Saturday, 6 June 2015

06/06/15: US Photo Diary, New York, New York

As promised, here are a handful of the hundreds of photographs that I took during the three days(!) that we were in New York on my trip to the US a couple of months ago. Following an enormous breakfast burrito & the inevitable buying of 'VIRGINIA' t-shirts big enough to sleep in, we said our goodbyes to my brother & his wife & were headed back to Washington in a rental car, Louis C.K. stand-up on my headphones. From D.C we flew to Colorado for another twelve days - we were up early, skiing from eight until four, reading in the bath until seven & finding some decent vegetarian food for the rest of the day. While Vail has its own undoubtable beauty that you can see here, I've got to admit that I was already looking ahead to New York, one of my favourite cities, & the two days that me & my kid sister would have on our own there. 
We stopped off at Top of the Rock & wandered around a sunny Central Park with my Dad for our last day together. On the first of those two days solo Sofia & I walked a 20 mile round trip to Williamsburg from our Manhattan hotel, over the bridge, down Bedford Avenue & back across the river for pizza in the East Village & a sunburnt & blistered 30 blocks back. The second was spent taking it easy, making the trip to Strand Books, a handful of vintage shops & a final Five Guys before grudgingly getting our coach to the airport home. Thanks for everything, NYC & see you again soon. 

- O.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

03/06/15: US Photo Diary, Washington D.C & Virginia

Hi & welcome to the first of a few photo diaries from my what-feels-like-forever-ago trip to the States. We begin in an eye-wateringly cold Washington D.C in which blossom season is still a long way off but during which we kept warm snooping around the aviation museum, in search of Shake Shack, thrifting around Georgetown University & eating pizza with my kid sister once my Dad's fallen asleep in our hotel room. It was then onward on an Amtrak train to a balmy Virginia to catch up with my big brother, his new wife & two labradors. We spent our three sunny days there exploring in the woods, eating some pretty decent vegan food (hello tofu scramble at the Bluegrass Grill, mmhmm), walking around downtown Charlottesville & it's many secondhand bookstores (university towns ftw!) & driving up to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Oh & I've skipped out on a recounting of the afternoon spent sobbing in Terminal 3, three hours in a customs queue & two hours sleep in a Long Island hotel before all of this occurred. You're welcome.

Next stop New York! 
- O.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

06/05/15: Dishing up daily #3

Oh hi! Long time no speak, huh?

So, as I may well have mentioned in my previous post many moons ago, I've had a bit of time adventuring Stateside - a couple of days in D.C, another two in Charlottesville, Virginia, just over a week in Vail, Colorado & a precious few days in New York before heading home. All of those adventures will be duly documented here but unfortunately I've been beset by an essay deadline since I touched down in London town so haven't had a moment to collect my thoughts (or really, being honest, admit that it's over)
As befits the eponymous 'beet' of The Beet Generation I thought I would instead do a culinary round up of what I've been cooking since I got home to my kitchen. Travelling is always a joy with its opportunity to explore new places & people (& tofu scramble in Virginia, oh my) but so too is coming back home to my boyfriend & a big ol' meal plan for the next few days ahead.

Okay, so I can explain this first photograph. You may well be thinking - wait a minute, Olivia, you've told us that you've just gotten back from America, do you honestly think that you been deprived of pizza? Ha! As if. Far from. I'm willing to admit that I might even have gotten a little pizza-dependent. My intention here was a means of weaning myself off of the stuff. It started with this cauliflower crust. This was a labour of love. Actually, scratch that. This was a labour of oh-my-god-this-is-going-in-the-bin-right-now-I'm-making-spaghetti. Or rather yet another realisation of  oh-my-god-just-buy-a-food-processor-already. I used something of a mix between this recipe from Lisa of That's Food Darling &, quelle surprise, that from Anna Jones' A Modern Way To Eat, featured here. Following an arduous hour or so spent finely chopping a head of cauliflower, cramping up & then painstakingly immersion blending it a tablespoon at a time, the batter eventually came together into something I could at least press into the edges of the pan. The oats & ground almonds that Anna suggests definitely help to crisp up the base while it blind bakes & you can get your toppings (favourite bit!) going. I've now made this recipe twice & I'm starting to get a sense of its any-night-of-the-week ease - a soft, sweet crust with a crisp edge, a rich tomato sauce, plenty of melted mozzarella & artichokes that fall apart as you lift the from the jar, delicious.

Elsewhere, given the volume of sweet potato & leafy greens that I've been eating, I guess you can say that I successfully weaned myself off of a predominantly ALL-OF-THE-CARBS diet that I enjoyed while on holiday. (I was skiing, okay? I needed all of the help I could get!) Alongside an expensive amount of raw almonds that came to fill the pockets of all of my jackets, I got to thinking about study snacks once I got home to, err, 6,000 words that needed writing. This beautifully simple recipe from Nigel Slater (i.e the old faithful) came to be cooked up & spooned into jars, often eaten hurriedly in library corridors but always savoured as something wholesome & nourishing in the midst of it all. 

As if I just couldn't get enough of it in that pizza up there ^^, cauliflower has featured elsewhere on my table this last week, roasted with a dash of cayenne pepper & served with coconut quinoa (absolute revelation & soon-to-be-regular-feature, for sure) as per this recipe from Cookie & Kate. The addition of sultanas to the coconut milk & quinoa gave the dish an added sweetness that offset the spice of the cauliflower perfectly. Cardamom is another flavour that I'm just discovering & that I was pleased to see in this ingredients list. 

& last, but by no means least (just wait until the dressing, seriously) - last night was the turn of Minimalist Baker & this recipe for her sweet potato chickpea buddha bowl. It was so easy to put together - sweet potatoes, tenderstem broccoli, red onion & kale roasted in my biggest pan & then piled into bowls with spiced chickpeas & drizzled with an incredible maple/tahini sauce. I also don't know how it is that I've never pan-fried chickpeas before, only ever stirring them into stock or chopped tomatoes, but they were so crisp & moreish that I'd happily eat it all again. Right now. Please.

So, what've you been dishing up lately?
& are you as much of a sweet potato fiend as me? I doubt it!
Speak soon - O. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

12/03/15: Life Lately #5

Ava of Guac & Roll recently wrote about, at least in part, the trouble of writing posts when too much time has gone by, when your blog no longer becomes a representation of everything that has gone on, when there is just too much to recount in the space of a few paragraphs. I must admit that I have the opposite problem with what feels like too little going on for me to consider it 'worthy' of writing a blog post. The truth is that I've not been leaving the house much in between working at the bookshop & spending time in my university library.

I've come to realise, however, that 'The Beet Generation' wasn't something that I started with the sole intention of documenting my wildest adventures but to keep a note of everyday life - what I've been putting together by way of meals, predominantly, but also what books have been found dog-eared-ly at the bottom of my satchel, what I've managed to dig out at the Oxfam at the bottom of my road & any other thoughts rattling around in this head of mine. Living what often feels like something of a sedentary life of two days of work & just two hours of a poetry seminar a week, this blog also helps to lend significance to what otherwise can feel like insignificant tasks that often make up my everyday - reading up on new recipes, cobbling together outfits & scribblings in my notebook. I've spent a little too much time in the company of my head lately & that hasn't proved especially useful for my wellbeing. Consider this as me saying HELLO WORLD! I EXIST OUTSIDE OF MYSELF!  Ahem. Onto the food then, eh?

As the weather starts to brighten at long last - thank goodness - I've been considering that I'm likely to have a hard time giving up on the indulgent winter dishes that I've been making. You know what I mean: creamy risottos, generous portions of vegetable pie, a pot of soup always on the stove. I think I find this type of cooking more satisfying with its connotations of comfort & heartiness although that could also be my greedy tendencies creeping in. I've been moving (albeit grudgingly) away from the cassoulets & towards lighter pasta dishes of lemon & avocado & thanks to Cookie & Kate's monthly produce guide, I can't actually deny that there's a lot to be looking forward to - asparagus & cauliflower & mushrooms, oh my! That's not to say that I didn't click into the sidebar & make a batch of her delicious lentil soup, however. Hey, so long as there's that chill in the air & I can't leave house without a vest, there will be soup. 

In my enduring attempt to cook with less fake meats (she says following last night's bangers & mash, whoops), I've also been consciously including more grains in my cooking that extend beyond porridge for breakfast. Checking in with Alex of In Vegetables We Trust, his recipe for a buckwheat bolognaise caught my eye &, err, stomach as the ideal substitute for Quorn. I've only cooked with buckwheat once before, failing to soak the groats & eating them in a disappointingly flavourless porridge, so thought it was about time I gave them a second chance. I couldn't be more glad that I did as I can see this bolognaise making it into regular rotation in my house - the buckwheat cooked through deliciously in a tomato-ey mix of chopped toms, passata & puree mixed in with chestnut mushrooms & plenty of garlic. Thanks Al!

Sat on a lunch break this afternoon surrounded by people I could & would gladly have made conversation with, I had my nose in a book. Cheese & chutney toastie balanced in one hand & spine spread in the other, I realised that I could tell I soon had an essay to write, I've been trying to fit in as much extra-curricular reading as possible before I surrender myself to the desert of literary criticism that inevitably awaits. Today's book was the final few chapters of Pushkin Press' 'Red Love: The Story of an East German Family' by Maxim Leo. I studied German for just short of a decade at school & have always loved the idea of spending a stint in Berlin to where my housemate has just moved. Despite the evident marks that history has left on the city, I find myself ignorant of a lot of its cultural context. This book, a family memoir at heart, recounts the human history of Communism & the Berlin Wall, predominantly through the frame of the author's towering grandfathers. Engaging & enlightening, I've loved learning about this period which lies in the astonishingly recent past & it makes me want to visit the city again having read this brilliant book. I have borrowed Jenny Offil's 'Dept. of Speculation' from the library to read next following urgent appraisals from many colleagues & enjoyed the latest Granta from the same publishers that took India as its subject, a country still vastly unknown to me but brilliantly captured through their array of voices. 

Hanging out 
This one is still very much a part of my life & we've been trying to make time for one another as he in particular chips away at university work. Dinner is obviously a good opportunity for this but we took out last Saturday to wander down to Broadway Market & have a snoop at the stalls. Lately we've been able to look ahead to a little trip away for the boy's birthday in August & watch a lot of 'Mad Men'. Yepp, still hooked.
I've also had the chance to see my friend Liz over from Paris (not all of my mates are this cosmopolitan, honest) for a bleak but beautiful walk across the eponymous Finsbury Park & drink an irresponsible amount while playing pool with my seminar group. It really improves my game.

What've you been doing lately?
Speak soon (I mean it this time!) - O.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

12/02/15: The Horniman Museum & Gardens

I've always found leaving the house to be a bit more of a gamble in our capital than in, say, my native Bedfordshire. You can never be sure of TFLs honesty in their proffering of a 'good service', it can be difficult to predict the proximity to which you'll experience the National Gallery's latest (portraits by John Singer Sargent, by the way although I've not yet had the chance to go) & then there's the universal likelihood of having to retreat indoors for fear of frozen fingers or soggy sandwiches. I must admit that I was a little suspect of the sunshine that cast its shadows over my morning cuppa this Sunday (how apt) just gone but I decided that I would take the chance & make some plans. Y'see, I managed about a week of wellness between colds & after failed attempts at 'recuperation' (read: incubation) I thought it worth trying to exorcise my demons in the fresh air (or at least attempt to pass them onto all of the small children swarming around this particular destination) 

I must admit that although I knew of the Horniman Museum & Gardens as a fabled place tucked up away in Forest Hill just south of the New Cross that I, however reluctantly, called home for a year but had somehow never made the trip. It was Dulcie of Human Sea's blog post that recalled it to mind & I thought that it would be the perfect place to venture on my own & finally make a round trip to Goldsmiths Library (even?) more educational than usual. So it was onto the overground just after noon that I made my way on Sunday, bundled up in a chunky cable knit & with scarf wound around my coat, Paris Review slung into a tote bag for good measure. The bracing walk from the station proved fruitful as I inevitably couldn't resist a peek into the Sue Ryder en route & emerged with a thick, jersey ASOS dress with low back that I'm looking forward to layering with stripes. As I shudder at the thought of bralettes under my blanket at home with hot tea within reach, it's worth mentioning that this particular Sunday was so blissfully warm & bright that I had dug my hands out of my pockets & filled one with my hat by the time I reached the museum, convinced of the benefits of some south-of-the-river air.

The Horniman was exactly as I had hoped: old-fashioned, quaint, wondrous & a touch spooky. I spent the best part of an hour wandering slowly from case to case from familiar monkey skeletons to elephant skulls to the ribcages of birds. There were kangaroos, alligators, monkeys, armadillos (not holiday ones, to my knowledge), turtles, ostriches & vultures with the models quite difficult to tell apart from the real ones, only obvious in case of scale. I felt most attracted to the birds although I am quite frightened of them, to tell the truth & spent an eerie five minutes resolutely staring into the face of a particularly keen-eyed vulture. Their feet were almost as big as mine. I've always had something of a fascination with taxidermy (i.e never able to resist peering through the grates of 'Get Stuffed' at the top of Essex Road) & the ability to study such a number of creatures at such close range meant that my curiosity was certainly satisfied. It was at this point that I suspected my snottiness might be holding sway after all & decided on retiring to a bench with a cup of coffee & a pear packed by way of a picnic. As the name might suggest, Forest Hill provides you with a view of whole swathes of London including the Shard from bottom to top. Truth be told, I was happy to sit in the sun & contentedly consider whether to take off my coat. Oh happy day indeed.

I won't take my current bobble hat-tedness as a signal of failure. I'll just look forward to even more sunny days like these, even if part of them are spent in the shade of that infamous stuffed walrus.
Have you visited the Horniman?
Speak soon - O.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

05/02/15: Literary lately #5 feat. Ben Lerner & Lorrie Moore

I'm having one of those days during which I just completely fail to get it together. Okay, week. Okay, month. I'm still holding out hope that it'll happen one of these days though & it might just start here. You never can tell.

You'd also be forgiven for thinking that I don't read a lot of books for someone who works in a bookshop & has named her blog after a group of 1950s poets (/one of her favourite root vegetables) You'll have to take my word for it that I have been reading books but without, err, writing about reading those books. My last dedicated literary lately post was, to my shame, aaaall the way back in August when I was immersed in the Lydia Davis collection that I got for Christmas (some things don't change) & the less sunshine-y Albert Camus. Since then I've written an essay on the former & finished one whole quarter of my MA degree that I started back in August, as well as starting on another: 20th Century American Poetry. Accordingly, I have been reading a lot of dry 1990s literary criticism borrowed from the library on the likes of Theodore Roethke & A. R. Ammons to established the free verse/formalist traditions at the heart of modern American poetry. Four weeks in & we're finally getting into the more intriguing figures such as Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath & John Ashbery. My seminars are just two hours a week so I've no excuses not to pore over the chapters in anthologies on Lowell & the luridly lilac cover of Anne Sexton's 'The Awful Rowing Toward God'. The time spent establishing these poets in contexts both critical & biographical I've found to be very valuable when it comes to contributing in class.

That said, not having to read two novels in the space of five days also leaves me with a lot to consider outside of the syllabus. There's something of a buzz around Ben Lerner, one no doubt causing long-term fans to heave a heavy 'at long last', as he's brought out his second novel '10:04' by the ever-brilliant Granta Books. I got to talking to one of these fanatics in my seminar who urged me to read his first 'Leaving The Atocha Station', the story of a young poet on a fellowship in Spain. I went straight to the library following our seminar that day & disturbed a considerable number of people as I laughed & grimaced my way through its length & took it home with me to finish before bed. Lerner has a wry wit that I recognise in the work of other American authors such as Lorrie Moore & A.M Homes & his view of human relationships is similarly astute. From the protagonist's delusional belief that his Spanish language deficiency lends him profound mystique to his repeated failings to comprehend the world that he views from the roof of his apartment, often with a joint in hand, 'Leaving The Atocha Station' has such a distinctive voice & hopelessly unsympathetic speaker that left me surprised at having enjoyed it so much. I've already earmarked a copy of his latest to nab from a friend.

'Insofar as I was interested in the arts, I was interested in the disconnect between my experience of actual artworks and the claims made on their behalf; the closest I'd come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.'

The other novel that I've been reading in between poems for class is from the aforementioned Lorrie Moore & titled ' The Gate At The Stairs'. Having become belatedly possessed by her (I now realise) well-known shorter fiction, I was interested to see whether her style would carry over a significantly larger amount of pages. Suffice to say that it did. Described as 'set in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks' & depicting the story of a 'twenty-year old Midwestern woman's coming of age', I was so captivated by this character, Tassie, in whom I saw so many shades of myself. Through the prism of Tassie's college education & it's varying fluctuations of vacation & term time, the novel charts her encounters with a harsh world outside of that she's inhabited from childhood - becoming entangled in the lives of the family she serves as nanny for, enduring a failed love affair & reconciling her lives at home & away from it. Moore's descriptions of temperamental or precarious domestic arrangements & the listlessness of higher education & its reasonably small lack of demand on your time, most of the time, really resonated with me.

'On the night table there sat some mint tea that had been steeping there since morning, stone cold and medicinally brown. I sipped a little, its soggy bag falling against my mouth; then I gargled and drank the rest.'

I have a couple of my favourite literary journals to be reading in spare moments: the latest issue of Granta that features India (an exceedingly under-explored area both in my study of geography & literature) & the latest from The Paris Review that features some pieces from Karl Ove Knausgaard. Now to actually read them & not indulge my ridiculous habit of delayed gratification.
Have you read any Ben Lerner or Lorrie Moore?
What've you been reading lately?
Speak soon - O.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

15/01/15: Dishing up daily #2

Has it been collectively decided just how long the hangover from Christmas should last? Whatever the date, I've believe it should be extended. I still feel stuck in a slump as I endeavour to transition from the utter sloth of the festive period to the 'hello 2015!' that I should surely have rejoiced by now as I type this on the fifteenth of the month. I suppose I could just be being hard on myself. I have managed to plan, write & submit that 6,000 word essay I confessed to having been avoiding for several weeks on end. That deadline was only this Monday just gone - cue celebratory bottle of wine & a Sean Lock stand-up DVD that evening, oh boy - so my kitchen habits have also been seeking to plug the gap. Long afternoons indoors trying not to succumb to cabin fever while poring over Sartre has also equalled lunches of leftovers or whatever else I can scavenge from the depths of the fridge.

So first up is a dish whose colour alone should be enough to banish any lingering fatigue & it is in the form of bright beetroot humuus. During one of, ahem, fits of procrastination I bought an app for almost certainly the first time in my life - an investment from the couple behind Green Kitchen Stories. Beautifully designed, simple to use & periodically updated with new, seasonal recipes, it's been a complete revelation. Shortly after downloading it, I whipped up this batch of tahini-creamy beetroot humuus that I've since been spreading on bagels, adding to the (too frequent) cheese board & most recently stirring into leftover pasta with leaves & seeds by way of a library packed lunch. With its bulbs packed full of fibre & anti-oxidants, it's been something of a pick-me-up when that caffeine slump has hit.

It was to another fast-becoming-old-faithful that I turned for this next quick dish, A Thought For Food, a fresh chard & roasted garlic pesto. I've gotten into the habit of popping a foil-wrapped bulb of garlic in the oven whenever it's on roasting or toasting & I was lucky to have one in reserve for this pesto. Made the day ahead for the convenience of one straight from the jar, I was very keen to be able to christen my new pestle & mortar in grinding together the smokiness of the garlic cloves, the sweetness of warm almonds & huge chard leaves stripped from their stems. I've made it again since, leftovers spread on toast, & already have this more indulgent sweet potato gratin on my list to cook next - thank you Brian!

Luckily, on my more productive days of late, I was able to plan ahead with the added help of my stack of Guardian 'Cook' supplements that await sticking into my recipe scrapbook. One issue of top 10 recipes - what must've been weeks ago now - included kale & it was from that list that I nabbed this final dish, albeit adapted for the ailing savoy cabbage in my vegetable draw. It was this pearl barley stew that I simmered with shredded leaves & my favourite veggie sausages one evening that made it worth planning ahead for. The creamy, starchiness of the grain with the spice of the sausage & preserved crunch of the leaves along with lots of black pepper -a dish I'll definitely be making again.

I've got a busy few days ahead of me working at the bookshop & then being home for a few days to help with the move so it's using up the last of the chard in this chard risotto from In Vegetables We Trust tonight before another week's meals are scribbled on my train home.

What've you been dishing up lately? 
Speak soon - O.