Thanks for the add! Gros bisous :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This little Dany went to the market...

It's that simple... People need stuff, people want stuff, people love stuff. So where do they get that stuff?
In the modern world, we’re well accustomed to supermarkets with their serried ranks of stuff and shopping malls full of stuff. People elbowing each other, their trolleys bulldozing all sorts of stuff, among these purveyors of all the stuff you could wish for. Somehow, shopping never was my cup of tea, but I'll make a proviso because in this world a little too tedious where shopping online has become more exciting than going out to the store, one old-time tradition, that of the farmers or flea markets is one that survived, and is still alive and kicking.
A market is a magical place to go to because there you can get stuff cannot be got readily off the shelf 24/7,  you have to wait for market day. It is magical because, like Ali Baba, you are in awe and don't know for sure what stuff you will find there. It is magical because whether in Istanbul or in Avignon, the market is by nature colourful and anarchic and visceral. It is universal.
Bazar in Istanbul
Marché de Provence
It is magical because it is the essence of civilisation. In the beginning there was barter, and in the end there may just be barter. In the 2010 British movie Shank, in a post apocalyptic London, the fish market in the East End is the first place where links can be re-established between people. My point is that the wheel of history and the wheels of commerce travel hand in hand and weird ways. In the kingdom of modern business that us a continent where "historical buildings" date back 250 years at most, there is a place in Pennsylvania which has very little to do with the Modern World, and everything to do with the Old World. For the ultimate thrill of a medieval-like market experience, there is no place like the Saturday's market.
And no you won't find your knight in shining armour there, although you might who knows, but you will a whole array of people of all ages and colours, of all means, of all trades, of all interests, bikers, and truckers alike.
The architecture of the building dates back to the late 1950's, and I think there was a bit of vision in this building which occupies the size of nearly 2 football pitches. The entrance above is so kitsch, and reminds my of 1950's airport lounges. The behind the panes there are eateries and seats where people can sit and watch the car go by and park as if they were planes.
In a medieval town, a market was never far from a church, and although in this market there is no church, make no mistake, God is still watching you!
This guy sells possibly the best sweet italian sausage in the whole of PA.
Many stalls are Amish stalls of all types, but the bakery ones are the most impressive, there they are with they propane propelled food mixers. I wish I could have taken a closer picture but I am aware that Amish people do not care to have their picture taken.
Now look at this stand above, is this good junk or what. That guy has amazing vintage wooden sleigh for between 10 and 20 bucks.
And hidden amongst his pots and pans, look closely, yes thre is a human in there... here is "ma main man" junkyard Billy, whose real name I know not, but who cares he is my friend. Everytime I buy something of him he gives me somtehing else for free.
Not so healthy.... and yes you can also eat in one of the many eateries that serve every kind of ffod from plain old burgers, and pizzas to Amish and Korean food, and home made sherbet flavoured fudge.
Above is the most bizarre stall. A stall that sells hundreds and hundreds of dolls clothes for dolls of all shapes and sizes.
This market is also a treasure trove for Pyrex lovers, I got some absolute bargains there.
Lastly, here is Sherry stall. She will engage in conversation whether you are a buyer or not. She is an inveterate collector, and now has too much stuff so she decided to sell a lot of it. And her stuff is AMAZING.  For my next trip I already know that I will purchase a 1950's hot pink and turquoise melamine complete picnic set. Plus, I made friends with her, and I now go to zumba classes with her and her friends whenever I am in PA.

I can lose myself in there, it is so easy to just look around action figures, the comic books knives, coffee, knick-knacks, books, old copies of Life magazine with their George Petty pin-up illustrations, homemade kimchi, furniture, socks, rugs, wool, glassware, the JR Watkins vendor who sells all of the old Watkins products, like the Old Black Drawing Salve, the menthol ointment for colds, Watkins vanilla cinnamon, black pepper.....

The only place that near this experience is buried in my memory, and in my youth. Once upon a time, at a cross road on the D23 in the heart of Burgundy, there was a guy. His house was his kingdom, a veritable Ali Baba cave. And he DID have everything you could wish for. No one will ever know how all that stuff - sausages, ribbons, jams, postcards, rolls of fabric, goats cheese, you name it - found its way to "Les Grands Magasins" du Puits  (Le Puits' General store, see location picture below).... Mind you his shop WAS at a cross roads...Need I say more?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recipes ARE so annoying

Yes that's right, you read the title correctly recipes ARE just a nuisance. And I know, it's rich coming from a French person for whom cooking is meant to be second nature. But boy oh boy, who wants to follow recipes? Seriously...

There is something very wrong with the concept of the 'art of cooking'. When did you last see a 'paint by numbers' Monet book, to make you believe that you too can paint like the great painter, the way cookery books are flaunted at us?

When did Picasso ever go to great lengths to tantalize me-simple mortal soul- into thinking that I too could be an artist, if I just bought the 'right' paint, the way some well-meaning TV chef insists that, if you buy the right organic ingredients your dish will be just as yummy as this artistically dressed squash soup?
Enough of the propaganda already! Yeah cooking is a form of art supposedly, well Julia Child thought that French cooking was anyway. Can you imagine the pressure for me to produce something, anything?!

And even if per chance, I actually get it together to gather all the necessary ingredients, potions, spices, produce, bouillons, and so on ... then what do I do, huh? I read the darn book, stain the beautiful pictures which henceforth will forever be stuck together... then you have to convert your ounces into grammes, you milliters into fluid ounces, your Farhenheits into Celsius, turn on your oven, whatever, yawn.... and that's before you even start breaking the eggs... and seemingly I am told you cannot make an omelette without breaking said eggs.

OOO, and now they want me to believe I can cook 'light', when the real so-called art of cooking relies on mostly 3 fundamentally unhealthy ingredients -butter, cream, salt.

I hear protests .... but what about garlic ...and wine! The saviours! Sure garlic is a natural antibiotic, and wine is full of good stuff, but they have yet to prove that the latter ingredients can counteract the great artery-blocking powers of the former.

Art? My foot!  More like science to me, and really who in their right mind ever liked solving an equation? I don't think I have what it takes to be a cooking 'artist' because real cooks do not need a recipe to make a squash soup. Recipes are for quitters... like me.

I resign (je rends mon tablier), you'll find my apron burried in Escoffier's grave.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mary or Rhoda?

I was watching Mary Poppins a couple weeks back when I noticed her scarf for the very first time - because I started knitting again recently. It looked so nice, and light, and fluffy that I really want to make one like this and I even found a pattern for it.
But the way my mind works, meant that now I look at everything that is knitted or crocheted on TV... and since these days I am captivated by the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I could not help but notice how much knitwear Rhoda wears. I am sure that there are plenty of patterns out there on the Internet, in case you want to knit or crochet one of these.

I have to once again admire the skill of the people who devise wardrobes on these shows in sync with the scriptwriters, as these are the details that do make the characters credible in a sitcom, and make the viewers identify with one character over another. 

One important thing in this credibility business, is that in this series, Mary and Rhoda get to wear the same outfits and accessories in the very same way a normal person would wear their own garments. For example Mary mixes and matches various items of clothing, even over several seasons - this amazing pastel shade tweed skirt with gold tassle belt for example.
The way Mary's wardrobe works is transparent and even faithful to the letter to what women's magazines tells us to do time and again, that is-own a few staple pieces and accessorize or make them work with replaceable items. Mary's wardrobe is built around the colour red. 

Below you see how Mary applies that rule with red and yellow. The yellow breaks the monotony of the all red outfits, and gives it that "spacy-cosmonauty" feel which was one of the style inspiration for couture in the 1960's and 1970's.

For an excellent article about the way the wardrobe was designed in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, read Fashioning Mary and Friends.
Let's do a test:
Is your favourite colour  : a) red, like Mary above or b) purple like Rhoda below?
or b) a poncho ?
Would you wear: a) a hermes-style scarf around your neck?
or b) a hippy silky scarf around your head?
Is your hair: a) neat and tidy 
or b) fashionably messy?
Would you rather wear: a) a sassy little dress like this one
or b) palazzo pants?
Deep down, we don't ask ourselves the question, simply because although we are unique, we do belong to certain types too. The strength of the Mary Tyler Moore Show is that it promotes different types of the "girl next door" - the classy one, and the trendy/stylish one.

I am definitely a Rhoda in all her failures and glories, and could never be a Mary, although my best friend would have been a blond Mary.
I am constantly surprised when looking up a popular subject such as sitcoms - whether it's Frasier or The Mary Tyler Moore Show - how few studies there are of these monsters of cultural ideology these things are, in order to judge to what extent sitcoms are really a canvas for us to hang our own constructs on... For example Rhoda's self image, and Mary's insecurities deserve a complete doctoral thesis as these themes are linked to so many issues which were, and are still crucial to women's identity.

But girls and boys, a much more difficult choice for you...
Are you ... a) a Lou grant?
or b) a Ted Baxter?
Until next time.... :-)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My own, personal, Nanook of the North

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there."
But... the children were NOT nestled all snug in their beds...
This child of mine had made up his mind,
to give his family a present of a different kind.
And so, on Christmas Eve, to our surprise
We trekked on the new snow,
Crisps steps, in the cotton air.
All the way to this important affair...
With his frozen hands, in his wet clothes
He had built an igloo
All on his own
Seventeen hours he had spent, in the dark of two nights,
Building this construction, with all his might
He was so proud, and so were we!
Building an igloo, what a great feat!
Perhaps Nanook had something to do with this new found skill!

Son, you gave me the best gift of all,
a present of the heart
the present of the present
and the present of the past.

You have no idea the memories, this trek through the snow brought back
Christmasses in France, a long long time ago,
Spent by the warmth of my grand ma's stove,
Walking up the snowy hill, hand in hand with my grand father
On our way to a room full of singing men plucking geese, and floating down dancing in the air
Smells of burnt feather, from the goose being singed.
Sit quiet little girl. Watch the adults work, and prepare for the holy feast.
Thank you son...
And for you and all...
This song.
Disclaimer : Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely NOT coincidental.
The original Nanook from 1922