Memorable meals

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Coffee and cake in Vienna is always likely to be on the tourist “things to do list” when visiting the city. So it was with me. We went to Cafe Landtmann, all dark wood, silver cutlery, crisp white tablecloths and waiters in white gloves.

The cafe was frequented in the last century by Freud, and has probably had several other famous visitors across the threshold since it was opened in 1873. It had a genteel  hushed atmosphere, and it was comfortable and rather posh in a traditional way.

I have to be honest and say that the cakes weren’t as good or delicious or exceptional as I’d expected or anticipated. Although they looked mouthwatering they were actually a bit disappointing. I guess the coffee must have been ok but again, not memorable; it was beautifully served.  All in all it is the experience, surroundings, decor and location that I remember more than anything else.

Which leads me to ponder on which of our senses we engage with if we say a meal or dining experience is memorable? For me in Cafe Landtmann it wasn’t the food or drink (taste) but the old-fashioned tasteful decor (sight).

A truly memorable meal which involved all five senses for me  was the first bowl of onion soup I ever had in the Paris flea market over 50 years ago, in a rough and ready, warm and steamy cafe full of Parisiens. There were long tables with benches where people sat alongside each other. It was noisy (hearing) and it was unavoidable not to rub shoulders with other diners (touch).

Of course, not all memorable meals are good ones. My other half shudders at the thought of the weekly family meal of liver – the look, taste, smell and texture have stayed with him since childhood. I don’t like marmalade and was once forced into a battle of wills with my mum over some marmalade sandwiches I was given. I never liked the stuff before this incident and now find the taste and smell of marmalade disgusting.

Apologies to marmalade lovers; I do like the colour.

Costa Rica kitchen

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We stopped at this roadside cafe and fruit stall while travelling in Costa Rica. We’s seen the strawberries on display and wanted to take some back to the hotel with us as a juicy treat for dessert.

The smiling lady in the kitchen was happy for me to take her photo while she prepared food. Her companion posed obligingly, offering the strawberries. But I have to be honest. Although the strawberries looked delicious, they were not very  tasty, and were a bit of a disappointment. Still, the photos aren’t too bad.

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Before and After

We have a free glossy magazine  – In Cheshire – delivered to our door once a month, and although it’s usually full of things which are not of great interest to me, I always browse through just to see what’s afoot in our neck of the Cheshire woods.

There are short items on charity and fund-raising events, along with lots of photos of those attending. A vet writes a column which, as a dog owner, is interesting to scan through. A regular 2 page fashion article is always worth a quick read (just to keep my finger on the style pulse, you understand). An actor from the TV soap Hollyoaks, who lives in our town, writes each month about date nights with his TV presenter wife at the local eateries. (Confession: I’ve never watched Hollyoaks or seen her on Good Morning Britain).

There are ads for houses, private schools, solicitors specialising in divorce, gardening services, teeth whitening and personal trainers, but by far my favourite is the regular 2 page ad, in full colour, of the spa clinic which offers special skin tightening procedures.

A whole page, in colour, shows before and after pictures of eye contours, chins and jawlines, torsos, tummies, knees and upper arms. It brings out the child in me. I used to like those “Spot the Difference” pictures in comics, and I happily inspect the gallery of photographed body parts, trying to see how each “before” shot has progressed in the “after” image. Heaven knows how much the procedures cost – they won’t be cheap!

The photographs above are of myself and my daughter in the famous Café Landtmann in Vienna, frequented by Freud and Mahler over a century ago. The first (specially posed of course) is before we had coffee and cake; the second is after we’d had coffee and cake.

Mark Twain said, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”. That coffee and cake treatment was very good value.

Lemon tree, very pretty

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Visiting family in Houston last year we saw, with some dismay, that the lemon tree we’d bought and planted in their garden was in a very sad and sorry state. An unexpected and uncharacteristic very cold snap one night had got to it and most of its leaves had frozen and shrivelled.

This winter it had been coddled in advance of any cold weather and covered in a protective blanket. When we arrived, the blanket was off, warmer weather had prevailed and the tree was looking very healthy.

Bursting with blossom, it smelled delicious. A bee was visiting the flowers and pollinating, and there is already an as yet unripened lemon hanging on one of the lower branches.

Seeing the tree in bloom reminds me of the words of a song:

Lemon tree very pretty

And the lemon flower sweet,

But the fruit of the poor lemon

Is impossible to eat.

I challenge that – the previous year there were enough lemons to make a couple of lemon meringue pies!

 

Cream Tea: Devon or Cornwall style?

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Sitting in a cafe recently, virtuously sharing a large scone with jam and cream with my other half, we fell into conversation with a nearby couple over which should be spread on the scone first – jam or cream?

If it’s cream first and then jam, it’s the “official” Devon way; it it’s jam topped by cream, that’s the way it’s done in Cornwall.

The photo was taken in Devon, and it looks like we got it right with jam on cream. But now I’m not sure which way I usually prepare my scone prior to sinking my fangs into it – I just do it.

I think it’s the Cornish way, but in the spirit of research and accuracy, I really think I need to test this out for myself sometime in the near future!