Part 2 of my program commences, with the same peers and the same project but in an entirely different place. helloooo LONDON! I nearly forgot how much it rains here. No post of mine would be complete without an observation of the weather, especially in England where such banalities serve to begin, entertain, and end any conversation. It is indeed cold and damp. The radiators in my new flat are already on full bore. You know, when I was a kid I always had a pool party for my birthday in October. Ahhhh, California feels very far away now.
This will be a fall full of stewp. My Cooks Illustrated books are getting a workout; if only digital editions could accrue the brown and yellow splotches which certify deliciousness. I’m not sure what color those marks really are, but my little baking book is full of them. Baking has always been my delight and I still have much to explore as a cook. The mundanities of meal preparation feels more like meditation than anything else, thanks to my training in a commercial kitchen dicing dozens of onions to Bon Iver.
Being in London is bringing back so many memories of being “here” in the British Isles four years ago. It’s amazing how much I have changed since studying abroad, that “rite of passage”. Chief among these memories being that I still have yet to figure out how to bake with English flour. Baking here is just different enough that when I attempt a cake, more often than not it fails to come out perfect. There is no all-purpose flour here in the grocery store. There is bread flour, strong flour, brown bread flour, self-rising flour, and I’ll have to go back to the shop to really flesh out this list but really it is surprisingly frustrating to have so many choices. (If only there were always so many options…) I’ve figured out a plan of attack, though. Instead of visiting the college library so much I’ll make detours to my local public library and read just as many baking books as I do dissertation ones. I should have this sorted out before Christmas. If not, I’ll convert and buy a digital scale and start weighing flour with an inaugural dish of sticky toffee pudding. Until then I’m sticking to cups and teaspoons.
Between the cold, rain, flat hunting, refrigerator breaking down, and distinct lack of regular internet access in my life for the past two months, I’ve had a rather more grumbling transition to London than New York. Last August, having never visited New York before, I flew in and within an hour was sitting at my new dining room table facing Central Park having a wonderfully flaky croissant with my dashingly darling landlady. Admittedly there were some internet issues there too, but the first two weeks were mostly occupied by ostentatious departmental wining and dining.
My first two weeks here have been rather better been occupied with the company of my dearest friend. She’s been wandering this year and had most recently been working on a goat farm on a tiny island gaeltacht and hadn’t stepped foot in a city for months. Good riddance! She met me at Heathrow with a warm smile and big hug, filling me in actuality with the type of warm fuzzies that Love Actually regularly supplies. We split my bags and proceeded to trot around in search of the subway-cum-underground and then a little studio we had rented in Seven Sisters, which is a great name for a neighborhood. Also, the neighborhood is GREAT. The several take out shops I frequented were full of inquiring characters, but I admit it was hard to convince of them of my sincere appreciation for their ways, being as I was some strange cheerful Californian Canadian possessing a real familiarity with late-night-chip-shop menus. There was a West Indian Cultural Centre nearby, and other sorts of Turkish bakeries and Chinese groceries and Greek supermarkets which will guarantee my eventual return. We toured the city by double decker bus, my absolute favourite roundabout exploration method augmented by her well-developed nose for the closest park.
Anyway, now I’m settled into a lovely little flat in West London with friends. My cupboard is full of spices and biscuits. My desk is covered in watercolor and newspapers. The flat is full of birthday bouquets. Soon books, papers, and a somewhat serious mien will submerge such long-held interests, but I am ready for one last year of school before I consult an oracle and move on from this glorious time of life.