Saturday, 30 April 2016

200 years of Australian Fashion

We recently returned from a trip to Australia. It was a long overdue holiday and our expectations of it were quite low as both of us had been sick leading up to it. However, it excelled above and beyond and now I can't wait to return.

Our main intent in Melbourne was to attend the Andy Warhol exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. But we arrived in its final few days and the queues were so long we decided reluctantly to give it a miss. Instead we focussed on other travelling and permanent exhibits in Melbourne and Adelaide. We weren't disappointed. I had no idea the breadth of talent in the Australian art community, and have fallen heavily for Fredrick McCubbin, Alfred Stretton, etc. We even managed to visit The Cedars, the home of artist Hans Heysens.

So I will begin with the National Gallery of Victoria's "200 years of Australian Fashion" exhibition. I was allowed to take photos, but without flash, and the room was dark, so there may be obvious camera shake on some photos. I don't like to admit it, but I enjoyed this better than the Yves St Laurent retrospective I saw last year at the Bowes Museum. Different in every way in terms of curation, but somehow there was a spirit with the Australian exhibition which was not there in the YSL one. I suppose it was the sheer breadth of the history projected out from a pioneer nation. Sometimes it positively sang out from the ribbons and bows

I'll let you judge for yourselves.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Knoedel and remembrance of dumplings past

I have been making use of the local library for family history research this week. They have a free edition of Ancestry, so I have been able to fill in one or two mysterious gaps in the family tree. I was reflecting on the memories this research has flickered into focus. Not so much about people, but about the times they lived in - enviably a time which was much simpler than the age we now live in, but so much more labour intensive, especially housework and cooking.

When I was a child my mother made very simple food for my dad and I. She grew up during the Depression and had survived WWII in the Armed forces and the rationing which followed the War. So she could make something modest go a long way. Meals were usually vegetables from our garden and some inexpensive cut of meat. My favourite weekend meal was mince with dumplings. As a student I didn't eat meat, then later it just felt gluttonous to make meat and dumplings for one, so its delicious simplicity faded like a WI cookbook.

Tonight I made a big pot of chicken soup, as my better half and I have throat infections and the malaise that comes with a body not up to much. In a fit of nostalgia, I roamed the internet for a dumpling recipe. The result was amazing. The photo is of the dumplings, mid-dry fry. Mum never put them directly in the mince but caramelised them first, got them to puff and crisp up, then put them to hover on top of the meaty gravy.

The recipe couldn't be more simple: 2 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 tsp salt and 4 tablespoons of butter. Shape the dough into rough balls (I made mine quite large), then I put them to dry-fry in the pan. You can add dried parsley to the dough if you like.

These dumplings also had me wandering back to times in the Czech Republic and Austria and the freezing winter evenings where starch, and lots of it, was the only way to keep warm. Where the evening meal resembled that which would have graced the trencher of a magistrate or government inspector straight out of Gogol or Chekov. Not for them a dainty bowl of mince, but a slab of pig and jug of ale.

The Dumpling - a gateway to memory.