I made a cheese sauce today that's made me extraordinarily happy. I learned how off the back of a box of English mustard powder in 1989.
The year I lived in Yorkshire I made mac and cheese once a week, because I was 20 and could.
I use sweet rice flour now, instead of wheat flour, but it's an able sub. It's what I use to make gravy now as well and it doesn't get gross and jellied, like tapioca, but still thickens and cooks properly.
I forgot the salt, peeper AND mustard, but it's delicious anyway. I put it in a casserole over a head of steamed cauliflower, sprinkled it with rice breadcrumbs and baked it for 30 minutes, until golden and toasted, Marks & Spencer style. It was a splendid lunch, though I will have to eat a compensatory salad in a little while.
Does everyone know how to make a proper cheese sauce? I'm a self taught cook and the moment I realized there was a way to make it all smooth and stuck together rather than oily and resistant was one of those things, those moments of expanded understanding, when suddenly a whole aspect of cooking made more sense. I remember it vividly, I was standing in the kitchen of the Henry Price Building, in a student flat with a group kitchen, at the University of Leeds.
And now my head is full of Leeds.
The science fiction bookstore where I spent all my money, and the sheets I bought for the weird little fold out couch thing they called a bed on my first day in town. And never needing sunglasses ever, despite being a photosensitive little mole, and going to a rugby match with Laura and her boyfreind Mark - no seats! - and the way it got dark by 4 in the winter, and my first encounter with an ACTUAL socialist in the quad. My first encounter with British educational standards and approach, which were both eye opening.
And when the converter failed and my work-processor pre-computer melted down into slag on the kitchen table.
Learning to write papers long hand with a fountain pen.
Learning to THINK long hand, with a fountain pen.
Making my Scottish lit tutor despise me and then ultimately respect me (just because I do not like To The Lighthouse does not mean I do not UNDERSTAND To the Lighthouse, you judgemental twerp. Best A ever).
My brother writing me letters that told me for the first time he loved me.
Pretending I was a runner.
Singing christmas carols off season in Hyde Park while terribly, terribly drunk, sleeping on the floor of a friend's flat in the cold and waking up with a limp never to be equalled.
Meeting someone in the pub months later who recognized me as one of the 12 Days of Christmas singers.
Wishing I were dead of embarrassment.
That whole year I never took a bus because I wasn't sure of my map reference points. So every trip to the grocery store was a 5 mile walk. Plus I lifted weights every day. I was in unusually good shape that year.
The women I lived with and their kindness and the unbelievable generosity of their families towards one far-from-home American. Newcastle. Liverpool. Chester. A completely different way of being a young person that I had ever seen.
It was just one year but all the parts of it seem so much more precise and vivid that the rest of college. Such a good year, I think it's when I learned to be myself by separating "self" from "home".
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