I think it is fair to say that I am not good at taking compliments. I don’t think I am very different from most women, but I do seem to have a particular knack of brushing them off, belittling or ignoring them. When your confidence has taken a bash or two, it is hard to remember that the things you are good at, never really leave you. You are still the person that did the things that you used to, you just haven’t done them for a while. But blogging is not a bicycle. You can’t just jump on again. Can you?
Three years have gone by since I made my last confession. A lot has happened. To start with, we no longer live in Seattle, but in London. We have moved continents, countries, homes and schools at least once over the last several months and the toll of starting afresh has weighed us down. We said goodbye to people and places we loved. I kissed farewell to my teaching kitchen and business, and we moved back ‘home’ to a place that felt very different to the one we left almost a decade ago. Finding our feet in a furiously busy city made us realise how accustomed to sedate Seattle life we had become. Living on top of each other in a teensy rental with one bathroom for 18 months would be a test of the best of marriages. Ours only just scraped by, thanks to a husband with a sense of humour that is particularly tickled by all things toilet.
We built a house in Kensal Rise, that took two years to nearly complete (we still have a list of ‘to do’ items). And I got sick. My family had to muddle through while I tried to get better, and then I got sick again. It has been a long road, but I am finally able to say that I will be well again. I know it in my bones, even though my head does not always feel it. Meningitis is jealous guest, refusing to share its host with others, and never entirely leaving. The ‘hangover’ as I have taken to refer to it, waxes and wanes to its own rythm. An unrelenting fog that occasionally lifts enough to give me a glimpse of what is around the corner, but more often than not, it settles in for weeks at a time. The anxious vulnerability that comes with an illness that leaves you distrusting your fickle memory and vacillating strength can become crippling. It becomes impossible to make plans, when you don’t trust that the good days will stay. Anyone familiar with a migraine will wince at the memory of what I am hinting at.
I don’t like to talk about it though, because I feel that to do so, gives it oxygen. It has taken up enough of my families’ time over the last year and a half, and any additional discussion simply gives it further attention, that is wholly undeserved. My undivided efforts are to be better. To stay better. And to finally get back to what I do best. To what I love. To cook.
The journey has been a winding one, with much to learn along the way. Foods that harm and foods that heal are a constant topic of thought and discussion. Getting back to basics, to old ways, and simpler things has always been what Heirlooms & Wooden Spoons was about. Sharing learning, skills and my kitchen have always brought me joy. I may be a little bruised, but I know more today than I ever did, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will teach me. With the unrelenting support of my husband and little family, I intend to gently build back up my fledgeling enterprise. Starting here.
The fragile and fleeting Elderflower seemed an appropriate topic for my first post in a while. In the most surprising corners of this throbbing city, tiny delicate white flowers can be found bursting into the sunshine. Each head lasts little more than a day and must be picked and cooked when it has just flowered. The heady aroma as it steeps in syrup fills my kitchen with the scent of a promise of things to come.
Perhaps, one day, a Teaching Kitchen in London? Hmmm … Cooking Classes in Kensal Rise anyone?
2 litres water
2.5 kg organic sugar
250g elderflowers; rinsed, shaken out, stalks removed (approx 25 heads)
3 lemons; remove zest with peeler in strips. Remove pith and use only flesh and zest
85g citric acid
Bring sugar and water to the boil, stirring occasionally to stop it from catching. once boiling, turn it off and throw in elderflowers, lemon and acid. Cover and leave to cool for 48 hours, then bottle. Quintessential England, in a bottle.
It can be kept it in the fridge for about five weeks, you can freeze it or jar it and use a water bath ‘canning’ method to store it at ambient temperature for longer.
Use in cakes, over icecreams, in cocktails or simply serve with sparkling water on a hot day.