A London Fool

Travel as a pursuit engages body and mind. The traveler presses on from one newly discovered place to the next while the brain processes the passing parade of sights, sounds, scents, textures and tastes. Solo travel only heightens that thorough union of the physical and the cerebral. At least in London, by myself, I found it to be so. I should say remembered it to be so. I’d spent many days – before marriage, before children – traveling by myself. Days when my own mind would run through plans, my own body would execute and experience those plans. I saw what I wanted when I wanted without giving thought to whether or not another person was comfortable, bored, happy, unhappy, tired, feeling slighted, about to have a tantrum. Back then, by myself, I could be fully engaged, a whole human, totally in the moment.

Thirty years later and I was back in that luxurious and special place.

Over breakfast on the first morning in London, coffee cup in one hand and guide book with map in the other, I drafted my mental list of the day’s goals: the places I would visit; the route I would take to each one; where I might stop if hunger, fatigue, or other matter of nature called. Then came the moment when, plans set, I wiped my lips with the breakfast napkin, made sure my bag was packed properly for the day, and set my body in motion to do my mind’s bidding.

Between 9 am and 5 pm on that Wednesday I walked miles and miles of cobbled London pavement and scenic park paths. Strolled countless meters of shop floors and museum corridors. At the end of the day I alone had the weary legs and shoulders, and the blood blisters on the flat of my heels despite the sensible shoes, and the city seared into my memory. “Be here now” meant something.

Evidence of this mind-body harmony showed up at the Victoria and Albert Museum with its vast collection of design arts. Unlike the writing arts, design thoroughly marries mind and body, and the museum pays homage to centuries of the human brain’s ideas being interpreted to life by handcrafting in glass, jewel, fabric, silver, wood, metal, and ceramics.

Seamless integration of idea and activity also played out at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Between them the public spaces boast a palace, statues, waterfall and serpentine lake, floral gardens, and many gracefully meandering pathways all leading to one of the world’s most ornate tributes to love – the love of a queen for her Prince Consort. The parks remind how many minds and hands may tame nature, shape nature, and also enhance it according to an idea, bringing the intellectual concepts of enjoyment and even love to life.

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What a fool I am for travel and London! An appropriate recipe to share, then, is a British favorite, the fruit fool. Served for pudding (dessert), the dish has a simplicity that highlights the fresh flavors of seasonal fruit and fine quality dairy products. I like my fools made with a plain yoghurt lightened with a bit of whipped cream, so that’s the version I offer here. I simply like the weight and the additional tang the yoghurt imparts, resulting in a dessert that isn’t too sweet and may be eaten at any time of the day without guilt. If you like, fold the slightly sweetened stewed fruits into only whipped cream for something more buttery in taste. Or blended into pastry cream, if you like your desserts sweeter. Rhubarb fool is a classic; this mixed berry makes a nice twist.

Raspberry-Blackberry Fool

  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 24 ounces good quality plain yoghurt (choose one with a creamy texture rather than watery; Greek style is too thick)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

Wash the berries and place them in a small saucepan. Drizzle with the lemon juice and add the sugar. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the fruit to a gentle bubble. Cook the fruit at a simmer until it gives off its juices and the berries soften but do not fall apart. Once the fruit is soft, remove it from the pan to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Raise the heat a bit under the juice left behind in the pan and continue to cook it until it reduces and thickens, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When the juice is syrupy and darkened, remove the pan from the heat. Add the syrup to the fruit in the bowl, stir gently, and set the bowl in the refrigerator to cool. (For a visual of this step, please see the slideshow.)

When the fruit is cool, assemble the fool. In a large bowl, combine the plain yoghurt and the whipped cream. Fold these together gently. (For a visual of this step, please see the slideshow.)

Gently fold the chilled berry mixture into the yoghurt-cream mixture to your taste, either leaving the mixture streaky or blending thoroughly for a more consistent look and taste. Up to you. Spoon into individual dessert glasses or dishes and serve. (For a visual of this step, please see the slideshow.)

To go all nursery tea with your fruit fool, try passing some crushed digestive biscuits (either plain or chocolate) around the table to your guests for a mix-in. Delicious treat!

©2012 Jane A. Ward