Food for love!

Food for love 7

Lily’s feet hurt, she’d been standing all day. There were a few more minutes until the department store closed and she could leave. Working in the millinery department for the last month had been an unusually happy time for her, after being on shoes and handbags.
It was December 1952 and hats had become even more popular than before. She told her customers that she felt sure that now the period of mourning for the late King was over and a new Queen would be crowned next year, that everyone wanted a new beginning. So the best way to celebrate would be to buy a new hat!! This way she had sold even more hats than ever before, and the small commission she received had enabled her to buy a little red velvet beret that she’d had her eye on for a while.
She thought of letting her hair down but she was late meeting Betty at the Lyons Tea House, so the bun would have to stay. Putting on her hat she clocked out and walked down Regents Street. It was rush hour so she was swept along in the crush, her feet hardly touching the ground.
She found an empty table and ordered a pot of tea for two. Slipping off her shoes she wiggled her toes and sipped her tea. Heavenly, she thought, quite heavenly.
Suddenly she felt a tap on her shoulder, turning around she looked up to see a very tall young man looking down at her.
‘Yes, who are you?
‘Betty’s colleague, she sent me to say she is tied up with a modelling shoot and can’t get away. She asked if you wanted to come and watch if you would like. She was really sorry.’
‘Oh, that’s a shame, I have just ordered a pot of tea for two. Why don’t you have a cup and then I can walk back with you, if you have time that is? ‘She looked at him from under her eyelashes. He was rather dishy actually and wearing a very smart blue felt fedora, which gave him an air of mystery
‘Good idea. My feet are killing me I have been standing up most of the day’.
Lily giggled’. Me too’.
‘Oh by the way he said sitting down and holding out his hand. I am Henry, Betty’s gopher, come cameraman’.
‘Hallo Henry. I am Lily, Betty’s flat mate’.
Sitting in the studio on a red velvet couch Lily watched the model wearing a chic black cocktail dress, with one of her hats perched on beautifully coiffured hair being photographed from every angle. Lily felt very pleased that the little hat had come from her department, as if she had manoeuvred it all!
In the next split second the model collapsed. There was an almighty scuffle. Henry picked her up and carried her over to the couch. Lily jumped up and held some smelling salts from her handbag under the girl’s nose. She jerked awake then fell back weakly.
Someone from the back shouted. ‘I told you the lights were far too hot’.
‘Now what do we do? Betty shouted back? ‘We have to finish tonight whatever happens. Jenny is in no state to carry on she must go home at once, call her a taxi Henry will you’.
She looked over at Lily. ‘Fancy doing a bit of modelling?’
‘Me, but I look a fright’.
‘You won’t once our Dorothy has given you the works!’
Half an hour later, Lily emerged from the shadows. Dressed in a green silk cocktail suit with a tiny hat adorning long auburn waves that hung down her back, she looked perfect.
‘Good heavens above’. Gasped Henry. ‘You look absolutely splendid; your hair, quite astonishing’.
She blushed and said thank you.
Two hours later, after modelling what felt like hundreds of different outfits, Lily fell back on the velvet couch, exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.
Henry came over and sat next to her. ‘Well done! I’m off to the Belle Etoile, the little French restaurant just across the road, do you know it?
‘Definitely, it has the best Croque Monsieur outside France I had it after the theatre, only once sadly, but it was quite, quite delicious’
‘Well then you must come with me and we will have it together’.
So it began.

Of course Henry and Lily fell in love, there was no way they couldn’t have!
Henry became head cameraman for the Geographical Magazine winning many awards for his amazing photography.
Lily became the face of Dobson and Dobson, Milliners to the new Queen, where her face was splashed over every billboard and on the side of the red buses that trundled up and down the streets of London.

When Lily said ‘Betty I am in love with your cameraman, is that okay?’ I laughed so much and said I was so glad that I had been too busy to meet at Lyons Tea House that evening, as she would never have become a household name and none of this lovely story would never have happened.
The three of us meet up frequently and our favourite eating place is La Belle Etoile where their superb Croque Monsieur is to die for!
Lily copied the recipe as best she could and served it after her wedding ceremony in the early hours of the morning. It is still talked about to this day as the highlight of the whole affair!

Croque Monsieur a la Lily
For Two
This is a Croque Monsieur with a difference, an upmarket French toastie!
Just the thing to have in the early hours of the morning when you have been dancing all night.
Four slices of white bread
Two well beaten eggs, seasoned
Two slices of good sliced ham
Three tablespoons of grated cheese, Gruyere or similar
Three tablespoons of crème fraiche
One tablespoon of unsalted butter and a little oil to prevent the butter from burning

Make two sandwiches with the ham.
Mix the cheese and cream together to make a paste, spread this over the ham.
Dip the sandwiches into the beaten egg, turning over until the egg is soaked in, then sauté them in the butter and olive oil, in an already hot, heavy bottomed frying pan, make sure it is a heavy pan or you may burn the eggs and there is nothing more disgusting than the taste of burnt egg!
Sauté until the sandwiches are crisp and golden brown on each side.
Have ready a cream sauce keeping warm in a bain marie.
The cream sauce
One tablespoon of crème fraiche
One heaped teaspoon of flour
One tablespoon of butter
One tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese
Make the sauce by melting the butter over a low heat until bubbling gently, add the flour stirring well for half a minute, then gradually add the crème fraiche stirring gently, just before serving add the cheese and fold in, then pour over the Croque Monsieurs .
This is not for the faint hearted as is extremely rich but once in a while it is an almighty treat!
A light red wine such as a red Loire wine would go well with this.
Bon appetite!


Love stories and recipes!

I have decided that having published Anna’s War I might try to see if I can get my short stories published. I started the first one twenty seven years ago! I was always writing something or drawing something in between bringing up our fifth and last child Luc. We had four other children all grown up, two with children of their own, I was a grandmother at 46 which was ridiculously young. Luc was eight and Louise our eldest daughter age 22-our second child – had a beautiful baby girl called Romany. Having a child of eight and becoming a grandmother was all a bit traumatic, this little angel almost felt like my own baby, she was and still is adorable, Luc and her became firm friends, uncle and niece but more like cousins. Romany has a baby of her own now, Ada Rose, who is a little scrumptious bundle of loveliness. So here I am a grandmother of eighteen and a great grandmother of one!

Well I am going off at a tangent here, sorry, just thought I would set the scene so to speak of.

I discovered the first story about a year ago when going through some old papers in my studio where I paint, but only when it is warm outside, stepping into it right now is rather like opening the fridge door. I looked at this story and thought. ‘Hmm, not too bad, maybe I can do something with it!’ After having my novel published I felt bereft, rather like giving away one’s baby, so I had to do something. The story was short and sweet and at the end was a recipe. So I decided to write nine more, so now I have ten! They need editing of course and making sure the recipes are edible, they are all meals I have cooked over the years, I am told I am a good cook, I think I am too to be honest but one shouldn’t say that should one! So I will post a couple of the stories plus recipes over the next few days/weeks and would be grateful for feedback please and if the comments are good I will see if I can find someone to publish them, I think it is a good concept so wish me luck and I will be in touch.


Last Saturday was probably the most terrifying afternoon after my wedding day 56 years ago!
Some dear friends had organised a ‘book launch’ for me. Absolutely not my idea! We were having lunch together and I mentioned my book was being published and that was that. The next thing I knew one of the girls had organised a reading and book signing at a local French/Anglo association, I trembled at the thought and carried on trembling until it was all over eight weeks later.
The fact that my book was published and on Amazon was enough to amaze me but when I arrived at the venue with the same friends and found there were nearly fifty people there I was completely overwhelmed. They had paid good money to hear me and also to eat an extremely delicious tea. I think a lot were there for the tea and not for the reading but it didn’t matter, now it was up to me.
Before I had been given a fabulous lunch by one of the girls with three other friends where we talked of everything and anything and put the world to rights. We left in two cars, me driving with a lovely French/Canadian friend who made me laugh when we got lost on the way to lunch so we followed the other car this time as I hadn’t the faintest idea where I was going and was trying not to show how terrified I was!
So here I was. Surrounded by lovely people who were gentle and kind with this old lady who was in a state of shock, but once I got started after a friend introduced and said nice things about me I felt okay. I read four sections of the book and each time I finished there was applause, I was astonished, they liked it! Then when it was all over I sold all ten books whch was incredible and people were so complimentary it was extraodinary that I had actual reached my star, I will never be rich, never be famous but I did it and I am proud of myself, as Douglas Fairbanks Junior was quoted as saying. Reach for your stars, even if you don’t get there at least you have tried! Well I got there

I’m Back!

If you have missed me, that makes me happy. If not, that makes me sad.

2018 was a crazy year for this girl, no time for my blog as I was busy writing my first book, it has taken over two years to finish. I started it about six years ago and then got too involved in some art work, but finding it when sorting through some papers I realised it was a pretty good story and that was that!

It was published on Amazon in November last year, it is called Anna’s War, and has done pretty well for a novice!! I have had nice reviews and even some of the family have read it, surprisingly, I think they were all rather bemused by the fact that their mother had actually done what she used to dream of! I am not quite sure what David my husband thought, probably rather relieved it is all over, I would read bits over and over again to him while editing, he was very patient!

When my book was sent to the publisher it was devastating, I felt quite bereft like losing something precious. It was as though the characters I had been writing about for so long had become part of my life and were so real to me and I missed them dreadfully. But talking to writer friends they said, once it has left your hands it no longer belongs to you, it is in the public domain and belongs to others. I want to write another but at the moment there is nothing in my head that tells me to start. Like Anna’s War which seemed to write itself there is no sign of anything exciting happening but fingers crossed it will suddenly arrive.

In the meantime I have written ten short stories with recipes attached and that is my next venture before I start on the big one. I may send you a couple of examples to see your reactions and if you think it is a good concept, just to test the water!

Well guys I am signing of for now, glad to be back. Penny

Food for love!

The comings and goings of Miss Pea Trimble, spinster of the Parish of Chessington Underwood did little to disrupt the lives of those around her.
Every morning at precisely half past eight she could be seen cycling through the village, her hair a complicated wigwam of pins and curls piled precariously above her long sad face.
That morning Miss Trimble felt even more moth-eaten and mournful than ever, her corset was rubbing particularly badly and her bike had an infernal squeak that was starting to get on her nerves.
For a moment, a mere unexplained moment she thought of cycling past the library, of not opening up, of doing something completely outrageous, but it was only a moment a mere unexplained moment.
The sun felt hot on her back and the heady scent of wallflowers mingling with the sweet fragrance of cut grass filled her with a sadness she didn’t understand.
Inside the library was cool, the smell of books and polished wood oddly comforting. She made a cup of tea straight away without waiting, the gas fire coughing gently into life as she bent to light it.
The tea was good and already she felt better.
Year had followed year with the same routine, lighting the fire, drawing back the old black-out curtains, arranging flowers in the blue vase that stood now full of purple pansies, their velvet heads drooping as if in sympathy with her mood. Nothing had changed, nothing at all.
Yesterday she’d overheard old Polly Perkins telling the postman. ‘That didn’t he think that Miss Trimble was becoming the archetypal ‘Old Maid’ and wasn’t it a shame as she’d been a real looker as a young girl and wasn’t he surprise that someone hadn’t snapped her up? The words had hurt terribly and still they swirled through her head like a tidal wave, ‘Old Maid, Old Maid’.
Feeling dreadfully sorry for herself and extremely annoyed with everything she picked up some books and clasping them tightly to her bosom strode purposefully to open up.
The day was almost at an end, Miss Trimble was feeling tired, her head ached and waves of self-pity seemed to swamp over her. Tears welled hotly in her eyes threatening to spill over and fall down her pale cheeks. Bending her head over her desk she let them slide slowly down.
Someone coughed, startled she looked up. A man stood gazing down at her. Blinking back the scalding tears she pretended to brush something from her cardigan.
‘I wonder’, his voice low. ‘Do you have Flaubert’s Madame Bovary?’
She looked up at him, her eyes shining now, her voice eager. ‘Oh yes I do’, and proceeded to bustle about under her desk. Retrieving a very battered book she held it out to him. ‘Here please borrow this, it’s my copy, rather old but it’s all there, we have trouble keeping every book, the room you know, she waved vaguely around her. I read it over and over, there’s just something…’ Embarrassed her voice tailed away, her cheeks burning.
The man smiled as he took the book from her.
She could feel his eyes on her again, she looked up at him and something stirred just beneath her breastbone, fluttered and was still, she felt it with wonder.
Opening the book he glanced at the name written there in large sloping handwriting. ‘Pea Trimble. Aged 15’ and then proudly. ‘To be taken to France, mu first time abroad.’
The man looked unbelievingly at the childish words, he looked unbelievingly at the woman opposite him, at the sad pale face, the questioning eyes. He leant across to her and his voice like a caress whispered her name. ‘Pea?’
She looked up at him, her voice trembling. ‘Yes?’
‘Oh my God it is you, Pea, my little Peewit!’
She froze her face no longer burning but cold and white. ‘Charles? It can’t be, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it!’
‘It is, it is’, he laughed. ‘I can hardly believe it either, after all this time and you are still as beautiful.’
‘Oh Charles’, she laughed too, his eyes causing her a kind of pain she didn’t understand. ‘Me, beautiful, oh no, oh Charles’ and the tears that now fell were tears of sheer and utter joy.
‘Oh but you are, you are,’ he grasped her arms across the desk. ‘To me you are the most beautiful thing I have seen’.
His laugh filled her with memories long forgotten, memories of a childhood in France, of long hot days and a young French boy called Charles, who had held her hand and made her heart race, who had read Madam Bovary to her, words she would never forget, words that made her head swim with happiness, words that turned her whole world upside down. His eyes were the same eyes, the smile the same smile, the laugh the same laugh. His hands still held her tight. He smiled. She was fifteen again and in love for the first and last time.

I would often stay with Pea and Charles at their home just outside Paris where the food was always the highlight of my stay. One night after eating a sumptuous salmon dish Pea told me it had been the first meal she had cooked Charles after they had fallen in love again, and it was with much laughter that they reminded me of this – their extraordinary story, a story of a love that never died.
Saumon Flaubert. Serves Four.
4 skinned salmon steaks approx. 6 oz. each
4 oz. dry white wine
1 oz. unsalted butter
I tbl. Good olive oil
Finely chopped parsley
Make sure you dry the salmon well otherwise it won’t brown.
Use a heavy frying pan which is hot, then over a high heat add the oil and butter, when the foam just starts to subside add the salmon steaks, sear quickly on each side, then turn the heat down, pour the wine over the steaks, watch it doesn’t spit at you! Turn up the heat briefly so the wine bubbles. Then cook gently for 5-8 minutes depending if you like your salmon slightly underdone, (mi-cuit). When the salmon is done to your liking, remove from the pan and keep warm on a heated plate, turn up the heat and boil the sauce until it is slightly reduced, season well, add a big knob of butter and pour over the steaks, sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with tiny buttered new potatoes, the nice waxy ones if you can get them and a lightly dressed green salad.
A lovely wine to go with this is a Bourgogne Aligoté.
Bon Appetit!

Rain, books and painting.

Well here I sit in my study with the rain pouring down the window pane watching the birds tucking in to the fat balls and getting drowned in the meantime.  Honey and Hannah are fast asleep I think they are hibernating, I wish I could, where is the Spring?  Last Saturday it was sixteen degrees and sunny. Here it is I thought, finally, how wrong I was.  There is snow forecast for next week, what is happening, our garden is full of daffodils, primroses and beautiful white and purple hellebore which time and again are beaten to the ground with the wind and the rain but defiantly raise their heads when the sun decides to shine.

Therefore the garden is being neglected except for a couple of late afternoons when I battled with my roses which were climbing to the sky, they are now about four foot high and I am praying I haven’t been too brutal, I do it every year and every year they bounce back so here’s hoping.

I am still waiting to here from a couple of publishers, one wrote back a charming rejection letter!!  But I am still trying, even if, as I keep saying, I have to self publish I will do it before I reach my dotage.

I actually dug out a short story I had written almost thirty years ago, it was good, I think I wrote much better then than I do now!  It is a sweet story and at the end is a recipe for Saumon Flaubert.  I called it then FOOD FOR LOVE and will stick with that I think, the story is a love story and the recipe is the meal the lovers ate when they met, hopefully it is a original idea, I think it well maybe. I have four or five new ideas up my sleeve so hopefully I can get enough recipes and stories together to maybe try and make a book, who knows, it will keep me out of mischief anyway.

Also our dear Mayor Henri has asked me to paint a picture of our village Vieuvy so I have spent the last month walking and driving around trying to find some decent pictures, I think I have two photos  that will do so that is going to keep me busy and I am looking forward to the challenge. I have to have something to do all the time otherwise I go crazy, I wish I could just sit and do nothing then maybe I wouldn’t fell so worn out!Our five children are much the same, I like to think that their father and I gave them inspiration to enjoy life to the full, this is not a rehearsal it is the main event.

Well chaps hope that wasn’t too boring, I am off now to fight my way around our supermarket and then treat myself to a ‘brushing’ (blow dry) at least there is no slip of the tongue with ‘brushing’.

Enjoy your weekend and let’s pray for sunshine wherever you are.

Girlfriends, gardens and other stuff

Well here we are in February, almost March and today the sun is blessing us with it’s warmth albeit the wind is icy but it is bright and the skies are azure, gone is the grey wet foul weather we seemed to have had forever.

Our poor chickens and cockerel have been wallowing around in the mud and rain and looking like drowned rats, but even so they are laying like there is no tomorrow, bless them!

Our little cat Honey who I understand managed to write her own blog last month, without my permission I may add on my computer, really, I ask you who does she think she is.  Queen of the castle I am sure.  She is rather cute and just to watch her asleep curled up is enough to make you feel happy.  She has just learnt, after goodness knows how long, to use the cat flap so now spends happy hours whizzing in and out of it, having a quick prowl around the garden, chasing one of the chickens who has decided outside is better than in and avoiding Hannah who enjoys chasing them both.

I had lunch yesterday with three friends which was lovely, girlfriends are so important, something all us girls realise, they are such an essential part of our lives, it doesn’t seem to matter what we talk about from sex to face packs to President Trump to what we are reading at the moment, to awkward husbands and having to think what to have for supper, it all makes little difference it is just sharing our thoughts, hopes and dreams with each other.  Living here in France I think the thing I miss more than Boots, Waitrose and libraries are my friends who go way back to when our children were little, they are special friends and will be forever however far apart we are, those who read this will know who I am talking about!

Well this is not a very exciting blog really as I have been hibernating for the last three months, writing my book and generally being ensconced inside, so now Spring is around the corner and the garden is full of primroses, daffodils and some lovely tall snowdrop type flowers that grow in great bunches (I have no idea of their name but they are stunning) while the actual snowdrops are just finishing and the camellias are in full bloom I will be able to be in the garden once more where I am my happiest if I am not drawing or writing, the trouble is the earth is hard as iron so not a lot I can do other than cutting back everything and worrying about one of our rose arches that is about to collapse with the weight of a massive rambling rose and four different clematis, David is all for cutting it down and starting again much to my horror, it has taken fifteen years for it all to grow so I am going to have a tentative look tomorrow and see if I can save it all from the executioner, I will keep you posted!

Happy Springtime everyone.