Friday, April 30, 2021

Most of this spring was spent under long-lasting Covid restrictions in London. That has given me more time to appreciate the changing seasons.


I’ve walked and cycled numerous times through our neighborhood of Battersea in southwest London as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. I’ve seen the snowdrops appear in January and February followed by sunny daffodils, then bright pink cherry blossoms in April and finally the English bluebells and purple wisteria blossoms. The latter usually appearing in April through May.

The New York Times recently posed an interesting question: "After a year of languishing, New York City is flourishing. More so than usual?...Have the flowers changed or have we?"

I know that I've changed after experiencing life in a pandemic as well as several lockdowns. I’ve been waiting for my life to return to normal. I also know I've had more time to notice the spring flowers around me. How about you?


Sunday, February 28, 2021

London rarely gets snow, but this year, we were in for a snowy treat at the end of January and nearly an entire week in early February. 

When it snowed on Sunday morning on January 24th, it felt like a fairytale. We wandered over to Battersea Park and then over to Brompton Cemetery in Chelsea. Londoners acted like little kids out in the magical dusting of snow. Soon, the dusting turned into fat, fluffy snowflakes. 

Even though I grew up with several winter months of snowfall in the US, I still enjoy having a few days of snow. The several days of snow we experienced in London was just enough to (almost) forget that we're still living through an international pandemic.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Traditionally, I’ve ended the year on my blog by looking back at all the good dishes I’ve eaten during the past year.

 

Well, 2020 was a strange year – with very little travel and eating out at restaurants – unlike previous years. It’s a bit more difficult to recap the best meals I’ve eaten this year. However, most of the best meals in 2020 were homemade and eaten at home.

January 2020

The year started out hopeful. One night, we met friends after work to take advantage of a 3-course meal at Gaucho in the South Kensington neighborhood of London. While sipping my glass of red wine in the chic bar, I had no idea what the upcoming year would have in store for us. Highlights: scallop ceviche and chicken Milanese.

At the end of January, we flew to Barcelona to meet up with American friends visiting from NYC. Highlights from our dinner at Can Boneta –known for its Catalan tapas and small plates – included octopus with creamed potatoes and veal carpaccio. 

Our last meal in Spain was a tapas lunch at Mercado de la Sagrada Familia – cheap platters filled with Spanish jamon and queso and a side of patatas bravas.

At the end of January, I even managed to drive to Bath for a day with two girlfriends. We enjoyed an Italian lunch at Sotto Sotto with its vaulted cellars and bare stone walls.

February 2020

We planned an overnight trip to Liverpool, one of the larger English cities that we hadn’t visited yet. We went to a food hall, a beer festival with hundreds of people and ended the night at the Cavern Club – a crowded night club where the Beatles once played. A weekend like this would be unthinkable right now.

At the end of February, we were supposed to go to Milan, which ended up being one of Italy’s epicenters of the Covid-19 virus. We opted for a nice dinner out in London at Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar, which was offering 3 courses for £28. Highlights: beetroot tartare, pork ribs and a decadent chocolate tart for dessert.


March 2020

On March 9th, I flew to the US to visit family and celebrate the 90th birthday of my husband’s grandmother. I made a two-layered carrot cake for the occasion. I’m glad we had the chance to visit family before the pandemic took hold of the entire world.

Luckily, we flew back to London, landing on the 16th of March – the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the initial UK lockdown. We were in for a bumpy ride.

At the end of March, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in our garden at home instead of on the beach in Thailand as we originally planned. I made a an issahn-style pork salad and pad thai, and hubby made pina coladas to drink.

April through Summer 2020

And thus, this started the beginning of our lockdown life in London.

I was furloughed from my pastry job. Hubby was working from home. I began cooking all the time and joined the sourdough baking bandwagon. I learned the ups and downs of feeding and taking care of my starter and also had difficulties sourcing flour several times.

I made Turkish kebabs, pide, sigari böreği, mucver and revani – a semolina cake.

I sometimes made Italian focaccia, pasta, ravioli and pizza.

We took advantage of the sunny days and went on long bike rides and grilled outside.

I baked bagels, challah and cakes at home. I soon started donating treats to my friend’s business, The Plattery, who started cooking for low-income people who needed food. (NOTE: we’ll still be donating meals in 2021, so if you can help donate here, please do.)

 

I made homemade tortillas and pulled pork so we could celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home.

We discovered a fish delivery company called The Upper Scale and cooked our own seafood feasts at home like French moules frites.

 

July 2020

For more than three months, cinemas, hair salons, museums, restaurants and bars were closed (except for take-away and delivery services) in the U.K. The country’s first lockdown ended on 4th of July.

Toward the end of July, we booked our first trip post-Covid-19 restrictions and drove up to the Peak District for a week. Our life didn’t change too much – hubby still worked from “home” and I went on long walks and cooked at our rental cottage. However, we did manage a few visits to the local pubs – as long as we could dine outside.


August 2020

We booked our second staycation and stayed in a rental cottage in southern Cornwall for a week. Sitting outside at a pub, smelling the sea air and eating fish and chips – life never seemed so good!


September 2020

We ventured out of the city again – this time we donned our facemasks and took our bikes on a train heading to Norwich in the County of Norfolk. Over the course of six days, we managed to cover 205 miles/325km on our bikes. We ate a lot of pub meals to fuel up for our long bike rides and ended that staycation with a big steak dinner.


October 2020

Although I’ve tried all sorts of new recipes during lockdown, I started taking some online cooking classes in October. I learned how to make pastel de nata from a Portuguese woman in Lisbon and Argentinian empanadas from a lovely couple in Columbia.

We also managed – just barely – to escape to Wales for a couple of days for hubby’s birthday. The foodie highlight of that staycation was cooking Welsh lambchops in our nearly 200-year-old rental cottage.

November 2020

My favorite foodie holiday, Thanksgiving, fell during our second lockdown. We still pulled off a socially-distanced dinner with our neighbors and piled a table full of festive delights such as grilled turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, roasted veggies and more.

 

December 2020

As mentioned in my previous blog post – How to Pretend You’re in Paris via London – we were able to treat ourselves to one fancy meal out before London went into lockdown – AGAIN!

This year has been all about cooking and baking new recipes at home, becoming a pantry raiding superstar and foraging for ingredients around the city. I’m thankful that I’ve learned some new baking skills, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to work in restaurants and enjoy dining out with friends again in 2021.

 

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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