Archive for October, 2011

What’s at the back of your kitchen cupboards?

Posted in Culture, Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

(Source: Grauniad)

Photographer James Kendall was rooting through his wife’s 90-year-old grandmother’s larder when he discovered packaged foods dating back to the 1950s. Some canned items were covered in rust.

“She doesn’t really believe in sell-by dates,” explains Kendall. “She holds on to everything, and sees it all as eventually having a use. I think it comes from her living through the war, and being used to rationing.” Among the ageing items were dried onions, smoked cod liver, canned corn, a jar of tartare sauce, and a pack of KP nuts, complete with vintage logos.

Kendall was so excited by the hoard that he took it back to his studio to be photographed – and hopes to exhibit the resulting series at next year’s Brighton Photo Biennial.

“I still daren’t open them,” says Kendall. “They’ve been wrapped in cellophane over the summer, so they’ve had a bit of a baking. I’m not exactly sure what state they’re in now. Probably worse than ever.”

Observer Food Monthly awards 2011

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Well done to Niamh over on Eat Like a Girl for winning the Observer Food Monthly award for best food blog. My Blog of the Month (not for the first time).

Observer Food Monthly awards 2011 winners

Opera North’s Queen of Spades

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Neil Bartlett’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s great opera of gambling, of secrets, of love and death opens at Opera North today. Bartlett – making his operatic debut – picks his key moments from the production:

Tchaikovsky’s score for The Queen of Spades is an extraordinary thing. At once expansive, excessive and opulent, it’s also strangely interior; the real action of the opera takes place largely inside one man’s head. As heroes go, no-one is more solitary, more at odds with his world, than Herman. At key moments in the show, I’ve chosen to sweep all the glamour of the 19th century setting aside and present him with brutal simplicity.

The second act of the show opens with a grand masked ball – a scene that could easily drown the music in frocks and glitter. The task here was to connect the disconcerting theatricality of the masquerade with the deeper themes of obsession and fatality that run through the music.

A chorus is much more than just a group of people – they’re a team who can act as one, amplifying an emotion or gesture on stage to a scale that a solitary performer can never dream of achieving. Put the simplest action – knocking back a drink, in this case – in time with music as theatrical as Tchaikovsky’s – then amplified by the number of people you’ve got in the chorus, and the gesture can acquire an extraordinary kick. The simplest tricks are the best.

Book Burning

Posted in Books, Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

In my own experience, most people do not destroy books, but will pass unwanted books on to someone else and that to destroy a book is unthinkable.

Which leads me to the questions:

Why is destroying a book apparently taboo?
Has anyone here ever destroyed a book and why?

I read a newspaper article a while ago by someone whose name I’ve forgotten who works for a publisher. One of the jobs she had was to dispose of unwanted books and she described the qualms she had when they were being destroyed. I can’t quite remember but I think she said they burned them; you’d think they could recycle the paper.

I assume that the “taboo” goes back to times when books were more precious than they are now and the contents could be lost forever by destroying a few copies. Now that books are mostly easily available and well archived in libraries, worrying about destroying them, apart I suppose from symbolic acts like burning them in public, seems like sentimentality. Having said that, it does seem wasteful to destroy a book when someone else might be able to get something out of it. I’ve only disposed of mine by giving them away. I wonder what charity shops do with their excess books?

Of course, millions of books are destroyed every day which are unsold copies. I believe they end up in all sorts of processes, including motorway surfacing, believe it or not.

I do think it’s wrong to destroy out-of-print or rare books, and especially to withdraw them from public libraries where they might be the only accessible copy for the public in a certain area.

I used to visit an excellent public library where they had lots of rare books, particularly out-of-print full scores, such as the original edition of Petrushka and Walton’s Viola Concerto. I went back there a few years ago and all the music library had been cleared away to make space for internet terminals for teenagers to play with.

Potato and cauliflower curry

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Serve this simple and quick curry alongside a little chutney and some steamed basmati rice.

a tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced
2 green chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
1 bunch of coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
a tsp coriander seeds
a tsp fennel seeds
a tsp mustard seeds
6 cardamom pods, roasted and ground
2 medium-sized waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into generous-sized chunks
1 thumb of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a tbsp fish sauce (you can use a light soya sauce if you prefer)
a tbsp tamarind paste
a tbsp palm sugar
1kg ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tin coconut milk
1 head of cauliflower, broken into 1-inch florets

Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat on top of the stove and add the oil.

Once the oil is warm, add the onion, chilli, coriander and crushed spices. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the potatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, fish sauce, tamarind and palm sugar.

Stir once or twice, allowing the palm sugar to dissolve as you do so. Then add the chopped tomatoes and coconut milk and cook for 20 minutes, by which time the potatoes should be tender but not falling apart.

Add the cauliflower and cook for a final 5-10 minutes – I like the cauliflower when it still has a little crunch.

Brown Bread: Bert Jansch

Posted in Music, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Bert Jansch, a leading figure in the British folk revival of the 60s and one of the most respected musicians of his generation, has died of cancer aged 67.

A founding member of Pentangle, Jansch was also renowned as a guitar virtuoso and was sometimes hailed as a British Bob Dylan. Born in Glasgow on 3 November 1943, he released 23 solo albums, the last of which, The Black Swan (2006), featured collaborations with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart.

Jansch was the recipient of two lifetime achievement prizes at the BBC Folk awards – one for his solo achievements in 2001 and the other, in 2007, as a member of Pentangle. The band reformed in 2008.

In June 2009, he discovered he had a golf ball-size tumour on one of his lungs following what was at first a routine visit to the dentist. Following treatment, he went on to co-headline a US tour with Neil Young. Jansch had recently been forced to cancel a live show in Edinburgh due to ill health and was living in a hospice in north London at the time of his death.

Those he influenced included Jimmy Page, Nick Drake, Graham Coxon, Donovan, Bernard Butler and Paul Simon. According to fellow guitarist Johnny Marr: “He completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today … without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the 60s and 70s would have been very different.”

Jansch told the Grauniad newspaper last year: “I’m not one for showing off. But I guess my guitar-playing sticks out.”

R.I.P. Bert Jansch 1943-2011

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