Monthly Archives: April 2016

XL Popcorn – The Red and the White

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 457/1007Title: Csillagosok, katonák (The Red and the White)
Director: Miklós Jancsó
Year: 1967
Country: Hungary

In my experience there are two main types of war movie: the grim and the gung-ho. I find it hard to think of a gung-ho war movie that I have enjoyed, so it’s lucky for me that The Red and the White is very much on the grim side.

If you think of a war film that has been shot pretty much in real time, where the character swap in and out and pretty much none of them survive for longer than 15 minutes let alone the whole movie. In terms of other films that I have seen, I would liken the filming style to Russian Ark but with a greater cinematic scope.

There are a number of beautifully executed wide-angled shots, which only goes to emphasise the bleakness of both war and the surroundings. There is a particular scene in the forest where army forces take a number of nurses from the local hospital and make them waltz… just as a display of power.

Very quickly in this movie you realise that you cannot can attached get attached to any particular character. Sometimes this works out ‘well’, like the execution of an officer by his superiors after he tries to rape a civilian. However, this tension of knowing that a substantial number of people you meet are going to die means that certain fears like ‘please do not kill the nurses’ run through your head.

The main thing that made me appreciate this movie is the confusion. As someone who knows next to nothing about the aftermath of the October Revolution I was in a good position to watch this film. This movie wants you to be confused. It wants you to find it difficult to discern which side is which. Both sides are vile and sadistic in their actions. One side (the Whites) are, on average, the less shitty side, but they are both pretty monstrous.

Considering the times we are living in, films like this have become all the more relevant. I don’t know anyone who has seen this – which is a pity.

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Acclaimed Albums – Abbey Road by The Beatles

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 96/250Beatles_-_Abbey_RoadTitle: Abbey Road
Artist: The Beatles
Year: 1969
Position:
#19

The final album by The Beatles. It’s a bit of a landmark for this album list. Granted, I gave them a bit of a fast pass. Still, here we are with Abbey Road.

As regular readers will have gleaned I am not the biggest fan of The Beatles. There are some albums, like Sgt Pepper, where I can honestly say that I both get and enjoy their music. The problem that I have is that for every song I enjoy on most albums there are those which just feel that bit too twee.

I have exactly the same issue with Abbey Road and is epitomised in the first tracks. ‘Come Together’ and ‘Something’ are good tracks, the latter being fantastic. The you get ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. I know that there is something dark at the core of that song (like the musical equivalent of the Dexter opening sequence), but the arrangement is just too cutesy for my taste.

Then we get to ‘Oh! Darling’ which is a bit of a throwback to the 1950s in a good way which is followed by whatever ‘Octopus’s Garden’ is.

Until the medley (again, what is ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’) in the second half of Abbey Road this is pretty much the pattern across the album. Some of the tweer songs work better than others, for example ‘Here Comes The Sun’ verges on the twee, but I can hear Nina Simone’s version as it plays which is of benefit. Also, it’s a sweet song without going into crazy or saccharin.

Weird to think, that unless I decide to extend this 250 to 500, this will be the last time I listen to a Beatles album for the bucket list. Maybe I should have spaced them out a bit more as it feels a little early to be done with them. Then again, since seven albums I looked at have been tossed out of the top 250 (with a few more likely to go this year) I am conscious to try and clear through the top 100 before I get into riskier territory.

Note on the TV challenge: Since I am sharing it with my husband, and I am vastly ahead of him, we are going to start with a bit of catch-up as I finally have a chance to make him watch Gilmore Girls. So I might have prematurely put that list up on here…

Good Eatin’: 800 and onwards!

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Food item: Sea Buckthorn

The tale of this food post begins at the 2015 Good Food Show in London. Last year we were in Birmingham and had a whale of a time – this time it was actually a bit crap. Luckily we bought the ‘value tickets’ so we didn’t pay completely through the nose.

We were in and out rather quickly, but not before I had sampled some sea buckthorn jam and juice at stand on the balcony. I have to say, it tasted just like I would imagine a Christmas berry tasting. It was definitely a berry taste, but with a slight tang to it. Like a tropical tang, but not quite.

Food item: Freekeh

We ended up going to the Wholefoods in High Street Kensington after being disappointed at the Good Food Show. I think places like this and Borough Market have spoiled me a wee bit. True, there are less samples here, but there is so much more variety.

For example, in the Wholefoods canteen they had Moroccan Freekeh salad. It’s an unusual grain. It’s somewhere in the meaty-nutty spectrum. I would have bought some to try at home, but I couldn’t find any,

Food item: Mont D’or

Okay, so there are not many samples on offer, but this is one that really counted! Mont D’or is a variety of Vacherin (like what I had in the fondue), one of the more expensive varieties. I was standing outside of the cheese room seriously contemplating the £12.99 price tag – and then they had a sample of it inside the room! Talk about a saving! As cheese go it is like a room temperature fondue (think Brillat-Savarin, but a lot stronger). A true find.

Food item: Provolone

Dinner that night was meatball subs with provolone cheese. I got this earlier in the week from Lidl and has been seeking to try it. This was not the DOP variety of Provolone from the original book, but this still gets me a check-off in the newer book.

Texturewise it was springy and tangy and made for a great melting cheese on top of meatballs. In the future, I might experiment with this a bit more and make some pasta sauce. I can imagine it doing a similar job to peccorino or parmesan.

Food item: Salsify

Here it is, food item #800. A vegetable so obscure that I had to help the cashier at Wholefoods find it in her big book of vegetables. Seeing how it is one of my landmark foods I figured I should do something special with it.

I adapted a recipe by Hugh Fernly-Whittingstall to make a big salsify pancake. Since I don’t own a grater (no idea how I don’t have one) I just made very thin ribbons with a peeler. So, I am calling this a ribboncake – I think it sounds really fancy that way.

It had a taste similar to celeriac, but without the aniseedy parts. Whilst cooking it smelt a lot like parsnip, but had no sweetness to it. One of the more parts of the salsify is that it is very sticky to peel. Sticky in the same way that the back of a price tag which will not cleanly come off of your CD jewel case. It was definitely nicer than it looked when I first picked it up.

Food items: Fontina and Fleur Du Maquis

Two more cheeses here – one from Lidl and the other from Wholefoods (I’ll let you work out which is which from the wrapping).

Starting with the Fontina – this springy semi-hard cheese really felt and tasted like Provolone’s calmer sibling. It was also a lot like Emmental in flavour, but it is utterly holeless. Seeing the company it appears to keep I can imagine this making for a good cheese on toast.

The Fleur du Maquis was not a cheese I expected to find in autumn. A welcome surprise with a dried chilli on top. After a few minutes outside of the fridge it was already melty at room temperature. It’s a subtle, smooth, creamy and undemanding cheese with some herbal elements at the finish when you get to the rind. Nice, but maybe not worth the price tag to be completely honest.

Progress: 802/933

Oscar Bait – You Can’t Take It With You

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 84/89Title: You Can’t Take It With You
Director: Frank Capra
Year: 1938
Country: USA

Having seen films like Cavalcade and Cimarron there is one thing I have come to accept about the Best Picture list. These films are very much of their time and so not all with have aged the same way. With You Can’t Take It With You there two things that really show its age.

Firstly, it is a screwball comedy – which is not a genre that has been popular since the mid-1940s. In many ways, that can make films like this (and Oscar winner It Happened One Night) feel rather quaint since we now expect acclaimed comedies to have a tinge of darkness to it. I mean, just look at likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, there is so much underneath that. I rather like screwball comedies until they rely too heavily on nonsensical farce. You Can’t Take It With You does lean heavily on the farcical elements, but since this is meant to be a rich family of eccentrics the film is able to get away with a lot – including a man jumping out wearing a walrus mask.

Most interesting of all (when viewed in the modern age) is Grandpa – the hero of the film. The main crux of the conflict (aside from the screwball staple of love and class warfare) is that Grandpa is a rich man who refuses to pay income tax. He refuses to pay for it, and has not done so for 22 years, because he doesn’t believe in it. In the current climate this is a character that we would end up vilifying, but here he is a sweet old man with many friends and a daughter who only writes plays because a typewriter was accidentally left at their doorstep.

In the end, You Can’t Take It With You is fun. That’s about it really. It’s pure slighty-dated saccharin fun. It is not Capra’s best film (see: Mr Smith Goes To Washington), but it’s worth a watch on a dreary afternoon.

New Lists Appeared: 1001 Comics & TV Shows

I think it is pretty well established that I am both a glutton for punishment and have an unrealistic expectation of how many ‘cultural things’ I can get through. I mean, I am working on the gaming meta-list and I am not even halfway through the books or films list. Not to mention all the foods I want to try.

Still, I have an excuse for all this: hubby (he seems to prefer ‘hub’ to ‘hubby’, but this is my blog). We’ll be doing these together, which means that we have agreed some rules regarding what we consider complete. For both lists I am going to aim for half first, just to make things feel that little bit more manageable.

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You DieProgress: 7/501

Okay, so I have always wanted to be a comic book reader. Also a lot of the manga and comics that I have read (e.g. Cardcaptor Sakura, Dilbert, The World God Only Knows, Nichijou and Usagi Drop) just are not on the list. Guess it means that my taste doesn’t quite align to the book. Still, means that the seven I have read (Persepolis, Scott Pilgrim, Watchmen, Death Note, Bleach, Genshiken and The Walking Dead) can be crossed off of the list.

Now, rules. These are rules that we agreed together since some of these comics have been going for 50+ years:

Type of Comic Amount to read
Graphic novels  All
Daily comics 1 year’s worth minimum
Weekly 2 year’s worth minimum
Monthly 3 year’s worth minimum

So yes, I have a long way to go to get to 500 comics. It’s a damned sight more than the number of regular books that I still need to read. Rather exciting in a way, and it will provide a nice prolonged piece of relief after I get around to War and Peace.

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die

1001 tvProgress: 163/501

It, sadly, makes a lot of sense that this is a list that I have done particularly well with. I mean, I do watch a lot of TV. Some of it had to be of value. Then there are shows like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here which are somehow on this list… I guess it did start something.

As with the comics this had to have some rules attached:

Type of TV Show Minimum to watch
Annual Events (e.g. Eurovision) 5 episodes
Mini-series and Made for TV Movies All episodes
Regular broadcasts –  >1 hour long 15 hours or 3 episodes (whatever is greater)
Regular broadcasts –  <1 hour long 20 episodes (or all if less then 20)

There are some additional rules to go with this. If we decide to start on a really long lasting show such as The Ed Sullivan Show or Brookside we will instead opt to only watch episodes picked out in the book or by articles on the web to ensure that we get a good flavour of what makes the shows worthy of inclusion on this list.

Due to our own rules there are shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt which are yet to be crossed off since, despite having seen all of it, we have yet to reach out 20 episode cap that will be reached once the second season comes out on Netflix. Swings and roundabouts eh?

I have no clue where we are going to start on this. I just know it isn’t going to be chronologically done.

Let’s Get Literal: Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 24/100Title: Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Author: Samuel Richardson
Year: 1748
Country: UK

Never again. Just never again.

Here’s the thing. After reading In Search of Lost Time I figured that I would be able to get through anything. I continued to believe this when I was able to get through The Lord of the Rings in about a month.

And then there was Clarissa. The longest book that was originally written in English, and one that spans nine volumes… yet those volumes only makes up a few months in Clarissa’s life(ish). As you can imagine, this is a book that just drags. With In Search For Lost Time it may have been relentlessly long, but at least it was meant to be the course of a person’s life.

clarissa

So here’s the kicker, not only is it relentlessly long, but it is relentlessly harrowing. I seriously began to wonder during Volume 2 whether her last name of Harlow was chosen because it was so similar to harrow. I mean, I spent most of the book waiting for her to be raped. I knew it was coming since it was on a sleeve jacket I once read. This meant that, every now and then, I would just be wincing at my Kindle expectant for her to be drugged and raped by her kidnapper, Robert Lovelace.

Now, this is the point I would like to address every person that I have seen on the internet who has expressed any positive feeling towards the character of Lovelace. He is very much painted as the villain all the way through, but I am all for someone who is enjoyed as a villain. Wickham in Pride & Prejudice, Stimpole in Bleak House and Wuthering Height’s Heathcliff are characters who are villains (yes, Heathcliff is a villain and I will not be convinced otherwise) where I understand people liking them. They are bad people, but they are interesting and you can sympathise with them in certain regards.

However, I refuse to accept sympathy for Lovelace. He is a kidnapper. He is a rapist. What’s worse, he is very self-aware that he is a bastard. Self-aware, yet he does not understand that rape doesn’t equal a woman willingly marrying you. If you think of him as any way of being a hero or antihero then, in all honesty, you are a rape apologist pure and simple.

Now, I’ve spent a while looking at Lovelace. What about characters who are good? Clarissa is an amazing character when it comes to morality and sticking true to what you believe in. She does not want to marry someone she feels she won’t be able to love. She doesn’t want to be held captive. She wants to be free to love who she chooses. Not really a lot to ask nowadays, but nearly impossible for her back in the 1780s.

The only light in Clarissa is her friend Anna, whose letters provide some comfort for Clarissa and Belford. Now, Belford is an interesting character who only really emerges in the latter half. He is introduced as a member of Lovelace’s aristocratic libertine gang. The development is slow until Volume 7 where he suddenly is shown to be what Lovelace would have been if he had a conscience. Belford is one of those people who could easily have been a villain, but his inner nature means he ends up trying to protect Clarissa whilst also keeping his friend Lovelace on side. It is a hard tightrope to walk and he does it as well as he possibly can.

In the end, Clarissa is a morality play/novel. Since is it told through a long series of correspondence you end up completely in the minds of the characters themselves. This is what makes reading Lovelace’s letters so hard. I just felt dirty doing so.

The point of the book (within the book) is a warning to girls of how such an exceptional lady could have fallen and not to repeat her mistakes. It also tries to give all characters some form of comeuppance. I am gratified the way that Clarissa’s father and Mrs Sinclair ended up, for example, and I am glad that Anna and Belford had some form of a happy ending.

I don’t feel that Lovelace receives his just desserts. I don’t care that he gets the comeuppance that the laws of civility dictated. I wanted him to go in the way of many characters in the prison drama Oz. Yes, I hated him that much.

As for Clarissa, for the author to make his point she had to die. It’s long and it’s horrible, but there was no way she would be able to make her way through it. The writing is on the wall at the end of Volume 3 that there is only one way out of this, even more so by the time you get to Volume 6.

It’s a hard hard read, but I am glad that I gave it the time of day. Even if it is to just say that I know the story of Clarissa Harlowe.

Good Eatin’: Happy Monthiversary

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books


Food item: Dates

Okay, so on the day of writing this it is a month since the wedding date. It started out as pretty much all days seem to start at the moment: consuming sweets that someone has brought back from holiday. In this case, there were chocolate-covered dates from Dubai.

Not a bad way to start the day, but of course I am focussed more on tonight’s food; dinner from St Moritz, a Swiss restaurant in Soho. The end of the work day could not come quickly enough… despite the fact that I had so much work today.

Food item: Bundnerfleisch

Somewhat annoyingly we got seated in an area where the light bulbs were all red. So all the food from here looks distinctly red.

We decided to share starters, the first being some Bunderfleisch. Think of it as Swiss bresaola. Very thinly sliced beef, to the point where you can start to see things through it, that has been lightly spiced and still possesses a very slight sweetness and a rich flavour. Unlike prosciutto it is not at all tough to pull apart. In fact, it is so delicate that, once you get it into your mouth, it comes apart remarkably easily.

I have always wanted to try Spätzle. Little egg noodles with cheese, nutmeg, bacon and onions? I mean, what could be better? True, we were about to eat our weight in cheese, but this was a glorious appetizer before the main event…

Food items: Cheese fondue and Vacherin

Okay, so I am more than slightly peeved that this is the best photo I was able to get of the fondue. I mean, it looks like we decided to have dinner in a darkroom or inside of a traffic light.

In any case, here was the main event – a Moitié-moitié fondue made of 50/50 mix of Gruyère and Vacherin. There was also more than a generous splash of white wine in the mixture. One of the things that interested me as I looked at it, being the cooking saddo that I am, is how the cheese was not separating. Usually when you melt cheese you get a translucent oily layer that forms, but not here.

To go with this delicious pot of molten was a basket of chopped bread and some boiled new potatoes that had been allowed to go cold. At the beginning I tried to follow etiquette by only using the fondue fork to dip the food and then using a regular fork to eat it off of the plate. By the end, I was just dipping and eating in a swift motion, it was bloody hot but very satisfying.

I don’t exactly want to think about the number of calories or the amount of fat that was in our pan of cheese. If I did I would probably cry. Thing is, this was a special occasion to celebrate one month of being married. So who cares, especially when the food was this much fun to eat.

I want to promise that I won’t be eagerly monitoring each month since the wedding. I want to promise that I am not going to be that guy. I just don’t know how easy that promise is to keep so early on.

Now, I am going to have to resist the urge to go all 1970s and buy my own fondue set…

Progress: 795/933

XL Popcorn – Sátántangó

“So Peter, what did you do with your Monday off?”
“Ate quail pate and watched a 7 and a half hour long Hungarian arthouse film”
*blank stare*

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 456/1007Title: Sátántangó
Director: Béla Tarr
Year: 1994
Country: Hungary

There are plenty of more productive things that I could have done today. Seeing how I spent Saturday working (6 hour travel there, 5 hour meeting, 5 hour travel home) I managed to get the following Monday off as time in lieu. It’s one of those rare times where I am completely alone all day, which means I can dive into the films that hubby has opted-out of watching. So, I resolved to watch Sátántangó.

Someone actually posted the above image online, and it is incredibly true. This is not my first foray into Tarr’s bleak world. Having already seen Werckmeister Harmonies and A torinói ló there were a number of things I have come to expect from his films. Not just the use of long takes and black-and-white, but also a sense of nihilism.

Thing is, seven and a half hours of this is a lot different two. For one thing, it takes pretty much a whole day to watch it. Knowing about one of the more famous scenes it was definitely not a film to keep on whilst you are eating. So, I planned my watching:

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

IMG_3090[1]Food item: (Irish) Soda Bread

After some toasted soda bread with Marmite, it was time to start the movie. Thinking about it, I am not entirely sure why I went for Marmite over some food list honey that I have been saving… I guess I didn’t want anything sweet.

Having watched the film, I really could have done with something sweeter. Rather famously, Sátántangó begins with a 8-9 minute tracking shot of cows walking down a street. The weird thing? It was oddly captivating.

That’s the thing with Sátántangó, it is minimalist, slow and strangely hypnotic. In total, the film is divided into 12 parts, the parts corresponding the dance steps of a tango (ergo the name). It is also divided into 3 parts since no one can be expected to watch a 7.5 hour film without needing a bathroom break.

Unlike Rigetwhich fills it’s many hours with a large amount of content, you could probably cut Sátántangó right down into a 2 hour film; possibly even less. The main narrative thread of the film surrounds money that is about to be given to the members of this small village. Some people are conspiring to take all the money for themselves, leaving the rest to starve. The main person who wants to take the money being  a charismatic and Messianic con artist.

Seeing how this is a very very long film there are a lot of scenes to talk about, but I am going to focus on two that occur in the middle of the film. Both the characters involved in the scenes pretty much only appear in isolation from the rest of the cast. I guess that is one of the reason that these scenes stick out so much.

The first of these is with the village doctor as he runs out of brandy. Earlier in the film we have already witnessed one side of the scene, but now we see it from his perspective. He takes down notes in his house across the way, carefully taking down all the actions that are taking place. It is a good introduction into this round, alcoholic character whose final actions of plunging the screen into darkness (right at the end of the film) serve a fitting end to all the bleakness that we have witnessed.

This scene, and his subsequent scenes, stand out to me because in many ways this doctor is ostracised from the group. Also, his quest to replenish his brandy is depicted not as a simple jaunt to a shop, but as something truly epic and laborious.

The main scene that stuck with me, however, involves a girl and her cat. The scene I am talking about is not the infamous one showing her torturing her cat and then killing it with milk that has been spiked with rat poison. The scenes with her and the cat are upsetting, but I think when people say ‘cat torture’ I was expected something a lot more… graphic. I am very glad it was not as bad as that. It was still not easy to watch though.

No, the scene I am talking about occurs almost an hour before the second section leaves, when she kills herself after ingesting rat poison. I know that there are more more bleak scenes in the final section of the film (such as the nightmares of the villagers as they all sleep in an abandoned house), but this was especially poignant. I mean, just how isolated and pointless must she have felt to go to that abandoned building and eat a handful of poison? Just her lying there clutching the corpse of her recently deceased cat had an odd beauty to it. Far more than the drunken dancing where we scene a couple eating a loaf of bread Lady and the Tramp style.

IMG_3091[1]
Food item: Game pates

At the second interval, it was time for lunch. Now, I bought a bunch of these game pates and terrines at Lidl. I walked the hour and a bit round trip in the morning so I could peruse some of the more unsual items. £3.99 for six small jars of game pate and terrine? Pretty much a bargain.

Progress: 791/933

Considering how I left the film at a drunken dance right before they discovered that the neglected cat-torturing girl had killed herself with rat poison… I wasn’t exactly the hungriest.

The third and final part of the film shows the village at their most vulnerable. It is fairly obvious that this is a place where despite the passing of time, nothing really changes. The suicide of the girl, however, has left some monumental ripples. Her act, which stemmed from powerlessness and neglect, truly helps to amplify the powerlessness of the entire group.

By the time this film ended it was nearly five in the afternoon, the day being almost completely swallowed up by this movie. It took an awful lot to sit down to watch this and in retrospect I wish I had watched the three parts separately. It is not as if they would have lost any momentum. So, if you have yet to watch this movie and you want to do it at home… maybe do that.

1001 Songs – 1947 – 1951

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

White Christmas – Bing Crosby (1947)

We’re listening to this in the beginning of November, so this doesn’t feel as out of place as when this is going on the web. It’s one of those classic songs; I know a lot of these are, but this is the biggest selling song of all time so a major classic. Still weird to think that this isn’t the original Bing Crosby version; that this had to be re-done in 1947 because the 1942 version was just played too often and became damaged. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this song, but I can appreciate the vocals. The whistling bit always makes me think of an intrusive postman whistling through the window, to this day I have no idea why.

Good Rockin’ Tonight – Roy Brown (1947)

It’s weird hearing the original version rather than the Elvis cover. I’m not entirely sure what genre this would fall under. It’s probably the most danceable song on this list so far. There are definitely elements of rock n’ roll here as well as some blues. So I can see why Elvis would later cover this in the late fifties.

Nature Boy – The Nat King Cole Trio (1948)

Another song I know, this time it is odd to hear it not being sung by David Bowie or not being played in Moulin Rouge. Nat King Cole is my voice of Christmas, much more than Bing Crosby and his ‘White Christmas’. With his rich voice and the strings this story within the song becomes rather magical. Apparently a rare example of a black musician of that era trying out some white pop.

Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (1949)

Where ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ felt like it had rock n roll elements, ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ really feels like a further evolution. There is still that boogie woogie sound running through it though, so this isn’t quite there yet. Interesting insight into black culture and the ‘fish fries’ which would lead to police raids.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams (1949)

The first country song that we have looked at since The Carter Family, which amounts to a 15 year gap. Where they had folk influences, this feels like a far purer form of country. I mean, it even has a fiddle break. I don’t think mournful quite covers the emotions expressed in the song, maybe despairing is closer?

Autumn Leaves – Jo Stafford (1950)

Here we are entering the 1950s. Her voice reminds me of Zola Jesus in the way that is was so clear. Where a lot of singers would have a trace of vibrato on some of the notes she hits on ‘Autumn Leaves’ she avoids them almost completely. The song itself is one of those mournful standards that many artists have tried their hand at. Like ‘Beyond The Sea’ this was originally in French.

Summertime – Sarah Vaughan (1950)

From the musical Porgy & Bess, ‘Summerime’ is one of those songs that can really show off Sarah Vaughan’s impressive vocal range. Originally this is an opera song and Vaughan really has no trouble in making this aria incredibly grand and emotive. It is weird listening to this when all I know her from is the From Mister Kellys live album where you get a glimpse into her more puckish personality (see: ‘How High The Moon’).

Goodnight, Irene – The Weavers (1950)

In 1950, this was the biggest selling song in America. It sounds like a suicidal folk song done to the tune of a waltz. This has been called a ‘prettied up’ version of a song by Leadbelly. Makes me interested to hear how depressing the original was…

Mambo No. 5 – Perez Prado (1950)

It’s instrumental! I never expected that. Now, we all know the Lou Bega version of this song where he sings about sleeping with every girl under the sun like a manwhore. This mambo is so much better without the lyrics. Maybe it would have been even better without the Hammond organ, but those were the times.

Rocket 88 – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats (1951)

Another song that people have opined could be the first rock and roll song. What’s more of interest to me here is the appearance of Ike Turner as an uncredited writer.

Cry – Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (1951)

I am either made of stone, or I just hate crooners. Since I always cry at the Christmas John Lewis adverts I will go for the latter. It just felt overblown; there was no subtlety, only drama.

How High the Moon – Les Paul and Mary Ford (1951)

Okay, that was different from the Sarah Vaughan version I mentioned earlier. I mean, in this version they actually know the lyrics and don’t try to scat sing. It makes for a very different song, then again these drastically different cover versions of the same were seemingly so common back in the 40s and 50s. In this version, the central focus really is the guitar playing by Les Paul himself.

London Is the Place for Me – Lord Kitchener (1951)

An interesting calypso song sung by a West Indian man who migrated to London. It’s so London that it copies the chimes of Big Ben using a piano. It’s a very hopeful song, especially when you consider how scary leaving home for another country is.

Progress: 44/1021

Good Eatin’: Indian Food From Tasnim’s

It’s always difficult the first week back after time off work, even more so (apparently) if you have had three weeks off. What maybe doesn’t help is if that week is capped off by a Saturday meeting where you need to travel to the other side of the country and back within the same day… I guess it’s nice to feel important.

So on the Friday I really did not feel like cooking. It had been a long time since we last had curry (hubby brought that up, shocking since I didn’t think he actually liked Indian food) so this seemed like the most logical conclusion. Thankfully.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books


Food items: Paratha and Chapati

Since we don’t get curry that often it was still easy to mine the menu for food list items. I mean, there were still items in the ‘sundries’ list that we could have opted for.

Thinking about it, chapati is an interesting bread to feature on this list. I mean, I definitely preferred the paratha since the one we bought was stuffed. The fact that chapati is left intentionally rather flavourless, so as to be a platform for other flavours, means that it would have been stupid to just eat it on its own. We didn’t, since we bought curry, but usually I would have done so.

I guess, in purpose, both of these are fairly similar to the Ethiopian injera or the Mexican tortilla.  Unless there is another flatbread left to come (possibly one from Sardinia) I think I can make a final flatbread assessment and put my full love behind the injera.


Food items: Egg-fried Rice and Cauliflower Bhaji

There are a large number of ‘bhaji’ on the second food list; this cauliflower bhaji is the first one that I didn’t like. I don’t like cauliflower anyway, but I figured that fried and in some sauce I might appreciate it. Even THAT isn’t enough. It’s a texture thing for me, I can’t get over the idea that I am eating vegetable brains, rather flavourless vegetable brains.

Then you get rice that has been fried with egg and spices. Always a good shout, but I’ve never ticked it off as I usually opt for special fried rice instead. The sacrifices that this list demands…


Food items: Rogan Josh and Lamb Pasanda

Lamb Pasanda used to be my go to curry whenever I ordered with my mum. It’s creamy like a korma but fruitier and you tend to get a better quality of meat. Rogan Josh was more my mum’s style of curry. The one we got was rather heavy on the cardamom (sadly not Guatemalan cardamom otherwise that would have been another check). Of the two, I probably still prefer the pasanda.

Progress: 788/933