A time of green things

I think of that time of year as a time of green things. Green like me, and unlike the city. Around the same time as the green melons, fruit sellers started to sell yesil erik, green plums…

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My first year in Istanbul I didn’t understand the plums. They are small, almost like oversized cherries, and hard. The second year we sit in the heat with whiskey and a saucer of salt in a spot where we can see the Bosphorus flow. Take a plum, bite a piece out, and dip the wet opening into the salt – just so, not too much. Now take another bite. Now a sip of whisky. The salt and the cold tart flesh and the smoky liquor and the ships that go by with their red – blue – grey containers packed high like a child’s wooden blocks do make sense. I begin to laugh. Now, I look forward to the green plums each year.

Green plums in FARE Istanbul. Image by @niftyswank

Sweet peas

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Fine, rather warm. Some rain last night. A few sweet peas up.

One egg.

Footmarks of tortoises in the mud could easily be mistaken for those of a rabbit.

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Sowed sweet peas (only about 1/2 dozen of the others have come up), carnations and violas.

George Orwell’s diaries are an unexpected mix, especially this period in late 1938 Morocco when we counts eggs as anxiously as Bridget Jones her diary.

You’ve worn a lot of tulle

Maddy Vegtel wrote an article in American Vogue in the 1930s about the experience of becoming a mother in your 40s. It’s fascinating and more down-to-earth than many such articles would be now.

Firstly she points out that the couple really know whether they want kids and probably know themselves well enough to guess what parenting will be like for them.

Then there’s been a chance to live life already (“she may have had a nine to five job, with dashing madly home to dash madly out again far into the night… she has travelled and travelled with husband and without”) and even better “At twenty-five, one might tear one’s hair at having to miss a divine party and shriek when you find that you just simply can’t wear that little tulle any longer. At forty, you certainly don’t. You’ve worn a lot of tulle, have gone to a lot of parties, have drunk a great many drinks.”

But best of all is the sense of centre that you gain with age: “You are lying on a couch. A friend drops in and says “oh, you should be taking a firm, brisk walk.” You are taking a firm, brisk walk and another friend says “You really should be at home, lying down.” Do you get flustered? No! You smile and say “I suppose I should…” and go on doing exactly what you want to do.

Eventually I realised that it’s this sense of a life well lived without worry, fully enjoyed and chosen, that permeates the article and makes it so enjoyable as a woman, whether read by mothers or not. Find this and other gems in the collection “Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: the first 100 years of women’s journalism”

Blog of the week

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I should probably have known I’d end up booking a holiday in the Deep South when reading about this lemonade led me to

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check out the whole For the Love of the South blog

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(and then to buying the Charleston edition of Fare magazine and stalking a whole load of Charleston bloggers, but anyway.)

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Do go and check out Amber’s blog as its full of tempting recipes (I dare you to read a few posts and not want to preserve your own peaches) or even buy the For the Love of the South cookbook…

Pre-dinner portrait

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Love the excitement on all their faces at the thought of some sandwiches and cake! @saintofsoho, I’m challenging you to bring this in at The Attic Club! Such a sweet reminder that just getting together is an occasion to be marked, especially if there’s a bit of extra food to put together.

Feed of the week

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@ice_cream_books: does what it says on the tin. Ideal for heat waves… Each instagram post tells you not just what the book is, but also why that ice cream pairing was chosen for it, eg egg custard flavour; money pie for Piketty, etc

Girls’ Night In

With headlines like “you don’t need to make the bed if you never leave it” and “a crowd of people is called no thanks”, Girls’ Night In is a mailing list that celebrates a solo night in. Coming out on Fridays with a set of links to funny Instagram accounts, easy recipes, comfortable pyjamas and the kinds of opinion pieces that will have your forwarding a million links to your girlfriends and holding intense WhatsApp debates all weekend it’s become my favourite Friday email hit along with the Picador poetry mailshot.

From yellow packet adorned with an elephant

I began to play a game with myself…Picturing myself in a dacha surrounded by prickly gooseberry bushes, I’d mentally preserve and pickle the tastes and smells of my Soviet socialist past in an imaginary three-litre jar.

In went the Order of Lenin Red October chocolate bars with a mirthful kid on the wrapper. In went the scarlet-wrapped Bolshevik Factory Jubilee Biscuits, the one’s that dissolved so poignantly when dipped in tea from a yellow packet adorned with an elephant.

Anna von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cookery is a fascinating and increasingly melancholy look at the development of Soviet Russia through Anna’s family history and her and her mother’s food memories. Starting with a Czarist feast of blinis “as plump as the shoulders of a merchant’s daughter” (Chekhov) and running up till the vodka rebellions of Gorbachev’s final years and splintering of the USSR its a total page turner.

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I’d no idea that Stalin – in a brief moment of generosity – sent his food minister to 1930s America, with the result that the socialist dream in late 30s Moscow was for every child to have a hamburger, ketchup and Pepsi, and that Khrushchev’s obsession with corn was also a legacy of Prairie dreams. Nor that the Russian emigrees to 20s Paris created a new kind of French cuisine. This book came via a recommendation on The Captive Reader blog, so go and check that out for more goodies too.