My penpal this month was Kylie Hodges. After we did the usual correspondence about food allergies/preferences/desires, Kylie and I continued e-mailing each other because it turns out that we have something in common other than a love of food: a diagnosis of IBS. Nobody ever really talks about IBS because it's not exactly the most exciting or comfortable topic, so it was nice to have a chance to complain and vent and share advice. I directed Kylie towards potentially the single most useful recipe I have ever found online--psyllium cookies (a.k.a. "Pookies"), which I love to hate.
Luckily for me, all the contents of Kylie's FP parcel were much more appetizing than Pookies...well, almost all of them, since some items were not actually edible:
At the top of the box was handmade card featuring a lovely garden scene. Underneath that, cleverly doubling as packing peanuts, were three hand-knit dish cloths. I am going to feel very guilty getting these dirty; however, if I don't use them, Kylie's hard to work will in vain, so into the sink they will go!
The cloths had been protecting two Pooles Produce jars: one of hot horseradish sauce, and another of Bramley applesauce (or "apple sauce," to do it the British way). Kylie didn't know this when she mailed my package, but I adore apples; if I could only eat one type of fruit for the rest of my life, it would definitely be apples. Applesauce has been a staple of my family's cuisine since I was a little girl. When I was young, I used to go collect apples for both my mother and grandmother so that they could use them to make their own fresh applesauce; it is still something that is served at every big holiday meal hosted by my paternal grandmother.
I have a couple of favorite recipes that involve applesauce, including one for healthy wholegrain muffins (thanks, Ellie Krieger!). When I first moved to the UK, I was distraught to find that applesauce was nowhere to be found in the shops; I kept having to make my own every time I wanted to bake. It took me months to realize that applesauce has a different function in the UK than it does in the US; here, it is viewed as more of a condiment than a side dish. Thus, it is in grocery stores, but in a different place than what I was used to--next to the mustard and tartar sauce rather than the canned fruit. Weird. In any case, the Pooles version looks delicious and I think it may be destined for some apple muffins here in the next week or so.
Also in the box were two of Kylie's favorite spices--cardamom and nutmeg. I can't see cardamom without thinking of chai, and I have long had a chai recipe that I've wanted to try. I found it ages ago when I was housesitting for a friend and picked up a magazine in which director Mira Nair talked about making chai for her cast every day. Since Nair is actually from India, I figure her chai is the real deal; now that I have a box of cardamom pods, I will have to give her recipe a try.
The final component of the box was a package of Chorley cakes made by Newmans of Radcliffe. I had never heard of Chorley cakes, but according to Wikipedia, they are a close relative of Eccles cakes and "Sad cakes." All of these delicacies are natives of Lancashire (Eccles, while now part of Manchester, used to be in Lancashire), and are similar in that they are all flat, fruit-filled pastries. Apparently, Chorley cakes, a.k.a. "Fly Pies," are the least sweet of the three, and are often eaten with a spread of butter on top and a piece of cheese (Lancashire, of course) on the side. Since they contain baked currants, these are pretty much Sasha's worst nightmare, so I will obviously be eating the entire package by myself. I am looking forward to it.