JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, August 10, 2007

Edinburgh festival, day 6

Our flat has broadband, but I can't make it work on my computer, although Lucius can make it work on his ... which means no photographs until we get home in a couple of days.

Today I have been looking at pictures. First I went to the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood Palace in Canongate. I didn't know what the exhibition was, but it never seems to matter when it's the Queen's Gallery, because she has probably the best fine art collection in the world, and employs good curators for the exhibitions. I'd never been to the gallery in Edinburgh, although I have often been to the one in London.

The exhibition was lovely - botanical drawings and paintings, together with birds and animals. The first room was entirely given over to drawings by da Vinci, and would have been worth the price of admission (£5) alone. In the last room, there was an even better treat, better because it was so totally unexpected and so totally up my street - botanical drawings by Alexander Marshal (1620-1682), a London gardener who lived during a time when there was an enormous increase in the plants available (to the rich). He collected them, and then he painted them - roses, tulips, daffodils, irises, a sunflower, hyacinths, auriculas, a Sevile orange ... all, wonderfully bright and fresh on the page, 150 pages, shared with other collectors, and eventually given to George IV. I suppose the modern equivalent is gardeners going out to photograph their gardens with their digital cameras - but the photographs of my garden in my computer can't begin to compare with Marshal's florilegium (isn't that a lovely word?). I'll post some pictures when I get home.

Then I went to the museum of modern art and looked at Picasso works on paper - drawings, etchings, lithographs, lino cuts, all the decades of his working life represented. It makes me wish I'd left time to see the exhibition of Picasso ceramics that's on here - especially when now, on our last evening here, I don't feel I've seen anything truly memorable at the fringe, although there's been some fun in some of the shows.

I also went to see the Richard Long exhibition. Last year, we saw Iain Hamilton Finlay at Inverkeith House, the exhibition space at the botanic gardens. Lucius Horatio and Alfred came out of that exhibition saying that it was pretentious drivel. I liked it, just as I like his garden, which I saw a couple of years ago. I like the work of Andy Goldsworthy. So I ought to like Richard Long, an artist working in landscape. But I didn't. All that obsession with circles - so what? And you find yourself asking, which is art, the circles made of twigs in a landscape (worthless), or the photographs of the twigs in a landscape (potential for sale)? I think that photographs of installations are fine and fun, but somehow not quite the thing ... so much less of a piece of art than Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes, which I saw for the first time a couple of days ago, and which are so much better than their photograph. If you see what I mean. It's so easy to get pretentious discussing art.

Meanwhile, back at Holyrood, I had a fabulous slice of cake for breakfast ... raspberry and almond cake. Isn't that what we used to call Bakewell tart? The thing that was so disgusting at school with lumpy custard? This was DELICIOUS and moreish, and I suppose the difference is that the Queen's caterers use the best ingredients, whereas the nuns at my 1960s convent used the cheapest they could lay their hands on.

I've nearly finished Frances Bissell's book The Scented Kitchen. It's such a different way of looking at cookery that it's worth reading from cover to cover. It's so sad to be reading it in August, because even she recognises that it's really a summer cookery book, because you can't buy the ingredients in a shop, you need to grow them, or beg them from someone who grows them. I'm impatient to know if there's any lavender left in my garden, to make some lavender sugar. Basically, you make it just like vanilla sugar - drop the lavender into the sugar. Or, you can make lavender coloured sugar by grinding the flowers into the sugar. If you're going to do that (I don't suppose I'll bother, it sounds like a bit of a faff compared to dropping the flowers into the sugar!), you need one part flowers (detached from stems) to 10 parts sugar, and you grind it in a food processor. Best if you let the flowers dry out for an hour or two before you start, she says.

Time to go home, back to my real life - although next week I'm off to the West country for a couple of days ... Lettice is going on holiday to Salcombe with a gaggle of girls (all wanting to be away from home when their exam results come through), and I'm the one who's got to fetch them home. So I'm going to take a couple of days to get there, and visit some of the lovely gardens in Somerset and Devon that I've wanted to see for years, and which none of my family want to see. I also have a yen to visit Lyme Regis, although I imagine it's hugely busy at this time of year - I could have a French Lieutenant's Woman moment on the end of the Cobb, which, I'm told, is now covered in signs absolving the council of any responsibility in case of personal injury. Perhaps I'll give it a miss!


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Some times our internet at home goes out for no reason but the craziness of hotel internet connect drives me to distraction.
I had lavender one year, maybe I'll try it again next! The sugar sounds lovely.

katiez said...

What a glorious day, spent wandering museums... Were y ou alone?
I was alone in London far a day, a fews years ago and it was such fun.. my choice of museums; my pace... It's fun to share... but sometimes it's fun to be alone!

Sophie said...

raspberry and almond cake for breakfast - sounds like proper holiday food! I haven't been to Edinburgh for so long - I lived near there until I was about eleven but I've only been back once as an adult. Your posts have brought back lots of memories about places I really should get round to revisiting!

Magic Cochin said...

The exhibitions sound really inspiring - it must have beeen an intense day! Probably Richard Long was not the perfect choice after the Botanical pictures and then Picasso - but I remember being wowed by his waterfall hand-painting in river mud on a whole wall of Tate Modern.

It's frustrating to reach art saturation point and there's so much to see and so little time!


Figs Olives Wine said...

I really love botanical drawings and prints. I've started a very small collection myself for when we have more than 2 rooms (ah, the joys of Manhattan apartment living!) Sounds like a beautiful show you saw!
I hope you have time to take some photos of the gardens you're going to see. I'd love to see!

Cottage Smallholder said...

I do hope that you are having a great holiday.

I have tagged you for the Fantastic Four Meme, follow this link for the details