Monday, 30 September 2013

Chestnut Locomotive of Don F. de Paula Cousiño

The picture I republish here has to do with Colin Davies’s blog of today. Click here to seeit. Colin’s text not only gave an excellent description of the lamentable country I live in (when crossing the street, that is) but also gave rise to a long exchange on a great Pontevedra personality (Don F. de Paula Cousiño) who fed the visitors of the market at the harbour for over 40 years. (See the section of Commentaries on Colin’s blog).

The only known photograph of Don Fernando’s ‘chestnut locomotive’ which I have been able to locate is this one from the 1955 funeral of the lawyer Don Laureano Maria Muñoz, somewhere on the outskirts of town, in which we see Don Fernando’s hardware in the lower left hand corner. If you look really well, you may notice that the well-dressed kid just above the locomotive actually just pinched a sardine from Don Fernando’s platter and is trying to hide it in his sleeve. That’s rich folk for you! Pinching sardines at a funeral!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mayonaise Label Collection: Horrible Hair Mayo and African Pride

Yes, dear reader! As we said yesterday (1): it was Hair Mayonnaise in which Hannibal entered my kitchen!!! The brainlobeless oaf had smeared some repugnant concoction of egg yolk and kerosene into his curly locks, wrapped his head in a turban of cellophane and ran over to my house so as to… so as to… well, I guess so as to cause me a massive heart attack at the sight of an immoral abuse of gastronomic delights, with the object of getting his hands on my considerable collection of Erotica by way of a heirloom… (He knows I have no children of my own and would never leave it to the loutish Louvre…)

            ‘WHY Hannibal…? WHY….??’ I groaned in despair once I had regained my breath.
            ‘It’s an Afro-American thing, Dedushka,’ he explained enthusiastically. ‘I’m going Gettho-in the-hood, like all my brooozers. I’ll be Hannibal X from here on!’
            ‘Oh for crying out loud,’ I exclaimed, as I felt bitter racist emotions unknown to my liberal mind bubble to the surface of my cortex. ‘Why – if you must go on a Black Pride binge – can you not become a Black Panther? Or Angela Davis in male drag? Or a Blues Singer, and at least sing for your supper instead of smearing it all over your face???’
            ‘Because he can’t sing two notes in tune!!! And he’s colour-blind on top!!’ screamed the awful Ivana from below the kitchen table, where she had curled up in euphoric convulsions, between her hilarious gurgled giggling. ‘He couldn’t shift blues from greens or yellows!’
            ‘Shut up, you horrid little-- …’ I did not speak the word that elder sisters always deserve. Instead, I swallowed, and addressing the boy as calmly as I could: ‘Just tell me, Hannibal… What is it supposed to be good for? Why do you abuse perfectly good Mayonnaise that has done you no wrong? Does it make you smarter? More Afro-American? Sexier??’
‘It makes my hair soft and moist, Dedushka,’ he explained. ‘Girls love that. Especially Beyoncé… I do it for her…’ (2)

Sometime, dear reader, I wonder why God has been so cruel as to let me live this long and see the Untergang into which our modern decadent Abentland is inevitably sliding. Good old Spengler had an easy time of it. He only had to predict these horrors; I have to live them. For yes indeed: it exists! It is no fantasy of Hannibal’s, this Hair Mayonnaise. No sick culinary phantasmagoria he picked up from evil Facebook pages. I checked, googled and imagesearched… and it is all over the web and all over the globe. To give you but a few examples, here are some (invariably organic, ecological, new-age, aquarius and sustainable) brands of the despicable invention:

And here is an advertisement that promises innocent young women the looks of a… of a… Beyoncé let’s say, if only they pollute and contaminate their perfectly fine physiognomy with such parodies of the Golden Sauce… (And I am too old, educated and decent to imagine WHERE ELSE they possibly smear this stuff so as to be Soft and Moist...!!!)

Nay, nothing is holy in this perverse world! Not love. Not beauty. Not liberté, egalité et fraternité. And not even Mayonnaise…!!

And it is always the young that get ensnarled first, and easiest, by such devilish perversions. Hannibal, oh my Hannibal! He used to be such a fine lad when the Velikov’s adopted him 7 years ago! Cheerful, upright, simple, contend with a handful of injira. Authentic. Unspoiled. Natural. It would never have occurred to him then to fool around with foodstuff. And he deeply respected Mayonnaise, as any normal healthy child will when kept away from the evil influence of television sets, commercials and Spanish education…

It was with tears in my eyes, dear reader, that later the same evening, as the insufferable Ivana Suffragette had led the young victim of moronic modern fashion away to their parents’ home down the hill, I stared at and turned around in my trembling hands this heart-breaking snapshot of young Hannibal, still unspoiled, still pure, still a true African, showing off the one Ethiopian brand of Mayonnaise that we had been able to secure in a Greek-owned supermarket called Bambi in Addis Ababa… And I cried, dear reader. Alfred B. Mittington cried, the bitter tears of old age that realizes it cannot protect the young from the travesties of Progress…  

Eth1. Coroli. Addis Ababa, October 2006. Birr 9,97 (€ 0,90) for 250 ml.

Ethiopia is a splendid land, of countless marvels. Ethiopians are most amiable people, who surely belong to the friendliest folk on earth. But – Oh, Unity of Opposites! – Mayonnaise plays no role of importance in their lives or their cuisine. The closest we ever got to the Golden Sauce during two weeks of steady, elaborate, thrice-daily meals in bistros and restaurants was a single teaspoon of lank tartar-sauce, dropped indifferently on top of a dehydrated sliver of fried Tilapia “English style”. It was a gastronomic Ach-Weh! Erlebnis. One sometimes does wonder how certain nations survive…

Obviously, the root of the problem is a long-established lack of interest. Granted: Mayonnaise does not sit well with the traditional Ethiopian dish, Injira, which is, essentially, a pancake of huge dimensions baked from Tef, the smallest cereal on the book, which grows on the highest plains of the earth, and whose spongy mass gets eaten collectively by the group, garnished with a little meat, some vegetables, some spices and some very hot yellow stuff in powdered form. Since this staple dish is eaten by hand, the addition of Mayonnaise would surely turn one’s social event into a sticky mess… Yellow sauce would cover the carpets and the sofas. Oily substance would drip down elbows and shirtsleeves… One would not only BE what one eats, but LOOK it as well (which is considerably worse…)

And yet, to speak the truth, we cannot blame the Ethiopians for their lack of interest: for what chance is offered to this fine nation to learn to appreciate the Golden Sauce? Almost none whatsoever! Take the Mayo in question: this Coroli 250 ml was indeed a most common product, one which a shopper might discover and acquire in any of the 175 countries on the globe, in any two-bit supermarket on any backstreet of any plain old town. Colour, taste and texture were all correct – but where was the soul?? Small wonder, with catering such as that, that developing nations never develop a taste for the few worthwhile aspects of Western Culture!

The only notable feature of this brand is that – with its unmistakable Italian name (a must for any “luxury product” in Ethiopia; another brand we saw, but did not taste, was called Calypso, for crying out loud!) – it was produced in, and got imported from, the plain old town of Zwolle, in Holland, where Thomas à Kempis came from. Which was a long way for so weak a sauce to wander…

(1) For the very few illiterate baboons among you who have no ideas what this refers to: it is a most subtle historical hint to an marvellous episode from Spain’s lively 16th century. In the latter part of that century, Fray Luis de Leon (1528 – 1591), a Salamanca theologian who held some rather daring opinions and did some daring deeds of translation, was arrested by the Inquisition and investigated on charges of heresy. He spent 5 years in jail as the trial crawled forward, and was then released through the intervention of powerful friends. As he started his next lecture in the Salamanca university, he simply resumed where he had left of, with the phrase: como decíamos ayer, i.e. ‘as we said yesterday’. The man has a sense of humour…!

(2) I had never heard of Beyoncé either, dear reader, and at first I took it for the name of a sauce (as in Béchamel or Velouté). It turns out, however, that this is an Afro-American lady singer of some fame and talent, and considerable ‘feminine assets’ if you don’t mind me saying so, whom young Hannibal has had a crush on ever since he turned 8… Unfortunately she won’t return his calls or answer his emails so far… But Hair Mayonnaise is supposed to change all that…

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Golden Quotebook: Saki on Turkish Baths and Massacres

On this momentous date, when we commemorate both the attack on the Twin Towers twelve years ago and General Pinochet’s coup d’état of 1973 in Chile (yes, indeed: him that ‘brought Democracy to Chile’ in the Iron Lady’s immortal words), it is perhaps a useful thing to remind ourselves that not all evil actually has a purpose. Or, in the words of the inimitable Hector Hugh Munro:

Spayley had grasped the fact that people will do things from a sense of duty which they would never attempt as a pleasure. There are thousands of respectable middle-class men who, if you found them unexpectedly in a Turkish bath, would explain in all sincerity that a doctor had ordered them to take Tur­kish baths; if you told them in return that you went there because you liked it, they would stare in pained wonder at the frivolity of your motive. In the same way, whenever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out "under orders" from somewhere or another; no one seems to think that there are people who might like to kill their neighbours now and then.

[Saki: ‘Filboid Studge, the story of a mouse that helped’.]

Armenia 1915

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Homeward bindings

We are back, dear reader! And as we negotiated the last sandy curve in the bridle path to the village, a most intriguing question pressed itself upon my ever active mind. A question which I will gladly share with you to hear your opinion.

If it really be true that ‘To depart is to die a little’, as Haraucourt had it, then does one also, on coming home, rise from the dead like a mummy in a B-movie?

Rentrer c’est ressusciter aussi peu ??

Just asking, as I feel a little weak of late…

Yours, as ever,

Alfred B. Mittington