Monday 27 February 2023

Table Talk

Miguel Mackinlay painting, Still Life with Eggs, 1923
Miguel Mackinlay, Still Life With Eggs, 1923
(Acknowledgement to the MJ McKinlay Trust)

Do please pass me another egg, Mr P.

Edouard Manet painting, Oysters, 1864
Edouard Manet, Oysters, 1864

[Later ... ] Yes, the oysters are delicious! 

Sarah Lamb painting, Bistecca ala Fiorintin, 2019
Sarah Lamb, Bistecca ala Fiorentin, 2019

[Even later ... ] How would you like your chop, my dear?

... And there you basically have it, Dear Reader; nothing juicy yet to report on the new carnivorous régime about these parts. We're still alive and trundling along. Which all rather makes dull fodder for this blog's Something-to-Eat creed. Where are the thrilling anecdotes from the growing store of culinary adventures?, you may cry. Regretfully lacking at this juncture.

So, rather than continue with the monotonous litany of "oysters, eggs, chops, ... &c &c", which may only titillate the oh so curious, I shall instead, from time to time, steal some table talk from the literary world for these pages, such as may be found in Patrick White's marvellous 1981 memoir, Flaws in the Glass:

The kitchen stove, antique electric, had Queen Anne legs like so much of the furniture in the house. We had many cooking accidents before learning how: there was the day Rosemary Dobson Bolton brought her first baby to lunch and the oven in which I was grilling the baby's chop caught fire: the Christmas dinner during the heatwave when the pair of drakes (or swans) we had bought from Mrs Poulter bounced on the lino before I dished them up; there was the whole coq au vin I spilled on the floor, but mopped up, schnauzer hair and all, and served John Gielgud. Although I say it, that coq au vin was about the best I have tasted.*

Anyway, in other news, we went to the most excellent touring exhibition of Melbourne-born Art Deco printmakers, Ethel Spowers & Eveline Syme. As ever, the show has already moved on from Sydney, where it was held at the S. H. Ervin Gallery, but there is still opportunity to see it in Brisbane before the delicate prints get packed away again for some unknown more number of years in June. Spowers and Syme were friends and daring trailblazers of contemporary art and after studies in London's Grosvenor School with Claude Flight, embraced linoprinting to great effect. 

Ethel Spowers woodcut, Melbourne from the river, circa 1924
Ethel Spowers woodcut, Melbourne from the River, c. 1924

Ethel Spowers linocut, The bamboo blind, 1926
Ethel Spowers linocut, The Bamboo Blind, 1926

Spowers had a particular affinity for imagery of childhood, writing and illustrating children's stories.

Eveline Syme linocut, Skating, 1929
Eveline Syme linocut, Skating, 1929

Both born into families of newspaper magnates, they were educated, independent and well-travelled. They both championed modern art and their work is instantly identifiable as of its time.

Ethel Spowers linocut, Wet afternoon, 1930
Ethel Spowers linocut, Wet Afternoon, 1930

Eveline Syme linocut, Sydney tram line, 1936
Eveline Syme linocut, Sydney Tram Line, 1936

Ethel Spowers linocut, School is out, 1936
Ethel Spowers linocut, School is Out, 1936

The exhibition was a delight, not only to see their familiar images** but earlier works and the associated ephemera of the era, and linocuts by contemporaries who'd also fallen under the spell of the charismatic Flight. Fellow student Dorrit Black wrote of him: 'He is a very small man with very bright eyes, little bits of side-curls, and one feels instantly at one's ease with him. During the summer he lives in a cave in France, a very attractive cave, apparently, but still a cave; and in the winter he comes out of his cave to teach lino-cutting to students at the Grosvenor School.'

Nota bene: Not Claude Flight but a
Lenci porcelain, Squirrel and Acorns, 1929

Ethel Spowers linocut, Still life, 1932
Ethel Spowers linocut, Still Life, 1932

Sybil Andrews linocut, Speedway, 1934
Sybil Andrews linocut, Speedway, 1934

In other news, the Musical Year has started for the Pipistrellos. Our beloved Utzon Series, the intimate recitals by visiting international stars, was a Casualty of Covid and looks not to be revived, but we got to sit in the gorgeous room again last week to hear the home-grown Australian Haydn Ensemble. A very pleasant change to the old routine is the ability to reserve seating when you book, and Mr P. nabbed front and centre seats, normally the domain of a gang of silver-haired Utzon Series stalwarts who'd stake this territory as an assumed right (and invariably fall promptly asleep after the complimentary tipple once the music started.)

Our repast consisted of a selection from Bach's The Art of Fugue; Haydn's String Quartet in A major (Sun Quartets); and Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 2 in A minor Op. 13. Super delicious!

Lorna Singleton Oak Spelk Basket

Finally, do you love a basket with which to collect your comestibles from the shoppes? There are baskets to be found herein about the casa, and their usefulness is fully appreciated, however I was surprised to learn that there is a type of basket make from oak! Well, oak splinters not logs, obv. 

There is a mere slip of a girl living in the woodland in South Cumbria in England making a living from weaving these traditional baskets. Once a thriving craft, the resulting baskets were used for everything from charcoal scuttles on steam ships and trains to tatty and turnip baskets in the field to swilling cockles in the sea, whence comes the name oak swill baskets. There seems to be only a handful of weavers left, including the lissome Lorna Singleton. 

Here's a tantalising 15-minute documentary film on her and her work: Oak Swill Basketry.

* The take-away here, of course, is not that Nobel Prize-winning writers nor those who rub shoulders with the glitterati at the tea table have the best lines, rather it's schnauzer-lovers who seem to have all the fun!

** Stalwarts of ye olde Pinterest.

Image credits: 1: Miguel Mackinlay; 2: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; 3: 1st Dibs; 4-12: Flying With Hands;, 13: Lorna Singleton; 14: Graphics Fairy

Friday 3 February 2023

Carbs Are So Last Season


There have been some changes about the casa and I don't just mean the Christmas Tree has finally come down. Yes, we held out until Candlemas again this year, and the place is now looking somewhat lacklustre ... but I merely digress. The Pipistrellos have gone mad and have given up carbs.

It wasn't intentional, but in the way of such madcap adventures, it started with Your Correspondent falling over in the street. Cessation of Normal Activities until the gruesome wound to the leg (and the pride) healed meant time for catching up on some of the more obscure blogs that my catholic taste imbibes. I know, Bertrand Russell and the whole History of Western Philosophy should have been the natural solace for such catastrophes but I did instead get rather distracted on the youtubes. Which is where one such blogger had me tripping, hem hem, and, like Alice, I found myself in a Wonderland where everything was totally on its head: There are people out there, sensible adults, for whom fruits and vegetables, let alone the conventional notion of carbohydrates like bread and whatnot, never appear on the menu ... and are still alive!! Indeed, thriving. And since what such a diet looks like is basically meat-and-water, they're known as Carnivores. Who knew?? 

There are varying shades of low-carbs/high-fat and keto-this and zero-carb-that to this spectrum of dietary outliers and a whole new vocabulary to get stuck into. Think ketones, oxalates, lectins, Lipid Hypothesis &c. &c. What even are they? And as we've our own mini laundry list of Health Issues and a sense of scientific curiosity (viz. susceptibility to fads, as Dear Brother might say), we've hopped on board as an experiment. This may fall into Controversy Corner for you, Dear Reader, but perhaps just consider me as your guinea-pig and I shall report back from time to time on How It's Going. 

So far, after the first ten days, we've neither felt the urge to murder anyone nor commit carbicide.

Image credit: Flying With Hands

Bats In The Belfry