A Gentle Stroll into the New Year

 

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The soft pink light of morning.

The first week of January and I haven’t cooked very much. This is partly due to annoying tendonitis in my elbow which makes lifting things and chopping things painful. I have decided to call it TenderIsTheNightis, a RSI-type injury caused by lifting too many flutes of champagne. This makes my suffering seem a little more thrilling and glamorous.

In place of cooking, I’ve been sitting by the fire in my mother’s study drinking coffee and reading thrillers, occasionally prodding the dog with my toe to make sure he is still alive. He scarcely moves more than a foot or two from the hearth.

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‘The heartbeat at my feet.’

Before the fire is lit each morning, I manage to lure him outside to the Bishop’s Park. On New Year’s Day, the light was soft and pink, the sun low in the sky. We wandered through the Scots pines and the Wellingtonia. I threw a few sticks. Barney brought them back. A lot of my childhood was spent in this park – picnics in summer, whizzing down the terrifying snowy slopes on our blue sledge in winter. Fifteen years ago, Sean and I got married in the chapel here.

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St Peter’s Chapel, Auckland Castle


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The clock tower at the entrance to the park.


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The River Gaunless snakes through the park.


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Fierce!


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The Deer House, built by Bishop Trevor in the Eighteenth Century.


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Golden box, bright as Christmas baubles, over the grey crenelations of the castle walls.

One of my favourite activities in the world, to be indulged whenever the opportunity presents itself, is to visit a country auction. Addisons – a proper country auctioneer and valuer in Barnard Castle – always has an auction on the first Thursday of the new year, which is very considerate of them as I’m usually up here then.

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This morning we went to the viewing. The hall was full of the merry bustle of people relieved to be out of the house and back into their old, comforting routines. ‘Too long, too long a break John,’ explained one man to another. A young chap in a khaki jacket with a skull and crossbones appliqued on the back slowly examined a long and ferocious Indian sword. A woman in a neat red coat and careful coiffure trawled through a cardboard box of treen. Two elderly men in leather pastie shoes and Christmas scarves rustled around in cardboard suitcases of model railway bits and pieces, eyeing each other not entirely benignly. ‘Happy New Year to you’ ‘All the best!’ they said, nonetheless.

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If you know me at all you know I love a bargain, and auctions outside of London are often much cheaper than my usual city stamping grounds. Apart from anything with a dog, a pig, a horse or a fox on it. Then you can expect to pay top whack.

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It’s not all foxes and cows and herd books …

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Please don’t bid on any of my lots, there’s a love.

A lovely thing happened…

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I am doing the happy dance this morning. The wonderful people at Psychologies magazine have included Love and a Licked Spoon in Kate McGinley’s feature on the five best blogs. It’s on page 42, along with Daily Eco tips, Mind Hacks, Brit Lit Blogs and The Sartorialist – rather smart company, I’m sure you’ll agree.

When I began my blog just over a year ago, my idea was to create a place where I could record all of my kitchen experiments – so much better, more accessible, less spattered with flour/butter/olive oil than recipes scribbled into countless notebooks and onto the backs of envelopes or grubby paper napkins. I thought my family might like it; I hoped my friends would (if nothing else, because they feature so heavily in my life, in my kitchen, around my table and therefore in my blog), but it has been heart warming, genuinely thrilling, to find that it resonates with others too. I confess to checking my Statcounter and being ridiculously delighted to see visitors from America or Australia or China, as well as those from just down the road. I love it when you visit, I love it even more when you come back and I’m uncool-ly excited when you comment.

So if you’ve been visiting Love and a Licked Spoon for a while, thank you. You’re all angels at my table. And if you’re visiting because you read about my blog in Psychologies, thank you too. I hope you’ll stick around, join in and swap some food stories of your own.

Love and a licked spoon,

Debora x

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And the winner is…

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Well, what a delight it has been to read all of your replies to my Canteen: Great British Food competition. A real British banquet. Roasts featured heavily – beef, pork and chicken. There were puddings of all kinds – from Yorkshire (with and without ‘toad’) to shepherds’, bread and butter, sticky toffee and summer ones, pasties, fish and chips and Cromer crab, Anglesey eggs and omelette Arnold Bennett. A real yah boo sucks to those who say we have no real food culture.

I loved Kath’s thrifty description of a roast beef feast which transformed itself into dripping on toast, bubble and squeak, stock then doggy treats. So Kath, I have a nice runner up prize for you, a lucky dip from my cookbook collection.

But then Alex T  stormed in with his trippyfabulous banquet of egg and cress sandwiches, sausage rolls and Texan bars and a fondly remembered family lunch of steak and kidney pie, peas and Jersey Royals followed by strawberries with condensed milk and sugar. Any man who, in a delirious state, imagines himself to be a sausage sandwich, deserves a treat. So Alex T, this one’s for you.

Help Haiti

 
Since Wednesday, I have been thinking about what I could write about the earthquake that doesn’t sound woefully trite. I don’t have the words. I know that the pictures in the newspaper and on television pull my heart right out of my chest. I am making a donation to Action Against Hunger’s Haiti appeal www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk . Ninety percent of their donations go directly to their field programmes. There are many other charities desperate for anything you can spare. The Times has an excellent list of reputable charities working in the region, including the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

Thank you…

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This morning, I woke to a wonderful surprise. Lady P, châtelaine of , has given me a Lovely Blog award. Do go and visit her in her delightful, thoughtful world of colour, cupcakes and whimsy.

I hardly imagined, when I began my blog a couple of months ago, how much fun it would be sharing my recipes. It still amazes me that I can cook something, shoot it, post it and – while it’s still cooling on the counter – I might get a comment about it from places as far away from my North London kitchen as Australia or America. For an instant gratification kid like me, it’s thrilling.

I’m supposed to pass the love around and nominate favourite blogs of my own. I’ll do that in a few days but for now, I was trying to think of a way to say thank you to Lady P. She lives near Seattle so I thought a cup of coffee might be appropriate. This isn’t just any cup of coffee, but the best cup of coffee in London, possibly the world. I’m not kidding. It was made by Gwilym Davies who sells coffee from a cart in our local flower market every Sunday morning and in April he was crowned World Barista Champion in Atlanta. It seems like a suitable gift for a Lady.