Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pearls - Part VIII

We're still in the 1920s, which brought us the Little Black Dress with Cultured Pearls. Before this there were only natural pearls and those were very rare. Our lecturer explained that cultured pearls are the same, with the same surface or nacre as natural pearls, they are just farmed rather than accidental. The farming process involves warm water and oscillation, presumably to increase the irritation experienced by the oyster and encourage the excretion of the substance that forms the pearl. She used the name Mikimoto, but according to Wikipedia even though he had a patent, he did not discover this process. You can read about that for yourself here. As usual, I found something to distract me in the story about the man who is credited with figuring this out first.

A story she told us that I have been able to verify was about the Cartier Building in New York City. Apparently the building was owned by a 61 year old man named Morton Freeman Plant who had a 31 year old 2nd wife. Divorcee Mae 'Maisie' Caldwell Manwaring (who went on to have two further husbands) liked Cartier jewellery. Pierre Cartier was looking for a new store and since the Plants were concerned about the commercialisation of their area, they sold their home to Cartier - for $100 and a double strand of natural pearls, valued at $1 million in 1917.  Development of cultured pearls greatly reduced the value of natural pearls.

This is from Wikipedia, but I found it originally on this fabulous blog that has a million incredible stories:
  Daytonian in Manhattan 

According to Two Nerdy History Girls, another blog I already know and love as well (which tells me this stuff is right up my alley!), that $1 million would be worth about $16 million today. They also managed to find a photo of Mae Caldwell Manwaring, and presumably of these pearls.

Just at a glance, a 2 bedroom 1550 square foot 'coop' - I'm guessing that might be an apartment - maybe three blocks away from Cartier in New York City (though I'm not familiar with the geography, but bear with me) is on sale as I write for $5,975,000 - nearly $6 million. Maisie died in 1957 and the next year her million dollar ($16 million) necklace was so devalued that it auctioned for only $150,000...which in today's dollars might be worth about $1,276,000. The Nerdy Girls obviously used a different calculator than I found, because mine says it should have been worth $20 million.

Whatever the details, Cartier made a brilliant deal, don't you think?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bill's Best Birthday Present: Sausage Making!

Brits don't seem to make much of their birthdays, not like Americans do. So most years Bill is fairly stuck for what to ask for. As it happened, about this time his cousin Mike and Mike's wife Chris had posted on Facebook how much they enjoyed doing this class. So this is how we came to do this.

Apparently Bill's son, Simon, used to like to get on this tractor...

The Northumberland Sausage Company holds the classes in a portacabin in the car park of the Brockbushes Farm Shop, near Corbridge (which you already know is a wonderful place). We arrived early enough to browse the farm shop, which was much as I expected: full of wonderful, tempting stuff that we consider over-priced and thus can live without. However, I expect I'll come back when I start my Christmas shopping as there are some interesting and unexpected items on offer. For example, who knew that 'mango vinegar' was a cordial? Me neither. 

This is what a horseradish looks like when it's not in a small jar...

The man who greeted us (quite pleasantly considering we interrupted his lunch) turned out to be the tutor. As most people do, he asked about my accent, how long I'd been here, etc. He went on to ask if I had a sense of humour ('Sometimes' was my reply), warning me that the course was rather smutty and full of innuendo. I told him I would pretend not to understand if it got too offensive. 

Warning: If you're planning to go on this sausage-making course, you may wish to stop here so that you can enjoy the surprise of it all!!

When we began he introduced himself as "Timothy Sausage" and his wife / assistant as Christine (I think she probably kept her maiden name). He began by telling the history of the business - which is all of five years old - and how he came to be associated with it. He began by saying that when he met Chris his profession was "one in which one rests a lot". However, as he was getting married he couldn't just be on the dole, he needed to find a real job. So he got training in adult teaching. I gather he'd done that for a while before meeting up with his present employment. 

Step 1: Grind up 750g pork shoulder

Sometime later the opportunity presented for me to suggest he'd also gotten acting lessons, such was his teaching style. Now I thought he had just told us he'd been unemployed most his life until a woman kicked him up the backside, but Bill understood the 'resting a lot' profession indicated he had been an actor in his previous life. Mr. Sausage readily admitting to having been such and even pulled out a picture of himself in younger days. We both remarked how much age changes one in unexpected ways. 

Step 2: Add (secret) seasoning, rusk (breadcrumbs) and chosen additions; mix with hands.

As a sausage teacher, he is now a local celebrity, perhaps even more so than when he graced the stage. I have to say he is what makes the day so fun, though getting to play with noisy machines and squishy food also adds to the hilarity. The rude jokes were almost superfluous for me, but I'm sure they added their own spice for those with the national sense of humour. 

Step 3: Put rude red attachment on grinding machine.

So, what did I learn about sausage making? We started with 750 g of pork shoulder and fed it to the meat grinder. The spiral metal blade inside is called a 'worm'. We were of course warned to keep our fingers away from our worms. I'll not bore you with any more 'Carry On' humour. After grinding the meat we added 70g of rusk. I believe Timothy said this was a plant based product, but at one time this was just breadcrumbs used as a binding agent. Then we added 20g of 'seasoning' - the secret ingredients of course. He told us it would of course included salt and pepper but one of the surprise ingredients was nutmeg. I'm pretty sure there was garlic in there as well. Then that was all kneaded together until it resembled a 'brain'. Appetizing, eh? Since this was Bill's birthday present, he got to do the messy stuff.

Mr. Sausage kept wanting to tell us he only had 4 skins left. 

Then 150g of water (which equals 150mls, something new I learned) was also kneaded into the mix. After that we were told we could add up to 200g of other stuff: spices, vegetables, sauces, herbs, jams, you name it - all off the shelves in the portacabin. We were warned that 'less is more' and to 'keep it simple'. Bill chose honey and orange-and-lemon-marmalade. Hey, it was his birthday, right? 

Then came the skins, which were pig intestines. They looked fairly gross and smelled a bit farm-y, but even wet the texture wasn't unpleasant - more like wet muslin than the slime I expected. Getting them onto the cone shaped attachment to the grinder was a challenge, they were so un-slippery. Then I gently shoveled the meat mix into the grinder again whilst Bill handled the stuffed intestine as it came out the other end. That completed, he had to twist (3 times, each in alternating direction) the stuffed intestine into sausages after gently squeezing. That done, we put them in a plastic bag which was placed in the large refrigerator.

Steps 4 &5: Slide all of pig intestine onto red attachment then send the sausage mixture back through the grinder into the skin. 

The second batch Bill flavoured with chunks of red onion and a squirt of BBQ sauce. We sailed right through. At the end, we were instructed how to break down the sausage machines and to extract the remaining ground sausage. The links were to be refrigerated overnight to let them dry a bit; the ground sausage could be had - and was - for dinner. We ended up taking home about 2 kg / 4 pounds of mixed sausage meat.

Step 6: Twist the stuffed skin at intervals to form sausages.

Other bits that come to mind are that Timothy's is not a beer belly, but the much more distinguished claret belly. However is his favourite word. However much he likes wine, he wouldn't cook sausage with wine, nor would he grill it. If we wanted to be 'chefy' we could pan fry it and finish it off in the oven so as not to dry it out.  Beer or cider would work well with pork.

The pork shoulder is only about 20% fat. If making sausage with beef the recipe would be much the same, but if using chicken or turkey it would be completely different. Venison sausage works well using the same recipe, though he would use a shiraz wine with that and he would put in bacon to add fat to the venison. Made sense to me.

He referred to the leading commercial brands of sausage collectively as The Bandits and said they were only required to have as much as 35% of meat-product in their sausages to call them such. I've long known that hot dogs and baloney are made up of mechanically reclaimed bits that most of us would call garbage. They still taste good, but I don't tend to buy those things here in Britain. Mad cow disease made me stick with big lumps of nearly identifiable animal, though I may have eaten horse now and then. I agreed in principle with Timothy when he said he didn't mind eating horse, he just wanted to know when he was doing it. 

He said something about legally being obliged to include preservatives and something to ward off some kind of fungus that likes pork. He mentioned green bacon, which is apparently due to this fungus. I think he said that it's safe to eat if cooked, but don't quote me on that. I don't see me ever cooking green bacon; for one, bacon doesn't stay in the fridge long enough for a fungus to find it and for two I'm not a fan of green meat and would put it in the trash. Sausage being thicker than bacon, the health and safety minders feel green sausage wouldn't be safe or something like that.

Timothy spits before he refers to the French, all in good humour of course. However, I think he was fairly serious when he denied that the Americans have any culture and of course it's our fault that Brits have become so lazy in the way that they eat so many ready meals. For the latter, guilty as charged. 

However I did attempt to tell him about the wonders of Jimmy Dean sausage and about Big Bad John, a pop hit in 1961. I had a terrible crush on Jimmy Dean/Big Bad John when I was a child (not to the mention the sausage). That was even before I knew my family history included generations of miners, including at least one hero who died rescuing others. What more could one ask? History, heritage, music, food, philosophy... I think the Southern US has plenty culture! 

I would go back and listen to Timothy Sausage any day, although I can't say I much love the sausages we made. Even with BBQ sauce and onions I felt they were rather bland. I'm sure that this is because when I think Jimmy Dean and drool; what can I say? I'm not a native Brit.

We don't eat a lot of red meat in this house (though we do indulge when we are out), however I can see me pulling out Grandma and Grandpa's meat grinder and trying out one of these recipes:

Jimmy Dean Copycats

Top Secret Jimmy Dean

An Expat Cooks Jimmy Dean

(Looks like I'm not the only one who misses this flavour.)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Brocade Grenade? - Part VII

Well, I'm most annoyed that I cannot find a photograph to show you a very gaudy piece of jewellery created by Georges Fouquet which was named (according to my notes) 'brocade grenade'; it didn't look like an explosive device but we were told that 'grenade' is actually Spanish for pomegranate. Susan admitted that it wasn't to everyone's taste, but made as it was from varying sizes of rubies closely set together, it couldn't be replicated. Maybe that's just as well. It was rather gaudy.

There is much of Fouquet's work that I could die for: he collaborated with my much loved Mucha.

More of this wonderfulness here.

Carrying on with the grenade/pomegranate theme, I'll venture that the 1920s was an 'explosion' of ideas and colours from other cultures, all with their particular styles of jewellery. The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the early 1920s created almost a mania for all things Egyptian and jewellery made of gold. [For major Downton Abbey fans, you may find it interesting to know that one of the discoverers of this tomb was George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon; the Carnarvon's own Highclere Castle, where that series is filmed. Oh, and it turns out Lady Carnarvon has a blog!]

In addition to Cartier's cats, VanCleef and Arpels was commissioned to create Egyptian motifs for the Duchess of Windsor. Try as I might, I cannot find an example that ties together that jeweller, that person and that motif.  However, I can show you VanCleef & Arpels Egyptian jewellery; VanCleef and Arpels jewellery for the Duchess of Windsor; can't say I much care for what Google kicks up for the Duchess' Egyptian jewellery. Nevermind, we're still talking about the 1920s and the Prince of Wales didn't meet Wallis until 1931... Re-reading my notes, maybe I've mis-interpreted and the three don't actually overlap, only that VC&A were famous for Egyptian jewellery and they designed for that particular person.

Perhaps it was the growing nationalism in India and the fact that Gandhi took control of the Indian National Congress in 1920; or, more likely, because the Maharajas of India brought jewels to Europe on an unprecedented scale:

Alain Boucheron wrote in his biography of the house of Boucheron, The Master Jewelers: “The flamboyant Maharajah... arrived at Boucheron’s in 1927 accompanied by a retinue of 40 servants all wearing pink turbans, his 20 favourite dancing girls and, most important of all, six caskets filled with 7,571 diamonds, 1,432 emeralds, sapphires, rubies and pearls of incomparable beauty.”

With the fashionable short hair, long earrings, bandanas and bright colours were the jewellery accessories in demand. This brings us to 'tutti fruitti' jewellery, though that term didn't come about until the 1970s.  Feast your eyes on this fruit!

I've made several attempts to read A Passage to India, published in 1924; I confess that I find it rather boring. Maybe my reading list here will help me get through it should I find it again. Alain Boucheron, member of yet another French jewellery family, is mentioned in this article about the wealth of Indian maharajas.  I suspect The Master Jewelers would be a much better read, well, lighter reading anyhow.

I can't even begin to speculate what brought Oriental culture to the attention of the flappers of the interwar period. Nevertheless we were told that Jade Buddhas were immensely popular as well as Indian and Egyptian designs in the 1920s. No wonder, they are really beautiful.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Holding Myself Accountable

You won't probably have noticed it, but a few weeks ago I added another section to the right hand column to keep track of my needlework projects. Which I am ridiculously bad about not finishing. I desperately need to either re-commit and finish them or to let myself off the hook and get rid of them. Keeping track of my book reading seems to have made me hang in and finish a few I might not otherwise have done, so I thought I'd try using this blog to push me on my projects a bit. The only positive I can report so far is that at least I've not put these aside and started anything else! Which is definitely progress. So, my three current projects are:

Knitting a Child's Sweater

This cheeky little chappie is from a brilliant knitting book called Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting by Debbie Stoller. Not only does she include quite a few patterns I would consider trying, she actually explains how to make up your own pattern for a garment. Way out of my league just now, but that made this book irresistible. I'm knitting the jumper without all the button-on animals, and it's the second or third one I've done. It's just challenging enough to be interesting, but still simple enough to be relaxing, if that makes any sense. I knit these jumpers for children in Nigeria along with a few dozen other ladies at Age UK in Whitley Bay. The local Rotary collects donated yarns of all types and these ladies knit it into everything baby related you could think of. I'm nowhere as good at knitting as they are, and not likely to ever be, but I do enjoy being associated with such a wealth of experience and skill. I'm still working through my own stash of yarn that has come to me over the years and only take yarn from them when I can't match something from my collection. My current sweater is purple and all that remains is to stitch it together. I'll be sure to show it to you when it's done - warts and all!

Patchwork Notebook Cover

This is not likely to end up being a notebook cover, owing to the fabrics I used being way too bulky; but I don't mind so long as the work I've done gets used for something - most likely a tote bag, as that seems to be the go-to item that brings the most satisfaction. I wanted to play with an idea I had for using scraps. Scraps are becoming the bane of my existence owing to my sense of stewardship (which sounds so much more noble than pack-rattery). Anyhow, these are the strips that were left after I washed away the paper backing, after being unable to throw away several bags of the stuff from processing a stack of interior designer fabric sample books. There is something really seductive about the colours and textures of these fabrics even though they aren't ones I would choose for myself. Anyhow, I tried weaving the narrow strips and then cross-stitching over the joins and I liked the outcome. When it becomes a finished project, I show you whatever it turns out to be.

These colours are pale green and gold with yellow and light green thread, but the sky is so dull today even full 'daylight' makes everything look grey.

Sew Myself a Piece of Clothing

I've selected View E, in the lower right corner. I really like princess seams but of course they are a complication I could have done without. I've started making this from beige muslin fabric which lined some curtains in its previous life.  That should tell me if my shoulder adjustments are working and will introduce me to all the techniques used in the pattern so I'll hopefully be less likely to mess up some 'real' fabric.  I've hit a snag in that I've apparently put some of the pieces together wrong, but that is what comes from sewing by hand in front of the TV. I shall have to give over some serious attention to figure out where I went wrong. I expect to be swearing when I get to the buttonholes, but there is nothing for it but to get on and learn how...

If you have a blog, do you ever use it to make yourself do something?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Cartier and Worth - Part VI

I've added the topic "History of Jewellery" to the right hand column so anyone just picking this up should be able to find the other bits.

Cartier is known for the cat jewellery pieces made
for the Duchess of Windsor.

Our lecturer, Susan Rumfitt, was telling us that at the 1925 Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts, Cartier (the jeweller) displayed his wares in the fashion section, not with other jewellery makers. She said the Cartier family had been quite smart in that they had married into the Worth family and so were able to suggest the bespoke jewellery pieces to complement the couture clothes.

This was the first I'd heard that the Cartier family and that of Charles Frederick Worth were intermarried, but it's true. I found a book on Google (Cartier by Hans Nadelhoffer) that showed a family tree.   Louis Francois Cartier began innovative jewellery making in 1847. His son Alfred (1841-1925) took over the business in the 1870s. Alfred had three sons: Louis, Pierre and Jacques. The brothers are named in a fascinating article in The Guardian, which I'll come back to in a moment. What the article doesn't mention is that there was a fourth child, a daughter named Suzanne.

Charles Frederick Worth is an Englishman who went to Paris and founded the haute couture industry. If you don't know about Worth, his Wikipedia entry is well 'worth' reading. It gives the names of his two sons: Jean-Phillipe and Gaston. 

Nadelhoffer's book indicates that The Guardian is correct that Louis Cartier married a Hungarian countess, but she was his second wife. Louis Cartier's first wife was Andree-Caroline Worth, daughter of Jean-Phillipe Worth; Susanne Cartier married Jacques Worth, son of Gaston. So the Cartier and Worth families were very much 'wedded into' one another.

The Guardian article lauds the genius of Albert in sending his sons out in the world to establish Cartier in other world centers: Louis remained in Paris, but Pierre was sent to New York and Jacques to London. This didn't amaze me that much as I had read much the same about the Rothschild family. The eldest son remained in Frankfurt whilst other sons were sent to Vienna, London, Naples and Paris. I wrote about this when sharing our visit to an incredible house near Nice a couple of years ago. 

Funny enough I have several leopard brooches - costume jewellery I'm sure - that belonged to my Aunt Rita. I had no idea this motif was originally linked to Cartier and the Windsors. I'll have to get my cats out more often. The other thing I discovered is that The Guardian  has a whole host of articles about 'Great dynasties'; you can find links at the bottom of the webpage about the Cartiers. I'm looking forward to loads of reading!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Poor Ad

Today is my Dad's birthday - he would have been 97. I can't really imagine him at that age, he was so poorly at 70. In trying to think of what to write about today I remembered that in the past year my genealogical research has led me to his first wife. Her name was Adeline. I've also had email conversations with her first cousin once removed (her cousin's daughter) in Minneapolis. The cousin's name is Barbara.

I found Ad with my maiden name listed on her mother's obituary. That gave me her maiden name and from there I found Barbara on Ancestry. Together we have pieced that Adeline remarried, had two children, divorced and found (possibly) two other husbands, the last with her til his death in 2000. She died in 2007, outliving my Dad by almost 20 years. Unlike my Dad she has grandchildren. Good for her.

Definitely my Grandma on the right; maybe Adeline on the left?

Although Barbara says Ad was her mother's favourite cousin, she doesn't seem to have any photographs of her. I shared this picture that I think may be her. I got this when we attended a family reunion of Grandma's family a few years back. I love the photo of my Grandma - she was such a clothes horse! - but I was really intrigued by the woman standing next to her. I think it may be Adeline, Grandma's favourite daughter-in-law. Mom told me everyone called her 'Poor Ad' because my Dad had divorced her. I've always been very curious about her. It was good to learn that she had remarried and had children. She ended up in Seattle, Washington which I believe is a beautiful place to live.

My mom in the 1940s.

I don't know if Barbara will ever manage to contact Adeline's children or grandchildren or we'll ever confirm the identity of the photo, but here are the reasons I think this may be Adeline: the clothes put the photo in the 1940s, when my Dad was married to his first wife. They are on a pier at a lake, which means either Minnesota or Wisconsin. The other reason is that the woman is dark haired, has high cheekbones and wears wire framed glasses....just like my Mom. I think that was my Dad's 'type'. 

Did you ever notice that men seem to be drawn to a certain 'type'?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Car and Coat - Part V

Apparently during the Victorian era just about every dress or blouse was covered with lace on the front. Things changed a lot around the 1920s.  For one, Sonia Delauney had the idea of making her car and her coat match.

Vogue magazine approved. 

We were told that Vogue magazine in the 1920s and 1930s had huge influence on jewellery design. Vogue's idea was that women should have not just matching cars and coats, but matching jewellery for each outfit, as in bespoke. So they've always had outrageous, unaffordable ideas; nothing new there then. However, Vogue was pushing the then new idea of choosing an item because of its brand name rather than because it suited one's features or lifestyle.

The 1925 Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts was also enormously influential, with a mini-town built of show houses. Items were displayed on glass plinths under bright lights to make them sparkle...pretty much like all jewellery shops show their wares now you might say. This was a new approach, completely different to the prevailing natural styles of art and gothic architecture as promulgated by John Ruskin. Instead people were exposed to Corbusier and Mondrian.

Cubism was a source of new design shapes and colours, particularly the geometric shapes. Also tourmaline crystal, often called watermelon crystal, became very popular.  One of my favourite Dick Francis books, Straight, is about a jewels dealer and a jewellery maker (and a jockey, of course); I read about tourmaline crystal along with a whole slew of fascinating gadgets. I recommend this book highly.

Going back briefly to Delauney's work (and her husband Roberts's), they were known for developing an art form, an offshoot of cubism called 'orphism'.  I quite liked the look of it, strangely enough. Also, I recently discovered that Bill actually hears some of the inane things I say! I read on some fashion blog or other in the last few weeks (I've looked and can't find it) that some designer has come out with dresses printed with 'fractured geometrics'. The phrase grabbed my attention for some reason and I was thinking it was the most interesting print I'd seen in quite a while.  Have a look and see if you don't agree. Anyhow, Bill and I were watching the season finale of The Voice UK and whilst I wasn't crazy about the song or the set, I did think maybe we'd been transported back to the 60s and when the stage lights played across the lines in the dancers' costumes (at about 1.10 if you want to skip to there!) that phrase (fractured geometrics) came to mind again. I mentioned this to him and he reminded me of it when I started comparing it with 'orphism'.  See what you think of the Delauney look