The food of both depends on memory

“Jewish food and black food crisscross each other through history. They are both cuisines where homeland and exile interplay. Ideas and emotions are ingredients – satire, irony, longing, resistance – and you have to eat that food to extract the memories. The food of both diasporas depends on memory….I love that almost the entirety of the Jewish population will sit down for a Seder and discuss and debate the ancient lessons of slavery versus freedom while using an edible Torah to process these lessons in their body – through all the sense available to the eater.

Passover is, thus, my favourite meal. Why not? I am the descendant of enslaved people. I take it personally.”

Michael Twitty, writing in his examination of black Southern cooking, genetic and cultural identities and the enslaved history through food, The Cooking Gene. Here he reflects on how food can be more than just an experience of appetite.

Joan Miro Fondacion

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Faced with one last day in Barcelona, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend it inside an art gallery.

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It felt like what I’d do in London and therefore maybe a waste of time in Barcelona where I was meant to be doing something different.

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But in the end, the fact that tickets for the Sagrada Família were sold out freed up the time and a trip to Montjuic meant I could follow up on the numerous recommendations to take in the Joan Miro Fondacion.

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I’d never been a huge Miro fan, but seeing his works in the flesh was a revelation.

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The variety, the fact that he changed tack from painting to textiles to sculpture and back again, constantly innovating was impressive, and the works themselves are housed in a fittingly distinctive building.

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The fondacion also has temporary exhibitions and when I was there it was one on Lee Miller and Surrealism, a pleasant reminder of my Farley Farm visit years ago.

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All photos Nov 2018.

Walking Barcelona

 

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The part of Barcelona we were staying in was full of quirky details – carved gargoyles, tiled walls, flower shops.

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Nearby in the Gothic quarter were chocolate shops, churros and frites takeaway stops and pen shops tucked down little side alleys.

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Hat shops next to saints’ plaques.

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And of course La Boqueria.

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And far away in Montjuic, the grand exhibition halls and galleries were backed by a hillside of parks.

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Definitely a city made for wandering. All photos November 2018.

La Catedral

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Everyone talks about the Sagrada Família, and for some reason I’d assumed before going that that would be Barcelona’s cathedral, but of course as the royal capital of Catalonia it has its own genuine Gothic cathedral,

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warm and golden inside, pillars splaying out across the ceilings from a central point like ropes in a circus tent,

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side chapels with stone steps and shelves for placing candles on,

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steps carved into walls, dynastic tombs and a giant organ on one side of the nave

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Most amazing of all was the carved wooden choir, so like the carvings in German cathedrals of the same era and entered through a very stern neo-classical version of Christ’s house at Bethlehem.

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Finally, the exit took you out to the old cloisters where palm trees and a pool with noisy geese greeted you before you rejoined the city.

All photos November 2018.

Cakes and cool things

So it turns out that as well as a long and few fraught history, a strong food scene and beautiful scenery Charleston also has quite a few good shops.

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Yes, big preppy chains (J Crew, Williams Sonoma) are there; yes, there a lot of one off art shops offering scented oils, pottery and paintings of sea scenes and oyster shells.

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But there’s also a bookshop and bow-tie store, there’s many, many antiques shops, and there’s a string of bakeries and stationery shops on Cannon Street.

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And food, obviously. All hail Hominy Grill and the Savannah Bee Company.

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Bright spots

For anyone who is legit getting back-to-work, end-of-summer blues, here are some bright spots.

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photo by @janebrocket;

a delightful article about a 96 year old millionaire who kept working as a secretary into her 90s and left her fortune to educational funds (aka something that will redeem your faith in humanity after the first commute this week);

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a beautiful photograph of tattoo apprentice @nxkxitattoo to accompany the news that there are now more women than men with tattoos in the US and that all-women tattoo parlours with a different vibe are opening up as a result;

this then reminded me of the Whiskey Sharp series by Lauren Dane, the first of which features a rock-drummer, talkative heroine who works in a hipster barber’s that doubles as a bar. The second is apparently about her cop-turned-tattooist sister;

and both would be really perfect for this draped-on-the-bed-with-pizza vibe from @aljahorvatco

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Maria Reiche

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If Google’s user customisation means that their search engine banners are becoming a permanent rotation of amazing women, then I’m fine with that. Maria Reiche was a mathematician and archaeologist, who seems have to have been the same kind of enterprising character as Dorothy Carrington a few days ago.

Granite Island

We envied the Cesari. They had leisure, and we had not had any for several years. The farm work seldom needed more than two of the brothers at any one time; the sisters got through the household chores in a couple of hours of the day. In the long intervals between work Francois shot hare in the maquis that Antoinette cooked in a pot on the open fire with olive oil and whole cloves of garlic; Antoine and Jean-Baptiste repainted the living-room, experimenting with pale Etruscan red framing several shades of blue and grey; Marie embroidered sheets with intricate patterns of roses; Pierette studied a book of the geography of the world….there were hours too when no-one did anything…

In London I had not taken the true measure of our deprivations. I had not understood how far  my daily load of anxiety was a craving for the things every peasant know: space, silence and food that was not stale.

Dorothy Carrington first went to Corsica in 1948, and large sections of the book are infused with a postwar melancholy about the effects of civilisation and the need to retreat to a rough landscape and older society.

But there’s also a much more contemporary zest, akin to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s writings, of discovering beautiful vistas and a motley crew of companions, albeit in Dorothy’s case more archaeologists and shepherds than Leigh Fermor’s east European aristocracy and Consuls.

The simmering pot was taken off the fire; it contained a mutton stew, thick with vegetables. But first we had plates of smoked ham and several varieties of smoked sausage, and tomatoes and raw onions swimming in the local unrefined olive oil which gave to all this food a provocative musky flavour; and afterwards came a homemade cheese made of ewes’ milk, oddly tasting for nuts, and finally small, very sweet melons.

If the book had stayed with this it would have been nice enough – I am enthusiastically reading myself into the holiday I’m currently dreaming of – but what makes it really special is that quite soon, Carrington turns the book into a serious and detailed history of Corsican society, from the mountain peaks to the fishermen, from the vendetta, the folk singers, the people cursed to predict and bring death to those they know and the soothsayers, from the revolutionaries who attempted a parliamentary democracy in the 1730s to the prehistoric statues and spirit huts near the capital Ajaccio.

This was completely fascinating – Carrington’s love for Corsica comes through, and she must have carried out huge amounts of research, from Greek texts to political treatises, but wears it lightly. Most praiseworthy of all, she definitely lives up to that other heroine, Gertrude Bell, in her willingness to scale a mountain in pursuit of an archaeological quarry.