“Eton WHAT?!?!” – This was more or less my reaction when reading through the program for the Plate2Page workshop in Somerset six months ago (I can’t believe half a year has passed since then…time has been flying!). Eton Mess – Eton like the college and mess like – well – mess. This did not sound like food. I double checked, I was actually reading the dinner menu. This must be a British desert I thought and did a Google picture search – it was food indeed and what a mess at the same time ;-).
I am not sure what surprised me more, the name of the desert or that there was actually the menu of more or less all meals listed as part of the workshop program in the midst of writing and photography lectures, exercises and assignments. On the other hand I was going to a food photography and writing workshop so food would play THE main role … take 4 amazing instructors, 11 motivated workshop participants from quite a number of countries plus a hyperactive resident dog. Stir, shake, season and you get a fun filled learning weekend with steaming heads from all the writing exercises as well as burning fingers from clicking the shutter once too often.
To get an idea what this means have a look at posts by Francoise on our assignments writing for a tabloid (what is Mr. Cranky up to?) and reviewing a smoke house, a story by Barbara that came out of a writing exercise as well as the reviews by other workshop participants (Barbara, Juliane, Ruth, Spandana and Wendy) and instructors (Ilva, Jamie, Jeanne and Meeta).
.. and I can tell you, that Eton Mess in Somerset was delicious and easy to make: prepare some whipped cream, break up some meringues, add fresh berries, mix together and there you have your personal Eton Mess. So then, why did it take me so long to come up with this post – among other reasons I had my personal war with meringues. Whipping up some egg whites, adding sugar, piping it to a baking sheet and drying it in the oven should not be too hard I thought. But, oh well, it was hard – for me at least. The meringues stayed gooey and sticky. Different recipes stated different temperatures and different baking times but nothing seemed to work for me. After my third attempt this summer I surrendered, attributed my failure to the heat (although it was NOT humid) and prepared Eton Mess with store bought meringues. But this kitchen failure did not keep me at rest. I NEEDED to conquer meringues. And I did in my next try this fall – I succeeded repeatedly. What did I do differently, perhaps it was that I beat the egg whites and sugar very very stiff, stiffer than in summer, perhaps it was something else (the cooler weather?). I will see next summer if I really have conquered meringues. Until then, enjoy Eton Mess with home-made meringues.