London is proving to have, perhaps the best weather for going out and about, I have ever experienced. Mild, slightly moist, t shirt and a light jacket weather. Perfect for the experienced "layerer."
And it is for this reason, ?, that I am utterly exhausted.
One can walk for miles and miles when the weather is not what you're avoiding or fighting, or trying desperately not to meet. If only my feet could talk.
Today is Sunday. It means that tomorrow I brave the Eurostar and travel swiftly under the English Channel. The city of London to the city of Paris. Who was crazy and wonderful enough to think of this?
Yesterday I was invited to someone's house for the most intense food bloggers meeting I have ever laid eyes upon. Arriving near 1 (13:00 for you Europeans), I was the second to last to arrive, and leaving close to 11 (23:00) I was not the last to leave! A full tilt Mexican Cookery extravaganza was taking place complete with a small booklet's worth of printed recipes, groceries from all of the world enough to feed 5o, a stove radiating heat and steam, and a kitchen full of apron-clad women, not a one of them resting!
I think I may be too knackered to go into all the detail, and I don't have the ability to post photos from here, but I want to thank all the food bloggers, and their friends and family, who welcomed me into their event.
Johanna, the host, who's aptly named blog is The Passionate Cook, hails from Austria but is embracing all that London has to offer culinarily. She opened her beautiful home to us in a neighborhood that reminded me of North Berkeley with it's shiny green leafed trees, pretty houses and lush backyards. Diving lovingly into waters unknown, Johanna has begun her own small catering company and has the well stocked kitchen to prove it. Armed with 18 recipes, she kept us all busy by inserting a bevy of phrases I have used more than a few hundred times myself: "Who needs a job to do? Have you finished this, what are you working on now? Here, let me get you started on this." Johanna spent time in Mexico years ago as an exchange student and has a an informed love of the cuisine, ingredients, tastes, smells, sensations, methods, and camaraderie the preparations of the dishes ignite.
Iliana, our amiable Mexican "instructor" for the day came by way of her friendship with Jeanne (pronounced JAHn) whose blog is Cook Sister! Quietly opinionated, Jeanne filled me in on some of the other London food bloggers who could not make it. Iliana told stories of her family and foods that seasoned the pots and our imaginings as much as the chiles, garlic and onion we kept roasting, chopping and adding to bowl after bowl of food.
Xochitl, of Xochitl Cooks, was the groups other "instructor." Xochitl (pronounced SO-CHEE) methodically produced stunning plates of perfectly shredded chicken for Tinga de Pollo, bowls of jewel-like, tiny diced vegs for an inspired fish ceviche and kept me busy as her sous chef. I was happy to help keep the prep going until the end of the night when some poblanos I was peeling and seeding stung both my hands, making it impossible for me to reach into the fryer for my favourite dish, chile rillenos.
Without a blog, Vanessa boldly asked if she could attend the event after seeing it announced on The Passionate Cook. Promising me that she would come out of hiding as a permanent lurker, be on the look out for her first time comments! She proved to be an invaluable help as well as a happy participant. I love inquisitive people!
Jenny, who has been blogging for almost 5 years, has a blog called Pertelote. Named after an inside joke and a character in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Jenny writes all the HTML code by hand for a site she says she started when "I fell in with the geeks." I liked her humble, silly demeanor, big smile and sharp intellect. I felt immediately comfortable with her perhaps because she reminds me of a cousin I grew up with like a sister.
And the person who made my meeting everyone possible was Keiko of the extraordinary Nordljus. When I knew I was coming to London I wrote to a few food bloggers and Keiko helped me along. Not having realized she was London based until Sam met her a while back, I was honored to have met her. Shy in a way that says she feels she doesn't have a handle of speaking English, listen carefully to Keiko and she'll surprise you with some not-so-diplomatic remarks that end in a wide, warm, naughty, knowing smile!
Dinner finished with a rich flan, espressos made by Johanna's partner Chris, and people taking home meals for the days to come. I thanked, hugged, gave and received double cheeked kisses and left with an all over warmth one doesn't expect to feel while traveling except when visiting family.
The afternoon and evening were rich with stories and ideas, passions and inspirations, laughter and joy, hard work and savoring, eating and sharing. (And the quizzical irony of spending all day preparing, eating and talking about Mexican food in Britain!)
I thank all these women for welcoming me openly into their community, their family. I loved the food, the kitchen, the company, the prep, the tasting, the sitting, the exchanges, and being nicely surprised when our host's teenage daughter, Caroline, arrived hungry, picky and at ease with all of us.
Today, Sunday, I will go to Spitalfield's Market, attempt to snag a reservation at St. John's, and walk through the tiny zig-zagging corridor streets of the East End.