Stonebridge City Farm (and a Sunday reading list)

It has been a fair while since I posted anything that did not contain a recipe. In the last few years, consciously I think, I have focussed on the desserts and cakes side of things of this blog. But I also wanted this blog to be a place for sharing inspirational food trips – festivals, gardens, and city farms – and so for the next few Sundays I thought I would share some of my recent favourites. Some of these are places I have been to before (and blogged about) and I am now sharing them with others (with my mom – who I have been hanging out with this past week – and with Andrés, who gets my obsession with all things food-related). Some of these, like today, are new places that I haven’t been before.

I also thought I’d start to share some of the things I’ve been reading recently because I have been reading much in my post-hand-in month. (There has been a lot of trashy, quite disappointing fiction, but we won’t talk about that – if anyone has any really good trashy fiction, please let me know!)

But to begin, Stonebridge City Farm.

Stonebridge is located in the heart of St. Ann’s in Nottingham. It is a stone’s throw from the city centre but you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the countryside. It is a quiet (apart from many, very enthusiastic, children) and peaceful. The gardens are a wondrous, excessive maze – around every turn there is a leap of delight at the discovery of a tomato plant, say, growing amongst the blackberries; or a bed of courgettes, awash with yellow flowers. The sunflowers are of remarkable size, shades of yellow, orange and deep red. There is a pond (beware! deep water! the signs warn) full of frogs (we had to take their word for this – we saw none). And there is a motley crew of animals to wonder at – ducks, chickens, quail, rabbits and guinea pigs, goats, sheep, several very large pigs, some ponies and two Dexters.

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We visited on a sunny Friday afternoon at the beginning of the school holidays and relished basking in the sunshine. We were as enthusiastic, I think, as the children and just as wonder-filled. The size of the sunflowers filled me with awe and Andrés tried to make friends with one of the cows.

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I do love a city farm and have resolved to visit more often. There is nothing I like more than being outside in the sunshine, especially after so many months cooped up at my desk. They have fantastic plant specials too (if you need an incentive other than tiny animals and flowers to visit)!

Sunday Reading List:
I found a copy of How to Feed Your Friends with Relish yesterday in my local Oxfam bookshop (I love second-hand bookshops) and I started reading it last night. It reminded me of two things: I don’t cook enough anymore generally (and when I do I am terribly boring and repetitive) and I absolutely need to cook for friends more often.

Speaking of cooking for others, when I was with my mom this last week, we spent a morning foraging (my mothers term for wandering aimlessly whilst also quietly shopping) in Bakewell. She was not enamoured with Bakewell puddings or tarts (but did love the town itself). We found a lovely second-hand bookshop where the cookbooks were on a 2-for-1 offer. Obviously I found two – A Taste of Relais and Chateaux: 97 Recipes from Some of the Finest Chefs in the UK and Ireland and Desserts: A Lifelong Passion by Michel Roux. They’re both wonderful but I love love love the dessert book, not only because the food styling is so fantastically dated but because it has a recipe for a pistachio creme brûlée. So now I have to invite some people for dinner so I can make it.

I’ve also just started reading H is for Hawk. I love nature writing and reading it reminded me of two other books that I love – in fact, my mom and I had one of those conversations where I said “this reminds me of that book. You know that one? With the blue green cover? The woman writes about the wilds of Scotland.” And my mom went, “oh yes. We’ve all read that. I’ve passed it around the family. What is it called?” Neither of us could remember at the time but they are Sightlines and Findings by Kathleen Jamie. Her writing invokes the wild drama and feelings of space and openness that I love about the Scottish islands. Just remembering those books generated in me a longing to visit. Read them if you can. For wildness.

I’ve also been listening to many many podcasts. I am now subscribed to Freakanomics, This American Life, the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme, Monocle’s The Menu, and The New York Public Library Podcast (Diane von Furstenberg’s interview made me want to buy one of her wrap dresses). But my favourite by far is Krista Tippett’s On Being. I love the way she draws out stories, and the people being interviewed are just fascinating. I love hearing about what people do in this world – I mean this week, she talks to Katy Payne, who spent years listening to whales and was among the first scientists to realise whales compose songs.

Lastly, Brain Pickings. I’ve linked to Maria’s site before but she continues to provide thought-provoking writing (I subscribe to the newsletter and spend lazy Sunday mornings reading it before getting up). I was particularly interested in this week’s writing on leisure – the idea that our culture has become workaholic (what Maria terms “productivity-fetishism”) and the need to think about leisure as an opportunity for “unburdened contemplation”. I love that idea and as I move towards assembling my life post-PhD, I want to hold it in my mind’s eye and remind myself of the need for silence and reflection.

Until next time.