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Well, hello there from London.

Zucchini Blossoms | Umami Girl
o! 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.

Laundry Drying | Umami Girl


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.

Wyfe of Bath | Umami Girl

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 On a good day, my sense of direction works like a low-security GPS with outdated map software.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?

British Coin Lineup | Umami Girl

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.

Looking into the Kitchen | Umami Girl

And here’s a peek at the view I get to enjoy while I do it.

Looking out from the Kitchen | Umami Girl

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.

Rainbow | Umami Girl


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  1. […] in the salad days of August, 2011, I introduced you to our new schtick in London and promised to get back to you with a little peek into our home. Well! Hello from June, 2014. I […]

  2. LOVE the clothes dryer! :o) Glad you are getting things all figured out! AND might I ask if that was the lovely rainbow that we were lucky enough to share with you?! Counting down the days ’til I come again and you take me to all of these fabulous new places! xoxo

  3. Kate

    Welcome to the UK! I’m not London based, but can give you hot tips for outings in the Cotswolds if you ever feel like heading out of town. Sorry you had to face riots your first week here…The Notting Hill Carnival is a great way to see the brighter face of London http://www.thenottinghillcarnival.com/…and lots of great food too.

    1. Thanks, Kate! Looking forward to exploring the Cotswolds one of these days soon.

  4. Such fun! Can’t wait to read more of your adventures. And I definitely sympathize about both the directional sense and those confusing British coins!

  5. Nanners

    Oh, to have a farmer’s market and a personal cheese coach within walking distance! Can Paris be but a bus-ride away?

  6. Danielle

    Finally! I have been stalking your website contless times a day waiting for the first post from your new digs in London! SO GLAD to hear everyone is well and seem to be enjoying the new living situation abroad. Can’t wait to come see you guys. The girls talk about going all the time :). Will be in touch soon with pics of all the chaos here in Chatham, ugh! xoxo, D.

    1. Hee. So happy to hear from you. Can’t wait to see some photos and then, of course, to see YOU. xx

  7. Daphne

    Carolyn – I so wish I could be walking with you to that farmers market right now! And glad that strolls without a gps feel plenty safe right now! And your kitchen looks like it has a comforting amount of storage space- wonderful – btw way this message is being written from a catholic school classroom circa 1900 in Lee Massachusetts renovated into b&b room – a haven after 5 days of tent camping – it has a wainscoted blackboard replete with parting thoughts from guests. Mine will be ” travel to London for a food fix by the speedw of light: check out umamigirl.com”
    After all how often do I get to shamelessly promote a friend from a b&b room?

    1. Daphne! I love it. Sounds incredible! And thanks for the guerilla marketing. 🙂 Miss you. xx

  8. Pat

    When we lived in England, we had to choose between a dishwasher and a dryer. I chose the dryer, much to the chagrin of my hubby who had to do the dishes :).

    Enjoy your courgettes, soak in as much sunshine as you can (you do know what’s up ahead?) and stay away from those pesky rioters!

    1. Hi, Pat! You definitely made the right choice on a dryer, since clearly you already had a dishwasher.

      So here’s the thing about the weather. I do *know* what’s up ahead, but I don’t think I really *understand* it yet. Let’s just say I’ve already started searching amazon.co.uk for full-spectrum UV lamps just in case….

  9. Glad you are settling in. Your post is a little trip down memory lane! We used to live in Paddington and a highlight of each week was going to the Notting Hill farmer’s market. Every week! Open in the winter with tons of great stuff!

    Looking forward to more…

    1. Sara, I gave at least one vendor the third degree about what’s available mid-winter at Swiss Cottage. “Oh, just the usual winter nonsense, parsnips, turnips…,” he began. I almost smacked him. Out of happiness. 🙂

  10. Debbi

    Oh, I’m feeling so nostalgic now! Missing my old days in London, double-decker buses, and entire stores devoted to selling umbrellas! Where did you guys settle? Have you found Camden Market yet? (it’s a huge Sunday destination!) Looking forward to hearing all of your London stories!

    1. We settled in Belsize Park, which I love. Such a great neighborhood. And we almost made it to Camden Market last week with the Wileys, but there was some rioting in Camden Town. So we figured we’d hold off a bit. Excited to check it out soon.

      1. So you’re close to the Heath and Primrose Hill: fantastic!

  11. Welcome to your new home! I’m looking forward to Umami Girl London. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Karla! Sending low-grade magnetic waves in your direction so you’ll join us one day soon.

  12. First of all, I’m a huge fan of Umami Girl, London Edition. So happy to see this pop up in my RSS this morning.

    Second of all, you (and Kalyn) should never, ever travel with me. I have reverse GPS, meaning, if anyone wants to know where they’re going without getting lost, they should do the exact opposite of what I do.

    Third of all, your writing has gotten snappier and livelier with this post. I feel your energy, lady, and it sings. Eat those courgette flowers, suck down that Wyfe of Bath cheese, and stay safe. London life suits you!

    1. Hee, thanks. Your comment makes me happy. I think you’re right, London does, too. More actual fog, less nostalgic fog, perhaps.

      I wish I were reliably reverse GPS, but I don’t even have that going for me. You know how I think about everything too much? Directions are no exception. It’s a serious mess.

  13. So glad you are safe and getting settled there. And I’m laughing about your sense of direction. When I travel with friends I always warn them that I’m “geographically impaired.”

    1. So Kalyn, if we ever travel together, it will need to be a guided tour of some kind. Press trip, maybe? I could see this working out nicely.

  14. Looking forward to more posts from your new home in London! And, to more about the glorious cheeses.

    1. Hi, Lisa! Thanks for enabling the cheese addiction. I’ll see what I can do.

  15. We are so glad that you guys are safe ….. dont people in London use dryers? The kitchen looks amazing

    1. Thanks, Madhu. They use condenser dryers here that don’t vent to the outside. I think ours is broken. Either that or I *really* don’t like condenser dryers.