What I Did on My Holiday

 

How was your Bank Holiday? Even though it’s been back to the grindstone for two days now, I’m still feeling super upbeat and inspired after spending a lovely Bank Holiday weekend with some of my favourite people. There really is nothing better than hanging out with someone who is utterly on your wavelength. Especially if you are drinking cocktails and talking make-up.

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On Friday night, I headed down to Orbital Comics for the launch of Cover Versions – where music and comics collide. This is a great initiative, which showcases re-imagined album covers by 12 incredible graphic artists – two of whom are especially awesome because they are my pseudo-brother in-law Chris Wildgoose and soon-to-be-pseudo-sister –in law Laura Trinder. Chris chose to redesign Deftones Around The Fur, while Laura did a wonderful take on Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials. A print run of the 12 covers will be available to buy with proceeds going to Brian Tumour Research. You can see all 12 covers on Instagram and twitter.

On Saturday T was ill so I took him to Joes Southern Kitchen for some get well comfort food. The chicken is ridonkulously good. It’s salty, lemony, herby, crispy goodness with a side of fries. Nom! The barbeque wings are also amazing, to the point that the lovely server gave us a bottle of Joe’s homemade barbeque sauce to take away because we loved it so much.

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I left T to go and crawl back under a duvet and headed to the Barbican to meet lovely Nell. We ate vegan chocolate cherry cake and talked about eyeliner before heading into Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. It’s a lovely idea for an exhibition, and reminded me of the recent Bear Witness that I saw at Sotheby’s. The personal collections of various post-war artists are displayed and explored with reference to the artist’s work. We are all collectors in some way. Even someone like myself, who yearns to own the least amount of stuff possible, can’t turn away from a Russian Doll or indeed a new notebook. Would budget and space permit I’d also certainly be able to foster a few collecting instincts for Schiaparelli gowns or Charles Addams 1st editions.

The exhibition is full of all sorts, from medical illustrations and glass eyes, to gaudy souvenirs picked up from Chinese gift shops. Andy Warhol’s cookie jars were are particular highlight as were Pae White’s collection of Vera Neumann textiles. When on display in this way, all objects become beautiful, maybe not for the design itself, but for the fact that someone chose to collect it and find it beautiful. In being loved, a mushroom salt and pepper set becomes special rather than perfunctory or tacky. It is here, when we see things for themselves as opposed to being part of a whole – i.e. a home, that we see them clearly. I wondered how many of my possessions I would want to put in a gallery and how they would speak to a viewer. Do the objects we surround ourselves with reveal more about us than our own voices? How do we build our world, our environment and our domain? These collections of objects, non-essential as they are for existence and purely extra to our experience of life, are so strange and unique when viewed in isolation. I was reminded of the minimalist mantra courtesy of Tyler Durden – ‘the things you own end up owning you’. I suppose the question I had to ask myself was, do these things make good owners? Are they kind or corrosive? Do they nourish and water me or do they starve me of oxygen and oppress me? I think that happily, my possession enhance my life, not in a purely materialist way but in a gentle and tuneful way. They give me pleasure and sometimes make me smile. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I can’t leave them behind. I think the key is that they don’t bind you, and when they stop feeding you, you let them go.

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Armed with this knowledge Nell and I unequivocally headed to the gift shop to purchase things. Objects, artefacts, money and commerce. Beautiful things, funny, sweet and sad things. Picking certain things and loving these more than other things. Some things get a home with you, while others lay still in the shop under bright lights with idle hands skimming across them daily. A pure black pencil, sleek and smooth that looked gorgeous lying atop a mint and gold notebook. Chocolate bird skulls, lollipop soaps, postcards and books with beautiful covers, fonts and bindings. Nell is one of the only people in my life who gets as much sensory pleasure from small details like the trim on a make-up bag as I do. Of course, I had to buy something. It would have felt churlish at an exhibition celebrating ownership of artefacts not to. So I bought fours postcards and the sleek black pencil.

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Afterwards we headed to the Gin Joint for cocktails. I had something with elderflower that tasted heavenly and Nell presented me this amazing book that I had been meaning to buy for ages. Jewels and skeletons – what more could a gal ask for. One more thing that I’m happy owns me, for a while.

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A Wolf for Dinner

To celebrate the eagerly anticipated (by me at least) arrival of Wolf Hall to our screens tonight, I have snuffled out some Tudor recipes for you to try and munch on, whilst watching the BBC do what it does best.

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Cookery books were starting to emerge during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, however many people during this time would have been unable to read, and so recipes were passed down largely by word of mouth and hands-on teaching. Methods of heating food would have been temperamental and unique to each kitchen, so cooks needed to be skilled in managing the quirks of their own equipment – a tradition that was still evident in my Grandma’s methods of cooking even fairly recently. Measurements and scales were little used, and again cooks would have known the quantities of ingredients specific to their own recipes, judged using bowls, jugs and dishes.

What you ate depended largely on who you were. Certain ingredients, such as spices and sugar were very expensive, and so recipes making lavish use of these items were probably not for Mr and Mrs Joe Blogge, but rather the wealthier echelons of society.

All in all Tudor cooks were pretty clever cookies (excuse the pun), with an extensive set skills and a wealth of learned knowledge gleaned from untold hours of laborious preparation. Thankfully someone had the foresight to write some of these wonderful recipes down and the below are all taken from ‘A Proper New Booke of Cookery’, published in 1575 (technically making it Elizabethan, but we’re all friends here).

I just love the phrasing in some of these instructions, it’s so friendly. I’ve tried to not make too many amendments to the text, because interpeting and understanding the language is half the fun of historical documents. I have however added a few pointers in brackets and broken up the sentence structure slightly for ease.

So, here are some of my favourite recipes: Pigeon Pie, Chicken Pie, Apple Pie, A Dishful of Snow and finally Eggs in Moonshine (I know, too sweet isn’t it?)

To bake pigeons in short paste (pastry) as you make to your baken Apples.

Season your Pigeons with Pepper, Saffron, Cloves and Mace, with veriuyce (a sour, acidic fruit juice of unripe grapes or crab apples – I imagine lemon juice would work just as well) and salt. Then put them into your paste (pastry), and so close them up, and bake them. They will bake in halfe an houre, then take them foorth, and if ye thinke them dry, take a litle veriuyce and butter, and put to them, and so serve them.

To bake Chickins in like paste (pastry).

Take your chickens & season them with a litle ginger & salt, and so put them into your coffin (love this term for a pastry case), & so put in them barberries, grapes, or goseberies, & halfe a dish of buttter, so close them up, & set them in the oven, & when they are baken, take the yolkes of vi. egges, and a dishful of veriuyce, and drawe them through a strainer, and set them upon a chafingedyshe (I guess a double boiler would suffice). Then draw your baken chikens, and put therto this foresayd egges and veriuyce and thus serue them hotte.

To make pies of greene Apples.

Take your Apples and pare them cleane, and core them as ye wil a quince (love it).
Then make your coffin after this manner – take a litle fayre water (clean water), and halfe a fishe of butter, and a litle Saffron, and set all this upon a chafindyshe, tyll it bee hote. Then temper your flower with this sayd licour, and the white of two egges, & also make your coffin. Season your Apples with Cinamon, Ginger and Sugar inough. Then put them into your coffin, and bake them.

To make a dishefull of Snow.

Take a pottel of sweete thick creame and the white of 8 egges, and beate them altogether with a spone. Then put them in your creame, and a saucer full of rose water, and a dishe full of suger withal. Then take a stycke and make it cleane, and then cutte it in the ende foure square (whisk), and therewith beat all the aforesaide things together, and ever as ut riseth (beat until fluffy and risen), take it of, and put it into a Collander. This done, take an apple and set it in the middes of it, and a thicke bush of Rosemarye. Set it in the middes of the platter, then cast your snowe upon the Rosemarye, and fyll your platter therwith. And if you have wafers, cast some in withall, & thus serve them forth.

To make egges in mone shine.

Take a dishe of rose water, and a dishefull of suger, and set them upon a chafingdish, and let them boile. Then take the yolkes of 8. or 9. egges newlaid, and put them therto, every one from other, and so let them harden a little. And so after this maner serve them forth, and cast a little Cinnamon and suger.

Nom!

xx

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Sunday In Paris

Well not exactly.

I have an unabashed love for French accordion music. The sort of tune that’s unfailing played over the top of shots of the Eiffel Tower in rom-coms. The choppity-cloppity melodies transport me to lavender fields in the south of France or a small cobbled street where I’m skipping along with a shopping basket laden with fresh bread and eggs. Some may find it twee, I find it uplifting and it always makes me smile.

I decided to go to my happy place on Sunday. I pressed play on this…

Sunday in Paris

Put on this ‘new to me’ vintage skirt that my friend gave me as an early birthday present on Saturday.

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And stepped into my little kitchen to do some serious cooking. This skirt makes me very happy, bright florals on a black backgorund are my Achilles heel, they remind me of folk crafts and Mexico and Russia and of course French country fabrics.

I made; mushroom risotto, veggie Bolognese, stewed pears, berry compote, a variation on this Nigel Slater lentil stew (I traded the pancetta for sultanas which along with the spices made it very sweet and Moroccan in flavour). I also made a batch of what I’ve termed ‘kitchen sink cookies’ because I throw everything but at them. Whatever I have left hanging about in the cupboards, sesame seeds, crystallised ginger, walnuts, figs, treacle, oats (you get the idea), and they turned out to be really lovely and will be great as breakfast ‘muffins’. It’s all gone into the freezer to be snuffled up later.

There’s something so nourishing about not just the eating but also the cooking of food, especially to lovely music, it’s a time to switch off and fly away for a while.

And yes of course in my mind my little kitchen becomes this…

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Amelie’s beautiful apartment is very much my ‘Fight Club cave’, my power animal would be a basset hound, and if Marla Singer turned up we’d drink gin and I’d steal her hat.

Au revoir mes petits cornichons

xx

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