wonderful and frustrating. Often it's hard to achieve the balance of knowing when to stay and when to leave everyone to it - especially now there are so many more people involved! I often momentarily forget that there is life outside of the Art House, so when I do leave the building (and, occasionally, Southampton), I'm pleasantly surprised to find a whole host of like-minded places, people, and sometimes, if I'm very lucky, organic homemade cake as well.
'Where?' I hear you cry.
Well, by travelling to the heart of England's 'alternative' soul, as I found out on a van trip with Matt last week, to a little town called Glastonbury...
There are many, many cafes in Glastonbury. Independently owned, serving a variety of wholesome and worthy food options, they usually contain a degree of individuality that mainly flourishes in a town where there are next to no chainstores (except the Co-Op!). Sandwiched between second hand shops and emporiums selling crystals, dragons and fairies, we scour the menus of quirky cafes for something we fancy. Nothing really jumps out, and as we begrudgingly decide to wander back to the van to make our own lunch we pass an eco-supermarket.. and hail Mary, lo and behold, beyond the ailses of lentils and spirulina, there lurks an organic vegetarian cafe that suddenly makes me feel right back at home.
The cafe is 'Earthfare', and Claudia is our very helpful assistant, serving us all manner of veggie nominess. We chose a kind of pick-and-mix' veggie surprise (although none of it is too surprising as we picked Claudia's brain for ingredients, additives, and shelf life) so we could get a selection of the best-looking-most -useful-back-home dishes. I'd forgotten how much fun a research trip could be! Writing notes in the corner of my A4 paper, I feel like Ken Hom in a stirfry.
It was reassuring to see that the Art House offers a similar selection of seasonal veggie options, as well as an abundant choice of tea... even the napkins we use are the same brown 'recycled' 1 plynbrand! We tried the courgette and carrot bake, the chickpea salad, a vegan 'soz roll', and something called 'Bobotie rice' - a kind of risotto containing almonds, apricots, leeks, celery, carrot and spinach. Delicious.
After sharing a plate of scrumptiousness we were surprised how full we felt. The combination of
flavours went well, even if our delectable selection wasn't technically on the menu! There was only one thing that didn't quite agree with our tastebuds - a smokey paprika chickpea 'thing'. Oh well. We knew, however, we would *have* to leave room for cake, and with so many choices avaliable we didn't know where to begin. There were many gluten free options; something that the Art house is looking into for this spring, so I managed to secure a dairy-free/wheat-free recipe swap with Claudia. Nice.
Eventually we settled on a selection of 5 cakes from the choice before us, securing a bulk-bargain deal to boot. Gluten free walnut brownies ranked the highest on my list, followed by the spelt flour bakewell tart. Matt enjoyed the pear, hazlenut and chocolate cake ('oh my god, I can taste everything all at the same time') as well as the wheat free chocolate and almond cake (kind of like cheesecake, without the cheese). The lemon and date oat slice was a little too crumbly and not sweet enough for our tastes, but we decided it would be good for breakfast... and it was. (No, we couldn't really eat 5 cakes between us in one sitting, or at least, not after the plateful of previously mentioned veggie nominess).
I also know it's good to leave what you love, if for no other reason than to regain the enthusiam for it upon return (like the lemon and date oat slice). I needed to regain my sense of perspective and it helped having a couple of days away.
Now I can face the challenges of spring, motivated and refreshed in the knowledge that we are part of a wider community determined to do things differently, to offer a wholesome blend of variety not available through commercially run enterprises. It was great to exchange ideas with Earthfare, and I look forward to the fresh impetus this can bring to our menu.
If you have any recipes you think Art House customers might enjoy, I'd be really happy if you don't mind sharing them. Please add your ideas to the comments section of this blog or email us directly. (firstname.lastname@example.org)