That meant the cream puffs had come. Godber's were famous for their cream puffs. Nobody ever thought of making them at home.
'Bring them in and put them on the table, my girl,' ordered cook.
Sadie brought them in and went back to the door. Of course Laura and Jose were far too grown-up to really care about such things. All the same, they couldn't help agreeing that the puffs looked very attractive. Very. Cook began arranging them, shaking off excess icing sugar.
The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield
I have always loved English gardens. I think it comes from years of reading The Secret Garden (or countless viewings of the film), and from Jane Austen and her stories of picnics, and walks through green fields. Our back garden had long grass, sloped towards a creek, housed frequent water dragons and occasional snakes, and sat beneath the impossibly hot midday sun. I always felt like the grass was greener in England, and it really was - the Australian grass was burnt brown by the the sun during our long years of drought. I longed for dappled light, and delicate flowers, and robins hopping about the hedges.
And then, when I moved here, I moved to Whitechapel. The view from my bedroom window was of tower blocks, Commercial Road, and the 24-hour McDonalds. I know there were patches of green within walking distance, but my long daily commute didn't afford me much time to hunt them out. That first job though, in a part of north-west London that is practically Hertfordshire, required a fifteen walk between bus stop and school in each direction. I wandered each day past gardens that I would peek into, and robins who chirped as I brushed up against the hedge. I felt like Mary Lennox, and I loved it.
I still, over eight years on, have never had a garden of my own. But I live in hope. Friends of mine have started to move beyond Zone 2 and 3 (some beyond the M25), are spending time in their gardens, and are thinking ahead: building sheds, and planting trees that won't bear fruit for years. I have begun to form plans of my own to follow them. Recently, I went to visit a former boss of mine and, as we sat in her garden drinking tea, was rather taken with the lemon verbena plant by her back door. It's gone on the long list of things I'd like to grow one day.
The Garden Party is a perfect short story. It is so economical in its language, and its plot, but has such a clear sense of time, place, and character. I felt I had spent hours with them, rather than mere minutes. And these cream puffs, so good that no one thinks to make them at home (despite how easy they are) have remained with me for years. They are not a million miles from the pistachio creme puffs of 2015, but they are bigger, sweeter, and the gently scented cream is delicious in summer. I ate mine, sitting in the garden, with a cup of lemon verbena tea.
75g strong bread flour
Pinch of salt
2tsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
20 leaves lemon verbena
1tbsp icing sugar
Disposable piping bag
1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Pour the water into the saucepan and add the butter. Melt over a low heat. Tip in the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, to cook out the taste of it. The batter should be very thick.
2. Remove from the heat and continue to beat with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes until cool. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, ensuring the first is incorporated well before adding the second. The batter should drop back into the pan from the spoon. Beat in the sugar and salt.
3. Spoon the batter into a disposable piping bag (with a piping nozzle fitted, if you like), and snip the end off. Pipe six swirled rounds onto a lined baking tray, and flick with water. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden. Split open, and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to dry out the insides. Cool on a wire rack.
4. Bring the cream almost to simmering point. Take off the heat, add the lemon verbena leaves and allow to steep for fifteen minutes. Remove the leaves, whip the cream to soft peaks, and spoon into the cooled pastry shells. Dust with icing sugar and serve.