Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cooking in the English countryside

I grew up in a kitchen: my mother is a truly exceptional cook, and all my earliest memories (from the 70s) revolve around food.

Muv making chicken liver patés in deep stoneware bowls to sell in the local deli, coming home from school on Wednesdays to discover the entire kitchen surface covered in cooling wire racks of cakes & biscuits from Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, getting my first cookery set from my godmother when I was five and learning how to roll out my own pastry, the endless files of cutout newspaper recipes to thumb through by Marika Hanbury Tenison, Katie Stewart, Jane Grigson, Josceline Dimbleby Caroline Conran et al, playing with Arabella Boxer’s brilliant ringbound First Slice Your Cookbook, and packed lunches that had my schoolfriends speechless with shock: chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese, cold slices of gratins & homemade pizza, olives & halved kiwi fruits.

It’s not surprising that I equate food with happiness, and that feeding my friends & family is my favourite occupation. But it’s been a challenge in New York. I’d heard all the stories about Manhattan kitchens and their shoebox proportions but nothing really prepares you for a cooking space less than a metre wide – and that includes the storage. Especially when I’d designed & fitted my perfect London kitchen just a year before I moved to New York.

Cooking there was simple: my kitchen has two eight foot-long prep counters, lots of deep drawers full of esoteric equipment, my collections of serving dishes, pretty glass & piles of linen, electrical sockets everywhere and room for twelve people around the huge table for midweek suppers & long wine-fuelled Sunday lunches.

In Manhattan, I have nowhere to entertain, and counter space to plate for just two people. It’s not quite the same.

Now I am back in England until June, but my London flat is let and so I am staying with my mother in the Northamptonshire countryside for the next ten days. This makes me very, very happy.

There is this: cooking rangeAnd this:

saucepansAnd this:

And this: And that's not the half of it.

Imagine the joy of wanting to cook, well, anything, and having ALL the equipment and specific ingredients to hand, whether aesofetida or apples.