I am staying in my old flat in Belsize Park with rented furniture. It’s jarring and familiar all at once. I’ve got the big stuff, a sofa to sit on but not the small stuff. The bookshelves are empty, my kitchen counter is bare. I actively miss my kitchen aid stand mixer and my Francis Francis X1 coffee machine. Which is ironic since I often chide my hoarder husband for his addiction to stuff setting forth my own superior nomadic roots and freedom from clutter as an example. As it turns out, if I was living back in my nomad days, my camel would be laden with all manner of kitchen equipment and I would have to hook up some sort of satellite dish to its behind to permit me to get online.London meanwhile is crazy. I’ve been coming back every few months for the last couple of years but living here is a different thing altogether. First there is the expense, I am winded every time I pay for something. I bought a little pot of churros at the Marylebone Street Fayre yesterday and paid £4 (€5) for it. At Ginger & White, Layla spotted a mini cupcake so tiny I could have snorted it up my nostril (I have small nostrils), it set me back £2. Yet none of this matters because everywhere is full. The churros line was 20 people deep, Ginger & White is mobbed from the moment it opens to when it closes.All shopping interactions are social. Everyone asks Layla’s name and makes some sort of comment, I stare at them sullenly having become acclimatized to the lean interactions in Berlin, necessary information only, superfluous banter cut off at the root to the point that at Lidl “Schönen Tag noch!” (Have a nice day) becomes a clipped “Schön” and even that is not flung about with any reliable frequency. Speaking of Lidl, yesterday I went to Sainsbury’s and came home with a thumping headache at the range of goods on offer. I had an altercation with Layla who was rooted to the spot in front of the display of Peppa Pig, My Little Pony and the like. Why had I brought her to a toy shop if I didn’t intend for her to buy anything? She demanded from me? Because despite the 4 aisles of toys, this is not a toy shop! I insisted.Even the products are ‘talking’ to me. Two nectarines packaged in a plastic container and sealed in a plastic sleeve tell me they are ‘sweet and juicy’ which incidentally, they are not. My organic milk has the biography of a man who claims to be the farmer who supplied the milk. Whilst in Starbucks, I notice the teenage girl next to me is eating prepared pomegranate seeds out of plastic packaging – what’s next? Pre-peeled bananas?
In two years, I’ve been well and truly Berlinized and I am happier for it. Which astonishes me. When I first began contemplating the move to Berlin I was terrified at the lack of shopping, amusement, TV channels, English reading material, shops closed on Sunday – what would I do without it all, I wondered? Hear myself think, it turns out.Still, I plan to enjoy myself while I am here without re-subscribing to the mentality. I have a few posts about Berlin to put up but for the next few months, I will be writing about places to eat in London. If you are looking for Berlin postings, I hope you make use of my Berlin Favourites and Places I’ve Eaten In Pages, there are more than 200 listings for you to look through.
In the meantime, here is a recipe for ginger cake from the truly original Rose Carrarini (you know how I love her). It’s the spiciest thing I have ever encountered in baking. Big Red spicy. My underarms prickled with sweat with the first bite. You can take all the ginger and halve it and you would still have a delicious ginger cake.
Rose Carrarini’s Ginger Cake from the FT Weekend
200g golden syrup (usually available from Goldhahn & Sampson in Prenzlauer Berg)
150g (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar
40g (about 2 Tbs) orange marmalade
220ml (1 cup) sunflower oil
120g finely grated fresh ginger
220ml (1 cup) boiling water and 1/2 tsp baking soda
130g (1 cup) wholemeal flour
190g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 Tbs ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 medium eggs beaten
For the icing:
1 cup icing sugar
about 2-3 tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs ginger powder
1. Butter and line a 23cm cake tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
2. Melt the golden syrup, brown sugar, marmalade and oil in a saucepan.
3. Add the grated ginger, then the boiling water with the soda.
4. Pour this mixture into a large bowl. Fold in all the dry ingredients carefully. Do not overmix.
5. Finally add the beaten eggs.
6. Pour into a buttered and lined cake tin. Bake the cake for about 35-45min or until a knife comes out clean. Cool and take out of the tin.
7. For the icing, beat together the ingredients until you have a smooth glaze. (At this point you can eat the cake, it will be spicy. Or you can cover tightly and eat a few days later when it will be more mellow and will have even improved).