mardi 8 septembre 2009

A house is not a home

It sometimes seems strange to think I've spent my longest amount of time since I left the UK in Berlin; now over 2 years in a place I call home but of which I still seem to know so little. As I was travelling on the train on one of my loveliest journeys so far, I couldn't help looking up from my book to gaze out of the window at the landscapes around me. Further north there were golden stubbly fields of corn with shadows of the large heavy clouds above. We even went through Weimar which J. and I visited on our way to Berlin back in 2006 and where I've often longed to return.

Closer to Munich, raindrops started to fall, cars switched on their headlights and a damp mist was drifting over the trees. Fridays are meant to be about going home to warmth and light and evenings full of laughter and good food. I had a strange sense of belonging here although I can't really explain why. Many people ask me if I ever wish to return to the UK, if I don't long for British culture and miss my family. When I was growing up in my home town in the Midlands, I longed to leave for America or France, certain of finding people who would understand me, where no-one would find me too shy or my hair too dark and my skin too pale. I was certain such a place existed and when I started learning French after my very first visit to Paris in 2000, I also found that there's nothing I love more than speaking another language all day and being in a foreign place where you can observe people from the outside. It was so refreshing not to associate every word and object around me with things from my own life and after just moving to Lyon in 2005, I remember walking around Croix Rousse and feeling the freedom and space of a life elsewhere. In the evening. lights flickered softly on the Saône and from my apartment, I looked across to the Fourvière cathedral like a giant wedding cake on the hill and in the other direction over the roofs of Lyon to the Crayon. For the first three years, nothing else mattered except distancing myself from my old life, believing I could be someone different, yet over time I also realised that I'll probably always be an outsider wherever I go but perhaps that's not such a bad thing either.

The Fourvière in Lyon

Returning to Britain, those I knew before have left and I find myself able to appreciate things missing here which are important to me after all, even if that doesn't mean I want to go back there soon. At the same time though, there's a strangeness of seeing old places with new eyes. And Berlin? Perhaps it's my city because it was divided and it's still so new. I can't pretend to be like the real Berliners but then again there's not so many of them left. Yet there's a feeling of being able to do anything here which inspires and for the moment, I'm always happy to come back to it.

On Saturday, J. took me out to the Tegernsee close to Munich. There's a kind of coldness as so many rich people live in ugly mansions with high black gates guarded by dogs. Yet when we wandered down to the lakeside for one of the finest strudels and coffee, the sun came out and the lake appeared in all its loveliness as a boat pulled into the harbour. The water was clear and smooth and the colours seemed to come alive with the final rays of the most beautiful evening sun. Sometimes it seems difficult to connect with others and I understand so little, least of all about myself but at that moment, everything was of a perfect simplicity and you could just enjoy the experience for what it was.

Coming back, the sun cast long shadows on the greenest fields I've ever seen and I wanted the moment to last and last.

On Sunday, I decided to make a banana cake because it felt like the most comforting and homely cake there was. I hadn't made it for such a long time but felt inspired by Ju's delicious 5 banana cake. Normally, I'd have made it in a loaf tin and called it banana bread but there were none to be found in J.'s kitchen. It's perfect with crème fraîche and tea to accompany a long weekend film or at breakfast with a rich, frothy hot chocolate.

Banana cake/ bread

100g butter
120g sugar
200g plain flour
1 sachet baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ripe bananas (the riper the better, even if you don't normally like them in this state!)
100 ml milk
4 large eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.

1. Begin by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one but don't worry if you have one or two lumps - they'll disappear.
2. Mash the bananas in a bowl using a fork until smooth. Stir into the egg mixture.
3. Sift the remaining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and cinnamon) together into a bowl. Alternate spoonfuls of the flour mixture with the milk, blending well with a balloon whisk until you have a nice smooth batter. Then pour into a greased and lined Springform or loaf tin and bake for 30-40 mins.

18 commentaires:

  1. I have always said that my home is where my loved ones are.

  2. "Speaking another language all day and being in a foreign place": YES! People here always ask me why I'm in NY and not in France. If I was to leave the US of A I would go live in another foreign city, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Tokyo, London... I just love being an expat and embrace a different culture, a different language, a different sense of humor, etc.

  3. Catalina - Your home is definitely the place you make it, not just where you're from and returning to people you care feels good.
    Amelie - I totally understand you. There's something so wonderful about being in a place where everything's so different. I'm dying to discover NY next year so fingers crossed but first there's Italy in October.

  4. Chouette ! Je suis contente de découvrir ta recette de Banana Bread :-)
    Et tes photos de Tegernsee me donnent très envie de découvrir cet endroit...
    Je n'ai pas eu l'occasion de m'expatrier comme toi, mais je trouve ton point de vue très intéressant. J'aimerai beaucoup faire cette expérience un jour.

  5. Tout ce que tu dis sur le plaisir de parler une autre langue, de quitter ses habitudes pour se trouver ailleurs trouve des échos profonds chez moi... je me suis éloignée mais pas au point de changer de pays, sauf occasionnellement, quelques mois, mais justement je me rappelle avec délices des semaines passées à Berlin, une ville mouvante dans laquelle je rêverais de vivre...

  6. I'd love to visit Germany! So, you come from the Midlands? My family lives in East Midlands (Derbyshire)...

    Nice lake!

    A delicious looking bread!



  7. Julia - mais maintenant j'ai trop envie d'essayer ta recette et comme j'ai pas mal de temps ce week-end...J'ai suivi ton exemple et ajouté de la cannelle à la mienne :-) Ça me fait vraiment du bien d'habiter ailleurs mais je pense que tu as déjà une excellente connaissance de pas mal de cultures. As-tu envie de déménager en Suède un jour?
    Rose - S'échapper au quotidien est nécessaire parfois mais je suis quand même contente de rentrer ici après mes voyages. Je ne savais pas que tu habites à Rouen; je n'y suis allée qu'une fois il y a longtemps mais ça m'a beaucoup plu (et pas seulement pour Flaubert) et j'aimerais bien y retourner, peut-être au printemps. Si un jour tu veux venir à Berlin, je te ferai pleins de gâteaux.
    Rosa - Small world - I'm from Derbyshire and my family lives not far from Matlock. What about yours? It must be nice having roots in different places and growing up in 2 languages. There are so many lovely places to see in Germany, especially in Bavaria and Austria and I love being close to water.

  8. Quand je parle français, immédiatement l'anglais me manque... and when I speak English, I get obsessed with French literature! I've also noticed that my voice isn't the same depending on the language I'm speaking... Isn't it strange? But "home" is definitely something more complex than it would seem.
    And by the way, I'm really happy I can read your blog again!

  9. Julie - I can totally identify with that. When I lived in France, I always wanted to speak German and now I seize every opportunity to practise French here. If I didn't use English so much for work, I'd really miss it too. Also in English I always seem polite and try to use good language but in French and German prefer slang and am more direct but that's nice. I guess as you've lived in so many different places, defining "home" isn't so simple. There are memories of past places you love and the restlessness and desire to see new ones. It's a real pleasure to read your blog and comments again and hope your new place is better.

  10. Bien noté pour les gâteaux ^^; si un voyage en France se décide, tiens-moi au courant ! je serai ravie de te montrer Rouen.

  11. thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog. now I'm just wondering how come I never came across your beautiful blog before.

    thanks for bringing me along with you on your journey through germany.

    and that cake looks delicious.

    xx fanny

  12. Rose - Avec plaisir! Il est bien temps de rentrer en France.
    Fanny - Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm really touched by your comment because I just adore your gorgeous recipes and photos so much. I'm glad you liked my post; even though my heart belongs to Berlin, I try to travel around and explore new places. The cake's a favourite of mine but there are still so many of your things I'm dying to try. Ahh, so many cakes and so little time ;-)

  13. Yes, it is a small world indeed! My grandmother lives in Belper. It is very close to Matlock which I know very well! I love that region. The Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales are so beautiful!



  14. Oh, wow I've been to Belper so often and it isn't at all far! Like you, I love the Peak District and the little towns in that area are so charming.

  15. Hi!I have just found out your blog wich is wonderful. Love your recipes and this one. It looks delicious! Have a great week-end, Liz.

  16. Breathtaking introduction! Tu as exprimé parfaitement ces sentiments d'ailleurs et de retour aux sources, avec simplicité et élégance, un vrai plaisir! Moi aussi j'aimerai bien découvrir l'Allemagne, mais de "l'interieur". Et pour le prochain petit déjeuner je prend un peu de ton banana bread :-)

  17. Très beau texte! Je comprends exactement ce que tu veux dire, ayant des racines italiennes, je n'ai pas souvent l'occasion de m'exprimer en italien sauf dans ma famille. Et je me laisse souvent aller au babillage en italien dans ma propre ville. J'aime me sentir une étrangère au milieu des miens! Ici, à Montréal, nous avons la possibilité de pourvoir s'exprimer autant en français qu'en anglais. Je me sens une étrangère partout et je suis une étrangère partout! Étrange, n'est-ce pas! J'aimerais bien visiter l'Allemagne un jour:))

    Ton gâteau est magnifique, j'aime beaucoup l'ajout de la cannelle!

    Je te souhaite un très beau voyage en Italie, cela me fait constater qu'il y a longtemps que je n'y suis allé:))

    Bonne journée!

  18. Liz - Thanks a lot! You have such a lovely blog so I'll definitely be trying out your recipes.
    Dada - Merci de ta visite et de ton commentaire - c'est trop gentil! L'Allemagne est un pays très intéressant et ça vaut vraiment la visite.
    Isa - Merci beaucoup! Je ne savais pas que tu as des racines italiennes. Ça doit être intéressant et étrange de changer de langue et de personnage fréquemment. En Angleterre, je me sens toujours un peu française ou allemande mais ici on me trouve très britannique! Je me réjouis déjà de ce voyage en Italie en octobre. J'espère pouvoir pratiquer un peu mon italien et manger beaucoup bien sûr!
    La cannelle va très bien avec le goût des bananes mûres mais j'ai lu que Nigella Lawson utilise du rhum dans sa recette.