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The Observer Magazine 05 November 2017

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05.11.17
WILD
AT
HEART
Miriam Lancewood
has been living in the
wilderness for seven
years. Could you?
Mary J Blige Hugh Bonneville Jean-Michel Basquiat Secret Brussels
COVER PHOTOGRAPH: MURDO MACLEOD
This week?s issue
Seven years ago MIRIA M
LANCEWOOD headed out into the
woods to live a nomadic life with her
husband Peter. She hunts, while he,
almost 40 years her senior, cooks.
As her book about the experience is
published, Stefanie Marsh joins the
couple in their latest camp.
MARY J BLIGE has lived quite
the life, from her hip-hop
breakthrough with What?s the
411? to acting in the upcoming
Mudbound. As she struggles with
the breakdown of her marriage she
talks to Rebecca Nicholson about
her hopes for the future.
In This Much I Know, HUGH
BONNEVILLE says that following
Downton Abbey, people now expect
him to have a labrador. And JEANMICHEL BASQUIAT is remembered
in A Brush with Greatness.
In FOOD , Nigel Slater offers
the perfect Bon?re Night dinner,
while Jay Rayner is worried
about an Edinburgh restaurant?s
attention to detail. We also look
at how food photography has
become an artform.
We pick our favourite men?s
jackets in FASHION , and focus on
feminist eyeliner in Beauty. In
HOMES , Ed Cumming meets
a couple selling Afghan glassware
and ceramics in the hope of
helping destitute artisans in the
con?ict zones.
A charming neighbourhood
of Brussels is our chosen spot for
this week?s TRAVEL , and ?nally,
MARIELLA FROSTRUP advises a
boy who has a crush on his teacher.
12 LIVING IN THE WILD
COVER
STORY
34 FOOD AND ART
20 MARY J BLIGE
27 JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
28 NIGEL SLATER
45 BEAUTY
40 MEN?S FASHION
50 TRAVEL
37 RESTAURANTS
10 HUGH BONNEVILLE
GEMMA CORRELL
7 WE LOVE?
Editor Ruaridh Nicoll Deputy editor Alice Fisher Art director Jo Cochrane Commissioning editors Eva Wiseman, Shahesta Shaitly,
Emma Cook Assistant Juliana Piskorz Fashion editor Jo Jones Menswear editor Helen Seamons Chief sub-editor Martin Love
Deputy chief sub-editor Debbie Lawson Sub-editor Kate Edgley Deputy art director Caroline McGivern Picture editor Kit Burnet
Advertising managers Molly Johnson, Guy Edmunds Colour reproduction GNM Imaging
Printed in the Netherlands by Roto Smeets Group BV, Hunneperkade 4, NL-7418 BT Deventer (+ 31 5 7069 4900; info@rotosmeetsgroup.com)
The Observer Magazine, King?s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU 020 3353 2000 magazine@observer.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter
@ObsMagazine
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THIS PRODUCT IS MADE FROM SUSTAINABLY
@ObsMagazine
MANAGED FOREST AND CONTROLLED SOURCES
Eva Wiseman
@EvaWiseman
Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or
visit theguardian.com/pro?le/evawiseman
for all her articles in one place
WE WISH YOU A MERRY
SANDWICH
Y
ou can?t stop time, people.
The wheel is turning and
it will continue to turn,
autumn becoming winter,
bodies becoming dust,
until Christmas is here and
with it that clove-scented
reminder that another year
is almost over and death
comes for all.
Is this why we choose
to lean on tradition, on
comforts that mean even
as time passes we have
something that always remains the same?
Except, like a fantasy that gets dimmer with
every use, a photocopy of a photocopy, the
traditions of our childhoods are both too
precious and too shitty to do their job any more.
We must have turkey on Christmas Day, and
wear the bobbly slipper socks, and watch the
sad episode of The Royle Family and have a ?ght
about the price of things, because that is what
we have always done so that is what we do.
But as old traditions wear out, new ones
emerge to patch them up. In recent years the
Christmas sandwich (formerly something
you?d cobble together in an old roll, pissed at
midnight) has become one such tradition, its
main selling points being that it exists for office
workers rather than families, and that they can
enjoy it from November. To work in an office is
to dance on the head of a single question from
9am, and that question is, ?What?s for lunch??
We are institutionalised to the point that our
stomach growls sync up, and this combined
with Christmas coming means the annual
announcement that Pret?s menu has bells on it
again causes a sort of mass delirium.
The absolute state of my colleagues when I
piled this season?s sandwiches at the end of our
bank of desks this week. It was as if a unicorn
had climbed up there on top of the magazines
and given birth, and the babies were singing The
Greatest Love Of All. Every year the supermarkets
get more and more creative, a Yorkshire pudding
popped in here, a jus ladled on there. M&S has
done one that looks like a festive breast, and it
is charming. Some are simply vile, a brioche of
farts microwaved on an airplane; some have a
strange bitterness to them, as if seasoned with
crayons. Some are nice. In short: 1) Pret does the
best vegetarian one this year, mainly because
it?s the only one not bleeding cranberry sauce.
2) M&S has tried the hardest with its tit bun ?
it has tiny stars embedded in the top, and the
?lling is modest but tasty, and all these things
are appreciated. 3) Greggs?s turkey option is
genuinely lovely, if basic, but aren?t we all at this
time of year? 4) Oh my God, there is one redacted
wrap that tastes like Ribena baklava, dense and
red, the consistency of the turd of a supermarket
Santa who?s eaten only pudding since the clocks
went back, and this I wouldn?t recommend.
As I digested my fourth sandwich, teeth
grimly grinding the turkey into Christmas
paste, eyes glazed like a ham, I started to regret
the whole project. Because what became
clear about the effect of the new tradition for
Christmas sandwiches every November is that
by trying to replicate the experience of a family
meal at our desk, we?re inoculating ourselves
against taste, a series of festive ?u jabs. By
eating these sandwiches, essentially bread,
mayo, space meat, jam, bit of old sausage, mayo,
bread, we?re teaching our poor mouths that this
is what a Christmas dinner should taste like.
Eat them like I have, and by the time
24 December comes round, and you?ve wheeled
your suitcase on to the train and woken the
next morning in a blow-up bed under a Scott
and Charlene poster, and put on those bobbly
slipper socks you got in your stocking the year
your dad took redundancy, and sat down at the
table with all its leaves extended, in front of
an actual plate of Christmas dinner, you?ll be
a bit, well? A bit, ?Would you mind awfully if
I slopped a tablespoon of jam on top, crushed
it in the fridge for 24 hours under a duvet of
mayonnaise and ate it outside on a bench??
The problem with festive traditions is how
quickly we leap to embrace them, to catch,
pin and repeat them in order to, what, stuff
up the huge holes in our winter psyches?
Create meaning between cold bread? After
eating 5,000 calories in white meat and brie,
Christmas sandwiches are threatening to
kill Christmas for me. So I?m cutting down on
traditions ? no cranberry till January. While
I do enjoy the stuffing, I miss the joy. To work in
an o?ce is
to dance on
the head
of a single
question
from 9am,
and that
question is,
?What?s for
lunch??
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
5
We love...
AT HOME
WITH BODEN
GOLD STANDARD
J Crew has launched a
new affordable jewellery
collection inspired
by heirlooms. Each piece
is 14k gold-plated sterling
silver and priced at under
�0. Hand it down,
or keep it all for yourself.
J Crew jewellery
From �.50, jcrew.com/uk
Here?s your chance
to get the full Boden
experience, with
the opening of
their second ever
store. The space in
London?s Chelsea
feels, says founder
Johnnie Boden,
?like you?re walking
into my home?.
And walking out
with all his stuff,
presumably.
Pink jacket, �0,
and trousers, �
boden.co.uk
MR CLEAN
This men?s grooming
collection has been made
in England with all-natural
extracts, botanicals,
vitamins and essential oils.
And doesn?t it look macho!
SCRUBD soap �, scrubd.com
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
7
We love...
SILVER SERVICE
It?s 25 years since REM released Automatic
for the People. That?s 25 years since you
slow danced to Everybody Hurts at a
disco, and cried under the buffet table. To
celebrate, the band have reissued it with a
wealth of previously unreleased material
along with a book and companion Blu-ray.
Automatic for the People �.99, hmv.com
GOOD LOOKS
Here?s a new vegan
beauty brand that?s
aiming to rede?ne
the industry
standard for ethical
cosmetics. Enjoy
Kester Black?s
divine nail colours
without a ?ake
of guilt.
FAMOUS
FLEAS
Vestiaire Collective has
partnered with supermodel
Toni Garrn to host her third
annual Supermodel Charity Flea
Market. Kate Moss et al are selling
their cast-offs online this week.
Charity Flea Market Until 12 November,
vestiairecollective.com
8
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
Kester Black varnish
�.50,
trouva.com
KITCHEN TABLE BOOK
A history of the kitchen in 70 objects, from
the salad spinner to the wok. How have
they changed the way we cook, eat and live?
The Modern Kitchen �, Quadrille
This much
I know
I was a solitary child but a happy one. I spent most of my time in the
dressing-up box wearing my granny?s old dresses and high heels, and
making my family watch my epic productions.
I would have been a terrible barrister. I gave myself three years to make it
in acting or else take up law. Thankfully it never came to that, although my
father and I once had this ridiculous pipe dream that we would read for the
bar together, studying in an attic like a pair of Dickensian codgers. Instead
he carried on being a surgeon and I stayed doing this.
You can waste a lot of time looking back over your life and thinking,
what if ? I loved my time at the Royal Shakespeare Company and when my
contract wasn?t renewed I thought it was the end of the world. It wasn?t.
You have to be pragmatic to succeed in this industry. To make it as an
actor it?s best to be thick-skinned and accept that not everything will go
your way. That said, I used to be really bad at taking criticism.
Paddington appeals to people because we?ve all been that bear. We?ve been
to a new school or moved to a new country or been displaced in some way.
It offers us the chance to be the best of Britain and to show that we can
protect the vulnerable and don?t need to completely destroy each other.
His courtesy is also much needed in these times.
I?m raging against the dying of the light in my own way by buying a
convertible and planting a copper beech tree. Why the tree? There was one
in the garden of the ?rst house I ever lived in and I?ve been thinking about
it for years. Then I recently lost two people close to me and realised, what is
the point of always thinking about this tree? Plant it now and enjoy it.
W1A is the most di?cult show I?ve ever done. It looks loose and laidback
but it?s really precise with such fast dialogue. It?s de?nitely challenging.
My mother never talked about her job. It was only long after she retired
that I realised she?d worked in the old MI6 building. She wasn?t a spy, more
of a diligent Miss Moneypenny, dutiful and productive.
The closest I?ve ever come to death was on the back of a lorry going from
Uganda to South Sudan in 1982. We?d been told that the way to get through
the checkpoints was to have trinkets for the guards and also a lad who
would entertain them so they?d wave us on. Instead, one of the soldiers
jabbed the end of his ri?e into this boy, who became ashen and stopped
talking. I sat there thinking, ?Christ if he?s scared, what the fuck should I
do?? Luckily the moment passed and off we went but it was de?nitely hairy.
Apart from my family I don?t think I?ve achieved anything much. Although
I recently completed the 100km South Downs walk, which wasn?t bad for
a fat man in his 50s.
People always expect me to have a labrador because of Downton Abbey.
They?re often really disappointed that I don?t.
Paddington 2 is released in cinemas nationwide from 10 November
Interview SARAH HUGHES Photograph STUART McCLYMONT
Actor, 53
My mother
never talked
about her job.
It was only
long after she
retired that
I realised she?d
worked in the
MI6 building
To read all the
interviews in
this series, go to
observer.co.uk/
this-much-i-know
CAMERA PRESS/BAFTA
Hugh Bonneville
Living
in the
wild
For seven
years, Miriam
Lancewood and
her husband
Peter have lived
a nomadic life in
the woods ? she
is the hunter, he?s
the cook. Now
they?re walking
across Europe
to Turkey, with a
tent and little else.
Stefanie Marsh
meets them
Photographs
MURDO MACLEOD
12
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
13
Living in the wild
Many rivers to cross: Miriam and her husband Peter in Bavaria ? part of a journey that will see them walking through Europe to Turkey
iriam Lancewood has
been living off grid ,
in the wild, for seven
years now and she can
still pinpoint the exact
moment she knew
she had truly broken
with social norms.
?It was when the idea was born to wash my
hair with urine,? she recalls.
She had just started living wild , in the
Australian Alps, when she developed a persistent dandruff problem. Luckily, she remembered reading about an ancient remedy. ?I sat
in the sun for a horrible, stinky half-hour to
let it soak in.? �
I?d expected Miriam to look bedraggled,
maybe with a couple of teeth missing, but
she?s immaculate and smiling broadly, her
teeth shiny white (she usually cleans them
with ash); no dandruff, legs shaven, she smells
of camp?re. She is powerfully built; almost the
double of Sarah Connor from The Terminator. A Dutch Sarah Connor ? she was born in
Holland. Her husband, Peter, proudly tells me
she could beat most men in a fight: ?Miriam
is the hunter and I?m the cook. She?s much
MURDO MACLEOD
M
stronger than me. Women are better shots,? he
says. ?And they?re more careful,? adds Miriam.
?They are less driven by trophy hunting. They
have less of a need to prove themselves.?
Five years into their nomadic life in New
Zealand, Miriam decided to write a book
about her experiences. The couple have since
relocated to Europe, where they?re spending
the year walking to Turkey; part two of their
life?s dream of never returning to ?civilisation?. So here we are in Bulgaria ? three hours
west of So?a, upstream from a river where the
couple can bathe, sitting around a camp?re in
a wood (the photographer met up with them
earlier in their journey, in Bavaria). I?ve been
I sat in the sun for
a horrible, stinky
half-hour to
let the urine soak
into my hair
invited for dinner and Peter is standing over a
cast iron pot containing a bubbling bean stew.
There are foraged wrinkly plums to start. It?s
an exciting occasion for them: they haven?t
seen another human being for 11 days. It?s 5pm.
What have they been doing all day? ?Nothing much. Waiting for you.? In the first few
months of their primitive life, Miriam thought
she?d go mad with boredom but she soon fell in
sync with nature. Half of any given day is spent
collecting ?rewood. They sleep as long as it?s
dark. They?ve never had more energy.
It?s a stark contrast to when Miriam was still
working as a special needs teacher in Australia.
Those were grim days: ?I was always stressed.
And so bored. And depressed about thinking
I?m going to do this forever and ever.? She?s
learned so much since she?s been out here but
one question remains unanswered: ?Where
are all the women??
When they do bump into another person in
the wild it?s usually a hunter, and always a
man. She thinks that perhaps women have lost
their connection with nature, ?even more than
men. And also,? she adds, passionately, ?why
do women behave so weakly, physically? As
in, ?I can?t lift that,? ?I can?t shit outside,?
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
15
MURDO MACLEOD
Living in the wild
?I can?t have my period in the bush.?? She
thinks it?s a shame women are missing out.
It seems Miriam is not the only woman to
think that women are missing out. Her book is
coming out in Britain this month but is already
published in Holland, where it?s become a
small sensation. ?Women write to me and
say, ?You inspired me,?? she tells me. ?They?re
amazed that it?s possible to live this primitive
life; but they?re afraid: ?What?s out there???
She says women worry about being eaten by
wild animals or being murdered by a mentally
unstable predator, like they?ve seen in Nordic
noir. Interestingly, the women at her readings
in Holland are usually aged between 40 and
50; maybe they are drawn to Miriam?s story
because they see hers as the alternative life
they could have led if only they?d been bolder
and conformed less. Younger women still
have the big decisions ? and regrets ? ahead of
them. What do the women who write to her
tell her the book inspired them to do? ?One
woman said: ?You inspired me to get a divorce.?
If you want to be more content, sometimes you
have to change your life completely.?
The seed of their idea was planted in India
where they met 12 years ago; Peter, then
almost 60, was a former sheep farmer, arborist
and university lecturer, and Miriam, then 22,
wanted to see the world.
Together they travelled for a few years
before moving to Peter?s homeland, New
Zealand. In 2010, they sold or gave away most
of their possessions and struck out on their
bold off-grid experiment, roaming and camping in the vast, remote countryside. It was
Miriam who carried the big hunting knife
and knew how to use their Steyr Mannlicher
.308 ri?e. Without electricity, digital technology or a watch, the experiment was supposed
to last a year.
?In Europe it?s tricky because you can never
get far enough away from people,? grumbles
Peter. Fortunately, ?We?re absolute masters
of disappearing into forests.? Miriam?s gripe
is that you can?t use or carry a gun in Bulgaria
without a licence ? otherwise she would have
shot, skinned and butchered a hare for dinner.
They give me the tour. Their home is a khakigreen tubular three-person tent with two
sleeping bags in it, sleeping pads and two rucksacks neatly packed with rudimentary supplies. Food and utensils are arranged on the
grass: enamel mugs, a black prospector?s plate
which has become partly redundant since they
realised that ?panning gold is the most miserable experience you can have?. Miriam shows
me her bow and arrow ? it is beautifully polished and colossal.
?It can be quite unpleasant, sometimes it?s
awful,? Peter reminds me. Miriam?s earliest
awful experience was slaughtering her first
animal: a possum. ?I was vegetarian since
birth but getting weaker and weaker. We
Wonder woman: ?Men we meet say they wish
their wives would come out hunting with them?
were waking up with pains in our stomachs
from trying to keep warm.? She set a trap but
badly botched killing the possum. While it
was happening she felt sick, and yet the fried
possum tasted delicious: ?Later, I felt very
proud of myself.? She used her bow and arrow
to hunt goats; the couple also ate dead deer left
behind by hunters. Peter tells me how when
English peasants settled in New Zealand
they brought hedgehogs with them. Miriam
frowns: ?But in Britain there are no wild
places left, no??
If you?re going off grid, prepping is key.
Miriam and Peter spent months training for
that ?rst winter in South Marlborough, New
Zealand: long, demanding treks, first-aid
courses; reading survival and foraging books
Most men my age
are fat and can?t
walk for long.
They?re envious.
Mostly of her
? working out by the spoonful exactly how
much ?our, pulses, tea bags they?d need. They
practised seeing in the dark with night walks.
Miriam isn?t a conspiracy theorist but she?s
proud she has now learned survival skills, in
case of Armageddon.
They do sometimes return to ?civilisation?
to send an email or top up supplies or (in Miriam?s case) to write a book. Isn?t that cheating?
Peter disagrees. ?Because we?re living outside
society, there are no rules. We can move from
the stone age to the big city and back. It?s a
unique combination of primitive living and
modernity.? What happens if they split up?
Miriam says she?d try to ?nd another off-grid
partner; Peter phlegmatically says he?ll be
dead anyway. Certainly neither of them wants
to return to a life of All Mod Cons: artificial
light is too bright, the noise is too noisy, sleep
is ?tful, the food makes them constipated.
The question Miriam often gets asked
by her readers is how they can afford to live
as they do. ?We have savings, we live very
cheaply: on about $5,000 NZD (�600)
a year ? food basically.? But she wanted to
write her book for other reasons ? ?to show
that in the 21st century a different way of living
is possible,? one in which long-term relationships can work. ?A lot of people write: ?I am
so happy to read that at least someone is living harmoniously. A married couple spending
24 hours together!?? ?I?ve been married twice
before,? says Peter cynically, although Miriam
likes Peter?s worldliness. Her only other serious boyfriend wanted the big house and kids:
she doesn?t.
She thinks the key to a good relationship is
a desire for self-knowledge: ?If he says something and I see it as an insult, then I think,
?Ah, why do I see that as an insult?? I use it as
a re?ective method to ?nd out about myself.?
?We refuse to fight,? adds Peter. When he
annoys her, says Miriam, ?I pretend not to listen.? Doesn?t living in these physical circumstances force dependence? ?We call it independent inter-dependence,? explains Peter.
?Sometimes under extreme stress we do get
a bit snappy?? (for example, when they both
nearly drowned in some New Zealand rapids). Miriam completes the thought: ?? so you
become more aware of how external factors
affect your mood.? The book hints that theirs
is an open relationship but I?m not sure how
that can make much difference given they
never meet anyone.
They?d like to meet some Roma in Bulgaria,
to exchange nomad experiences. Don?t the
poor feel patronised by their experiment? ?No,
it?s the middle classes who don?t like us,? says
Peter ? especially men. ?A lot of my old friendships are breaking down because of it. Most
men my age are already buggered. They can?t
sleep on the ground, they?re fat, they can?t
walk for long. They?re envious. Mostly
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
17
they?re envious of her,? he says, looking at
his wife. ?They want to know how to do it.? As
in, how to marry a woman 37 years younger?
The age gap can be difficult to ignore; Miriam
mentions it several times in her book, mainly
because other people keep bringing it up. For
them it isn?t an issue, although would Peter
really be here with a woman his own age?
?I have never met a woman in her 60s who
wants to live as I do,? he says.
Miriam and Peter often use the word
?trapped? to describe how other people live.
They never intend to have children and rely
on another modern innovation ? Miriam?s
IUD ? to make sure they don?t. They say it
would be impossible to live in the wild with
kids. So are kids a trap? ?For us it would be a
trap,? says Miriam. ?You have to have a regular income. You have to settle down.? She
laughs: ?It scares me just thinking about it.?
Miriam describes how men they do meet on
their travels will often suddenly open up about
their personal lives: ?They say they wish their
wives would come out hunting with them or
if they had a choice again, they would never
have children. That was the end of their freedom, they say.?
She looks at Peter: ?We met one guy ? do you
remember him? He said, ?I can?t wait for my
children to be old enough to leave the house.?
And I said, ?Oh, how old are they?? And he said,
?Three and ?ve.?? There was a pilot who told
her he had recurring fantasies of pushing his
wife out of his helicopter. Peter?s theory is,
?Modern civilisation, the suburban life just
doesn?t suit men?s nature. It leaves men feeling
constantly unchallenged. I?d say a third of the
population are seriously unhappy.? He ?nds it
startling that, with the advances in birth control, the majority of women still choose to have
children. ?I?ve met so many interesting women
in their 20s, then along comes 30 and they succumb to the pressure. You think: ?Why did you
do nothing else with your life???
The real problem, thinks Peter, is that
everyone?s too obsessed with security, to the
point where it interferes with their ability
to think logically, or ?nd happiness: ?People
say to us we?re living their dream, and I say
to them, ?Do it.? But they say, ?Oh, I can?t,? and
I say, ?What do you mean can?t? Of course
you can.? And they look a bit confused by that
statement ? because it?s true.? Maybe, I say, it?s
because they?d prefer a more temporary break
with society: once you?ve opted out of your
career, sold all your stuff ? there?s no return.
?And that,? he says, with satisfaction, ?is
exactly the point.? Miriam nods in agreement.
?Because once you?ve cut with your boring,
unhappy life, I can guarantee that you?ll never
want to go back.? Woman in the Wilderness by Miriam Lancewood is
published on 9 November (Piatkus, �.99). Order
a copy for �.74 at bookshop.theguardian.com
18
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
BACK TO NATURE
?I WAS AFRAID
OF THE BOREDOM?
Peter turned round and put my arms over
his shoulders. ?Now it?s just us,? he said,
embracing me. I took a deep breath. ?I feel like
we have finally come home.? Peter nodded.
?This is the world we were all born into.?
I took his hand and looked out at the valley
and forest all around us.
?Amazing feeling, to be so alone in such
an isolated place, isn?t it?? I said. The nearest
house was a good three days? walk from
here. At this time of year, in winter, most
people left the mountains alone and stayed
inside until the spring.
Back at the hut, I rekindled the fire and
made tea, which I carried over to Peter, who
was sitting on a rock near the river.
?This is absolutely beautiful, isn?t it??
I looked at the crystal clear water, which
cascaded down from the mountains. Yet
after my initial elation, an uncomfortable
feeling was creeping to the surface, a kind
of realisation that sent a flash of panic
through my body. It was the one thought
that clashed with all my fantasies of living
peacefully in the wilderness: the ?what
now?? thought. What was I going to do next?
I thought of things to do and remembered
I hadn?t seen the toilet facilities. The longdrop was built 70 metres from the hut. It
was a deep hole with a wooden structure on
top; the only thing about it that resembled
a modern toilet was the white seat. A soggy
roll of paper sat in the corner. I lifted the lid
and looked into the hole. The smell was so
horrible that I quickly closed the lid.
If I sit on that toilet with the door closed, I?ll
be suffocated, I thought.
It was worse than I expected, and I forced
myself not to think of the months ahead.
I jumped into action instead. I collected a
bucket of water from the river, found an old
towel and started washing the grimy walls,
dirty windows and even the stains on the
mattresses. Several times Peter offered to
help me but, dreading the moment when
all the chores were done, I preferred to do
everything on my own. I needed to fill up the
empty day. This was the one thing all our
hiking trips and training had not prepared
me for: boredom. I joined Peter, who was
calmly reading an old newspaper in the sun.
?I think it?ll be a bit of an adjustment in the
beginning, don?t you?? I sounded far more
coherent than I felt.
?Oh, yes, a major adjustment.? Peter
nodded. ?The mind needs to calm down. It
could take days to ease into the rhythm of
this place. Maybe weeks.?
Those first days were indeed a major
adjustment, on many levels. I no longer
had a job, a project or stimulation like social
contacts, email, music and all the rest. It felt
as though I was going through withdrawal
symptoms. My mind was running too fast,
my thoughts were all over the place and
endless memories flashed by. Even though
Peter appeared tranquil compared to me, he
said he knew exactly how I felt; he had not
found a million chores to do, but he had read
all of the old newspapers and magazines in
the hut from cover to cover. His suggestion
was that we just go through the boredom
and restlessness, and do nothing for a while.
Nothing.
That was the last thing I wanted to do.
Nothing meant boredom, the dreaded
void, horrible emptiness. Nothing was the
unknown and I had discovered I was afraid
of it - this was the fear I would have to face in
the many weeks to come.
Extract from Woman in the Wilderness
� 2017 Miriam Lancewood
MURDO MACLEOD
Living in the wild
Hail Mary
20
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
It?s not always
easy being
Mary J Blige.
The R&B singer
turned actor
tells Rebecca
Nicholson
about her
heartache,
reborn hope,
and why she
sometimes
needs to get
away from
herself
Photographs
GAVIN BOND
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
21
Mary J Blige
n 2015, Mary J Blige
gave an impassioned
performance on the
Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. The crowd
watched her through
the pouring rain, and
as her most famous
single, No More Drama, came to a rapturous
end, she fell to the ?oor, and looked as if she
was about to break down into tears. ?I didn?t
know so many people knew my songs,? she
says, two years later, over dinner in a London
hotel. ?It was really emotional for me, for so
many reasons that I can?t even get into. But life
is revealing them right now.?
There?s a lot going on in Blige?s life. She?s
just off the plane from the United States, and
she needs fried food, so the artist known as
the queen of hip-hop soul ends up picking at
?sh and chips and drinking a cup of tea. She
seems tired. She keeps circling back to the
end of her marriage. In 2016, she filed for
divorce from her husband of 12 years, Kendu
Isaacs, citing irreconcilable differences. He
had also been her manager. She doesn?t want
this interview to be ?all about that one thing?,
yet she can?t seem to help but talk about it,
again and again. The past ?ve years have been
hard, but change is on the horizon. ?This is
a whole other chapter of my life,? she insists.
The previous chapters have been actionpacked, to say the least. Blige grew up in Yonkers, New York, and was signed to Uptown
Records as a teenager in the late 80s, after a
tape of her singing an Anita Baker track in a
shopping mall found its way to the label. She
was a backing singer ?rst, before she released
her debut album, What?s the 411?, produced
by Puff Daddy, in 1992. Her star rose fast.
The album won multiple awards and went
triple platinum, selling more than 3m copies. She collaborated with George Michael,
U2 and Elton John, who said she had ?one
of the best voices you?re ever going to hear?.
Her music was often raw, and laid out the
suffering she endured in toxic relationships.
She?d had problems with drink and drugs.
In 2001, when she released No More Drama,
there was a sense that she was drawing
a line under the pain.
But Blige is not here to promote a new
album, though she released one of her best
records in years back in April, The Strength of
a Woman. She moved to Los Angeles towards
the end of her marriage in order to take acting more seriously. She?d acted before, doing
bit parts and guest roles here and there,
mostly in comedies, but today she?s talking
about Mudbound, the new film she?s starring in, which tells an evocative story of racism and friendship on a farm in Mississippi
in the period immediately after the Second
World War. Blige is Florence Jackson, the
I
22
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
stoic mother of a GI who returns from war to
the same old prejudice. It isn?t a subtle story,
but it?s deeply harrowing and has a hefty emotional grip that lingers long after it?s over. As
Florence, Blige negotiates hardship, pain and
fierce injustice with a surprising and gentle
subtlety. ?I believe it will have that effect on
everyone, because of how close it is now to
how we?re living in the world,? says Blige.
She doesn?t want to be too political, she says,
but there?s a reason that it resonates now, and
she?s angry and articulate about the state of her
home nation. ?Look at what our leadership is
doing. He?s exploding. It?s a nightmare. I?ve
never seen anything like this. How did we go
from President Obama, maturity and positivity and wisdom, to negativity and texting and
twittering and all this bullshit, and blowing up
and pointing the ?nger? It?s crazy.?
Mudbound is her ?rst real chance at a meaty
role, and she more than holds her own against
a seasoned cast that includes Jonathan Banks
and Carey Mulligan. Director Dee Rees has
said she only wanted Blige for Florence; Blige
said she accepted immediately, because the
script moved her to tears. She hired an acting coach, who taught her to use what was
going on in her life ? ?I always have a lot of
stuff going on in my life,? she smiles. She set to
I was running around
with no perm, just
my own natural hair and
barely any make-up.
It was good for me
work on shedding her pop star skin: ?You can?t
be Mary J Blige. You?ve got to be Florence, in
the heat, in the mosquitoes, in the mud, in the
little shack with all the kids and the husband.
Mary J Blige don?t have a husband? any more.?
Was it nice to not be Mary J Blige for a while?
?Absolutely. It was liberating. I used to wear a
lot of weaves and wigs and cover up my edges
and stuff. Florence got me out here wearing my
edges out. I was running around with no perm,
no press, just my own natural hair, barely any
make-up. It was good for me.?
In her diamond hoop earrings and black
lace top, wavy blonde hair tied high, Blige is
predictably glamorous, despite the fish and
chips in front of her. (?What is this?? she asks
at one point, prodding something small and
round on the side of her plate. It looks like a
pickled egg, I say. She?s appalled at the idea.)
The ?lm made her realise how vain she normally is. ?I was angry about not having lashes!
I was kind of hot about that, and then I was
like, ?Oh my God Mary, you?re so vain.??
Where Blige grew up, in the housing projects of Yonkers, appearance mattered. ?Everything was about how you look. Although you
didn?t have, it was about how you looked. So
when Salt-N-Pepa had the blonde hair, it was
about that, it was about the sneakers, it was
about the jackets. Then I became Mary J Blige,
and it was really about that. She?s such a real
person that I had to get rid of her to make sure
that character lived.? I am briefly confused.
Who?s the real person? ?Mary is a real person,?
she clari?es. ?I had to really surrender from
her to make sure Florence could live. Turns
out Florence is even doper than Mary J Blige.?
Blige often talks of ?Mary J Blige? like this,
as if she?s a separate entity to the woman sitting across the table from me. Why? ?Well,
GAVIN BOND; NETFLIX. PREVIOUS PAGE: DRESS THE BLONDS; EARRINGS STARRS LONDON; RINGS JOANNA LAURA CONSTANTINE & APM MONACO; STYLIST CHRISTINA PACELLI
?I always have a lot of stuff going on in my life?: as Florence in the postwar period film Mudbound
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
23
GAVIN BOND; BLAZER TADASHI SHOJI; TROUSERS DSQUARED2; NECKLACE VITAE ASCENDERE; CHOKER & RING W BRITT; EARRINGS AND RING: JOANNA LAURA CONSTANTINE; STYLIST CHRISTINA PACELLI AT THEONLY.AGENCY; MATT BARON/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
Mary J Blige
Mary J Blige is me, but she is a business,
and separate. But she?s me.? It?s been 25 years
since What?s the 411? came out, and the disconnect between the two ? Mary the performer,
the star, and Mary the human being ? is so
pronounced that she seems disoriented by it,
even now. She grasps for the precise words
to describe how it feels to go from poverty to
riches, from the projects to such fame. ?If you
have a lot of money, you can cover up everything. When you don?t have a lot of money, it
doesn?t cover anything. So you learn how to
walk through embarrassment and shame. I
appreciate it and I?m so grateful for it.? That
gratitude is all part of her survival instinct,
which has come in handy over the years. ?You
know how to weather that storm when you
don?t have money. You know how to weather
that storm when some embarrassing shit on
TMZ hits you. It all teaches you tough skin.?
I W O N D E R H O W tough her skin really is.
She?s had plenty of dramas over the course of
her life, despite declaring that there would be
no more of them, but whenever I?ve heard her
talk about the various scandals or controversies she?s encountered, she sounds genuinely
upset by it all. Last year she interviewed the
then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,
and was widely mocked for singing at her. ?I
thought that I was trying to help us to make a
change,? she sighs. ?This is me, this is Mary J
Blige, I?m no journalist, I?m scared to death.?
During their conversation, she offered Clinton
a brief cover of Bruce Springsteen?s American
Skin (41 Shots), a song about police brutality.
?It affected me that people just cannot look at
something positive and get on board. They?ve
got to pick on you. No matter how positive it is,
they?ve got to ?nd some way to make a meme
ke ? cool. You
about it. It?s like
e. Fuck ?em.
know what, fine.
ughs, drily.
Right?? She laughs,
?That?s how you move on.?
d, she
Unprompted,
o her
comes back to
or the
divorce again. For
past year or so thee couple have been going
through a nasty court
hings
battle. When things
ong in
were going wrong
al life,
her professional
m bells
personal alarm
began to ring. ?I had the
mmercial
Burger King commercial
[she starred in an ad that
ed when it
was quickly pulled
was criticised forr racial sten my taxes
reotyping], then
and my businesss were all
d then
over the TV, and
it was this, then it was
that. I was like,, ?What
?It?s all the mistakes I made that are helping me to better my life?: Mary J Blige in New York this autumn
the hell is going on? Have I been abandoned?
Yes.? That was a big signal. I had been abandoned in my marriage.? What was the big signal? ?Every single thing that was happening. It
was one bad thing after the next.?
She started to see herself not only on celebrity gossip sites, but on the news. ?On the
ticker, at the bottom of the TV. Yikes. At the
same time, there was something beautiful
about that. It made me realise how important I
was to the world. I?m that big of a star? Well, let
me get my shit together then.? There?s that dry
laugh again. ?It?s not the things I did right that
informed me. It?s all the mistakes I made that
are helping me to better my life. Because that
was a disaster. I didn?t know if I was going to
make it.? Do you
yo mean last year? ?The last ?ve
years were a disaster.
di
And then on top of that
I was having tr
trouble in my marriage, hoping
w
to save it, when
my marriage was already
gone. I was left alone.?
Blige felt
f
so lost during this time
that she began
b
to question whether she
even wan
wanted to make music any more.
?I just w
wasn?t sure about anything. If
someone chips away at your self-esteem
and it?s so low that you don?t even know
you can d
do what you do?? She trails off.
She move
moved to London for a while, to
The last
las five years were
a disaster
disaster. And I was having
trouble in my marriage,
hopin
hoping to save it ? but
it was
wa already gone
get away, and in 2014 released The London
Sessions, an album she made with Sam Smith
and Disclosure, among others. ?They helped
boost my self-esteem and they helped me
believe in my talent. They believed in me and
I was like, ?Well shit, maybe I should start
believing in myself again.?? Hang on, I say.
You?re Mary J Blige! Why do you need Disclosure to tell you how good you are? ?It doesn?t
matter, you know,? she says, sadly. ?When
you?ve been in something so long that you?ve
been chipped away, and it happens little by
little, and it?s a crazy thing. It was about
seeing that someone appreciated me.? This
year, she released the painfully honest The
Strength of a Woman. ?Yeah. When it comes to
music now, I know my gut is great. That?s what
I lost, my gut and my gift. But I got it back. It?s
back now.?
Then there?s Mudbound, which is keeping
Blige busy, and more acting to come. She?s got
another couple of roles lined up, though she
can?t talk about what they are yet. She?s taking care of her own ?nances for the ?rst time
in her life, overseeing every single bit of what
comes in and what goes out, because she feels
as if she can?t trust people enough to do it for
her. She says that she kept meeting people and
thinking they were decent, ?and meantime
they were robbing you just like everyone else
was robbing you?. We end up talking about
the recent Whitney Houston documentary.
?Yeah. She was very lonely. She couldn?t have
the person who she really, really loved around,
because other people came in and moved that
person out, and now she?s alone. So yeah. You
know that saying, it?s lonely at the top? It?s not
a saying, it?s true,? she says, softly. Mudbound is out on Net?ix and in some cinemas
from 17 November
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
25
A brush with
greatness
GETTY IMAGES
JEAN-MICHEL
BASQUIAT
BY STAN PESKETT
We were in the
middle of a party
in my New York
loft when this
forlorn, wai?sh
street guy with
Mohawk hair
came up to me
and said, ?I am SAMO and I would
like to do some graffiti.? I?d never
seen him before but he had this little
spark in his eye so I handed him
a can of spray paint said, ?Do it!?
And for the ?rst time the world was
introduced to Jean-Michel Basquiat.
It was April 1978 and I was holding
the party as a launch event in my
5,000sq ft apartment called the Canal
Zone for a couple of other graffiti
artists. I identi?ed with street art and
felt the artists needed exposure. This
event incorporated live music, the
walls were set up for graffiti art with
large, seamless rolls of paper and we
had a video crew to ?lm everything.
So they were on hand to record
Jean-Michel as he sprayed Lee
Harvey Oswald, Coca-Cola, General
Melonry and ?nally SAMO, his
trademark. The crowd went wild
when they saw that. Up until that
point no one knew who SAMO was
but the cryptic messages and political
agitation had caught the imagination.
As an artist, I had painted murals
and tableaux and as a working-class
kid growing up in 1950s Britain,
I identi?ed with Jean-Michel?s status
as an outsider ? for a while I was also
on the streets. I also admired him
because he did not stick to a formula.
He did not even know the formula
because he had no formal training.
I felt he was a bit like a beatnik
and we really hit it off. He actually
Photograph LEE JAFFE
To read all the articles in this
series, go to observer.co.uk/
a-brush-with-greatness
moved into my loft when he struck
up a relationship with my assistant,
Jennifer Stein.
Jean-Michel was a natural,
very anxious to try things out.
Unfortunately that?s why he got so
heavily into drugs. He needed the
adulation. Girls wanted to sleep with
him. He was so charismatic, people
would hang on to him and his few
words. He became the fashionable
artist but the fashion world helped to
kill him, helped to destroy him.
When he died I remember driving
up to the service on Lexington
Avenue with Debbie Harry and
Chris Stein and it hit me. All these
people turned up gleefully claiming
how close they were to him.
His death launched a whole new
set of careers. Now I don?t even have
that ?rst piece of art to remember
him by. Just a few months after that
show my loft burned down and all
the art with it. I had never
seen him
before but
he had this
little spark
in his eye. I
handed him
the spray
paint and
said, ?Do it!?
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
27
Food
&
drink
Nigel Slater
@NigelSlater
Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/nigelslater
for all his recipes in one place
tonight, we will need something
substantial on our plates. Given
everyone?s determination not to miss
a single ?rework, dinner is most
likely be eaten standing up, from
deep bowls with a fork. Sausages,
fennel-seed-?ecked and sticky with
chilli sauce, will be on the table
this year. I like a coarse-cut, spicy
sausage to cook with haricot beans.
The pork, fennel seeds and blackpepper-seasoned sausages that hang
in Italian grocers, displayed in plump
clusters tied together with string,
to be exact. Of course, any will ?t
the bill, as long as they are so
generously ?lled they look like their
skins are about to burst.
I shall be baking small, whole
beetroot at the same time, their
earthy notes softened with ricotta
and crisp pumpkin and hemp seeds.
I may add a little soured or double
cream to the cheese, to give a softer,
more sauce-like accompaniment.
There will be baked potatoes, too (for
my money, they are pretty much nonnegotiable), emerging, crisp-skinned
and ?uffy-?eshed, from the oven.
Copious quantities of butter and
a爐ongue-tingling farmhouse cheddar
will, of course, be on hand.
BAKED SAUSAGES WITH
HARISSA AND TOMATOES
The recipe can be upscaled easily
to cater for large numbers, but add
the harissa paste to taste rather than
simply multiplying the amount.
There will
be baked
potatoes
too ? for my
money, they
are pretty
much nonnegotiable
SHOOTING STARS
If ever there?s a time for comfort food,
it?s Bon?re Night. Serve beetroot,
sausages and, of course, baked potatoes
It is 5 November, Bon?re Night.
A chance to light up the sky with
shooting stars of pink and gold, dance
around the ?ames and to warm allcomers with a pot of fat sausages and
beans from the oven. Even if your idea
28 MAGAZINE
MAGAZINE| 05.11.17
| 05.11.17
| THE| OBSERVER
THE OBSERVER
of commemorating the failure of the
Gunpowder Plot runs to little more
than writing your name in the night
air with a sparkler, generous amounts
of one-pot fare is crucial. Revelry isn?t
half as much fun on an empty stomach.
Historically, this night has a habit
of being a bit nippy or wet enough
to extinguish your Roman candle.
Whatever weather is thrown at us
Serves 2-3
olive oil 2 tbsp
sausages 6 large
onion 1
rosemary 5 sprigs
harissa paste 2 tsp
tomatoes 4, medium
haricot or cannellini beans 2 x 400g cans
chicken stock 200ml
Directions
Using a little of the oil, brown the
sausages in a shallow, ovenproof
Photographs JONATHAN LOVEKIN
Hot pots: (below) baked
beetroot with seeded
ricotta; and, facing page,
baked sausages with
harissa and tomatoes
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
29
LIFE & STYLE
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
Slice
open the
beetroots
and place
generous
spoonfuls
of the
seeded
ricotta on
each one
WINES
OF THE
WEEK
Bon?re night
warmers
David
Williams
@Daveydaibach
To read all
David?s columns
in one place, visit
theguardian.com/
pro?le/davidwilliams
pan over a low to moderate heat,
turning them regularly so they brown
as evenly as possible. Set the oven at
200C/gas mark 6.
Peel the onion and roughly chop
it. Remove the sausages and set them
aside, then add the remaining oil to
the pan and then the onion, letting it
soften and colour lightly. It should be
the palest gold. Remove the leaves
from 2 of the sprigs of rosemary,
?nely chop them, then add them to
the onions with a pinch of salt.
Stir the harissa paste into the
onions. Roughly chop the tomatoes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook
for a few minutes until the tomatoes
have started to soften. Drain the
beans, rinse them under running
water, stir them into the onions,
then pour in the stock and bring to
the boil. Lower the heat, then return
the sausages to the pan. Check the
seasoning then bake in the oven for
20-25 minutes.
with the result, ?nding the long
cooking makes them dry. Pre-boiling
and wrapping them in tin foil is
a good way to keep them moist
during baking, as it encourages them
to cook in their own steam. For a
creamy accompaniment, add a few
tablespoons of double cream or thick
yogurt to the ricotta.
BAKED BEETROOT WITH
SEEDED RICOTTA
I have occasionally baked beetroots
from raw, rather than boiling them
?rst, and have never been happy
Bring a large, deep saucepan of
water to the boil and salt it
generously. Scrub and trim the
beetroots, taking care not to pierce
the skin. Boil them whole and
unpeeled for 40-45 minutes until
they are they are fully tender. You
should be able to pierce them
effortlessly with a skewer. Set the
oven at 200C/gas mark 6.
Put the ricotta in a mixing bowl.
Finely grate the zest of the orange
and add to the ricotta with the hemp
and pumpkin seeds and the chopped
parsley. Season with a little salt and
a爁ew twists of black pepper.
Place a large piece of kitchen foil
in a roasting tin. When the beetroots
are tender, remove them from the
water, peel off the skins ? they
should come away easily ? then
place the beetroots on the foil. Put
the sprigs of thyme and rosemary
and the bay in a mixing bowl. Add
a爈ittle salt and black pepper, then
pour in the olive oil. Toss the
seasonings and oil together then
spoon over the beetroots. Loosely
scrunch the edges of the foil
together to make a parcel around
the beetroots, then bake for about
45 minutes.
Remove the roasting tin from
the oven, unwrap the foil, then put
the beetroots on a serving plate.
Slice them open and place generous
spoonfuls of the seeded ricotta
mixture on each one. Taste the Di?erence SaintChinian Syrah-Grenache
2015 (� Sainsbury?s)
For me, Guy Fawkes Night
is when autumn really
starts to segue into winter,
an occasion for sipping
warming red wine, glass
in gloved hand, around
the bon?re. Sainsbury?s
has a wine that ?ts this
mood perfectly ? and
which would also match
well with a classic Sunday
roast of lamb or beef.
From the Saint-Chinian
district of the Languedoc,
it?s a rich, spicy blend of
syrah and grenache ?lled with liquorice,
blackberries, pepper and the waft of wild
scrubland herbs. Made by the reliable family
?rm of Laurent Miquel, it just pips Tesco?s
version of the same style, Tesco Finest
Saint-Chinian 2016 for intensity and depth,
although the latter is good value (�50)
for its succulent dark plummy smokiness.
Morrisons The Best Rioja
Reserva, Spain 2012 (�50)
The Morrisons wine
department, much
improved of late, has two
Spanish candidates (or
rather, one Spanish and
one Catalan) for wintry
comfort. The retailer?s
textbook Rioja Reserva
o?ers all the soft, mellow
savouriness and coconut
and vanilla seasoning you
expect from traditional
Rioja, with enough ripe
black fruit to keep it from
feeling, as cheaper reservas
sometimes can, tired and
over-the-hill. A few quid more, the Catalan
contender, Morrisons The Best Priorat 2014
(�) is from the remote hills of Priorat and
uses a blend familiar to winemakers all over
the Mediterranean (grenache, carignan,
syrah) to fashion a dark, chewy red with
sweet spice and a freshening plum-skin
tang that makes it very easy to drink.
Miguel Torres Reserva
Ancestral Old Vine
Cinsault-Pa韘-Carignan,
Itata, Chile 2014 (�.50,
Marks & Spencer)
The Torres wine empire
has grown into regions
all over Spain and into
Chile. When it comes to
bon?re night sustenance,
the company has plenty
to o?er, whether it?s
the evergreen budget
classic Sangre de Toro
2015 (widely available
at around � with its
subtly smoky baked
berry fruit, or the
toasty-oak-and-loganberry richness
of its Torres Celeste Crianza 2014 from
Ribera del Duero (�.99, Waitrose).
But the wine I?d want tonight is M&S?s
newcomer from very old vines down
in Chile?s exciting Itata Valley, which
interweaves cherry raciness with darker,
spicier, more savoury tones.
Serves 4 as a side dish
beetroot 4, medium-sized
thyme 12 sprigs
rosemary 4 sprigs
bay leaves 4
olive oil 3 tbsp
For the ricotta:
ricotta 200g
orange 1 small
hemp seeds 1 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 2 tbsp
parsley 3 tbsp, chopped
Directions
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
31
LIFE & STYLE
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
NIGEL?S
MIDWEEK
DINNER
CANNELLINI
NI FRITTERS,
KOHLRABI SALAD
The recipe
Drain two 400g
0g cans of cannellini
d ?nely dice a medi
d umbeans. Peel and
mediumnd a large clove of
sized shallot and
garlic, then let them soften in a little
olive oil over a moderate heat for 5-7
p a tablespoon of
minutes. Chop
es ?nely
rosemary leaves
?nely and stir into
the softening shallot.
Pur閑 the drained beans using a
fork or food processor, then stir in the
warm shallot, garlic and rosemary.
Season with salt and pepper. Take
large spoonfuls of the mixture, form
into 4 large balls and set aside.
For the accompanying salad, mix
together the juice of a lemon and 50ml
of olive oil and a little salt and black
pepper. Very ?nely slice 250g of crisp,
green kohlrabi and marinate in the
dressing. Cut the peel from a mediumPhotograph JONATHAN LOVEKIN
sized
d
oran
a gee,
orange
tthen
th
en
n slicee tthe
he
or
range thi
hinl
nlyy an
and
d
orange
thinly
ad
dd to tthe
he koh
ohlr
lrab
abi.
i. P
ick
k
add
kohlrabi.
Pick
the leaves
leeav
avess from 6 stems
stem
st
emss of
?at-leaf parsley and
nd add
dd tto
o th
thee sa
salad.
sh aand
nd
Break an egg in a shallow dish
beat lightly.
lightly. On a large plate, place
75g of breadcrumbs and season
lightly. Roll the balls of cannellini
mixture ?rst in the beaten egg, then
the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 30
minutes. Fry the balls in hot
groundnut oil till crisp, rolling them
over from time to time. Remove the
fritters, drain on kitchen paper, then
serve with the salad. Serves 2.
The trick
Drain the beans thoroughly before
mashing, otherwise the mixture
will be too wett tto
will
oh
old
ld its shap
ape.
e. U
se
hold
shape.
Use
ab
boutt �
cm o
oill tto
o fr
fryy th
thee fr
fritters,
about
絚m
off oi
turning them occasionally as they
cook, in order to ensure even
browning. Alternatively, deep-fry
them in groundnut oil.
The twist
Tarragon works well with cannellini
beans, and can be added (about
2 tbsp of chopped leaves) at the same
time as the shallot. Haricot beans are
good as an alternative, as are butter
beans. In place of the kohlrabi, try
mooli, the long white radishes. Email Nigel at nigel.
slater@observer.
co.uk or visit
theguardian.com/
pro?le/nigelslater
for all his recipes in
one place
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
33
Food & drink
To read all the interviews in this series, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/food-and-drink
A GOURMET MAGAZINE
AT THE CUTTING EDGE
Earlier this year, as David Lane and
Marina Tweed were putting together
an issue of their biannual food
magazine The Gourmand, they were
pitched an idea involving snails. The
premise, dreamed up by Dutch art
photographers Blommers & Schumm,
was simple: snails like climbing
things. The resulting photo story
shows edible gastropods inching to
the top of various household objects,
including a chef?s knife, some threepronged forks and a bright red chilli.
Not many food magazines would
buy this idea, but The Gourmand,
which publishes its number 10 issue
this week, is not your average food
magazine. Since launching in June
2012 it has commissioned articles
about alcohol archaeology, the
social status of ketchup and artist
Yayoi Kusama?s love of pumpkins.
In one memorable piece, Italian
architectural features were recreated
using appropriately shaped pasta.
When the snail idea came through,
the editors didn?t shrink away: they
ran it under the headline ?L?escar?
Go!? with the disclaimer: ?No snails
were harmed in the making of this
photo story.? Now one of the snail
images ? the one with the chef?s
knife ? has been included in a new
series of art prints reproducing
images from the magazine?s archives.
(Each of the prints, released quarterly
in batches of six, will be limited to
30 copies and cost �0.)
Lane and Tweed, who live in
London with their two-year-son
Jacob, plus a cat named Peter,
never expected the magazine to hit
double ?gures. Now The Gourmand
is distributed all over the world
and has spawned a commercial
offshoot called Lane & Associates,
working with the likes of Nike and
San Pellegrino. This helps fund the
magazine and keeps it relatively
ad-free, allowing the editors to run
oddball features about snails without
worrying about commercial viability.
Food and art mix regularly in
The Gourmand. What prompted the
pairing? ?We felt there was a natural
synergy between food and creativity,?
says Lane at the magazine?s office
in Stoke Newington, northeast
London, just across from much-loved
Turkish restaurant Mangal 1. ?Food
is the only universal subject really?
Well, I suppose everyone breathes,
but it probably wouldn?t make for
a very interesting magazine.?
One inspiration was The Compleat
Imbiber, published on and off
between 1956 and 1992 and edited
by Cyril Ray, who also wrote for The
Observer. ?We collected them,? says
Lane, ?these compendiums about
booze that had Kingsley Amis stories
and weird bits and pieces ? it didn?t
follow a formula.? Lane and Tweed
felt there was a gap in the market
to do something similar, ?to publish
nice, inspiring, creative content
around food, which, surprisingly,
there wasn?t that much of ?.
Approaching cultural matters
through the medium of food gives
The Gourmand an advantage over
publications with a more direct
focus. Lane mentions a feature in
the new issue in which New York
musicians discuss their favourite
neighbourhood dumpling houses
BLOMMERS/SCHUMM; JENNY VAN SOMMERS; BAKER AND EVANS
There is
a natural
synergy
between
food and
creativity.
Food is
the only
universal
subject
The Gourmand has taken food writing
to some astonishing new places.
Killian Fox meets the duo behind it
34
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
Tasty read: (from far
left) The Gourmand
issue 6; Ultra Viscid
Scene (Olive Oil)
by Baker & Evans;
Untitled (Burger) by
Jenny van Sommers;
and L?escar? Go! by
Blommers & Schumm
and bagel joints. ?If we were just a
music magazine, it would have been
really hard to talk to all those people,?
he says, referring to competition
with other music magazines and the
reluctance many artists feel about
discussing their work head-on. ?But
if you want to talk to them about food
or wine, they?re like, ?Yeah, great? ?
and they always end up talking about
their work anyway.?
Though Lane and Tweed both
come from design backgrounds ?
he ran a creative studio, she was
project manager at a design and
branding agency ? their magazine
is unmistakably the work of food
obsessives. One recent feature pokes
fun at cheffy ?ourishes such as
smears, foams and dusts. Another
savours nostalgic details from grand
London restaurants: the lemon
wrapped in muslin at Fischer?s, the
bright red cracker accompanying
a plate of lobster at Sweetings.
Grandees such as Claudia Roden and
Alice Waters make appearances, as
do hip young chefs such as Andr�
Chiang and Corey Lee, while recipes
relating to each feature are collected
at the back of every issue.
The Gourmand can be wilfully
self-indulgent at times, but even the
most out-there pieces tend to be
grounded in careful research. One
photo story offering a ?synaesthetic
journey through the world of olive
oil? ? it features magni?ed slicks of
extra virgin lit in various colours ?
was developed in consultation with
an olive oil expert, who provided
detailed ?avour pro?les for the oils
of different regions.
?There?s so much imagery in the
world which looks nice for a second
on Instagram, but there?s not much
depth to it,? says Tweed. ?Even if the
motivation for one of our pieces is a
bit fantastical or silly, we try to make
sure it?s got integrity.? THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
35
LIFE & STYLE
Restaurants
Jay Rayner
@jayrayner1
Fishers In the City,
58 Thistle Street,
Edinburgh EH2 1EN
(0131 225 5109).
Meal for two,
including drinks and
service: �0
FLOUNDERING
FISHERS IN THE CITY
MURDO MACLEOD
A few enduring niggles overshadow
great cooking and good service at this
Edinburgh seafood restaurant
Fishers in
the City is
like an old
television
that needs
to be
thumped
on the side
to stop the
picture
wobbling
Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/jayrayner
for all his reviews in one place
I am many things: tall, thick of waist
and big haired. One gust of wind and
I can end up looking like an unmade
bed. Even without the wind, I may
still look like that saggy sofa you can?t
be bothered to throw out because
of all the admin. I have never been
able to slip into a room unseen. If I
ring a doorbell after dark, I take four
steps back after doing so, to avoid
scaring the hell out of even my closest
friends. If I am walking along a street
late at night and there is a single
person in front of me I cross to the
other side, so as not to be that huge,
looming presence in the shadows;
the one who is terrifying until proven
otherwise. I am indeed many things;
easy to ignore is not one of them.
And yet the woman on the front
desk at Edinburgh?s Fishers in the
City is managing it. She could get
a Masters in ignoring me. She does
not look up as we come in. She is on
the phone, apparently arranging
a function. She is ordering 24 bottles
of something, eyes only for her
computer screen. It feels like a blunt
calculation has been made; this caller
is more valuable than the man in
my peripheral vision. On and on it
goes, this conversation. No one else
comes. We look around the woodlined restaurant: at the waitress
restocking the glasses behind the bar
on one side, at her colleague idling
by a service point on the other. About
seven minutes in, as she is winding
up, our ?greeter? ?nally raises her
eyes. She signals apology. Then the
call is done, a perfunctory ?sorry? is
muttered and a name asked for.
It?s a small thing, isn?t it, this wait
at the front desk? I wonder if she
recalls it, even now. But that?s what
restaurants are: a bunch of small
things, done well, or badly. Those
done well slip over you, like the
popping suds in a warm bubble bath.
The ones done badly are pieces of
Lego stepped on in the night. Boy,
you remember those. Fishers in the
City could be a truly terri?c ?sh
restaurant, if it weren?t for the small
things that aren?t terri?c.
It certainly has great antecedents.
When the original opened a little
over 20 years ago, overlooking the
?ash and dip of the waters in Leith
at the city?s harbour edge, it offered
something Edinburgh didn?t have
much of back then: great cooking
served without ?ummery. It turned
out you could have a good dinner
without acres of starchy tablecloths
or starched waiters. It played to
Scotland?s reputation for the briny,
mollusced and crustaceaned. It
endured because it did all the
important things well. As Edinburgh?s
restaurant sector grew, an outpost
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
37
Jay Rayner
@jayrayner1
back in the centre of the city must
have made sense. A friend told me
they had come to prefer the younger
sibling to the original.
I can see why. All the essentials
are here: there are oysters, left
unmolested, or grilled with a bonemarrow crust. There are mussels
from Shetland, platters of salmon, as
gravadlax and both smoked and in an
elderberry and vodka cure alongside
pickled cucumber. The soup is
a cream-ballasted chowder, made
with salmon and smoked haddock.
They have ?sh and chips and hot
seafood platters, but also a menu of
other more evolved things.
And here?s the point: some of it
genuinely makes you sigh, and rest
your elbows on the table. Soft, pearly
?llets of lemon sole, curled in on
themselves as they might be for
a classic V閞onique, come with
a chive potato cake, a kind of rosti.
Looking at the uniformity of the
strands I suspect a spiraliser might
have been involved, but we will
forgive them this for the brazenness
of the fat-fried crust. There are
grinning mussels and a brilliant
green velout� ?avoured with breezy
notes of tarragon. It?s serious and
con?dent cooking.
We order a hot shell?sh plater for
one and it is a monumental thing, as it
should be for �. Two people could
get major satisfaction out of one
person?s portion. There is half
a small lobster and a sizeable crab
claw, a couple of fat scallops still
clinging to the shell, and a brace of
langoustine. There are clams, and
all of it glazed in a garlicky, parsleycoloured butter emulsion that will
repeat on you for days. A salad of
sweet, nutty new potatoes and rocket
makes you feel like you?re getting
your greens. So yes, there are good
things here at Fishers in the City.
But, oh those pieces of Lego,
cutting deep into the arch of your
foot. There?s the discovery that all
the good things in the seafood platter
are supported by an enormous pile
of mussels, the cheapest item in the
38
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk
er
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/jayrayner
for all his reviews in one place
seafood restaurant?s fridge. There?s
the starter of salt and pepper
squid which is simply too salty,
as are the chips. It takes a quite
terrifying amount of salt to make
chips completely resistible. The
kitchen here manages it. Over
salting feels like a nervous tick
that no one is managing.
Another starter of crab Welsh
rarebit sounds luscious and clever.
Crab and butch, mustardy cheese
are bound to get along. But there iss
ng
something mimsy about the topping
to the toast. It lacks that vital
instinct to feed. Bread is just the
wrong side of completely fresh.
Roasted plums, the fruit lined up
on the plate as if on guard duty,
come surrounded by a rubble of
sted
crumble and just aren?t quite roasted
enough. They make you wish for
a straightforward crumble.
he
It?s all in the details, isn?t it? The
service at our table is warm and
ut
engaged and fully present without
being intrusive. But what I recall
is less her, than the woman on thee
he City
phone at the start. Fishers in the
onss that
is like one of those old televisions
ide
needed to be thumped on the side
to stop the picture wobbling.
tion
I hope they can give the operation
the friendly whack it needs.
ved
For Edinburgh, honour is saved
upper
later that evening by a quick supper
at the Fat Pony, the new place from
d
redoubtable restaurateur David
Ramsden. We grab a few small
amb
plates: there?s smokey spiced lamb
shawarma on warm ?uffy ?at bread,
a, and
blissfully silky little pork gyoza,
rd
an impeccable charcuterie board
with pickles and chutneys and,, for
company, a quite lovely bottle of
?inty Godello. Service is slick, prices
are reasonable and absolutely
nothing goes wrong. Is all that
too much to hope for? City slickers: (from top) crab
Welsh rarebit; salt and pepper
squid; lemon sole and chive potato
o
cake; hot shellfish platter for one;
roasted plums with crumble
? Alex
Aitken?s Jetty
in Christchurch,
Dorset is now
the cornerstone
of a mini seafood
restaurant
empire. The
number of
nu
menus may be
exhausting,
but tthere?s
some very
som
good cooking
goo
here, based
here
on ccracking
ingredients. Go
ingre
for ccod cheek
fritters, rock
fritte
oysters, torched
oyst
mackerel ?llets
mac
and a killer mixed
?sh grill. All in
shiny glass
a sh
box by the sea
(thejetty.co.uk
).
(the
ej
Each year
?E
American
the A
magazine
mag
g
Restaurant
Res
Business lists
Bus
biggestthe b
grossing nongros
chain restaurants
chai
the US. For
in th
the ffourth year
running the
runn
winner is Tao
winn
Asian
Asia
an Bistro in
Vegas, with a
Las Ve
staggering
take
stag
gg
$42,470,345.
of $
4
Then
n again, it
seats
seat
ts 400 people
most of them
and
dm
spend at least
$90 a head.
Once upon a
? On
Wagamama
time W
the casual
had th
Japanese
Japan
restaurant scene
resta
itself. Now
to itse
it has serious
competition.
comp
Hence, they
Hence
have tturned
branch on
their b
Dean Street in
D
Soho into The
Soh
Noodle Lab, a
Noodl
test bed for new
dishes. Diners
d
will be asked
to review what
they?ve tried
(wagamama.
com/noodle-lab).
MURDO MACLEOD
Restaurants
NEWS
BITES
Fashion
@guardianfashion
To see all the shoots in this series and for more
sartorial advice visit theguardian.com/fashion
GUIDE TO
MEN?S
JACKETS
Balenciaga gave duvet jackets
the stamp of approval for
another season, and
performance outerwear in
general is having a moment.
thanks to designer
collaborations with The
North Face and Napapijri.
Invest in Canada Goose?s
Selkirk parka or get the puffer
look with H&M?s quilted
anorak in yellow, navy or
camo. Shearling jackets were
a hit at Paul Smith and
Giorgio Armani, and the high
street has some great
versions. The worker?s jacket
has overtaken the Harrington
in the boxy silhouette stakes,
while the bomber holds on
to its status as the failsafe
jacket. We like Arket?s navy
one ? shell layers and
insulated liners that can be
worn alone or zipped
together. Truly something for
all tastes. HELEN SEAMONS
DESIGNER
Skidoo
jacket
�5,
napapijri.
com
Detachable
sleeve �0,
(Martine Rose)
browns
fashion.com
Red
check
�5,
amiparis.
com
M65 military
jacket �5,
coach.com
MID-RANGE
Water
repellent
�0,
hugoboss.
com
Mechanic?s
jacket �9,
albamclothing.
com
Twill
�0,
(Fanmail)
mrporter.
com
Faux
shearling
�0,
riverisland.
com
HIGH STREET
Texas
jacket
�,
weekday.
com
40
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBS
OBSERVER
SERVER
Liner
jacket
�, arket.
com
Khaki
�,
burton.
co.uk
New County
jacket �,
urban
out?tters.
com
Paul Smith
Balenciaga
Burberry
Lanvin
Saint Laurent
GETTY; REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
Claret
�
40,
0 acne
stud
dios.com
Chore
e jaccket
�0,,
jigsawonlin
ne.co
om
Che
eck
e
bom
mber
m
�
9.99,
zara.com
Selkirk
�5,
Canada
Goose
(harrods.
com)
Khaki
�0,
diesel.com
Cord
�, french
connection.
com
O?
White
�047,
farfetch.
com
Paisley
�5,
Craig Green
(matches
fashion.com)
Taupe
pu?er
�9,
whistles.
com
Yellow
�.99,
hm.com
Suede
�9, marks
andspencer.
com
Faux
shearling
�,
topman.
com
THE OBSERVER | 05
05.11.17
11 17 | MAGAZ
MAGAZINE
41
Fashion
@guardianfashion
To see all the shoots in this series and for more
n
sartorial advice visit theguardian.com/fashion
REASONS TO...
GO BOARDROOM
Looking like you?re about to chair the
AGM is this season?s key look.
Put on a trouser suit and you instantly
have an air of authority. Go for a check
design and you also cover the other big
trend this autumn: heritage check.
Accessorise with minimalist jewellery
and 80s-style spike heels to stop
boardroom looking boring.
The high street has this look covered.
You can look like a CEO even if your
budget is more gig economy. Jacket �800, leather shirt �050
and trousers �000, all celine.com
Skincare and make-up
Juliana Sergot using MAC
Hair Jason Crozier at Stella Creative
Artists using Sachajuan
Fashion assistant
Bemi Shaw
Model Tatum at Elite Models
1 Ankle boots �9, kurtgeiger.com
2 Check jacket �, topshop.com
3 Matching suit trousers �, topshop.com
4 Initial notebook �, katespade.co.uk
5 Leather city bag �.99, zara.com
6 Cotton poplin shirt �, arket.com
7 Court shoes � stories.com
8 Earrings �, ?nerylondon.com
9 Coat �9.99, mango.com
Fashion editor JO JONES
Photographer DANIEL BENSON
42
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
1
2
4
5
3
6
9
8
7
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
43
Beauty
NOW?S THE TIME TO?
Get surreal. This is Man Ray for
NARS, a holiday collection of
imaginative colours emblazoned
with arty touches from Man Ray?s
witty, odd and beautiful work
(narscosmetics.co.uk).
For more advice and tips,
visit theguardian.com/fashion/beauty
STRONG,
POWERFUL
EYESHADOW
Prabal Gurung,
autumn/
winter 2017
Prabal Gurung ?s autumn/
winter 2017 collection was
inspired by the women?s
rights movement. The
models were styled to
look ?really strong and
powerful?, without
?conventionally beautiful
make-up?. This meant
angled slashes of
bright colour like a little
Matisse cutout in green,
red, orange and blue,
extending below the
brow, a little bit space
age, a little bit punk. It?s
literally an independent
streak. EVA WISEMAN
JASON LLOYD-EVANS
Inglot Ms
Butter?y
eyeshadow
� Inglot
uk.com
Shiseido
Instroke eyeliner
�,
harrods.com
Korres
Volcanic
Minerals
in Purple
� look
fantastic.com
m
Sleek MakeUP i-Art
Liquid
Li uid Eye Colour �99,
superdrug.com
sup
perdrug.com
MAC pencil in
Landscape Green
�.50, mac
cosmetics.co.uk
YSL Shocking
Eyeliner in Deep
Green �.50,
ysl beauty.co.uk
Trinny London
Eye2Eye in
Sun �, trinny
S
london.com
THE
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05.11.17
5.11
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11.17
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45
45
Homes
For more inside tips, advice and ideas, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/homes
A London pop-up shop selling Afghan
crafts is helping war-torn communities
make a living, says Ed Cumming
Afghanistan
has been
at war for
the past
40 years,
so there
are zero
tourists,
and no local
market
46
From a small corner window display
on London?s Baker Street, Edmund
le Brun and Flore de Taisne are
trying to help the victims of war.
Their pop-up shop, Ishkar, which
is also online, sells crafts from
con?ict zones. Among the items on
display are gorgeous hand-blown
glasses in green, lapis lazuli blue and
turquoise, intricate kilim rugs, ?newoven camel hair shawls, earrings
and necklaces and knives.
The husband-and-wife team, both
27, came up with the idea for the
business in Kabul, where they were
living when they met. Edmund was
working for Turquoise Mountain
Foundation, the NGO founded by
Rory Stewart, now a Conservative MP,
which aims to preserve and restore
old buildings and businesses. Flore,
who grew up in Paris, was working as
a consultant for aid agencies.
?My job was to set up craft
businesses and ?nd ways to grow
them, so I was working closely
with local artisans,? says Edmund.
?They?re highly skilled, energetic
entrepreneurs, which is impressive
in itself, given the circumstances. But
they have very few ways of connecting
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
to market. Ishkar is a direct response
to that, connecting talented
craftsmen with people who have the
money to buy their products.?
In late 2015, as a trial run,
Edmund and Flore ordered a batch
of cufflinks made by craftsmen in
Kabul, to sell as Christmas presents.
They quickly sold out, so they set
about sourcing a wider range for
the website and pop-up, which
launched earlier this year. When we
meet, they are waiting on a shipment
of 4,000 more glasses, and crossing
their ?ngers that not too many
will have shattered on the arduous
journey from Kabul. The glassware
is emblematic of what they want to
achieve with the brand.
?Glass has been made like this in
Afghanistan for 2,000 years,? says
Edmund. ?But the country has been
at war for the past 40 years, so there
are zero tourists, and no local market
because it has been swamped by
cheap Chinese glass. There?s only
one traditional glass workshop left,
which is where all our products
come from.? Part of the problem,
he adds, is that for the local market,
smooth, regular Chinese-made glass
is more fashionable ? and cheaper
than the traditional styles. As well as
supporting the craftsmen directly,
a portion of proceeds from some
of their lines goes to the Turquoise
Mountain Foundation and other
charities. They also partner with
NGOs on the ground if appropriate.
?I know certain people might
read about this kind of initiative and
roll their eyes,? adds Edmund, ?but
Ishkar is the result of three years?
hard experience at the sharp end of
development in Afghanistan.?
The next phase of the business
will be to source products from
other con?ict zones. They already
have a small number of items from
Syria, but the civil war makes it
tricky to know exactly where the
money will end up. The current
focus is on Mali, where traditional
businesses have been hollowed out
by the civil war since 2012.
?The situation there is worse than
in Afghanistan,? says Flore. ?Before
the crisis, Timbuktu would receive
20-30,000 tourists a year. The
craftsmen were relatively well paid,
earning between ?10-15,000 per
year. But while they?re highly skilled
they are not educated, so as soon
as that business stopped they were
left with nothing. To sustain their
families, many turned to militant
Islamist groups or smugglers.
?Another difficulty in Mali is that
the supply connections are really
poor, so it?s hard to get materials,?
she adds. Textiles are the Malian
speciality, but here, too, local
demand has dropped off. ?When we
went to see them they were making
name bracelets, which we had no
interest in,? she says. ?We had to
ask them to show us the things they
were making before: the high-quality
embroidery, clothes and fabrics.?
?These places have incredible
traditions of making,? says Edmund.
?But their stories are not heard in the
west, and people here have no access
to them.? With Iskhar, he and Flore
hope to help change that. ishkar.com
RICHARD SAKER
CONFLICT ZONE CRAFTS
Crafting a nation:
(clockwise from this
picture) Flore de Taisne
and Edmund le Brun
at their shop Ishkar;
traditionally made
glasses from Kabul;
cushions made from
Malian textiles
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
47
Gardens
James Wong
@Botanygeek
To read all James?s columns in
one place, visit theguardian.com/
pro?le/james-wong
I love the
?avour of
Thai basil,
whose
liquoricescented
warmth is
essential to
Southeast
Asian foods
Little wonder:
(from top) a corn
seedling; fresh
microgreens; and
shiso leaves
Even as the outdoor veg garden starts
to wind down, there are still plenty
of crops you can start sowing right
through the winter if you turn your
food-growing ambitions indoors.
All you need is a windowsill to
grow a whole range of weird and
wonderful ?avours in just a week or
two, most of which are essentially
?unbuyable? in the shops. Here?s
my guide to growing microgreens,
probably the fastest and easiest
vegetables going.
Grown in an identical fashion
to good, old-fashioned mustard
and cress, microgreens are just
a fancy name for any edible plant
that is harvested and eaten at
seedling stage. These can be sown
in trays of potting compost or
even damp cotton wool, popped
on a warm, sunny windowsill and
harvested as soon as they produce
their ?rst few leaves.
Germination is usually rapid, pests
and diseases rarely an issue and as
48
MAGAZINE
ZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
long as you keep the potting mix
from drying out, you can be eating
them before you know it. Now for
my tried-and-tested favourites.
I love the ?avour of Thai basil,
whose liquorice-scented warmth is
indispensable to a range of Southeast
Asian foods. Sadly, this is still very
tricky to hunt down in the UK, even
in Asian supermarkets, so growing
it at home is the best option. Like
all basils it has a wonderfully intense
?avour from the minute it opens its
?rst pair of seed leaves, but I like
to harvest it at the four-leaf stage to
get maximum bang for my buck.
The same treatment will also work
for regular Italian basil, as well as
the stunning purple-leaved and
lemon-scented forms.
Essentially any kitchen herb can
be treated the same way, with
coriander, parsley, dill and garlic
chives being popular choices. I
also love growing Japanese shiso,
sometimes known as Japanese
beefsteak plant, for the rich umamimeets-mixed-herb ?avour of its
leaves. The purple form is a real
stunner on any plate, with its tiny
nettle-like leaves being a real talking
point for the uninitiated. If you want
something really wacky however, try
out any of the marigolds. Yes, normal
bedding marigolds, which have long
been used in their homeland of Latin
America for their bright, refreshing,
mint-meets-pineapple ?avour.
However, above all in the ?avour
stakes it is sweetcorn that has the
rest beaten hands down. Choose
seeds that have not been treated with
fungicide (a pink, powdery coating)
and sow these in trays in a dark
cupboard. Starved of light, the leaves
become soft and tender and packed
with an almost unbelievable level
of sweetness, as if they have been
soaked in syrup. Pick at 10cm long
and scatter over desserts and salads
for a burst of sunny, sweetness in
the dark days of winter. ALAMY; GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
IT?S A SMALL WORLD
Ethical
living
Lucy Siegle
@lucysiegle
Email Lucy at lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/lucysiegle
to read all her articles in one place
THE ECO GUIDE TO...
BIG ETHICS
At a recent event held by
the outdoor clothing brand
Patagonia I detected a
sheepish air. Nothing to do
with eco wool, but rumours
that the company was about
to surpass a $1bn turnover.
In the normal run of
capitalism these thresholds
are celebrated. But
Patagonia was founded
by Yvon Chouinard to
sell (greener) apparel to
fund the environmental
agenda. Always alert to
the paradoxes of green
consumption, Patagonia
took out newspaper ads on
Black Friday (the world?s
biggest shopping day) in
2011 asking consumers not
to buy their product.
Personally I ?nd
Patagonia?s success
energising. Given their
efforts to mitigate our
consumerist impact, I?d
rather market share went
to them than brands
without discernible values.
But when a pet ethical
brand joins the big league it
can leave loyal consumers
in a spin ? especially when
that ethical stalwart is
acquired by a monster
mainstream corporation.
Recently Ecover and
Method have been
acquired by SC Johnson
and Pukka teas by Unilever.
Is this good or bad?
The jury is divided.
Ethicalconsumer.org
drops acquired companies
down their ratings but
bcorporation.net does not.
Should you be
concerned? It?s oldfashioned advice, but check
the label. You can tell the
character of the brand
by the certi?cation they
keep. For example Pukka is
certi?ed by FairWild and
Fair for Life to ensure it
uses sustainable herbs (one
in ?ve wild plant species
is now under threat).
Meanwhile, nearly 40% of
Patagonia?s ranges are now
certi?ed by US Fair Trade.
These are good products
with impressive backstories that fought hard to
get into your wardrobes
and cupboards. If they?re
the best in the business at
going green, I recommend
sticking with them. THE BIG PICTURE
SMOG GETS IN YOUR EYES
Following London?s introduction of a new toxicity tax (the T-charge)
at the end of last month, Fog Everywhere has premiered at Camden
People?s Theatre in collaboration with King?s College Lung Biology
Group. Performed in one of the Big Smoke?s pollution hotspots, this
production examines the perilous e?ects of the air we breathe and asks
what we can do about it (cptheatre.co.uk until 11 November).
JOE TWIGG
WELL DRESSED
MULTIPURPOSE PONCHOS FROM WALES
Adult poncho
From �5,
thewelshgirl.com
I?ve often heard
those dependent on
western fashion culture
bemoaning the fact that
there?s no equivalent
to the sari. The sari,
you see, is inherently
ethical because it can
contract and expand
as we do and in theory
lasts a lifetime. But
then I remembered
the poncho.
In Hay-on-Wye Julie
Leonard uses British
wool (from Baylen and
Portland sheep woven
in a Welsh mill) to create
poncho designs based
on Welsh traditional
patterns, but with a
modern twist. When
you?re not out and
about in a poncho,
they can double as a
throw for a sofa or bed.
Leonard has not
only reinvigorated the
classic poncho but also
an important supply
chain in Wales as her
product helps to keep
looms going there and
create work for skilled
women in rural areas.
The Welsh Girl
ponchos come in three
children?s sizes (��5) and three adult
sizes (�5-�5).
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
49
Travel
For more inside tips, advice and holiday
ideas, go to theguardian.com/travel
50
BELGIUM?S BEST-KEPT SECRET
IXELLES, BRUSSELS
The little-known quarter where Audrey
Hepburn was born is much loved by
those in the know, writes Hayley Long
Coming home from a holiday last
week, I had a brief conversation
with the taxi driver about Belgium.
He looked at me in his rear-view
mirror and said, ?Been somewhere
lovely, have you??
?Why yes,? I said. ?I?ve been to
Brussels.?
There were a few seconds of
doubt and confusion. Then the taxi
driver said, ?Why??
?I lived there once and I really
love it,? I said.
?Oh,? said the taxi driver. And
then he nodded, lost interest and put
the radio on.
Conversations about Belgium are
? in my experience ? often this brief,
and any mention of Brussels is likely
to land me in an unwanted
conversation about office blocks,
Brexit or a tiny statue of a naked
weeing boy. But, occasionally, I?ll see
someone?s eyes light up and they?ll
say, ?Oh, I love Brussels? ? and then
they?ll tell me about the friend or
relative they frequently visit, or
about that time, ages ago, when they
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
lived there themselves. Brussels is
that kind of place. If you actually
know it, you probably love it.
My love for Brussels began in
1995. I was in my early 20s when
I arrived, grubby and half-asleep,
at the biggest railway station,
Gare du Midi, on the night train
from Avignon, having escaped a
joyless job on a hotel boat in the
south of France.
I?d only intended to stay for a few
days on my friend Tracey?s sofa
before making my way on to
Zeebrugge to catch a ferry home to
Felixstowe. But somehow I ended
up staying a year. And even though I
took an instant liking to those things
for which Brussels is best known ?
the Grand Place, the Atomium and,
of course, beer and chocolate ? it is
an altogether different Brussels that
I fell in love with. And that Brussels
is one where few tourists rarely
ever venture. It?s a shame; they?re
missing out.
Ixelles is an area in the Upper
Town, just south of the city centre
and accessed by the metro stations
Louise and Porte de Namur. I lived
near the latter in the heart of the
Congolese quarter known as
Matong�. Having moved on from
Tracey?s sofa, I was now sharing an
apartment with Sandrine, a young
Belgian woman. In one direction,
we were two minutes away from
African shopping arcades and in
the other, a stone?s throw from
L?Ultime Atome, a very hip caf�
beloved by the British expat crowd
and Belgians alike.
Both the arcades and the caf� are
still going strong. Take a walk up
Chauss閑 de Wavre for a little taste
of Kinshasa in Belgium and then
head on to Place Saint Boniface for
one of the coolest caf閟 in Brussels.
It?s worth the price of a coffee alone
just to sit outside in the gorgeous
little square and watch the world go
by ? a world which is Belgian,
African and also discreetly British.
British expats have always been
a presence in Ixelles. In 1842,
Charlotte and Emily Bront� ? on a
year out, like me ? regularly spent
their Sundays at a house on
Chauss閑 d?Ixelles, having tea with a
British family who lived there. Later,
in 1907, an English nurse named
Edith Cavell arrived in Ixelles to
work at a nursing school. The First
World War proved fatal for Edith
Cavell but she is still remembered in
Brussels. There is now a street and a
hospital named after her ? although
not in Ixelles where they perhaps
might best belong.
Another notable British resident
of Ixelles was Audrey Hepburn, who
was born and grew up at 48 Rue
Keyenveld, just a short walk away
from one of Brussels?s most
expensive boulevards, the Toison
d?Or. A commemorative plaque
highlights her house. It?s impossible
to miss because there is usually a
group of excited girls hanging
around outside.
Another gem hidden down a quiet
residential street is the Mus閑
JOANNA VAN MULDER; GETTY IMAGES
Double rooms at the
four-star Hotel NH
Brussels St閜hanie
are available in
November from
�.35 per night.
The nearby Pantone
boutique hotel has
double rooms from
�. British Airways
?ies Heathrow to
Brussels from �.
Eurostar London
St Pancras
International to
Brussels starts
at � one way
d?Ixelles. Among the permanent
exhibits on display in this art gallery
are paintings by Magritte, Mir� and
Picasso, as well as an impressive
collection of original posters by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
And the best thing about this
museum is that you have it all pretty
much to yourself. You can stand in
front of a Toulouse-Lautrec for as
long as you like and be con?dent
that nobody is about to barge you
out of the way and then whack you
in the face with a sel?e-stick. The
?rst Belgium retrospective of the
work of French photographer
Robert Doisneau has just opened at
the museum, and the show is
running till next February
But the art in Ixelles isn?t just in
this gallery; it really is everywhere.
Look up at the windows and
balconies and you?re likely to spot
both art nouveau and art deco
features. In Place Eug鑞e Flagey,
an enormous and striking art deco
building dominates the square.
Having stood derelict during the
1990s, it is now an arts venue and
home to Caf� Belga ? another
candidate for the coolest caf� in
the world.
Just beyond it, Ixelles turns leafy
and art nouveau mansions form a
Sprouting up:
(clockwise from
top) L?Ultime
Atome caf� an
African grocer?s
in Matong� Place
Saint Boniface
street market; the
feathery denizens
of Ixelles ponds; art
deco architecture
in Place Eug鑞e
Flagey; a surf shop;
Audrey Hepburn
border along the Etangs d?Ixelles ?
two large and pretty ponds. It?s ever
so slightly like Central Park?s Upper
West Side but without any hipsters.
Keep walking and you come to what
may be the best-kept secret of them
all, the Abbaye de la Cambre.
On a bright day, this ancient
abbey and its immaculate gardens
could well be the most tranquil
place on earth. You have to see it to
really understand. And I suppose
that goes for the whole of Ixelles.
But if you do go, you might want to
keep it to yourself or else it?ll be as
busy up there as it is in front of that
dodgy statue of the weeing boy. THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
51
Inner life
To read all the articles in this series,
go to observer.co.uk/inner-life
Linking creativity to madness is a myth.
But making things is good for everyone?s
wellbeing, says Lydia Ru?es
Let building
sandcastles
or writing
witty
emails be
a gateway
to a pottery
class or
writing a
poem
Most of us admire creativity. Some
of us also think that creative people
are somehow different ? obsessive,
gifted, tortured in some way ?
a stereotype that is often perpetuated
by our culture. Letting go of these
ideas could allow more people
to access the wellbeing bene?ts
of creative activities, while also
dispensing with a damaging mentalhealth myth.
There is a persistent trope on
screen, in books and beyond, that
creativity is the result of a fated
convergence between talent and
mental illness or obsession, and
that it is elusive, something that only
a few of us can tap into. It dates back
centuries, but for contemporary
examples, think Carrie Mathison
taking a break from her bipolar
disorder medication to solve a
problem in Homeland?s ?Super
Powers? episode or Javier Bardem?s
recent appearance as consumed poet
Him in Aronofsky?s ?lm Mother!
Beyond these romantic notions
of art and suffering, there is
a crucial link between creativity
and mental health. Earlier this year
a study found that GPs prescribing
arts activities to some of their
patients could cause a signi?cant
drop in hospital admissions. The
positive impact that art therapy can
have on helping returning soldiers
has also been documented in recent
years, providing further evidence
that creativity can be therapeutic
whatever your mental state.
In other words, we can all bene?t
from using our imagination ?
whether it?s drawing, dancing or
singing, poetry or baking it?s not that
important. However you choose to
express yourself it doesn?t have to be
perfect to have purpose.
In The Taste of Blue Light, my
novel about a 17-year-old artist
called Lux whose life unravels after
she suffers a blackout, I wanted
to explore a setting where art is
everything, but through the eyes
of a character whose mental health
makes living up to that dogma all
but impossible.
In writing the book while unwell
myself, I was forced to confront the
notion that to be a legitimate creative
person you must be active in your
chosen artistic ?eld every day and
that art should be prioritised
above all else. It?s a notion that?s
impractical and romantic at best,
and exclusionary at worst. I?ve also
experienced creativity?s capacity
to heal us ?rst hand ? writing and
(unskilful) painting help me to
manage migraine, synaesthesia ,
anxiety and obsessive thoughts.
A quick poll of friends reveals
two camps: the ?Yes, I?m creative?
people; and the ?I don?t have a creative
bone in my body? group. Yet there
don?t have to be two separate tribes.
All of us are creative every day ? we
take photos, ?nd new approaches
to solving problems, make jokes,
tinker with recipes ? but many of us
don?t see it that way.
We need to remind ourselves that
creativity can be as simple as playing
or doing things differently, so that
we give ourselves permission to
open the door to other activities
and usher in all the bene?ts that
come with this ? from time to re?ect
or overcoming perfectionism to
communicating or simply having fun.
In this way, building sandcastles or
writing witty emails can be a gateway
to a pottery class or keeping a journal
or writing a poem.
Imagination and inventiveness
should be for everyone. If we let
go of the idea that artists are
somehow ?other? and that we can
only access that part of ourselves
when under pressure, we could all
be more creative. The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles
is published by Hodder, priced �.99.
To order a copy for �.04, go to bookshop.
theguardian.com
A NEUROSCIENTIST EXPLAINS
DANIEL GLASER ON THE PURITY OF COLOUR IN FIREWORKS
Fireworks may have been
invented in 7th century China
but we are still trying to improve
the chemical technology
behind them. Unlike colour
representation in digital
technology, fireworks work on
the eye and hence brain in an
entirely different way.
Pyrotechnicians use
52
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
chemicals to make the colours:
strontium carbonate (red),
barium chloride (green) and
sodium nitrate (yellow). Yet
our visual processing system
means that we can?t distinguish
between these colours and
ones that appear on the screen.
If you, like Newton, were to
pass the light through a prism
to see the spectrum of colours,
you?d be amazed at the purity
of the light created by fireworks
compared to the synthesised
digital version.
Screens use combinations of
red, green and blue light (RGB)
to make a particular colour.
It?s a trick of the brain?s colour
processing systems that we
can?t tell the difference between
this and the pure chemical colour.
But maybe knowing that
you?re seeing real colour when
you watch fireworks live this
year, as opposed to watching
the TV, will enhance the
experience after all.
Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science
Gallery at King?s College London
ILLUSTRATION MADE BY MADE: NOUN PROJECT SHOWTIME/KOBAL/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
SPARK YOUR CREATIVITY TO STAY WELL
PERSONALITY QUIZ
BY BEN AMBRIDGE
We all know that psychology and
personality play a crucial role in sport
(just ask Jos� Mourinho or Alex
Ferguson). But psychologists have
recently identi?ed a link between your
sport and your personality type. If you
were a professional sportsperson, which
sports or events would you go for? Rank
the following in order of preference:
a. 100m sprint
b. high jump
c. basketball
d. football
e. tennis
f. rugby
Imagination at work:
Carrie Mathison
(Claire Danes) gets her
creative juices flowing
in the TV hit Homeland
NOW?S THE TIME TO?
Put down the sherry and mince pies. The yuletide
season is a time of feasting and partying, often to the
detriment of your general health. If you?re starting to
feel overwhelmed at the thought of stu?ng turkeys
and bedecking trees then sign up to the Festive
Wellness course at the Richmond Adult Community
College, London. The course is six weeks long and
free of charge, and incorporates activities such as
wreath making, yoga and drumming as tools to stay
in top physical and mental health over the season.
Festive Wellness, until 7 December (racc.ac.uk).
If you mainly ranked
the individual sports
(100m sprint, high jump,
tennis) above the team
sports (football, basketball,
rugby), this is indicative of
a personality trait known as
openness to experience.
These people are
adventurous and like
trying new things. If you
mainly ranked the team
sports above the individual
sports then you are, on average,
likely to be less open to experience
and less energetic.
These were the ?ndings of
a new study at the University of
Milan, which also reported that
sportspeople generally score higher
on the trait of agreeableness. It
also found that more successful
sportspeople scored higher on
conscientiousness (hence the
footballer who always stays behind
after training) and emotional stability.
We can all think of sportspeople
who ?bottled it? under pressure.
Consider, for example, most
English penalty takers, and Kevin
Keegan?s famous 1996 rant, which
demonstrated that, when it comes
to mind games, Alex Ferguson will
always be the master. Order a copy of Are You Smarter Than
A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge
(Pro?le Books, priced �.99) for �.04
at bookshop.theguardian.com
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
53
Dear Mariella
@mariellaf1
If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to
mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk. To have your say on this
week?s column, go to observer.co.uk/dear-mariella
I HAVE A SERIOUS CRUSH ON MY
TEACHER ? SHOULD I TELL HER?
Let?s talk motivation,
shall we? I certainly
appreciate and recognise
your ?ner feelings for
this teacher. It?s easy to
forget in adulthood what
a dramatic and positive
in?uence a good teacher
can have when we?re
young and impressionable,
and what havoc a bad
one can wreak. I?ll never
forget Miss Needham
in my village school in
Kilmacanogue, rocking
on her heels, pressed up
against the storage heater
while her students shivered
at their desks in the cold
prefabricated schoolroom,
tapping the same rhythm
she rocked to with the
bamboo switch in her hand.
The only useful thing
I recall learning that year
was how to avoid her attention and, by default,
a caning.
Later though, like many school kids, I had
my unrequited passions. The greatest was
for Brother Jim, a bearded Maronite with
a genius for teaching maths. So devoted to
him was I that, after years of D grades, in
the space of one year in his class I upped my
game to honours Maths, only to crash back to
mediocrity the moment I moved on. Then there
was Mr Murtagh, who I may not have loved so
passionately at the time but who I?ve grown to
value immeasurably as the decades have passed.
He taught me how to lose and ?nd myself in
stories ? and his appearance this summer at the
Dalkey Book Festival, where I was discussing
the anthology of erotica I?d edited, brought me
to sudden and surprising tears!
When you ask people about their teachers,
so often stories of inspiration and gratitude
abound and their in?uence continues to
resonate down the decades. Having a crush on
your teacher is as common as it is complex. I
followed Brother Jim around like a dog, trotting
at his ankles as he circumnavigated the school,
I?m a 16-year-old
student harbouring ardent feelings
for a teacher. She?s an absolutely
wonderful (in my view, angelic)
human being, who seems utterly
devoted to what she does and is
terribly cordial to us students.
It is out of awe for her personality,
and gratitude for how she?s made
a mark in my life, that I feel so
attached to her. She?s in her late 20s,
I suppose, but I feel she could be 18.�
My feelings are not sexual, but
my social circles make barely any
room for this possibility. I can ?nd
little solace in my friends for fear
that they?d mock me because she?s
not considered a looker.
I feel an urge to tell her how
amazing and adored she is, but fear
she?ll be threatened or affronted,
or that she?ll feel pained for me and
not know how to respond.
THE DILEMMA
54
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
wearing him down with my ceaseless chatter
until one day he put a piece of chalk in my
mouth in class to shut me up. Judged by today?s
standards it may seem a little unpalatable but
it was very much a benign intervention back in
1970s Ireland! I?m happy to report that Brother
Jim and I recently got back in touch and
enjoyed an online session of mutual forgiveness.
I bring up those experiences to highlight
how natural it is to be feeling that way you are.
There are, as I?m sure you?re aware, a number
of tortuous questions woven into your email.
Should you declare yourself ? Is it wrong to
feel such passion? Is it possible it might be
reciprocated? What should you expect your
classmates? reaction to be?
Whether she?s 18 or 80, no matter how
inspirational you ?nd her, as a relationship
this isn?t going anywhere. That doesn?t mean
you shouldn?t tell her how you feel. Teachers
work long and hard, for little money and often
less thanks, so to have a student acknowledge
your in?uence, articulate your virtues and
thank you for your input would no doubt feel
like a welcome and rare reward. You?re young
and vulnerable, and misplaced emotions are
simply a part of growing up. It?s easy to confuse
romantic passion for admiration, a mistake I
make every time a tree surgeon visits our house!
Whether your teacher is a ?looker? or not is
of no consequence, as this can?t, shouldn?t and
won?t be a relationship where her physical
attributes are of consequence.
To drag your elevated passion for her down to
the pedestrian realms of physical desire would
be the opposite of a compliment. Instead you
can feel free to worship her, learn from her and
let her know what a difference she?s making to
your life. You have little to be ashamed of and
it?s a debt that?s worth repaying.
What a lucky pupil you are to have such a
great mentor in your life. Appreciate every
instant but don?t let your emotions run away
with you. Great teachers don?t grow on trees so
celebrate her the old-fashioned way, put pen
to paper and tell her why you value her. Your
reward will be the pleasure she gains from the
knowledge that in the eyes of at least one of
her students, she?s done her job brilliantly and
made her mark on your life. Feel free
to worship
her, learn
from her
and let her
know what
a di?erence
she?s
making to
your life
LIFE & STYLE
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www.maserati.co.uk
Of?cial fuel consumption ?gures for the New Maserati Ghibli range in mpg (l/100km): Urban
20.5 (13.8) ? 36.7 (7.7), Extra Urban 39.8 (7.1) ? 57.6 (4.9), Combined 29.4 (9.6) ? 47.9 (5.9).
CO2 emissions 223 ? 158g/km. Fuel consumption and CO2 ?gures are based on standard
EU tests for comparative purposes and may not re?ect real driving results. Models shown are: a
New Maserati Ghibli Diesel GranSport MY18 at �,400 On The Road including optional mica paint at �0, 20? GTS
Anthracite alloy wheels at �325, Full exterior carbon pack at �500, Interior carbon pack at �880, Full premium
perforated leather interior with ventilated and heated front seats at �900 and Headrest Trident stitching at �0.
A Maserati Ghibli Diesel GranLusso MY18 at �,765 On The Road including optional metallic paint at �0, 20?
machine polished Urano alloy wheels at �200, Polished silver callipers at �615, Electric sunroof at �200 and Driver
Assistance Pack Plus at �605.
t year? ?The last ?ve
years were a disaster.
di
And then on top of that
I was having tr
trouble in my marriage, hoping
w
to save it, when
my marriage was already
gone. I was left alone.?
Blige felt
f
so lost during this time
that she began
b
to question whether she
even wan
wanted to make music any more.
?I just w
wasn?t sure about anything. If
someone chips away at your self-esteem
and it?s so low that you don?t even know
you can d
do what you do?? She trails off.
She move
moved to London for a while, to
The last
las five years were
a disaster
disaster. And I was having
trouble in my marriage,
hopin
hoping to save it ? but
it was
wa already gone
get away, and in 2014 released The London
Sessions, an album she made with Sam Smith
and Disclosure, among others. ?They helped
boost my self-esteem and they helped me
believe in my talent. They believed in me and
I was like, ?Well shit, maybe I should start
believing in myself again.?? Hang on, I say.
You?re Mary J Blige! Why do you need Disclosure to tell you how good you are? ?It doesn?t
matter, you know,? she says, sadly. ?When
you?ve been in something so long that you?ve
been chipped away, and it happens little by
little, and it?s a crazy thing. It was about
seeing that someone appreciated me.? This
year, she released the painfully honest The
Strength of a Woman. ?Yeah. When it comes to
music now, I know my gut is great. That?s what
I lost, my gut and my gift. But I got it back. It?s
back now.?
Then there?s Mudbound, which is keeping
Blige busy, and more acting to come. She?s got
another couple of roles lined up, though she
can?t talk about what they are yet. She?s taking care of her own ?nances for the ?rst time
in her life, overseeing every single bit of what
comes in and what goes out, because she feels
as if she can?t trust people enough to do it for
her. She says that she kept meeting people and
thinking they were decent, ?and meantime
they were robbing you just like everyone else
was robbing you?. We end up talking about
the recent Whitney Houston documentary.
?Yeah. She was very lonely. She couldn?t have
the person who she really, really loved around,
because other people came in and moved that
person out, and now she?s alone. So yeah. You
know that saying, it?s lonely at the top? It?s not
a saying, it?s true,? she says, softly. Mudbound is out on Net?ix and in some cinemas
from 17 November
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
25
A brush with
greatness
GETTY IMAGES
JEAN-MICHEL
BASQUIAT
BY STAN PESKETT
We were in the
middle of a party
in my New York
loft when this
forlorn, wai?sh
street guy with
Mohawk hair
came up to me
and said, ?I am SAMO and I would
like to do some graffiti.? I?d never
seen him before but he had this little
spark in his eye so I handed him
a can of spray paint said, ?Do it!?
And for the ?rst time the world was
introduced to Jean-Michel Basquiat.
It was April 1978 and I was holding
the party as a launch event in my
5,000sq ft apartment called the Canal
Zone for a couple of other graffiti
artists. I identi?ed with street art and
felt the artists needed exposure. This
event incorporated live music, the
walls were set up for graffiti art with
large, seamless rolls of paper and we
had a video crew to ?lm everything.
So they were on hand to record
Jean-Michel as he sprayed Lee
Harvey Oswald, Coca-Cola, General
Melonry and ?nally SAMO, his
trademark. The crowd went wild
when they saw that. Up until that
point no one knew who SAMO was
but the cryptic messages and political
agitation had caught the imagination.
As an artist, I had painted murals
and tableaux and as a working-class
kid growing up in 1950s Britain,
I identi?ed with Jean-Michel?s status
as an outsider ? for a while I was also
on the streets. I also admired him
because he did not stick to a formula.
He did not even know the formula
because he had no formal training.
I felt he was a bit like a beatnik
and we really hit it off. He actually
Photograph LEE JAFFE
To read all the articles in this
series, go to observer.co.uk/
a-brush-with-greatness
moved into my loft when he struck
up a relationship with my assistant,
Jennifer Stein.
Jean-Michel was a natural,
very anxious to try things out.
Unfortunately that?s why he got so
heavily into drugs. He needed the
adulation. Girls wanted to sleep with
him. He was so charismatic, people
would hang on to him and his few
words. He became the fashionable
artist but the fashion world helped to
kill him, helped to destroy him.
When he died I remember driving
up to the service on Lexington
Avenue with Debbie Harry and
Chris Stein and it hit me. All these
people turned up gleefully claiming
how close they were to him.
His death launched a whole new
set of careers. Now I don?t even have
that ?rst piece of art to remember
him by. Just a few months after that
show my loft burned down and all
the art with it. I had never
seen him
before but
he had this
little spark
in his eye. I
handed him
the spray
paint and
said, ?Do it!?
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
27
Food
&
drink
Nigel Slater
@NigelSlater
Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/nigelslater
for all his recipes in one place
tonight, we will need something
substantial on our plates. Given
everyone?s determination not to miss
a single ?rework, dinner is most
likely be eaten standing up, from
deep bowls with a fork. Sausages,
fennel-seed-?ecked and sticky with
chilli sauce, will be on the table
this year. I like a coarse-cut, spicy
sausage to cook with haricot beans.
The pork, fennel seeds and blackpepper-seasoned sausages that hang
in Italian grocers, displayed in plump
clusters tied together with string,
to be exact. Of course, any will ?t
the bill, as long as they are so
generously ?lled they look like their
skins are about to burst.
I shall be baking small, whole
beetroot at the same time, their
earthy notes softened with ricotta
and crisp pumpkin and hemp seeds.
I may add a little soured or double
cream to the cheese, to give a softer,
more sauce-like accompaniment.
There will be baked potatoes, too (for
my money, they are pretty much nonnegotiable), emerging, crisp-skinned
and ?uffy-?eshed, from the oven.
Copious quantities of butter and
a爐ongue-tingling farmhouse cheddar
will, of course, be on hand.
BAKED SAUSAGES WITH
HARISSA AND TOMATOES
The recipe can be upscaled easily
to cater for large numbers, but add
the harissa paste to taste rather than
simply multiplying the amount.
There will
be baked
potatoes
too ? for my
money, they
are pretty
much nonnegotiable
SHOOTING STARS
If ever there?s a time for comfort food,
it?s Bon?re Night. Serve beetroot,
sausages and, of course, baked potatoes
It is 5 November, Bon?re Night.
A chance to light up the sky with
shooting stars of pink and gold, dance
around the ?ames and to warm allcomers with a pot of fat sausages and
beans from the oven. Even if your idea
28 MAGAZINE
MAGAZINE| 05.11.17
| 05.11.17
| THE| OBSERVER
THE OBSERVER
of commemorating the failure of the
Gunpowder Plot runs to little more
than writing your name in the night
air with a sparkler, generous amounts
of one-pot fare is crucial. Revelry isn?t
half as much fun on an empty stomach.
Historically, this night has a habit
of being a bit nippy or wet enough
to extinguish your Roman candle.
Whatever weather is thrown at us
Serves 2-3
olive oil 2 tbsp
sausages 6 large
onion 1
rosemary 5 sprigs
harissa paste 2 tsp
tomatoes 4, medium
haricot or cannellini beans 2 x 400g cans
chicken stock 200ml
Directions
Using a little of the oil, brown the
sausages in a shallow, ovenproof
Photographs JONATHAN LOVEKIN
Hot pots: (below) baked
beetroot with seeded
ricotta; and, facing page,
baked sausages with
harissa and tomatoes
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
29
LIFE & STYLE
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
Slice
open the
beetroots
and place
generous
spoonfuls
of the
seeded
ricotta on
each one
WINES
OF THE
WEEK
Bon?re night
warmers
David
Williams
@Daveydaibach
To read all
David?s columns
in one place, visit
theguardian.com/
pro?le/davidwilliams
pan over a low to moderate heat,
turning them regularly so they brown
as evenly as possible. Set the oven at
200C/gas mark 6.
Peel the onion and roughly chop
it. Remove the sausages and set them
aside, then add the remaining oil to
the pan and then the onion, letting it
soften and colour lightly. It should be
the palest gold. Remove the leaves
from 2 of the sprigs of rosemary,
?nely chop them, then add them to
the onions with a pinch of salt.
Stir the harissa paste into the
onions. Roughly chop the tomatoes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook
for a few minutes until the tomatoes
have started to soften. Drain the
beans, rinse them under running
water, stir them into the onions,
then pour in the stock and bring to
the boil. Lower the heat, then return
the sausages to the pan. Check the
seasoning then bake in the oven for
20-25 minutes.
with the result, ?nding the long
cooking makes them dry. Pre-boiling
and wrapping them in tin foil is
a good way to keep them moist
during baking, as it encourages them
to cook in their own steam. For a
creamy accompaniment, add a few
tablespoons of double cream or thick
yogurt to the ricotta.
BAKED BEETROOT WITH
SEEDED RICOTTA
I have occasionally baked beetroots
from raw, rather than boiling them
?rst, and have never been happy
Bring a large, deep saucepan of
water to the boil and salt it
generously. Scrub and trim the
beetroots, taking care not to pierce
the skin. Boil them whole and
unpeeled for 40-45 minutes until
they are they are fully tender. You
should be able to pierce them
effortlessly with a skewer. Set the
oven at 200C/gas mark 6.
Put the ricotta in a mixing bowl.
Finely grate the zest of the orange
and add to the ricotta with the hemp
and pumpkin seeds and the chopped
parsley. Season with a little salt and
a爁ew twists of black pepper.
Place a large piece of kitchen foil
in a roasting tin. When the beetroots
are tender, remove them from the
water, peel off the skins ? they
should come away easily ? then
place the beetroots on the foil. Put
the sprigs of thyme and rosemary
and the bay in a mixing bowl. Add
a爈ittle salt and black pepper, then
pour in the olive oil. Toss the
seasonings and oil together then
spoon over the beetroots. Loosely
scrunch the edges of the foil
together to make a parcel around
the beetroots, then bake for about
45 minutes.
Remove the roasting tin from
the oven, unwrap the foil, then put
the beetroots on a serving plate.
Slice them open and place generous
spoonfuls of the seeded ricotta
mixture on each one. Taste the Di?erence SaintChinian Syrah-Grenache
2015 (� Sainsbury?s)
For me, Guy Fawkes Night
is when autumn really
starts to segue into winter,
an occasion for sipping
warming red wine, glass
in gloved hand, around
the bon?re. Sainsbury?s
has a wine that ?ts this
mood perfectly ? and
which would also match
well with a classic Sunday
roast of lamb or beef.
From the Saint-Chinian
district of the Languedoc,
it?s a rich, spicy blend of
syrah and grenache ?lled with liquorice,
blackberries, pepper and the waft of wild
scrubland herbs. Made by the reliable family
?rm of Laurent Miquel, it just pips Tesco?s
version of the same style, Tesco Finest
Saint-Chinian 2016 for intensity and depth,
although the latter is good value (�50)
for its succulent dark plummy smokiness.
Morrisons The Best Rioja
Reserva, Spain 2012 (�50)
The Morrisons wine
department, much
improved of late, has two
Spanish candidates (or
rather, one Spanish and
one Catalan) for wintry
comfort. The retailer?s
textbook Rioja Reserva
o?ers all the soft, mellow
savouriness and coconut
and vanilla seasoning you
expect from traditional
Rioja, with enough ripe
black fruit to keep it from
feeling, as cheaper reservas
sometimes can, tired and
over-the-hill. A few quid more, the Catalan
contender, Morrisons The Best Priorat 2014
(�) is from the remote hills of Priorat and
uses a blend familiar to winemakers all over
the Mediterranean (grenache, carignan,
syrah) to fashion a dark, chewy red with
sweet spice and a freshening plum-skin
tang that makes it very easy to drink.
Miguel Torres Reserva
Ancestral Old Vine
Cinsault-Pa韘-Carignan,
Itata, Chile 2014 (�.50,
Marks & Spencer)
The Torres wine empire
has grown into regions
all over Spain and into
Chile. When it comes to
bon?re night sustenance,
the company has plenty
to o?er, whether it?s
the evergreen budget
classic Sangre de Toro
2015 (widely available
at around � with its
subtly smoky baked
berry fruit, or the
toasty-oak-and-loganberry richness
of its Torres Celeste Crianza 2014 from
Ribera del Duero (�.99, Waitrose).
But the wine I?d want tonight is M&S?s
newcomer from very old vines down
in Chile?s exciting Itata Valley, which
interweaves cherry raciness with darker,
spicier, more savoury tones.
Serves 4 as a side dish
beetroot 4, medium-sized
thyme 12 sprigs
rosemary 4 sprigs
bay leaves 4
olive oil 3 tbsp
For the ricotta:
ricotta 200g
orange 1 small
hemp seeds 1 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 2 tbsp
parsley 3 tbsp, chopped
Directions
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
31
LIFE & STYLE
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
NIGEL?S
MIDWEEK
DINNER
CANNELLINI
NI FRITTERS,
KOHLRABI SALAD
The recipe
Drain two 400g
0g cans of cannellini
d ?nely dice a medi
d umbeans. Peel and
mediumnd a large clove of
sized shallot and
garlic, then let them soften in a little
olive oil over a moderate heat for 5-7
p a tablespoon of
minutes. Chop
es ?nely
rosemary leaves
?nely and stir into
the softening shallot.
Pur閑 the drained beans using a
fork or food processor, then stir in the
warm shallot, garlic and rosemary.
Season with salt and pepper. Take
large spoonfuls of the mixture, form
into 4 large balls and set aside.
For the accompanying salad, mix
together the juice of a lemon and 50ml
of olive oil and a little salt and black
pepper. Very ?nely slice 250g of crisp,
green kohlrabi and marinate in the
dressing. Cut the peel from a mediumPhotograph JONATHAN LOVEKIN
sized
d
oran
a gee,
orange
tthen
th
en
n slicee tthe
he
or
range thi
hinl
nlyy an
and
d
orange
thinly
ad
dd to tthe
he koh
ohlr
lrab
abi.
i. P
ick
k
add
kohlrabi.
Pick
the leaves
leeav
avess from 6 stems
stem
st
emss of
?at-leaf parsley and
nd add
dd tto
o th
thee sa
salad.
sh aand
nd
Break an egg in a shallow dish
beat lightly.
lightly. On a large plate, place
75g of breadcrumbs and season
lightly. Roll the balls of cannellini
mixture ?rst in the beaten egg, then
the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 30
minutes. Fry the balls in hot
groundnut oil till crisp, rolling them
over from time to time. Remove the
fritters, drain on kitchen paper, then
serve with the salad. Serves 2.
The trick
Drain the beans thoroughly before
mashing, otherwise the mixture
will be too wett tto
will
oh
old
ld its shap
ape.
e. U
se
hold
shape.
Use
ab
boutt �
cm o
oill tto
o fr
fryy th
thee fr
fritters,
about
絚m
off oi
turning them occasionally as they
cook, in order to ensure even
browning. Alternatively, deep-fry
them in groundnut oil.
The twist
Tarragon works well with cannellini
beans, and can be added (about
2 tbsp of chopped leaves) at the same
time as the shallot. Haricot beans are
good as an alternative, as are butter
beans. In place of the kohlrabi, try
mooli, the long white radishes. Email Nigel at nigel.
slater@observer.
co.uk or visit
theguardian.com/
pro?le/nigelslater
for all his recipes in
one place
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
33
Food & drink
To read all the interviews in this series, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/food-and-drink
A GOURMET MAGAZINE
AT THE CUTTING EDGE
Earlier this year, as David Lane and
Marina Tweed were putting together
an issue of their biannual food
magazine The Gourmand, they were
pitched an idea involving snails. The
premise, dreamed up by Dutch art
photographers Blommers & Schumm,
was simple: snails like climbing
things. The resulting photo story
shows edible gastropods inching to
the top of various household objects,
including a chef?s knife, some threepronged forks and a bright red chilli.
Not many food magazines would
buy this idea, but The Gourmand,
which publishes its number 10 issue
this week, is not your average food
magazine. Since launching in June
2012 it has commissioned articles
about alcohol archaeology, the
social status of ketchup and artist
Yayoi Kusama?s love of pumpkins.
In one memorable piece, Italian
architectural features were recreated
using appropriately shaped pasta.
When the snail idea came through,
the editors didn?t shrink away: they
ran it under the headline ?L?escar?
Go!? with the disclaimer: ?No snails
were harmed in the making of this
photo story.? Now one of the snail
images ? the one with the chef?s
knife ? has been included in a new
series of art prints reproducing
images from the magazine?s archives.
(Each of the prints, released quarterly
in batches of six, will be limited to
30 copies and cost �0.)
Lane and Tweed, who live in
London with their two-year-son
Jacob, plus a cat named Peter,
never expected the magazine to hit
double ?gures. Now The Gourmand
is distributed all over the world
and has spawned a commercial
offshoot called Lane & Associates,
working with the likes of Nike and
San Pellegrino. This helps fund the
magazine and keeps it relatively
ad-free, allowing the editors to run
oddball features about snails without
worrying about commercial viability.
Food and art mix regularly in
The Gourmand. What prompted the
pairing? ?We felt there was a natural
synergy between food and creativity,?
says Lane at the magazine?s office
in Stoke Newington, northeast
London, just across from much-loved
Turkish restaurant Mangal 1. ?Food
is the only universal subject really?
Well, I suppose everyone breathes,
but it probably wouldn?t make for
a very interesting magazine.?
One inspiration was The Compleat
Imbiber, published on and off
between 1956 and 1992 and edited
by Cyril Ray, who also wrote for The
Observer. ?We collected them,? says
Lane, ?these compendiums about
booze that had Kingsley Amis stories
and weird bits and pieces ? it didn?t
follow a formula.? Lane and Tweed
felt there was a gap in the market
to do something similar, ?to publish
nice, inspiring, creative content
around food, which, surprisingly,
there wasn?t that much of ?.
Approaching cultural matters
through the medium of food gives
The Gourmand an advantage over
publications with a more direct
focus. Lane mentions a feature in
the new issue in which New York
musicians discuss their favourite
neighbourhood dumpling houses
BLOMMERS/SCHUMM; JENNY VAN SOMMERS; BAKER AND EVANS
There is
a natural
synergy
between
food and
creativity.
Food is
the only
universal
subject
The Gourmand has taken food writing
to some astonishing new places.
Killian Fox meets the duo behind it
34
MAGAZINE | 05.11.17 | THE OBSERVER
Tasty read: (from far
left) The Gourmand
issue 6; Ultra Viscid
Scene (Olive Oil)
by Baker & Evans;
Untitled (Burger) by
Jenny van Sommers;
and L?escar? Go! by
Blommers & Schumm
and bagel joints. ?If we were just a
music magazine, it would have been
really hard to talk to all those people,?
he says, referring to competition
with other music magazines and the
reluctance many artists feel about
discussing their work head-on. ?But
if you want to talk to them about food
or wine, they?re like, ?Yeah, great? ?
and they always end up talking about
their work anyway.?
Though Lane and Tweed both
come from design backgrounds ?
he ran a creative studio, she was
project manager at a design and
branding agency ? their magazine
is unmistakably the work of food
obsessives. One recent feature pokes
fun at cheffy ?ourishes such as
smears, foams and dusts. Another
savours nostalgic details from grand
London restaurants: the lemon
wrapped in muslin at Fischer?s, the
bright red cracker accompanying
a plate of lobster at Sweetings.
Grandees such as Claudia Roden and
Alice Waters make appearances, as
do hip young chefs such as Andr�
Chiang and Corey Lee, while recipes
relating to each feature are collected
at the back of every issue.
The Gourmand can be wilfully
self-indulgent at times, but even the
most out-there pieces tend to be
grounded in careful research. One
photo story offering a ?synaesthetic
journey through the world of olive
oil? ? it features magni?ed slicks of
extra virgin lit in various colours ?
was developed in consultation with
an olive oil expert, who provided
detailed ?avour pro?les for the oils
of different regions.
?There?s so much imagery in the
world which looks nice for a second
on Instagram, but there?s not much
depth to it,? says Tweed. ?Even if the
motivation for one of our pieces is a
bit fantastical or silly, we try to make
sure it?s got integrity.? THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
35
LIFE & STYLE
Restaurants
Jay Rayner
@jayrayner1
Fishers In the City,
58 Thistle Street,
Edinburgh EH2 1EN
(0131 225 5109).
Meal for two,
including drinks and
service: �0
FLOUNDERING
FISHERS IN THE CITY
MURDO MACLEOD
A few enduring niggles overshadow
great cooking and good service at this
Edinburgh seafood restaurant
Fishers in
the City is
like an old
television
that needs
to be
thumped
on the side
to stop the
picture
wobbling
Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/pro?le/jayrayner
for all his reviews in one place
I am many things: tall, thick of waist
and big haired. One gust of wind and
I can end up looking like an unmade
bed. Even without the wind, I may
still look like that saggy sofa you can?t
be bothered to throw out because
of all the admin. I have never been
able to slip into a room unseen. If I
ring a doorbell after dark, I take four
steps back after doing so, to avoid
scaring the hell out of even my closest
friends. If I am walking along a street
late at night and there is a single
person in front of me I cross to the
other side, so as not to be that huge,
looming presence in the shadows;
the one who is terrifying until proven
otherwise. I am indeed many things;
easy to ignore is not one of them.
And yet the woman on the front
desk at Edinburgh?s Fishers in the
City is managing it. She could get
a Masters in ignoring me. She does
not look up as we come in. She is on
the phone, apparently arranging
a function. She is ordering 24 bottles
of something, eyes only for her
computer screen. It feels like a blunt
calculation has been made; this caller
is more valuable than the man in
my peripheral vision. On and on it
goes, this conversation. No one else
comes. We look around the woodlined restaurant: at the waitress
restocking the glasses behind the bar
on one side, at her colleague idling
by a service point on the other. About
seven minutes in, as she is winding
up, our ?greeter? ?nally raises her
eyes. She signals apology. Then the
call is done, a perfunctory ?sorry? is
muttered and a name asked for.
It?s a small thing, isn?t it, this wait
at the front desk? I wonder if she
recalls it, even now. But that?s what
restaurants are: a bunch of small
things, done well, or badly. Those
done well slip over you, like the
popping suds in a warm bubble bath.
The ones done badly are pieces of
Lego stepped on in the night. Boy,
you remember those. Fishers in the
City could be a truly terri?c ?sh
restaurant, if it weren?t for the small
things that aren?t terri?c.
It certainly has great antecedents.
When the original opened a little
over 20 years ago, overlooking the
?ash and dip of the waters in Leith
at the city?s harbour edge, it offered
something Edinburgh didn?t have
much of back then: great cooking
served without ?ummery. It turned
out you could have a good dinner
without acres of starchy tablecloths
or starched waiters. It played to
Scotland?s reputation for the briny,
mollusced and crustaceaned. It
endured because it did all the
important things well. As Edinburgh?s
restaurant sector grew, an outpost
THE OBSERVER | 05.11.17 | MAGAZINE
37
Jay Rayner
@jayrayner1
back in the centre of the city must
have made sense. A friend told me
they had come to prefer the younger
sibling to the original.
I can see why. All the essentials
are here: there are oysters, left
unmolested, or grilled with a bonemarrow crust. There are mussels
from Shetland, platters of salmon, as
gravadlax and both smoked and in an
elderberry and vodka cure alongside
pickled cucumber. The soup is
a cream-ballasted chowder, made
with salmon and smoked haddock.
They have ?sh and chips and hot
seafood platters, but also a menu of
other more evolved things.
And here?s the point: some of it
genuinely makes you sigh, and rest
your elbows on the table. Soft, pearly
?llets of lemon sole, curled in on
themselves as they might be for
a classic V閞onique, come with
a chive potato cake, a kind of rosti.
Looking at the uniformity of the
strands I suspect a spiraliser might
have been involved, but we will
forgive them this for the brazenness
of the fat-fried crust. There are
grinning mussels and a brilliant
green velout� ?avoured with breezy
notes of tarragon. It?s serious and
con?dent cooking.
We order a hot shell?sh plater for
one and it is a monumental thing, as it
should be for �. Two people could
get major satisfaction out of one
person?s portion. There is half
a small lobster and a sizeable crab
claw, a couple of fat scallops still
clinging to the shell, and a brace of
langoustine. There are clams, and
all of it glazed in a garlicky, parsleycoloured butter emulsion that will
repeat on you for days. A salad of
sweet, nutty new potatoes and rocket
makes you feel like you?re getting
your greens. So yes, there are good
th
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The Observer, journal
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