I’m just off to the shops to buy the ingredients to make my Boeuf en Daube for Monday evening’s ‘Life in Squares’. But, it just occurred to me that it might be a pleasant idea to think of a Bloomsbury-inspired frock for this fine July morning.
Possibly too much for the end of July?
What about this one?
The sun may be out today but it’s not that hot.
But then I found this one. In this painting what seems to be the same dress looks perfectly decent to go out in on a sunny day. Long, floaty, cool. So, it might need a wrap to protect against the cold, but apart from that, it looks perfect.
And so remind me, which one did Vanessa Bell have a relationship with?
International Food Parties – the ultimate indulgence
I’m teaching English at the moment to Montse, a girl from Chile, and Clara, a girl from Italy, and last Friday we decided to host an International Food Party.
In case you haven’t heard of one before, and you can’t possibly work out what one is for yourself, let me enlighten you.
An International Food Party is a party where people from different countries get together and each brings a typical national dish to share. A cultural, language, food exchange , it’s such an amazing ‘thing’ on so many levels. Apart from one. Or possibly two.
Montse chose to prepare ‘Calzones Rotos‘ and Clara opted for her favourite dish, ‘Gramignia con Salsiccia‘, neither of which I had tasted, let alone heard of, before.
And so, we bought the ingredients. Couldn’t get the gramignia for love nor money so, after much soul-searching and concern that this would drastically change the essential nature of the dish, Clara went for serpentini.
And then the cooking fun began…
gramignia (Serpentini )con salsiccia
1 pack gramignia
1 Finely chop 2 onions.
2 Put in pan with olive oil and cook until soft.
3 Skin the sausages and add the sausage meat to the onions.
4 Stir until cooked.
5. Add the milk a little at a time.
6 Grate the parmesan and add to the sauce.
7 When you’ve made the sauce cook the pasta.
8 Add the pasta to the sauce.
Serve and add more grated parmesan.
The charming thing about this recipe is that Clara called her grandmother to get it. And the reason that we have no amounts (other than for the sausage) is that Clara’s grandmother (and now Clara) cooks by taste and how it looks.
Next up, Montse’s Calzones Rotos.
These are sweet pastries from Chile, called Calzones Rotos because they were said to resemble the torn underwear of the pastry vendor who sold them. As a gust of wind blew her skirt up so her customers thought her pastries looked not dissimilar in shape to her torn undergarments…
But how to make them? Let alone give them their distinctive shape.
Calzones Rotos. Challenging on oh so many levels. Not least because I don’t think Montse wanted to cook them at all… And so, just minutes before our guests arrived, Montse started to make the dough for her dish. It was a case of all hands on deck (explaining the absence of photos).
The recipe : Calzones Rotos
500 g plain flour
2 cups sugar
zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
half a cup of milk
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
half a cup of melted margarine
vegetable oil for frying
icing sugar to dust when finished
1 Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the sugar.
2 Add the 2 eggs, melted margarine, vanilla essence.
3 Make a dough.
4 Roll out and cut into strips.
5 Make a slit in each strip then twist (somehow).
6 Fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown on each side. When cooked place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
7 Place on serving plate then dust with icing sugar.
Montse did all this but after she added the wet ingredients the contents of her bowl looked very, very wrong. The dough looked less doughy and more wet cake mixture-y.
Too wet to roll.
We added more sugar. Then more flour. Then more sugar. Then more flour.
Roll time! By this time our guests had arrived with their food offerings.
As Montse created her works of pastry art, Clara and I swept up the sugar and flour that now covered the table…and floor.
10 very interesting dough shapes later and Montse was ready to fry (with enough dough left over to make at least another 20 …)
The recipe said to fry for 3 seconds on each side but when Montse did this she had a floppy-sloppy mess which dripped back into the pan as soon as she tried to scoop it out.
So we took a leaf out of Clara’s cooking book, waiting until the fried pastry seemed done. Not an exact science, perhaps, and we did end up with quite a few burnt offerings, but overall we ended up with enough perfect calzones rotos to satisfy everyone.
Not sure if the calzones rotos looked like calzones rotos but they tasted sweet, lemony, with a lovely hint of vanilla.
Think we’re going to have to take up Sarah’s step-counting challenge…
For our fourth Proust book group meeting we discussed the idea of ‘loss of innocence’ in Combray.
So, what did we come up with?
That Combray can be seen as an earthly paradise, a Garden of Eden, where the narrator encounters the world from the safety of his comfortable childhood. A before-the-fall world.
Yet all the reasons for the fall are in place: Combray contains within germ all that will unfold throughout the rest of the novel.
However, loss of innocence proved difficult to pin down, raising more questions than answers.
Is it in the anguish suffered for want of his mother’s goodnight kiss?
Or is it in seeing the fullness of individuals? Flaws and all?
Francoise, when the narrator sees her kill the chicken.
The actions of Mlle Vinteuil and her lover towards her father’s picture.
Meeting the woman in pink silk, so representative of women he would go on to meet, at his uncle Adolphe’s.
Seeing Mme de Guermantes in church at last, pimple and all.
Is it in the disappointment (or, sometimes, elation) at discovering that the world is not really as we think it is? And that people aren’t as we think they are?
When the narrator refers to himself as Dante, and his father and grandfather as Virgil, leading him away from temptation on a Combray walk, is his childhood self longing to mix with a world that is not quite within his reach?
Perhaps, as the narrator is, in the main, a passive observer in Combray. His loss of innocence is based less in act and more in observation, feeling and thought.
Is Combray where the narrator longs to return to recapture his innocence?
As you can see, we found this one tricky.
But isn’t it funny (or, perhaps, perfectly understandable), that when you re-read a passage you see something that you’d initially missed? And you see it oh so clearly! Suddenly we heard Proust’s wit and humour everywhere.
And so it came as no surprise when Connie wrote saying that this is exactly what had happened to her with ‘loss of innocence’. (Click to read Connie’s post).
As for the paintings referred to in Combray I leave you with just one.
‘Lost Illusions’ Gleyre
The key is in the title…
Next Book Group Meeting – 4
Thursday July 2nd
Next up –
‘une foule de vérités relatives aux passions, aux caractères, aux moeurs'(Proust). Discuss Combray in light of this description.
Just used Dropbox to access our latest post on Sarah’s mission to count steps and walk her way to health and happiness. Why? Because it takes an eternity to copy and paste and re-format Word documents into WordPress, that’s why. There must be an easier way!? And, at the moment, I’m up to my eyeballs cooking for an International Food Party and planning differentiated lessons. Just when I thought I’d finished with all that…
Dropbox? The result is not ideal, as you can see ( you have to click on ‘steps’ above which takes you to the piece) and so, when I get the time, I will copy, paste and re-format this post. Promise.
I liked Proust’s image of the past unfurling like paper flowers in water, and I’ve been trying to hunt some down online
Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to make the simple sort of unfolding flowers that I helped make once and we floated them in a large bowl of water at a Quaker wedding – very simple and lovely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maixIicT6ww
I went to the Kenny two weeks ago and since then it has experienced a serious fire. I wish it well and look forward to a swift resumption of its restaurant business which is one of Bristol’s finest.
The Kensington Arms
‘Why don’t you ALL come and stay with me in Bristol next time we meet up,’ I slurred drunkenly after a weekend away 6 months ago with 5 old friends in London. ‘Never been to Bristol? It’s AMAZING! We’ll have a GREAT time. Foodie heaven. We can walk to lots of really good places to eat! Lots going on. No place like it…’
And so I sealed my fate. 6 months later had arrived. And I didn’t have a clue what to do with them. Me and my big drunken mouth!
First on my list of things to do was book a restaurant for the Saturday night. ‘Foodie heaven’, I’d boasted. So many places to walk to. Suddenly all the perfectly pleasant places that I’d boasted about didn’t seem that celestial after all.
Then it came to me. The Kensington Arms.
I’ve always loved The Kensington Arms! Time to reacquaint myself with this gem of a gastropub nestling in the heart of residential Redland.
As we entered I knew that I’d chosen the right place. So far, so good. The atmosphere was busy, buzzy and relaxed. Stylishly lively.
As for the menu, it was sophisticated and accessible with two vegetarian starters and two vegetarian mains. In the unlikely event of nothing taking your fancy on this menu you could also have chosen from the bar menu.
The starters were presented beautifully and apart from a fulsome ‘delicious’ here and a ‘so good’ there, the silence that accompanies appreciative enjoyment reigned (at least at our table for a while) while we ate them.
Again, these were ‘so good’.
I went for the spring chicken (after having ascertained that pied-de-bleu is a type of cheese). It was, again, ‘delicious’ – a wholly inadequate description for what the dish tasted like. Suffice to say, it had a depth and richness that demanded that I savour every mouthful. And I did.
No space for pudding. But we agreed to look at the menu just to be polite.
Resistance was futile! We caved in within minutes…
My photos don’t do them justice. But believe me when I say that they looked beautiful and tasted divine (we each had a spoonful of one anothers).
It only seemed right to try the cheese too. I went for the ‘fourme d’Ambert’ , a French blue.
Creamy and tangy, it was a wonderful end to a great meal. Although, as I looked bleary-eyed at the end of the table, I was greedily jealous of Martin’s three cheese extravaganza.
At the end of the evening I was so pleased. So pleased that we had gone to the Kensington Arms and tasted a bit of foodie heaven. And so pleased that I’d chosen the Kenny to represent all the boasts I’d made for Bristol!
But, sometimes I find fulsome praise food reviews not altogether helpful. I mean, when would the Kensington Arms not be ideal? And what could it do to be even better?
Not suitable for: I once took a friend to the Kensington Arms for her birthday. I chose it because of the food. I didn’t even take into account the fact that she is hard of hearing. The Kensington Arms is ‘buzzy’, ‘lively’. Noisy. And so not ideal for those who prefer a quiet meal out. When I’m looking for a place to go I like to know how appropriate it will be for the occasion and the people with whom I’m going. I love the Kenny but it’s not perfect for everyone. If you’re planning on taking someone who prefers a quiet meal out then this might not be for you.
Could do better: the service was fine. But I’ve eaten out a lot recently and the friendliness of the waiting staff can make food that’s ok seem great, and render food that’s great a little bitter. For a place that does food as wonderful as the food at the Kenny it could up its service game a little and earn even greater plaudits. It deserves them.
No one could ever accuse me of dabbling in the fashionable world of Haute Couture. Not even myself. Basse, peut-être. Mais haute, jamais! But not one to ever wander too far from my moutons, sewing is never too far from my mind, even when I’m feeling a little off-colour.
Take yesterday afternoon, for example.
I was in the John Lewis fabric department when I started to feel a little faint. Never knowingly under-emotional, it immediately struck me that I might pass out, hit my head on a Janome display unit and get blue-lighted to the nearest hospital.
I had to act quickly. And so, within minutes, I had bought two metres of fabric from the Rowan and Amy Butler section.
Pale mustard spots on a deep mustard background. Probably what had caused me to feel whoozy in the first place.
At £14.40 a metre I wouldn’t usually spend that much, especially when I didn’t even have a pattern. But as I didn’t know how long I had left, I felt an instinctive drive to spend, spend, spend, in meaningless and vainglorious ways.
The power of the pointless purchase?
After this uncharacteristic splurge executed in record time, I found a seat outside and ate a cereal bar I’d had lying round in the depths of my lucky-dip of a cavernous bag. I then pulled out a bottle of water. What else was I going to find in there? Oh good. A packet of chewy sweets. Once consumed, also in record time, I waited for the life-threatening faintness to take hold.
It didn’t.Was this the power of the pointless purchase or was I just hungry…?
Either way I now have £28.80’s worth of fabric that’s waiting to be turned into something beautiful. By me. Oh dear. It might have a long wait…
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