The kulebiaka must make your mouth water, it must lie before you, naked, shameless, a temptation. You wink at it, you cut off a sizeable slice, and you let your fingers just play over it…. You eat it, the butter drips from it like tears, the filling is fat, juicy, rich with eggs, giblets, onions…
Chekhov – The Siren
Painting – The Waitress, William Macgregor Paxton
The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s somewhere where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!)
So begins Banana Yashimoto’s novella Kitchen, a warmly comforting read about a girl finding happiness again after an unexpected bereavement, and a friendship that grows into more. For someone who also likes hanging out in the kitchen and who enjoyed Luisa Weiss’ kitchen memoirs, this was perfect lazy reading.
The scratching of our pens mingled with the sound of raindrops beginning to fall …
While he made tea, I explored the kitchen. I took everything in: the good quality of the mat on the wooden floor and Yuichi’s slippers; a practical minimum of well-worn kitchen things, precisely arranged. A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful German-made vegetable peeler…
There were things with special uses like …. porcelain bowls, gratin dishes, gigantic platters, two beer steins. Somehow it was all very satisfying.
I looked around, nodding and murmuring approvalingly, “Mmm, mmm.” It was a good kitchen. I fell in love with it at first sight.
A real life spice merchant, as sold by Honey and Co. Who wouldn’t want to explore a pepper that smells of grapefruit or a nutmeg that is as spicy as chilli?
Edinburgh, August 2018. The heatwave this year had even reached Scotland and seen these fruit ripen 4-6 weeks early.
Fresh lotus seeds. Picture by @chinese_laundryroom on Instagram
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…
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
It’s been too hot for much I’d be this summer to really want to cook, and I suspect I’m not the only Londoner who’s reverted to copying other cuisines (Mexican, US Southern, Turkish) for short cut ideas instead of meals. However as the heat wanes and nights start to shorten, the idea of wanting to eat and eat outdoors begins to seem nice and not hellish. This is where Hilda Leyel’s 1930s guide comes in…
Some surprisingly modern flavour combinations and menus sit alongside the grouse and mulligatawny.
Republished a few years ago, there’s bound to be copies still online. I was given a further nudge in this direction by the excellent Edward Bawden exhibition at the Dulwich Picture (on till September 9th), which includes his many book covers fornthe equally eccentric 1930s food writer Ambrose Heath.
It has been a matter of pure joy to me, a very serious woman, to find that the property planned and prepared food brings acolytes into my life who are unimpressed by my abilities either as a novelist or as a femme fatale….I write as an introvert, attempting to turn an intangible loveliness into a tangible conception. But I cook as an extrovert, singing at the top of my lungs, in ecstasy and the certainty of fulfilment.
I’m charmed by Marjorie Rawlings’ discovery that different activities can unlock another side of you. This is from “I sing as I cook”, an American Vogue article from the 30s and another selection in the Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs collection named a few days ago.
I should probably have known I’d end up booking a holiday in the Deep South when reading about this lemonade led me to
check out the whole For the Love of the South blog
(and then to buying the Charleston edition of Fare magazine and stalking a whole load of Charleston bloggers, but anyway.)
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…
There were little new potatoes for dinner, creamed with green peas, and there were string beans and green onions. And by every plate was a saucer full of sliced ripe tomatoes, to be eaten with sugar and cream.
”Well, we’ve got good things to eat, and plenty of them,” said Pa, taking a second helping of potatoes and peas…
He cut into the pie’s crust with a big spoon, and turned over a big chunk of it onto a plate. The underside was steamed and fluffy. Over it he poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird…The scent of that opened pie was making all their mouths water…As long as the blackbirds lasted, and the garden was green, they could eat like this every day.
Little Town on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder