Happy Sunday Joe!
I’ll let Emma do the talking today. She came to stay with me for a week early last month. I got an email, sent from her phone as she waited at a bus station for the coach to take her back to Glasgow. The email had an attachment titled ‘Caitlin’s House’. This is what the attachment said.
Caitlin’s house has an abundance to it. The kind of abundance that you sink into like and old sofa.
In the kitchen, there are bowls of fruit on the windowsill. These bowls are perpetually spilling over. Every week, new apples, new plums, new lemons and oranges and limes are cycled home from the market. From their rustling paper bags, they are tumbled gently into the ceramic, new fruits layered on top of the old ones. Containing these layers, the bowls become almost archaeological. Sedimentary, the fruits lay side by side, in various states of being: plump, subtly fragrant, market-fresh; potent, heady and ripe; soft and richly decaying. In the sunny warmth that pours in from the window, the fruit ripens quickly, and so Caitlin bakes plum cake, or apple crumble, squeezes lemon juice generously over pasta, scatters berries over yogurt in the mornings, and says ‘take some oranges for the bus!’ This generosity makes my muscles loosen, undoes their inherited tightness. Back home, fruit was kept in the fridge, where it would last, and when you bit into it, it was cold and acidic on your gums.
On the walls of the house, there are scratches and dents and marks, and they shine forth with all the dignity and intrigue of artifacts in a museum. A living museum, because these artifacts are not hermitic behind Perspex, but open to the world, in constant evolution. Last night, for instance, we had a dinner party. Hurrying through to the dinner table with a steaming risotto, the door slammed, adding another scratch to a wall already intricately, lovingly worn. Like a cave painting, the walls gather an intimate history of domesticity. This is healing to me. At my grandfather’s house, when we would visit for Christmas, we were always careful not to touch the walls. He didn’t like fingerprints.
This house is abundant. It gives itself freely. It submits itself to history, gladly. And it encourages you to do the same.
Here is the recipe for the plum cake mentioned in Emma’s words. This cake is a fluffy and fuity joy. Writing this, I realise a lot of my recipes seem to have plums in them! Well there you go, I like a plum.
- 175g unsalted butter – softened
- 160g sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- plash of vanilla extract
- 175g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 50ml milk
- 3 medium plums
- Icing sugar to finish
Pre heat the oven to 180/160 fan. Grease and line a 22 – 23cm round cake tin.
Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or electric beaters, cream together the butter etc. until fluffed up and combined. Beat each egg into the butter mixture one by one and until fully combined.
In a seperate bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Now, pour the milk and tip the dry ingreiends into the butter mixture. Beat together until only just combined. Spoon the cake batter into the cake tin and smooth out.
Half each plum and remove the stones. Arrange the plums on top of the cake batter, only very lightly pressing them into the batter, you want them resting on top of the cake when it goes in the oven. You can sprinkle some sugar over the plums if you want. Now bake the cake for 45-50 mins, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool for 10 mins before removing the tin.
Once cooled dust with lost of icing sugar. This cake is best eaten on the day of baking or the day after, but will keep for up to 4 days at room temp in an air tight container.
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