I’m absolutely fine, but…podcast of the week

I’m absolutely fine is the podcast from The Midult, and each episode starts with the presenters and guest explaining that they’re absolutely fine, but… It’s a soothing listen taking in everything from an unexpected eye twitch to worries about the gas left burning, or a realisation mid-way through the day that going for the no make up look is no longer possible if you want to look alive. Then there’s a short interview with the guest and a rummage through their handbag / makeup bag for a gossipy end to the show. Good humour and friendship are the main things to enjoy, and there a good mix of comfort and perspective setting. It’s also much more fun than I’m making it sound!

Garance Dore

Garance Dore is known for her fashion photography, her stationary, her general brand of cool – and yes the bottom photo is a stylish shot of the Californian desert, but it’s the first two shots of female companionship, of friends setting off for a hike and then coming home that most called to me.

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Cake!

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There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perry’s being seen with a slice of Mrs Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr Woodhouse would never believe it. – “Emma”, Jane Austen

Not at all like Mr Woodhouse as I go to celebrate a friend’s wedding today, partly with a lot of cake.

The top picture is the wonderfully-titled “The Tempting Cake” by Albert Roosenboom.

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Harriet would have dined out on that name for a week

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Katy MacScott (@katymacscott) walked from Holland to Istanbul last year in memory of her late friend Harriet, with hops on trains to keep time, as she didn’t have as much time as Patrick Leigh Fermor did on his original journey. Now she is posting memories of her encounters on Instagram, and I particularly loved her encounters with feisty pensioners in Holland. On the first day she encountered Map and Henkel:

Map – a derivative of Margaret – approached me with a pot of jam, as I sat on a bench in the rain, in the village of Zuillichem. When she offered me a cup of coffee by the fire, I didn’t have to be asked twice…Her husband, Henkel, returned from his errands and they proceeded to tell me, in halting English, about their travels. They were now in their late 80s, but had travelled all over the Middle East in their retirement.

Henkel revealed that like many Dutch children he was sent to England after the war to recover from years of malnutrition. After another hot meal, Map and Henkel passed Katy on to a local photographer Cor de Cock (“Harriet would have dined out on that name for a week”) and eventually to Jet, a former piano teacher, with a “wicked bark” of a laugh:

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She confessed that she’d put away her wine and cigarettes before I arrived, because she thought that someone doing a trip like mine would have ‘high morals’. I quickly put her straight and we enjoyed these vices for the rest of the evening.

Over asparagus risotto and radishes Jet and Katy discussed the audio books for the blind that Jet narrates, Jet garden, Chekhov and Harry Mulisch, and her brother’s paintings.

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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