So! Welcome to the inaugural edition of Umami Girl, London. First things first: riots and their surprising proximity to our new residence notwithstanding, we are safe, sound, and slowly learning how to find the farmers’ market, identify the coins, and dry our laundry. Thank you for all of your inquiries and concerns about our safety. I feel like at least a couple of you would have personally Medevaced us back to the States if we’d needed it (I’m lookin’ at you, Mom!), which would’ve sucked but also been pretty amazing. So thank you.
Moving right along, then. Did I mention I live in Europe now? Yeah, it’s like totally no big thing. (Eek!) You won’t notice any new speech affectations, I promise. (Although, aren’t those some pretty courgette flowers in the photo above?) But you might be able to see a slight difference in the make and model of the clothes dryer we use here.
There’s a lot to love about London itself, of course. But right now a big part of what makes me smile about my new town is the generic fact of living in a big city again. It feels like an accurate reflection of our preferences at the moment, and it’s nice to look in the mirror once in a while and realize it’s less like a carnival mirror than it might be.
We’re no longer car owners, so we walk a lot. When we stumble upon a farmers’ market on our way to the drug store on a Wednesday afternoon, it has varied and sophisticated offerings, and we vow to return before closing time. Last week we discovered the fabulous Swiss Cottage farmers’ market half a mile from our home, and it was full of sorrel and zebra tomatoes, award-winning organic cheeses, and enormous cast-iron pans of paella.
Finding the Swiss Cottage farmers' market
The market was a great find. Until I lost it. On a good day, my sense of direction works like a low-security GPS with outdated map software. Last Wednesday was a good day. So after pointing myself directly toward the market, I ended up within a two block-radius, unsure which direction to turn, as the final minutes until closing ticked away. Maybe the roundabout in my database had since been converted to an overpass?
Yesterday, though, I found it again. (Yeah, I did a test run on Sunday. So?) I have to say, it was worth every minute of the wait. I hope you each have a few things in your life that reliably make you want to jump with unbridled joy. And I hope you won’t judge me when I tell you — as if you didn’t know by now — that one of my triggers is weird vegetables. Until I saw the bin of bag-your-own sorrel yesterday and felt my heart thump hard in my chest, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d felt that way.
The full-on farmers’ market community vibe didn’t hurt, either. I even got an unsolicited and much appreciated lesson in British coins from my new favorite cheesemonger. (And doesn’t everyone need a favorite cheesemonger?) “Ten pounds sixty,” he said with a slightly wicked smile, ringing up my two pieces of award-winning organic cheese, “Or a hundred and seventy dollars, to you.” I like a cheesemonger who understands the emotional landscape of a plummeting U.S. debt rating. It’s like, he got me, man. And I got to walk away with cheese. What more can you ask for, really?
Our Belsize Park flat
Back at home, I stuffed each zucchini blossom with about a teaspoon of cheese, simmered them gently in a covered pan of simple tomato sauce for five minutes, and served over pasta. Here’s a sneak peek at where I’m cooking these days and the view I get to enjoy while I do it.
Getting used to London life
After a rain, the view can look more like what you see below. We saw two full rainbows over the course of three days. It’s been one of the easier parts of London life to get used to. Now if I can just remember to take the laundry out of the dryer before the rain begins, we might really start to feel like we belong here. Talk to you soon.