<<This post has absolutely nothing to do with Chiswick, feral animals or Leo. Oh happy day! Sad face! No matter how that makes you feel, you’ve been warned. Plus, it doesn’t have photos because I ain’t got no time for that today.>>
You know that strange thing that happens when you learn a new word that you’ve never seen before and then immediately see that word everywhere? Well, that’s what happened to me this week with sneak attack raisins. My story about sneak attack raisins involves a podcast I’m loving, a book I am almost finished reading, and a fabulous little cafe/wine bar called Fernandez & Wells. Ok, so it doesn’t really have to involve those things, but this is my blog, and I’ll include them if I want to.
This weekend I discovered that dishes and podcasts go together like peanut butter and jam. A few years ago I went on a little NPR Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and This American Life podcast bender, but for whatever reason (laziness? hatred of having to listen to things with ear buds? perceived lack of time?) I never got on the podcast train for good. And then this weekend I remembered that my friend Molly* had a podcast called Spilled Milk. You guys. I can’t stop listening to it! Our dishes have never been cleaner. The whole idea behind Spilled Milk is that Matthew and Molly talk about a different food each week, sample various versions of said food, and generally are hilarious and informative and off topic. They make me giggle so hard. Anyways, on Sunday I listened to their episode on Raisins.
The thing with raisins – they so rightly point out – is that there is nothing worse than a sneak attack raisin. If you have never experienced the horror that is biting into a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie only to discover that it is a RAISIN oatmeal cookie, you are a lucky person. It’s not really the fact that the raisin is in there, it is that you didn’t expect it to be there. This said, I get that oatmeal raisin cookies can be delicious. My dad is actually the strange sort of person who prefers oatmeal raisin cookies over chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I prefer cinnamon buns with raisins, too, actually. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not a raisin hater, but I do like a bit of warning.
The day after I listened to the Raisin episode Leo and I made our way downtown to the Science Museum, or more precisely, the basement of the Science Museum where there is the kids’ play area of your dreams. Why is it the play area of your dreams? Because it is free. It is fun. It is interactive. It has a water table. AND IT IS ENCLOSED. Parenting made easy. After an hour or so of mayhem, Leo was tired and I had the brilliant realization that if I played my cards right, I could read my book at my favorite cafe on Exhibition Road. (Yes, this is the part about my book). The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson, is one of the best non-fiction books that I’ve read in a while. It chronicles the story (stories) of 6 million black Americans who migrated from their homes in the South to the cities of the North and West between 1915 and 1970. From the Goodreads review,
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
This book is beautifully written and bold in scope. It is heartbreaking and warm. I think you will find that this is an important work, a book about American history, Jim Crow laws, the civil rights movement, and racism historical and present, but it is the sort of book that stays with you because of the tiny details in the ordinary extraordinary lives of these three protagonists. I don’t think you’ll regret reading it. Anyways…I was almost at the end of the book, my kid was sleepy and I was within a stone’s throw of Fernandez & Wells, the cafe part of this story.
After a short walk to make the stroller nap a sure thing (during which we lost Foxy in front of Harrods and had to go back to retrieve him!), I made my way into the cafe, ordered my coffee and then stood in front of the pastry case, trying to figure out what to order. The barista asked me whether I would like to try a bit of the brownie, “because it is so delicious.” I am not one to turn down a taster, so I happily said yes and stuffed the taster into my mouth. It was so! delicious! BUT YOU GUYS. There were raisins in it! I was so surprised, I immediately said, “Um, are there bits of dried fruit in here?” Just wanting to make sure they weren’t a mistake. The barista answered, nonplussed, “Yes, there are…what do you call them….dried grapes?” (He was from…Spain? Italy? I’m terrible with accents.)
Raisins in a brownie! RAISINS IN A BROWNIE. I don’t even know whether there could be a time when raisins were more sneak attacky. And yet. The brownie was delicious. I ordered a whole slice. I ordered a whole slice and meant to save half for J, except it was so good that I ate it all! I have no idea why the raisins were so good in the brownie except to say that they somehow provided a nice little bit of chewiness? Or that the brownie itself was the underbaked cake verging on ganache kind of brownie and was aided by the textural interest the raisins provided? I don’t know. All I can say is that sneak attack raisins happened in the most unlikely of places a day after I listened to the Raisin episode of Spilled Milk and instead of recoiling in horror I ordered a massive slice.
The moral of this story is that you should listen to Spilled Milk, read The Warmth of Other Suns, and leave a small corner in your heart for the possibility that sneak attack raisins can sometimes be a good thing.
*Molly and I are not actually friends. She writes the award winning food blog called Orangette, and is the author of A Homemade Life and Delancy. I like to call her my friend because I have been loving her writing for almost 8 years, but we have never actually met.