Short Order: A trip full of sentiment and surprises

"Remember that life is an uncertain business," said the hostess in a short introductory address to the newlyweds, "so have dessert first."

avocado 88 (photo credit: )
avocado 88
(photo credit: )
The wedding of my niece, Claire Lowy, to Daniel Rapport in London last month was followed by a week of creative Sheva Brachot during which every possible stop - and some seemingly impossible ones - were pulled out by friends of the family. They included a home video showing the bride and groom (coincidentally) attending the same birthday party at the ages of four and six, respectively. As their parents arrived to pick them up, greeting one another, a laconic voiceover explained: "The fathers are finalizing the wedding arrangements." Naturally a great deal of excellent eating was done, not least at an unconventional Sheva Brachot lunch held after synagogue on Shabbat. "Remember that life is an uncertain business," said the hostess in a short introductory address to the newlyweds, "so have dessert first." This advice generated amusement, which turned to astonishment and, finally, laughter when, without further ado, she began handing out individual plates loaded with chocolate mousse, strawberry jello, heart-shaped meringues and chocolate biscuit cake. You have to admire someone who practices what she preaches. DURING THE week of wedding celebrations I made the acquaintance of Merrill Dresner, in whose excellent company I toured the Holbein exhibition currently mounted at the Tate British museum in Pimlico. Going from the sublime to the only slightly less sublime, somewhere in between the imposing portraits of Henry VIII and his contemporaries she gave me a recipe that is stunningly simple (and simply stunning). SURPRISING SALAD 1 avocado, diced 1 mango, diced 1 red onion, thinly sliced Mix with lemon or lime juice to taste. IN A leaflet promoting Hass avocados, popular in the UK, I found this suggestion for a light lunch: AVOCADO & GOAT'S CHEESE CROSTINI 1 baguette, thinly sliced into 18 rounds 1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped 100 gr. soft goat's cheese red onion, diced 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus a little more for brushing sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Preheat the oven to 180 C. Brush the bread slices with garlic and a little olive oil and bake until crisp and golden (about 10 minutes). Remove and allow to cool. Meanwhile, mash the avocado with the goat's cheese. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, basil and onion, and season to taste. Mound the avocado mixture on top of the crostini. I GENERALLY enjoy the Daily Mailand in its food section found a recipe that is not a million miles removed from our region - a soup called Harira, eaten during Ramadan. MOROCCAN CHICKPEA SOUP 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped 2 sticks celery, chopped 2 tsp. cumin (camoun) 600 ml. hot vegetable stock 400 gr. chopped tomatoes with garlic 400 gr. canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained salt and freshly ground black pepper 100 gr. frozen or canned broad (fava) beans zest and juice of half a lemon large handful of coriander or parsley. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and celery gently for 10 minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Tip in the cumin and saute for another minute. Turn up the heat and add the stock, tomatoes and chickpeas, plus a good grind of black pepper. Simmer for 8 minutes. Throw in the broad beans and lemon juice and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season to taste and top with a sprinkling of lemon zest and chopped herbs. Serve with pita. THERE'S A lot of talk about how different the UK is from how it used to be; and it is. But I got a dose of traditional British kindness toward the end of my stay when I sat next to a couple called Eric and Iris on a bench at Edgware Bus Station, waiting for a 142 to take me to Watford. I had a £10 note, was wary about how the bus driver might regard it and asked the pensioner couple what they thought. "I'm 5p short of the exact fare," I explained. They considered this gravely. Suddenly the elderly man pulled out a plastic bag of change, held out five pence, and urged me to accept it. "It's not much money, is it?" he said. "Some of these bus drivers can be quite nasty." Later, passing a store run by the British Heart Association charity, I dropped in and donated 5p, plus a bit extra, in appreciation of Eric and Iris.