I first ate this River Cottage pear and almond cake about 5 years ago on new years day. My best friend and her then boyfriend made it in my mother’s kitchen in a display of merry couples cooking that was an anathema to me at the time. They caramelised the pears in butter and sugar and made the cake mix in the kitchen island, while I was (no doubt) drinking tea and smoking rollups at the table. The way they cooked together must have made an impression on me; in any case I never forgot watching them do it. The pears became gloopy and turned a rich brown, and they baked it in my mother’s orange cake pan. The colours of the memory are all of home-things.
The second time I ate the cake was at our house in Tuffnell Park. It was the first Sunday lunch we made there, after a walk on Hampstead Heath, and my friend Alex made it for dessert. I had been in America so long that just being in a kitchen full of English kids felt nearly holy. They were so different from my New York friends because they went to the supermarket and they cooked together and they drank inside their own flats and they had known each other their whole lives. The way the texture of life becomes so precious as to be holy is a symptom of moving countries, and since that new year’s day this pear cake has always embodied that transformation for me. I’m making it on this sunny late winter afternoon in the Treehouse while my fella does amateur carpentry on the deck, and it’s both a way of being completely here, and a way of being at home.