Back when I first left my job and strode purposefully into the warm, sugary waters of cookbook-writing (before immediately getting sick for three weeks) I had it in my head that I'd be able to blog more than ever. Well, ha! I certainly learned a thing or two since then. Like I wouldn't really have the time, at all. So, sorry to leave it so long between blog posts. Basically, if I am awake I am working on the cookbook. It leaves very little time for blogging. But as this blog is so deeply important to me, it does not behoove me to neglect it. So here I am, and I will attempt to keep this relatively snappish (a) so I can get onto preparing for today's cookbook photoshoot and (b) because there is only so much one can say about a smoothie.
It has been one heck of a week. If my last blog post indicated that it was crunch time and time was crunchy, well, time has since become ever more textured. Barbed. Studded. Clawed. Gritty. It's grit time. Hopefully all this grit will bring forth a pearl of a cookbook though.
At book group the other day (which escalated with delightful predictability to into-the-night discussions on feminism, politics, and HBO television) I had an amazing Ottolenghi salad that the host, my longtime friend Ange had made. I then realised how long it had been since I'd cooked anything that wasn't something being tested for the cookbook. Much as I'll miss the montage that is my life currently, I am definitely looking forward to opening up someone else's cookbook and making their recipes.
But I am still fair sparkling with excitement, every particle of me alive and tense with the knowledge that I am going to be a published author, that my ideas have actually taken me somewhere. Luckily the universe reminds me often enough of this, so that when I'm all grumpypants and don't want to look at food, the amazing ridiculousness of this all sets in again, I remember that any problems I have are AMAZING PROBLEMS TO HAVE and I find energy to keep going. I mean, I physically cannot bring myself to complain about any of the more stressful elements of this whole process (please ignore any times I actually complained about it) because it's all so...incredible.
Yesterday, pale with the knowledge that I'd hardly eaten anything vitamin-rich lately, I made myself a smoothie for breakfast. It was perfect - eye-wideningly zingy, not troublingly filling, and gloriously pink. Who am I to tell you how to make a smoothie? It's just blended up stuff. When I was a child and my grandma gave me her old blender, which had a three-cup capacity and all the grunt of an electric toothbrush, my favourite thing to do was blend up a can of peaches in its syrup and drink that like the fancy lady I thought I was. What I'm saying is: smoothies, they're not long division, but they are delicious. Here's an idea for you.
Raspberry, Pear and Basil Smoothie
The secret ingredient is a sneaky, sour teaspoon of apple tea powder. Which in itself is a perfect snack. If you don't have any, this is still more than fine of course. Consider a tiny pinch of citric acid instead, if you like.
1 heaped cup frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon apple tea powder
A few basil leaves
Tip the raspberries into a blender (pausing to ostentatiously instagram them first, if you're anything like me.) Peel the pears and roughly chop them, and add them to the blender too. Eat the peel to assuage any wastefulness-guilt. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the cup measure, then top up with water. Pour this into the blender, add the apple tea powder and the basil leaves, then process thoroughly till smooth.
I say use frozen raspberries, because who has heaps of fresh raspberries kicking around to be diluted into smoothies? Do you? Who are you, Marie Antoinette? You could use any berry you like - frozen strawberries are rather pleasing as their seeds aren't so obvious between the teeth. On the other hand, the seeds kind of make you feel like you've got something to do as your teeth grind them down, so there is a case for both sides. The pears give a similar kind of bodily smoothness to the drink that bananas might, also their mild, fragrant juiciness is a good backdrop for the more boldly acerbic berries. Basil's smokiness provides a little depth and warmth. And the finished smoothie is a really pretty colour. Really, really pretty. Let us not overlook its aesthetic value for the sake of pretending we're overlooking its aesthetic value.
Last time I blogged I was urging anyone local to come along to the rally for Marriage Equality. Well, I went, with all my friends, and it was the most intense, happy, emotional day. I wore my big gold dress as it was the most celebratory thing I owned and also because it made me think of Edie Beale's 'Revolutionary Costume For Today' from Grey Gardens. ("The full-length velvet glove hides the fist".) We marched together, all the way to parliament in the hot sun, to hear speeches from many different sides of the story, from the most recent of accepters to those who had been working longer than I've been alive to fight for equality, for people to just be who they are. It was incredibly moving. Later that evening, over lots of ice cream (I needed to test a ton of ice cream recipes, so I did just that, and then invited people round to eat it all) we huddled round a livestream of Parliament TV to watch, with lip-biting nervousness and then heart-soaring joy, as Louisa Wall's bill was voted to go ahead to a select committee by a surprisingly generous majority. This isn't the final hurdle - there are still so many steps to be taken for the bill to become law - but still, it was such an exciting, wonderful achievement. Watching it all unfold with people dear to me was even better. I'm really not expressing myself here, but it was all...just...so important.
If my paragraph hasn't moved you in the slightest, perhaps this video of Mitt Romney being incredibly disrespectful will show just one reason I feel so strongly about this issue - I've watched this video three times and my eyes well up each time by the end.
Another exciting thing that has happened, on a much smaller scale - and yet no less large-scale in its way - I received an email from Julie Clark of Floriditas cafe, saying their bakery always has plenty of ingredients and she'd read about some of my recipe testing mishaps and she'd like to help me out. How kind, thought I, perhaps she has a spare bag of sugar for me! The next day she emails again to say she's just down the road and has something for me.
That something was 20 blocks of butter and 60 eggs. I'd never even met Julie, and to receive so much kindness from a stranger near-on floored me. She didn't know it at the time, but Floriditas was where Tim and I went for a celebratory dinner on the night I found out my book deal was confirmed, and also we often buy their loaves of bread to add to the snacks table at photoshoots for everyone to eat. So...synergy? Anyway, damn, sometimes these moments come out of nowhere and all you can do is say thank you. All my recipe testing since then has been monumentally less stressful, since, if something doesn't work out quite right, there is still another remaining tonne of butter for me to use. Thank you, Julie!
Next time I blog, we may well have wrapped up the photography process and I'll be very nearly finished the manuscript. The team - Kim and Jason the photographers, Tim the handsome project manager and Kate the stylist, are continuing to do such a brilliant job and putting so much energy into this and I am SO so excited for you all (I mean, no pressure, if you don't want to buy the book that's totally up to you) to see their amazing work.
Till then, I'll be carving that butter sculpture of myself that I've always dreamed of.
Title via: I've used this before but it's so utterly plunder-able that I don't care. And if you haven't listened to it yet, please do yourself a favour and click here for the shivers-inducingly magnificent Elaine Stritch singing Ladies Who Lunch from Sondheim's Company.
Thanks to a tip-off from Martyn Pepperell I've been streaming Alice Cohen's album Pink Stream - so twinkly! And if there's one thing I enjoy in music, it's twinkliness.
TLC, Creep. Always.
Liza Minnelli and Pet Shop Boys, Losing My Mind. I didn't think Sondheim's fragile, terribly sad original could be improved upon by dramatic eighties drums and synths, but...it can! And how!
Next time: I'll be twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. Not sure what that will bring, foodwise - Marmite on toast?