The Final Banquet

The Final Banquet

Tonight, we gathered as a group for the last time to celebrate finishing Grinnell in London.

The papers are in, the bags are (nearly) packed, and the last little things are finally being done. The banquet was a nice cap to the semester. It was so nice to get to get together with all of the wonderful people who made this semester what it was. Not only did I get to dine and chat with my fellow Grinnell-in-Londoners as a large group, but I also got to say some final goodbyes and thank yous to the program professors and staff.

It was a wonderful evening filled with great conversation and fantastic food. We dined at the Clerkenwell Kitchen, a little restaurant right by our flat. We each received a three course meal. I started with a delectable English Onion Soup. It was rich, hearty, and wonderfully seasoned. I quickly gobbled it up and eagerly awaited the main course. I had opted for the roasted sirloin served with vegetables, which turned out to be parsnips, potatoes, and sprouts. It was a delicious and quite filling entrée. Finally, for dessert, I opted for the toffee pudding, which was scrumptious and not terribly heavy, a sweet way to top off a fabulous meal.

After the meal, we convened to snag a final group shot. It is somewhat crazy to see how much we've grown together on this semester together. We've bonded over an incredible experience and it's been wonderful to make so many new friends. We said our goodbyes see-you-laters and headed back home to polish off some more packing. All in all, a good day. My final day in London is tomorrow. Pictures below.

Teddy and I

 

Soup!

 

Fresh Sourdough! Yum!

 

The Main Course

 

Delectably Delicious Dessert

 

What a group!

 

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Today was quite a fun day! I enjoyed going to my final Sunday market at Bricklane, and also got to have my cousin and her friends over to my flat for supper.

I began the day at Bricklane, browsing the stands and enjoying lots of delicious food! My favorite treat of the day was a s'mores whooping pie from a bakery stand. It was amazing. The cake was perfect and dipped in dark chocolate, with a tasty toasted marshmallow center. YUM!

Treats!

 

Classic London

After eating a bunch, I made my way to the gym, enjoyed a good workout, hit up the grocery store, and set about making a dinner! I made a caprese salad and a pasta with roasted chorizo and tomatoes in a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It had to be good, because we were having guests tonight!

My cousin Alyssa came over for supper with her boyfriend, Toony Goghavala, and her friend, Maya Tata. It was wonderful. We enjoyed a great dinner and conversation together, as well as the wonderful wine and great little cookies that Alyssa baked for us. (Let's put it this way… That pastry education is WORKING! They were gone in mere minutes!) All in all, a good day, and a great FINAL Sunday.

 

The Whole Group

 

Our Guests and Me

 

Cousins!

 

Alyssa and Maya

Toony and Alyssa

 

Room Change-Up!

Room Change-Up!

Between polishing off some final papers and readings for our Phase 1 classes, my flatmates and I redid our room setup as an epic, multipart study break. I now have a small single where the living room once was, Tracey has moved to the formerly small double (now a single), and Claire and Adriyel now live in the big double room that has the adjoining bathroom.

It was a fairly painless process, and we had discussed it before. It works out really advantageously for everyone. Tracey and I both get singles, and Adriyel and Claire get to share a much larger room. I also get a special bonus; because I tend to be very warm all the time, I can keep my windows open in my room now. (Currently, my room is about ten degrees cooler than the rest of the apartment. It's wonderful.)

 

I'm loving the new set-up. I have reposted all of my pictures and my calendar, and my ever-giving chive plant can now sit happily on my windowsill. I have my couch for studying on and my comfy bed for lounging. It was a fun study break, and it was a rearrangement where everyone won.

 

All in all, another good day.

 

Evans and Peel Detective Agency and more…

Evans and Peel Detective Agency and more…

It was a dark and (slightly) stormy night…

This is London, after all. A little rain comes with the territory. Tonight, we made our way down to the Evans and Peel Detective Agency, a speakeasy-style novelty bar. I had found out about it via some sleuthing online, and it sounded like my kind of place.

This is an establishment that takes its persona very seriously, and to great effect. We found the nondescript door in an alley off of a main street and pressed the intercom buzzer. After a brief exchange where we confirmed our “appointment” with the detective, we were let in and led to a small office. The office looked straight out of the 1920’s, lit with candlelight and complete with an old telephone and typewriter. The detective, in character, asked us about our case. We said we were looking for “a six-fingered swordsman who had killed my father many years ago in Spain.” (Princess Bride, anyone?) The detective said he’d look into it, then swung open a hidden door built into the bookcase and led us inside.

Inside, we found a dark, mysterious dining room, and were led to a table. The menus were wonderful, typewritten on old paper and attached to a filing envelope. The attention to detail was so impressive, and we were having a blast. We ordered some mysterious, old fashioned drinks and a few small appetizers recommended by our waitress, and then reveled in the atmosphere. We felt so classy and like members of a secret club. It was well worth the effort and price.

After stealthily exiting the detective agency, we decided to get some dinner at a nearby pub, the Churchill Arms, a combination English pub/Thai restaurant. After enjoying a pint while we waited, we were finally seated and could enjoy supper. I got the Pad Kee Mao, an extremely spicy and delicious noodle dish with shrimp, chicken, and beef. It was phenomenal.

All in all, another good night. Case closed.

Lunchtime Experiment: Success!

Lunchtime Experiment: Success!

Today I panfried salmon for the first time on my own. I seasoned it with chili powder, pepper, garlic and rosemary. The spice combination really infused into the fish and made it extra-delicious! I read about five different articles on how best to cook the fish and good ways to serve it. With that bit of preparation done, I began to craft my lunch.

 

I started by seasoning the fish and letting the spices set while I cooked up some couscous with cilantro and chickpeas and a bit of crumbly English cheese. With the couscous done in its pot and the frying pan ready for the salmon, I lowered the fillet in gently and let the heat work its magic. At the proper point, I flipped the fish and removed the skin off of the back of the fish. I then let the fish cook nicely until it was ready, then plated it. A final touch saw me tossing some spinach into the already hot pan to wilt it and infuse it with the taste of the salmon itself. The salmon and its two sides made a healthful, delicious lunch.

 

Touring South Kensington

Touring South Kensington

Today, for my History of London class, we toured the area surrounding South Kensington and the Royal Albert Memorial. It was a beautiful day, and the area is filled with amazing museums and fun architecture. We had just studied the Great Exhibition of 1851, so seeing the area that evolved from that space was really incredible. I really enjoyed getting a closer look at the Memorial and we had an interesting conversation about its meaning and about the legacies of Prince Albert.

 

After class, a few of us meandered through some sections of the Natural History Museum. It is an amazing museum filled with incredible exhibits. I loved getting a close look at the rock formation exhibits and some extinct preserved creatures. The visit was too short to see everything, so I will definitely be returning soon!

 

I spent the rest of the day doing readings, cleaning, and general homework. This monotony was broken by a nice long run to the grocery store for dinner supplies and a relaxing bus ride home. I also finished addressing some postcards and sent them off today! More will be written this weekend, as I am riding a bus for five hours to visit Liverpool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Food

On Food

Food is, as should be evident, one of my chief passions in life. I love exploring different flavors and experimenting with common meals or ingredients to create something totally new. Food is an outlandishly fun medium to work with, as it allows immense freedom and expression, yet time constrains its beauty to such a short period. Thrust into England, a new culinary adventure, I have been exploring two amazing paths, restaurant exploration and home cooking. The first will be addressed at a later point (or search for the Fish and Chips Quest in the sidebar), but doing large amounts of cooking was a new experience for me. At home, usually I am either in my beloved Dining Hall, being spoiled by my parents' or grandparents' cooking, or cooking solely for myself.

 

Here, however, I am the Head Chef of our flat. (My flatmates and I worked out a mutually-beneficial deal: I cook the meals, they do the dishes that ensue.) Learning to cook for four people (and the occasional guest) each night has been a great deal of fun. Although our tools are limited, we have an amazing selection of ingredients between the various open-air markets and a large Sainsburys (grocery store) fairly nearby.

 

We take turns doing the shopping, or go in a large group together, but its always an adventure. One thing we noticed quickly was the lack of preservatives, especially in the produce. This means we have to shop close to daily for some produce, but it does mean we are eating amazingly fresh food all the time. I love doing the shopping, seeing all the fresh and varied food all around, and finding new inspiration for dishes. For example, this week, a major promotion dropped the price of Brie and Spanish chorizo a ton, so we picked up some to add to our garlic basil pesto Mac and Cheese. It was a delicious success, as the picture below may show.

 

I've also found it enjoyable to start writing out weekly menus. It helps us ensure variety and also buy just what we need to avoid wasting food. It also brings back memories of the Dining Hall, and my favorite study break of looking up the week's menu to see what foods I would be able to combine. This is one of our menus from a week ago:

Weekly Menu:

Monday: extra cheesy spinach, pesto, and chicken Mac with sliced oranges, strawberries, and avocado

Tuesday: oven pesto chicken spinach sandwiches with pasta salad(?)

Wednesday: Oven baked Parmesan chicken breast with pilaf and caprese salad (tomato, Mozzerella slices, fresh basil) and fresh bread

Thursday: Pizza! (Sausage with assorted veggies), bruschetta (as appetizer), classy cocktails (vodka sunrise- vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice)

Friday: Fried rice with large fried shrimp

 

Cooking is simultaneously exhilarating and relaxing for me. Though the sizzle of the oil and the ending rush to make sure everything is ready at the same time raise the excitement level, there is something so rhythmic and soothing about the various routines that surround my cooking; the reassuring thunk of the knife on the cutting board, the gentle murmuring of the boiling water on the stove, and the swirls of the soup as I stir put me in a relaxed state of mind. The routine clears away my day, and the meal nourishes my tired body. I'm not just learning to cook on this adventure, I'm learning about myself, and what simple things, like cooking, hold great significance in my life.

At the Store, Buying Chorizo

Buying Italian Cheese from a Market Vendor

 

Making Pizzas (P-I-Z-Z-A!)

 

Making the Mac

 

The Fabled Garlic Basil Pesto Spinach Mac & Cheese with Spanish Chorizo, Fresh Mozzarella, and French Brie

 

London Days (And Welcoming Sara to London!)

London Days (And Welcoming Sara to London!)

Today was a nice recharging day. I slept in a little, made a breakfast with eggs, smoked salmon (extremely cheap here!!!), Leister Red cheese, a baguette, oranges, yogurt and tea, then read some course readings and cleaned a little while my breakfast settled. I then went to the gym, where I got a wonderful workout in. I then dropped into Primark, which is a fashion-centric yet super frugal English clothing shop, as they just opened a new shop down the street from the gym. I snagged a new sweater and an awesome tie for under ten pounds, which is a total steal. After Primark, I grabbed pittas and tomato sauce from the grocery and some amazing pepperoni from a local Italian foodshop down the street from our flat.

I then came home and made pizzas after I skyped my family. Sara, one of my Grinnell swimming buddies, arrived from Sweden just as I was finishing making the pizzas. We had the delicious little pizzas (pepperoni, basil, spinach, and garlic) and then I took Sara out to her first English Pub! I then came home, skyped Emily, and cleaned a little more. We adventure to Kew Gardens tomorrow!

Cooking!

Sara and Me!

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 2)

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 2)

On this day, I started out with an exhilarating and long run out into the countryside with my roommate-for-the-weekend, Arthur. We enjoyed the crisp, clear air and the fog rolling over the river and fields as the sun rose. We made it back to the bed and breakfast in time for an amazing English breakfast. We enjoyed ham, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, tea, yogurt, cereal, more tea, jam, and more. It was probably a very good thing we went on a run.

Post-breakfast, a group of ten of us decided to rent some boats from a nearby dock we had seen the previous night. We lucked out, as they had a boat that could seat all ten of us. We hopped in and began a merry rowing adventure. It was absolutely gorgeous as we rode (and rowed) along the riverbank. It was such great company, and we even sprang into singing a few rounds of “Row, row, row your boat…” (Which induced a passing English boat to wonder aloud, “What on earth are those Americans singing?!?”) It was an amazingly fun experience, one I will not be forgetting. After rowing, we had lunch and bought cheese from a nearby market.

Later that day, we saw an outstanding production of Richard III. It was action-packed and had an extremely-talented actor playing Richard III himself. After a short break for a walk around and a deliciously spicy Thai dinner, we came back to the theatre to see A Comedy of Errors. It was my favorite Shakespeare play of the three we saw this weekend, but they were all so impressive. It was absolutely amazing to be treated to three shows in Shakespeare’s hometown. I will never forget it. Enjoy the pictures (and video of our merry round-singing) below.

First Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum

First Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum

Today, we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum for my art history class. It was the first of (I hope) many visits for me. The V&A, as it is commonly called, houses pieces from around the world and through various times. The focus is on good design and craftwork. We went to examine some Donatello pieces. (The museum hosts the largest collection of Donatello pieces outside of Italy.) They were amazing to look at, and seeing the pieces inches from us, rather than in a book, made the pieces so much more accessible from an intellectual standpoint and yet more intricate at the same time. It's amazing being in a city where so much art is. I am constantly astounded by the quantity and quality of the museums. Today's moment of “Wow!” came when I walked by a little nook where none other than one of Da Vinci's journals. What an amazing city.

From Outside

Class in the Gallery

By Donatello

 

Da Vinci's Journal

St. Francis

 

St. Sebastian