This is a normal post-dinner kitchen in my house. My DH always asks me why I can’t clean up as I go. Obviously, he doesn’t cook. Do you think Julia Child cleaned up as she cooked, unless she had a helpful telly crew standing by? Tell me it’s not so . . .
I am a good but slapdash cook. None of that fussy bakey-measury stuff for me. (Slapdash with words as well, I think.) One of the many reasons I love Jamie Oliver is his resistance to precise measurements. “A glug of olive oil,” he says. How much is a glug, you ask? He knows. I know. It all works.
So what exactly created the above-pictured mess? Shrimp, marinated in a bit (!) of olive-oil mayo, a squeeze of lemon, some herbs de Provence, and some fresh ground salt and pepper. Threaded on skewers with lovely fresh grape tomatoes, popped (another Jamie word) on the gas grill for a couple of minutes. Some fresh corn, steamed in the microwave, served with unsalted organic butter and fresh ground salt and pepper. And coleslaw with a half-remembered thrown-together dressing recipe: A spoon of mayo, some apple cider vinegar, a sprinkle (so precise) of organic sugar, and another sprinkle of caraway seeds.
All delish. Neither Julia nor Jamie would be ashamed. And although I am a messy cook, I’m a very good dishwasher. It’s the zen of it, and tonight I had DH playing the guitar and singing Bare Naked Ladies songs while I rinsed and swished.
What’s not to like?
(Unless it’s the squished tomatoes and blueberries under my feet.)
Amen to that. And I’m glorying in tea this morning, as you can see, because my order came from The English Tea Store yesterday, and I was down to the bottom of all my tea tins–a sad state of affairs, and one that does not induce creative thought.
I apologize, by the way, for the ordinariness of my everyday teapot, when I have so many others to choose from. But it’s such a good teapot–an American (made by Typhoon) equivalent of the famous British Brown Betty, sturdy, well-shaped and well pouring, the essentials of teapot-ness. And I do use it every day, usually twice, and I brew loose tea.
Confession. Even having written a novel that was centered around tea, KISSED A SAD GOODBYE, (now available at last in Kindle) and having researched every bit of tea lore and history and having even earned a certificate as a Tea Master, I still used TEABAGS. Blush. There, I’ve said it. Because I was lazy and I hated messing about with tea strainers and saucers for the strainers. Those tea ball things always came apart in the pot, the tea strainer spoon didn’t let the tea expand, and I never found a pot with a built in strainer that worked worth a damn.
But then there came the t-sac, and I was converted. It is a do-it-yourself, disposable tea bag. How simple. How brilliant. You spoon in your loose tea, drape the sac gently into your pot, pour over your just boiled water (filtered!), swish a bit, let steep five minutes.
Perfect tea. Every time. And you’ll never use a tea bag again unless you’re desperate. The t-sacs come in three sizes, but I’ve discovered there’s no point in buying #1 or #2, as the bigger #3 works just fine in a mug or cup and is perfect for both small and large tea pots.
So this morning I’m drinking a pot of my favorite breakfast tea, Borengajuli Estate Assam. It’s hearty and malty and the loveliest deep orange color. This afternoon, a new variety of Earl Grey, Earl Grey Metropolitan Blend (sounds very sophisticated, doesn’t it?), or maybe the loose Darjeeling I haven’t yet tried.
And I do inhale, by the way. When the tea has steeped, lift the lid and breathe deeply. I didn’t grow up in a house where tea was drunk, so that heady aroma rising from the pot takes me back to my first trips to England, years ago, and pots of tea served on B&B breakfast tables. Heaven.
Now, another cup, and so to work.
Yesterday I got TWO of my ten allotted author’s copies of NO MARK UPON HER from Pan Macmillan, UK. For a writer, there’s nothing quite like the first time you hold a book you wrote in your hands. An actual BOOK. Not a printed or copy-edited manuscript, or type-set pages, or a bound galley. A real BOOK. Bliss.
There was, however, one small disappointment. They were second editions. The first printing sold out before the official release date–none left even for the author.
This, of course, is very happy news for me, although not so happy for book collectors who wanted–or ordered–signed first UK editions.
For those who are curious, here’s how you tell a first edition from a second:
There is a string of numbers on the lower half of the copyright page.
A UK first edition looks like this: 135798642
If the 1 is missing, it’s a second printing. If the 2 is also missing, it’s a third printing. And so on.
The numbering is formatted a little differently in the US, strictly from right to left, as in: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
But the principle is the same. If the 1 is missing, it’s a second printing, etc.
Unfortunately, my photo doesn’t convey how gorgeous this cover is–it’s much greener than it appears in the picture. And it depicts Temple Island, just north of Henley-on-Thames, one of the most scenic spots in Britain and where much of NO MARK UPON HER takes place.
The cover of the US edition, out in February, will be quite different but also very striking. And while the first US printing from William Morrow will undoubtedly be bigger than that of the UK edition, if you want to be sure of a signed first edition, pre-order from The Poisoned Pen or Murder by the Book, where I’ll be signing in February.
And in the meantime, thanks to all you readers for buying up those books!