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

For all the saints

As with last year, I’d like to take today to honour my friends, and also like last year I’m not mentioning family because they’re just too privately dear:

Your friend who sets up home with blankets, knitting and a pumpkin and brings you rose chocolates for dark nights.

Your friend who brings you a hygge book to  be comfortable with.

Your friend who makes you laugh even over breakfast, who is going to absolutely rip the piss out of you this week, and whose secret, secret bodyguard you are.

Your friend who wrote a PhD – a bloody PhD – and still stayed sane and nice and full of the best showbiz gossip. Also, cocktails.

Your friend who makes you smile every time you get their texts and was your first proper uni friend.

Your friends who are also fighting in the trenches of working life, and share with you theatre, wine and kick-ass Victorian heroines in your time off.

Your friend who took you to Helsinki and the best tea place in Tallinn, even though you completely fucked up the accommodation booking and there was only one real bed.

Your friend who is a poet and a rebel, mystic soul.

Your friend who let you drag her to Rosslyn Castle on a bumpy, shuddery bus in the rain.

Your friend who is your neighbour soon, and your friend who already is.

Your friends you get to go to New York to see and who lend you boots and give you malaria pills advice on a muddy walk.

Your friend who knows exactly what period dramas you like and still has time to text about Mr Darcy even with a newborn.

Your friends who come back for a party they think they’ve missed and still send you lawnmower jokes.

All the new, new friends you’ve met this year: thank you for being so welcoming, honest and warm.