Thursday, 23 June 2011

Trophy Kitchen

The kitchen, still the hub of the home and a room for culinary adventures. In my naivety I presumed this too was everybody else's view, but I stand corrected. The trend now it seems to prize its non-function ability and fill the space with expensive kitchen wizardry. Surfaces kept so pristine you could eat off them. Appliances primarily used as a mirror. The kitchen, a highly prized decorative feature. Still a room in which to gather, but to actually cook would be unthinkable. The kitchen, the place to be. To eat heated up microwave food and takeaways, but the room itself to largely remain spotless and untouched. This idea has somehow spread like a contagious disease. I'm sure you've heard of the virus: Designer Kitchen, and caught the bug too.

I'm baffled by this trend. The kitchen admired, but not used. I was unable however to escape from the Designer Kitchen's grasp. Moving into a new build over two years ago, the kitchen came complete with integrated appliances, which if I'm honest I do prefer. I hate shopping for white goods, but it also has its drawbacks. The fridge-freezer's so large I cannot hope nor do I attempt to fill it, and it's impossible to defrost. The dishwasher I never use preferring to wash all my used plates, pots and pans by hand. I find it therapeutic. Other than a kettle, electric hob and oven, it's free from any new fangled gadgets. Okay, so I have a hand-held blender, if you really want to be pedantic. The kitchen is my working space. A practical space to get creative, and let's be honest a little dirty. Sauces will splash and hands will get mucky. Cooking's never been sold as a clean business.

My overriding concern that we're becoming dependent on a convenient lifestyle. Fast food,microwave meals, and ready-prepared ingredients increasingly churned out, or a gadget to do the job. What has happened to our basic kitchen skills? Product ranges in supermarkets making it clear we can't or won't chop onions, peel potatoes or carrots. The kitchen can be the heart of the home, but without the expensive gadgetry. All it requires is a clean pair of hands and the bare essentials, like a good chopping knife, or potato masher. Elbow grease is what makes the kitchen a trophy, not a nation of lazy cooks.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Feather's High Tea

Ever since April, I've felt compelled to host my own street party. This one however set in the land of make-believe. A fantasy tea. I've given it serious thought from the food down to the guests. My imagination used to its wildest degree. If anything was possible, what would your ultimate party be? Who would you invite if you could have your pick from the dead, living and famous? A little fantasy good for your health. An escape from the clutches of boredom. Bearing this in mind, what follows is a imaginary treat. Time to take your place at Feather's High Tea!

Why Feather you ask?" Because growing up, childhood friends often struggled to sound the letter “H”. Feather was easier to say. This stuck and strangely enough suits my frame and temperament. I can get swept along in my mind and quite literally off my feet, as my plans for a high tea will show. I flick through possible venues in my head. Nonsuch Park? Epsom Downs? No, let's keep it real. Mum and Dad's long patch of lawn will do. I picture a Moorish style tent, tables and chairs set up inside, and butlers to facilitate our desires. Their main job to meet and greet, pour tea, serve finger foods and cakes. A private chef installed in the kitchen, producing World-inspired hot and cold bites, all veggie approved and compliant. I wonder if The Vegetarian Society's Kitchen Doctor could be bribed? The final touch. A decked area with Buddha statues, water feature, coloured cushions and fabrics. A place for guests to congregate before and after this vegetarian eating/drinking experience.

Scene set, we need only the guests to walk on stage. Who will I hope has RSVP? The guest list a mix of artists – actors, writers and poets. The lack of veggie invites duly noted. Those amongst the living include the Dali Lama, Peter Owen Jones, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jamie Oliver, Michael Palin, Helena Bonham-Cater, Colin Firth, comedians Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French to liven up proceedings, and Johnny Depp, with the condition he comes dressed as Capt Jack Sparrow. Accompanied by a list of the deceased. Literary greats, such as Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Mrs Gaskell, and the lesser known Charlotte Mew. Yes, it's a little unbalanced, but these are my top people as Bridget Jones would say. My daydream drifts on... mind lost in this land of English high tea, with an African/Eastern theme. I'll leave you to imagine what yours would be...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Beneath The Mask

The face is often described as a mask. A mask demonstrating or hiding pure emotion. In our beautiful trend, the mask is now the new face – our property to be worked on and improved. Make-up or cosmetic facial procedures liberally applied. Permanent reconstruction, or temporary disguise removed away from prying eyes. Women taught early on to perfect: camouflage blemishes and enhance their best features. Natural skin tone covered up, foundation trawled on with a truck, and eyeshadow/lipstick to match their ensemble. This, our bid to comply and be flawless. Women perceived as if they belong to society. Is it too late to revise the damage already done?

A vivid memory remains to this day - my Nan disappearing upstairs to “put her face on” before venturing out to the shops. Whenever asked where she was, I'd reply, “Putting on her mask”. This ritual, a running joke between us. Funny to me at the time as I didn't understand the concept. I thought she already had a face! Nonetheless, a fascinating process to watch – quick dab of powder, lipstick and scent. Mum not following this fashion. My experiments with make-up started young, long before others in my class. I wanted to be grown up as well as cover up what I conceived as a flaw – my face. The wrong shape, uneven fair tone, and freckles. My face undesired by myself or those I admired. Make up, was also a huge confidence boost. Skin tone evened out, blemishes covered, I was ready to face the world, or answer a knock at the door. There were still plenty of times however when my head was kept decidedly down. People avoided, the world shut out of view.

I was one of those, like so many others, an awkward, self conscious and self obsessed teenager, but I have made progress. I'm much more self possessed. Make-up no longer so important for I made peace with my face. Cosmetics pared down to the minimum – real skin left to shine through. Who cares if I do or don't meet the set criteria? I'd rather be an English rose, than look like I've been tangoed. Make-up has its place. It can help you through those gawky and ill at ease years, but it shouldn't become your identity. I worry this trend to conceal has become overly inflated. No longer a choice, but an automatic necessity, like mannequins churned out of a factory.

We need to be rid of this sense of shame to just be who we are. A beautiful face and outlook lies beneath the mask.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Way Off Track

The F1 season in full swing. For those not in the know, I'm talking Formula One – fast cars and racing drivers. It may come as a surprise that I've been described as a vegetarian petrol head. A bona fide female fan, not here to admire the boys, but the fast pace and bodywork of their toys. An old shoe box filled with toy cars my introduction to the sport. A miniature Kitt, from Knight Rider, my childish prized possession. Progressing to Scaletrix not far behind, building the track, racing my Dad and counting down laps to the finish. Formula One, the family sport. As much a part of family life as the furniture we sat in, gathered round the box awaiting the start. Edging forward in our seats as the red lights go out and they pull away. Will the driver on pole succeed in taking the lead? Who will be squeezed off line? Excitement died down, race very much underway.

This thrill not left me today. Weekends planned round the F1 schedule, my calendar sown up till the last race in November. Coverage watched live no matter the wee hour. Race debated after. Motor sport not for everyone and I don't wish to lose you now, but stay - hear me out... This female Formula One fan unusual for it goes against the tide. It's Extravagant, Ungreen and Sexist. The underlined letters backwards spelling SUE, which I concord. As a fan, I'm disappointed with its lack of forward thinking – where are the women in this sport? Consigned off track, behind the scenes that's where. Females propping up departments you don't get to see. PR, admin and catering, the small cogs in big wheels of this well-oiled motor machine. Other females posed explicitly or draped seductively around – a human trophy for the drivers and male fans.

This sport no different from any other in its lack of femininity. Sebastian Vettel, the current World Champion, no ambassador for the sport. Fantastic driver, although I'm not a fan. His view of women my concern for he names his cars. This year's design we're told called “Kinky Kylie” for its tightly packed rear. His age, hormone levels and apparent immaturity no excuse for this derogatory behaviour. As a woman, am I meant to believe this attitude remains within the car while his hands are safely at the wheel? Boys will be boys you might think, but I'd rather not know. It detracts from the sport and like a recent Proctor and Gamble advert continues to portray women as just a body. No rights to expression.

Motor sport is a boys' club. This hasn't slipped my memory, but women should not be forgotten fans in the line-up. I'm not asking the sport to be feminised or dumbed down for my entertainment. This very notion appalls me – Penelope Pitstop denied access to this circuit!! I don't do frills, shoes and accessories, but I would like to see a little equality. Women not left way off track, but involved in basic F1 terminology.