I love Foodie Pen Pals. You send people nice things, and other people send you nice things in return. It's always fantastic to get a parcel in the post, and with FPP the parcel is full of good things to eat - what could be better?
So this month's package came from Nick in London, who writes 'The Baking Process' - very prolifically, I might add. If that's a word. You can find her blog here, and let me tell you it contains some serious deliciousness.
I asked Nick to send me any local specialities or favourites she thought I'd like to try, however for someone living in London, that doesn't exactly narrow it down. She rose to the occasion admirably, however, basing her parcel on her experience as an Olympic volunteer, which is pretty much a blog post in its own right.
First up - my very own Olympic mug! Now, I must say that I am not normally a great watcher of sports. But this year I found myself, like many others, getting seriously into the whole Olympic thing, especially the swimming. Oh yes. So a genuine London Olympics souvenir was not to be sneezed at. Here it is:
I can't say I'm a huge fan of this logo but this is nonetheless a very nice mug and I'm sure I shall enjoy many delicious beverages therefrom. Who knows, perhaps I shall even imbibe some of the Olympic spirit and in four years' time you'll see me haring down the 100m track leaving even The Mighty Usain in my wake.
<Pause for hysterical laughter>
<Alright, that's enough!>
Along with the mug came a Nature Valley snack bar, which was one of the snacks provided to Olympic volunteers. It so happens I've tried these before and really like them, they're a lovely, crunchy, satisfying blend of sweetness and oaty, nutty goodness and mine, you'll note, had an OFFICIAL OLYMPIC STICKER on it! Oh, I am awash with reflected glory.
Next to it in my photo is a tub of aniseed balls, which are a real taste of childhood. I remember seeing them in big jars in various local shops where you could buy a 'quarter' of whatever took your fancy with your pocket money. If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry, it's because I am from The Past and they sold sweeties differently then.
Continuing the Olympic theme, albeit unintentionally, Nick had made me some soft pretzels. Now, what with Nick living in London, I assumed she would be English but no, in fact she is American and these are one of her very own childhood favourites. Look what happened when I took the photo!
Bready Olympic rings! Well, sort of. I didn't intend for them to be. But Nick's parcel was clearly having a subliminal effect. You'll note, if you look at the photo closely, that I couldn't in fact wait to try them until after I'd taken it. Greedy Joan!
These were my first ever soft pretzels, and I can now say with some authority that they are soft and chewy at the same time, like home-made bagels. (I know this because I have in fact made bagels, and I don't mean just by popping them in the toaster. Smug? Me?)
The flavour was like a mild sourdough, and let me tell you, when I toasted these bad boys up and dunked them in my bacon, lentil and spinach soup they were really delicious. I also think they'd be fabulous dipped in really good olive oil and salt, vinegar or dukka. As I have eaten them all, I'll have to test that theory by trying the recipe for myself. I'm happy to say I have been provided with a copy, but it's also on Nick's blog, right here.
Now, part of the joy of FPP is learning new things. And one of the things this parcel taught me is that meringues are very, very hard to send by post. Sadly, Nick's pretty blue and green meringues were mostly reduced to pretty blue and green crumbs.A couple of them almost made it, so I took their picture to share with you:
(They were, incidentally, inspired by The Bourne Legacy, the latest in the action flick series previously starring that guy, you know the one I mean), although you'll have to read Nick's blog to find out exactly how. And no, they weren't used as weapons.
Callie, who received a parcel from me, will be writing a guest post about it. Watch this space!
Foodie Pen Pals is operated in Europe by Rock Salt. It's based on an idea from The Lean Green Bean, which set up the scheme for the US and Canada. There are around 1600 participants all over the world. Get involved!