The Airport Community

Going everywhere except here.

Detroit Airport, Michigan USA,   May, 2017.

 A chance to be 10 hours in the airport on my way home to England. I spend it walking, reading, walking, singing, walking, sleeping, walking, and people-watching.  So many bodies are here with me, milling around, but their thoughts, hearts, and souls are somewhere else – Out There.

Coffee from Leon’s TO GO – the server can’t do the math when I offer $5.75 for a $2.75 Americano. But she has a sweet smile. Makes two syllables out of the three-letter word LID.  The coffee is an effete, watery,  liquid probably with added tea.  I watch the lukewarm substance glug down the drinking fountain drain. Throw the soggy cardboard cup away.  Never mind.  I’m in transit.  I’m not really here either.  Don’t have to go to Leon’s again.

Little birds fly around the ceiling, or drop to the floor to peck at human leftovers. Even they will leave the airport at dusk, and go home to roost.

The corridor to Concourse A and B takes me down steep escalators to a wide shallow tunnel with colored side panels.  They suddenly burst alive into music which dances the panels into reds, fuschias, and emeralds. I wander around in wonder, surrounded by a symphony of sound and light.  All this for the pleasure, of traversing to concourses A and B.  What a generous gift for people whose only presence is their physical bodies!

“May I help you ma’am?” a staff member asks as I gape amazed. Staff actually caring and offering support before I know my own need.  I’m not used to this. It happens frequently here.  Staff and volunteers take delight in serving people.

Groups travelling together, joking lightly to cover the anxieties of new adventure. Talking about the future where their holiday really begins.  Not here of course.  This is a Nothing Place.

Guarded greetings of “suits” gather for a 300 member business conference. Hands shaken.  A few wary “how’s it going?”s  suffice until the true meeting takes place in the airport hotel.

Bars with glowing back-lit bottles host strangers who open conversations on safe subjects.  Where from?  Where going?  Past and Future, in an invisible Present.

Echoing announcements warning of imminent departures in the airport’s chosen languages of English, Chinese, and is it Japanese? raise the stress levels even higher.  Messages of  phones and laptops left on board.  Did passengers even notice that they’d lost something as they pushed forward into their own futures?

Passersby talking and gesticulating into the air.  “But why are you never there?”  “Well, if you’re only going to get 400 tomorrow, why not…..”  “I saw the posters and they’re not good”.  “Goodby honey.  I love you.”  I think they’re attached to their hidden phones, but who knows?   Hearts, minds and souls disembodied.  Others, slumped in seats, head down, huddled closely to their tablets, somewhere else, blanking out the reality of their surroundings.

Crowds decanted from recently-arrived planes mix with pilots and flight attendants and interweave with crowds hurrying the other way, their roller suitcases grumbling behind.

Amidst it all, a mother sits on the floor against a wall at Gate 22 breastfeeding her baby, a visible pool of serenity in the surrounding rush. Mother and baby – who knows what their thoughts might be!

Suppertime. And the food that builds this community rejoices in alcohol, ice cream, and deep fried somethings in a bun. But tucked among them all is PLUM MARKET  LIVE WELL WITH TASTE, whose brown paper bags proclaim a thesaurus of mouthwatering adjectives:  “fresh, colorful, tender, organic, gourmet, unprocessed, quality, all natural, lean, authentic,  sustainable, zesty, pure TASTE, crisp, local, slow food, hearty, choice, succulent, classic, housemade, wholesome, traditional, savory, hormone-and-antibiotic free.”  Who could resist?  I choose curry cashew chicken salad and freshly cooked asparagus.  The bag speaks truth.

After a whole book’s worth in time, my flight number is called and I board a Delta jet at 10.25 pm. Seconds later the sun rises over London.  We touch down at 11.10 a.m.  There is husband John to welcome me – wonderful!

In our kitchen I find the outer wrapping of a prepared meal he’d bought: Chicken Dijonnaise.  Never heard of it before.  Have you?  Decide to try it myself.

Chicken Dijonnaise

Heat 1 tablespoons olive oil and ½ tablespoon butter in a wide frying pan.  Fry 3-4 chopped spring (green) onions very gently, then add a cup of so of sliced mushrooms. Remove to a warmed serving dish when done. Leave the oil and any remaining mushroom juices in the pan.  Now very gently add 2 cut up chicken fillets on low heat.  Stir in 1 teaspoon tarragon.  Mix well. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon turmeric. Mix well (again).  When the turmeric no longer smells raw, add a cup of white wine, and poach the chicken, covered, until there’s only a bit of pink in the middle (Unless you’re psychic, you’ll have to cut a piece open to see.)   Remove chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon to your warmed serving dish.  Boil away the wine until there’s less than half an inch of wine (this will thicken the gravy). Add ½ pint (8 – 10 ozs about a cup) double cream and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix well (a third time).  Bring to boil.  Taste for seasoning.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and mushrooms. Keep warm in a low oven. We served this over brown rice.  Worked well.

Home at last — where body, mind, soul, and heart are all in the same place. Hurrah!

 

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Apples — Part One

apples-helmuts-7

With many thanks to Helmut and Christel for sharing this information. 

What’s the connection between apples and your local Council? Plenty, if you happen to live in Rheinstetten, Germany.  Our friend Helmut has a buddy-buddy relationship with his town council – a very forward thinking lot, those people. Their public land is dotted with apple trees, each with a number.  In August Helmut and others sign up for the Apple auction.  Then, on a specified day, they bike over to the requested land, choose the trees they want to bid for, and the highest bidder can take all the apples from that tree. Bidding ranges from 1 to 15 Euros with an average of about €4 (about £3 or $4) depending on the amount of fruit, the accessibility of the tree, and the type of apple.

apples-helmuts-6

Michel (l) and Helmut (r) on their way

Michel (l) and Helmut (r) on their way

 

“The hired tree is yours for the year and one can do what he likes,” says Helmut. He dries some, stores some for winter, gives to friends, takes some to a place that produces apple juice, and also makes Schnapps.  I would guess that Christel, his wife an excellent cook, could find uses for them too.

And, considering that these trees can live to be 100 years old, it looks as if  Helmut will never run out of Council apples.

 

Different types of apples

Different types of apples

How about this tree?

How about this tree?

apples-helmuts-2

Helmut's "helpers"

Helmut’s “helpers”

 

Roman Apple Cake  From More with Less by Doris Longacre.

I’ve made this for a meeting of learning celebrators. We’ll have it as a dessert, warmed and served with a jug of cream nearby..

Mix together well 2/3 cup butter (6 ozs. 170 gms), 2 eggs, 2/3 cup milk (6 ozs. 195 ml) and 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla. Mix together 1 cup sugar (7 ozs. 190 gms) 2 ¼ cups plain flour (9 ¼ ozs, 265 gms) ¼ teaspoon salt, ½  teaspoon baking powder, 1/1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Combine with the first mixture and beat until smooth.  Fold in 3 cups  of peeled finely chopped apples.  Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 pan, or use baking parchment to line the pan.

Topping. Melt one tablespoon of butter, and mix with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar, two teaspoon flour, 3 tablespoons chopped nuts and 4 tablespoons porridge oats.  Mix with your fingers.  Then sprinkle the topping on the cake batter.

Bake in an oven on moderate heat, about 35-40 minutes.  You can test for doneness by inserting a cocktail stick (toothpick) in the centre of the cake.  If it comes out clean, it is done.

Cake fresh from the oven

Cake fresh from the oven

More about apples next time.. What are your Apple experiences? How did you share them with your community? Send in your stories.  Real apples, mind you, not computers.

 

 

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Don’t start your diet yet

Most of us have had cook books given to us, and one I love was presented toffee-sauce-3to me back when I was a penniless and new  to England, trying to grasp the fact that I would never understand English English, and coping with its wonderfully weird horizon-opening customs.  At this time a friend we’d met in Iran presented me with Poor Cook, Fabulous food for next to nothing [ISBN 10: 1908337133 ISBN 13: 9781908337139 ] by Campbell and Conran.  It is full of truly English recipes unsullied by Americanisms.  If you are trying to get to grips with the UK, as I was in 1973 (and God bless your attempts), this might crack open the door a little way on the World of English culinary delight.

Poor Cook, by Campbell and Conran

Poor Cook, by Campbell and Conran

I still cherish its curling yellow-edged pages, its food-splotched recipes. Why? The instructions are simple and easy to follow.  Better yet, my friend Anne, the donor, has written her comments on certain recipes.  When I see “v. tasty” or  “delicious hot, then we ate the beef cold, v tender” it gives me a clue to what I’m cooking. Besides, her distinctive hand writing reminds me of our long standing friendship.

I’ve just checked online.  The book is still available second hand.

Here’s its achingly simple toffee sauce for vanilla ice cream. I’ve adjusted the measurements so that all are by volume.  That means you can multiply the amounts by whatever container you choose.  I suppose you could make gallons of the stuff at a time.  But this one here will generously lavish its golden beauty on four bowls of ice cream. 

simple ingredients for a quick easy sauce

simple ingredients for a quick easy sauce

Toffee Sauce

In a small saucepan mix together: 1 tablespoon butter, 8 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons golden syrup, and 4 tablespoons thick cream.  Heat gently until all is melted, but not boiling.  Serve hot.  When the sauce hits the ice cream it thickens into a stretchy, mouth-wateringly gooey sauce.  Wonderful.

tasters

tasters

 

toffee-sauce-6

A note about golden syrup. This is gloriously rich and, er, golden.  It’s delicious.  Probably more British than even I am aware.  As a child in a boarding school in India we used to mix it with hot chocolate granules and eat it by the spoonful. If you live in an area impoverished of golden syrup (ahhhh, poor you) you can use corn syrup and add a smidgeon of vanilla to pep it up.

Happy New year to all — may it be a year blessed with new discovery!

toffee sauce enough for 4

toffee sauce enough for 4

 

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Christmas Eve…..

….is a very lonely time for some people. I had to have this explained to me because Christmas Eve to me is the longest, busiest day in the calendar year.  But, I was told, in the world  there are those who are so organised that they have nothing left to do, and those who have nothing to do. That’s why our friend Gordon, who lives by himself, has Open House for his village on Christmas Eve.  “Many single people are invited out on Christmas Day, “ he says, “but Christmas Eve can turn out to be quite empty”.  So Gordon stokes up the fire in the ancient stone fireplace in his ancient house, brews up his secret recipe for mulled wine,   opens the door, and lets the party happen.

camembert-4

That’s the thing about parties. You can plan meticulously.  You can be so prepared that you even have time to apply lipstick before party time (it happened to me once).  But when the first foot of the first guest crosses the threshold, the party is no longer yours.  It doesn’t matter if the sink is piled high with dirty dishes, and half made fruit salad adorns the juice-stuck counters in the kitchen,  newspapers, dead socks, and strangely-placed cushions bedeck the front room.  Relax, smile, hug, offer a drink, and think, “The party has begun, hooray!”  Aside from the lipstick thing, Gordon’s hospitality is known world-wide (he travels a lot).  His village loves to come at this special time of year.

And like the three kings, they come bearing gifts! He told me about a baked camembert dip that was a hearty success.  So I’ve tried to Christmas-ify it a bit.  It’s an easy one, too.

gooey when hot...lovely!

gooey when hot…lovely!

 

keep the wooden frame on for ooze control, if you siwh.

keep the wooden frame on for ooze control, if you wish.

 

 

Christmas Baked Camembert.

Remove the wrappings of a whole camembert cheese, perforate the top in a few places, to help it puff up, place the cheese back in its wooden frame and place on a baking sheet.  Pre-heat oven to 220C or about 475F.  Place in hot oven for 12 minutes.  Remove from box and place in the centre of an attractive plate.  Garland with watercress, cover the top with cranberry sauce (see recipe below), and serve immediately.  The watercress initially was only to give the green for Christmas, but our tasters found the combination of cheese, cranberry and watercress very refreshing.  Serve with garlic bread, sturdy crackers, and,  for the carbo-phobes, sliced apple.  Nice!

Cranberry-Ginger Sauce. Empty one bag of whole cranberries into a slow cooker or heavy-bottom pan. Add a cup and a bit of sugar (yes I know, but it is Christmas), three finely chopped stem gingers, and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy.  In a slow cooker, this can be left alone until you feel like looking at it.  In a pan on very low heat give it a stir now and then,  but be careful of explosions.  Cranberries pop when they cook.  Optional:  when done,  add a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier.  It’s nicer if made the day before so that the flavours get a chance to “hold hands”, as the Persians say.

apples for the carbo-phobes

apples for the carbo-phobes

 

May all your Christmases be bright.

Judy Robinson

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Cookies for Hallowe’en

There are occasions when I want to go back to the age of innocence. Hallowe’en is one of them.  When I was growing up, Hallowe’en was a beautiful time to be someone different – to dress up in any costume I felt like, to be anyone I wanted to be. Goblin or princess or cowgirl, I was it.    And still today in parts of America, everyone dresses up, even the staff in the doctors’ offices.  And there are Hallowe’en parades, and people visit the neighbours and show off their costumes in the murkily cold October evenings, and the neighbours pretend to be terrified or astounded at beauty and give them home baked cookies warm from the oven, or teeth-rotting candy that eventually gets chucked into the bin.

halloween-pumpkin-joy

And jack o’ lanterns of all sizes, still smelling of pumpkin seeds adorn the porches and smile leeringly at the passing merry makers.

Here in England, they are trying to incorporate Hallowe’en into a very, very different culture. OK. The shops are packed with gaudy orange-and-black must-haves.  There is the occasional severed hand in the gingerale section of the supermarket. They open the sale of Guy Fawkes Day fireworks early, in case someone wants to set off a firecracker or two for Hallowe’en. We get a few carved pumpkins on our streets –  the next door neighbours are creative geniuses.

Neighbours' pumpkins...see what I mean

Neighbours’ pumpkins…see what I mean?

But for a country that does not celebrate Mardi Gras, you’d think citizens would crave the chance to dress up ridiculously at least once a year.  They don’t.

 

What I miss the most are the visits from children, strangers and known….well, with masks and makeup I don’t even recognise the children I know. And there are very few visits. People (usually grownups) warn them off.  They say it’s begging.   They say you shouldn’t go to a stranger’s house.  They say there is something bad connected with it.  Funny, that in six weeks’ time it will be all right to go carol singing and collect money. That, however, is for charity, so it seems to be allowed.

Every year I hope. I put out our ceramic jack o’ lantern, and long for someone, even ONE ghost, goblin, skeleton, fairy princess, or Darth Vader, to visit.  Sometimes we’re lucky, and our hearts are lifted.

our ceramic pumpkin, waiting in hope

our ceramic pumpkin, waiting in hope

 

 

I feel like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon who waits yearly for the visit of the Great Pumpkin. And like Linus, this year I too will be waiting

with

Hallowe’en Chocolate Cookies

ready for freezing and baking

ready for freezing and baking

In a large mixing bowl mix 10 oz (1 ¼ cups) margarine or butter  with 1 lb (2 cups,  420 gms) sugar, until well incorporated.  Add 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla essence,  and 8 ozs (2 cups 240 gms) self-raising flour [or  2 cups flour with 1 tsp soda bicarb – baking soda].  Mix in  ¾  cup unsweetened cocoa powder (3 ozs,  110 gms) and ½ tsp salt.  When thoroughly combined,   add 3 pkts  or 12 ozs chocolate chips.  Mix well.  Roll into walnut-sized balls, or if sloppy, drop by dessertspoonfuls onto baking paper, about two inches apart.  Bake in moderate oven, 350 degrees for 8 – 9 minutes, no more than 10.   Let cool slightly before removing.  Cookies will puff up when baking and sink down to wrinkly chewiness when cooler.

halloween-cookies

Notes:

  • These bake well on baking parchment. No need to grease the pans.
  • You can freeze them at the raw stage. When an unexpected loved one arrives, whap them from the freezer, put them on paper in a cold oven, turn on the heat, and 10 minutes later you have fresh cookies. By that time you’ve boiled the kettle for an accompanying beverage and gone through one or two chat items.
  • Also works well with gluten-free flour.
  • Good with chopped walnuts, too, if you are sure that none of your fairy princesses or blood-dripping ghouls has a nut allergy.

halloween-ceramic-distant

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Yorkshire Pudding — Celebrating British Food Fortnight

check out my blog on lovebritishfood.co.uk.  It’s called: Brussels Sprout Tops, the Buried Treasure.

Yorkshire puddings

Yorkshire puddings

“Now I will teach you how to make Yorkshire Pudding,” said Dora Robinson, my soon-to-be mother-in-law. “And you can be sure it’s right, because you have been taught by a real Yorkshire lass.”  My American heart sank.  “This will be a real test of my love for her son,” I thought.    Floating into my head came visions of a quagmire of custardy creamy pudding globbing and glooping  around  a perfectly decent slab of roast beef , mixing with the gravy.  Suffocating  the roast potatoes .  “How in the world could anyone want to put PUDDING with such a dish?  Let’s hope it’s not chocolate pudding!”  And then the revelation!  A glorious mouth watering miracle of  hot light crispy cups begging for warm gravy, nestling close to the beef … or chicken….or pork….or whatever roast she managed to produce!.  All this and Heaven too!

yorkshires-2

Needless to say, the Brits have a different definition of pudding, for it can mean pudding as I know it, or pudding meaning dessert.  And Yorkshire pudding, says my husband, could be used for dessert, too, if served with jam, OR as a starting course, served with gravy, so that people would eat less of the very expensive meat when it later arrived at the table.

I have also seen it served at buffets, with a patch of cheese melted into the cup, right after baking. Toad in the Hole is Yorkshire pudding baked with sausages in it….a very special favourite of our Bulgarian students who visited a few summers ago.  If your oven is hot, you could use a pudding or two as your starch for the meal, as it isn’t as heavy as potatoes.  (see below)

It only took one meal to turn me into a Yorkshire Pudding Convert. And here are Dora’s instructions:

The recipe uses the simplest of ingredients:

flour                                              milk

Plain Flour, 75 gms. 3 ozs, ¾ cup.                                  Milk 75 ml. 3 ozs, scant 1/2  cup

 

 

 

1 egg

1 egg

Water, to create the uplifting steam, 50 ml, 2 ozs. 1/3 cup

Water, to create the uplifting steam, 50 ml, 2 ozs. 1/3 cup

 

 

 Seasoning: pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.

Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin: put 1 teaspoon of oil in the bottom of each cup.  Place the pan in the oven.  Turn the oven to 425F or 220 C – very hot.

Meanwhile, beat the above ingredients well.  An electric beater or food processor can zip it up in no time.

When the oil is smoking hot (says Dora) remove the pan from the oven.  Quickly fill the 12 muffin cups with a tablespoon or so of the batter.   There should be a healthy sizzle every time you add the batter.  Quickly (yes, I do mean to use “quickly” twice)  put it in the top shelf of the oven and bake.  Check after 20 minutes to see if it is crispy and finished.  If not, cook it some more.  Ovens vary.  Eat as soon as you can with yumscious gravy and perfectly roasted meat.

toasted upside down

Left over puddings? Dora always turns her puddings over to crisp up both sides.  We turned ours upside down and baked them in a very slow oven the next supper meal,  until they were crisp again (they had turned soggy overnight.)  We ate them with Kheema Matar, an Indian curried ground beef dish with peas.  Lovely.   See what I mean?  You can serve them with anything!

Happy eating!

Kheema matar

Kheema matar

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A Community of Bravery

Admiring Life’s Strong Ones

I am sitting in a roof restaurant in Kensington on a warm August night. The balcony is framed in flower boxes.  Between them I see the tops of red double decker buses flick by in the street below.  Whiffs of specialty pizza, gnocchi, and polpetto di meinzo caress my nose as they thread their way to other customers’ tables, while I await my Paccheri a Core e Mamma, and continue gazing on these beautiful people.

And they are. Their beautiful flawless hands are manicured.  Their cut-and-blow-dried hair (@ £265 per session – I checked!) is flawless.  Their clothes are designer.  Their laughter is effervescent.  Their conversation tinkles with the chilled champagne glasses and cutlery.  All perfect for a summer’s night.

But as I watch them, I am remembering another conversation taking place around the corner on the surgical ward in the hospital, where, in the heat, two bare-chested men sit on their bed edges. One is my husband John, his bruised black-purple-red chest is cut, stapled and sewn as doctors seek to renovate his heart.  The other is Next-Bed Mike, a huge gentle giant of a man with surgical gashes across his back and side, his magnificent torso already housing crushed arthritic vertebrae and now-suspected of lung cancer.  Mike’s pain the night before caused him to scream in excruciating agony.  But there is no self-pity in either of them now.  They aren’t even talking about themselves.  They are marvelling at the astounding mystery of the universe and how we are created from the same elements that make the stars. They are delighting in the amazing discoveries of science that bring the farthest of space down to the centre of being human. They are gasping in surprise at the miracle of it all.

I remember these two as I sit in my perfect London setting. And others who are forced to be unexpectedly brave in Life’s events, and who go on discovering its riches anyway. And to them I raise my glass of Monte Pulciano and wish them well.

Paccheri a Core e Mamma my version

Italian shop, small and hidden

Italian shop, small and hidden

walls of biscuits and pasta!

walls of biscuits and pasta!

 

Some of you scan these recipes as Read Only. Some of you live in a place where Italian ingredients are easily accessible.  But for others like me you need research, a 27.2 mile drive to an obscure shop with an inconsequential name that opens into a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of Italian goodies.

sausage moustache

sausage moustache

Despite the effort, I have been eager to explore this recipe, because it fit so completely into that summer night.   The pasta is almost as big as lasagne pieces, and the meaning is “slap in the face”.  I’ll probably serve this at our next Learning Celebration supper.  It’s simple.  It’s a make-ahead.  It keeps hot in a slow cooker.  It’s a no-brainer. My overnight visitors inspected the purchases.

Pasta fingers show the size of the uncooked pecchari

Pasta fingers show the size of the uncooked pecchari

Amounts of ingredients are sloppily loose:   Saute a sliced Italian sausage – preferably spicy —  in olive oil until crisp then add a couple of chopped onions  with smashed garlic cloves, and cook until tender.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until nearly done.  Add two cups or so of dry white wine and cook down by half.  Add double cream and cook until it makes a good thick gravy.  Add grated pecorino cheese, two tablespoons at a time as it is powerful stuff.  Stir until melted.  Sprinkle on a teaspoon or more of truffle oil.

Serve on boiled pasta, pecchari if you wish

some "tasters" just stuck with the pasta and cheddar cheese.

some “tasters” just stuck with the pasta and cheddar cheese.

[notes from trial: next time I might try adding dried porcini mushrooms in truffle oil.  The grated pecorino is a lot stronger than I expected.  Add it by tablespoons to your taste.]

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