Berlin nights

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After hours of strolling in the heat, the cold glass of sour buttermilk was just the thing we both craved to quench our thirst. The clean, pure flavour and its thickness cooling my throat lingered with me long after we pushed back from the table, said goodbye, and walked home, sandals slapping gently against the sidewalk.

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Muck had told us to bring dessert, so I sifted through my recipes cookbooks searching for something to make, both relishing the task and feeling indecisive as I always did…

I could bake a cake, something simple and rustic, topped with fruit. But in Germany, cake was eaten mainly in the afternoon served with a cup of coffee or tea. And although I used to bake cakes for dinner parties in New York, the idea of a slice of cake after dinner no longer appealed to me…

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I thought about slicing peaches and slipping the wedges into wine, but the truth is that good peaches were not so easy to come by in Berlin….A pavlova sounded pretty good too: marshmallowy mereingues topped with whipped cream and berries.

But pavlova felt too fussy for this languid afternoon. I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes, hearing the faint hum of traffic from the outdoors and thinking about our day. I remembered the buttermilk we’d shared, creamy and sour. It occurred to me that buttermilk and berries would make a perfect summer dessert…

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The panna cotta was simple to make, but when the time came to unmold the set cream from its ceramic mold, I struggled to loosen it from the sides. Max came into the kitchen just as I was starting to lose my cool and ended up helping me, the two of us giggling at the panna cotta’s luxuriant wobble as it settled into its serving plate. Then I spooned the juicy berries and their syrup all round the panna cotta, almost obscuring the creamy mound. As Max drove us to Muck and Jurgen’s house, I held the serving plate gingerly in my lap as the fruit slid precariously back and forth.

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Out on their deck at dusk, we ate pink-fleshed lake trout poached gently in fennel broth, small boiled potatoes, waxy and sunflower yellow and dusted with chopped parsley, and a little salad of soft greens studded with toasted sunflower seeds. There was a cold bottle of Riesling and a sharp and creamy horseradish sauce mixed with grated apple for a bit of sweetness to dollop on the fish…

The table soon fell quiet and as our spoons scraped against the china and I saw the light draining from the sky, my life suddenly felt so complete, so rich and full and just as it should be, that I almost lost my breath.

Luisa Weiss, My Berlin Kitchen

Jane of Lantern Hill

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Everybody except the baby had brought a present for Jane. Mrs Jimmy John gave her a lambskin dyed red for a bedside rug. Miranda brought her a little fat white jug with pink roses on its sides, Punch brought her some early radishes, Polly brought her a rooted geranium slip and the twins brought her a toad apiece for the garden.

“You have to have toads in your garden for luck,” explained Punch.

LM Montgomery does peak hygge. This one has lots of sowing flowers, swimming in the sea and frying potatoes, as well as a fairytale ending – perfect holiday reading.

Blog of the week – chocolate

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Sometimes you just need chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I first saw the recipe for this double-chocolate brownies here, and then searching for the image I also came across this blog here and thought I’d better link that too.

Try both, make lots: buy *all* the chocolate, and then come and see me. These are so getting made this weekend. I like the comment that they last 5 days. Um, more like one?

Anyway, the blog…after a recent trip to a Venezualan cafe (delicious, by the way), I was definitely intrigued by My Colombian Kitchen. There’s a spicy (savoury) orange salad, stuffed potatoes and hot avocado sauce. And chocolate. What’s not to like?

Not to fret

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The days, the days they break to fade.

What fills them I’ll forget.

Every touch and smell and taste,

This sun, about to set

can never last. It breaks my heart,

Each joy feels like a threat:

Although there’s beauty everywhere,

its shadow is regret.

Still, something in the coming dusk

whispers not to fret.

Don’t matter that we’ll lose today.

It’s not tomorrow yet.

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Shades of Maya Angelou and Emily Dickinson in Kate Tempest’s collection “Hold it Own”. Photos of small things that give me pleasure.

Heavens to Betsy

 

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Reminded by Beth Bonini’s cheerful Instagram feed of these delightful books (I’ve posted about their companion volumes here and here before), I think I’m getting ready for a re-read.

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Lots of commentators compare these books to Meet Me in St Louis, and as well as the period details (the hairstyles! the dresses! the slang! the excitement over a telephone!), what I love most is the inherent optimism – progress is always good, and friends and family remain stable whilst welcoming new developments – but also the complete acceptance that a job, writing, singing, making your own mind up, are all important to a girl and in no way conflicted with the rest of her being.

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I find it depressing that a modern book wouldn’t show this, or would have to make a big point about it. Written in the 50s about the 1900-1910s, Betsy, Emily and Carney are in fact far more progressive than any characters today.

The heroic Margery

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Margery Gill was the illustrator of so many of my favourite books as a child (Apple Bough, A Little Princess), so I find her choppy, modern style very familiar and comforting. I like this website too, which praises the heroic age of illustration, an age that went hand in hand with a deliberately liberal social and moral view, the benevolent didacticism of the BBC and Penguin/Puffin books, and some cracking good stories.

Home comfort

 

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You know you’re getting comfortably middle-aged when you start thinking tea towels would be a nice gift (or re-usable wrapping paper), or that your idea of an internet shopping splurge is a cherry tree (only £12.99!), or maybe a pear.

Berry teatowels by Emily Gilmore via her Etsy shop; Otomi teatowels also via Etsy but found on Cup of Jo. Also check out Emily’s beautiful berry paintings on her Instagram page.

A warm embrace

I usually turn to a bit of comfort reading at this time of year, and a firm favourite are the Mountjoy novels. Perhaps Unaccustomed Airs, which features a wintry house, a dash to Budapest and Christmas feasts, or Divine Comedy, which has choral music and velvet enough to get anyone ready for Carols from Kings.

 

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For those who don’t know the series, the Mountjoy family themselves are renowned for their appreciation of a rakish life, and the local pub, The Mountjoy Arms, cheekily features a woman being carried off to bed on its sign.