I can't really boast to being a 'native' french speaker but I've studied it long enough that I can read 17th century literature; I can write it well and understand it almost word for word but my speaking isn't great. Considering my speaking in English isn't that great I guess I'm not too surprised that things look better on paper and sound better in my head than when they leave my mouth. I know more than enough of the language that words and phrases often pop into my head. The French have a way of putting things into words that I can't seem to find in English and I was recently stuck on the basic French verb 'profiter'. All over the local news, the radio, on TV... the UK's mini heatwave for a weekend in early October. Temperatures in the low twenties, sunshine like it was the Mojave, no humidity, it was barbecue time. A welcome surprise, as the leaves started to turn and we'd dusted off our scarves and gloves. I can't properly translate profiter. To make a profit, I guess would be the direct translation, but nothing's being bought or sold. Nothing monetary or countable about a feeling. Something fleeting. Taking advantage, a pleasant surprise, something unexpected. Better translations. That October weekend - on profite du soleil. We're enjoying the unexpected sunshine. Sounds clumsy. Isn't it funny that English has no concept of that - if you're taking advantage, have you planned and executed something? If it's unexpected, can you possibly enjoy it fully, or are you still recovering from the shock? In English it's almost like we imply that it's selfish to enjoy something. I heard it on the radio - people needed to 'sneak' in a barbeque. So we couldn't just... revel in it? Stretch out the fleeting moment?
Maybe the Romans started it when they said carpe diem. Seize the day. Just take it and go. Get what you can, when you can. It seems ironic that English hasn't coined anything similar considering that the most... beautiful things crop up in the most unexpected places. Nothing particularly extraordinary. A hot weekend in October. Three perfect bubbles around the rim of a retail park filter coffee. A farmhouse, standing lonely and proud and windswept with the stubs of harvested wheat looking yellow like shafts of sunlight, you'd ease off the accelator. The two elegant horses who graze in a field nearby, trotting and bucking under ashen autumn skies, like they could feel a storm coming. When you've been watching a particularly good episode of a TV show and it has a particularly strong ending that makes you think. Maybe you'll watch it again and you'll see facial expressions and subtle gestures you'd missed but it won't get to you the way it did the first time, will it?
I mentioned it when I wrote about our trip to Normandy. It was spring, rubbing shoulders with summer, a cold morning, like heat was on the tip of the tongue, but not quite there. Every website and radio station and newspaper screamed it's summer, go get it. The French did. We had a short stretch of road before the exit and it was jammed as suburban Rouen and Caen headed to the coast in Le Havre, or Honfleur, or any other small seaside town. Maybe, if they'd planned, they'd have left on Friday night, or early Saturday morning, maybe have gone to the forest north of Le Mans instead. But they didn't know, and they didn't plan. They woke up to a hot spring day and took their chances. For tanned skin on a Monday and a memory card full of tacky beach photos in April. No doubt they got something out of it. A profit, in every sense of the word.
"but beauty is like that, it is a fraction of a second, quickness of a flash and then immediately it escapes.” Clarice Lispector
Oof I see it’s been a while since I last posted. Hi anyway. I have another loaf cake recipe because I’m sure you’re not bored of loaves yet? I know I have like 22,000 other loaf recipes on this site, maybe even more than scones but they’re so convenient. One baking dish, probably two bowls, easy to change up seasonal flavours and fruit, a long enough baking time you can get work done while you wait, so practical they’re basically leather boots. Which I have never owned. I digress. This guy is super seasonal - when it starts baking there’s no way you’ll forget the nights are getting longer and the trees are showing a bit more bone. In a good way, of course. Molasses and all those spices, it's almost like fruity gingerbread. The loaf isn’t too sweet but more rich in flavour and lasts well for a few days. A little unexpected treat on a cool morning.
Big cozy hugs xx
Apple + molasses spice loaf
makes 1 8x4 inch loaf // dairy free
Adapted from A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones
1 1/2 - 2 cups (165-220g) spelt flour*
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/3c (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 large free range eggs
1/3c (80ml) cane molasses
1/3c (80ml) pure maple syrup
Chunk ginger, grated
3 large apples, coarsely grated
Preheat the oven to 190'c, 375'f. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt.
In another large bowl or liquid measuring jug, beat together the oil, molasses and maple syrup. Pro tip: measure the oil out then measure the molasses directly into the same measuring cup and it'll slide right out. Beat in the eggs and ginger.
Pour the wet mix into the dry and gently fold together. Fold in the grated apple without over mixing.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean. The top will mostly likely crack, it's ok, rustic and all that. Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan (the loaf is quite fragile so don't handle it too much) and then completely on a wire rack.
This cake is super moist and rich flavoured so it will keep for some time in the fridge, tightly wrapped, but tastes amaaazing warm. Freezing and warming works great too. Almond butter drizzle highly recommended.
*I'm not sure why maybe it's the cake tin I use but my loaves turn out better, with better rise if I up the flour to 2c from the usual 1 1/2c. The ratio works fine here, so use whichever you prefer. Might also be because I live in an extremely damp climate...