St. Loup des Vignes, France
St. Loup des Vignes, France
The mountains and the beetroots
2021-11-03When I cycled to work this morning the air felt like the mountains. Maybe once it gets cold and dry enough the smog drops out of the air or something (unlikely). Either way, the sky was blue, the sun was low and golden and blinding. The roads were full of cyclists breathing steam and I didn’t trust any patches of glittering moisture I saw not to be ice. I got to work early; I just didn’t want to squander those hours of sunlight when the night comes on so early.
2021-10-18I ran out of steam with cooking a little bit this weekend. A lot of that probably has to do with some gargantuan hangovers I inflicted on myself a few days in a row. It also has to do with the fact that I’ve been a victim of my own success in using what’s already in the cupboards. I used up those spices that have been sitting around. I used up those frozen sausages in the freezer.
2021-10-11The good bread Running’s been difficult lately, but swimming in the ponds is getting better each week. It’s cold enough now that it burns your skin all over when you get in. It’s cold enough that when you feel the cold on your legs as you step down the ladder you think, “not everybody would do this”. Very self-satisfied of me. When the burning fades off, this sudden feeling of wellbeing washes over.
2021-10-08It’s getting darker and colder, but so far I don’t mind. Like I said before, I’m cooking a lot of satisfying food. It’s still warm enough to get into the Hampstead Heath ponds every Saturday morning. The crowd there is thinning out and there’s now a pleasing corps of batty and rich ladies of a certain age who we’re starting to see on a regular basis. Leftover homemade pesto with udon noodles I’m doing more in those dark evenings.
2021-08-30Image generated by Midjourney I like to cook a lot. Sometimes I cook all afternoon, one meal after another. I end up with a fridge full of boxed up meals that I can pile through in the week or give to loved ones. Dinner guests are relatively rare these days, in the wake of the pandemic year. Some people have been scattered away from the pestilent city centre. Some people are understandably still reluctant to dive into a full social calendar.
2020-11-28I love cooking but the terminology seems very fluid to me until I hear chefs talking to each other about how they prepare an ingredient in a way that sounds so specific. It turns out these words do have distinct meanings that I struggle to hold in my head. Sautéing A very awkward Frenglish word. Means frying ingredients in not very much oil but over a relatively high heat. Searing A larger ingredient like a meat is cooked over a very high heat just to brown the surface.
With the exception of those weirdos like the finger lime, all other citrus fruits are derived from natural and, before long, artificial crossbreeding, and then crossbreeding the crossbreeds, and so on, of those three fruits. Mix certain pomelos and certain mandarins and you get a sour orange. Cross that sour orange with a citron and you get a lemon. It’s a little bit like blending and reblending primary colors. Grapefruit is a mix between the pomelo—a base fruit—and a sweet orange, which itself is a hybrid of pomelo and mandarin.
Because those base fruits are all native to Asia, the vast majority of hybrid citrus fruits are also from Asia. Grapefruit, however, is not. In fact, the grapefruit was first found a world away, in Barbados, probably in the mid-1600s. The early days of the grapefruit are plagued by mystery. Citrus trees had been planted casually by Europeans all over the West Indies, with hybrids springing up all over the place, and very little documentation of who planted what, and which mixed with which. Citrus, see, naturally hybridizes when two varieties are planted near each other. Careful growers, even back in the 1600s, used tactics like spacing and grafting (in which part of one tree is attached to the rootstock of another) to avoid hybridizing. In the West Indies, at the time, nobody bothered. They just planted stuff.
— Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet, Dan Nosowitz in Atlas Obscura
Wandsworth, Wandsworth, United Kingdom
A search for “cheesecake,” for example, will result in 189 references, including Robert Abbot’s 1790 recipe for almond cheesecake, Hannah Glasse’s 1805 recipe for lemon cheesecakes, and E. Smith’s 1742 recipe for potato or lemon cheesecake. If this research on the evolution of cheesecake makes you want to learn more about Robert Abbot himself, you’ll find that his 1790 Housekeeper’s Valuable Present or Lady’s Closet Companion also included instructions for how “to make very good wigs.” Another quick search will yield that in the late 1700s, “wigs” were a kind of bun or scone, rather than a style statement—but that, as in Hannah Glasse’s work, cookery books of the era often did contain recipes for both wigs (buns) and to “preserve hair and make it grow thick.”
— A Database of 5,000 Historical Cookbooks Is Now Online, and You Can Help Improve It, Reina Gattuso in Atlas Obscura