Posts tagged ‘memories’

January 30, 2012

Odd food favourites and a bit of nostalgia.

Recently, I’ve been a bit off my food. I know, it’s clearly a first world kind of problem and I am very grateful that I have a fully stocked fridge. It’s just that I’ve spent the past few days unable to taste a bloody thing because of a rotten head cold and so unless I’ve had a really growling tummy, I’ve just not eaten with the same greed as usual! This is probably A Good Thing, but it’s making me a bit miserable. To summon up a bit of enthusiasm for eating (as my lovely husband thinks I need to eat so I have the energy to get better) I’ve been trying to think of my very favourite foods and have been amused at where this thought process has led me. I have some odd food favourites…

I mean, I’ve tried to like grown up food like olives. I really have. One of my favourite things to eat ever is good bread with olive oil and expensive, treacly, balsamic vinegar but I cannot bear olives. I even once had a picnic with an enforced olive tasting session, but it didn’t work. I’ve since realised that trying to train myself to like food that I don’t like is silly, when I am so fortunate to have so many other options. So, no more olives.

The truth is that I’m beginning to think that many of my favourite foods are not really food at all. I mean, beyond having some kind of calorific value, obviously. Take raw cake mix. It’s ace. I could quite happily eat half a cake’s worth on my own. One of the hardest things about baking when pregnant was not being able to eat raw cake mixture because of the eggs. Quite put me off the whole thing. I know that raw eggs aren’t exactly great for little kids either, but I’m not the kind of mum who isn’t going to let them lick the spoon…

Another of my favourite foods is pizza crust. Not the middle, lovely, oozy cheesy bit of pizza. The crust. The bit that half the pizza-eating world happily leave on their plate. If I’m out with people to eat pizza I have to remind myself that stealing the crusts from other people’s plates is not good manners. So it’s a good thing that these days I’m more likely to get take-away pizza ( I have no scruples about stealing from family) or making my own – take a look here for my recipe. I quite like burnt-on cheese too, which often happens when I make pizza at home. You know, that bit of cheese that oozes off the side, sticks to the baking tray and goes all bubbly and crispy. Mmm. You can make Parmesan crisps in the same way. Just grate some Parmesan cheese and then put it in little piles onto a baking tray. Cook in the oven until they do that bubbling, crisping up thing, and then take them out, leave them a bit to go hard and cold before taking off the baking tray and eating. Nice with a cold glass of prosecco.

My last favourite food that’s not really food is scraps. By which I mean those bits of fried batter that you get from the fish and chip shop. I’m sure they have lots of other names depending on which part of the country you’re from. Once of the reasons for this is nostalgia though. When I was younger I had a pony. ( I know!) I started horse riding when I was seven, after my mum took me to a local stables. I’m fairly sure she just thought I’d be interested for a bit then give it up, but it stuck. She always says it was the most expensive decision she ever made.  I went there every weekend and spent all day doing stable duties in return for a free lesson each week. Then, one day, they announced they were closing down. My lovely grandad had given me some money that had been put into savings and so I was allowed to use this to buy a pony, on the condition that I looked after her properly and worked as much as I could to keep her.

And so, I became the proud owner of Lisa (not named by me, I hasten to add), a Welsh Section D chestnut mare with a blaze and a flaxen mane and tail, and the rather less-than thrilled employee at both a local fish and chip shop and fruit and veg stall. I worked on Friday nights in the chip shop with another woman. We used to amuse ourselves when it was quiet by trying to fry the biggest scrap in history, which we then used to eat in a bread-cake. Seriously, my arteries are ruined. RUINED, I tell you.

Still, it was worth it. Look at how beautiful she was. Sadly she died when I was at agricultural college and it broke my heart. Still makes me cry now. As does looking at my hair in this rather vintage photograph…

September 9, 2011

Fragrance: part two

Fragrance is an emotional subject, although when you enter a department store to be assaulted on all sides by the latest offerings, it is easy to forget to really take your time and make sure that you love a perfume before parting with your money. It is important to wear a fragrance for a while to fully experience the longer lasting middle and base notes which are the real heart of a perfume and do not truly arrive until after the fresher, louder top notes have disappeared. This is not something that is uppermost in the minds of people trying to get you to buy whatever new scent they are trying to sell!

For me, there are a handful of perfumes that will be forever associated with specific people and moments in time.

The first of these is ‘Eternity’ by Calvin Klein. My perfume bible (Perfumes, The A-Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez)  describes this as a ‘ screechy and soapy’ rose. Which it is. For me,  it is also the smell of Rhodes, a greek island that was the location for my one and only foreign holiday as a child with my parents and younger brother. My mother bought a bottle of Eternity at the airport on the way there and wore it every day. Infused in my memories with the sun, sea and Greek hospitality, this perfume is the one I wear to feel close to my Mum, even though she doesn’t wear it these days.

Eternity, anniversary engraved bottle

‘Envy’ by Gucci fares better with Turin and Sanchez, as a five star green floral. Sadly now discontinued (although you can still pick it up in a few places) Envy was one of the first perfumes I bought for myself,  as I was lured into the undeniable glamour and luxury of the Gucci house, and intoxicated by the smell. I wore this for a long while, and my oldest friend bought some for me, so it will always remind me of her, which is now a memory tinged by sadness as she emigrated to Canada. Rather amusingly, ‘Envy’ is really similar to ‘Pleasures’ by Esteé Lauder. Considering the contrast in the marketing of these two fragrances, it makes me smile to think of how similar they smell.

Another perfume that will always remind me of old friends is ‘Poison’ by Christian Dior. Famously loud, this is not a fragrance to wear when you are going to be in close contact with other people and certainly not out to dinner. We all wore it to dance in night-clubs, pretending to have an air of sophistication beyond our years. It formed the backdrop to many a memorable evening and in my mind is part of our coming of age. We also used to wear ‘Tendre Poison’, a lighter, greener version, which is also now discontinued. Lura Turin says of Poison, “This is the fragrance everybody loves to hate, the beast that defined the eighties…” (Although I’d like to point out that we were wearing it in the 1990’s in case anyone is trying to work out my age!) Apparently, it’s back in style, along with other loud eighties favourites this winter. If you choose to wear it, do so sparingly!

These days, I take great care in choosing new fragrances, and I’ll be writing about new favourites soon. If you’re interested in buying a copy of my favourite perfume guide, take a look here: Perfumes: The A-Z Guide: Luca Turin, Tania Sanchez: Books.

What are your sentimental perfumes, and why? Do tell…

July 26, 2011

Fragrant memories.

My darling daughter taught me a valuable lesson recently. Not on purpose, you understand. Like many things that happen to me, it started with an accident.

To begin the tale, I need to backtrack a bit to this Spring. In Paris, on Rue Cambon stands the original Chanel boutique. I’ve spoken before of my love for Chanel, but this year was only the second time I’ve stepped inside the hallowed store and this time, I was shopping.

To shop in the Chanel boutique here is a wonderful experience. For those of us not fortunate enough for it to be a regular occurance, it truly is a thing of excitement. Above the store is the famous appartment of Mademoiselle Chanel herself, not to mention where the white-coated staff of Chanel work their magic each collection. For a very special glimpse into this world, take a look at the documentary series: Signe Chanel – Haute Couture Collection [DVD]: Signe Chanel: Film & TV. This Spring, I particularly coveted a black dress with deep pink camellias on it, which I subsequently saw Anna Wintour wearing, so I am pretty confident that I made a great (although imaginary) choice!

Anyway, one of the many things I am passionate about is fragrance, and I was fortunate enough on this occasion to purchase two wonderful new ones, from Les Exclusifs de Chanel, which are only available in a handful of places across Europe.

I’d spent a considerable amount of time, in a state of what can only be described as giddiness (so sophisticated) making my choices, ably assisted by the staff at Chanel, who clearly understood that this was not an everyday shopping trip for me (my outfit alone gave the game away) and were patient, kind and liberal with the free samples. Once I’d made my choice, I was then taken to a separate room to make my payment. There is nothing as crass as a cash desk in the Chanel store!

The wonderful fragrances (Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, for those fragrance fans out there) were safely taken home and worn on special occasions, or quite frankly whenever I needed a lift. Both heady, warm and very grown up, they offer the emotional reassurances you need to take on the world. If Bois des Iles were a person, she’d be a glamourous great aunt, who still smoked, wore cashmere and called everyone ‘darling’. I love it. Cuir de Russie feels like a more dangerous character, leathery, smoky and somehow dirty, but in a great way. If you are interested in fragrance, you need to seek these out, they’re incredible.

That is, they were incredible. Until my darling daughter smashed one of the bottles all over the wooden floor boards in my bedroom. After the initial upset, which I have to admit was very tearful, my husband was able to help me come to terms with it. Ok, I’m being melodramatic, I admit, but I have precious few luxury items these days, and loads of lesser perfumes all over the bathroom but it just had to be this one that was lost. Isn’t life just like that?

He reminded me that, although the fragrance was so very special, part of what had made it so was the memory of its purchase. A memory which I remember every detail of. A memory which still makes me smile, brings back that giddiness and which I will have forever. It helps of course, that the bedroom now has the scent of that memory soaked into it, so I get a reminder each time I walk in. It helps that I still have a teeny, tiny amount of the perfume left for when I really need that grown up help. And it helps that I am going to make a new memory by saving for a replacement bottle to buy next year in Rome. But what is really important is that I was given a little reminder that memories are more important than material goods, however beautiful they may be.