samedi 19 juin 2010

A room of one's own

"Sometimes I imagine living in a big house with a room at the top for myself where I could work undisturbed. In winter, I could nestle in its warmth and hear the sad song of the wind and rain lashing against my window. Sometimes I would awaken to a thick covering of snow which had silently come to occupy the city while I was sleeping and would rush out to the park to watch groups of children making snowmen or sledging. In autumn, I could observe the changing palette of the trees like an expressionist painting developing before my eyes. In spring, there would be the joyous explosion of colour accompanied by people sitting outside on café terraces and aimlessly strolling hand in hand. In summer, the evenings would be filled with the gentle caresses of the setting sun followed by the melancholy tenderness of moonlight. I could sit outside on the balcony, watching the people on the street below or close my eyes and simply listen to the hum of the city around me."

Those were the first words of a diary I wrote all too sporadically last year. I often regret not being more disciplined with keeping it up to date becauseI find it interesting to go back, even just a few months and rediscover those feelings and sides of yourself which you'd forgotten. My longing for a place of my own is familiar to you but now I can finally tell you that the dream is coming true. Two rooms and 50 square metres just for me. The area I'm moving (back) to is however, nothing new. During my time in Berlin, it has been an important location; it was there that I first stayed for my visit in 2006 and where J. and I moved together in summer 2007. Every time I leave, there's a terrible sadness at the thought that I'm closing the door on a chapter of my life and yet I always seem to end up returning to it. This time though I will be alone. Back in the days when I shared it with J., I would often cook things for us in the evenings like moussaka or lasagne and suddenly feel excited hearing the sound of footsteps on the stairs, imagining that a few seconds later the front door would open. Those days are gone but I still feel it's somewhere I can truly make my own. From my top floor window, I remember how much I loved watching the shoppers on Saturday and families on Sunday walking back and forth, seeing the people down below play volleyball in the hotter months and waking up to glorious sunrise over Alexanderplatz in the distance.

I'll miss my neighbourhood too though. Charlottenburg has been good to me these past two years. The market, my beloved bookstores, the Schlosspark, the Indian restaurant; of course, I can come back whenever I like but somehow it's different not having them on your doorstep. I'm trying not to feel nostalgic already though and simply enjoy the remaining time here. I've been taking a few trips to places on my list for a quite a while. 8 days ago, it was to the area around the ICC trade fair in the West. The exhibition hall is a metal hump of a building but somehow I'm fond of it because of its appearence in Wenders' Himmel Über Berlin (Wings of Desire). The evening I went there was the end of a swelteringly hot day with barely a cloud in the sky but by evening a storm was brewing and it was simply nice to feel the breeze in your hair again. In spite of the fairly modern architecture and the traffic, I felt at home here. Now all I need is the room of my own.

Hotting up...

The calm before the storm

At the Avus, a former racing track close to the trade fair

Evening falls on Theodor Heuss Platz

Peonies are my favourite flowers. I bought these last week and loved having their wonderful scent fill the kitchen and watch them burst open just after being put into water.

At the market on Karl August Platz this morning

Normally, I don't take pictures of people but this girl with her lovely hat and box of strawberries charmed me so I couldn't resist getting a shot.

Luckily, last Saturday was a touch cooler so I made another recipe from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. I'm so addicted to this book, I think I could happily use only his recipes. It might seem strange to make a hot dessert like a cobbler in summer but cooked fruit with a light topping and some whipped cream is an irresistable combination for me, plus it's something you can put together in no time. I expected it to good but it was amazingly delicious and my only regret was being too full for second helpings. Those of you keen to get another recipe should go to Lazaro's blog to find my guest post. His blog is always inspirational and full of wonderful things so I felt very honoured when he invited me to write something.

Peach and blueberry sour cream cobbler (from Nigel Slater's the Kitchen Diaries)

3 ripe peaches
250g blueberries
the juice of a lemon
a heaped tablespoon of sugar
a heaped tablespoon of plain flour

For the cobbler crust

250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
6 tablespoons butter
a small container of sour cream (around 100g)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. To make the crust, place the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and mix together then add in the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture ressembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Slice the peaches, remove the stones and place them in an ovenproof dish. Add in the blueberries, lemon juce and sugar and give everything a good mix with a spoon so it's evenly coated.
3. Mix in the sour cream to the crust mixture until it forms a soft dough. Break off pieces about the size of a walnut, flattern them a little in the palm of you hand and place gently on top of the fruit. Continue until you've used all the dough and the fruit is covered with a crust. Sprinkle some sugar on top and bake in the oven for approx. 25 minutes when the top should be golden and the fruit bubbling. Serve with ice cream or whipped double cream.

25 commentaires:

  1. Vanessa

    You are such a wonderful writer! I was reading these lines from your diary as if in a dream, and then it came to a halt; boohoo. I want to read more and more!
    On another note, I love this cobbler; we are getting a lot of peaches from our orchard and I could use them in this, especially since my parents take a pastry and fruit break every single day at 4 PM.

  2. What great words... Your words are beautiful.

    What a delicious looking cobbler! One of my favorite desserts.

    Lovely shots. I really like that strawberry girl!



  3. Our lives are looking forward or looking backwards, but where is the moment?! We must attempt to live in the moment because it is all we have. Great provocative post. Amazing photography. And a lovely recipe. What more could one ask for?!

    Be Well...

  4. What a beautiful and honest post. You're such a strong writer.

  5. Je me souviens, quand j'ai déménagé et changé de quartier, j'avais fait la liste des lieux qui allaient me manquer ; ils restaient accessibles, bien sûr, mais je n'allais plus passer devant la petite église norvégienne, aller au marché couvert, je serais plus loin du bouquiniste (je t'avais montré certains de ces lieux en janvier !)... mais je suis sûre que tu retrouveras vite de douces habitudes, de nouveaux lieux aimés.

  6. Beautiful post. The photo of the little girl is truly delightful.

  7. the sky + light + berries...divine :)

    xo Alison

  8. @Joumana - Oh thanks, it was nice reading those lines back and I've been waiting to find a new place to that I could finally use them. This cobbler recipe is so simple and perfect for an abundance of peaches. How wonderful it must be to have an orchard!
    @Rosa - Thank you dear Rosa. The girl with the strawberries was so sweet and didn't mind posing at all. I tried another variation on the cobbler with strawberries but somehow they're too sweet and it overwhelmed the other flavours. Apricots maybe.
    @Lazaro - I've often wondered how to live in the moment when we always have the shadow of the past but I tell myself I simply have to accept certain things and try to make a clean break. I'm looking forward to the peace of my own place though.
    @Des - Thanks for your words, I really appreciate that.
    @Rose - Oui, je me souviens de ces lieux à Rouen. En retournant aux endroits où j'habitais autrefois, je remarque que c'est impossible de tout voir avec les mêmes yeux mais il y a toujours des choses bien à découvrir dans chaque quartier. C'est drôle, j'habite à Charlottenburg depuis 2 ans en face d'un resto mais je n'avais jamais envie d'y aller jusqu'à ce qu'un ami m'ait dit que c'est vraiment chouette. La pensée de quitter l'appart sans y aller m'est insupportable.
    @P.K - Thanks, I hope to see her again on market days.
    @Alison - I can't get enough of the berries and summer colours.

  9. Ah Vanessa! I am so pleased you will finally have a room of your own! What a lovely gift to inner self.
    Peonies are my favorite flower too. I remember visiting my daughter for the first time after she moved to Paris. I walked into her apt. and there on the table was a round glass bowl, overflowing with peonies! Lovely.

    Your crumble looks divine. I love stone fruit and blueberry combo with a topping like that...nice and crunchy, but not too sweet. (ice cream on top?)

    And I see you can still get rhubarb! Lucky you!

  10. good writing and the recipe sounds divine!

  11. I find your post really moving, probably because I'm toying with the idea of moving, and I know what's down the road, and I know it's intense, it's not all good, but it's definitely part of starting a new chapter like you said...
    I'm sure you will make this new neighborhood your own..

  12. I hope that your new space and surroundings prove to be infinitely inspiring. Btw, we watched Bright Star over the weekend. I was distracted by the beautiful costumes. I wondered if the designers took liberties with the fabrics and shoe design just to make everything that much more poetic. All the beautiful linens...oh and the butterflies. I see that you have The Bell Jar listed in your sidebar. Read it for the first time last summer. I need to pick it up again. Would place it into my all time top five, I think.

  13. Great news about your new space!

    I adore peonies also.

    I haven't tried this Nigel Slater recipe yet. I'm a big fan of his; when our Washington peaches are ready I'll make it. Thanks!

  14. @Barbara - I can't wait until I can finally occupy the space, wake up in the morning and have the kitchen to myself, ah bliss! Peonies are so joyful and I think I'm going to buy some more from the market on Saturday. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is perfect with the cobbler; am making it for friends at the weekend so let's hope they like it.
    @M - thanks!
    @Pia - Moving can be hard, not just the stress of packing everything up and throwing things away but also leaving those familiar four walls. I spoke to a friend of mine who told me where I'm moving to is so far out which made me feel sadder to leave but it's only 15 minutes to the centre. The new area is nice with two big parks nearby and lots of good restaurants two stops away.
    @Tracy - I feel good about living in that apartment again. I know what you mean about Bright Star, at the beginning I could only focus on the clothes, fabrics and needlework. It just seemed too perfect but then again it made the story seem every more beautiful and tragic. I'm impatient for the DVD. Actually, I've just finished the Bell Jar and found it brilliant, not depressing as I'd expected but compelling and amazingly written. It's on my top five now too!
    @Lecia - I'm so excited about moving there and hope the new space will bring many good things. It's so wonderful seeing all those bunches of tight peony buds in the most gorgeous colours. I can't resist. Do make the cobbler, it's perfect for those summer afternoons when you want something tasty and fresh without too much hassle and i'm sure your family would like it.

  15. great news, congrats...I am sure you will be ever so happy..I love your words, they always make me smile..and your treat oh I need to buy more peaches..


  16. ah ce petit crumble est à tomber !!!
    ici, très très difficile de trouver des myrtilles fraiches il faut souvent se rabattre sur les surgelées !!!

    bises et bon mardi gourmand

  17. It is amazing how we sometimes give more importance to what was and not so much appreciating the life we are enjoying in the present and the unknown greatness of what could be tomorrow. Case and point...your favourite peonies were my Nonno's favourite too...and I so long for him...then I kick myself for dwelling too long on those memories...and back into the present I am where I can get excited about creating other memories with myself as well as with others. Having an intimate space of one's own creates a sense of pride and somewhere in there, a sense of strong belonging. We never know how tomorrow will turn'll be making that cobbler for someone special again soon I'm sure ;o) favourite photos: garlic and tulips ;o)
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  18. I'm so happy you found your own place, finally! Now you can enjoy the pleasures of making it truly yours... Isn't that part just great?!

  19. It is lovely reading back on old writing isn't it - though it can make me cringe a little at times too...I'm looking for a way to use my sour cream up (I used 2 tablespoons for a recipe, gah!) and this might be it ^_^

  20. J'espere que tu seras heureuse dans ce nouvel endroit rien que pour toi. Je te le souhaite en tout cas.
    Quant a The Kitchen Diaries, je suis comme toi, completement sous le charme, c'est un livre auquel on revient toujours.

  21. @Bonnie - I can't wait to move in there.
    @Virginie - Ah, quel dommage pour les myrtilles. Je t'en enverrais volontiers mais ca ne se transporte pas très bien! Sinon, tu peux utiliser des cassis peut-être.
    @Claudia - That's so true what you say. I'm someone who gets very much caught up in the past, hanging onto things that I didn't actually appreciate fully at the time. I try to teach myself to look for the good of now and take each moment as it comes. At the moment, I'm enjoying the freedom to do what I like but am open to new things!
    @Julie - Yes, finally it's happening! You inspired me to make the move too; hope you're happy in your new surroundings. The part I'm most looking forward to is arriving in my new place, putting the kettle on for tea and unpacking my books.
    @Sasa - Yeah, sometimes we wonder how we could have written such rubbish or been so misguided. For the sour cream, I can highly recommend this.
    @Gracienne - J'en suis sûre et maintenant j'ai vraiment hâte! Ce livre est un vrai bijou - l'écriture, les photos, les recettes et c'est merveilleux de suivre Nigel pendant les saisons différentes. Ce ne sera pas la dernière recette de lui que je publie ici.

  22. Quelle poésie dans ce billet! Comme toujours, à vrai dire. Je suis une amoureuse des pivoines, comme toi. Je crois que je les adore parce qu'elles savent être généreuses, ces fleurs. Elles explosent de pétales, leurs couleur est toujours vive, féminine. Les pivoines sont comme des femmes qui viennent d'avoir un enfant. Rondes, heureuses, aimantes. Tellement belles!

    I'm happy to read that you found a place of your own. Your text about your old life with J. is very moving. I think it's courageous of you to go back to this place. You're able to see it with new eyes. That's what I call maturity!

    Let's catch up soon!

  23. Yes, peonies, a nice cobbler, the view from the top floor. I share your love for all of these things.

  24. @Magda - J'adore ta description des pivoines, je ne les avais pas considérées comme des femmes mais je trouve que tu as bien raison. Evidemment le déménagement à l'ancien appart va me ramener plein de souvenirs mais c'est aussi un endroit qui m'est très cher et j'ai hâte d'y habiter. J'espère pouvoir t'y inviter bientôt aussi.
    @Denise - I'm glad we have so many things in common.

  25. congrats on the new apartment. A few years ago while I was between homes and subletting, I missed all my familiar things... I missed a place of my own. Everytime I wanted something I knew it was in a box in storage. Unpacking was absolutely exhilarating... like saying hello to old friends (especially favorite pots and pans!) Be well in your new space. Make it yours and full of joy... and peach cobblers!