LUCY KIPPIST’S AUGUST ALMANAC
August: Inspiring awe or admiration; majestic.
Aha! Finally a month whose name and meaning can also be used as an adjective. And what a great [sic] one at that! I jumped on the definition for August above because it draws away from any archaic and elitist notions of “noble birth” or being “above others” and makes August about inspiration, beauty and magic.
And, happily, this month looks full to the brim with that….
TO EAT: Blood oranges, tangelos, mandarins, Brussels sprouts, English spinach, celery, ginger and Jerusalem artichoke (above).
The Jerusalem artichoke is the Coco Chanel of vegetables. Elegant, dramatic and sophisticated. They’re also extremely versatile; just as beautiful in a vase as served on the plate. Sadly, their exotic name is very misleading, as these artichokes have nothing whatsoever to do with Jerusalem. According to etymologists, the Jerusalem artichoke originated from the Italian, Girasola articiocco, which means the Sunflower artichoke.
One of the most spectacular meals I’ve ever been made was a simple, white plate of steamed artichokes and home-made mayonnaise. I also distinctly remember the endless hand-beating of the mayonnaise; it was a real labour of love.
This recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine is the closest I can find to match my memory of eating it and the photograph does a great justice to just how magnificent this vegetable can look on a plate.
Nothing is less appealing in a person than snootiness… unless of course, they’re characters in Downton Abbey.
I’m a recent convert to this fictional series set in a grand Yorkshire country house in the early 20th century. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s pure porn for lovers of detail, period costume, British history and great, big magnificent houses. And don’t even start on the garden and grounds.
At the moment, I can’t seem to decide who has the better story line; the finely dressed Crawley family who endure crisis after crisis, in fine clothes, while having their every whim completely catered for. Or the myriad household staff and their intriguing complicated power struggles and love affairs, in the less glamorous bellows of the staff quarters. Regardless, their struggles are a fascinating distraction from your own and a magical history lesson.
The August flower is the gladiolas. With the deepest respect to the flower world, gladiolas feel kind of out-dated to me. Like a 1980s perm, roller blades, chuck steak or a silver lame handbag. This is sad because I covet their meaning: sincerity and strength of character. These two qualities are the backbone of great leaders and dear friends. Possess one and you’re worth knowing. Possess both and you’re indispensible!
Good Housekeeping: Good etiquette was clearly something of a second religion for the people of the Downton Abbey years, but modern folk are falling dismally behind. Or so says August’s edition of Good Housekeeping which has a list of then 10 top modern etiquette mistakes. From not telling your hosts your expected time of arrival, asking a stranger about the ethnic origin of their name to requesting a tour of the “rest of their house” when you’re at a friend’s place for dinner.
SHOPPING: This month’s admission: I have become a cake pan addict. This has come about for two reasons. 1: A faulty batch of cup cakes rendered my two best pans unusable. 2: I can’t walk past those tidy stacks of clean and shiny piles of baking accoutrements and Pyrex dishes without feeling compelled to pick one up. 3: It’s all Nigella’s fault. Ever seen that woman’s kitchen? Every pan and pot she uses is immaculately clean. Like it just came out of the box! Sensible people would do well to consult The Hoopla’s own Caroline Roessler’s list of “kitchen essentials”. See under cake tins: “A 23cm and a 30cm pan are a good start”.
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