Nostalgia is a Freshly-Baked Loaf

The queue’s gone down outside Vanora’s now. You could pop in for a loaf.

A couple of months ago, a new baker’s opened in Ripon.  Goodness, it was welcome.  A baker’s shop as a baker’s shop ought to be.

Vanora and Andrew get up in the small hours, when all the world’s abed, to fashion and bake their loaves.  The great pails of dough will already by then have been slowly proving and rising over a period of hours.  This is sourdough, fermented from  the natural yeasts present in the air we breathe, rather than using the commercially-available yeast usual in British breadmaking.

And oh – the bread it produces!  A wonderfully chewy crust, and a loaf with a slightly sour, characterful taste.  Riponians have taken this extra-special bread to their hearts, and ahead of opening time (only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at present) an eager queue forms outside the door.

How this reminds me of our years in France.  The first job of our day was to queue outside the baker’s for our morning bread, croissants or pains au chocolat.  It was an unhurried task.  We’d all stand cheerfully in line, catching up with neighbourhood gossip, swapping recipes: generally having a sociable time.  And so it is outside Vanora’s.  We meet old friends, make new ones, and once inside, are greeted by name by Vanora and Andrew as we take the time to chat to them too.  This, we all agree, is shopping as it ought to be.  Oh, and on Saturdays, Vanora makes croissants too.  Don’t tell anyone in France, but …. these are the best croissants we’ve ever tasted. You could stock up on brownies, focaccia, sausage rolls and pork pies too.  These last two aren’t our thing, but I’m told they’re far and way the best in town. (Please note:  I am not being paid by V&A for this shameless piece of advertising.)

Vanora serves a customer….
… perhaps with one of these loaves.

This isn’t the only reason for my feelings of nostalgia though. Brought up in London as an Anglo-Polish girl, east-European-style sourdough loaves were as much a part of my life as baps, cottage loaves and wholemeal tins.  Good memories.

This is an entry for Lens-Artists Challenge #75 – Nostalgic, despite the fact that I was limited to using my non-smart-smartphone to take my snapshots.

 

Water in the Abstract

I’ve chosen water as my theme for this week’s Lens-Art Photo Challenge: Abstract.

Water plays with the world above it, dissolving solid shapes and blocks of colour into tantalising blots and sparkling smudges.  It reflects onto man-made forms, such as bridges, confusing the eye into seeing … anything but a bridge.  It sculpts the ground beneath, making corrugated free-form patterns on a sandy beach.  And it blurs and baffles the landscape seen through a rain-spotted window.

And above the apparently endless surface of the sea, the sky’s slashed with a series of savage and expressionistic brushstrokes.

Albert Dock, Liverpool
A bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Gargrave, North Yorkshire.
Alnmouth, Northumberland.
Rain near Bamberg, Germany.
North Sea between Rotterdam and Hull.
The River Skell at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #74: Abstract.

The Secret Diary of a Garden

As promised earlier, I’ve kept a photo diary of a month in the life of the walled garden.  Too bad that my recently-repaired camera turned out not to have been repaired satisfactorily, and I’ve had to rely on my not-very-smart-smartphone.

So here we are, Sue: the walled garden, as it puts itself to bed for winter.  The Changing Seasons.

1st November. Here we are. Come in and explore.

 

5th November. You want me to go out in THIS?
12th November.
16th November.
23rd November. Oops. I forgot.  Until dead of night.
30th November. And just in time for the end of the month, a good hard frost. Winter’s on its way.

An entry for both Six Word Saturday, and The Changing Seasons.

Cabbage glut? Be Korean – make kimchi!

Kimchi jars outside a house in Seoul.

If Korean, serve at every meal.

Fermented cabbage: sour, pungent and addictive.

To prepare … set aside whole day …

Ever since our holiday in Korea, I’ve wanted to make kimchi.  Every house had its earthenware kimchi jar, or jars, with various kinds of pickled vegetables fermenting happily away within.

This week I had a cabbage mountain, and two days ago, had the perfect excuse to get started, even though, strictly, it wasn’t the right sort of cabbage.  I watched this YouTube video by Maangchi, who’s the Korean cook to watch if you want to acquire a bit of know-how.  You can watch it too, but if you don’t feel like it, here’s my summary underneath.

Between soaking chopped cabbage, salting it for long hours; cooking and cooling a sauce base; preparing and processing onions, garlic, ginger; chopping piles of vegetables finely and adding Korean chilli flakes; mixing the lot together; packing it into an airtight container – you won’t be doing much else between breakfast and a very late lunch.

Now … now it’s beginning to ferment.  Sour already, it’ll become more pungent as the days and weeks go by.  Try a bit? If it’s your first time you may not like it.  But you may come to love it: fermented, sour, spicy, soft yet crunchy, it’s a meal in its own right or a fine addition to a simple plate of rice or noodles.  Just as well I made a lot.  It was a bit of a palaver.

Making kimchi takes a long time.

It’s worth it – don’t you think?

An offering for Six Word Saturday.

 

Mamallapuram: on the coast of Coromandel

Picture a perfect tropical beach.  The palm trees.  The white sand.  The sun in a cloudless sky above a calm blue sea.  That’s Mamallapuram.  Now look just behind the beach.  Are those statues, monuments?

Beach at Mamallapuram with the Shore Temple in the background.

Yes, they are. This town was once a thriving international port.  The Chinese came here.  The Romans came here.  Sailors and traders from around the known world came here.  An 8th century text describes how ‘the ships rode at anchor bent to the point of breaking, laden as they were with wealth, big-trunked elephants and gems of nine varieties in heaps‘.

Shore Temple, Mamallapuram

And so it was that just before this time, King Navasimharavan and his successor Rajasimharavan built a series of magnificent temples portraying the events of a great Hindu epic Mahabharata.  There are pavilions.  There are shrines shaped as temple chariots.  There are imposing carved elephants.  Here: you can wander round as I did, together with many Indian Sunday trippers.  I simply enjoyed these monumental carvings, without going deeply into their history.  I was quite simply too exhausted by then.

Later I ambled round town.  I bought soap and a toothbrush – remember, I hadn’t planned to spend the night here when I left The Hotel from Hell in Chennai.  I got a few more souvenirs to take home. I ate on the open terrace of a sheltered restaurant, finding easy company in fellow-travellers.  It was a perfect day.  My last day.  I’d be getting up in the morning to go back to Chennai, pack, get to the airport and … fly home.

An entry for Six Word Saturday.

 

 

The Post I Prepared to Post……

… before giving you a Bonus Post.

Now it’s Six Word Saturday Two.

Rainy Ripon’s Festival of Fallen Leaves

Start in the dripping, glistening garden …

… then go to Ripon – still raining …

Lustrous leaves shine on the pavement.

 

These are for two challenges: Six Word Saturday and A Festival of Leaves

 

Tree House at the Berlin Wall

Today commemorates the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  You’ll find plenty of posts celebrating this in different ways:  here’s one.

I thought instead I would share a tale I heard when we were in Berlin two years ago.  It’s an optimistic, positive story for unoptimistic times.

September 17th, 2017

The tale of a tree house

I love this story.  I hope you do too.

Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, one night in 1961, Berlin became a divided city. At first there was merely barbed wire fencing, then a wall. It was all done in such a hurry that mistakes were made. One tiny part of Kreuzberg that belonged to the Eastern sector got isolated in the West. The Americans – for it was in their zone – could do nothing about this unremarkable patch. It became an unloved and unlovely rubbish dump.

Then along came Osman Kalin, an immigrant Turk. He wanted a vegetable patch. He cleared the land and started to plant seeds.  As his patch became productive, he gave vegetables to schools, to the local church, to anyone in need. He cobbled together a rather ramshackle tree house.  He became something of a local hero.

Initially, the East didn’t mind. But when East Berliners successfully started to tunnel under his patch and escape he came under suspicion. The authorities came to interrogate him, and he welcomed them in his usual hospitable way. They gave up and left him alone.

In 1989, the Wall fell. A newly united Berlin City Council began to see Osman’s ramshackle domain as an embarrassment. They gave him notice to quit. The local and wider community was horrified. 25,000 people signed a petition demanding he be allowed to go on growing his vegetables.

He stayed. He’s 95 now, and doesn’t work so much on his vegetable patch, though his son does. He lives in a flat nearby rather than in the tree house. He’s still a much-loved local hero.

I heard this story on a walking tour offered by Alternative Berlin Tours, led by the remarkable and endlessly interesting Dave. Very highly recommended.

 An entry for Six Word Saturday. In her post, Debbie too has chosen to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall

November: Depressing? Or with Hidden Gems?

I really don’t like November.  It’s dank, dismal, dreary and depressing, despite being my elder daughter’s birthday month (my Bonfire Night baby).  I need a project to cheer me up.

I’ve found one.  I’ll take at least one photo in the walled garden, every single day throughout the month, come rain, come shine.

Then on Thursday I read Amy’s blog post in which she celebrates the changing season in Yosemite with a glorious gallery of photos.  She’s joined Sue’s blogging challenge called, of course, Changing Seasons.  That seems to be a perfect peg to hang my photos on.

My shots today show the garden on a thoroughly Novemberish sort of Friday: raining, of course.  Later on this month, I’ll post again.  Whatever the weather, I hope it’ll show that even in November, beginning with the final vestiges of summer, and winter setting in towards the end of the month, that the walled garden is a fine place to be.

 

This is also an entry for Six Word Saturday.

(Almost) all is safely gathered in…

Regular readers will know I’ve got into the habit, once a month or so, of revisiting an old post. And I’m reminded of what October used to mean in France. Blackberrying’s over now in England (the devil spits on the fruit as soon as October kicks in, didn’t you know?), but my inner-Frenchwoman has been squirreling away scavenged apples, pears, mushrooms – even a few unimpressive walnuts. It all reminds me of France, where foraging is a way of life…

October 25th, 2012

‘All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin’ *

Autumn colours mean it’s harvest time for foragers.

I’ve written before about the ‘au cas où’ bag: the carrier you always have with you on a walk, ‘just in case’ something tasty turns up and demands to be taken home and eaten.

Well, at this time of year, it isn’t really a case of ‘au cas où’ .  You’re bound to find something.  A fortnight ago, for instance, Mal and I went on a country stroll from Lieurac to Neylis.  We had with us a rucksack and two large bags, and we came home with just under 5 kilos of walnuts, scavenged from beneath the walnut trees along the path.  A walk through the hamlet of Bourlat just above Laroque produced a tidy haul of chestnuts too.

Yesterday, we Laroque walkers were among the vineyards of Belvèze-du-Razès.  The grapes had all been harvested in the weeks before, but luckily for us, some bunches remained on the endless rows of vines which lined the paths we walked along.  We felt no guilt as we gorged on this fruit all through the morning.  The grapes had either been missed at harvest-time, or hadn’t been sufficiently ripe.  They were unwanted – but not by us.

The walnuts we’re used to in the Ariège are replaced by almonds over in the Aude.  You have to be careful: non-grafted trees produce bitter almonds, not the sweet ones we wanted to find.  But most of us returned with a fine haul to inspect later.  Some of us found field mushrooms too.

Today, the destination of the Thursday walking group was the gently rising forested and pastoral country outside Foix known as la Barguillère.  It’s also known locally as an area richly provided with chestnut trees.  Any wild boar with any sense really ought to arrange to spend the autumn there, snuffling and truffling for the rich pickings.  We walked for 9 km or so, trying to resist the temptation to stop and gather under every tree we saw.  The ground beneath our feet felt nubbly and uneven as we trod our way over thousands of chestnuts, and the trees above threw further fruits down at us, popping and exploding as their prickly casings burst on the downward journey.

As our hike drew to an end, so did our supply of will-power.  We took our bags from our rucksacks and got stuck in.  So plentiful are the chestnuts here that you can be as picky as you like.  Only the very largest and choicest specimens needed to make it through our rigorous quality control.  I was restrained.  I gathered a mere 4 kilos.  Jacqueline and Martine probably each collected 3 times as much.  Some we’ll use, some we’ll give to lucky friends.

Serious business, this scavenging.

Now I’d better settle myself down with a dish of roasted chestnuts at my side, and browse through my collections of recipes to find uses for all this ‘Food for Free’.

Jacqueline, Martine and Maguy’s chestnut haul.

* Two lines from an English hymn sung at Harvest Festival season: Come, ye thankful people, come’

A contribution to Six Word Saturday, and Jo’s Monday Walk: it’s more than one walk Jo.  Extra value?  Or disqualified?