Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eating As Harry Ate

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to one of the Harry Potter books while I cleaned the kitchen and heard, once again, of Harry's predilection for Treacle Tarts. I was ready to let this small detail pass by as usual, but then it occurred to me: I'm in England now. This book was written by an Englishwoman. This treacle tart thingy is English and I have English cookbooks!

Off to the bookcase I flew and yanked my National Trust cookbook off the shelf. Yes indeedy. There it was. Treacle Tart. I looked in another book, and another. I kept looking for what I assumed would be the main ingredient: treacle, that darker, denser English cousin of American molasses. I was surprised to see that most of the recipes didn't even have treacle in them. I determined to make a treacle tart, but as will happen with me, I became distracted with other things and it never got made.

Then tonight, whilst shopping at the local Sainsbury's, wandering the aisles like a food anthropologist, picking unfamiliar things up, staring at them, putting some in the trolley (USA interpretation: cart) and some back on the shelves, I found myself in the bakery aisle. After adding Hot Cross Buns to my mishmash of interesting items, a shelf of desserts caught my eye. There, nestled next to something called a Bakelite Tart, shining in golden loveliness out from from the center of a sunshine yellow box, was a lattice topped Treacle Tart.

"Oooo!" I thought. "Lovely!" and I almost clapped my hands with delight.

Without a second thought, I picked it up and placed it gently on the bottom of the trolley, making sure nothing would damage the little treasure, a happy smile upon my face.

When I got home, I immediately announced to anyone who would listen that we were going to sample a Treacle Tart! Sarah released the tart from its packaging, turned the brightly colored box over and read that it could be served warm or cold. We decided to try both. We split it in two, popped one half in the oven and divided the other half into fourths.

As I placed my little wedge of tart into my mouth, I felt a bit like I was having dessert at Hogwarts. I was eating a Treacle Tart, just like Harry Potter! It felt like A Moment, if you know what I mean. Like the melding of real life and fiction, actually tasting something I'd only read about.

It was nice, as they describe food here. It was tasty. I can see why Harry is partial to them. I could find myself partial to them, too. I think the most accurate description I can give is that it tasted like a pecan pie without the pecans. And definitely better cold than hot. Hot makes all the insides too liquidy.

And there you have it. Treacle Tart.

I feel a certain sense of odd satisfaction and with it, a renewed determination to bake a treacle tart all on my own. Maybe the one that actually calls for treacle in the recipe itself. Wouldn't that be novel?

Yea for these silly little happy experiences!

See what book-learnin' can do for you?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Just finished reading Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird (loved it) and realized that I've been playing it safe by not writing, or by writing about neutral things. And, I have suffered for it. I know that I think I know that writing keeps me sane, but I really didn't know it. Didn't make the connection between writing consistently and how clogged up I feel or how I sort of check out and walk away from the present, feeling lost and out of touch with myself and my life when I don't. Without writing about it, I somehow don't see my life as real or that it's an accumulation of decisions and actions. I just float somewhere in the ether.

I've said things about writing before, but I'm really struggling with overcoming the weird guilt I feel if I spend time writing. I think I've subconsciously labeling writing as "Indulgence" rather than "Lifeblood" or "Worthy Use of Time." I look around at our still not quite finished house and know that I could fill every single minute with "productive" work like organizing the kids' cupboards or sorting papers. But I don't. The irony of all this is, I could be doing that, and there are days that are filled with work, but I've lost my drive. I feel like my natural joie de vivre has a lot less vivre lately. I think at least some of feeling this way is because I haven't really written consistently in three years. Not even in journals. Sad considering all the life we've lived during said three years.

It occurs to me there is a distinct possibility that should I schedule writing time for me, I would probably use the other time more productively than if I didn't take the time to write at all. Maybe I should give it a go, as they say here. Give it a try, give it a go. Whatever.

Bleh. I don't know answers. I've passed the age where I think I know everything, but certainly by this age I should have a better grip on what I think or how I act. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blech.

Maybe something more interesting will occur to me to write about tomorrow. Something brave like the subject of babies or Gollum-ish longing for my beautiful preciouses that no longer belong to me. Yeah. Something easy like that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Observation

I was talking to my husband about the feeling of hopelessness that hovers in the atmosphere in England. It's especially prevalent with the younger generation, though the oldsters have their fair share.

Our teenagers stay at home in the evenings a majority of the time because most of their school friends have only two goals for their free time: get as plastered as quickly and as frequently as possible, and hook up with anyone they can get for wild, weird sex. Their friends don't seem to expect anything more from their lives. They have no goals, they have no sense that there is something better for them out there. They take what they can get, when they can get it. No long-term plans, no long-term relationships. They don't marry, they don't formulate plans for the future.

I told Tim that when I was growing up, it seemed like there was no limit to what a person could accomplish, that if they wanted something, they just had to work hard for it. There was always this sense of the possible. Here, it's like there's this chip borne on every shoulder. They resent anyone who has made a success of themselves, unless they have fame because of their recent appearance on Big Brother. Then it's A-okay.

My husband agreed and said he heard the following analogy on the radio, regarding this very thing. If an American sees a limousine parked somewhere, he'll admire it and think, "I can have one of those someday!" If a Brit sees a limo parked somewhere, he'll key it and grumble, "Too much f-ing money!"

Almost without exception, when someone asks where I'm from and I tell them I'm from America, they ask why in the world I'm living in England and then tell me they'd trade places with me any day of the week to live in America. They seem to think that Americans are better than they are, though they won't admit it, and they really resent it. It's not true, but that's what they believe.

I remember when I was young, I dreamed of traveling to England and to Europe and I thought how much more wonderful those countries must be, with all of their history and all of their incredible architecture and their real live castles. But I have come to realize that their history, as amazing and intriguing as it is, has also served as an all too strong reminder of class and place and societal position. Even though society in general has evolved in many ways, there is still a definite class system, where those with money are the lords and ladies and those without are the serfs, forever doomed to live in the shadow of the privileged.

While there are abundant opportunities for education and personal betterment in England, there are also so many opportunities for living off the government and for settling in to live exactly the same type of life their parents lived. This isn't unique to England, obviously. But I am surprised by how prevalent it is here.

I wonder if American brashness is more than a little genetic. It takes incredible intestinal fortitude to leave your homeland and the comfort of the known for the danger of the unknown. Maybe that's the legacy our immigrant forefathers gave us: the guts to believe there's something better and the courage to do something about it.

I just wish the people here could see that they live in a wonderful country too, and that they can have better lives than they settle for.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sunday Thoughts

Writing a letter to our son in Ghana led to these thoughts. I hope they make sense.

During this last week I was reminded of two truths I realized earlier in my life (with the help of Gary Zukav) but had sort of forgotten a little lately. When I trust in these truths, as well as others, they have served to transform the way I look at things. They are these:

1. Heavenly Father is a benevolent God.

2. Everything that happens in our lives--the good, the bad, the ugly--is meant to bring us closer to Him.

Simple. Clear. True. If we truly understand and believe these things, we can trust God because we believe He has our best interest at heart and we can then look at the events in our lives through different eyes. If we're able to humbly ask Heavenly Father how a particular situation or event or person can bring us closer to Him (even in the throes of great sadness and pain), we will find ourselves expressing gratitude for everything, as we are so often counseled to do, because we can trust and know that somehow, we will come out the other side a better person, closer to God.

Choosing to have complete trust in God and choosing to be grateful in all things are two of the most transforming and powerful choices we will make in our lives. It doesn't take away the hard things, but certainly makes them more palatable and manageable. It also gives them a purpose, and that can make a huge difference in how we endure them. As we open ourselves to all that Heavenly Father offers us--all of it, not just the happy things--and trust that He has our best interest at heart, we are transformed. We grow in ways we never thought possible and in ways we never thought necessary.

Be willing to accept whatever Heavenly Father sees fit to challenge you with. Be willing to be knocked down and rebuilt. Be willing to trust Him, even if for right now you can only trust Him 30% of the way. That's enough for now. Be willing to express gratitude in all circumstances even when you can't begin to conceive of how to be grateful for something so painful. Ask for His help to be grateful and be willing to express it, even if you have to tell Heavenly Father that you're only saying you're grateful to be obedient. Obedience counts. It will get better.

Be willing to fling your arms open wide and accept and embrace all that you are offered. It will make all the difference when you do not place limits on what God has to give you, both in blessings and in challenges.

Funny how sometimes the things you need to say to someone else are the very things you so desperately need to hear...