Sunday, December 21, 2014

Food Reviewed: The Gardener's Cottage

I have let my Food Reviewed tag totally lapse and I regret my laziness. I have eaten out A LOT this year but when asked recently about my favourite dish I blanked. Really, I regret my poor memory and recall - if there was less of an active need for me to record my experiences there might be less of a sense of disappointment when I failed to do so. It is a strain to remember much beyond a week and although, if asked, I could probably tell you exactly what I ordered at the Modern Pantry that time I would struggle to spontaneously name it as a restaurant I ate at in 2014. Food is the greatest and it is probably my greatest luxury expenditure (I know that food is a right and a necessity, I am talking about restaurants and fancy baked goods here) and, as such, it is sad that I don't have a better record of food eaten and enjoyed. I have a book book and a Lovefilm watch list (2014 highlights to come) but I don't have an equivalent for food. I am going to try and remedy this in 2015. Starting now. Best foot forward and all that.

R and I recently spent a long weekend in Edinburgh and it was bliss. Edinburgh is a wonderful city in its own right but it is also a place where I have only ever been happy and that is a rare luxury. That sounds melodramatic, I suppose, but it is true. Home is home and I am very fond of Bristol and there are things I love about London but real life leaves scars. Home is where I cried snotty tears of adolescent heartbreak, Bristol is where I endured my own inadequacies and panicked about deadlines and grade boundaries and read books that I hated, London is where nobody paid or valued me and I couldn't afford anything and I learnt that my real life, post-recession career would not be what I had grown up to expect. Besides, London is not a city that can be loved in its entirety. Not by me. It is too big and expensive and crowded and impersonal. London is a city to be loved in villages and corners, food and art exhibitions, if it is to be loved at all. I have never studied or worked or lived in Edinburgh but I have spent enough time there to know it a little. I can objectively and subjectively say that it is lovely and we stayed, on this latest visit, in a really beautiful Airbnb.

We re-visited my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh and probably one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, The Gardener's Cottage. Double thumbs up for location. The name of the restaurant isn't ironic or designed to capture a mood - this is a Victorian gardener's cottage. A tiny bungalow in a city park into which they have managed to cram two rooms of seating and a tiny kitchen. We sat at a shared table and I was practically in my neighbour's lap. Sometimes I get cross about London's over-enthusiasm for shoving too many people into too little space but I was on holiday and I felt generous towards the world. Our neighbours were definitely not having as much fun as us but it couldn't have been the menu and although we were happy we weren't rowdy or disruptive. I got the impression they didn't know each other very well and were struggling to make conversation. They didn't linger despite ordering the full set menu. We managed to draw lunch out over about three and a half lovely hours. I think that, quite quickly, the staff realised that we were in no hurry and de-prioritised us which suited us fine. Courses came at a leisurely pace and we cuddled our red wine. To say that time is a luxury is a modern cliché but it is hard to beat a very long lunch when you have good company and nowhere particular to be.

The food at the Gardener's Cottage is local and seasonal without being aggressively trendy or sacrificing taste or elegance. There is a lot of beautiful food being grown and reared in Scotland and the Gardener's Cottage endeavours to make the most of those resources in thoughtful and delicious ways. My meal was everything you could want on a crisp December day - it was warm and rich and wintery without being overwhelming. It was a testament to why eating seasonally can be such a pleasure as well as a good deed, because what grows in any given season suits that season. Obviously there could be a thousand caveats to that statement but I don't want strawberries and salad in midwinter, I want root vegetables and bitter greens. I want foods that relish being cooked long and slow so the heat of the hob or the oven seeps out of the kitchen.

My love of sweet, carby squashes and the skill of the chefs trumped my general dislike of pumpkin and I ate it twice in one meal and it was delicious on both plates and totally different. I had pumpkin and gingerbread agnolotti (indistinguishable, as far as I can see, from ravioli but excellent nonetheless) which was creamy and spiced and sweet but not overly so. The crumbled gingerbread was crunchy and the sauce was satiny and I nobly resisted licking the plate because, whatever my mother may say, I do occasionally heed dining propriety. Mallard followed, accompanied by a plethora of roasted carrots and beetroots and potatoes, and, I think, roasted hazelnuts. Goddamn, roasted hazelnuts are a fine addition to a savoury dish. They are a fine addition to a sweet dish too. I would never pick hazelnuts as my favourite nut (a very highly contested field - the salted almond and pistachio duke it out for top snack nut, I love a cashew and I eat large quantities of peanut butter daily) but they really do enliven and perfect other foods. Also, beetroots. I came late to beetroots because a cold, boiled, vinegary beetroot is a disgusting thing but roast them until their earthy sweetness comes to the fore and they are all depth and gorgeous fuchsia joy. I have yet to cook one myself without ending up looking like a blood crazed murderer and ruining whatever I'm wearing but one day...

Pudding was smoked pumpkin cake with sea buckthorn ice cream and, I think, yoghurt cream. I don't remember much about the cake beyond a wave of pleasure and an enjoyable stickiness. It was warm and light and not disappointing in the way that cake sometimes can be. I baked many many cakes as a child and I love cake but I am only interested in it very fresh and still echoing the heat of the oven. By the time a cake has achieved room temperature I have generally lost interest. I very rarely order cake when I am out and about because slightly stale cake is both horribly common and horribly horrible. I can't guarantee that my pumpkin cake was fresh from the oven or just judiciously reheated but, if the latter, it was well done. The sea buckthorn ice cream remains the most vivid element. It was delicate and surprisingly citric. I want to say there was a slight salinity to it but I might be misremembering, romanticising, imagining windswept sea paths. It was certainly a lovely foil to the sweetness of the cake.

We swirled the last of the wine around our glasses and decided, sensibly, that we were too full for cheese or coffee. I don't really understand coffee at the end of a meal. It buys you more time but it wipes out everything you ate before it and shatters the delightfully soporific effects of a warm room and an excess of food. I suppose if you have strenuous activities to return to that might be desirable but I try and avoid such unpleasantness. Besides, the Gardener's Cottage needed us to leave - we had outstayed our welcome, there was a dinner shift to prepare. I can accept that, they did right by us food and service-wise and I am fond and grateful.

It was already dark by the time we left the restaurant. Not quite night time but well past dusk. The air was sharp and it wormed past the best intentioned scarves and gloves and socks, biting at bone; ankles, wrists, clavicles. I don't like being cold, I like to be hot all the time, wrapped in thick duvets or Sicilian sun, but there is something so particular and renewing about the contrast. That moment where you step out and everything is fresh and shocking, before you register the discomfort. It is tempting to write that you feel reborn but I don't think it is quite what I mean, it just sounds good, it is an echo of someone else's elegant sentiment. I do not wish to be insincere. Anne Carson write so perfectly about cold winds and I just want to say that it is nice to be on holiday and walking out of a lovely restaurant where you gorged yourself on lovely food and into a Scottish winter night. Oh well, any opportunity to link to The Glass Essay.

Edinburgh, as ever, was a pleasure; the Gardener's Cottage was a pleasure. We ate well. I'm not sure if I ate my favourite dish of 2014 over the course of that Friday lunch but it was certainly one of my favourite meals. And it is here on my blog and now I can't forget it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Haircuts, K-Stew, Girlgangs

About a fortnight ago I had a fairly drastic haircut. It might have been three weeks ago - I'm not very good at keeping up with time passing. This ties in pretty neatly to why I'm not very good at haircuts. I think it has been a year since my last haircut. It might have been ten months, I'm not sure and I don't really care. It has certainly been long enough that whatever discipline that last hairdresser tried to impose on my hair has long since disappeared. I let my hair do its own thing for the most part - I wash it, I tie it up, I forget about it.



For me, the amount of time and effort I put into any given part of my body/appearance/self presentation is pretty much directly inversely proportional to the  'goodness' of that thing. Obviously that's super freighted and societal pressures and all of you is perfect just the way it is... blah blah. But, subjectivity aside, my skin is BAD so I put a lot of my energy and vanity budget into skincare and makeup. My makeup routine is pretty settled at the moment, I've come to a happy place with an affordable primer, foundation and concealer that I'm basically content with, but my skincare is in fairly regular flux. I find reading and watching videos about skincare legit fascinating and I always want to try new things in the (mostly) specious hope that this will be the product that changes everything - the holy grail of skin. My hair though, my hair is objectively GOOD. It is thick and soft and it grows fast. It isn't prone to split ends or noticeable damage (although this might be because I rarely tamper with it) and it is healthy and shiny (although not shiny like famous people and beauty spreads). My hair is nice and so... I totally disregard it. I use cheap shampoo, I never heat treat it, I rarely even brush it. I run some hair oil through it when it's wet but otherwise I just tie it up and keep it out of my face. Why waste effort on something that is fundamentally satisfactory? This possibly says alarming things about my thought processes and self esteem but bigger fish, ya know.



That isn't to say I don't mess around with my hair. I had a fringe for a long time and then I spent a long time growing it out. I first dyed my hair pink when I was thirteen and it has rarely seen its natural colour since then. I dyed it dark once, in an attempt to look like Kristen Stewart, but it washed me out. I henna-ed it a powerful orange for a long time, channeling Karen Elson and Florence Welsh and every red head I've ever loved (and there is no doubt that red is the greatest colour), and then spent a long time growing that out. The process of growing these things out, the ginger ombré, was undignified but I didn't really care. It was still basically good hair. I wish it was curly. I wish it held a 'do', the three times a year I actually try to style it, but whatever.



I had been considering cutting it short approximately forever. Why not? I procrastinated because I didn't think it would suit my blob face and I enjoy the convenience of a bun and it might puff out into an awkward triangle without the weight of x feet of hair. Also, I'm very wary of hairdressers and their repeated, apparently irresistible, urge to cut me a mullet. Historically I have asked for everything but a mullet and that is the only haircut I have ever received. Variations on a mullet, sure, a floppy 90s boyband mullet, a kind of fashion punk mullet, 'The Rachel' mullet, but a mullet nonetheless. All bad. It is no wonder I tie my hair up so much. There has been a lot of unwanted feathering. Still, I was sick of the sameness and I wanted a change, however badly it might go.



It's not really that short. I had about a foot hacked off and it is still only about collarbone length. What I really fancied was the full K-Stew but I wasn't bold enough. Baby steps for the lethargic. I was in love with Kristen's old hair, I am in love with Kristen's new hair. Much like Mallory, I am basically in love with Kristen. She is the greatest. I love her beautiful sullen face, I love her dirty tomboy style. I think she is fabulous. I tried to explain my love to a non-believer the other day and couldn't convince them that angry, angular and androgynous are the dream adjectives for a young woman. They were WRONG obviously. K-Stew's style is in a particularly glorious place at the moment. Because I am a stalker I have recently started following kristenstewartfashionstyle on Tumblr and it is the best decision I have ever made. Possibly, it is the best website on the internet. Look at her rugged, lesbian, hipster chic! The hair, the beat up trainers, the ripped jeans, the many perfect jumpers. She is the scruffy indie rock god every teenage girl lusts after. And she has many similarly cool lady friends. I WANT TO BE IN THEIR GANG/BAND/WHATEVER. They are all delightful. My new hair, nice as it is, will not do the trick. One day I am going to accept that nothing I can do with my hair will turn me into Kristen Stewart but that day is not today. Nor is it likely to be a day anytime soon...



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tonight and Every Night

As an internet dweller and person-who cares-about-stuff it seems impossible to read/write about anything other than Ferguson right now. I can't sit here and browse or write about soup or fashion editorials. But it is also impossible for me to write about Ferguson. Everything about the situation is impossible. As a white British woman there is nothing I can usefully add to a conversation about the experiences of black American men facing police brutality but I can't be silent. I don't write much here about current events or international politics but my corner of the internet has been subsumed by Ferguson and everything it represents in terms of unarmed black children being murdered by the state that should be protecting them and I can't ignore that. At the very least I feel obliged to bear witness and link to those better equipped to speak.
“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway.
“What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.” 
— To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Talk: Bijan Stephens
Different Rules Apply: Matt Zoller Seitz

The Case for Reparations: Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Racism Beat: Cord Jefferson

Is This Working?: This American Life

The Parable of the Unjust Judge or: Fear of a Nigger Nation: Ezekiel Kweku
Words: Roxane Gay

Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?: Jaeah Lee

#Michael Brown #Tamir Rice #Trayvon Martin #Jordan Davis #Renisha McBride #Roshad McIntosh #Laquan Macdonald #Carey Smith-Viramontes #Qusean Whitten #Dillon McGee #Diana Showman #Akai Gurley #Kimani Gray #Kendrec McDade #Amadou Diallo and on and on...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Summertime Gladness

Once upon a time, seemingly aeons ago, it was summer and it was happy and it was beautiful. On one particularly golden morning and/or afternoon (I can't remember, it doesn't matter), R, mulp and I went to Great Dixter and it was glorious. Clearly I am prematurely turning into my parents whereby an afternoon spent visiting a garden rates as a good time but what can you do? You like what you like and I frickin' love Christopher Lloyd. The original garden design was Lutyens but the insanely luscious, almost chaotic but carefully considered planting scheme is pure Lloyd, now maintained by Fergus Garrett. Flowers upon flowers upon flowers. The long borders and the wild flower meadow. So much colour and texture and barely contained botanical exuberance. It is everything I would want an English garden and my one-day dream garden to be.

I smile every time I see this Venetia Scott Vogue editorial that was shot at Dixter so I thought I would share it here to remind us all that summer happened and it will probably happen again. I think I am going to try and establish an annual pilgrimage to Dixter.




Dream a Little Dream
Vogue UK October 2013
Photgraphy: Venetia Scott
Stylist: Bay Garnett
Hair: Tomo Jidai, Make-up: Sharon Dowsett 
Model: Georgia May Jagger

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Friday Sound: Le Déluge

There is a lot of music around at the moment. I mean, sure, there is always a lot of music around. We live in an age of CONTENT. I always find the YouTube statistics particularly shocking - 100 hours of uploaded to YouTube every minute. That's insane. This might just be because they are more widely publicised and monopolistic than other sectors. I'm sure if Soundcloud/Bootcamp announced how many minutes of music were uploaded per hour or there was some book/news/web writing conglomerate that could give any meaningful estimation of how many words were published every day it would be just as overwhelming, if not more. There is a lot of stuff out there and it is easy to freak out about missing something important and just climb under your duvet and re-read your favourite book from childhood while eating chocolate biscuits and listening to an album from 2007 in an attempt to distance yourself from the horrifying imbalance and existential knowledge that you will never be able to keep up, that you are just a minuscule dot in an ever increasing flood of human culture, and that you will one day die still basically ignorant and alone. YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE. DON'T JUDGE ME.

That said/panicked, it does feel like there is a lot of music worth listening to right now and that is probably a good thing. Some of these are legitimately new (as in, the last month, obv this is not the home of the hot take), some of them are older and that's ok. All in your own time. Some of these are from albums but I'm only featuring a single track because albums can be overwhelming. Everything can be overwhelming. I'm clearly feeling overwhelmed at the moment. Here is some music to take my mind off things...

Love Again - Run the Jewels. Heads up, this is RUDE and maybe offensive? It certainly starts out pretty gross but Gangsta Boo brings some great balance in the later verses. And the lyrics are sharp and the production is great and the underlying beat is addictive. I have had this stuck in my head for ages and it is just so inappropriate to even hum at the office.



Twengerbibbytwo - Aphex Swift. Unlike most of the internet I am not a Taylor Superfan. I know, it's controversial, but I cannot wholeheartedly embrace that level of pop/country. It is not where my heart lies nor will it ever be. However. I do have a huge amount of respect for her as a business woman and a craftsman (some weird gendering going on there - business man and craftswoman both sound wrong and business person + craftsperson sound hokie. Language is hard. Businesser and crafter?). I think she makes basically perfect pop songs and, sweet jebus, they are catchy and persistent. Once a Tswizz song has got inside your brain it will not let go, to the point of mild hysteria. I love how reactive and engaged she seems. Her creation of herself as the biggest selling artist of the decade seems super conscious and I admire that even when it kind of creeps me out. She puts in the work and she lets you see (some of) that and that's awesome. I love a hard worker. Anyway, the Taylor I most enjoy is creeper-Taylor, murder-you-in-your-sleep Taylor, if-you-hurt-me-or-my-best-friend-I-will-end-you Taylor, who seems to be a predominantly internet creation but who, I like to think, is based in something real. The Aphex Swift mashup album by David Rees really draws out the creepiness and it's great. Taylor's voice modification is pushed and stretched and cut every which way and it is weird and hilarious. It's. Tiiiiime.



Younger - Seinabo Sey. I managed to listen to a lot or, at least, many repetitions of Seinabo Sey before I saw what she looked like and obviously it doesn't matter what a musician looks like but also she is gorgeous and unexpected and adorable. I like her face. Music crush blown out into full blown girl crush. The video for Pistols at Dawn just came out but I can't resist the folksy hipster charm of the Younger video and it is catchy as hell. Mostly this post is just going to be about amazingly catchy songs. Her voice and register will blow your mind. I can't wait for whenever her album comes out.



Lady fronted girl pop. No, I can't love bubblegum pop but I do love me some less commercial/less tween oriented pop. Whispy girl pop, spacey Scandinavians, 60s girl bands, Fleetwood Rock blues-rock-pop (what genre is Fleetwood Mac?? All music should probably just be that genre). And there are loads of great girls/girl-led bands around at the moment. I haven't had a chance to really get involved with Haerts debut album but I'm very excited that it is here. I think they make pretty perfect pop. 27 Club is trying very hard to be Lana Del Rey but I'm enjoying Ultraviolence/todestrieb/murder-teen era LDR and the lyrics are fun and silly and it is hella catchy (again). I don't have a bunch to say about Vérité but Heartbeat is also catchy and girly and great. All the girls.







To Do List:
  • Gay Dog Food - Mykki Blanco. Mykki's new mixtape is out and I've downloaded it but I haven't had much of a chance to get into it. I love her and I'm psyched for the new release but it is quite... abrasive... and it's going to take some work. I have faith though.
  • Broke with Expensive Taste - Azaelia Banks. Well, I will be goddamned. I genuinely didn't think this album was ever going to be released and now here it is. Only three or four years late? And AB's sound has changed a lot in the lead up time. I've heard a couple of tracks and liked them but I can't imagine how 212 is going to sit next to Heavy Metal and Reflective. Her new sound is pretty aggressive (I mean, it's always been lyrically aggressive but sonically) but HM&R really grew on me so I presume I'll enjoy the album at large.
That's quite a lot of things but if there are other new/not new musicz that I might/probably have missed then do let me know. Only in manageable chunks though, please.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ramblings: Songbirds and Cashmere

If wishes were thrushes, beggars would eat birds.

Right.

But… Ok? Hang on. No. I understand that if wishes were thrushes beggars would have a lot of thrushes but I can't imagine it is a lack of thrushes that is keeping them from eating birds. They probably lack proper bird processing and cooking facilities and an excess of thrushes isn't going to change that. If anything, it will probably exacerbate the problem.

Thrushes, songbirds generally, were a delicacy once (maybe they still are somewhere) but I imagine it takes time, attention and careful handling to derive much nutrition or pleasure from a thrush. They are not very big birds. They would be very fiddly to eat on the bone and I can't imagine there is much of them left off the bone. They must have been cooked on the bone (whole?) in those fancy pies. That would be a lot of tiny bird bones amidst your pastry, just waiting to spike you viciously in the gums or stick in your throat. Perhaps you ate the bones like those terrifying Filipino fetal eggs. You do you but even the thought of balut makes me feel a little queasy. Raw-ish egg and crunchy skull and tiny, sharp, choking bones and quills... That is a lot of texture right there. That is more texture than I can cope with. I love food; I love exploring food and new cultures and histories through food; I wish I could be one of those travelers who will excitedly try anything that is put in front of them but I don't think I could eat the most authentic balut in the world. I am too much of a coward. Or I am too repelled. I read or watched or heard an interesting talk about disgust once; about how (from my garbled memory) disgust, social or physical, is, at its most basic, a biological response designed to protect us. Humans are almost universally disgusted, across cultures, by the faeces of carnivores and incest because these things will cause us harm, they will poison us and damage our progeny. You are repulsed by rotten food because it can make you sick. That seems to give a lot of autonomy to the physical body but if you can flinch away from pain then I guess why not? QUASI-SCIENCE, Get It Here. I question how much you can expand on disgust-as-biology because so much of disgust is clearly cultural and because I am deeply wary of 'status quo disguised as evolutionary biology'. [Men's rights activists have really, horribly undermined the possibly sometimes legitimate field of evolutionary biology. OBVIOUSLY I am not a creationist but I nearly punched my computer that time I read that women like pink because they are used to searching for berries and men like blue because they had to watch the skies when they were on a hunt. Oh sure, just blithely ignore like 1200 years of Western history when pinks and reds were viewed as masculine colours and blue was for girls and Madonnas.] Raw eggs can give you salmonella but I don't think that is the heart of my discomfort and clearly it hasn't swayed balut eaters. I don't enjoy handling raw meat but people love steak tartare and Scandinavians like to bury food and eat it putrefied (#NotAllScandinavians). The world is a weird place and people have strange tastes and I should embrace that more but I struggle but I should try. But but.

I think they should have made thrush pies on the Great British Bake Off. I would swear blind that I saw pictures once of thrush pies that looked a little like crowns and they were rather beautiful. Can I find any photos? No. But, theoretically, they would be complicated, obscure and deeply British, i.e. perfect GBBO fodder. I mean, there would have been uproar but whatever.

Also.

I just realised that feathers are super pimped out hairs. Or rather, they are both integumentary systems. Bizarre. I quite fancy the idea of feather eyebrows but it also seems painful. Do birds get in-grown feathers? Asking the important questions.

If wishes were thrushes, beggars would eat birds. If wishes were scarves, I would be snuggled in cashmere? Certainly, if money was no object, I would be wrapped up in a Begg & Co. scarf. Their Arran cashmere scarves look lush. £240 might be a perfectly reasonable price for goats raised and wool spun and knitted in Scotland, I don't know, but it is sadly out of my price range. [N.B. The scarves are definitely made in Ayr but I can't see the source of their wool on the website and this post is quite long enough without going on another research binge.] Either way, they look lovely and local(ish) and I fancy one. I love their colour palette and apparent ethos. I would wear the hell out of that slate grey number. All I really want from my clothing is for it to be soft and warm - all cashmere everything. A cashmere cocoon. A cashmere sleeping bag perhaps? That would be the (possibly slightly sweaty) dream...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

These Are a Few of my Favourite Thing

I can't imagine why something like the Longform app didn't exist sooner. Maybe it did and I just missed it. I can admit that happens often. The app, which has a clean, mostly straightforward layout, allows you to follow your favourite publications and bookmark any interesting essays/longform articles to read offline. This is obviously great and the in-app reading experience is neat and free of distractions (there are a couple of issues with stuff like pull quotes and repetitions but I'm sure these will be ironed out). 

More excitingly though it allows you to follow writers directly. This may not sound like a grand innovation but I love it. Most writers write across more publications than I could read and although I follow lots of writers on Twitter I am too inactive and Twitter moves too fast for me to be able to catch everything. I follow some writers on Tumblr too which is great but, again, it's so easy to miss things in endless streams. In the app I have my own queue and I get notifications when the people I like write great longform things anywhere online! Revolutionary! I can then bookmark everything I want to read and have it in one handy place, safe from the abyss. Apparently I can't write about apps without sounding like an old. What can you do? One day I shall turn into my beloved Luddite father and eschew all machines. They have the devil inside of them...

In a fit of excitement upon downloading the app I brain-vomited up about 20 writers that I wanted to follow and I have added a handful more in the last fortnight. They are a solid 90% women and there is only one white man amongst them. John Jeremiah Sullivan gets a free pass because he has written some of my favourite essays, I mean, not a free pass to be awful but a free pass to be white and male. (Actually, I've just added David Grann. I'm sure there are others but I think 3% of my list is basically appropriate.) My list isn't conclusive and I'm sure there are some obvious people I have forgotten so let me know who I might be missing. You can also follow me on there since there is a 'recommend' function which I am enthusiastically using on anything particularly great. I am, as on Twitter (which I am trying to engage with more at the moment although it does not come easy to me), @cmiscellany. You can't come say hi on there or anything (I don't think?) but let me know if you're enjoying the app and recommending good things and I will find you.


New Ways to Consume Content. *barf*. Still, 2/3 of my favourite things. I can't be arsed to trawl back through my email to work out when I started getting into newsletters in a big way but I can tell you that Rusty was my gateway drug. The Tabs summer holiday/sabbatical/empty hole in my life was a hard time. Tinybitchtapes is the best and Ann Friedman does a great weekly roundup of her work and generally internet bizness. Real humans direct into your heart (inbox). Those are (relatively) old favourites but I recently signed up to a new baby newsletter that is bring me much joy. Heads up, it's not about new babies, phew - it is just a morsel of delightfulness and I have been receiving it for about three weeks. Laura Olin's Everything Changes near weekdaily email has made me smile every time I've opened it. Impressively random, no more than two minutes, a tiny flash of happiness. Dolly Parton facts (goddess - informative), the secret lives of emoji (weird - insightful), context-free animal gifs (obv). Awesome. I would highly recommend it. Do you have any favourite newsletters?


Transparent is so great. I had read many things saying it was great but I was and am still surprised at it's greatness. Amazon made this thing. Well, Jill Soloway and co. made it but on Amazon's buck. Wonders will never cease. I'm only about half way through and maybe (unlikely but not impossible) it will take a horrible downturn or have a very disappointing ending but that seems unlikely and, even if it is true, a half series of wonderfulness is a wonderful thing.

I did not particularly care for Afternoon Delight although I thought all the female actors were very strong. I feel like, with this kind of indie film, you maybe don't have enough space in 90-110 minutes to develop the likeable parts of a character that allow you to engage with the bog standard human awfulnesses. Of course, likeability is beside the point but I don't know if a film gives me enough to hold onto with more complicated characters? I'm not sure totally what I mean by that or even if I agree... A book (or perhaps a tv show?) character has 300 pages and a week or a month to engage you so they can be difficult and horrible because you get more, the character is unrestricted, but a film traps you in the mire... I don't know. Afternoon Delight made me feel miserable and Transparent makes me feel joyous even though everyone in it has their own brand of unpleasantness. It is warmer? I am just blissfully happy to have a trans protagonist and gender centre stage. I love a women-centric show but I really love that this blows gender up a bit wider. It is funny. It is beautiful and quiet but not mumble-y. The acting is great. Gaby Hoffmann hates pants. It is a good time for television.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Girl Crush: Meg Myers

I am deeply wary of nostalgia. I watched The Two Faces of January at the weekend and Kirsten Dunst's wardrobe is fantastic but no vintage dress can beat out the internet, easy access to birth control and hummus. [For reference, the clothes, settings and actors in the film are beautiful but - for me - its only appeal is aesthetic. I neither actively liked or disliked the film - it left me cold. I would only recommend it to those with a particular fetish for early 1960s structured fashion, sun-drenched shots of Athens and Crete and Kiki/Oscar. Admittedly, those things shine.] I want to experience original punk, the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age, the party-going nihilism of the inter-bellum, Regency England (et al) but I'm not an idiot. I love Austen but I would lose my mind trapped in a drawing room.



It makes sense that the lost idyll that I truly regret missing is one within my own lifetime. If I was only 5-10 years older (and possibly American) I could have been a riot grrrl and still enjoyed the perks of 2014. I really wish I could have hit Fiona Apple and Sleater-Kinney and Liz Phair and Bikini Kill at their peak, at the right age. [N.B. For music purists and people who were culturally conscious at this time, I appreciate that I am blurring genres and epochs slightly here but since I missed both and they share DNA I am going to group them together. For more, see this history of riot grrrl and the 'angry woman'.] I can listen to their music now but I wish I could have experienced their rage/fierceness at its peak. I wish I could have listened to them as a teenager, become obsessed and seen them live. Seen them tear the world apart just as I was creating myself.



Of course, I've missed Meg Myers in the other direction. I am too old to enjoy her as an obsessive, bewildered teenager but at least I can bask in her anger and fierceness contemporaneously. I stumbled across her about a month ago and I am in mad love/lust. In my grand tradition of missing the boat she's been around for years - her first EP came out in 2012 and her latest EP came out in February. Whatever. Desire is a magnificent song with a magnificent video. It is dark and twisty and perfect. I love the viciousness, the sexual aggression and the barely contained rage, the challenge. She's beautiful and talented but also vicious and creepy. Heart dangerous girls...



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Article Reading Group: Allsorts


Baby LiLo via ITG

I have no coherent theme here. This is straight up: Stuff That Is Good On The Internet.

The Logic of Stupid Poor People - Tressie McMillan Cottom:  Just something everyone should read. Perhaps every three months or so. A reminder of how to be a human being.

The Transgender Crucible - Sabrina Rubin Erdely: Are we having a trans moment? Has the tide turned? Are we ready to abandon gender binaries and embrace a gender spectrum where people can self-identify however they please without fear or threat? (I’m not even going to try and posit the idea that we’re post-gender because ha!) Short answer: probably not. I’m thrilled that Laverne Cox and Martine Rothblatt and Jill Soloway’s show are enjoying success and getting good press but I am not touching the comments section of those articles with a barge pole and many trans/non- gender conforming people still face hatred, violence and systems of power that are stacked against them. CeCe McDonald is just one example of how much further we still have to go.

BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long - Felix Salmon: Did you know... Jonah Peretti, founder of Buzzfeed, co-founder of HuffPo, ye olde Original Internet Dude, is the brother of Chelsea Peretti, Gina off of all-round excellent TV show Brooklyn 99? That’s hardly the main takeaway from this extended conversation with Peretti but it was news to me. I miss B99. Peretti is a thoughtful, interesting human being and he and Felix Salmon talk past and future internets. If those things hold any curiosity for you I would recommend giving this (admittedly pretty long) interview a try.

The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys - Jenny Nordberg: This is awesome. I mean, awful but also awesome. The world is complicated. Obviously, as per Article #2, I would like to live in a world where people are not discriminated against based on gender – where a person’s access to education, employment, health, freedom is not determined by gender. But I don’t live in that world and the women of Afghanistan certainly don’t live in that world. And, given these flawed, patriarchal realities, I want all of the stories about the women and girls who cheat the system. The women who cut their hair and put on trousers so they can go out and fight and learn and support their families. Lady Fu Hao, the pope who gave birth, the bacha posh. These women can only exist in a society that denies women choice/agency/freedom and I don’t want to romanticise that but I love their determination and the way they expose so many of the moronic illusions of gender. Any further reading recommendations, esp. books, much appreciated.

I Re-Watched Garden State and Will Never Feel Again - Lindy West: Glorious. #NotAllLampreys

Thursday, September 25, 2014

R.I.P. Debo


Deborah Mitford puts a string of pearls on her pet whippet. Photographed by Madame Yevonde, 1941.

Oh, Debo. You were a champion. I can't imagine it was much fun to be the last of a generation but you will be missed.

Mitford recommendations:
Mitford To Read list:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cinematic Joy: Pride

Aaahhh, I have reached film nirvana. I don’t need to see any more films this month. I can just go back to the cinema and watch Pride every night for as long as it airs.



Because this is the internet I should probably preface this rhapsody by saying, obviously, your fave is problematic. Nothing is perfect and equality politics are difficult but Pride is a delight and I loved it. Pride is ‘inspired by the true story’ of lesbian and gay support for the miners during the strikes in Britain in the 1980s. I know that some people object to the increasing fictionalisation of history in pop culture but, generally speaking, I’m in favour. I don’t think that many people watching these kinds of films think they are seeing an exact record of events – they are aware that they are watching a story and if the topic sparks their interest they can find historical/academic source material later. I also think that often a consciously constructed fiction/narrative can be the best and most accessible way to communicate wider truths about an event, time, movement etc. Yes, despite the homophobia and hatred that are portrayed in this film, it probably still elides a lot of the bigotry and brutality faced by the gay community (and by the labour movement)(and the violence that both of these communities committed in self-defence, fear and to further their causes). Pride is rose-tinted: the timeline is coherent and the people are beautiful and the dialogue is snappy. It is entertainment not documentary and I’m fine with that. Unfortunately, this works both ways and if you are going to sugar-coat history a bit of diversity would have been nice. Obviously Welsh mining villages in the 80s were not thrumming centres of racial diversity but it seems like a strange oversight to make the London gay scene quite so glaringly white… You can’t have it all though.


These issues aside, Pride is pretty much my dream. The cast is amazing – Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, that guy from This is England, that girl from Fresh Meat and The Bletchley Circle, that babe from Sunshine on Leith. The 80s costumes, hair and music are amazing. I love the very British humour and sensibility of the film. It is sad and funny and charming and poignant. It is a festival of gayness and Welsh accents. That said, this is gayness designed to appeal to a middle class, conservative (small c) audience – sympathetic gay bashing and AIDS victims but no actual sex and little more than chaste kisses. There could have been more snogging, that’s all I’m saying.

I want a whole extended premium TV show about the lives and loves, futures and origin stories of the Gay’s The Word bookshop but until then I will be buying the Pride DVD the moment it comes out and playing it on repeat. Highly enjoyable fare. I’m not sure what kind of distribution the film will be getting outside of the UK but keep an eye out for it or, if you’ve already seen it, let me know what you thought.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Sunday Book: Literary Eclipse

You know how sometimes you read a series of moderately good books and then you read a BLOODY AMAZING book and it makes all the books around it, temporally and physically, seem like pale imitations of books? Yeah, I just had that. The truly great book reminds you of everything a book can really be and makes everything you read before and after it a disappointment by comparison.

Salvage the Bones is that book. It is throwing shade on everything else I've read this month and will probably continue to do so all year, maybe forever. MUCH HYPERBOLE. Much deserved. It is gaspingly beautiful and it will destroy you. The end of the book made me jiggle nervously in my seat and cry for the best part of half an hour. I continued to cry after I closed the book. I was on a train. Luckily, I am a silent crier and hopefully the other people sharing our table didn't notice my expansive web of snot.
“Salvage the Bones,” the 2011 National Book Award winner for fiction, is a taut, wily novel, smartly plotted and voluptuously written. It feels fresh and urgent, but it’s an ancient, archetypal tale. Think of Noah or Gilgamesh or any soggy group of humans and dogs huddled together, waiting out an apocalyptic act of God or weather. It’s an old story — of family honor, revenge, disaster — and it’s a good one. As Arnold Schoenberg said, “There is still much good music that can be written in C major.” And Jesmyn Ward makes beautiful music, plays deftly with her reader’s expectations: where we expect violence, she gives us sweetness. When we brace for beauty, she gives us blood.
Best of all, she gives us a singular heroine who breaks the mold of the typical teenage female protagonist. Esch isn’t plucky or tomboyish. She’s squat, sulky and sexual. But she is beloved — her brothers Randall, Skeetah and Junior are fine and strong; they brawl and sacrifice and steal for her and each other. And Esch is in bloom. Her love for Manny and her love for literature have animated the world; everything is suddenly swollen and significant. (NYT)
It might be because I am horribly lacking in Bayou points of comparison but Salvage the Bones reminded me a lot of Beasts of the Southern Wild. Certainly if you like one I think you’ll like the other. A storm looms over both, threatening both the alien landscapes and the poverty stricken families who survive on them. Both have young, black female protagonists, with absent mothers and disconnected fathers, although the teenage Esch of STB has responsibilities of her own. There are animals and wildness and myth. I have decided that this is definitely a legit comparison. Also, Jesmyn Ward gives truly great dog.

Everything is wonderful: the writing, the plot, the structure, the characterisation, the wrenching emotional kick… This book is alive and important and vital – I can’t really recommend it highly enough. It sets the bar super high.


Vampires in the Lemon Grove is so whimsical. Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! and Kelly Link’s collection of magical realist/fantasy/genre busting short stories, Magic for Beginners, were two of my favourite books of the last year or so and I was prepared to love VITLG but it fell a little flat. My expectations were high (see also: Everland) but I don’t think that was the real problem. It is just a bit too quirky. My tolerance for quirk/kook/whimsy balances on a knife edge and VITLG tipped towards the cloying. I dunno, I love her imagination. There were stories that worked, like the Settlements Act and the tattooed Iraq vet, and there were stories that glimmered with possibility, like the silkworm girls, and I enjoyed the horse presidents but as a collection it left me a little cold.

Appropriately, Everland, which is set on two parallel Antarctic expeditions in 1913 and 2012, also left me a little cold. Mr Chartwell is such a great first novel and another of my favourites of the last few years; it is strange and imaginative – the ‘black dog’ of Winston Churchill’s depression is made talking, drooling, sinister flesh. Everland lacks that weirdness, beyond the inherent weirdness of Antarctica, and I felt lacked the heart. The setting is obviously interesting and Hunt writes extreme cold very evocatively. The tension builds in both stories and the triumphs and limitations of the human are stark against the brutal, unchanging setting but the parallels between the stories are heavy handed. There are so many connections between the stories that I struggled to remain immersed – you are constantly playing guessing games with the plots and characters, trying to match and predict the story. Some readers might enjoy that but I found it distracting and frustrating. Still, Everland is intriguing landscape to explore.

I have earmarked some quotes from How Should a Person Be? for future blog posts because there were moments where Heti articulated very exactly ideas/thoughts I was on the brink of feeling. There were sentences and paragraphs where I almost gasped at how intimately Heti seemed to have understood my own emotions and experiences. There were also long stretches of the book I found tedious, I could have done without the whole blowjob-as-the-art-of-our-time plot line, and ‘privileged white girls angst about how to live an emotionally and creatively satisfying life’ is difficult to swallow (ha) alongside STB but the flashing moments of truth and Heti’s willingness to really push the narrative and her eponymous protagonist to extremes made me glad I had read the book.

Even when they are imperfect I have a lot of enthusiasm for narratives by and about flailing, scruffy, broke young women trying to find/become themselves. It’s narcissism, of course, but I also think it is our turn – we have had centuries of the male equivalent, bring on Girls and Greta Gerwig and HSAPB?. I was so ready to like Friendship. Emily Gould is a complicated, super visible and often controversial internet ‘character’ but I like her writing (I thought her MFA vs. NYC essay was great) and I admire her aggressive openness online. But… meh. Admittedly, Friendship suffered the most from STB eclipse as it was the first book I read after the glory and emotional annihilation of STB and it just felt pointless. After Esch and Skeet, Randall and Junior, Manny and Big Henry, the bickerings and financial irresponsibility of Bev and Amy fell hella flat. I mean, I did appreciate the complexity of the central friendship, there are jealousies but the friendship isn’t defined by competitiveness, the girls make mistakes and hurt each other but they do love and try to support each other. Romantic relationships are totally secondary in the novel and that’s great. Plus, the book is very short and easy to read. It’s not awful but it just feels vapid. I will defend to the death women’s right to write pointless novels but I can’t really recommend it. That said, if you are going to read it I would suggest you do so as soon as possible because it is v au courant and is not going to date well.

Basically. READ STB.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Winning Saturday Morning

How to win at Saturday Morning in three simple steps:
  1. Coffee at Monmouth.
  2. Pain au chocolat at the Little Bread Pedlar. Londoners, help them buy a new bread oven. Think of the bread...
  3. Horst: Photographer of Style at the V&A. This is a ridiculously good exhibition - gelatin silver prints, vintage film and fashion, early-mid twentieth century high society. It has everything you could want. Horst P. Horst is my new favourite person.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Friday Sound: Babe Alert



I'm going to write an actual post about Barf Troop soonish because they're great.



Lady got moves.



Robyn robyn robyn robyn. Also, Busiswa.



Man, LP1 is a great album and Two Weeks is the entry point. I have been looking forward to Twigs' full album fo'eva and I don't think it disappoints. She is weird perfection. Molly Lambert has written my favourite FKA Twigs piece so far. Go forth and read Smooth Operator: FKA Twigs’ Brilliantly Unclassifiable Debut Album. I group Twigs with the recent wave of nu-rnb female singers and Lambert questions whether that is racist and reductive. I agree that post-internet music generally and Twigs particularly resist simplistic genre classification but there is a group of young, black girls who are creating a new, if not similar then perhaps adjacent, sound and I think that it has strong rnb/hip hop elements. I dunno, I have neither the historical knowledge nor the technical ear to argue persuasively about music but it is definitely something to consider. Follow up link: You Say Hipster R&B, I Say Nappy-Headed Pop. Either Way, It's Offensive.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Begrudgingly Admitting to Autumn





Daria Werbowy for Mango AW/14 via Because I'm Addicted

I have been trying to ignore autumn. It is August. It is ridiculous to be considering coats and jumpers and nine plus months of cold, damp misery. Admittedly, autumn clothes are more compelling than summer clothes but I have been resolutely ignoring September issues. I am nowhere near ready for summer to be over.

British weather is pissing on my denial though. Quite literally. It's cold and grey and wet and awful. It's like sunshine never happened. It annoys me that, like sleep, you can build up a sleep deficit or suffer from SAD but you can't build up a sleep surplus or ration out the sunshine like a solar power battery. Once it starts raining for real everything good and golden is wiped out instantly... Sad times.

A small compensation? Daria. She is the most beautiful, perfect creature and she makes even autumn, with its wet towel skies and cold hands, seem seductive and desirable. The answer, as ever, lies in the knitwear. Textured knits in muted colours, grey marl and scruffy denim. Tousled hair and sharp cheekbones. Soft fabrics and rugged eyes. As I said, perfect. I guess I'll take it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hysterical Girls: Done and To Do

I saw Richard Armitage (Babe Alert) in The Crucible last week. The play is on at the Old Vic until 13th September and if you live in/around London I would highly recommend catching it. Important Thing I Didn’t Know: the Old Vic does £12 tickets for those 25 and under. It makes the theatre accessible! I wish I had known sooner. London has some amazing theatre but I rarely go because a) I’m not a massive theatre-head and b) it’s normally ridiculously expensive. I have to be enormously invested in a production before I’m going to seriously consider shelling out £50+ for crap seats. I mean, the Old Vic has 360° seating and we were at the back so we saw a lot of bald spots but you’re actually pretty close to the stage and the view is excellent and they do choreograph the play to the space so it wasn’t really a problem.

Anyway, the tickets were a bday present from VB and they were an excellent present because I got to see Richard Armitage shirtless and gnawing the minimalist scenery (I’m very fond of him but I am willing to admit that there were a few points where the overacting achieved comic proportions – aggressive arm flinging and bewailing) and I got to see a very interesting play about which, previously, I knew pretty much nothing. I studied Death of a Salesman at school, no American theatre at all at university and I don’t read plays for fun so The Crucible had passed me by. Pretty much all I knew going in was ‘Salem witch trials’ + ‘Miller theme: the failure of the American dream.’ It was very refreshing. I was not at all prepared for how insane it was going to be.


I’m not going to attempt to analyse the play because lots of people read it at school and even if you didn’t there are 51 years of actual literary criticism at your fingertips but I will say, to quote Mr. West, that shit CRAY. Having not yet read any of the aforementioned criticism I feel far from qualified to talk about the racial weirdness and I am not interested in the religious angsting over whether John Proctor is or is not a good man. Tear your hair all you like, sir, but good men don’t screw their teenage help, make promises and then collude to have them thrown out on the street. I mostly stand with Abigail. What did really excite me and what I think this production portrayed really well was teen hysteria and manic girl power.

As working class (such as it existed in 1690s America) teenagers the girls were disadvantaged by class, education, age and gender but as jury members and apparent ‘innocents’, arbiters of god and the devil, they could condemn anyone to death. They dance naked in the woods and send their fellow townspeople to the scaffold. They writhe and twitch in beautiful synchronisation under the influence of strange spirits and this production, at least, resisted assigning causes. (Obv I need to read the original.) The girls have their individual motivations but as a collective they are opaque. Are their spasms the devil, a sincere belief in the devil or something different? Are they all caught up in the moment or is this vindictive? Are they sensitive and susceptible or are they all contriving to play the system? It’s great.

Hysteria is a loaded term and has been used as both a diagnosis and a criticism to repress women approximately fo’eva but I wonder if it could be reclaimed. There is something so amazing and powerful and excessive about a particular state of teenage girlhood. Own your ὑστέρα (hystera "uterus")! There was an amazing article ages ago about the unique mental state of being a teenager and obsession and fan culture …*Cue extensive internet search – I wish I was the kind of person who remembered names and quotes rather than vague ideas of names and quotes. Is this the internet destroying my memory? Could I once have quoted entire hours of conversation verbatim like Fanny Burney and recited vast swathes of poetry a la all ye olde folkes of yore? My mother’s memory suggests not but I’ve found the article so crisis averted* …  The Killer Crush: The Horror Of Teen Girls, From Columbiners To Beliebers – Rachel Monroe. I’ve linked to it before – SO good.

I love the trope of teenage girls as secret and violent and proto-sexual and obsessive and potent and slightly unhinged. Teenage girls, like any other type of human being, are obviously varied and wondrous things and cannot be reduced to a single idea but this is a fun one and it rings true to me. I had a pleasant and staid adolescence but I still burned viciously inside. I don’t miss that, as such, I am enjoying the (relative) emotional stability of my twenties but I do value the experience. Tumblr, Rookie, the 1D fandom (all fandoms to a greater or lesser extent), Megan Abbott’s novels – they all capture something of the passionate obsession of girls, first hand or reflected in art.


I have written about Abbott’s novels before. I have read Dare Me and The End of Everything. They are intense. She writes the best teenage girls. I would kill for her take on the Salem witch trials but I don’t think she writes historical fiction. [Cue research: Omg, she does! She has five 1930s-50s pulp/noir novels that I had never heard of that predate her current oeuvre. How funny. I’m going to have to look into these.] However, her latest novel, The Fever, looks like it might be an excellent thematic match. Teenage girls in a small community begin to have unexplained seizures and chaos ensues. “As hysteria swells and more girls succumb, a series of tightly held secrets emerge, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.” Juicy. This has been on my To Read list for a while but The Crucible is officially bumping it up.

In further tangentially related topics:

Louise Bourgeois, Arch of Hysteria – One of my favourite sculptures. It’s beautiful and terrifying. I saw it at a Bourgeois exhib at the Guggenheim a few years ago but I think there are a couple of versions so keep an eye out for it.



Hysteria (2011) – Man, this film about the invention of the vibrator is proper silly but it’s also kind of watchable in a lobotomised kind of a way. And it's streaming on everything. Maggie Gyllenhaal is delightful.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Article Reading Group: The Struggles of Ladydom

I had ambitions to write a grand, overarching narrative for these links or, at least, a piece of semi-coherent, interconnected prose à la my last Article Reading Group post. Buuuuut… I haven't got round to it and if I don't post them now I'm going to forget everything about them.

I was gonna be all ‘I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR’ or rather ‘I AM A WOMAN AND THAT IS EXHAUSTING AND SHITTY A LOT OF THE TIME IN OUR SOCIETIES BUT I’M TRYING TO POWER THROUGH’. Less catchy though, I’ll grant you. These links capture just some of the many and varied ways in which ladyhood can be crappy. Some of these seem (are) more obvious and horrendous than others but they are all contributing factors. Ultimately/ideally we need to fight domestic abuse and the crippled self-esteem of teen girls and unfair pay and restrictions on abortion access and the exploitation of women’s bodies from the sex trade to pop culture and the lack of women in positions of power and and and ad nauseam. None of these problems invalidate each other. The patriarchy must be crushed on all fronts, yo.

Miss American Dream - Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Case in point. This is an extended piece about Britney Spears in Vegas. It’s amazing. It is about both Mz. Spears, herself, her strange life and our obsession with it, and the weird world of long haul Las Vegas shows. Celine! Shania! Bizarre. It is pure pop culture and it’s fascinating. But it’s also about Britney the single mum with alimony cheques to pay and children to fly home to. About the physical demands of a big show and our expectations of women’s bodies. About how we have all fixated upon and judged this woman’s decisions for the last fifteen years and how absolute the scrutiny of women in the public eye can be.

I Don't Care If You Like It - Rebecca Traister. This blew up on the interwebz a couple of weeks ago but I think the original rebuttal is still worth reading. If you missed it, some moron at Esquire (srsly, Esquire, you are all over the place – amazing link coming later. Get your shit together) wrote a piece celebrating how a glorious new age has dawned in which women in their 40s can be attractive and that he’d totally fuck some of them, you know, the hot ones. *Take a time out here to slam your head against the nearest hard surface until you pass out* Obviously this is super dumb and doesn’t even need a takedown but Traister expands the immediate ‘STFU, A-HAT’ response in important ways. She writes about how constantly women are judged - their appearance, their behaviour, their lives - and details a tasteful selection of examples. The endless conversations about Hillary Clinton's appearance, the media and the authority's responses to date rape and assault on campus, the American crackdown on the availability of contraception. She argues that the "very barometer by which female worth is measured—from the superficial to the life-altering, the appreciative to the punitive—has long been calibrated to “dude,” whether or not those measurements are actually being taken by dudes. Men still run, or at bare minimum have shaped and codified the attitudes of, the churches, the courts, the universities, the police departments, the corporations that so freely determine women’s worth."

Prey - Kathleen Hale. This Hazlitt essay was published whole sale in the Guardian weekend mag a few weeks ago so some people might have caught it there. It’s beautifully written if, unsurprisingly, grim. Hale was raped on her first day of college and in the aftermath of the assault became obsessed with dangerous animals. It says awful things about our world that I initially put off reading this because I couldn’t face ‘another rape story’ but I would recommend powering through if you feel a similar depressed twisting in your stomach. Hale is philosophical and discursive and the American legal system + the minds attempts to protect itself are very interesting. Obv trigger warnings abound.

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain - Leslie Jamison. This is an amazing, slightly bonkers, looong essay. It is quite academic but also aggressively personal. Speaking of trigger warnings – anorexia and cutting off the top of my head. Jamison sprawls magnificently through female pain in art and literature and her own experiences. She differentiates between pain, hurt, suffering and trauma. She tries to reconcile the way in which female pain has been fetishized, manipulated, turned into a motif and a cliché, and the simultaneous truth of that pain – if she can find a truthful way to express her own, real pain. She talks about The Glass Essay, which I love, and is very interesting about Plath, who I liked as a teenager but struggle with today. It’s all very smart and intense and thought provoking.

The Abortion Ministry of Dr Willie Parker – John H. Richardson. See, Esquire? You can do great gender friendly journalism. I mean, it’s a pity that at my time of reading the header for this excellent article included large colour links to ‘Chrissy Teigen Does a Little Yard Work (and Goes for a Swim)’ *sigh* but let’s focus on the positives. Dr Willie Parker is a full time, travelling abortionist who, among other clinics, works at the Pink House, the last abortion provider in Mississippi. The state is trying to close the clinic and it faces daily harassment from pro-choice protesters. He puts his life in danger to help women exert control over their bodies. He has dedicated himself to reproductive rights and his commitment and stories, questions and concerns of the women he helps made me feel pretty weepy. I do not understand America. The profile is totally supportive of Parker and, I felt, non-critical of the women involved. It details the legal development and is very open about the abortion process. Excellent. Read it.

Man, those are such great articles… High fives all round.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Internet Food

I am rubbish at photographically recording the food I cook and eat. In fact, I'm pretty confident that there are more examples of my bemoaning this failing  than there are actual, passable pictures on this blog. I can live with that. I'd rather eat my food when it is perfect than photograph it. I was going to say something grandiose about valuing pleasure over beauty but I'm not sure if that it true/applicable...

Still, I made a quick meal the other night that was really aesthetically pleasing and right up the interwebz' street. I don't live and die by my food being pretty, I'd rather it tasted great, but would you look at that:


Isn't it lovely?? It has everything the internet loves - vegetables on toast, vegetables that have been artfully griddled, fresh herbs, clean colours... The works. This would totally fly on Instagram. Not that I have Instagram (is that something we need to discuss? I don't think my life needs Instagram. My smartphone isn't very smart and I think one image-based app is enough and I'm always going to go Tumblr over Instagram because Tumblr is hilarious and overflowing with cat gifs and smart people and interesting debates as well as the nice pictures) but I know my avocado-on-toast.

Anyway, dinner was as fast and delicious as it was attractive so I thought I'd share. Obviously this isn't very complicated but god knows when I last put up any kind of recipe so here goes.

Ingredients:

  • An amount of good broccoli: tenderstem, purple sprouting, young tips, whatever. Enough to cover as many pieces of toast as you want to make as thickly as you like. V scientific, I know.
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh red chilli for seasoning your greenery.
  • Ricotta: I used two parts ricotta to one part goats' cheese. This was light and springy. I arguably could have taken more goats' cheese (100% for example) but I am a bottomless pit for goats' cheese and I appreciate that it would have overbalanced the fressh flavourz.
  • Goats' cheese: a soft, easily crumble-able one.
  • Lemon: juice and zest.
  • Sourdough: N.B. I actually didn't have any sourdough because my life is hard. *sniff*
  • Basil oil: I made some basil oil for another recipe earlier in the week and this stuff is hardcore. It was, I think, 80g basil, three garlic cloves and 200ml olive oil. I was just absently following the recipe and I didn't question the ratios. Man, this is the kind of garlicky that tastes spicy and will not be removed with toothpaste. It is intense but it's also basically amazing and it will kick whatever you dress it with up a whole other level.
  • An 'erb to dress: I used parsley because at some point in the process of becoming an adult and realising I adored coriander I noticed that I also liked parsley. It's no coriander but it's pretty good.
Recipe: (15 mins?)
  1. Season your broccoli.
  2. Griddle your broccoli. I mean, you could grill it instead but I have a beautiful new griddle pan and I just want to griddle all of my foods. Griddled broccoli is GOOD. Make sure that any woody bits get most of the heat. Cook until your thickest stalks are tender and you have some delicious burnt stripes.
  3. While your broccoli is a-griddling, mash together your ricotta, goats' cheese, lemon zest and juice (so I got five servings and a good balance of flavour out of 250g ricotta, 125g goats' cheese, the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon) and salt/pepper to taste.
  4. Toast in the toaster.
  5. Toast > dairy confection > griddled vegetroubles > basil oil > herb.
  6. Eat.
It's good shit, man. Also, after six months or so of reading Bitches Gotta Eat (I know, I know, late to the party but think of the archives!) I feel like I should quit writing anything about food ever. I cannot compete. Ms Irby wins at everything.