Friday, January 9, 2015

Hawk and Grackle this morning - one lost....

The young Red Tailed Hawk, earlier in the week. I got up this morning, came down stairs to see 18 Grackle in the garden feeding in the snow. This is unusual we do not normally get Grackles.. Maybe 1 or 2, but this winter for the first time.. I got my camera, braving the cold, opened the window to get some shots of the Grackles. AsI was shooting there was a blur, Grackles scattered but the hawk got one... The remains... When I went out to see the remains, there was a scared Dove huddled. The small birds were high in the tree..

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cook Street Podcast "A Year in the Life and Kitchen of Downton Abbey

It was fully my intention to write a piece for this podcast, and I will by the weekend. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/house-home/food/a-year-in-the-life-and-kitchen-of-downton-abbey. In the meantime a couple of photos of my grandmother in service at Chatsworth... Lucy Fox, my Great Grandmother who cooked at Osborne House, for Queen Victoria and her Husband, Pa Fox (John) who was carpenter at Osborne My Grandmother Mahala, sister to Uffa Fox, when she was in service at Chatsworth.... I Love the ladies cricket team photos...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A drive across America, August 2014

Last August we had a double family emergency. On the day that Num’s Uncle passed, Num’s younger brother, Mike went to the Dr because he suddenly had very bad headaches. The Dr’s discovered a Brain tumor, he was immediately admitted into Hospital, where they found cancer in his lungs as well. Num had literally been back from Oklahoma City 2 days when this all occurred. We decided we would drive back to Oklahoma, I had been wanting to take a road trip in America for a few years and this seemed like the opportunity. Before I go further I feel that I need to explain who ‘we’ are. I am a Blond Blue Eyed “Brit” who has lived and worked in the USA for thirty plus years. I have a small Catering company that is quite successful. Num (Noom) is an African American from Oklahoma City. He is a very successful musician. He played Percussion with Burning Spear for many years. Traveling the world with “Spear” playing in front of 10’s of thousands of people. He won 2 Grammys with Spear. he has also won a grammy with Common; had a shout out from his cousin Kanye on Gone from Late Registration. We met in Central Park after a Summer Stage concert eighteen years ago. We have been a couple since. We are both now in our mid - late 50’s. I say all of this because I want it to be clear who we are as I go forward with my story. We were up early one hot August morning to get on the road early and avoid traffic and set out on our journey. Num likes to take Route 71 to get to Rte 70. Our second stop was in a rest area up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I had left the bathroom before Num and bought myself an iced black coffee, as I was the next driver. People had smiled and greeted me while I was alone but once Num and I were together I noticed people turned away, gave us funny looks. There was a couple of local farm stands in the parking lot, we walked over to see if there was anything to tempt us. As we got closer I saw the woman move her money box below. Did I see what I thought I saw? For a minute I was nonplussed and then I thought “Right, we are no longer in NYC” It was shortly after this that we began to see ad’s and Billboards for fracking, offering to buy land, lease equipment; Pro coal, oil and gas. Then there were the Billboards denouncing Yoko Ono, Robert Redford, Lady Gaga as Big Green Radicals. They want us all to be Green but fly private jets… We were now in ‘Murrica. Our first night we stayed in some hideous motel in Indiana, which had been the best that this particular stop area had to offer. We were too tired to drive further, just wanted to stop, shower, hopefully sleep and be back on the road. We were up at first light, we wanted to get through St. Louis before rush hour. Michael Brown had been shot a few days earlier by the white cop, Daren Wilson. Ferguson was rioting. We made a bathroom stop just before St. Louis and there were a group of older whites recounting that the NY Times had said St. Louis was the most dangerous city in the US, and that clearly it was the Blacks fault because how could it be our fault. Clearly they felt very free to express their opinions in front of me. Then Num came from the bathroom and they moved away, giving me sidelong looks. No I was not part of their club after all. I was far more interested in crossing the Mighty Mississippi. When I drove across from Los Angeles in ’88 I had been alone. There was no iPhone and I had barely been able to see the iconic bridge and river. I noticed a strange correlation, as we drove and there were more “Christian” billboards that were Pro Life; denounced evolution; Pro some hateful perverse religion advocating hate; them and us, misinformation about Science, so the racism get worse. I began to realize just why America was so divided there was nothing offering an honest opinion. Just as the media likes to tell us that the Islamic terrorists and Taliban do not read the Koran, they only hear what a particular Imam has learnt and shares a distorted version of Islamic law. It seemed to me that here in the middle of the country the same was true of Christianity. Although we tend to believe that the majority of American Christians can read and form their own opinion. Oklahoma. When I drove across country on my own Oklahoma City had been one of my stops. I had stayed in a Motel off of Route 40. It was 7ish or so when I pulled off. I had got a room and walked across the road to a Diner and ordered dinner. Looking up, I realized that everyone else in the Diner was watching me read my Joseph Campbell book. They watched me eat. They watched me pay. They watched me walk back to the Motel, climb the stairs to my room. It totally ‘put the wind up my tail’ if not freaked me out. Locking the room door, I saw it had 5 locks. Who has five locks on a motel door, oh my god there must be a reason for this? I barely slept, at 5am I got up, drove off, and vowed never to come back. Everyone in that diner was white. I have never forgotten it. I was genuinely scared. I tell this story to all of Num’s Okies that come to stay with us and we all enjoy a good laugh about it! Our Motel had a breakfast buffet that we got up for each morning. The first morning I had my initiation into how some of my next few days would be. As we headed to our table, there were a group of white men, could be ranchers/cowboys, they kept their big stetsons on while eating. They start to greet me, then realize that I am with Num and their faces change into masks of hatred. Ok then, haven’t even had a mouthful of coffee and it starts. Although as a food person I was far more thrown by these huge buckets of something white and gelatinous that were hung along the buffet station. That was an awful lot of yogurt! But no, it was some substance they called gravy, as in gravy and biscuits. My stomach lurched at the thought. White thick gravy that they poured all over their eggs and bacon. Ugh. and all the guests were ladling it on. As we left the Motel to go to the funeral, both nicely dressed a young white man and his family were walking towards us. This person was so incensed about Num and I his face screwed up with hate and anger, his hands balled into clenched fists. I thought my god he is going to spit at us. His child ran away behaving badly and he had to to deal with that. And so it went. Everywhere we went where white people were, this irrational anger. Even in walmart. I did however notice that white men with black women did not get the same response. Less threatening, I would guess. This was all such a contrast to the love and laughs I was having with Num’s family and friends. Some of who I met for the first time, but all greeted me with Love, hugs. Sitting with family sharing hopes and dreams, talking of life, in the cool of the night. This is what I chose to remember and reflect on. On our final day, we went to have breakfast and then take Nick to his first day of school. Nick was so excited about starting school, we were all laughing and joking about life and how going to school would change him. At breakfast we were sitting laughing and this older white man came and stood in my line of vision. Deliberately. Hands on hips, glaring at me. Were we just having too much fun as a family? There were a couple of incidents on our drive back. One in a rural stop in Ohio, we had seen a sign for Pizza, so pulled up. We walked in, the whole place froze and went quiet. I looked at the Pizza, there were meatball, sausage, pepperoni. I asked the young man behind the counter if there was plain. “Whadduya mean plain?” Well, cheese and sauce, the original kind, I responded. “This is what we have, take it or leave it. “ We had wanted to sit and eat, use the bathroom etc, but we got a slice and hastily made for the door. The next stop for gas. I had been driving, got out of the car. I left Num filling up with gas as I went to the bathroom, coming back out. This bearded white haired man, shouts to me “Be safe Ma’am” I am I replied.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vanilla Fudge

This is an early good cateress newsletter. I have added a few photo's good cateress, newsletter. Nov/Dec 06 When I started to write the newsletters I knew the November and December would be the hardest to write, as they are my busiest months. So I have decided to combine them. As a caterer any sense of joy for the Christmas season is lost, but in my teen years I still had it.
The "New" Folly 70's I need to write a little explanation here, about where I am writing about. For the most part it will be the Isle of Wight, and in particular the River Medina area from Cowes up the river to Newport. My cousin Diana, an archivist, has traced my mothers family back to the 14th Century; we are all christened, married and buried in the four parishes along the river, Cowes, East Cowes, Northwood and Whippingham. It is still for the most part a beautiful river valley although Cowes and East Cowes continue to grow along it, but much of it is unchanged for centuries. Pastoral farm land the most part, with a public footpath that runs along the East bank. As I write this in my office in Harlem I can look up at the wall above my desk filled with Victorian prints of the river, Whippingham Church, Uncles house in Cowes, but mostly the river from different angles and I am transported back to my roots. My parents, my aunt Janette and uncle Murray in a variety of partnerships and singly had the pub called The Folly Inn on the river. Originally, The Polly, a working barge in the 17th Century which had been swept aground in one of our notorious sou’westers, presumably during the equinox high tides and it had never been able to float again. At some point it had become an Inn and so it remains. When Murray and Janette had the Folly in the 60’s, while doing some renovations they had discovered that the original hull was still fairly intact and had installed Plexiglas in the floor so you could see it. Further renovations had removed all that, but in the attic there were still parts of the original deck. Also living on the river were the Cundall family. Pam and Allan with their sons, Robert, Colin and Philip, they ran sailing holidays on their boat the Rene Phillippe. The Rene was a large wooden motor boat, I thought she went to Dunkirk, but everybody tells me I am wrong. People came from around the world for the sailing holidays and Pam's amazing cooking. It was a wonderful life for all of us, particularly the children. We lived on a tidal river, played around on boats, Simon fished and so dug for rag worms for bait in the river silts at low tide he was always being rescued from the gooey sucking mud. There was a copse behind the Folly for us to play in, during the Spring there were primroses and wild daffodils, Blue bells in May. We went to sleep at night with the Halyards beating tunes on the masts and the night wading birds chirping to each other as our lullabies. Come early December their would be an invitation from Pam to help her make sweets/candy as Christmas presents. Some years the Rene would be tied up along the jetty, but one year I do remember rowing out to the Rene. Pam and Lucy, my mother would have worked out all the ingredients ahead of time, and of course, what I would be doing, my job was to show up. I always showed up I loved this day. One of my favorite things, was candy making.Fudge, coconut ice, truffles, marzipan fruits, chocolate corn flakes. Anything with sugar and butter.
Simon and I on 'Old" Folly swings late 60's We started with fudge. As the sugar melted into the condensed milk, the tangy air of the river faded as the sweet smell of sugar, butter, vanilla pervaded the boat. I had to stir almost continuously to stop the sugar from burning on the bottom of the pan; something that with Pam's gentle reminders never happened, but when I was alone frequently did. This was a job that called for patience, something I didn't have much of, as I stirred and watched, stirred and waited for ‘soft ball’ phase to be reached. Pam would talk to me, distracting me from my impatience with a small chore here and there that could be done during the stirring. Then without warning we were there. The smell would change. It was exciting pouring the molten mixture into trays to cool, ready to be cut into squares. Of course, I wanted to try it hot from the pan, burnt fingers and certainly scalded tongue followed. My next sweet was coconut ice. I enjoyed making it but I could never quite get my mind around laying the pink and white on top of each other, I wanted them to be side by side. Chocolate and cream turning into ganache for truffle, with each year a different flavor. Sometimes chopped apricots, always some liquor. It was put away in the fridge to solidify ready to be scooped with a melon baller and rolled in cocoa. By now the portholes were running with condensation from the steam.The water lapped against the boat as the tide turned. Time to row back across the river.
Me standing by the river late 60's The following week we would get together again. Pam was very creative and had found small trays to pack our sweets on, with colored doilies as a liner and sprigs of holly with berries from the copse. It looked and felt like Christmas. I really enjoyed these times, but one year I stopped helping Pam, I forget why, I was a teenager and it probably seemed unimportant. ButI never stopped making sweets. For a brief moment in my early twenties I decided that was what I would be a sweet maker. After all I would make fudge, coconut ice and sell it to my friends. My then boyfriend, older and wiser than me, said the words that I have subsequently used on many occasions. “You will have to make an awful lot of sweets to make any money,” Its true but homemade sweets, jam, cookies and cakes are really the nicest gift to give and receive Old fashioned Vanilla fudge 1lb Sugar 2oz butter 300 ml Magnolia vanilla essence Grease a tin 6inch x 6inch Put the sugar, butter and magnolia in a large heavy based pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and butter melted. Bring to boil and boil steadily to 240 F or soft boil stage, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from heat to cool surface, add the essence and beat until mixture becomes thick and creamy and grains form - minute crystals. Pour into tin. Leave until nearly cold and mark into squares with sharp knife. When it is firm cut into squares Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah

Friday, October 3, 2014

The garden today

I took a few photos today of the garden. The rain tomorrow will change it all.. I am very grateful that we will get rain tomorrow.