Posts Tagged ‘Ham House’

Things I have learned in the kitchen (part 2)

1. Sometimes, when the world is spinning around you and there are deliveries being piled up next to you and coffees to make and soup to stir and salad leaves to wash, sometimes the best thing is to just take some butter and flour and sugar and make a cake of Ham House.

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2. Rewording a cake name can cover up any mistakes you may have made e.g. calling it a ‘Light chocolate sponge with a hint of orange’ instead of ‘I squeezed loads of oranges in and still can’t taste a damn thing.’ Or ‘Spiced scones’ instead of ‘Why didn’t my yeast work and why are they so flat and doughy?’

3. Being the sandwich girl for a day will give you new found respect for the sandwich boy.

4. Occasionally, people who seem to leave their brains at the door when they come in, will surprise you by knowing where something is that you have lost all hope of finding. This one incident will make you see them in a different light.

5. When the going gets tough, some people will step up and some people will run off. The people who run off will remain in your bad books for a very long time.

6. Mixing raspberries in to the cake mix at any time apart from the very end will make your cake mix pink. Same with blackcurrants turning your mix blue-ish.

7. A tart always looks impressive (I’m talking about cakes there, by the way).

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8. Banana cake smells and tastes wonderful. Looks boring as mud.

9. Sometimes things which work at home, will refuse to work in a professional kitchen. One of these things is apple bread.

10. Blackcurrants smell amazing when they are baked into a cake/tart.

11. Whisking double cream into butter by hand will give you very very achy arms.

P.S. Part 1 can be found here.

More Phoebe stuff

Ok, it’s time to let you know what’s happening with Scandalous Innocent and there is an awful lot going on. After the non-mystery of finding the gold necklace with Phoebe’s name on it, we kind of finished off with Phoebe and Leo and suddenly jumped to 1803.

And you’ll never guess what happens? There is a woman called Phoebe living in the house that the earlier Phoebe and Leo lived in. She has a daughter. Her husband is dead. A man she hates cause her mother tried to get her to marry him three years ago turns up on her doorstep.

She’s like, “What do you want, loser?” He’s like, “Shut up, stupid woman. Totes done a bet with your brother last night while he was drunk and won this house! Yehhh! Woop woop! In your face!”

She’s all angry but it is her brother’s house so there’s not much she can do. Before he leaves the house after telling her this news, he grabs her hand, twists her arm up her back, drags her towards him and kisses her.

Niiiice. Smooth work, Viscount Ransome. O yes. That is his name, by the way. Rhymes with handsome and apparently he is. His nickname is also Buck Ransome.

The subtlety of this book is what I most enjoy.

Anyway, her name is Phoebe and she hates a man who keeps snogging her. Ring any bells? Sound like the first half of the book?

So what do we think happens here? The first person who gets it right wins a cake. So did you get it right? Yeh, he basically wins her over by saying she’s allowed to stay in the house while he owns it so long as she marries him.

O yes, Viscount Buck Ransome goes, “I know you hate me but just marry me and that.” She goes, “O but I hate you so much! I couldn’t possibly! Even though you are so handsome and I totally fancy you loads and loads. But no! O, um, ok, maybe. I’m thinking about it. Um. O, alright then. You’ve won me over with your physical bullying and by being slightly threatening.”

So they make out in the Ham House gardens just by the Orangery (that’s where I work!) and then get all filthy together in her little greenhouse among the cabbages and rhubarb. As one does in the 1800s.

It just gets better, doesn’t it? I’ll keep you updated.

Fine literature

Now, this is something I enjoy very much, fine literature. I love a Fitzgerald novel or something from the Bronte sisters. I’m all over it. Which is why I’m enjoying Scandalous Innocent so much. I just wanted to give you all a flavour of the high standard of writing that we are dealing with here. Enjoy! And don’t blame me if you’re all rushing to the shops afterward to buy a copy.

“Smiling, he recalled the haughty, heavy-lidded dismissive blink of her amazingly dark eyes, refusing even to please him with an answer to his invitation, as if he’d invited her to an orgy instead of a drive in Hyde Park.”

“The rain gusted wearily against the black windows, and from behind a bank of angry clouds a full moon began sailing through the tattered remnants of the storm like a disc of white enamel edged with watery pearls.”

“She watched him as carefully as a cat watches a bird too large for her to catch unawares.”

“By morning, her decisions were veering like a weather-vane in a windy gale between staying in the same house as a man she had made a point of hating for the past three years, and galloping off home on an excuse that was as transparent as the June sky.”

“Loving him one moment and hating him the next, wanting his happiness yet wishing to punish him for being unattainable, Elizabeth saw this as a chance to put herself in Mistress Laker’s shoes and to fight him, physically, to feel the emotion of being conquered and won, as she never would be.”

“No sooner had he shouldered the door closed and tipped her on to her feet, than his supporting arm pulled her close into the hard bend of his body and, even before she could begin to guess what he was about, began a kiss that for sheer skill excelled the previous one.”

“Claudette, who had never met a real Viscount before, half-expected him to be wearing a red velvet ermine-edged robe with a coronet on his head rather than the double-breasted tailcoat with high stand-fall collar and a grey striped waistcoat showing below.”

It’s just fabulous, isn’t it? Well written. Eloquent. The sentences are not at all long and rambly and nonsensical. Talking of nonsensical, what’s all that nonsense about a cat watching a bird too large to catch unawares? What. On. Earth. What does that mean? And the kiss having ‘sheer skill.’ Skill? I just. I don’t. I’m really not sure where to start with this whole wordy mess.  

Scandal and innocence at Ham House

Now, I know you all been on tenderhooks (what are tenderhooks, by the way?) waiting for me to give you some more of Scandalous Innocent. Let’s do a quick recap.

It started here with Phoebe and Leo. They hated each other and had a duel to sort things out. It didn’t really sort anything out. She was supposed to marry him if she lost. Instead he carried her upstairs, kissed her then he was like, “Whatevs. I’m not even going to marry you.” She’s like horrified and embarrassed cause she was totally getting into it when he was kissing her but pretending not to.

Then she realised she quite liked him and had quite wanted to marry him. So she goes to Ham House to find him. When she sees him, she starts flirting with someone else. He’s like, “What a div, get over yourself.” She harumphs about a bit then flounces off.

On her way home, he kidnaps her. Kind of. Says she’s staying until she agrees to marry him. She goes, “Never!” And he goes (paraphrased), “O please!” So she goes, “Ok.”

Then she’s like, “I hope you are not going to dishonour me before marriage, Sir Leo!” And he goes, “Nooo! No, of course not, my lady! Would I? Would I ever?”

They spend a few days faffing around making changes to the house and getting builders to do the garden up, etc. Then he snogs her in the little summer house gazebo thing and feels her boob and she’s all like, “….O, go on then!”

So they go upstairs and get friendly and then he’s like, “So I guess you’re going to marry me then?” And she’s like, “Totes!” So all that nonsense about him not dishonouring her before marriage, that was nonsense. Whenever she says something to him, he just goes, “Yeh but what about doing my idea instead?” And she’s like, “Sure thing.”

Next, they go to a jewellery shop in London that her parents used to run before they died and then her brother ran it for a bit but died in the Great Fire Of London.

Someone else is running the shop so she goes in and says who she is and the new owner is like, “Maybe you can help me figure out the mystery.” He brings a wooden chest thing out and hands her a parcel. She unwraps it and inside is a little gold heart with pearls set around the edge and the name “Phoebe” engraved on the back. She’s like, “That’s me. My brother must have made it for me.” He’s like, “Ah! The mystery is solved!”

Now, come on. If we’re going to call it a “mystery”, there’s got to be more going on than a gold heart with “Phoebe” written on it. It wouldn’t have even been that hard to solve. The shopkeeper only needed to check out the people who owned the shop before him and their children. One would have been called Phoebe. Mystery solved. (They do talk about the records and the shopkeeper says they survived the fire.)

When the shopkeeper said there was a mystery to solve, I really thought the book might get going. Maybe there’d be a suicide note. Or a small dirty child found living under the floorboards. It maybe the king was hiding in the chest. Or a skeleton in the wall. Or a diary from an Anne Frank-esque character.

Instead he goes, “There’s a pendant with Phoebe written on it.” She went, “Yeh, that’s me.” He went, “Fab. Here you go. Have it.” She went, “Thanks.”

Now, if THAT is the big mystery of the book, I’m going to be really gutted. Cause we’ll be back to Phoebe and Leo and their silly nonsense before long and I really need more story than that if I’m to keep reading.

I bet you thought it was just a cafe, didn’t you?

Oo, Ham House is nice, you’re thinking, aren’t you? The house is nice but you’re just in the cafe. Is that what you thought?

Well, let me tell you, all you doubters. It is not just a cafe. In fact, it was built in 1674 by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale who lived out their very extravagant lifestyles at Ham House. They had it built to house exotic plants, like orange trees (hence, it is called The Orangery) and lemon trees. They were kept in the Orangery over the winter to keep them alive then dragged out onto the long walkway behind the house in the summer to look pretty.

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(view looking out from the Orangery to the kitchen garden)

It’s quite exciting to spend my working days in a place that was built 340 years ago.

Actually, talking of Ham House, does anyone remember me mentioning the Mills & Boon book that was written about Ham House that I’m in the middle of reading? Well, it gets hilarious-er and hilarious-er. (Chill out, that’s a word. Well, it is now.)

So we were up to the bit where she had run back to Ham House to look for the man she claims to hate, who she had a duel with and then snogged.

She keeps going to Ham House and he’s not there and she’s all heartbroken. And then one time, she goes and he’s there so she spends the whole time flirting with another man. When he pulls her aside and is like, “Stop it, you’re making yourself look like an idiot,” she gets all mouthy with him then strops off.

As she’s on her way home in her carriage, her friend is like, “Oo, guess who lives here?” Then the carriage door opens and she is lifted out and taken inside and it’s the man she love/hates. So she has an angry fit and says she’s been kidnapped and she hates him and this is against the law, blah blah blah!

He’s like, “you’re staying here for as long as it takes to make you mine.” She’s like, “I’ll be here for bloody ages then! In your dreams, mate!” And he’s like, “But I love you and I want to marry you.” And she’s like, “O, alright then.”

I’ve paraphrased, obviously.

That’s where I’m up to with that then. Isn’t it so fascinating and believable? That’s one thing that really draws me in about this book, it’s believability. Definitely. Definitely believable.

My literary heroes

Jane Eyre
I loved the way she was a bit of a tearaway when she was younger, a bit rebellious and naughty. That day when she was made to stand in front of the whole school always stayed in my memory. I loved it even more when she managed to get herself under control and become a respectable lady later. I think it’s because I felt a bit wild myself when I was younger, although I don’t actually think I was. So I always wanted to become a calm and respectable lady like Jane Eyre when I grew up. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Jo March
Same reasons as Jane Eyre, really. I love her as a free-spirited young woman when she runs down the street that time and her hair all breaks loose and is all wild and flowy around her face. She’s easily my favourite character in Little Women and I’ve never quite forgiven Amy for having a moody on and burning Jo’s little book of stories. Meanie pants Amy. Then she meets Mr Bauer and it doesn’t seem to fit and of course that’s why it works and they’re all happy together and Jo is a respectable lady. (Noticing a theme here?)

Jay Gatsby
He’s just a likeable character. When Nick Carraway describes meeting him for the first time, he sounds very likeable. I always wanted to be warm and friendly and likeable on first meeting people. It all then kind of goes to pot as the story progresses but he is essentially just a man in love who’s got a serious case of tunnel vision. But he is polite and a bit mysterious and I always wanted to be mysterious but I was too busy chatting about everything on my mind to anyone who would listen (hence, the blog).

…….
And now, an anti-hero of sorts. I’m reading a book called Scandalous Innocent, a Mills & Boon book that was written about Ham House. Or rather, it takes place in Ham House. And it is…. BRILLIANT.

By ‘brilliant,’ I mean, I can’t believe this was ever published. It’s brilliant in it’s sheer abandonment of any literary merit, of believability and of character development. An example of a sentence in Scandalous Innocent is “Her silk skirts crackled angrily.”

Really now? Crackled ‘angrily’?

The plot so far is as such – Phoebe and Leo hate each other because Leo dissed Phoebe a few years ago and a man who loved Phoebe jumped to her defence. There was a duel and the other man lost then killed himself cause he was totes embarrassed. Phoebe and Leo are both at Ham House at the same time. They have an argument. They decide to have a duel, the conditions being that if he loses she can kill him. If she loses, she has to marry him. Yes. Marry him. She decides that if she has to marry him, she’ll make his life a misery by making him fall in love with her. That’ll learn him. Yehhh….

So she loses, he snogs her and has a quick squeeze of her bum then saunters off and is like, “I’m totes not marrying you.” And she’s all heartbroken and realises she likes him so goes to Ham House to find him.

That’s where I’m up to. Isn’t it riveting? Isn’t it?

Things I did yesterday

1. Met baby Mia

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2. Had photo fun at work

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3. Made a cake of Ham House. You know. As you do.

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Anyone else make their workplace out of cake yesterday?

What I am doing right now

I’m sitting in Danda’s taxi with a flask of lukewarm tea that I threw in there in a hurry. Most of it spilt on the table.

I have my trashy Mills & Boon book next to me as the original intention was to tell you about this fabulous book called Scandalous Innocent which has been written as an historical romance novel about Ham House.

I was also going to tell you about how I spent yesterday evening doing a Ham House jigsaw.

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I’ve got my bag for work with me and my new cool National Trust name badge thing.

I was going to make a cake this morning. Probably more a tart than a cake. With ground almonds and lemon zest and redcurrants.

I was also supposed to bring the antihistemene cream with me because I got a bee sting seven days ago which has today decided to swell up.

But all that has been thrown out of the window because instead we are rushing off to the hospital to see the newest addition to the family, a baby girl called Mia!

Woop woop! Photos to follow.

My first day in my new-new job

Last week, if you remember, I started a new job. I got to wear chef’s whites and I used knives so sharp that I’m still carrying the scars on my fingers. I sliced tomatoes, I cubed aubergines, I washed salad leaves and it was all quite interesting. I also, however, had a bit of a letting-off-steam moment with the manager so was feeling uncertain about the whole thing. Then I got a call offering me another job, to start Monday (yesterday). So I said yes.

And yesterday, I started my new job at Ham House!

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Yes yes, that’s where I work now! It’s the place I’ve been going when I’ve got a day off and I do it for free so it’s way exciting that they want to pay me to be there. It’s very exciting.

The work itself was pretty straightforward cafe stuff, then towards the end of the day, I made some shortbread biscuits but in the extreme heat the mixture was so soft that it was flopping all over the place and sticking to everything!

In ten minutes, I will get dressed and take my beautiful new commute to work and do my second day in my fabulous new workplace.

This post wasn’t really even a post, was it? It was more just an announcement of where I now work.

Also, I think someone had a baby yesterday, or something…

My day at Ham House in numbers

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Number of gooseberries destalked and bagged up for freezing – 200
Number of redcurrants washed and bagged for freezing – approx. 5 billion
Amount of time I spent washing redcurrants – 2.5 hours
Number of raspberries washed and put in a pot to make ice tea with – 100
Number of roast peppers successfully peeled – 4
Numbers of peppers ravaged in a mad rage as I failed to get the skins off – 8
Number of prawn and marie rose sandwiches made – 16
Number of glasses of water I drank – 6
Numbers of eggs shelled and mashed for making egg mayo – 31
Number of cuts on thumb from sharp bits of egg shell – 14
Number of croutons made from the ends of the loaves – 80
Number of rocket leaves from the kitchen garden washed and dried – 50
Number of times I sat down – 0
Number of times I was asked if I wanted a break but I refused because I wanted to finish the redcurrants – 500
Amount of time it took me to scoff a leftover slice of coffee and walnut cake in my face at the end of the day – 4 seconds
Temperature of body after the walk home – 100million degrees
Temperature of shower I had when I got in – below freezing
Amount of time it took me to fall asleep on the sofa while watching TV – 10 seconds