A review of 50 first experiences

First 46 – visiting Bruges

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26-28 May –  A mini break to fit four days’ sightseeing and eating into one and a half days. Mission accomplished. Special little treat to myself was staying in Boathotel de Barge, in a room with a view of the canal complete with geese.

Marks: 10/10 – next time I’ll have to do marks out of 50, I think.  Highlights: mussels and chips in the main square, climbing to the top of The Belfry, eating north sea shrimp and dried orange slices dipped in chocolate.View of the canal from my cabin was made slightly less special by a hissing goose. Chocolate orange slices now my favourite treat.


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Fifty 31 and 32 – visited Pollock’s Toy Museum and ate a pie in Battersea Pie Station

15th March – a lovely day in London with Diana, where we made the most of our knowledge of London streets to get repeatedly lost, including the area immediately next to Tottenham Court Road (“I can’t believe I’m a Londoner– we’d better ask a foreigner for directions,” said Diana). But also a day to re-discover a lovely street full of curious craft shops, including a shop full of knitted household objects (where I particularly coveted a standard lamp that looked like it was clad in a giant striped sock) – and to discover other parts of London we didn’t know. This included the fabulous atmospheric Pollock’s Toy Museum in Fitzrovia, where we wandered up tight little stairways to discover delightful mechanical toys from Edwardian times, rooms in miniature created from matchboxes, and glaring china dolls with not a smile amongst them. We chatted to the only other visitor there, a man with a briefcase who was taking ‘an hour off’, who said that his child had screamed when he’d taken him to see the teddy bears, and we could see his point – sitting, standing and lying behind a floor to ceiling glass panel, they seemed entirely menacing. The atmosphere was so charged, with all these silent watching figures and games waiting to be played, and the layers of rooms (uneven floors, with one hearth that went back to 17th century) so maze-like, it felt that we could have been anywhere, in any country. Escaping, at around 3, we returned back to the inner sanctum, Covent Garden, for a pie each at the wonderfully named Battersea Pie Station, which didn’t quite live up to its namesake in size, but did produce an extremely nice butternut squash and feta, and lamb and rosemary pie, with peas on the side.

Marks: 10/10 – for atmosphere and flavour and living up to everything I’d hoped these would (I really need to be more discerning about my marking system).

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First 25 – tried Ethiopian food

19th January – The lovely Debbie’s send-off and fundraiser to support her VSO placement in Ethiopia was an Ethiopian-flavoured evening with food and quizzes. Have to admit to being a bit cliquey and staying with the people I knew, which meant they saw how little I really know about world affairs. Did I get even one question right? But lovely food – a sort of dry spicyness I’d definitely like to try again – and a great evening. Publishing this two months into Debbie’s placement – my inspirational friend who probably packs 50 firsts into most of her regular weeks!

Marks: 10/10 for entertainment value, pace, company, and food. Hard questions!

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First 23 – tried oak leaf wine

Wine made from autumn leaves savoured at a New Year’s dinner with Gillian and Mark. Though I might not have known if I hadn’t been told (or seen the label) – holding the taste in my mouth, this evoked layers of oak leaves and the rustle and crunch of feet walking through them. Delicious, apple and pear flavours, I seem to remember.

Marks: 10/10 for flavour, evocativeness (is that right?) of autumn, company (actually, it was the company that really made it special), and it being the first day of the New Year.

Fruits of the forest

Fruits of the forest

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First 21 – trying sushi style Christmas dinner

21 December – Tiny pieces of turkey, miniature roast parsnips, bread sauce and wasabi, wrapped in Nori (Japanese edible seaweed), and washed down with mulled beer at a Christmas dinner with Martin and friends.

Marks: 9/10 for the pleasure of rolling your own dinner, compounded by the fact that I won at Kill Dr Lucky (with a decoy, in case anyone’s interested).

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First 17 – learning how to make chocolate truffles

– with Sandra at the Cocoa House in York. Loved tempering the chocolate with the hairdryer, and putting my little beauties into a box with a ribbon, just like real chocolates! Followed by tea and chocolate biscuits, of course, with a little chocolate in the teaspoon.

Marks: 10/10. Hardest bit (apart from giving them away) – squeezing the truffle out of the piping bag. The obvious analogy – too many hard bits made for tiny little stools until finally one huge turd made the bag split and we had to start again. Easiest bit – licking out the bowl.

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First 14 – Sarsaparilla and cornbread

25th October –As part of a college event for Black History month tried sarsaparilla and cornbread for the first time.  Just seeing the label on the bottle conjured up stories by Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain and Harper Lee; images of hampers full of root beer and peanut butter sandwiches at the World Trade Fair, of  families sitting up to a scrubbed wooden table for a breakfast of cornbread and grits, of children diving from bridges into brown flowing rivers, of swinging saloon doors and big skirts, dust and sawdust.

Marks: 4/10.  Perhaps the effect would have been different if I’d tasted these under a hot sky, or in a big old southern American kitchen, with the creak of a swing on the porch outside. Trying them as I did in a large and rather empty college hall, they were just a bit too ordinary. The sarsaparilla had a good syrupy smell but tasted a bit like flat coke; the cornbread was too salty. Disappointing.