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Sugar Bowl Mix: Cooking with the London Underground

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cooking with the London Underground

I love to cook and when I cook I always wear this London Underground apron.

Recently, Caroline asked me where I got it from. When I was twelve-years-old my best friend, Suzanne, went to London and brought it back for me. The first time I wore the apron I remember my mother pointing to Kensington High Street, the tube stop she and I my father used when they lived in London years before. 

The apron is vinyl, easily wiped and I immediately began wearing it whenever I cooked. I loved to cook bake. I made cakes, cookies, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, banana bread and salad dressing. The recipes came almost entirely from my mother's tattered Fannie Farmer cookbook from the 1940s. In high school I branched out and began cooking main courses.

At the beginning of my sophomore year in college my sister, Jane, gave me my own Fannie Farmer Cookbook as well as a little notebook filled with neatly printed family recipes and recipes from our mother's tattered Fannie Farmer that weren't included in the updated version.

(The Mocha Layer cake recipe above was my favorite cake growing up. The recipe comes from the 1940s Fannie Farmer edition.)

Sophomore year I lived with four roommates in an apartment where we took turns cooking for everyone. My dinners always included dessert. For my birthday that year my roommate, Jane, gave me Smart Cooking, a cookbook endorsed by the Canadian Heart Association that was "heart- healthy." I cooked recipes like Triple-Cheese Lasagna, Gazpacho and Cream of Broccoli soup and easily wiped the splatters off my London Underground after each dinner I prepared.

I spent my Junior year in London. My tube stop was Goodge Street, although I could get off at Tottenham Court if I didn't mind walking a little further. My classes were at Oxford Circus. Ironically, I didn't bring my London Underground apron with me. I had packed almost entirely in a backpack and the apron, well, it seemed like an extra that could be left with the rest of my college stuff, in boxes in my parents' basement. In London I was cookbook-less and made mostly veggie-filled omelettes in a dingy basement kitchen of the residence I shared with American college students also studying in London. My roommate, Suzy, and I sometimes made cakes from from- horrors- a mix. The kitchen was not sufficient for making cakes from scratch.

Back at college for my senior year, I lived with five roommates and cooked dinner once a week for everyone, wearing my London Underground apron. I cooked many batches of spaghetti sauce and made many pans of brownies. I also cooked from the companion cookbook to Smart Cooking, The Lighhearted Cookbook.

I left the apron and the cookbooks with my parents when I travelled around Australia for a year after graduation. In Australia I baked many potatoes and barbecued a lot of chicken over campfires.

In Boston for graduate school, the apron re-emerged. My roommate, Sarah, gave me The Silver Palate Cookbook, and I cooked cajun burgers and herb wrapped beef tenderloin from it and its companion, The Good Times Cookbook.

In Los Angeles, working in the film industry, I hosted many dinner parties and culled most of my recipes from the above mentioned cookbooks. I bought this chocolate desserts cookbook on sale on a whim and tested many of its recipes at my dinner parties.

And then I met Tim. Not at a dinner party but on a blind date. He loved to cook, too, and he also had quite a cookbook collection, although he didn't have a London Underground apron, or any apron at all. We cooked pesco-vegetarian dinners together and I baked him some of my old family cake recipes wearing my London Underground apron.

And then we got married and our cookbook collection merged.

Tim likes to give me cake recipe books. Southern Cakes is my most favorite. If you have only one cake recipe book, have this one.

And then the girls arrived. The delight of testing new recipes turned to the drudgery of nightly meal planning. But the girls and I bake together. A lot. And I still try out new recipes. Often the new recipes come from blogs. I still turn to my old cookbooks. I find a soul-soothing comfort in the ripped pages of my Fannie Farmer and the food-stained pages of my college cookbooks and the Silver Palate books.

Sometimes the girls wear the apron. I have to tie it in the back so it's not too long. Caroline is only four years away from the age I was when Suzanne gave it to me. Over the years I forgot where the apron came from. I simply grabbed it, tied it on and began cooking. It wasn't until Caroline asked me about it last week that I remembered.  I wonder if Suzanne remembers giving it to me. I'll make a note to ask her.

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At September 27, 2010 at 4:15 PM , Blogger Twee Poppets said...

Congratulations! You were randomly selected to be the Blog Hopper of the Week for this week's Tuesday Tag-Along blog hop at Twee Poppets! Your blog will be placed in the desirable second slot of the TTA linky. You do not need to do anything else to claim your great position - but feel free to let me know when you have posted your TTA blog post, so I can swap in the link. Thanks for tagging along!

At September 27, 2010 at 5:01 PM , Blogger suzanne said...

First of all I can't believe you still have this! Second of all, I really need the recipe for the mocha cake with bittersweet icing.

It's great that you are doing this. I look forward to reading more. Hoping for some entries on camp, the movie star who kissed you more than once (are you kidding!?) and life in LA.

At September 27, 2010 at 5:30 PM , Blogger Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Hi there! I loved reading your "history" of cookbooks. How fun. I love that you and your husband's cookbook collections got married too. :) Thanks so much for the visit today! :)

At September 27, 2010 at 7:47 PM , Blogger Liz said...

i love the apron, and wish i could buy one for our house. well, for my husband because he likes to stay clean when he's in the kitchen!


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