for these past few weeks. The rainy cooler weather has gotten me feeling all fallish and kitchen-bound.

So, stay tuned and "bonne weekend!"

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

1 comment:

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