Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday Supplement

Why buy a Sunday paper when you could read MINE, assembled using the internet equivalent of a Letraset printing set and a Pritt Stick?

Shopping/Stuff/How to Spent It In Van Den Borre Which Is A Bit Like Currys

This weekend we have purchased a NooNoo, you know, a Roomba: one of those ridiculous automatic hoover thingies like the hoover from the Tellytubbies, except without eyes and a trunk, for people too effete and pathetic to hoover themselves, ie. me (I once notoriously told someone our hoover was "broken" when the truth was I did not know how to turn it on). We used to have one about 8 years ago, a first generation NooNoo that lurched around our flat noisily like a Glaswegian drunk, picking fights with pieces of furniture. For entertainment (a scant commodity in those difficult days), we would place a biscuit on top and make Fingers - then learning to walk - stagger after it. Most mornings you would find it revving angrily in the kitchen, having ingested half a tea towel in an act of insane vacuum cleaner hubris. We would perform delicate reconstructive surgery on it, removing the chewed strands of fabric, pound coins and lengths of cable from its tangled intestines, and restoring it to full health, only for it to go off and get itself into a similar mess the next day. I loved that thing.

This new version is faster and sleeker but still awe-inspiringly aggressive. It is like a hideous, flattened monomaniacal Dalek, repeatedly infuriated by its own limitations. It has already made a drone accurate beeline for me several times while I was sitting minding my own business, trying to drink a cup of tea, placing itself under my chair and bashing into the legs in a violently repetitive manner, as if in the throes of a murderous cleaning frenzy. The dog, predictably, is terrified. Having introduced the two of them (rolling eyes, look of blank panic, skittish jumps, retreat to farthest corner of sofa) and retired to bed, I found myself wondering what kind of scene might await us in the morning. Oscar's approach to things he fears and detests is generally to eat them during the night (would that we could all do that). Recently, he has eaten his most loathed tormentor, the model helicopter, depositing the mangled pieces under a blanket where he hoped we wouldn't notice. I have hidden NooNoo under a cupboard for its own safety. I want many years of angry, overreaching cleaning action, or at least as many as the limited Van Den Borre guarantee is likely to cover, before it gets retired to the Roomba graveyard, which I imagine to be extremely like Asylum of the Daleks, but more compact, especially if you stack the rogue ones.

Then, because things weren't peculiar enough, we bought a mushroom "farm" at a farm open day fête today, in one of those fits of misguided enthusiasm that come over people when confronted with a jolly bucolic scenes of honest yeomen selling root vegetables and chickens pecking at beer cans and taciturn men in leather hats selling "artisanal" saucisson that they bought in Carrefour. The "farm" consists, essentially, of a cardboard box of horseshit that you put in your cellar and hope for the best. The children are wildly enthused despite neither of them ever having eaten a mushroom consciously in their short lives. It already smells of decomposition, and the advice included not at all alarming things like "if you find you get a fly infestation, get rid of it" and "when the mushrooms turn black, your crop is over". Yes, one can see it might be.


- Recipe for relaxed Sunday lunch

Send children to Quick with their father. Eat Marks and Spencer dark chocolate ginger biscuits on your own, in bed, with Hilary Mantel.

- Recipe for a nervous breakdown

Attempt to replicate the recipes you learnt in your choux pastry class with your younger son. Fuck up your crème patissière twice. Ensure all your choux have holes in them for the filling to leak out of. Smear yourself liberally in every half-assed preparation involved in the whole sorry process. Fingers pointed out a short time ago that I even have choux pastry ON MY BACK. Everything in the kitchen is coated in a thin film of butter and defeat. The dog is crunching egg shells furtively behind the bins. We should have just stopped at chouquettes. We were winning with the chouquettes.

Food Shopping and time required to do it

Still warm, soft, sourdough from Charli (queue time: five minutes).

Phénix cake (cassis mousse and pistachio genoise, amazing) from Saint Aulaye bakery, newly arrived ten minutes down the road from me, and adding approximately a kilo a week to my rear (queue time: twenty minutes, with the dog outside the door keening mournfully). Does not contain phoenixes.

Wild mushroom omelette from a gang of hippies in a field (queue time: fifteen minutes during most of which time a wild eyed man in baggy trousers was meticulously burning it to a crisp whilst staring into the middle distance. Still good though).

Pheasant pâté from Fonteyne (queue time: THIRTY FIVE GODALMIGHTY MINUTES while a woman discussed every fucking detail of her ambassadorial reception, shut up shut up shut up and let me buy a chicken in the name of all that is holy).


I am halfway through Bring up the Bodies as inexpertly photographed in the sidebar. Unlike Wolf Hall, which took me approximately the duration of Henry VIII's reign (though, I should say, in a pleasurable way), I'm completely desperate to read on in every spare moment: maybe because there's a sort of remorseless momentum to events. Gorgeous anyway. I want to crawl inside and live in it, but with modern dentistry and antibiotics, obviously.

Reading something utterly peculiar on the Kindle recommended by someone here, about a medium. Bonkers. No idea what it is. Oh! Having searched back and looked it up, I now know the name of the book (Heidi Julavits, The Vanishers) and that it was Margaret. Thank you for the suggestion, Margaret. Odd, and not at all my usual, but alluring and also, importantly, funny. 

I also went to see The Vaccines on Friday night, which was perfectly enjoyable, yet hmm. I don't know. It's all so stupidly catchy, but I feel sort of manipulated and faintly ashamed when I enjoy their idiot two minute flatpack indie geetar pop tunes, like I am basically revealing myself to be a musical moron (I am). The show was fast and efficient and well-behaved and a bit ersatz, somehow, like a band composed by focus group; nothing messy, nothing spontaneous, all over by 10:15 (which did at least leave time for a half and half - ghastly but compelling Brussels concoction of sweet white wine and cheap fizz - at Le Cirio, my favourite bar in Brussels, which is never, ever a bad thing).

There is this terrible French song that is earworming the life out of me at the moment and I have to share the pain. It's like the 80s threw up in my head and Etienne Daho stood and watched. Bastard, bastard, catchy bastard song. The only thing currently able to displace is is Pokemon (which never fails, it is the earworm displacer to end all earworms. Do not listen to it if you value your sanity "Pokemon! Attrapez-les, c'est notre histoire/Ensemble pour la victoire/Rien ne nous arrêtera/Notre amitié triomphera").

Cutting edge review section there, eh. Erudite. Well-informed. Cogent.

Shouty, opinionated column part

I think here I was planning to write an impassioned defence of cake, in reaction to Tanya Gold and Helen Rumbelow's both interesting, thoughtful pieces saying baking is essentially a reactionary, repressive force at a time when there are Bigger Issues than getting an even rise on your genoise, but it's time for Homeland, so it'll have to be tomorrow, I suppose. Tsk. I also still need to formulate some kind of coherent argument rather than just having a vague sense that it's 'not quite fair'.

Letters to the editor, or section contributions, in the comments.


Margaret said...

There are anti-cake people? I understand that some people don't like cake or can't eat cake for health reasons, but to be actively AGAINST cake and baking--bizarre. Why not just go around shooting everybody's grandma while you're at it. It's fucking CAKE, not a burqa. What is wrong with people?

Where are you in Homeland--first season or second? And have you seen this?

Waffle said...

Margaret! You commented too early, I was editing to include a reference to you!

Second season Homeland. And YES. YES FUCK YES DO NOT BE AGAINST CAKE.

Going to look at Claire Danes now.

Patience_Crabstick said...

This post made ma laugh and laugh: your aggressive roomba, your struggles with pastry. I am afraid to read the words of women who are opposed to cake.

The mushroom farm--my son was running a "mushroom farm" out of his bedroom while he was away at college, with nearly tragic results. Beware the mushroom!

Helen said...

I would love it if you printed these out and stuck them together, perhaps with two mis-aligned staples in the middle, and sent it to me in an envelope with a stamp drawn on (of the queen smiling, natch).

The anti-cake thing seems to stem from that particular kind of feminism that ignores choice. I am ever grateful for the suffragettes and later waves who fought for my basic equality rights, but nowadays I don't bake because the Dutchman beats me and forces me into the kitchen, or because as a woman it is in my nature, I bake because I enjoy it. I have the luxury of choosing whether to do something or not, and I choose to wear floral dresses and make cakes.

(Slightly ranty due to having similar argument with a friend this weekend. Apologies.)

Please take video footage of NooNoo's antics and post for us all to enjoy!

The Reluctant Launderer said...

Blast you, Waffle, I have been given strict instructions NOT TO LAUGH. If my wiring comes undone, I shall be blaming you, your weekend and your offspring (or rather your lovely descriptions thereof). Funnily, I had a conversation with my Ob as he was rummaging away last week - him on one side of a green sheet - me on the other, about Bring up the Bodies, and the merits - or otherwise - of living in those times. We both agreed that a strong constitution, your own personal medical team, and an indestructible metal neck brace / protection thingy would be fairly fundamental to survival. He didn't agree with me on the life-time supply of chocolate. (Surely if a man has his hands in your innards good manners dictates he should agree with everything you say?)

Alison said...

I read Tanya Gold's labyrinthine argument yesterday (where she lumps together half a dozen observations into a single trend), and it got me flapping my carrier bags in anger, to the point of actually delurking on here. Why can't I be a feminist and make shortbread? Or teeny choux pastry cygnets? Grrr.

Waffle said...

Ha, Alison, and there was I trying to be polite. But yes. YES. Hands off our choux cygnets, Gold.

Rosie Redfield said...

Check out @SelfAwareROOMBA on twitter.

Betty M said...

Not sure I understand the baking is bad for women arguments. Baking is an excellent use of the gloomy rain sodden interminable weekends plus you get universally excellent feedback from the small ones no matter how unrisen or soggily bottomed your offering is.

Scunder said...

I am rather taken with the Charli's Le Frou Frou with 'roasted apple tulips'. What is life without such delights as raosted apple tulip shortbread cake FGS?
I am not entertaining a life without cake: whats all this nonsense about banning it? God some people are as dumb as soup.

vivien y said...

Strongly empathise with not knowing how to turn the hoover on - yayy!

Waffle said...

Launderer - OH GOD YOU HAD THE BABY! Is all ok?

Rosie - I am hooked on @SelfawareROOMBA now. What a haunting figure.

Scunder - I am adopting "as dumb as soup" forthwith.

The Reluctant Launderer said...

Thank you Ms Waffle, yes I did, can you believe it?! Baby Mia, she is very sweet, albeit looks like my great grand aunt did as she shuffled towards the 100-yr mark.
Everything was - is -ok - ish (how ok can it be, truly, to have a baby, 2 other small ones, and be recovering from a c-section?)- and I'm now waiting for her to start her FEROCIOUS roaring so I can stick on a dvd for the toddlers then hobble up the 457 steps to the top of the house where I - stupidly - left her. In fairness however, I cannot blame just her for my current state (exhaustion, numbness, shock) - I had the Boy's 4th birthday party yesterday. AT HOME. During the 4am feeds I worry that they may also have removed part of my brain. (For example - reading about your macaroon class, I thought - she came all the way to Waterloo Station to bake some cakes? and also - why were they speaking french at Waterloo Station? The penny (euro) dropped eventually)

Waffle said...

It cannot be ok at all, but you are my heroine. Also A CHILD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY AT HOME WITH A NEWBORN, DEAR LORD. I sacrifice a toad for your continued good health and sanity.

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