Cakes and cool things

So it turns out that as well as a long and few fraught history, a strong food scene and beautiful scenery Charleston also has quite a few good shops.

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Yes, big preppy chains (J Crew, Williams Sonoma) are there; yes, there a lot of one off art shops offering scented oils, pottery and paintings of sea scenes and oyster shells.

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But there’s also a bookshop and bow-tie store, there’s many, many antiques shops, and there’s a string of bakeries and stationery shops on Cannon Street.

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And food, obviously. All hail Hominy Grill and the Savannah Bee Company.

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Kulebiaka

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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

It was a good kitchen

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 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

Hilda

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.

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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.