I’m not much of a Fleetwood Mac fan, but I have to admit that I totally thought of this title when I had You Can Go Your Own Way stuck in my head. It also seemed appropriate considering the fact that this post is about my time in London, the birthplace of this formidable rock group. As all of you probably know by now, I was in London for a couple of weeks as a graduation gift. In between sending out dozens of resumes, dealing with some bureaucratic messes at Temple, and worrying that I’ll be moving back in with my family come August, it was nice to have a little break to unwind. And, if you know anything at all about me, you know my favorite way to do this is with food and drink.
While in the U.K., I split my time with my Dad’s side of the family in the center of London and my Mom’s side of the family in a small town called Beaconsfield, about a twenty minute train ride outside of the city. These were two completely different experiences, and while I will spend a lot of time in future posts writing about London, I thought I’d kick off my England adventure with Beaconsfield.
Even though it is only twenty minutes away from a major city, it couldn’t feel more different from London. You can walk everywhere, it’s quiet, and there are dozens of public footpaths you can take that can either land you in someone’s backyard or the middle of the woods. With more yard space and green space in Beaconsfield than London, people are naturally pretty passionate about gardening here, including my Aunt Irene and Amoo Mahmood.
They excitedly took me and my grandma (who will henceforth be referred to as Mamanie) to the allotment they have to check in on Irene’s produce and make sure it hadn’t been attacked overnight by birds or slugs. I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see it though. I’m pretty outspoken about my lack of understanding of flowers. In my mind, why in the world would you pay a lot of money for lilies or tulips or whatever your flower of choice is when it just looks pretty for a couple of days and then dies? However, I soon discovered my aunt does the kind of gardening that I can champion for: the edible kind.
If a guy ever wants to impress me with a plant (although I would have to find a guy who was interested in me and all my nerdiness to begin with), it would have to be something like basil or parsley to really charm. Honestly, what I really want is a guy to show up with a bouquet of cheeses, but I doubt that I’ll ever be that lucky. Although I do lack this in my everyday life, I did get to experience a little bit of this wish for edible gifts while in Beaconsfield.
When we first visited the space, we spent a few minutes walking around and checking out her little pond before really exploring the things she has planted earlier in the year. My eyes quickly zoned in on the sweetest thing in her space and my mouth was quickly watering over strawberries that ranged in hue from pale, practically undetectable pink to lush red. Aunt Irene quickly plucked a few off the stems and handed them to us to try. As odd as this may sound, the strawberries burst in my mouth as I bit into them, and were much tastier than any strawberry I’ve bought in a grocery store despite not being fully ripened that first. They didn’t look as blood red and juicy as the strawberries here, but they were ten times as flavorful.
Since they weren’t all ready, she didn’t pick many, but over the next few days, our hands were constantly sticky with strawberry juice after dinner. With just a little bit of fresh, fluffy whipped cream, the strawberries were the perfect dessert for the spring nights in England. We often went out into their backyard to enjoy them among the little cherry trees and newly-bloomed flowers that enclosed the space.
Although the strawberries were by far my favorite thing to come out of the allotment, there was also a lot of other nice produce that Irene gave us throughout our stay in Beaconsfield. She grew a number of leafy lettuces, and there wasn’t one hard, flavorless piece of romaine in sight. These soft lettuces were large, good for you, and had just the right amount of bitter edge to them. We often just ate them in simple salads with olive oil and vinegar, but a few times it was served topped with a phenomenally pungent goat’s cheese from France. The food was incredibly simple, but everything was so fresh and thought-out that it was really enjoyable, too.
Everything was calmer in Beaconsfield and it felt like a true vacation. We sipped on wine and beer leisurely before dinner, sat out in the garden looking out for magpies waiting to dive and loot the fruit growing on trees, and just did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. With simple lunches of assorted smoked and cured hams and dinners that were timed to perfectly end when a World Cup game started, I felt like I could easily visit Beaconsfield again for a relaxing vacation.
I fully enjoyed and appreciated Aunt Irene’s efforts in the garden, and I’m really glad I had this experience, which was different than flashy dinners in London and quick lunches at Pret. After seeing my aunt sweating over her plants under the surprisingly hot sun, I have a new appreciation for life closer to the countryside… particularly because I know I couldn’t do it.