Tag Archives: blogs

Hvala for the honey cake, Pauline

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Pauline’s Cookbook is a wonderful blog maintained by Tonya Shuster. As she describes it, it’s a “memoir of sorts about my grandmother’s life, woven around the gift of a handmade pastry cookbook she cherished for nearly 80 years”.  The story is so poignant and so beautifully told, I’m not going to spoil it by retelling it in my own words – read it here on the page named after Pauline’s advice ‘Life is short, enjoy yourself’.  Pauline was born in Croatia in 1913 to Slovakian parents, and died aged 94 in 2007. I love sites like this, but especially this one as I have a passionate affinity with this part of the world from being a student in Zagreb in my 20s.

I found the site looking for a recipe. When I was in Prague last year, I went to the Krásny ztráty cafe  for afternoon tea with a Czech friend, who recommended the honey cake there. Prague honey cake is something of a legend, because of the extraordinary story of how a bit of bome-baking turned into a multimillion pound business (see a cut-and-paste of the story here). It is also one of the most delicious and unusual cakes I’ve ever eaten.  It has a bewitching flavour and texture, and it’s hard to work out exactly how it’s done.  It has the feel of a cake with a long history.

And it is. Thanks to Tonya Shuster’s labour of love, which is based on Pauline’s friend’s labour of love, here’s the recipe for Medovnik or ‘honey cake’ which retains lovely idiosyncrasies of the original like  “2 women’s handfuls of raisins”.

Mark Simpson: “the world’s most perceptive writer about modern masculinity”

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I have been saying this ever since I bought It’s a queer world in 1996, and I say it every time I read another book, another weblog, every time I see him on one of those otherwise inane  100-top-this or 50-worst-that compilation documentaries. But who am I to say? Thankfully, I have the full weight of the ‘science of cool’ website www.scienceofthetime.com to back me up, since they’ve just listed him as No. 1 of their top reads for the weekend on the topic of males, and published this near-perfect eulogy to my hero:

Mark Simpson is probably the world’s most perceptive – and certainly the wittiest – writer about modern masculinity. Mark Simpson is by far the sharpest mind when it comes to changing masculinities. With a worldwide reputation, a long story of excellence and many international publications he is simply world wide leading.[from www.scienceofthetime.com here – nice article, too]

They go on to give an overview of his books and a selection of his best bits to get you salivating. My favourite is still his article, ‘Walk like a man’, which I quoted in another blog post (Why we need Stonewall), and I still pick up and savour It’s a queer world often. His ideas are so singularly perceptive and against the tide, reading him is strangely like being listened to at the same time as you’re listening to him. And as befits someone who thinks and writes so incisively about masculinities, I have to say I find something deeply erotic in his  unique balance of  insight, intelligence, humour, strength, vulnerability, balls and gentleness, gravitas and worldliness, moral courage and healthy filth. Whenever I read his work, I think of the way that Sontag praises Barthes:

He always wrote full out, was always concentrated, keen, indefatigable. […] it is work that, strenuously unwilling to be boring or obvious, favours compact assertion, writing that rapidly covers a great deal of ground.
(Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes reprinted in Where the stress falls, p. 65)

It’s writing that has a punch and a musicality that inspires me and that I aspire to, even if I rarely achieve it.  Good on you, Mark, and thanks for letting us know.

The not so swinging 60s

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Gypsy Creams (via Metafilter) is a collection of scanned articles and adverts from women’s magazines of the 1960s with commentary by Tanya Jones. I can’t wait for her to post more, as I’ve now read every single entry in the site. It’s strangely addictive looking at fragments from a past that is so remote and ludicrous at times that you’d think someone made it up, except of course, it’s actually my past. There are so many gems it’s hard to choose a favourite, but Drink!Amplex ‘internal deodorant’ pills, and Skinny are just a few of mine. Also worth reading the article on Tonic Wines from the Pharmaceutical Journal that a reader left a link to under the ‘Drink’ entry. Meat and Bovril wine anyone?

The eff-word again

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Now dance it, darling.

So much for the ineffability of music: from Arthur Philips at The Believer, Dancing about architecture, a wonderful article about music and writing.

It pushes all my buttons at once, since I seem to be headed in the same direction with my dissertation: it’s all very well to say ‘talking about music is like dancing about architecture’, but  the more you consider it, the less attractive it seems: as Nicholas Cook says in Analysing musical multimedia “there’s nothing like the ineffable to provoke talk” (p.267). In a perversely backhanded way, the quip is itself  a verbal musing on the ineffability of music: it’s all right to talk about music as long as you say it’s ineffable. It sounds hip, but it’s very 19th century.

Talking about music has its advantages, its necessities even, and Philips’ article is a very good advert for its delights.