Food, glorious food

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The Honey & Co food talks are my latest favourite podcast for listening on days when reading in the morning is just too much. Their interviews have covered Fuschia Dunlop on how she got to know Chinese cuisine, the regional delicacies she fell in love with and how Wi-chat revolutionised the research process, Olia Hercules on Ukraine’s eastern identity and summer houses, and several of the guests including Nazrin Rooghani on the relationship between identity and food.

If you’re still hungry after this, then head over to Castaway Buffet for what will become your new quiz with friends of what foods you can take to a desert island (and for the seriously hardcore, what five kitchen tools). Expect much laughter, firm views on the temperature of tea and Harry Potter fanfic.

From yellow packet adorned with an elephant

I began to play a game with myself…Picturing myself in a dacha surrounded by prickly gooseberry bushes, I’d mentally preserve and pickle the tastes and smells of my Soviet socialist past in an imaginary three-litre jar.

In went the Order of Lenin Red October chocolate bars with a mirthful kid on the wrapper. In went the scarlet-wrapped Bolshevik Factory Jubilee Biscuits, the one’s that dissolved so poignantly when dipped in tea from a yellow packet adorned with an elephant.

Anna von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cookery is a fascinating and increasingly melancholy look at the development of Soviet Russia through Anna’s family history and her and her mother’s food memories. Starting with a Czarist feast of blinis “as plump as the shoulders of a merchant’s daughter” (Chekhov) and running up till the vodka rebellions of Gorbachev’s final years and splintering of the USSR its a total page turner.

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I’d no idea that Stalin – in a brief moment of generosity – sent his food minister to 1930s America, with the result that the socialist dream in late 30s Moscow was for every child to have a hamburger, ketchup and Pepsi, and that Khrushchev’s obsession with corn was also a legacy of Prairie dreams. Nor that the Russian emigrees to 20s Paris created a new kind of French cuisine. This book came via a recommendation on The Captive Reader blog, so go and check that out for more goodies too.

Stucco

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The Music Room, Lancaster – a converted summer pavilion built in the 1730s and showing the muses, Apollo and various Roman emperors around the wall.

All photos from a visit, May 2018.

Adeline

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Adeline Patti was one of the most famous opera singers of the third quarter of the 19th century, and rather oddly ended up in the Brecon Beacons at the end of her life. I don’t know if this is because it was cheap, or if was a kind of displaced Romanticism / love of Walter Scott that had probably fed many of her starring roles in Donizetti, but it’s an intriguing thought. There’s no record of who painted this portrait of her.

Bow Common

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Every time I travel out east, usually en route to my godfather in the Isle of Dogs, this church intrigues me. I’ve never seen it open or got to go inside, but hopefully these photos (top one by @miloliren, second by @clau500) shows why.

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St Paul’s Bow Common, built 1958-1960

Interesting

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This dead end really brought me up sharp – it was like another Paris has been airdropped into the Rue Varenne: a bomb site maybe; the banlieus; the skyscrapers of La Defense… It could also be a piece of art by Rachel Whiteread, who specialises in installations about absence and space.

January 2018.