There was a dog tied up outside the job center. A young, male pit bull type dog, full black with a white blaze. Lean, fit, his whole body rippling with nervy muscle as he waited for his human. I was waiting to cross the road, preferably before the human. The human came out of the job center, a man in his maybe his mid twenties. Grey sweatpants, a Nike hoodie, buzz cut. Tattoos and scars. Two lookalikes behind him. I attempted to cross and hovered on the curb, waiting for two police cars with lights flashing to pull out of the police station; out of the station's doors came two men. Older, stockier, wearing black leather jackets and balaclavas, like something out of an 80s film.
I had left my car at the supermarket and walked into town, but hadn't been in a while so took a wrong turn straight out of the parking lot. I walked left, almost into the council estate, three sides of grim flats hemming me into a concrete courtyard. It was strangely quiet, 2pm, maybe most kids were at school. A dog barked from somewhere in a flat and the wind whistled through my hood, carrying the first drops of icy drizzle. I back tracked, from out of those grim concrete walls, walking past the casino. A woman smoked in the doorway, I wondered why she was staring so much, but realized the looked right through me, off on a trip to places she'd never otherwise see.
Not some deprived inner city, no downtown LA. But this dying seaside town. It's the biggest town close to our house. If you read this blog a bit, you'll know I live in a cutesy village, popular with tourists. Londoners love the area for it's big farmhouses and barn conversions, the proximity to the Queen's summer estate, flowery thatched churches. Pretentious? No doubt. But respectable, which was likely we chose it. Turn left out of the house, 15 minutes, and we're in this town. I used to go to high school quite nearby, one seaside town south along the coast; it's residential, solid and hardworking. I'd change buses here, leaving the cheery yellow bus that came through the north Norfolk villages to one of the faded, tattered town buses with their jaded, hardened drivers. They sure drew the short straw in terms of routes. I'd stand in the crush of other students; older people, getting the hell out of the town; 14 year old mothers with crying babies, no dads in sight. There'd sometimes be groups of youngish men, polite and wearing grease stained overalls, who'd give up their seats to the mothers and the older people. They'd get off by the docks, where a couple of vessels were moored and workboats are repaired, remnants of when the gas industry kept this town moving. They boarded the big ships, often from Scotland, so the only one that was permanently tied to the quayside was the shady Mumbai registered barge. There'd be a few middle aged men sitting at the back of the bus, you'd wonder where they should be and why they weren't behind a desk, like everyone else. It was a weird atmosphere. Not just on the bus, but in town too. A divide. It was a them versus us type attitude - normal people came into town, did what they needed to do, then left as quickly as possible. The students, the seamen, and the shoppers bussed through. They thanked the drivers, the real locals just flashed passes and wrangled screaming kids on, and I'd think about how those kids would do the same, tossed in a gritty spiral of broken homes, wasted youth, dingy buses.
The only people who lingered in town were... the lost ones, I suppose. Lost to whatever hard streets and no foundations do to you. It wasn't the kind of town where, on a cold winter day, waiting for the ATM, you'd look into the nearest cafe at smiling, glowing faces. Distant, blank stares; figures in doorways; raised voices. Incomprehensible English, a mashup of other languages. A half-dead port town without the flair of Marseille or the determination and edge of Rotterdam. Going to the bookshop between buses, here I'd casually walked past drunken fistfights and the leftovers of a fire started by some despondent local youth. No big deal, all the kids who went to school in the area accepted the place was rough and avoided it as much as possible. No active hate, more apathy. I never felt unsafe, just not really ever at ease. That day, I suppose I'd forgotten how... soul sapping the town could be. As I walked through to the health food store, a few lines of a song were stuck in my head. Running over and over, like a whirring treadmill. It took me some time to place the words, they were so warm and gentle, in such a cold and hard place.
oh my darling, clementine. Just that. I don't know a whole lot of the lyrics, but my darling clementine was one of the few songs my mum would sing to me, when I was young and couldn't sleep. She sat on the edge of my little pink bed, looking out of my window. It wasn't an intentional thing, she wasn't trying to be a "good" mother, she wasn't trying to be anything, just to be there, and that's how she continues. Out of the blue, the tune came to me. Almost eery. Almost cliche. As if a ray of sunlight had cut through the thick clouds, the words ran through my head, all the way back to my car, and as I warmed my hands on the heating vent. I couldn't help but think, perhaps, if more people had mothers who'd sang them songs they still remembered, and if their mothers had filled their kiddie days with warmth and generosity , whether those grim blocks of flats would be still be full. Maybe their inhabitants would've been curious to do more, to work harder, to get out of their rut. To hold onto their families, no matter what. It's not a particular day to think about mothers, but I was driving back through the green countryside, to a solid and quiet place, that is how it is because of her. I wondered, if others were like her, and all the parents who are solid and quiet, whether the town would be so grey, and whether the doorways would still be dark with the shadows of people with nowhere to go.
Hi from the new site! What do you guys think? It's not totally finished yet, there's still quite a bit of link checking to do and I realise a few recipes were lost in the move but they're slowly coming back up, so if you're ever looking through the archives, there will be a couple of updates to each post. Rome wasn't built in a day and similar comments. That aside, Layla and I are away this week in Thailand, for a bit of winter sun (and yes I have taken 3 textbooks with me.) Our mum is staying home with the dogs, which I feel guilty about because she really hates the cold and I don't mind it all that much. So I stocked up the freezer with some coconut milk ice cream with a lot of cardamom which she loves. You could just call this anti-inflammatory ice cream if you wanted to (honey + ginger) or I call it favourite things ice cream, because I adore honey, ginger, cardamom and coconut. The looong infusing time in the fridge gives it such a heady, floral flavour and a bit of gingery bite which is balanced by the mild honey and creamy, pale coconut. My mum is total sceptic of some of the "non-conventional" sweets I make (dairy free ice cream? what no sugar?) but she was genuinely scooping it, half frozen, out of the tub, so I guess that mean it's ok. Even in the winter, cardamom ice cream is so appealing. And easy to make when you're busy with 10,000 suitcases and bags.
It will be a quiet on my end for a bit, the week we are back I have work experience so it's going to be pretty crazy. I wish you guys could also have a sunny holiday, but make this ice cream and you'll be quite close to the tropics. Hugs and ice cream for you all xx
Coconut, cardamom + ginger ice cream with honey
makes about 2 cups / 500ml // gluten + dairy free (easily vegan too)
1 can full fat coconut milk (400ml / 1 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons cardamom pods
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger, depending on how much of a kick you like
1/4 cup (80g) honey
Pour the can of coconut milk into a small saucepan. Bash open the cardamom pods with a pestal or something similar and add them to the pan along with the ginger and honey.
Place the pan on the stove over medium high heat and warm the liquid till it starts to steam, stirring the honey through. Remove the pan from the stove and pour the batter into a heat safe container or measuring jug and set aside to infuse, in the refrigerator for about 4 hours. Stir the liquid occasionally so it doesn't stick to the sides of the jug. It may look like the coconut milk is starting to curdle (ginger is slightly acidic, that's why some recipes ask you to blanche it first) but you'll strain it, so don't worry.
After 4 hours, retrieve the ice cream mix and pour it through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the cardamom pods and any other solids. You may now be able to churn the ice cream, or allow it to cool for longer in the fridge, depending on the temperature of your fridge (and your eagerness for ice cream).
Churn according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer's instructions. Pour the batter into a freezer safe container and freeze overnight, if you want something more scoopable than sorbet-ish texture. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before enjoying, for easy scooping.
You can cover the container with a piece of parchment paper or cling film and it will keep for some time in the freezer, it just might get a little icy.
To keep this vegan you can use maple syrup, or even coconut sugar, in place of the honey. If you don't have an ice cream maker I think these would be really nice as popsicals too. I was even tempted to drink it as a hot, creamy cardamom-y milk when it came off the stove...
more ice cream