Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The leaves are drifting down in the drizzle, with pouring rain and high winds promised. Already the sidewalks near ash trees are paved with little golden leaves. But many trees will be stripped bare before their leaves have had a chance to thrill us with colour. Last year's autumn was such a spectacular one, I suppose we can't complain if this year is an off-year.

In my last post - mostly about the Mega Quarry and fabulous Foodstock - I said I'd write soon about some encounters I had in early October. The month started with Nuit Blanche, and I guess that first of October event was a preview of what my month has been since: a composite of often-chilly weather, friends old and new, and serendipitous encounters with people and art and food and new ideas.

A couple of days after Nuit Blanche I took a day flight to London on Air Canada, a huge treat, and headed into town on the Tube to stay at my cousin's flat near Victoria. There was time the next day for lots of conversation with him, and a visit to the British Museum as well as wanderings through Bloomsbury and Covent Garden and more.

The following morning I took a train to Devizes to visit a friend I'd met travelling in Burma. She took me to Stonehenge (I'd never been, so missed the hundreds of years when it was freely open; it's now visitable but only from a distance). The winds blew cold and fierce, across Salisbury Plain and the shifting sky was dramatic and beautiful, so that Stonehenge held its own, even with polite little fencing around it. There were lovely sharp shadows, intensely green rounded hills, and the wind, always.

The market in Devizes, which is on Thursday mornings, was charming, nd loaded with the best of English and Scottish fresh food, from raspberries and strawberries (yes really) to quinces; and from Whitby crab to Shetland scallops. We bought lots of scallops, still with their beautiful orange roe, and cooked them lightly with a little olive oil and garlic for supper. Not shabby at all! But even with that caliber of competition, the winner in the memorable food competition in Devizes for me was the butcher's shop Walter Rose's. It's stunning, small, beautiful, and with an astonishing selection of meats. I bought a pork pie, a deceptively simple-looking pork pie. And I have to say that the taste and texture of it haunt me still. What word to use besides delicious? succulent? perfect?

Back in London on Saturday, I headed out early to Borough Market, almost a cliche destination for food tourists. I'd been warned that it would be crowded, but early on Saturday it was anything but. The website is great, by the way. I ate fresh oysters - bracingly chilled and briny - from Mersea Island (in Essex); bought some Extra virgin olive oil from Greece, and some olives; ate a pain au chocolat, and then another; and also bought a delicious slab of Comte, aged 22 months, to take to friends.

Fortified(!) by treats I walked to the Tate Modern to see the newly opened Gerhard Richter retrospective, just dazzling and amazing, especially for someone like me who hadn't been very clued in about his work before. Here's the link to info about the show It's on until early January. And of course there's lots else to marvel at at the Tate Modern, if you have the stamina.

In the next couple of days I got to another two exhibitions, one on Degas at the Royal Academy, info here; and the other at the V&A, a huge retrospective view of the movement in art and architecture, music and design, called Post-Modernism. It was so enlightening to realise a little more about where aesthetic and design elements arose that we now take for granted. Here's a link to info about the show.

As if all that weren't enough, I had fun with food people too. One, whom I'll call Mrs Lemur, has a wonderful blog called The Lemurs are Hungry, here. I'd stumbled on it awhile ago, and made a couple of comments, so then we agreed to meet while I was in London. Have a look at the blog, which gives recipes that Mrs Lemur makes, often Thai or other Asian, always clear and interesting. Good writing generally. I met Kay Plunkett-Hogge, who is deeply knowledgeable about Thailand, having been raised there, and writes and teaches, also based in London. Her blog and website are here, lively, opnionated, wide-ranging.

I had the pleasure of a making a foraging expedition with the wonderful Anissa Helou, whose book on Offal has just been re-published. We headed north to Baldwin's, a butcher in the far north of London, north of FInsbury Park somewhere, in a largely Turkish and Kurdish area. Before the shopping we had to fortify ourselves with lachmajun, hot and delish. The butcher was very sweet, and also had a fantastic array of lamb and sheep and sausage and more... We picked up the order Anissa had phoned in, which included testicles, heads, a whole young lamb, brains, tripe, and more. Anissa needed it all to prepare a feast the following day. She wrote about the tripe in her blog Anissa, which I think all food people should bookmark.

I know, you think I've said enough about all this food and art and stuff in London. I have just a few more: I was so happy to be able to spend time with Jake Tilson, whose book about fish and seafood and a lot more besides - In at the Deep End - is now out. The writing, recipes, design, typography, art, and photographs are his - a spectacular achievement. His website is here. His partner, the amazing Jennifer Lee, is a ceramic artist, and her website is here. It's a place to marvel at her work...

Finally, I am always happy to see Richard Jung and his family. I had supper with them on my last night in London, which was extra-welcome because it was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. No, we didn't have turkey, thank heavens (not my favorite food at any time). Richard made all the wonderful natural-light studio shots for Hot Sour Salty Sweet; HomeBaking; Mangoes and Curry Leaves (where his black and white location shots also featured); and Beyond the Great Wall. I'm hoping he's available to shoot for Rivers of Flavor, my new book, about Burma. Meantime you can admire his work here.

I've come to the end of this link-littered post. Thanks for your patience: I so much enjoyed the opening out that my trip to London gave me that I wanted to pass it on.

And now I'm back in Toronto and listening to pelting rain outside. I'm happy to be snug and warm, grateful for the comforts and familiarity of home.

1 comment:

Ms Lemur said...

It was lovely to meet you too! Making foodie friends across the ocean is one of the joys of blogging. Enjoy your home comforts and come to Brighton next time...