Monday, 27 May 2013

We've All Become Cowardy ( Lo-Fat ) Custards


 In the last two weeks I've had lunch in two different little cafés , both  charmingly decorated with vintage china and staffed by nice , apron-clad young women . And in both the clientele were mostly women of the Lean Ladies Who Lunch class . Delicious sandwich menus ...  artisan breads , grilled chicken , smoked salmon , Rocket , frilly salad leaves and chargrilled vegetables abounded ... but not the tiniest smear of butter  . Said Ladies Who Lunch obviously eschew visible fat .
 How we've all changed ! This cheese shop is , in fact , almost next door to Els's cosy little cafè with the assorted 1950s chairs and pretty collectibles here in Leeuwarden  .

 Men were entering in droves , women hanging back somewhat . I , meanwhile tried to drum up enthusiasm for the low-fat Kwark dip , one of my companions bought a small pot of olives and the other one , who can't eat cheese at all , evinced an interest in the decor . When did we all become so feeble ? !
 I remember my father's unvarying after-dinner routine of hacking huge chunks off a wheel of cheddar and handing them round to my mother ,  me and himself in turn till it was finished or we all turned green . Worries about cholesterol , like cellulite and love-handles , all lay in the future . Mind you , we cycled and walked miles most days so we all survived  .
Anyway , by chance the other day , I rediscovered my 1940s copy of Food Without Fuss

 written by Josephine Terry to help the middle-class housewife who suddenly found herself having to cope with rationing and no cook .  The recipes make grim reading but are certainly , like most war-time recipes , almost fat-free .
 Perhaps you'd like to try her Maryland Crusts ? So handy when you've a few leftover boiled Brussel sprouts : Arrange them on some slices of cold toast . Then make a cheese sauce with flour ,the sprout water and milk  and  " as much cheese as you can afford " . Boil up , stirring vigourously and season . Allow to get cold and pour over the prepared crusts  . Garnish with a few "carrot gratings" . Personally I'd rather invite myself to dinner at the Hendrearys in Borrowers Afloat " .

 "There were boiled chestnuts and a smoked minnow each for the men , " It sounds more filling !

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Winnie the Pooh ... Alias Vinnijs Puk

 Of all the things you'd expect to see in an exhibition of 1920s and '30s Russian children's book illustrations , Winnie the Pooh

isn't the first that springs to mind . But there he was , along with this more likely candidate .

For some reason 2013 is Netherlands-Russia year and  the Meermanno museum in Den Haag had a lovely collection to share . The museum is housed in a very fine town house , largely still as it was , including the more than 200 year old vibrantly coloured wallpaper in a couple of the rooms .This provided an unlikely backdrop to some of the books !

Post-Revolution children were to be nothing if not practical . The school books on display were determinedly technical .There was a great emphasis on perspective and metal work , production lines and combine harvesters . But among all the pictures of working mothers and legions of singing farm workers ,luckily there was room for balloons and circus ponies

Upstairs we wandered through the Library and the Drawing room

with cabinets full of ancient obscure religious tomes and  curios  , including a tiny Sumerian stone tablet , nearly four thousand years old , part of a miniature library of a thousand beautifully printed volumes . Reluctantly , we then braced ourselves and went out into the grey , cold outside . It really wasn't window-shopping weather but we did our best ,.

At one point , tired of being dripped on , we stood drinking a take-away coffee in a covered alley just off the main drag and were amused to see that it was , in fact , the back gate of the Palace , guarded by a parked tractor rather than sentries or a tank .  It seemed very democratic .
 In fact it was an interesting week all round , what with Spanish Masterchef ( Tuesday evenings on RTE es. ) and , of course , Eurovision , complete with spare ribs , popcorn and Y.D.  , plus all her friends at Whatsapp distance  . The general concensus seemed to be that we all must have a smoke machine , strobe lighting and a special trapdoor to make us tower above the crowd , when the neighbours drop in . I liked the French song but felt obliged to vote for the Greek entry ... there's something about men in kilts .
This week , on the other hand , promises to be rather long ,what with waiting in for Maintenance , waiting in for the carrier taking the last contents of Y.D's room , 14 years after she left home , and waiting in for the recycling shop's van , picking up the last (?) of our clutter .....and lots more cold rain .
( Sorry about the sideways photos ... this laptop is determined to put them up like that  )

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Vain Fashions Of The Day

Sonata: I survived a visit to the hairdressers today and now look less like a Yeti for which I am grateful ..... but not in the slightest vain , oh no !
Which is just as well . This afternoon , while hunting for some papers , I found an excerpt from Ministers and Men in The Far North by the Reverend Alexander Auld , which includes a brief history of one of my mother's forefathers , Donald Mackay . Donald , born in 1767 ,  was a crofter in Clashcreggan and an itinerant preacher , a man of resolute righteousness .
This passage caught my eye ,
"His antipathy to the varying and vain fashions of the day in dress and adornment was strong , and sometimes practically expressed . One of his daughters had begun to his grief to imitate a prevailing mode of dressing the hair . While she was sleeping one night , Donald stole softly to her bedside , and with a scissor mulcted her of a particularly offensive ringlet . The girl , on awaking and discovering her loss , was not a little indignant . Shortly afterwards , being seized with fever , her head had to be shaved . Donald standing by her after this had been done , lifted up his hands and said , "Glory to Thee ; I only took a little , but Thou hast taken the whole"
My many times great-aunt's reply is not recorded .