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Showing posts from May, 2011

Cake. And writing prompts.

In Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake nine-year-old Rose tastes emotions in the food she eats:
So every food has a feeling, George said when I tried to explain to him the acid resentment in the grape jelly. I guess, I said. A lot of feelings, I said.
When she tastes her brother’s toast, with butter and jam and sprinkles of sugar, she detects something folding in on itself. At the bakery she tastes the baker’s tight anger in a chocolate chip cookie.
I always taste expectation in the first few sips of champagne. Burnt pizza tastes like meanness. The hot, fluffy flesh of a jacket potato is somewhere between laughter and sleep.
All the dinners I resisted eating when I was little: could I taste my mother’s hard work and thrift in them? I was too young to empathise with the effort required of her to keep a house, to feed and clothe three kids, to pay the rent and bills on my dad’s steelworker wage, and still put away a little each week. I am sure she went without for us. I…


10,000 trees it says on the orchard deeds but it feels more like infinity when I’m standing in the main tractor lane that cuts through the middle, as straight as a roman road, with rows of apple trees stretching out on either side of me and ahead to the windbreak of poplars and past them all the way to the beech trees at the edge of Offham woods.  We have come home from France for two weeks to see what can be done with the apple farm. The farmer who rented it for seven years decided not to renew his lease. So this year we’ll try and sell the crop to a local apple juice company who’ll supply the bins and lorries but it’ll be up to us to pick the the fruit.
We are learning about tractors: Massey Fergusons are the best. About models: standard, narrow and vineyard. About equipment: toppers, tipping trailers, rear bin forks. There is the language of apples to learn: cultivars, pollinators, yield. And stories to remember: when you shake a Cox’s Orange Pippin you can hear the rattle of its see…

Doing It Right

I am making a summer fruit flan with my five-year-old granddaughter, nothing complicated – a ready-made sponge flan-case, strawberries already cut in half, raspberries, a packet of Quick-jel – nothing that can hurt her, nothing that can be spoiled under her energetic little hands, so why is the didact inside me so intent on her 'doing it right'?
Put in the strawberry halves cut side down, around the edge, and tightly together, I say. But she doesn’t seem to be listening and drops them anywhere. She leaves gaps that I hurry to fill. And then the raspberries. Choose the small ones first, I tell her, and put them in the spaces between the strawberries. But she chooses any sized ones and squashes them in, their ripe flesh pulping between her fingers and thumb.
When it comes to the Quick-jel, I bring the saucepan over to the kitchen bar, hand her the wooden spoon and say, Stir it gently.
Pink waves break over the side of the pan and I realise she’s not even watching; her eyes have d…


One of the reasons why I love our house in Antibes so much is that pretty much everything is within walking distance. The centre of Antibes is a short walk along the seafront and up the broad, plane tree-lined Boulevard Albert 1er. Supermarkets, La Poste, our bank and insurance agent, the Mairie, the Provencal market, bakers and fishmongers and chocolate shops, enough restaurants, bars and cafes that would probably take a year to visit, are all there.
Juan les Pins lies in the opposite direction, a steady climb to the crest of Chemin de Sables from where, 75 years ago, the 19th century palazzo that’s currently being renovated must have had a sweeping and uncluttered view of the bay and the Cap d’Antibes. Now the horizon is mostly filled with high rise apartment blocks that start on land once belonging to the palazzo’s estate and trickle down the hill to La Pinede at the edge of the town, a park full of umbrella pines, clumps of Strelitzia, or Birds of Paradise, and fairground rides fo…