wedding, and hind's head

ooooh look, a blog post. my first since february. what’s brought this on, you ask? well, i have felt a little sorry that i have abandoned the blog less than a year after its inception. and i have realised, in the months i’ve not been writing, that the discipline of keeping a record of what i cook is a useful one. it seems a shame, cooking all these things and then letting them all disappear without trace.

as a greedy person, i rarely look back when it comes to food – i am only looking forward to the next meal. i am unlikely to sit around reminiscing about memorable dinners – the promise of meals to come is much more exciting. the flipside of this is that i forgot meals almost as soon as i have cooked them. then the next time all i have in the fridge is some chicken and it’s half seven on a tuesday night, i have to waste time looking for a suitable recipe.

it’s because of this that i thought i’d carry on cataloguing things i like. of course, the more time passes the more i repeat myself in the kitchen and the chances of me cooking something blog-worthy recede. but still...

anyway, a lot has happened over the past six months.

we got married, for one. which was ace. i recommend getting married – apart from the obvious benefit of doing so, it’s a way of spending a weekend with people you like, eating good food, drinking nice wine and just generally having fun. think party but one where no one minds you burn the main course or run out of ice. the amount of goodwill you get from people is touching. oh, and if you’re a girl, you also get to spend two hours having your hair and make up done so you look pretty good at the end of it.

weirdly, getting married didn’t feel like just a pointless ceremony which results in the proverbial ‘piece of paper’. i guess the fact that we decided to do it in the first place means that we didn’t think that but weddings are often about what families and others expect rather than fundamentally about how you feel. i think i knew from the start that this was it, or at least it never crossed my mind that it might not be so it’s not like i thought being married would change things.

i am sure others have written about this a lot more eloquently, but basically it boiled down to the fact that, for me, saying yes in front of friends and family genuinely felt like more of a commitment than getting a joint mortgage or writing a will where i leave lots of morose indie music to him (and books, don’t forget the books!). maybe it is because all relationships are so fragile – based on people’s feelings for each other which, as well all know, can change so easily and so irreversibly – that we try and formalise them in some way and make marriage a public acknowledgement of a private decision. of course, no amount of paperwork will make a marriage work and that’s not what being together is about. but i can see why this hugely prevalent – geographically and historically – social convention has managed to survive against all odds. in any case, there are lots of social conventions that make sense and are probably pretty useful - otherwise we might still be walking around in the nud or killing each other.

i also became an auntie, which was fun. actually, more than anything, it was quite overwhelming: never before have i had the feeling of being perfectly capable of ripping someone’s head off to protect someone. baby sasha is very small and very cute. i am looking forward to her growing up. unless she develops a taste for R&B or something, in which case all bets are off and she can forget about having an auntie in london.

my pesky back is slowly getting better – though when i say slowly, i mean slowly. i can just about sit down at work for a day but planes, trains and automobiles remain hell on earth. don’t ask me to go to the cinema either.

but back to the wedding! we are having our honeymoon in africa in september so we decided to spend a couple of days just wondering about the countryside around henley, doing things we wouldn’t normally do. this largely involved eating and drinking, as well as driving around looking at wildlife. red kites and wallabies (really) were pretty exciting but – oh, the naughty thrill of of having a lunchtime pie and a pint! the freedom and the illicitness of ordering yet another glass of wine on a sunday night and not caring! the possibility of eating steak three days in a row!

the highlight of the eating experience was going to bray. (i say eating, because we stayed in the monkey island hotel which was like being in a particularly glum episode of faulty towers. you know the place: lots of apricot walls and table cloths, broken shower heads and rusty taps, thin polyester sheets and soaps that you could strip paint with). and no, we didn’t go to the fat duck. god knows why – you’d think getting married would be a perfect excuse to blow loads of cash on a posh dinner. we faffed for ages, thinking it’s too much money and it would hurt after just having spent loads on the wedding. when it got to two weeks before, we suddenly concluded we must go. obviously, it was too late to get a table.

but we went to hind’s head instead and i have to say, i wish we hadn’t. it’s ruined all other gastropubs for me, forever. anyone with gastropub pretentions (that’s you, the house on canonbury road, and a few others) should go and eat there to see how it’s done. unpretentious, most definitely still a pub, with real beer, lovely atmosphere, great service, modest prices and, of course, great food. that, and a subsequent trip to l’autre pied in marylebone, made me realise yet again the same thing i thought when we went to eat at pierre koffman’s pop up last year. i am basically not interested in poncey food that much. give me the hind’s head menu any day and you can keep your michelin stars, your foams and your microherbs carefully placed by tweezers.

it’s partly because there’s never enough food on the plate in those places. it makes me anxious that i won’t get enough. (this is also why i dislike tasting menus and sharing food – there are few words i dread more than: shall we order both and we can share). so, i guess that despite my interest in food and my willingness to spend ridiculous amounts of money on it (£7.50 takeaway lunches from manicomio, anyone?), food to me is not a fetish. it’s a way of sating hunger. chef are not rock stars, cooking is not astrophysics and food is not some weirdly sensual and orgasmic experience. it’s just nice stuff to eat. done well, it can be brilliant and that’s why i loved hind’s head.

rich’s crab on toast was a proper, thick slice of crusty bread with a lot of crab on top. i thought it was mixed with chervil but i might have made that up. my asparagus with ham and hollandaise consisted of a lot more than 2 spears and a bit of yellow air: a few slices of lovely ham topped with perfectly cooked asparagus and hollandaise so good it made me make my own for the first time (which tasted nothing like it, naturellement). i then had a proper stodgy pie with oxtail and kidneys and rich had a steak with bone marrow sauce – both were like someone extracted an essence of a happy cow. it was the kind of thing that makes me weep for vegetarians.

we even had dessert – which was nice but nothing special. weirdly, the only thing that wasn’t particularly nice was coffee. no idea why and perhaps it was just an accident.

so, my conclusion is – forget fat duck and go to hind’s head to see what you’re missing in all those poor eagle and anchor and hope clones scattered around london. okay, bray is one of those funny villages in the commuter belt where people talk about bond dealing while having a pint, but honestly, you’ll enjoy it.
ps the pictures are of a bluebell field around henley, and of some wild flowers i picked on the last day before coming home.


  1. HURRAY! you're back! I missed you!

  2. ah thank you! once a week would be good...but we;ll see. back killing me again!


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