Monday, October 26, 2009

Reunion with Be-Ro

That's what happened tonight. It was the least dramatic reunion I've ever been too- no tears, no past grudges, no memories of ill-worn fashion. Just pure joy. Fond times. Sweet memories. Savored (and savory) moments.

Are you the least bit interested yet? Well, if not, quit reading, because for the next 10 minutes I'm going to share my evening with you. You, me and the Be-Ro book.

Yes, that's right. I typed it. The Be-Ro book. Now, for those non-British folks out there you likely have no clue what I'm talking about; unless of course you're married to one of us OR you've spent some time in the old country immersing yourself in "the culture" (you Anglophiles you!). No matter, I'll introduce you to my old friend the Be-Ro book, who tonight was rescued from the dusty space between Martha Stewart and Delia Smith, almost lost but never forgotten.

The Be-Ro Flour Home Recipe 40th Edition is my version of heaven. Granted, I have a penchant for anything cakey, creamy, jammy, and sweet. It's not my fault; I was born and bred and remain a Brit. We're designed to love stodgy puddings and jam and cream-filled sponge cakes. But it doesn't stop there. I also have a taste for cheesey pastries, crumbly scones, salty pies and (soy) sausages in batter. Mmmm. Vegetarian toad in the hole. Delish.

Since 1923, the Be-Ro cookery book has brought common recipes back to the common (wo)man. For almost 2-years, since my last move, Be-Ro and I have been separated. Sadly out of sight but not out of mind, as I've imagined savory cheese scones, jam tarts, and Victoria sponge cakes. But how to make those recipes? Separated from the Be-Ro book I could no longer remember the measures of flour to sugar. The oven temperatures or dish to timing ratio. I could no longer recall how I'd once baked such delights; the staple dishes and Sunday tea treats of my upbringing. That is, until tonight.

Tonight I called my mum for a recipe: Quiche Lorraine. One of many recipes she excels at.( I should also mention her rice pudding, lasagna, and British-style pancakes. Scrumptious.) With a day off work ahead of me tomorrow and a group of guests arriving for dinner on Wednesday evening at 7pm (after a full work day ending at 6pm), I decided to do what any well-educated young English-woman would do: make quiche. Additionally, a weekend sale on eggs and cheese make for ideal timing.

Quiche Lorraine. For years I've enjoyed multiple versions: Broccoli and Cheese, Cheese and Onion, Ham and Cheese (in the old meat-eating days), Sweetcorn. There have been mixed vegetable versions, chicken n' cheddar, and herbed-only platters. Served at the golf club Christmas parties, summer picnics, Brit-reunions. Quiche fits any occasion and most palates. However, for all of my enjoyment, I realised this evening, I've never made quiche. So I called my mother for a recipe.

"You'll not like this," she said. "You just have to experiment. I don't use a recipe." No recipe? Really? All those years of quiche and no recipe? How did she learn and why hadn't I yet? I was panicked. "It's a shortcrust pastry," she began. "Shortcrust? How do I make shortcrust pastry?" I didn't know where to start and here's my mum talking like I'm already apart of the shortcrust-pastry baking club.

"It's in the Be-Ro book?" Be-Ro book. Be-Ro book. Where is that book? I stood paralyzed in the middle of the kitchen until it hit me. The bookshelf. (I swear it wasn't that obvious. We have 2 built-in and 2 free-standing bookshelves in this house-all full of books upon books. It's easy to get lost in them.)

And then I found it. The Be-Ro cookery book. Blue. A little tousled at the corners from use. A sticky cover. And full of sweet, sweet, savored (and savory) memories. Welsh griddle scones like my Granny used to make on Friday evenings upon my visits after school. Toad in the hole- my Dad's go-to end-of-the-week dish for my brother and I. Jam tarts filled with tart raspberry and lemon sugars. The same pastries I carried as a child for the local Salmon Queen festival's costume competition. I went as the Queen of Hearts based on a childhood rhyme,

"The Queen of Hearts,
she made some tarts,
all on a summer's day.
The Knave of Hearts,
he stole the tarts,
and ate them right away"

I didn't win the competition, but loved baking the jam and lemon curd tarts with my mum and offering them up to neighbors and festival-goers.

There were more recipes: cheese scones (a Mum-favorite), Highlanders (melt-in-your-mouth shortbread biscuits), cheese straws (a party favorite), vol-au-vents (adult dinner hors d'ouevres), sausage rolls (recently perfected as a vegetarian version by my mother), currant buns (often made by my brother and I on weekend afternoons), chocolate swiss roll (a childhood favorite and special treat only), yorkshire puddings (a Sunday dinner side to Beef or Turkey). With each recipe came a new memory, a smile, an appreciation for family and food.

I assume that Be-Ro and I will be spending some quality time together over the next few weeks. I have a list of recipes I want to bake. Vegetarian versions I'm excited to try. An experiment in British cookery in New England. I can't wait. Will King Arthur's flour hold up to Be-Ro? I'm unsure, but it's a welcome (and potentially delicious) challenge.

I write this all after returning to WW tonight for the first time in 5-weeks. I remained the same weight I left at. During my 5 week absence I ate in response to my body, including my needs and my cravings. I didn't worry about the scale, and I was successful.

I add this afterword about WW not to dampen the mood, nor to suggest that all eating winds up being about WW. For me, it doesn't and hasn't in practice. But I add this afterword to highlight that you can be a foodie and lose weight. You can be a foodie and maintain. You can enjoy food and the good memories of food and have struggled with weight and weight-loss. It's all about balance- and listening.

I noted at my WW meeting this evening that I've made it through almost another 10-months of WW and 30lbs of weight-loss by learning one simple skill: listening. I'm not good at it yet, but I'm practicing. This whole journey is about listening to myself. To the cravings. To the memories. To the hunger. To the pain with injury. To the tiredness. To the stress. To the feelings. It's about listening and trying to respond to myself in the most positive way possible- even if that means some nights I'm eating take-out so I can come home, eat, not wash a dish and go to bed. Other days it means healthy habits- drinking lots of water, going for that run, weighing portions, eating leafy greens, passing up the caffeine from Starbucks. Whatever the case, it's about listening. It's staying in that extra 30minutes in bed. Saying no to another project. It's crying and laughing and spending time with friends if I need to. This journey is about the whole me. The fat kid. The good British food. The love of baking and the love of eating. And, through listening to and respecting all of those parts of me, I can make this work.