Archive for the 'Holiday' Category

Not feeling the love

It’s hard to get in the mood for Valentine’s day when the day before it’s rainy cats and dogs outside, your running late for work despite the alarm going off at 4:45 am and the elevator in your apartment building is out of order, oh and when you finally do make it out of the door after a trip back up the seven flights of stairs to get your rain coat,your umbrella does an impressive back flip and jars an elderly lady walking past (which I now know is only funny in films). Frankly, by this point in my day (and it was only 5:43 am) I felt like my guts-on-the-outside-umbrella, only minus the gold medal gymnastics. There was no love in the air. nada, zilch, niente- well you get the idea.

They say things can only get better-but I can categorically say when you start the day like you’ve been thrown in the pool with your clothes on (on a winters day) and there’s no more PG-tips left, there’s very little to feel bright about. So, I did what any right-minded girl in a grump and a sodden jumper would do- I got out a set of scales. If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t yet come across an activity or the person in your life to bring you up when you’re down, then let me suggest you drag your sad little feet into the kitchen. Sweet smells from the oven warm the heart, enliven the senses and really, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves…one more biscuit will make everything better? This isn’t to say that Don, doesn’t live up to his relationship-bound duties but I didn’t want to bring him down the day before Valentine’s Day and make him forget my flowers (Don, you did buy me flowers, right?).

Walking to the subway after work I chucked my useless brolly on a pile of other discarded ones’ by the curb- seems like no matter how much you shell out there is no such thing as a good umbrella. There are however good biscuits. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A BIG Family Christmas

With a family as big as mine, Christmas remains a far cry away from a quiet little retreat in the country. And on the years when we don’t all manage to fly our carbon fueled feet half way around the globe to meet up, it all feels a bit too quiet.  For one thing, when there are twenty-one family members- including three teenage boys (plus another six men who eat as if they still were), there’s a impressive amount of time, planning and stamina that goes into feeding them throughout the week of Christmas. With several birthdays to celebrate, big family Christmas’s always resemble my first week at University, complete with freshers flu at the end.

I grumbled in a recent posting that the obligation of Christmas present buying was tedium incarnate and whilst this Christmas proved no different to any other, bigger appetites meant there was an increased focus on the need for food. And lots of it. Don and I usually make decisions about what to eat when we’re hungry but here- it was no use deciding what to eat for lunch at lunchtime, menus for mealtimes were devised over lengthy group emails back in October and duties were divided up around the family.  And yet, for some reason, by some stroke of serious luck I managed to slip through the sieve, so to speak, and got off rather lightly. Although there was something rather unnerving about how much I enjoyed not being the one wiping away sweat beads dashing  between stove and dining room table. The price for such a luxury as actually having a holiday when on holiday was to make pavlovas for dessert one night.  Easy.  Or so one would assume.

If I’m ever asked to make a pavlova in somebody else’s kitchen again there will be a few pointers that will need clarifying before I agree to it:

1/  Will there be a bowl big enough to whisk eight egg whites in?

2/ Will there be a baking tin big enough to cook my pavlova on?

3/ Will there be an electric whisk?

To say that I got an arm workout that day would be grossly underselling my efforts. My appreciation for electric kitchen tools has never been more defined- and neither have my biceps for that matter.

Happy New Year!

Shopping blues

Christmas is only just a week away and I still have not figured out what presents to buy my nearest and dearest and my nearest and dearest dearest’s as they continue gloat unforgivingly that they finished their shopping in July.  I can’t work out whether this is to make me feel bad that my thoughts were on ice cream and barbeques in July and not on what meaningful gifts to buy them, or just that they’re rubbing in the fact that they won’t have to fight the winter crowds in New York. Every year I mean to be get prepared early, but with moving country, then apartment, finding and starting a new job, a blog and getting engaged all in one year, there has been very little time for anyone other than, well, me. And no, that’s not a very festive place to let you thoughts reside but I’m the one who’s now paying for such neglect by being forced to face the dreaded city crowds.

 It is on this note that I am now a firm believer that Thanksgiving is a better holiday than Christmas. Thanksgiving being of course all about the food and family and Christmas involving months (or at least days) of thought, endless card writing (or intended card writing), shopping, increased line of credit and then of course afterwards you have to write more cards to say thank you for outfit you were bought that was fashionable last summer!  So much pressure for one day! My favouritism towards Thanksgiving will of course be in disagreement with the younger generation of my relatives who A/ being British have never celebrated Thanksgiving and B/ still get a visit from Father Christmas.  As for myself, after 24 years of reliable service Father Christmas himself has forewarned me that from henceforth he will not be filling stocking for my siblings and I- again a reason why Thanksgiving rates higher than Christmas.

 Until Thanksgiving this year, Christmas was always the big family day- in fact the only day that my family spent together as a whole unit every year and thus my favourite holiday.  It goes without saying that this is also the only guaranteed holiday I get off work other than New Years Day, which is spent in the recovery position and so does not count. This year, will be the first year that one member of the family, my brother, will not be joining us- what is it with Americans companies and their aversion to reasonable amounts of time off?  And so last weekend we had my immediate family Christmas at home. It was on “Christmas day” last weekend that the day before we all sat down to open presents that the reason why I hate buying presents so much came to a head. My brother said he didn’t want what I had wrapped up and was due to give him the following day, my sister had just bought what I was about to give her and Don had declared that he didn’t think he could trust himself with the prezzie I had so generously purchased for him. Okay, so I lied, I have done some Christmas shopping but you can see how unsuccessful they were! I mean you don’t after all hear many people rejecting turkey at Thanksgiving!

 As ever I have found salvation/escape in my cookery books and it is for this reason that I will be making vast quantities of fudge over the following week to give to my doormen, supervisor, handyman, colleagues and postman for Christmas.  If only my family would be happy with fudge!

A RECIPE: Profiteroles with pumpkin caramel sauce


The problem with cooking for friends and family, whilst working in the food industry is that more is expected of you. Or, at least that is how you will undoubtedly always feel. If your dish isn’t paid a compliment or duly noted then immediately you recoil into a state of panic and melancholy that you might have chosen the wrong career path, that you are not as good a cook as you thought you were or that you will never be good at anything and so on and so forth. Alright, so perhaps it’s not ‘you’ I’m referring to but rather just myself. It’s not that I spend days panicking over what to cook for an upcoming event, or find myself with a shaky hand at the stove, it’s just that I’m hopelessly competitive and I’m always looking to out-do myself and quite frankly anybody else who chooses to wear an apron. It is perhaps this mentality of “I can do better than this or that”, which is why I keep working towards my goals. But then of course, there are those momentary setbacks, where you try to be too clever and end up out-doing even yourself.

So, here they are, the profiteroles with pumpkin caramel that appeared so strange amongst their more traditional Thanksgiving neighbours’. An attempt to be clever and unique when really I ought to have stuck with a pumpkin pie. Originally I had wanted to fill these little choux buns with pumpkin ice cream and drizzle with dark chocolate, but the demands of work left little time for churning batches of ice cream to get the right flavours. This was in all honesty a compromise, suggested by my colleague Deb, who, like me always wants her culinary endeavours to be a touch more perfect than perfection. I dread to think what might resolve from a work potluck dinner!

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Profiteroles with pumpkin caramel sauce’

A very sweet thanksgiving

The very concept of Thanksgiving gives me pleasure beyond belief- friends, family, an excuse to cook-up a huge meal, wear your fat jeans and enjoy a long weekend to recover. Now, that’s my kind of holiday! No last minute present-buying panic or having to witness the disgust on my sister’s face as she opens the gift that I spent hours choosing for her. Cooking food, I can do. Panic over.

Of course, what I haven’t ever gotten my head around is the how different the that Americans’ serve on Thanksgiving is to what my British blood is used to. One of my most visited bad-food memories was my first Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, aged nine. Utilising the eyes-bigger-than-the mouth policy that most young children do, I mounded my plate with turkey and mashed potatoes and drowned it in half a boats worth of gravy. It was only when I’d sat down recited my ‘thank you Lord’s and Amen’s’ that I came to regret my greed. The gravy turned out to be flavoured with apple juice and I was then forced to sit, as if moribund, in front of a plate of food ruined by my own gluttony.

It was a lesson that has stuck with me throughout my years of celebrating Thanksgiving- to urge on the side of caution as you never know what might not be what it seems.  In the run-up to Thanksgiving one of my lovely friend’s, Megan, hosts an event aptly named ‘Friendsgiving’ and in the true American-style everybody brings a dish- a ‘potluck’, if you will. Now, as somebody who leans heavily towards the anal side when it comes to food pairings, I find this a difficult concept to fathom. I love the idea, but having had it drilled into me at cooking school that no course should contain any of the same ingredients or colours in succession the reality of a potluck is, well, potluck.  Potluck also implies that any Tom, Dick and Harry will be producing something that you will out of politeness and fear of being seen as a food-snob or even worse as a fad-dieter, spoon onto your plate. I would urge on the side of caution.
Continue reading ‘A very sweet thanksgiving’

A new home and kitchen woes

I’m finally moving to Brooklyn tomorrow having spent months going through the process of buying a ‘Cooperative’ apartment. One would think that the seller would just want to take my money and be done with it, but alas, no; buying a co-op is like making croissants- it’s a long and painfully drawn-out process. Before you hand over a large cheque and say your thank you very muches you have to be approved by The Board (oh, yes, there’s a Board of neighbours- who decide your fate; a new reality TV series is coming to mind). To be approved by The Board you have to hand over copies of every document that pertains to your very existence and then go to an interview where they can ask you any questions that they choose. If I had a shrink, which currently I do not, I doubt that they would know more about me. I do not know as much about me. In fact the only thing that The Board don’t now know about me is what I eat for breakfast but then again they probably worked out from my bank statements, that I regularly swipe my plastic on cooking equipment and food. Hopefully, they do not know about this blog. Purchasing this apartment could either be a very savvy investment or a hell of an opportunity for a member of The Board to steal my identity. Continue reading ‘A new home and kitchen woes’

An arthroscopy tale

Midweek days at home- reclining on my beanbag, reading trashy magazines, catching up on TV, books and emailing are something that I can only dream of these days. Of course, when the occasional one does come up, they end up being nothing more than a chance to catch up on loads of laundry, bill paying and invoicing. That is until last week, when I had five. I wasn’t headed off to the beach or on a city break I was going to spend five days at home, not working. No recipe testing, cake making or catering. Nothing. Continue reading ‘An arthroscopy tale’

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