Pandemic Ponderings #6

Life really does have a way of taking you in unusual directions in these rapidly changing times. Earache or not I had to go out today, observing social distance and cleanliness at all stages.

For some time now doughnuts have loomed large in my imagination, not just any doughnut, nothing fancy, a fresh ring doughnut or indeed a perfectly simple jam doughnut.

It has been a back burner kind of fantasy, perhaps a little enhanced or made more presient by the current restrictions on life. It was those very restrictions that enabled doughnuts to feature @theoldmortuary today. Parking in our local High Street (We are in Cornwall so it’s called Fore Street) is normally impossible but less people around gave me the Golden Ticket of parking spaces. Right outside Rowe’s Cornish Bakery.

Not somewhere I usually go for no other reason than the parking is tricksy.

Their doughnuts were perfect and the staff had been fully trained in no touch techniques and tonging. It was impressive.
https://www.rowesbakers.co.uk/

But it didn’t stop at Doughnuts…

Long ago in a large NHS hospital on- call and long shifts were sometimes fuelled by a Gregg’s Bacon Tasty, truly the comfort food of Health Professionals who know a lot about diet and Cardiac health.

It’s been 12yrs since I was close to a bacon tasty. Rowe’s call it a ‘Bacon Bite’ for complete accuracy. London Hospitals of my aquaintance did not offer such things. More worldy offerings certainly, equally bad for the general health but not Bacon Tasties.

The picture tells the story. The very best thing for a virus that induces earache is a Bacon Tasty. Served by someone well versed in the art of tonging.

Followed by the perfect doughnut. Also delightfully tonged.

I won’t bore you with the lovely fresh vegetables I sourced today, or the fish or other healthy comestibles.

What’s the point, this is Bakery Porn. You were warned that I had no idea where this restricted lifestyle would take us.

By complete coincidence a gift of bakery was also delivered to @theoldmortuary.

A man, unknown to us but connected made us a loaf to help out with the earache.

We are feeling plumptious and unrepentant.

#foodporn

Grey rainy mornings have been a constant companion of 2020. Some days the subject for the daily pondering is obvious other days nothing seems quite interesting enough, today with the early rain is one of those days. A quick skip through the image archive tempted me towards writing about rust, but ultimately one of the rust coloured images I retrieved pointed me the way of a saltier story. Baked goods, in particular the Cheese Straw.

Starting at the top I present the Gail’s Cheese Straw made with Mature Cheddar Cheese and Comté. This tasty little pile photographed at Gail’s Dulwich Village

I have a long history with cheese straws. My mum used to make them with left over pastry. Hers were pale and flacid and only as tasty as the cheese she had laying in the fridge. On fancy days she made a ring shape of cheesy dough and enclosed three or four skinny cheese straws within the ring.

A fellow blog writer has taken the time to write the history of the cheese straw. It’s a fascinating read on a rainy morning.
https://thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/cheese-straws-a-quick-history/

I loved these unsophisticated treats eaten warm after school. For much of my life they were the only cheese straw I knew, I make them myself with left over pastry.

At some point in the Baking Renaissance of the 21st Century . Cheese Straws became bigger, puffier and altogether much tastier.

Armed with a Gail’s cookbook and a bit of creativity, cheese straws started to look a lot more fancy in my own kitchen.

I don’t know if people feel particularly passionate about cheese straws. I suspect they are overshadowed by prettier and sweeter ‘show stopper’ baked goods.

But without the cheese straw would it’s savoury cousins, the bacon or sausage tasty even exist?

Sticky Quickie#18

Pondering today feels a little more relaxed than yesterday. Today the word is Sticky. Once again inspired by the Instagram prompts for an art group.

I’ve always considered the word sticky to be onomatopoeic, the two syllables mimicking the breaking sensation when stickiness loosens it’s hold and the breakaway occurs. I could well be hopelessly wrong. That doesn’t particularly bother me. What bothers me is my indecision on my like or dislike of the word. Context in this case is everything.

Is sticky a sensuous word? The Rolling Stones gave it a libidinous thrill with their album. Sticky Fingers.

©The Rolling Stones

And then sometime later turned it into a finger licking, gustatory delight with the London Restaurant, Sticky Fingers, owned by band member Bill Wyman.

©Sticky Fingers Restaurant

A meeting yesterday prompted pondering as sticky gave me another use of the word. There were evident under currents,mostly due to people not listening accurately. My slightly awkward discomfort manifested itself in a doodle of the words ‘ Sticky Situation’

” But can we make it stick” either literally as in bonding together or metaphorically, for applying evidence or data.

Is this image sticky?

That’s a sticky one.

Sputnik,cheese curds and me + a little art.

I was known as Sputnik during my childhood , conceived and delivered in the same year as the first artificial earth satellite named Sputnik.Things could have turned out so very differently. Had my parents lived in Quebec, I could have been called Poutine.

Considered one of Canada’s greatest inventions, it was created in the same year.

It evolved in rural Quebec when a customer regularly asked a chef to add cheese curds to a plate of chips, gravy was added later to keep the whole dish warm.

The chef involved declared “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“It will make a damn mess!”)

It has become the perfect comfort food. Crispy chips, rich meaty gravy and squeaky curd cheese. Textural, gustatory ecstasy for mouths and minds.

I discovered Poutine in Toronto, at a bar overlooking AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario.

https://ago.ca/

It was a day of great discoveries. AGO was full of wonderful but unheard-of, to me, artists, none of them ever mentioned during a British Fine Art degree. There was something really thrilling about discovering new-to-me contemporary 20th Century Western Art. It was refreshing not to have the opinions of art historians,critics or lecturers already seeded into my head before viewing the works.

There were so many that I loved but this vivid work is the first to come to mind. Beyond the colours it is the certainty of mark making that gives it such impact.

This work is by Rita Letendre one of Canada’s best known living artists, she is 91 as I write this. Known for her bold visceral style, her images are created using many techniques, printing, painting, scraping, bare hands, knives.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Letendre

This one is called The Joy of Living.

I’m not sure I get ‘Joy’ from this image. Energy, powerful passion or excoriating pain are my immediate responses.The work has creative exuberance and I love it but I think I feel joy more calmly. Maybe it was the carb overload at the time of viewing!

After researching her many works I realise that one of my earlier synesthesia images painted to a piece of Jeff Beck music has some of the qualities of a Letendre . ( Who do think I am! )

I will add an image of my painting to this blog at a later date once I’ve contacted the current owner.

So much pleasure and knowledge gained in one day. A good amount of calories too.

One of those days

BA45D06E-A199-4BE4-A215-2D07DB364896.jpeg

I took this photograph at the Royal William Yard during an art exhibition a couple of summers ago. Signs like this are common in ex services buildings, I keep a little file of them, you never know when a specific image like this will come in useful. Today is the day. Our part of Cornwall is drenched in cold rain that blows into every crevice or body part that is foolish enough not to be covered by waterproof clothing. I had hoped to get some pictures of snowdrops and early daffodils first thing this morning but the skies turned grey and our morning walk became all about doggy elimination and getting home. Rather than wandering the lanes of South East Cornwall looking for early signs of new growth I am catching up with post festive laundry, hence the picture from my strange archive. Fear not, this is not a blog about my laundry habits. That is a subject so dull it is only equalled as a dampener by Cornish rain.

Today’s blog is about the reward for festive laundry diligence.Soft, yielding gingerbread that accompanies my cup of tea between bouts of laundry activity. I have always been a lover of soft gingerbread treats, mostly around Christmas time and exclusively from Lidl

This festive season was about meeting new family members and deepening knowledge of people we’ve only met fleetingly before. Our Polish family members arrived bearing gifts, one of which was the most gorgeous soft gingerbread from the city of Torun. Somewhat late to this particular packet there were only three left when I had my first, and only one when I needed my mid laundry snack. Big mistake , these were the best gingerbreads I have ever eaten.

I’m told Torun is the world epicentre of gingerbread. Time to do a little research. The first record of gingerbread creation in Torun is in 1380. The city is ideally placed for making gingerbread because the landscape lends itself to the production of fine wheat on good soil and copious honey production by the village bees of the area. Spices were imported from India via Germany. Pierniki as they are known in Poland are soft gingerbread bakes, enrobed in dark chocolate with a hidden 💓 of fruit preserve. My particular Pierniki were made by the biggest manufacturer Kopernik, who’ve been making Gingerbread for 250 years.

http://www.kopernik.com.pl

Achievements of the day. One more satisfying than the other.

Clean washing
Empty Box

Advent#28

Bubble, friends, terrorists and artists.

“Bubble” spoken or shouted in a broad, loud, East London/Essex accent.

Bubble and Squeak is a staple of our festive season. It was always part of our childhoods, made as a way of using up Christmas leftovers. Our abiding love of “Bubble” currently involves an early festive meeting in London, with friends. “Bubble” happens regularly at Maria’s Cafe in Borough Market. We’ve settled very happily into an annual December breakfast at Maria’s after searching for Christmas breakfast perfection high up in London’s Skyscrapers with extravagant prices for many years. Height does not necessarily dictate breakfast good quality or satisfaction. Closer to the ground, and reality, Maria’s has become our regular pre Christmas breakfast haunt, they do the best breakfast we’ve ever had in the area. Any breakfast comestible with their bubble and squeak is festive perfection on a plate.

Fortified by calories, laughter and cups of tea we set off to sample, taste and shop.

https://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
https://www.sallyclarke.com/category/sweet/chocolate-truffles/

Coffee from Monmouth is always enjoyed with a chocolate truffle, we drink our coffee and nibble our truffles, overlooked by the Market Porter. A flat-capped sturdy chap depicted in Street Art painted on the wall of The Market.
https://www.themarketporter.co.uk

Illustrations by Josie Jammet https://www.designfather.com/illustrations-by-josie-jammet/

img_20191227_2301075256103970405829227.jpg

Art at Borough is not only about the working life of the market.

London Bridge and Borough Market have been the location of two seperate terrorist attacks. The second only weeks a go. The first in June 2017 has been commemorated by a mural by James Cochran or Jimmy C. on a railway arch in Stoney Street, part of the perimeter of the market. Jimmy’s work is a joyous multicoloured commemoration of the lives lost and the lives forever marked by the event. It also reflects the vivid and resilliant nature of London which will rise above the harm and wickedness of terror attacks. A series of hearts float like bubbles on a background of blue. The code 44A is the identification number of the railway arch.


https://www.railstaff.co.uk/2018/03/27/mural-unveiled-in-memory-of-london-bridge-terror-attacks/

Following this sad but resilient image, this blog about bubble shifts location from Borough Market and heads for home.

Bubble is a traditional left-overs treat in our house. Formed from the remains of the Christmas day roast it has a domestic ritual of its own.

Bubble is prepared during the evening after the big roast has been served. Portions of bubble rest in the fridge overnight, awaiting frying in butter the next morning.

Reminiscent of Jimmy C’s bubble-like hearts on the Borough Memorial a heart shaped knob of butter softens in the pan.

An edible landscape of buttery fjords and pillowy potato mounds form in the pan.

Once the outer surfaces are crispy, dark and caramelised it’s time to serve up the bubble and share.

Bubble, 💕 on a plate.

Advent#25

A Christmas Crime

No more chocolates in the Advent calender. Off into the uncharted waters of Advent beyond 24. Chocolate is part of this story.

The tin of Quality Street has slipped it’s lid and chocolates stare lewdly as people pass. ” Take me ” they purr, “You know you want to”

Enrobed in jewel bright colours , crinkle wrapping catches the eye. The fall from grace is quick and furtive.

Two deft actions and the sweet is naked . A moment on the lips and into the bucal space. The tongue guides the sweet silky coating onward, probing for flavour with a nip of teeth.

Meanwhile the wrapper is deftly hidden within the tin.

The first crime of Christmas committed.

Advent#16

Christmas comestibles.

Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/01/advent-1/

Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.

As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .

Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.

Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.

Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.

The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.

This may not be our last Advent visit.

Devon Slice and other baked goods controversy.

Yesterday’s Quickie#5 was a scone. A controversial food item, in particular in the borderlands of the Tamar Valley but also worldwide. Quickie#5 was a cheese scone for simplicity

Lively conversation occurs at theoldmortuary over baked goods as we are a mixed heritage household. One Hongkonger with Devon/Cornish genes, one Essex woman and two dogs from Bedford. Growing up in Essex I loved being bought a Devon Slice. A soft mound of sweet dough, glazed and split across the top and filled with fresh cream and jam. When I moved to the Tamar Valley I fully assumed I would reacquaint myself with the Devon Slice. I can’t say I was hugely diligent in searching them out but occasional enquiries were met with puzzled looks in the bakeries I visited. I have a vague idea I bought something similar, in the eighties, at Jacka Bakery on the Barbican in Plymouth, but it wasn’t called a Devon slice. As they are the countries oldest working bakery and must know their dough products I must assume a Devon Slice was an Essex or maybe even more locally a Braintree invention or,worse,a family made- up name.

Our much missed family baker, Jenny, part of the Cornish heritage had never heard of a Devon slice fitting my description.

This opening paragraph illustrates that there isn’t much of my bakery knowledge that is factually correct, and so with my lack of accurate knowledge laid bare I will make a small personal statement about the Scone/ Jam/Cream debate.

In my early Essex life amongst family we split a scone, spread the cut surfaces with thick cream and topped it with jam. We were all happy with this, I continued to be happy with it for 30 years until I moved to the Tamar Valley. My life since then has straddled the Tamar Valley, living in Cornwall and working either in Devon, or more recklessly and wildly, ‘ Up the line’ *

* Up the Line’ in Cornwall means anywhere beyond of where you are within Cornwall and to the East. It could mean Plymouth, London or, in reality, anywhere in the rest of the World.

Personally despite living in Cornwall I persist in my ‘Essex’ ways left to my own devices. In company I can go either way to be honest. I actually don’t have a huge preference. To say the spreading order of jam and cream or cream and jam is contentious is in itself contentious. Not having an opinion is entirely possible but will always expose the undecided individual to unlooked for advice in any group of people.I am hugely fascinated by other people’s views . Does Aberdeen side with Devon , cream first, or does it follow a Celtic lead and side with Cornwall, jam first? Where does Birmingham stand?

Essex I believe stands with Devon, but maybe that’s just my own leafy corner of North East Essex. Who knows?

Debate and more knowledge warmly welcomed.