I'm finding that in London, it's easier to find a lot of fairly exotic ingredients. In France, I would get a pang of homesickness every time I had to search for peanut butter and good bourbon and hot sauce, and trying to improvise American recipes with french cuts of meat and substitute ingredients was always an adventure of sorts. I once paid the equivalent of $12 for a wee bottle of Angostura bitters because I had found a jar of Morello cherries soaked in Brandy and I HAD TO MAKE A MANHATTAN even if it meant shelling out for ridiculously overpriced bitters that I only needed a few drops of. Irrational, I can be. Eventually, I switched to more traditional French recipes once I was able to read the language well enough, and that made life easier, and I never ever found broccoli rabe, even in Italian markets. Still, when I got a craving for something from home, it became a multi-arrondissement wild goose chase as I tracked down ingredients. Many an American has visited friends in Paris with suitcases full of junior mints and chocolate peanut butter cups, baking chocolate, black beans and wild rice .
Now that I'm in London, it seems I only miss things that I used to be able to get so readily and cheaply in Paris. Slightly sticky-rinded pungent Munster, small-producer Roquefort, the orange-rind goat cheese the farmer would bring to market every week, bottles of cherry liqueur and funk-laden normandie ciders, and of course, wine that I threw down pocket change for and was delicious. Oh, and the bread. It's just not the same, although I did find a French bakery that was decent, if not a little out of the way. Something that I was warned about: Move to France, spend the rest of your life picking cardboard off your sandwiches. I did find a nice carby replacement in sourdough crumpets- 'english muffins' as we call them in the states. Those little bastards are basically melted-butter-sponges, and slathered with raspberry jam you've basically got yourself an impromptu pastry.
I was unable to resist purchasing a cookbook recently. I try really hard not too buy books, as they are heavy to lug around, impractical to ship, and take up a lot of shelf space. I stopped being a curmudgeon for a minute and caved to commerce.
It turns out that the food thing I miss most about the states now is my favorite neighborhood Middle Eastern restaurant in Brooklyn. There's a fantastic cookbook-only book shop right off Portobella Road, which just happens to be across the street from the ultra fragrant Spice Shop. It was fate that I ended up going home with the secrets of Tanoreen under my arm, and my handbag filled with little tins of spices.
Frenchie will have to wait, as I'm not quite as homesick for a fancy Pot au Feu quite yet. Still. Want.
The cookbook is the UK version, so I had to recruit my yarn-scale to be the new kitchen scale, as like France, they forego cups and teaspoons for the more accurate grams and ounces.
It is filled with promise though. While nothing beats sitting around a table with friends fighting over the last yogurt-coated caramlized brussel sprout, I can at least try to replicate part of the experience.
But, this is what I'm most excited about:
I have tried Knaef every single time I've seen it on a menu, and nothing has come close to this version. It's a sweet gooey cheese pastry, topped with shredded wheat and pistachios. It's a toothsome and satisfying comfort food that I will ignore the calorie count on always.
Oh, and did I mention that I have a grill now! It's a no-fuss gas grill and I'm actually really disappointed in myself that I haven't fired it up yet. As long as it's not cold enough to have to wear mittens while 'manning' the grill, I should be out there.