Saturday, 31 July 2010
As most of you know, this week was the definitive week of me turning a vegan. Now, let me be clear about this; coming from a meat eater who likes a burger king occasionally and sometimes has a hard time saying no to chicken and home comfort cooking, this is going to prove a pretty big deal for me. Especially when the longer I keep this up for, the more people will have to know, including friends and family which is great. But if you're Caribbean, people have a way of saying: "Oh, you're a vegetarian/vegan?? Right.... I see.... but you can still eat chicken? OK, Lamb? NOTHING???! How is that going to work?" and truly, they have a good case. Caribbean traditional food is largely meat based, but you can incorporate fish dishes as well, but then again Rastafarians are mostly strict vegetarians so I guess there's a way around it somewhere.
Being on twitter allowed me to see the horrors that took place recently at the Conklin dairy farm in Ohio, where a secret video on youtube showed absolutely horrendous treatment of cows by sad, pathetic excuses for men. It's truly shocking to watch and the only explanation is they're not man enough to deal with their issues with others, and instead choose to express their hatred of their world on poor, harmless cows, some of them just babies, where they hold them by the mouth and beat them until they vomit or moan out in protest. Although something has managed to be done, it's not enough, and while it hasn't happened in the UK yet [I'm sure our best loved cooks would have something to say about that, Jamie ad Hugh?] we can't close ourselves off to the issues surrounding this travesty in the US. The best course of action is advised to adopt a vegan diet, and therefore completely cutting off the financial support that Conklin farm recieves from meat and dairy produce.
Now, my take is that whilst I'm a vegan in my own home, sometimes it's harder when out in a social scene or public place as they just don't have any vegan options on the menu, and you just can't cut yourself off completely from eating, so in these instances I'll be happy to go veggie if asking about an alternative doesn't work!
So, for anyone interested, here's what i've been up to in trying to change my food habits of a lifetime...
I usually shop in Tesco or Sainsbury's local, and if I had the budget, would be more than happy to explore vegan farmer's markets, whole foods, and an organic shop called Earth, a small organic store based in North London. I also go to Holland and Barrett a lot, as one of my favouite things to snack on are North Valley Granola Bars, so i pick these up along with some nuts, tofu, vegan cheese, and 'tofurkey.' I'm trying to find this particular kind of vegan cheese called Daiya, it may only be available in the US, OK, make that LA!! So if you notice it around anywhere, please hollah!
Breakfast is usually toast, porridge, or a smoothie. I love making berry smoothies [strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, goji berry] so they're always pretty awesome with some greek natural yoghurt.
Snacks are raw almonds, raw cashews, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, and wasabi peas. [I love them, but if I'm honest they tend to give you bad wind so maybe only snack on them when you're alone watching TV in the house and nobody is near you.]
Soya Milk / Skimmed Milk - I use Alpro Original for some stuff, but can't have it in tea, coffee, or my cereal just yet. I also drink litres of green tea throughout the day as it flushes you out. Normal green tea is fine, but I prefer the Twinings range so you can get bursts of flavour within your green tea such as hints of jasmine and cranberry, therefore satiating your need for sugar.
For lunch - 3 bean soups are great alongside large salads, or an innocent veg pot usually hits the spot. M&S do great stuff - rice, lentils and auborgines, edamame and soy beans, and rainbow salads including butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, and a tortilla!! If you're doing a home cooked salad, you can also add some cilantro, guacamole and salsa for an extra kick.
Houmous is also fantastic, with crudite, pretty much anything. i can scoop it with my fingers if i'm being really disgusting. However, you can also buy low fat houmous, or Tahini, which is exactly the same as Houmous, just low fat, and actually with a lot more flavour to it. My friend's mum makes a great version and it goes with anything. Tzaziki is also cool to have as well.
For dinner - it's a lentil bake, cous cous and falafel, or a big chilli with rice. I use quorn mince, and to season I use all purpose seasoning, salt, pepper, crushed chilli flakes, smoked paprika, and cumin. I also add kidney beans, tomato pureee, harissa paste, and either black beans or black bean sauce - all you need is a tiny amount for a little bit of added taste. Preferable to use black beans - otherwise check the label. Then add the basmati rice - and stir and simmer until done.
Fresh salad is also a yes yes! Everyone knows what to add to a salad - just throw the lettuce in and add whatever you like to make things a party. finish with some basil, parsley or some cilantro again with salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil to taste.
Drinks - I'm a tea/coffee ADDICT. so when i'm not pouring gallons of that down my throat, I try and drink green tea and water as much as I can. I'm also an alcohol ADDICT. My poison is white wine or vodka, so when I'm not pouring gallons of that down my throat as well, I normally try and have tequila, gin, or if its non alcohol, vegetable based juices. My mum does an amazing carrot, apple, celery and ginger drink that is the BEST THING EVER. Must ask her to do it sometime.
For Dessert - hmmmm - not a huge dessert fan. I'm going to go with fruit - try kiwis, raspberries.... all the good stuff.... however, I'm also a big fan of crumbles and pies - apple crumble, rhubarb crumble.... YUM. At the moment, if you're in the mood to cook, I would go for Cherry and Plum crumble - although keep in mind, you're probably going to have to do it veggie style as opposed to vegan.
OK, good night my sweet ones!! [Actually it's morning now.]
Sunday, 25 July 2010
Natalie Portman plays a ballerina on the rise in the Darren Aronofsky thriller 'Black Swan,' which will open the Venice Film Festival on September 1. The first photos are below. Aronofsky won top honors at the festival in 2008 for 'The Wrestler.'
Portman studied ballet until she was 13 and has been talking with Aronofsky about making this movie for a decade.
She met her real-life ballet dancer boyfriend Benjamin Millepied during it.
She and costar Mila Kunis share a hotly-anticipated kiss in the film. But, says Kunis, "it's not smut."
Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte designed 40 different costumes for the movie's dancers, including the one below. This is the first time they've done film costumes.
Ballerina Nina (Portman), who demonstrates herself as technically brilliant, is chosen for the lead role of the production of the ballet Swan Lake in New York City. Nina is pressured by her mother (Hershey) to succeed and also pressured by her dance master (Cassel) to be more seductive. A new dancer, Lily (Kunis), arrives to the production, and she exhibits the sultriness that Nina lacks. Nina obsesses about Lily, and the two form a strange relationship.
- Natalie Portman as Nina. Portman explained her reason for being part of Black Swan, "I'm trying to find roles that demand more adulthood from me because you can get stuck in a very awful cute cycle as a woman in film, especially being such a small person."
- Mila Kunis as Lily. Kunis contrasted Lily with Nina, "My character is very loose... She's not as technically good as Natalie's character, but she has more passion, naturally. That's what Natalie's character lacks. So it's a battle and the yin and yang."
- Kristina Anapau as Galina
- Winona Ryder as Beth, Nina's friend
- Vincent Cassel as Yevna, director of a new stage production
- Barbara Hershey as Nina's mother
- Sebastian Stan
- Janet Montgomery as Madeline, a co-dancer jealous of Nina's talent
Urban Outfitters have launched a t-shirt with yet another slogan that seems to be pro-ana. Even though they have officially pulled the shirt from their official website, the shirt is available to buy in stores.
I read about this via The Huffington Post and thought it was really interesting. Here's what the online paper said:
Urban Outfitters' "Eat Less" V-Neck Tee is one of the more, well, interesting things we've seen on the chain's website since its Obama/Black t-shirt. Printed on the gray v-neck are the words "Eat Less" in white cursive. But the description of the item reads: "Eat less or more or however much you'd like in this seriously soft knit tee cut long and topped with a v-neck." Perhaps they should have printed all of that on there.
we reported on Urban Outfitters' newest statement t-shirt: a gray v-neck with the words "Eat Less" printed on it. The item was pulled from the chain's website by last night, but it turns out that you can still find it in stores.
We called several Manhattan Urban Outfitters locations and one sales associates confirmed that the store had the t-shirts in stock, but only in larger sizes. However, a sales associate at another store said they hadn't yet received their shipment of "Eat Less" t-shirts.
Urban Outfitters' public relations did not return the Huffington Post's phone calls regarding the matter.
Sophia Bush, who plays the lovely fashion designer Brooke Davis on CW acclaimed show 'One Tree Hill' had this to say on her official blog:
UO, I have been a supporter of your store for many years, but now I'm through.
Ladies! This is OUTRAGEOUS. I hope none of you will stand for being told such a thing, in such a way. Being healthy, eating right, and staying active is one thing. Being told to starve yourselves by a fashion company? Not cool.
I am fortunate enough to star on a wonderful TV show called One Tree Hill. I play a fashion designer named Brooke Davis, who started a campaign on the show called "Zero Is Not A Size" and the outpouring of love and gratitude that came my way from girls and women ALL OVER THE WORLD who have body image issues brought me to tears.
To promote starvation? To promote anorexia, which leads to heart disease, bone density loss, and a slew of other health problems, not least of all psychological issues that NEVER go away? Shame on you. I will no longer be shopping at your stores. And I will encourage the tens of thousands of female supporters I have to do the same. I have fought to boycott BP. I never imagined I would also be boycotting affordable fashion.
You should issue a public apology, and make a hefty donation to a women's organization that supports those stricken with eating disorders. I am sickened that anyone, on any board, in your gigantic company would have voted 'yes' on such a thing, let alone enough of you to manufacture an item with such a hurtful message. It's like handing a suicidal person a loaded gun. You should know better.
I sincerely hope that next time you decide that making fun of serious issues is comedic, or 'snarky in a cool way,' that you rethink your decision.
With Sincerity but NO respect,
Here is my letter, in defense of all of us who have ever looked in a mirror and felt less than fabulous...
Previously, Topshop launched their 'Love My Bones' t-shirt which was also at the centre of promoting pro anorexia for young Topshop customers, which was brought to attention by the Independent:
As the New York fashion industry prepares to launch new collections starting on Friday, followed by London on 14 September, attention is again drawn to models and their weight.
After the furore at London Fashion Week last spring, with calls for a ban on size-zero models, not only has nothing been done, but the unrealistic super-skinny image is now being positively promoted again internationally.
MTV is under fire for promoting competitive dieting and fuelling the damaging size-zero catwalk culture, following the announcement that it is to launch a controversial new TV show in which girls must lose between 30 and 80lb in the hope of becoming a model. The channel is advertising the show Model Maker with a request for "girls willing to shed the pounds" in a three-month boot camp in a quest to become a "self-confident, high-profile fashion model".
Recruitment adverts – featuring the statement "Women come in all shapes and sizes, but models don't. Skinny, no body fat and size zero are the words and phrases associated with models. Chubby, well-fed, and big-boned are not ..." – have been condemned by eating-disorder charities as promoting extreme dieting.
"This is perpetuating the idea that it is only by becoming as thin as possible that you can be a success," said Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the charity Beat. "It also puts out the message that it is OK to engage in extreme dieting practices, and it is not."
Meanwhile, the British Fashion Council also faces fresh criticism this week for abandoning plans for models' health certificates – which would make sure that all girls on UK catwalks had a healthy body mass index. In failing to introduce the certificates, as recommended by the Model Health Inquiry panel following an investigation into the extreme thinness of catwalk models, the BFC has been accused of "shirking its responsibility" on the issue of size-zero models.
"I think it's tremendously disappointing that the BFC engaged in the Model Health Inquiry saying they'd abide by the recommendations but they haven't, and they've passed the buck to the Association of Model Agencies," said Dr Adrienne Key, eating-disorder specialist at the Priory Clinic and member of the Model Health Inquiry panel.
However, Hilary Riva, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, defended its decision, insisting: "The feasibility study, through consultation with model agents, casting agents, show producers and models, identified insurmountable barriers to the introduction of model health certificates in their current form at London Fashion Week. We are delighted with the increased awareness that we have achieved in the past year and the improved working conditions for models at London Fashion Week."
The model Erin O'Connor, who was also on the panel for the Model Health Inquiry, added that she felt "that to ask all models to produce a mandatory certificate of health compromises their dignity and potentially infringes their human rights".
What no one seems to have suggested is for the designers to make sample clothes in larger sizes, which could see more realistic models become the norm. Until that happens, skinny clothes for skinny girls are for ever in fashion.
The retail giant Topshop stands accused of promoting anorexia due to the sale of a controversial T-shirt that reads "Love My Bones". It has been one of the store's bestsellers this summer and has been seen on celebrities such as the TV presenter Fearne Cotton.
Katie Metcalfe, 21, a recovering anorexic from Stockton-on-Tees, said: "With a shocking increase in eating disorders, why are they permitted to create and stock such absurd products? Anorexia is a slow suicide and Topshop is promoting it."
A Topshop spokesman said: "Topshop does not intend to remove the T-shirt," but added: "We do not intend to re-order this style. However, this is not due to any group's disapproval or (mis)interpretation of its slogan. 'Love My Bones' is a well-known slogan which means 'love me to my bones' – the very essence of me." The store claims that the T-shirt was "not intended to be used by any radical pro-anorexia groups, or offend any charity or individual customer".
Saturday, 17 July 2010
So, I just came across the teaser for Ben Affleck's brand new film 'The Town', which is actually based on the book 'Prince of Thieves' by crime writer Chuck Hogan. It's a gritty, well written film and looks like it will keep you hooked from start to finish.
The dark third novel by the author of The Standoff isn't the fast-paced thriller it's marketed to be. It is, rather, a story of doomed love focusing on Doug MacRay, a Boston-based career thief (he comes from Charlestown, "a breeding ground for bank and armored-car robbers") who becomes enamored with the manager of the bank he and his pals have just robbed. Claire Keesey, who has been badly traumatized by the robbery, later begins to develop feelings for him as well, unaware that a masked MacRay was the lead perpetrator in the heist that turned her life upside down. Hogan then leads readers through a long-winded labyrinth of inner reflection as Doug spends much of the book pondering whether he should quit the criminal life in order to pursue a deeper relationship with Claire. This undermines the suspense that crime fiction requires, and the novel is overlong by more than half. Although some characters are quite lively, most of them (including Doug) are not very sympathetic, and the end brings tragedy for many of them. All the same, the author's original writing style and knack for unusual metaphors can make for engaging reading, and the book's cinematic quality and grittily realistic action sequences bode well for its day on screen.
The film boasts a stelllar cast with Ben Affleck at the helm, but joining him are Jon Hamm [Mad Men], Rebecca Hall [Vicky Cristina Barcelona], Jeremy Renner [The Hurt Locker], Blake Lively [Gossip Girl], Chris Cooper [Remember Me] and Pete Posthelwaithe [Romeo & Juliet].
- Ben Affleck as Doug MacRay, a career criminal
- Jon Hamm as Special Agent Adam Frawley, an FBI agent pursuing the team of criminals
- Rebecca Hall as Claire, a bank manager who falls in love with Doug
- Jeremy Renner as Jem Coughlin, a member of Doug's team
- Blake Lively as Krista Coughlin, the sister of Jem; and Doug's ex-girlfriend who has a 19-month old daughter, Shyne
- Chris Cooper as Doug's father
- Slaine as Gloansy, a member of Doug's team.
- Pete Postelthwaite TBA
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
I must say I have a weird relationship when it comes to what I do with cookbooks. Now call it what you will, but I love buying cookbooks[Nigel, Nigella, Jamie, Sophie, Gizzi, Hugh.... I love them all!] but I rarely get around to actually cooking anything out of the pages upon pages piled high with pictures of pretty presentations of food. Mainly because I think my kitchen will be an exploding mess of ingredients.....but I do like the pictures!
When Sophie Dahl [English Rose Supermodel /Sophie out of 'The BFG' by her grandfather Roald Dahl and Mrs Jamie Cullum] announced she was doing a COOKBOOK with actual food and recipe featured in the book as opposed to reminiscing about her various relationships with food [in her own words, she has been 'both round as a rubens, and a slip shadow of a creature'], I was genuinely shocked. A model talking about food, let alone a supermodel is absolutely alien and almost as sane as saying Naomi Campbell has always had her real, natural hair all this time throughout her career.
Surely those who have been lucky enough to have been photographed by the likes of Stephen Miesel and Mario Testino, and featured heavily in the pages of American Vogue would both habitually and naturally shy away from food?
Sophie Dahl has proved this theory to be wrong, but now Gwyneth Paltrow has also chosen to be counted in this group, too. She is about to release her first cookbook, "My Father's Daughter", and apart from being introduced to the occasional recipe or video blog on her lifestyle website GOOP, this is the first we shall see of Ms Paltrow's culinary talents... Vogue investigates some of her recipes with Jeffrey Steingarten....
Gwyneth let me choose most of the recipes—gazpacho, corn chowder, chicken and dumplings, and Bruce Paltrow's World Famous Pancakes. I toyed with cooking her ten-hour chicken and her crispy potato-and-garlic cake. But we didn't have ten hours to spend on chicken. The potato cake is meant to replicate the immortal version at the restaurant L'Ami Louis in Paris, one of her late father's favorite places in the world to dine. But it's not the real thing; Gwyneth also has her doubts.
As I began to tell you, the first thing I noticed in Gwyneth's apartment was how sharp her knives are. Laser sharp. And how skillfully she uses them. Her knife skills put mine to shame.
More accurately, the first thing I noticed was how beautiful and clean her kitchen is, all white and filled with enviable appliances, including a dedicated deep-fat fryer. Gwyneth admitted to being a neat freak, as her father was. She also seems to be in control of her time, scheduling every hour closely, with precise awareness of how long things take, including cooking.
The second thing I noticed was that Gwyneth is considerably more beautiful in the flesh than in pictures. She's an ectomorph (in the language of anthropometrics). You might call her "gangling"—stretched out, a bit taller and svelter and better muscled than you would think, especially in the crucial upper-arm area. She doesn't look gangling in pictures. She has fine genes, good bones. Gwyneth has at least one personal trainer, works out for two hours a day, and owns a piece of the gym near her downtown Manhattan apartment. (Her business partner is Tracy Anderson, who appears in a Goop video.)
For the record, I should mention that Gwyneth was wearing jeans and a blue shirt with a white collar. Her jeans were pierced with more slits and slashes than any I've ever seen. But as the fabric itself was dark blue, I reasoned that the slits and slashes must have been administered intentionally and by artifice, perhaps by lasers and at a great price—though I'll admit that if I'm an expert in anything, it is not in the field of women's clothing. Despite my ignorance, I was able to notice that Gwyneth's jeans fit so loosely that they tended to slip down several inches below her waist, revealing an enviably flat stomach. Gwyneth is 37.
Only after an hour had passed did I notice the sharpness of her knives. I was impressed. Gwyneth sharpens her knives by hand, using a MinoSharp, a contraption that you fill with water before pulling the blade between two submerged ceramic wedges. I've never gotten the hang of that little device. Later she told me about her outdoor pizza ovens, one in each of her backyards in London and on Long Island, and I took her ownership of two of them as the mark of her seriousness as a cook.
When I arrived at Gwyneth's apartment (somewhat late, as is my habit—though it was totally the taxi driver's fault), she had begun the chicken with dumplings by browning a disjointed (organic) chicken in a white enameled iron pot. Then she flooded the fowl with vegetable stock. "That's going to be yum," she said. Gwyneth makes her own stock about once a month. "It makes such a huge difference in the food," she preached. I haven't made my own stock on a regular schedule for several years. But Gwyneth does have skilled kitchen helpers.
Meanwhile, Gwyneth assigned me to cut the kernels from the eight ears of corn I had brought, a job I executed with high skill and great dispatch. Most of the time, however, my work did not reflect either skill or dispatch. I would begin some task, start chatting with Gwyneth, become distracted, and then let her finish it, which she did with the concentration and speed of a home cook getting dinner ready for her family. I was able to distract her, however, with the large, brilliantly green-blue, nubbly emu egg my wife had bought at the Union Square Greenmarket.
She prepared two versions of the corn chowder, one with bacon for me and one without bacon for her. When we came to the gazpacho, I requested that instead of using a blender as her recipe requires (Gwyneth owns the powerful Vita-Mix, another index of seriousness, which turns tomatoes, onions, and peppers into a mushy foam), we should cut all the vegetables into tiny, regular cubes and float them in a vinegary tomato broth—my preferred form for post-Columbian gazpachos. (Before Cortés or Columbus brought the tomato from the New World to Spain, gazpacho was a garlic, bread, olive-oil, and fresh-almond soup.) Gwyneth protested that we wouldn't have time for this, but I insisted, and she was right. We ate the chicken together and the corn chowder, and some of the gazpacho vegetables, and they were all delicious. She sent me home with a container of her father's pancake batter and an ounce or two of good caviar. As it turned out, Bruce Paltrow's famous pancakes were simultaneously sweet and tangy with buttermilk, and later, when I thinned the batter, as Gwyneth had suggested, it produced some fine blinis that paired nicely with the caviar (although by now everybody should know that good caviar should be eaten straight, on a non-reactive spoon, with blinis and melted butter reserved for wrapping around salmon or trout roe or pressed black caviar).
Gwyneth and I agreed to get together two more times. (I was surprised that she was willing to devote so much time to my little project.) Three weeks later, when I was scheduled to pass through London on my way home from a trip to Denmark, we would play with her pizza oven. Five weeks later, when Vogue would spend two days taking pictures of Gwyneth in New York, I would ask any questions that remained.
I arrived in London on the first beautiful day of the spring. I stayed at the Westbury Mayfair (quite excellent and previously unknown to me) and took a taxi to Gwyneth's house in a section of North London known for its successful psychoanalysts, artists, writers, and intellectuals. I brought with me several loaves of special bread from Copenhagen. Gwyneth was delighted.
Gwyneth and Chris own two adjoining houses and three backyards. They bought the first house from Kate Winslet; it has the kitchen and the backyard where the wood-burning oven stands. (Later they bought the house to the left, and finally the ground floor of the house to the right, which earned them the garden. They seem to believe that extra backyards make good neighbors.) It was a lovely afternoon that culminated in the return of Gwyneth's two children from wherever British children go on sunny Thursday mornings in the spring. The logs in the brick oven had been ignited before I arrived and were blazing as Gwyneth got the pizza dough ready. She is extremely adept at kneading, which she accomplished on a table in the garden; then she formed the pizza crust (with what seemed to me to be some difficulty because the dough was not as stretchy as you'd expect after all that kneading), topped it, and slid it into the oven, where it joined a butterflied chicken that, on a lark, Gwyneth had already sandwiched between two heavy enameled iron pans—her version of pollo al mattone, the Italian (probably Etruscan) chicken under a brick. Two or three pizzas later, we sat at a long wooden table in the garden with Gwyneth's children and enjoyed slices of her pizza, glasses of wine, and the crispest roast chicken you can imagine.
During this remarkable hour of perfection, a critical voice sounded in my head: Why isn't the pizza crust chewy? Why is it so white and so weak? Before leaving, I investigated the container of flour and found that it was milled for pasta, which requires a lower-protein flour than pizza or bread. My taxi arrived just in time for Gwyneth to telephone her shrink in Los Angeles for her scheduled appointment. As we stood at the door, her two children arrived to say goodbye. Once outside I asked Gwyneth whether she had put her kids up to that. Of course, she replied; it's important for them to learn good manners. I was touched nonetheless. We parted with the expectation that we'd have our final meeting at the photo shoot in Manhattan and probably speak on the phone in between.
Which we did. Things had gone so smoothly between Gwyneth and me that I thought I had a journalistic obligation to shake things up, to peer behind what seemed to me an impossibly perfect life, and so, despite the strong affection I had developed for Gwyneth, I wanted to ask her some rude questions. After discussing the family's new dog, a Maltese the children wanted to name Daffodil (the downside being that the dog's likely nickname would be Daffy), and several gastronomic matters, I warned Gwyneth that I might ask a few questions she might find unpleasant, but that she wouldn't have to answer any of them. I remembered interviews from fifteen years ago, probably in Vogue, of several supermodels, and recalled a few of the questions. Had she ever had plastic surgery? Would she rather have somebody else's body? Did she hate any part of her own, the way Nora Ephron had written about how much she hated her own neck?
There was a brief pause. Gwyneth said, "I'll have to give that a little thought." Her voice had changed. It was as though a cloud had passed over the sun.
At that moment, Gwyneth's children and their caretaker burst in, and her attention shifted. They had given their tiny new dog a bath outside, and now it was shivering uncontrollably. I suggested that they hug it tight and begged off the telephone. It was the last time I spoke with Gwyneth.
Two days before the photo shoot, I began preparing. I already had a list of questions—about where her father had grown up; about her brother, Jake; her trainer, Tracy Anderson; about the flour she had used in her pizza dough; about where her recipe for the crunchy potato cake had come from. I had tried several more of Gwyneth's recipes, her ten-hour chicken (a major success), her roasted cauliflower (which would have been absolutely scrumptious if I hadn't burned some of the florets), and her "perfect roasted Chinese duck" (mine was far from perfect). I had asked Gwyneth's excellent assistant Kevin Keating if I could bring some food, and he was enthusiastic. Gwyneth loves great cheese, and so I assembled a generous collection; there is little really good bread in London, and so I baked my best round crusty loaf. And, in case I changed my mind at the last minute, I tentatively arranged for the delivery of what I think is the best dim sum in Manhattan. This is another of Gwyneth's favorite foods.
On the morning of the shoot, I was told that, given the size of the set, only a small group could attend and the shoot was now closed. As I knew the set was vast, I was sure that I had offended Gwyneth. I was disconsolate. I never really cared about which part of her body she hates most. So I sent her a large bouquet of costly peonies. She replied with two E-mails assuring me that I hadn't offended her and wondering how I could have ruined her "perfect" duck recipe.
The recipes in My Father's Daughter come from Gwyneth's family, from simple restaurant dishes she's liked, and occasionally from cookbooks—sources that make up the repertory of nearly every home cook. But her father's cooking plays the leading role. Long after I was given the manuscript, Kevin sent me a copy of her moving introduction, and this answered many of my questions:
"I always feel closest to my father, who was the love of my life until his death in 2002, when I am in the kitchen. I can still hear him over my shoulder, heckling me, telling me to be careful with my knife, moaning with pleasure over a bite of something in only the way a Jew from Long Island can, his shoulders doing most of the talking. I will never forget how concentrated he looked in the kitchen….It was as if the deliciousness of the food would convey the love he felt in direct proportion….Health food was never really on the agenda, it was about fun and deliciousness and togetherness….The most striking aspect about his cooking was how much joy he derived from feeding people that he loved. I mean, genuine, bursting happiness….This book is meant to channel the ethos of my father by sharing the greatest gifts that he imparted to me. Invest in what's real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun. It doesn't have to be complicated. It will be what it will be."
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
The British designer, John Galliano, created an extraordinary, technicolour, fashion “garden” in his haute couture collection for the French ‘maison’ of Christian Dior, at the opening of the autumn/winter 2010 season in Paris this afternoon.
The show was staged in a see-through tent in the grounds of the Rodin Museum, with the sculptor’s “caryatids” just glimpsed amidst the foliage.
In a spectacular horticultural finale, models appeared in a succession of “floral dance” ball gowns, each one inspired, in turn by pansy, rose, or “parrot” tulip, with corseted bodices hand-painted and embroidered with gigantic blooms, and immense, intensely-coloured, silk-tulle crinoline skirts, trailing like parachutes along the floor.
Among the front row celebrities were the British model, Lily Cole; the actor, Jared Leto, sporting a “Jedward-meets-punk” peroxide Mohican; and the actress, Jessica Alba, who said:”I would be happy to be any flower in John Galliano’s garden.”Also in attendance were Anna Wintour, Blake Lively, and Julia Restoin Rotfield, as well as my best dressed favourites Claire Danes, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Palermo.
The collection was inspired by the cliff top garden of “Les Rhumbs”, the childhood home, in Granville, Normandy, of Christian Dior, who founded the famous French fashion house, in Paris, in 1946.
Lily Cole wears a black fringed and slightly frayed dress that gives her a grunge feel, which works perfectly against her girly choice of purple Dior shoes as well as a silver metallic clutch.
Gemma Arterton provides a classic menswear look that is very 20s - I absolutely LOVE this look on her and she sticks to classic black and white which is a simple, tailored look in order to ensure her pillar box red lipstick and clutch colour pop. I love the simple bow detailing on the shirt, and she uncomplicates this look by making the outfit stand out as much as possible with her hair slicked back in a simple, sheek ponytail.
Olivia Palermo does classic black and white monochrome which works perfectly for her. Simple yet chic.
I love this simple beige coloured dress on Claire Danes... the gold clutch and shoes offset this perfectly, adding that hint of extra glamour, and she keeps a neutral tone by letting the dress and simple accessories speak for themselves.
If Johnny Depp had turned down his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, John Galliano would be without a doubt my next choice to play the charming, roguish lovable pirate. His love for the outlandish, dramatic yet beautiful pieces never fail to impress me, and he's one of the true visionary designers we have when it comes to high fashion couture. And like all things should be, nothing could be better than watching high fashion couture in the city of lights, the romantic city in the world, whilst drinking a dirty martini or a red wine or two, smoking a cigarette, and eating some lauduree macaroons whilst engaging in some french conversation.
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
I love this new scan of Lily Allen in this month's ELLE shot by Rankin. This Annie's Vintage feather boa perfectly offsets the silk and lace dress by Preen. This outfit would look so damn good at any party!!
Topshop just released their lookbook for A/W 10, AND loving this big chunky knit!! Perfect for August and Autumn!!!
Monday, 5 July 2010
I'm reading Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" and it really is an absolutely amazing read so far!! I won't give the plot away as I want to know as little about it as possible so as not to spoil my own reading experience of it, but the book is actually being turned into a film with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and the thoroughly delectable Andrew Garfield [YUM!!!!!!] Even from the trailer alone, they all deliver compelling, dark performances that reiterates British acting talent.
I haven't included a plot because I'm in the middle of reading... but I'll do a review at a later date.
If you haven't heard of this book, please, please pick it up!!
Also on my reading list is....
1. "Nocturnes" - Kazuo Ishiguro
2. "Sellevision" - Augusten Burrows
3. "Wetlands" - Charlotte Roche
4. Delta Of Venus" - Anais Nin
5. "The Island" - Victoria Hislop
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Just thought I'd share some of my fashion obsessions this past month...
1. Never underestimate the allure of the "boyfriend" blazer/oversized shirt
The "Boyfriend" blazer has been a fashion staple in many a girl's wardrobe for months on end now... the reason being, it works with absolutely everything!! Whether you have a interview or a night out, you can immediately shrug it on for instant appeal, giving you a tailored, put together look that effervesces confidence. Not to mention, if you happen to be at your boyfriend's house, his oversized shirts never fail to please and works every time if you're trying to simultaneously draw attention away from serious bedhead hair.
2. Know what works for you, and as sad or as simple as it might be, stick to it, and rock what you got!
Simple, but true. I can't tell you how many times I have stared adoringly and achingly over fashion trends that are in style and I can't wear them... for me, this more or less constitutes the entire Topshop collection, but I know that sometimes, it's just not going to work well with my body. Now since I'm yet to be a gym bunny, I know that the colour that works for me each and every time is... [drum roll, please....] Black. But as much as this might seem boring, I've learnt to "colour pop" my accessories here and there, so that my outfit still manages to make an impact! Unfortunately, I don't look like Christina Ricci or Angelica Huston, so sadly the Morticia Addams look is lost on me, but you do have to make your clothes work for you. and if you can do that, everything else will fall into place. If you like accessories or shoes more than clothes, start with them first and finish with your outfit last.
3. The Power of Topshop
Certain little girls are undeniably lucky in life. Yes, I'm talking about celebrities and their children, of course. Now you have Ava Phillippe getting to meet Rob Pattinson on set, Lourdes Leon and her mum/muse Madonna, and even Lila Grace and mum Kate Moss, but none are as lucky as Chloe Green, daughter of Topshop mogul and powerhouse Sir Philip Green. Her wardrobe must be undeniably amazing. Not only have Topshop expanded in the UK and US as well as internationally, and feature designers such as Kate Moss and Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, but now they've launched Topshop Make-up. As is the same with most make-up brands, I get incredibly excited only to find that in actual fact, most brands cater to the masses but not, unfortunately, the minority for people with black skin. So I walk out feeling a little bit blue, the very best I can get being eyeshadow of some sort.... Benefit and Stila, I'm looking at you here....
Topshop make-up is probably NOT going to steer me away from my everlasting love of MAC make-up products.... the only other brands I like include Chanel, Dior, Lancome, Bobbi Brown, No.7, Revlon, Rimmel, L'Oreal, & Illamasqua.... I would say Yves Saint Laurent but it's ridiculous that Touche Eclait [ie. "the best concealer in the world" apparently, only does a selected range of colours and therefore have shades that don't match my skin tone. Ridiculous for a high end label of that stature. But, if worst comes to the worst, I could always head to Primark, as they have launched their own range of make-up too. The possibilities on that scenario could prove endless.
4. Vintage Shopping? High Fives all round!!
Who can resist the lure of the vintage find? Absolutely nobody, that's who, even when it comes to Celebrities! Head down to Portobello Market, and my favourite vintage store "One of a Kind" where Thandie Newton wore a resplendent vintage dress to the BAFTAs and go wild!! Rokit in London is also very good and the same can be said for thrift stores in areas such as Primrose Hill. I usually follow this up with a afternoon out at The Lansdowne, which is one of the very best gastropubs in Primrose Hill.
5. Chanel "Maniac" Lipstick - Limited Edition
This lipstick from Chanel is one like no other, hence the name "Maniac", but you do need to grow a pair of balls [figuratively speaking] in order to pull this particular look off, as it asks for some confidence. Pair your look down overall and take things right back to basics. You want your face to be absolutely minimal, so that the lipstick and the colour itself is allowed to do its job and "pop" the way you want it to. Now some might say because this is considered the darker of most lipsticks, it's best suited to darker skin tones, but I actually don't think that's true. The lipstick is almost black when you view it from a far, but once you get a bit closer, it's got the most lovely shade of black cherries as its main undertone. For an additional striking symmetry, it's best to pair this lipstick with absolute minimal/nude make-up and a strong eyebrow to finish.
1. Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen - Influence
[With their successful fashion lines "The Row" & "Elizabeth & James" under their belts, this book also gives a rare and profound insight into the twins' personal sense of styles and where their fashion inspirations come from.]
2. Crystal Renn - Hungry: A Young Model's story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves
[Crystal Renn was your average size 0 model just like any other - starving and struggling to find work in the competitive, cut throat modelling industry. Then, upon deciding to embrace food for all it's worth, she went from size 0 to plus size, and her career went stratospheric, modelling for Evans, Vogue Magazine, Mango, Blackbook Magazine, and walking in several runway shows by Mark Fast and Jean Paul Gaultier.
3. Miuccia Prada - Prada
[Prada is the first book that documents 3 decades of ground breaking fashion, architecture, film and art by the Prada company, including the work of the design studio and the workshop. ]
Here's what I've come up with so far...
Nobody was supposed to know my secret. Nobody was supposed to know I was different. Especially the one I loved.
It had always been my secret to keep - I was born with it - and it would die with me. No matter how hard I tried, I saw my secret as a curse, my curse to bear, like I had been doing for the last 17 years of my life - and while I knew my secret could wield great power - it certainly wasn't a lifestyle choice for me.
I had seen them in my dreams - and they were coming for us now. I couldn't keep my secret any longer when it was killing the one I loved - I wouldn't - I would sacrifice everything, and everything I had ever known in order to protect him, to keep him from harm.
We stood together in the forest - his hand on top of mine - and I looked at him and was filled with a raw, burning desire.
His eyes bore into mine, and I did everything I could not to lose focus - but out of the corner of my eye I saw them through the trees, getting closer to us with every heartbeat.
My hand was still wrapped around his, and my head turned from the sound of hooves to look at him one last time.
It was as if we were in slow motion -everything slowing right down as the last few seconds we had slowly ebbed away.
Suddenly, I let go of his hand and turned to face the trees where I knew they would emerge from. I turned back to him and whispered: "Run!!"
I felt his fingers brush against my skin and the tears fall down my face as I felt him disappear from my side. I closed my eyes to stop myself from running, and opened them slowly to face the killers in front of me.
[I thought I'd choose a song to go along with this, so to keep with the slightly haunting theme, I've chosen "Heavy in your arms" by Florence and The Machine from the Eclipse Soundtrack. Words cannot describe how much I love each and every part of this song - from lyrics, instrumentals, and voice]
[I love a white bedroom.... it's simple, clean, modern, and looks lovely... reminds me of candles, white linen and Laura Ashley]
I absolutely LOVE this Ikea canvas of Audrey Hepburn... it's classic and definetely one for the living room!! :-)
Lauren Conrad's house featured on The Hills [S 3/4/5] onwards ... need I say more? Obviously I don't have her budget, but the house really is too perfect for words...Living rooms should always be about warm, soft, indulgent sofas, warm beige drapes, and french windows for lots of natural light to come flooding in when necessary.
I love having fresh flowers in the house... peonies are one of my favourites and are great for summer because they really do open up and get huge... favourites also include hydrangaes, gardenias, dahlias, roses, tiger lillies, tulips, and carnations.
I actually don't own a laptop at the moment... my little iBook died and is now in Mac heaven... so my next computer will either be a Macbook or an Imac.... and yes, I do own The Little Mermaid on 2 disc special edition... nothing better in life than watching Ariel sing "part of your world" in full force... that's what sundays are made for!
This is actually Sophie Dahl's kitchen featured in "The Delicious Miss Dahl", and although not her own kitchen she shares with Jamie Cullum, it's used for the set of the show and perfectly fits with what I would want my own kitchen to look like. White, modern, comfy and yet rustic enough to prepare home cooked comforts and indulgent treats, with a glass of wine/dirty martini and some warm jazz from Miles Davis, Otis Reading, Norah Jones, or even Jamie Cullum himself filling the background, while I prepare food such as salads, fish, fudge, cakes, and other such voluptuous delights for voracious eaters.
My bookshelves will be heaving... and look something like this.... filled to the brim with everything you could imagine probably... from Shakespeare to the classics and everything else in between... and maybe my own book one day!!
Last but not least... what every girl needs sometimes is a brand new best friend.... I've wanted a Maltipoo for as long as I can remember.... and I vow to get one!!!!!!! They are unbelievably cute and look like a cross between a teddy bear and the cutest dogs in the world. awwwwwwww!