I confess, possums, I wrote this nearly a month ago and haven’t had the wherewithal to take pictures of something I’ve cooked to go with the post, but now I have and here I am. Since this is a review, I thought I might make something from Luisa’s book but instead, I have made something that comforts me – the way the food in her book comforts her. These furikake twists are a riff on cheese twists but use furikake, or rice sprinkles, nori and cheese and by the awesome powers invested in puff pastry turn out to be just as delicious with what for me are the flavours of growing up.
This morning I woke up early-early, before the sun was up. Since it’s Monday, and we ate too much at the beach over the weekend, I was determined to walk to yoga, and start the week off right.
As I walked out the door, feeling a little jittery from lack of breakfast but knowing I’d regret having eaten porridge before a series of twists, a UPS man stopped me on the stairs and handed me a package. I knew it would be an advance copy of Luisa’s “My Berlin Kitchen,” which I’d been looking forward to reading since she announced she was writing a book.
Determined to stick to the plan, I stuck it in my bag and kept on walking until suddenly, I surprised myself by turning around, walking home, making toast with lots of butter and settling down into my big blue armchair to read.
It’s just after lunchtime now, and I’ve finished. I haven’t been here, to this blog, for what seems like aeons for a lot of reasons that I won’t ennumerate just now, but I had to tell you this; if you read Luisa’s blog and love her (and really, how could you read her words and not?) then you’ll find the book the perfect thing for inhaling in a fell swoop and then dipping back into to make the comforting and often simple, meals she describes.
I’m sure I’m not the only girl who’s felt like Luisa’s a kindred spirit, agonised at the sadnesses she’s sometimes hinted at between the lines and rejoiced with her as she headed toward the life she didn’t know she wanted until she finally grew into a place where she could listen to her gut.
Luisa’s says she’s a scaredy-cat, and that’s certainly not a word I’d use to describe myself but in every chapter of her book, I found parallels to my own life and feelings and I won’t pretend I didn’t have salty teartracks down my face when I looked in the mirror just now.
Growing up being a bookworm and escaping for hours into “a whole new existence that built itself up around me, again and again.” Feeling torn between places and hopelessly sad at times that her tribe might never be together in one place. A love affair with a good man that just didn’t have the knack of seeing all of her – and trying so hard to make it work for so long nevertheless – and then the relief at not having to anymore. Living in a beautiful place that she realised was better kept, perhaps, as a holiday destination. Frustration that despite being somewhere she thought she’d finally feel settled, that somehow she was failing because things didn’t feel right right away and the oddness of being somewhere that is familiar and yet is not. Reconciling a big-city-person’s suspicion of neighbours with the oddly Germanic habit of making bosom buddies out of people who are connected to you only by virtue of a stairwell. The surprising joy of an email from someone who, through the ether, understands you but which doesn’t quite touch the emptiness of a place if you haven’t found girlfriends there; these are the things that spoke to me but “My Berlin Kitchen” is so much more than that. It’s a travelogue of Paris, New York and Berlin, a cook’s tour of Italian and German food, a paean to the nest of people who raised her and a love letter to her husband Max, who, as she once described to me “she knew a long time ago and when she met him again, made her go ‘zing’.”
The book has a happy ending, since Luisa doesn’t feel the need to fly back to New York every other month even though it will always be “her city”, she’s being kept busy with the baby she’s always wanted, she’s realised her dream of becoming a full-time food writer, has an upcoming book tour and she has found girls – a prerequisite for feeling happy in a place if ever there was one – in Berlin. Despite the fact that this, by any other name, is a memoir written by a woman in her early thirties (and I always thought memoirs ought really, to be written by people far older, an opinion I formed after reading in desperation on holiday the memoir of a certain popstar who shall remain nameless) it is…I want to say a triumph, but that sounds too showy and it’s not at all, but it’s not a blog post in long form either. It’s intimate without being cloying and, for such a personal story, surprisingly universal I think.
It’s my favourite kind of cookbook – one with stories that go with the food – but what stories they are. And, it’s another little sign for me that I’m on the right track – this year has been about listening to my gut too and it’s comforting to have that feeling of rightness confirmed again but that’s another story. Over and out.
Furikake Cheese Twists
2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon furikake (Japanese rice sprinkles, you can get them at any Asian market), divided
10 grams (about 1/3 cup) grated tasty cheese
1/2 sheet nori, chopped finely with scissors (I find it easiest to cut in half, stack, cut in half again and stack and so on, and then finely chop the little pile, hopefully this is not a painfully obvious thing to say)
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (390 fahrenheit).
Prepare a flat baking sheet by spraying, buttering or laying a piece of baking paper atop it.
Lay the pastry on a chopping board and brush liberally with the egg.
Sprinkle the furikake evenly over the pastry, then the cheese, then the nori.
Cut the pastry lengthwise into strips of about 3cm or an inch wide.
Take hold of each end of the pastry strips and twist, and lay on the baking sheet.
repeat with the other pieces.
Brush the twists again with egg, only on the bare surface or the layers in the pastry will be stuck together with egg and not puff.
Sprinkle with the rest of the furikake.
Bake in the top part of the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden.