Guardian Girl

Split peas and a broken heart

Posted in Fashion, Food by guardiangirl on February 24, 2010

Last night I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s piece on food and meat eating. I finished it with a lump in my throat, glad at least that dinner was vegetarian.

His thoughts on the significance of meals stabbed me in the clogged-up arteries.

As the months have passed during this project, the outfits and recipes have become part of my daily life, no longer anything remarkable. Most of my friends and many of my colleagues know what I’m doing and have long settled into their chosen level of amusement, bemusement or indifference, either leaving me to it or helping me pose for photos and eat pans of spaghetti for ten. The paper is bought first thing each Saturday morning, pages are turned, dresses belted, pans stirred, photos matched, captions written. The more familar my routine becomes, the less I question it and the more rarely I bother to scratch the surface of what I’m doing.

But on a personal level, it goes much deeper.

Taking food out of its context can sap much of the joy from eating it. Some of the pleasure of chopping, stirring, spooning and swallowing transcends circumstance, but for me any emotional meanings attached to the dishes I’m creating have often dissolved by the time the food reaches the plate.

Of course there have been many evenings like last Saturday, spent around the table with friends, happily slurping mangoey steak juices and talking about affairs of the heart. But for every one of those times there’s been a night like yesterday, spent alone in the kitchen in front of a daunting mound of ingredients, slicing veg mechanically and stirring in soured cream when I would’ve been quite happy with a simple, healthy salad for one.

It doesn’t matter how delicious a noodle soup is or how finely cut a cardigan – it’s the meaning we attach to it that makes the cooking and the wearing worthwhile. You can spend hours a day making your home look like an interiors shoot, copying catwalk looks and cooking River Cottage recipes, but it won’t buy you the love of a family or the glamour of a beautiful model, no matter what you read in the Saturday supplements. We all know this, so why does the belief that these things can be bought into endure so relentlessly?

This sounds more melancholy than I feel, but the matter continues to get under my skin.

Now I’m back to my running schedule I hope the rich recipes will become a treat again, rather than a dispiriting obligation. Now I’m living with friends I hope there will be lots of communal bread breaking around shared pans of food. Now I’ve got a sensible budget sorted I hope the odd new bit of clothing will feel like a wise investment and not a waste of cash.

As always, many of the problems I’ve run into doing this project have been a result of taking the whole thing to such an extreme level, and that commitment is a necessary part of the project as far as I’m concerned. But it still raises the question of what happens to the meaning of food – and clothes, and interior design and the rest – if it comes straight out of a magazine. Can you really buy into a stylist’s look or a chef’s favourite dish? You can put on the clothes and prepare the food, but what happens to the layer of meaning underneath?

Legume noodle soup

Legume noodle soup

Gloom and brooding soup

Gloom and brooding soup

Impress

Impress

Depress

Depress

Conclusions:

  • Comparing oneself to a plus-size model turns out to be far more depressing than comparing oneself to a stick. No excuses.
  • The noodle soup turned into a pan of pasta with sauce because I had lots of linguine to use up. But it was absolutely delicious.
  • I have high hopes for a regained sense of control and a renewed appreciation for cream-based recipes now my foot is unbroken and I’m able to exercise again.
  • If my hopes are dashed, I have a pact with myself to become the less snappily titled Health and Fitness Magazine Girl for a while and conduct a study on the efficacy of a different brand of manipulative claptrap designed to undermine your intuition and create false need in order to sell products. Sorry, I mean magazine.
  • Today I’m supposed to buy two pairs of trainers to replace my old Converse, one of which I can’t find and one of which goes beyond my budget after having bought the ingredients for yesterday’s dinner.

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Crumpets and Mickey Mouse ears

Posted in Fashion, Food, Recipes by guardiangirl on November 17, 2009

Yesterday was my first day back on the case and, of course, it turned into the inevitable rollercoaster that comes with taking a magazine’s lifestyle template and Pritt Sticking it directly on top of your own week in spite of its total ludicrousy given the fact that you can barely walk due to messing up yer foot, and have spent all your money on cabs around London, and cream cheese and salt beef bagels to make yourself feel better. Today’s post is going to be a string of extremely long, pompous sentences and you’re just going to have to deal with it. I’ll get back into the swing of being brief and personable soon enough.

The lowest trough last night was hobbling through Camden on a deformed bruise of a foot in the howling wind after a long day at work trying to get to Hackney in time to buy crumpet rings, have my photo taken, see my bezzer mate, phone the bailiff to tell them I don’t owe the council any money (I don’t) so can they please stop threatening to seize my valuable goods (not sure whether 20 threadbare Ikea rugs, a collection of owl portraits, a roasting tin, the Dallas Season 1 DVD boxset and a dribbling but well-meaning cat would add up to the value they say I owe anyway), have a bath, epilate my legs before I have to return to A&E and risk terrifying the doctors yet again with my hirsutism, and finally actually cook myself some food. The average busy evening is made far more stressful by having your maximum speed capped at 0.00005mph, I’ve discovered.

A higher peak arrived later though, steaming-skinned after a hot bath and standing over the stove watching bubbles rise through golden homemade crumpets. It’s a big grumble hauling myself back on to the Guardian wagon and whipping the old ‘orse back into action but it’s always been those moments when a recipe you’d never have thought of cooking yourself turns out to be beautifully simple and impressive that it really is worth the effort.

I used egg rings, whatever they are – I suppose they’re so greasy-spoon owners can make sure their fried eggs are worth £6.95, or people in really clean slippers on polished wood floors can give their kids a nice neat breakfast – but they were on sale in Sainsbury’s and did the trick perfectly for the recipe.

Globbing the batter into the rings and watching it turn into actual, professional-ish looking crumpets was very satisfying, although it got boring after a while and I cracked out the Ladyshave while I was waiting for each batch to cook. Here’s a lesson I’ve learned: plucking the toe hairs out of a swollen, purple foot is not the most pleasant way to spend time and in hindsight I don’t really know what I thought I was doing, even with these tasty teatime treats as light at the end of the tunnel:

 

Crumpets

Crumpets

 

 

 

Crummypets

Crummypets

As for yesterday’s outfit, I don’t have any Mickey Mouse ears and just putting myself in the position of my colleagues for a moment, if the new person at my work rocked up in Disney fancy dress on day six of their employment, I wouldn’t be thinking kind thoughts. If they also happened to look a bit self-conscious, crack weak jokes every two minutes and walk on crutches, I’d wonder why the hell they’d even bothered with the ears if that’s the way they approached life.

I went for a headscarf teamed with a brilliant sequined sweatshirt my friend Hamburg Emily bought me for my 30th and I felt just dandy. I think sequins in the office is fine, totally fine. Disney in the office is totally not fine, of course, and we must fight back.

Liv kindly took my photo later that evening. She got some good shots but in the end I prefer this accidentally long-exposed one because it fits with the supernatural theme of several earlier photos on this blog.

 

Hang Tough

Hang Tough

 

 

Dang rough

Dang rough

 

Conclusions:

  • You liderally can’t look chic on crutches, or cool, or anything other than injured.
  • Imagine if you were on crutches and wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It’d just make life miserable wouldn’t it.
  • Crumpets are something you can make at home cheaply, quite healthily and quite quickly, and they have the proper holes in and everything! It might just be me being a philistine but I’d never have guessed this.

 

 

 

 

 

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