Thursday 18 July 2019

Fussy Eater

It's that time of year again, Dear Reader, when Your Correspondent takes great delight in turning the season's Ye Olde Kumquats, Fortunella margarita by preference, into these orange-gold, vanilla-laced, syrupy treats below. And it's not via the alchemy of the jar of dried calendula infusing in olive oil - that oil will be destined for my next batch of cold-processed soap. The trio were merely rubbing shoulders on the sunny windowsill this morning and caught the light so fetchingly for me.

Preserved cumquats and fresh nagami fortunella and calendula infusing in olive oil photo
Before & After

Unbelievably, these are the very tail end of last year's batch. It's not that I'm a particularly everything-in-moderation kind of eater; it's more the case that FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) strikes me keenly, so I do tend to ration things accordingly, thus I can eke out treasures until a replacement is in sight.

It was not always thus for Olde Pipistrello to be loving these citrus bliss balls (not rationing my superlatives, however!). For although I would eat basically anything put before me as a child, I did have a small but closely monitored list of foods abhorred, viz.: fruit peel, kidneys, oysters and capers.

Sadly, it was my dear Nanna that was to be held responsible for the first two. Her home-made Hot Cross Buns and Christmas Cake & Pudding would be chock-full of supermarket-sourced fruit peel (plus the Pud' was made more alarming by the pallid floury skin from its hanging in the laundry for weeks). No amount of smothering in custard or lashings of butter could induce me to choke down the peel. Much like a pet refusing to swallow a pill, I could magically spit out the horrid nuggets after valiantly chewing for an age around the otherwise edible bits.*

Norman Lindsay's sketch of Albert, the Magic Pudding
Albert, the Magic Pudding - Much coveted by puddin'-thieves
Illustration: Norman Lindsay, 1918
Image: via The Guardian

Nanna's steak & kidney stews and pies beheld a similar, sorry story. A very slow meal was to be had from taking small mouthfuls, but at least the kidneys' tell-tale ammonia tang would alert you to their near vicinity on the fork, so it was very hard to actually pop an offending item into your mouth.

Sir John Tenniel's illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter for Lewis Carroll's classic 'Through the looking glass and what Alice found there'
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach
The Walrus and the Carpenter survey their Obliging Lunch
Image: via Wikimedia Commons

As to oysters, they were very often to be found on the table as we would regularly holiday by the sea, but in truth I suspect I never tried them. It was probably a visual thing, initially, but oysters appear fairly regularly on the Watch List of many an immature palate, so I was in good company there.

Bougainvillea and capers photographed together on Antiparos
Capers bedeck the bougainvillea in Antiparos last year
Photo: Flying With Hands

Potted capers photographed on Antiparos
Potted delicacy in the Cyclades
All edible: capers, caperberries and leaves

Photo: Flying With Hands

But capers? I'm not sure where I encountered them but I can only guess they were added to the list as I thought that it just looked a little lacking. I had to get creative while comparing notes in the playground, for some playmates would airily declare the entire class of Vegetables as Verboten on their plates. Or would only eat White Things. You get the drift. It was tough trying to keep up when your favourite vegetable was and is the Brussels Sprout.

But with Age comes Wisdom, even in regard to the Palate. If I could, I would add capers to every dish these days. Salted or pickled. Both live companionably in our fridge. And on our Greek Odyssey last year, the Lovely L and I enjoyed capers galore, alongside the caperberries and leaves.

Citrus peel, too,  is no longer to be feared (except for the commercial variety which is just plain Nasty) and I do make all manner of goodies with it with my own grubby mitts.

AGNSW Laurens Craen 'Still life with imaginary view, c1645-50'
Snacks for Later, or
Still life with imaginary view, c1645-50
Laurens Craen, AGNSW
Photo: Flying With Hands

Oysters were finally revealed to me in all their Briny Glory in my 20's when I holidayed in Scotland with a friend and are a special favourite now. I'm, ahem, fortunate I don't have to share my regular platter with Mr P. as he cannot abide them - although he will shuck them for me as an act of Chivalry!

Kidneys? Well, I have to have something up my sleeve to keep my credential as a Fussy Eater!

* The tough, floury cross on the Hot Cross Buns was likened to another imposed penance and would get picked off, notwithstanding Nanna's stern gaze, she of the waste-not-Depression-era Generation.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Forgotten Dreams

Photo taken by Apollo 11 crew of the Moon surface with Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 landings marked
Unexplored Territory by Pipistrello
Photo Credit: NASA

The closest I have come to joining my name to Apollo comes from last year's archæological dig when the Lovely L and I picked over the leavings of a Sanctuary to Apollo in Greece (where has this year gone??). But I had never dreamed once that that would be the sum of it; I was sure I was destined for a Life in Space, p'rhaps as did we all of a certain vintage.

Regular reminders of Destination: Space! in the form of auction lots pass across my radar, including an opportunity this month to bid for a circa 1973 Sokul-KR spacesuit (never used!) and the greatest prize, a pocket watch designed in 1979 by Master Watchmaker George Daniels, Space Traveller I! Conceived at the height of Space-Fever, this magnificent sidereal & solar timepiece suitable for use by a Riche & Dandified Astronaut could be yours for around, ahem,  One Million Pounds. But it is most unlikely this shall end up in my hot little hands, admiring glances, notwithstanding.

Sotheby's 2019 catalogue photograph of George Daniels Space Traveller I pocket watch, 1982
George Daniels' Masterpiece
 Instructions Included!
Photo Credit: Sotheby's

Let me take you back, Dear Reader, to a time when everything seemed possible: My very earliest Career Advice came from my Mother. I have a strong recollection of her telling me that when I had grown up, people would be living on the moon. Yes, Optimism does run in the family! As I handed her pegs while she hung out washing on the trusty Hills Hoist in our backyard, she advised that I would need to Learn about Computers, as that would be key to one day becoming a Moon Dweller.

Black and white still photograph from the 1957 film, 'Desk Set'
Pointing the way to the Future

It all seemed extremely likely to a child of my era. While there were classics aplenty in the Pipistrello home, one of our three sets of encyclopædia was circa 1950s and dedicated to Science (and full of thrilling b&w photographs) and Science Fiction novels featured very strongly on our bookshelves (alongside some Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Drina Ballet books for more terrestrial adventures).

Publicity photo for 'Space 1999'
A day at the office on Moonbase Alpha,
Space: 1999's HQ

Our television diet was a well-balanced Futuristic Feast of Dr Who, Lost in Space, Star Trek, the über-chic Blake's Seven* and my favourites, UFO and its American spin-off Space: 1999, where we got to see what, exactly, Life on the Moon would entail and, more importantly, what we would wear. UFO's purple bobbed wigs accurately predicted the flattery they give when the youthful bloom has passed, but the head-to-toe beige for Moonbase Alpha's uniforms could, frankly, do with a colour lift as it's not what one would choose with an ageing complexion. And surely, the best ensembles were always reserved for the Aliens?

Photo still from Space 1999
Space: 1999 Aliens,
Futuristic Charlie's Angels

We were all prepped to go - eating with relish our NASA-approved Deb instant potato, Tang powdered orange juice and our Space Food Sticks (caramel for me, always) - and wearing our 100% synthetic fabrics in uni-sex styles, courtesy of a Mother whose wardrobe veered toward the necessary André Courrèges Futurism. We dabbled in weightlessness experiments by jumping off furniture and tested our mettle with lethal playground roundabouts (sadly, nausea would always be my Handicap in the Space Race), so all the trappings of our future home should be rather familiar once we'd arrived.

But the dreams of the 70s fizzled out, and Destination Space fell from grace. What happened? I think it was the Glamour falling to the wayside that did it for me. Dwindling Space Programme budgets made it apparent that it would be only a select few who'd continue as astronauts, and they'd only be shuttling about in low orbits for the foreseeable future. And the nearest to a Lunar Office Job would be as an engineer at NASA Mission Control. But as the lithe 70s figures generally gave way with time to a tad more Portly physique, the dashing uniforms I envisioned wearing have been replaced by a very sorry substitute. Cheap and shallow, I know, but these things do matter. But if Elon Musk had been around to push things along in the 80s, things might be different.

TV show UFO Moonbase Officers Uniforms
Dressing-for-Success UFO-Style
Or, what could have been for NASA Mission Control,
if waistlines had stayed in check

So to the pressing question: Did Pipistrello ever Learn about Computers? You may be surprised to learn that it's a Yes! to that. Pure Mathematics and Computer Science were indeed my areas of, ahem, expertise at University, but they led me to another path so I never got to rub shoulders with the likes of the next batch of be-uniformed astronauts destined for the International Space Station later this month, pictured posing in the Red Square in Moscow. Bon Voyage, boys!

ISS Expedition 60 crew at Red Square, photo credit NASA
Good luck, chaps! 
The latest International mix is American, Russian and Italian! 
Photo Credit: NASA

* Watching an old episode of the ever-amusing Toast of London a couple of weeks ago, I immediately recognised Paul Darrow, a.k.a. Avon! Sadly and strangely coincidentally, it was very near to the day I believe he died.

Avon Calling!

Bats In The Belfry