Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Apology to Michelle Obama

A month ago, I made some unkind remarks about Michelle Obama's irritating, juvenile, cheap and tasteless exciting, youthful, accessible and irreverent dress style. I apologise. The Obamas are a lower middleclass couple who have been catapulted from nowhere to where they are on the strength of their skin colour and political correctness. Maybe it could have been worse. MUCH worse.

In the course of my research for Whither goest thou, Royalty?, I came across photos of Princess Laurentien of Holland, wife of Queen Beatrix' youngest son Prince Constantijn. Laurentien is the daughter of Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, who was, more or less in consecutive order, a Reader (Lector) at the Europe-institute at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden in 1965 Professor of European Law at the University of Groningen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet of Den Uyl, Ambassador of the European Community in Japan, amember of the European Parliament from 1995 to 1999, a member of the Provinciale Staten (the provincial parliament) of the province of Groningen for D66, a member of the board of advice of the World Resources Institute in Washington DC, a member of the board of governors of the Nederlands Economisch Instituut, a professor by special appointment of international environmental law at the University of Leiden, a member of the Board of Directors of the Salzburg Seminar, a member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, a temporary professor of international environmental law at the University of Lausanne, minister of agriculture, environmental control and fishery in the cabinet Kok-II, an Adviser of European Affairs at NautaDulith in Brussels and was awarded a professorship in transnational and European Governance at the University of Tilburg, a minister of economic affairs in the second Balkenende cabinet and who is now a Professor at the University of Leiden. He is, too, a member of the Bilderberg Group.

In brief, one would expect his daughter, a typical product of the traditionally educated upper middle-class intelligentsia, to be to a certain extent used to be in the public eye and all that implies. If it only were so. Her style is neither "adventurous" nor "bold", "zany" nor "eccentric" and even beyond bad taste. Words fail me. And for Heaven's sake, can't she get a professional makeup from time to time? Here she is, the pictures are listed in ascending order of the awfulness of the dresses:

This is Princess Laurentien with her husband, who looks drunk. (Or is it her husband's older brother? Those two guys look even more alike than the Dutch do anyway.) That Goth on the right is her sister in law Mabel, a former gangster's moll. They all attended the wedding banquet for Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden on June 19. This is exactly the sort of black and white fabric I want for my bathroom curtains. The skirt doesn't brush the ground, as it ought to, given the extent of formality, and everything else is ugly too.


Peggy Sue Got Married: Queen's Day, April 30, 2008.


Prince Constantijn, Princess Laurentien and their daughter Princess Eloise (cute child!) after the Christening Princess Alexia, second daughter of Prince Willem-Alexander, on November 19, 2005 in Wassenaar. Princess Laurentien seems to be "into" that "vintage" stuff.


At the civil wedding of Prince Pieter-Christiaan and Anita Van Eijk. Did she come from the beach and hadn't time to change? Where are the flipflops?


Crowd-waving following the Parliamentary Budget Presentation at The Hague on September 20, 2005. This outfit is so awful on so many levels that any detailed criticism would be pointless.


This is worse: Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien arrive for the church wedding of Prince Pieter Christiaan and Anita van Eijk at the Jeroenskerk in Noordwijk on August 27 2005 . Accept my apologies for what I said about your wide belts, Michelle O!


Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien attend a dance performance in honour of the wedding of Princess Mabel and Prince Johan Friso November 24, 2004 in The Hague. Once again, words fail me.

That's it for now. Here is more, should you feel like it.

Don't get me wrong. She looks like a thoroughly NICE woman and has a kind and open smile. Obviously, royalty don't have any advisers who tell them when they cross the border from tasteless to farcical. The three royal brothers all married statuesque blondes with bad dress sense. Taken Mom into consideration, that's old Doctor Freud for you.

And to end this, as I like to do, on a positive note, here is the only not just less awful, but genuinely nice picture I could find. Sadly, there is neither a date nor an occasion given.

So it IS, after all, possible:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh my... Whither goest thou, Royalty?

I love royal weddings. Why? Frankly, mainly because of the stylish dresses. Because of the formality. But then, I am a monarchist at heart. Basically, I trust God more to give the right child to a monarch than I trust people to elect the right head of state. I like to see a country and a people represented in a dignified manner, too.

I hate royal weddings. Why? Because none of the above seems to apply anymore.

Victoria of Sweden is not classically beautiful, but to call her pretty would be an insult to her striking looks. She comes across as a very dear and, yes, special girl as well and her obvious devotion to her husband is touching. I wish her all the luck and happiness in the world, but I think her choice in a wedding dress is doubtlessly superior to that of a husband. But what do I know. I may be wrong. Indeed, I hope that I AM wrong.

What is it, that makes the guy look so incongruous? He is dressed alright, he is not ugly, he comes across as nice. Yet this is a weird picture. It could be headed: "Future Queen of Sweden Marries Gigolo from the Fish'n Chips Shop". What is wrong? The hair? The sideburns? The glasses?

It was a mistake to suck up to the feminist zeitgeist and make a woman heir to the throne when Victoria was born. She comes across as down-to-earth and stable as a woman can possibly be, but it is a simple fact that women, if they are not of the totally off-the-wall maniacally self-centered sort, like, say, the deceased Queen of Hearts who Di-ed for our sins, are naturally better suited to the one-step-behind-the-spouse role, as was impressivelly proven by the mother of the bride.

Queen Silvia of Sweden née Sommerlath -- absolutely picture perfect as the mother of a bride who is the heir to the throne of Sweden. The (as we would say in German "old rose") colour is lovely, cut and fabric perfect and the jewellery simply gorgeous. She is, at 66, still a beautiful woman; maybe she's a tad too painfully "well preserved".

Sad to say, her second daughter got it all wrong and looks as if they'd gotten a style adviser for her from the former GDR for the wedding together with the chocolate truffles. With the awful dress, baby blue, ruching and all, not to speak of the skunk stripes in her hair and the tanning-salon complexion, she looks exactly like the post-communist young women here in East Germany, because one of the many things Communism destroyed is good taste. However, why a daughter of the King of Sweden would want to look like that (and why they let her get away with it) is beyond me. I guess we can be thankful for small mercies and that her brother didn't sport an earring and a basecap backwards to match his sister's outfit.

The order of the rest of ghost train parade is more or less arbitrary.

The Queen of Spain's dress ist just like its wearer, unobtrusive, dignified and goodlooking. However, who ever clad her daughter in that ... thing with tassels ought to be banned to the colonies. Everything to look "ethnic", I guess.


This is the fat, pink and blonde heir to the throne of Holland together with his Michelin Man in a condom wife. How two generations of extraordinarily goodlooking German husbands could remain unable to improve the looks of that brood, how a Claus von Amsberg was able to father THAT, is beyond me.

They are cheap, too. The fabric for the condom must have come from a discarded sofa.


Well, what can one say... More Dutch.


And even more Dutch. (Did she wear THAT in church?)


Glossy magazine scum. Ugly, too.


To be honest, if they'd rigged Mom with a different hairdo and different glasses and Dad with a better haircut, MoG and FoG would have looked better than most of the nobility present. (WHAT is it, that makes the hair of those lower middleclass men look all wrong?)


Nice, pleasant, well turned out, conventional, boring people -- as it ought to be.


This is Princess Benedikte of Denmark, younger sister of the Queen of Denmark, Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, with her husband the German Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. I have a hunch that she is wearing a dress in the colours of her birth nation's coat of arms, which would be ultra-formal. Princess Benedikte is actually a bit younger than Queen Silvia. That's old versus new aristocracy for you.


Here we have the heir to the throne of Norway with his wife, a former druggie and unwed mother, in the bedroom curtains. Everything not to appear classy!


This is the Queen of Denmark with her consort. Actually, it is so incredible that it defies belief. We have seen the Queen of England in similarly hideous outfits, but at least she is a pleasant looking, petite woman. This one struts her stuff like a cross between a Guard's officer and the Shrek. Hell, there must be acres of that green eyesore. And look at that fat husband in his peacock uniform! The hat! And he looks as debauched as only a Frenchman can, which is probably not his fault, but still... YUCK!


This is the heir to the throne of Spain with his wife. What a handsome couple! He is the image of his stately, gentlemanly father and the understated uniform becomes him very well. Send your uniform tailors to Denmark, please!

I'm not too keen on the colour of her dress (isn't it called "nude"?), neither on the fussy appliqués, but that woman would look good in a potato sack, so what the hell.


This is the heir to the throne of Belgium with his utterly lovely wife Mathilde. While the colour of the dress is beautiful, the cut is too fussy for my taste, but this woman radiates a warmth all the other women, the bride apart, are lacking. Her husband looks much better than he used to when they married more than ten years ago, which probably means that he is very happy.


This is Queen Rania of Jordan with her pug husband. She overslept and didn't have time to have her hair done in a manner apropos to the occasion. Her tiara is from wholesalecheapjewelry dot com, her sneering expression home made.


Yes, I admit I have a problem with Muslims. However, the religion of peace may not even be at the root of this. Maybe it IS, after all, only a matter of bad manners, but do YOU think that this sloppy, slutty hairdo, the notable lack of jewellery plus the understated dress, and -- for Heaven's sake! -- TEXTING at a royal wedding in front of the world's cameras, again with that smug, sneering expression, is NOT a statement?

I may add to this should I find good photos.

Edited to add:

You won't believe this:

Honest to God, I didn't believe that anything could beat Queen Margarethe's Shrek costume, but Queen Sonja of Norway wins this hands down. Words fail me.


This is a Christmas cracker dressed up as the Queen of Holland. Dress sense prevails in that family.


And to end this on a positive note: Prince Alois of Liechtenstein and his wife Sophie, a Wittelsbacher Princess, got it SO right. I wish she'd waived the silly looking little train, but what the hell! Other than that, they are perfect. Maybe endogamy helps, but whatever. Being young, royal AND dignified is possible.

Being old, royal and farcical too.

By the way, after the death of her childless uncle Duke Francis of Bavaria and that of her father Prince Max Emanuel, she will be the Jacobite heir to the throne of England, Scotland, Ireland and France. My vote, you have, Sophie, for all it's worth!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Commie" Art for Beakerkin



The Song of the Volga Boatmen is a well-known traditional Russian song collected by Mily Balakirev, and published in his book of folk songs. It is a genuine barge-haulers' shanty.

The song, also called The Volga Burlak's Song, was inspired by Repin's famous painting, Burlaks on the Volga, depicting the suffering of the people in the depth of misery in Tsarist Russia.

The song was popularised by Feodor Chaliapin, and has been a favourite concert piece of bass singers ever since. Glenn Miller took the song to #1 in the US charts in 1941.

Methinks commies produce the odd fine male specimen as well! ;-)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Seeping-in Sharia

I posted this at Roncesvalles in April but, alas, the style-implications went totally over my head. So here it is with an added stronger focus on style.

HuffPo knows what REALLY interests us:
Sheikha Mozah Meets The Royals In Fabulous Fashion
(PHOTOS, POLL)


Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned of Qatar, normally known for her unapologetically monochromatic ensembles, really mixed things up during a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on Tuesday.

But two days later, she returned to the monochromatic Mozah we know and love [sic!] when she and Prince Charles attended a reception and planted a Sidr tree to mark the opening of the Qur'anic Garden Exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens [sic!].



Quick Poll

Which look do you like best?

Look 1 (with Queen Elizabeth) for attending a stoning in Iran
Look 2 (with Prince Charles) for attending a beheading in Saudi Arabia
To be honest, neither. She'd even make a burqa look good, so why not?
Rest assured, this is gallow's humour!

The original entry ends here, so what do I SERIOUSLY think about those dresses? I think that the mixed ensemble is plain ugly -- specifically the colours -- and way below what that stunningly beautiful woman is usually wearing. The grey dress is then again more up to her usual standard, although the leaf-shaped ... things look a bit weird. But the colour, the cut -- perfection! Mind you, with a face like that a headscarf looks positively attractive. I have known men (in the pre-Islamisation age) who said that they are turned on by it. So there goes your sharia-compatible modesty.

But what bothers me most is the fact that with the help of this, in her own way, extremely stylish woman, Islam and sharia are not just sold as a lifestyle where a woman is forced to dress "modestly", but as one where a woman, who is one of three, well, wives, can become a role model and fashion icon in our culture and nobody bothers or even mentions the fact that she, with all her beauty, her wit, her style, her Western education and her political and business acumen, is, if we for once take our own standards seriously, a concubine.

But we don't take our own standards seriously, in fact, we have forgotten them.

Notabene that I haven't labelled this entry "Royalty". Monarchs derive their authority from God.

Rehabilitating English Cooking I

I don't know how this is viewed in America. At my end, "English cooking" is a joke on a par with Austrian (or Italian) military prowess, French morals, Russian teetotalism or German humour. Well, not ALL clichés are true, and that about English cooking is plainly wrong. I can only guess that it comes from those many German pupils who are sent for a couple of weeks to England to improve their language skills (which they never do) and who are usually hosted by working class families who want to make a small profit from it. I am not talking about top restaurants, which are bound to be good, I am talking about home cooking and pub grub and both are so far above everything I have known in my own country that it defies belief. So here are a few recipies:
HOT WATER CRUST PASTRY
Cooking time: as specific recipes

This pastry is made by melting the fat in the water, then adding the flour. It is ideal for cold savory pies. The pastry must be kept warm during rolling and shaping to prevent it breaking. lt is also known as raised pie pastry.

350 g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
100 g lard or cooking fat
150 ml milk or water

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Put the lard or cooking fat into a saucepan with the milk or water and heat until melted. Remove the pan from the heat then add all the flour to the hot mixture, stir well until blended. Allow the dough to cool slightly, so it can be handled, then knead until smooth. Placethe portion required for the base and sides of a pie on a lightly floured board and roll out to desired shape. Keep the rest ofthe pastry, which may be needed for the lid of a pie, in a warm place. Shape and bake as specific recipes.

Variation:
You can add an egg yolk for extra flavour without affecting the amount of liquid.

VEAL AND HAM PIE
Cooking time: 2 1/2 hours • Serves 6
To make the Veal and Ham Pie follow the hot water crust pastry recipe.
For the filling use a total of 900 g veal and ham - this can be equal quantities of each meat or 675 g of veal and 225 g cooked ham. The meats should be diced and mixed together. The method of filling then baking the pie is as given for the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie but omit the anchovy fillets. The stock can be flavoured with a little finely grated lemon zest. It is usual to hard-boil 2 to 4 eggs and put these in the centre of the meat.

When cold, the pie is filled with a jellied stock.

VEAL, HAM AND CHICKEN PIE
Another less usual version of this pie is made by using approximately 675 g thinly sliced uncooked chicken flesh and layering this with the mixture given for Veal and Ham Pie. Bake as the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.

MELTON MOWBRAY PORK PIE
Cooking time: 2 1/2 hours • Serves 6
This pie it is said to have been invented by a baker in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, in 1830. The inclusion of anchovy fillets with pork is unusual but quite good.

625 g lean boneless pork from the leg
225 g fat boneless pork from the belly
6 to 8 anchovy fillets
3 tbspoons white stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot water crust pasty from 350 g flour (see above)
1 egg to glaze the pastry
For the jelly:
150 ml white stock
1 teaspoon gelatine

Dice both kinds of pork and blend together. Chop the anchovy fillets and mix with the meat, add the stock. Allow to stand while making the pastry. Season with very little, if any, salt but with pepper. Make the hot water crust pastry as above.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F, Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease an 18 cm/7 inch round tin with a loose base or a proper raised pie springform tin, which is usually oval. Roll out two-thirds of the dough (keep the rest warm). Cut a shape to fit the base ofthe tin, and a band the depth and circumference of the sides. Insert the pastry in the tin, moisten and seal the edges. Moisten the top edges of the pastry.

Put in the filling. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out the lid. Place over the filling and seal the edges. Beat the egg and brush over the pastry.

Traditionally this kind of pie is decorated with pastry leaves and a rose or tassel, so make these from the left-over pastry. Make a slit in the centre of the pastry lid for the steam to escape. Press the leaves and rose or tassel on top of the pie, brush with egg.

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Lower the heat slightly after 2 hours, if the pastry is becoming too brown. Allow the pie to become quite cold.

Pour the 150 ml stock into a basin, add the gelatine, stand for 2 to 3 minutes then dissolve over hot water. Cool until like a thick syrup. Insert a small funnel into the slit in the pastry lid and pour the jelly through this. Leave the pie in the refrigerator for several hours for the jelly to set, then serve cold with salad.
This is from Marguerite Patten, Classic British Dishes.

I owe the following to IPC! Yes, to the publisher.

I started to develop an interest in cooking relatively late in life. I the Nineties, I saw by chance the following recipe in a Christmas issue of Horse and Hound and as I was bored and love game terrine and as it all seemed to be pretty straightforward I thought why not give it a try. All of my friends who REALLY knew how too cook (one of them with a degree in domestic sciences) squeaked in anguish that THEY would NEVER have tried ANYTHING like that because it was much too fussy and difficult. However, it worked a treat and has again many times.

To quote a friend who has encouraged me all the way: "Everybody who can read can cook as well!"
GAME TERRINE
Serves 6-8

450g/1lb raw boneless game, such as duck, venison, pheasant, rabbit
1 onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
25g/2oz butter
1 egg yolk
450g/1lb minced belly of pork
55g/2oz fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
225g/8oz chicken livers (use duck or goose livers if you have them, soaked in milk for 30 minutes
85g/3oz pistachio nuts, shelled
450g/1lb rindless smoked bacon rashers, thinly sliced
For the marinade
port and/or red wine
bay leaf
onion slices
seasoning

1. Marinate the game overnight in red wine or port, together with the bay leaf, onion slices and seasoning. Remove and pat dry, then trim to remove all fat, skin and any sinews.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ Gas 4. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until softened. Reserve eight to nine good pieces of game, then blend the remaining game, egg yolk and onion in a food processor, until combined.

3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the belly of pork, breadcrumbs, thyme leaves and chicken livers. If using duck or goose livers, lightly sauté in butter before adding. Mix together well and add the pistachio nuts. Season generously-a terrine tends to need plenty of salt.

4. Grease a 900g/21b loaf tin and line, crossways, with the bacon rashers. Spoon in X of the mixture, then cover with a few pieces of reserved game pieces. Repeat layering until the tin is full, then fold the bacon rashers over the top, adding a few more lengthways, if necessary to cover top completely.

5. Cover the loaf tin with buttered paper, then foil. Stand in a roasting tin and pour in hot water to come halfway up the tin sides.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the terrine juices run clear when pierced with a skewer. Cool, then weight down to flatten. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to turn out. Slice to serve.
I forgot where I got this from:
Green Tomato Chutney

For 1 kg green tomatoes:
- at least 250 g brown sugar
- 200 ml white wine vinegar
- Ca. 1 tablesoppn of salt
- coarsely grinded onions to taste
- fresh garlic, crushed, to taste
- fresh jalapeño peppers finely chopped, to taste (careful!)
- fresh ground ginger, to taste
- Additional spices: mace, lemon zest and cardamom to taste.

Bring to boil and simmer on low heat until thickened, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or even burning. I had to throw away the entire content of a huge saucepan once.

If you have a large amount, it can take hours and it will stink. Be prepared to answer back to complaining neighbours.
There's more to come!

Blog Suggestion

There are many good blogs around. However, few can claim to be all, informative, literate, fun to read and nice to look at. I therefore strongly recommend Jenn's blog "worth a fig". It is much more than just a cooking and recipe blog, but go and see for yourselves.

Jenn and I became online friends about ten years ago, then lost track of each other when she went to Mexico. Thanks to Facebook (by the way, one of the most unsmart things on earth, but it has its use) I have recovered her. Thank you, Facebook!