comment

She’s an Easy Peeler?

IMG_1873

 

09.03, Friday 5th September 2014

My hair is damp from the shower and my appetite is unsatisfied after a not very easy to peel, yet pleasingly sweet clementine. I’m moderately irritated that I was deceived into parting with fifty pence extra to taste the difference and improve my access to fruit. Surely this marketing implies that fruit for fifty pence less is not tasty. If this is the case, why is it being sold in the first place? If you cannot afford tasty, easy peel fruit, you must battle through thick-skin that will inevitably wedge itself uncomfortably under your thumb nail to reach a meagre reward of pithy, bland, stale-tasting citrus.

Supermarkets have cashed in on the fact that consumers prefer to get to their fruit effortlessly. Consumers want convenient fruit with a thin, supple skin that comes away from the inner flesh in one, aesthetically appealing spiral. We want easy, quick pickings. A commercial genius realised that varying prices can be applied not only to the edible part of the fruit but also to the skin, nature’s very own biodegradable packaging.

Bananas, although readily willing to give up their soft, sweet, yellow flesh to any remotely dexterous creature, have an easily bruised package.  Consumer distaste for mushy, brown bits and our fondness for the finger-herb at a rate of consumption of 100 nanas per Briton per year, that’s over 5 billion bananas eaten every year in the UK alone, inspired the invention of products like the banana guard and the ridiculous use by it’s makers of the term ‘banana trauma’.

Mango, papaya, passion fruit, kiwi and melon, although delightful exotics, require preparation and are perhaps consumed more at weekends when people have time to peel, scrape and chop.

The dragon fruit’s hot pink skin belies its disappointing lack of flavour. So once one has ventured beneath the vibrant surface, you learn that dragon fruit simply does not provide bang for your buck. Nature is a liar, the dragon is a myth that haveth not fire.

The pomegranate that has reached the dizzying status of superfood is frustratingly messy and time-consuming to access with endless tapping to remove its reluctant jewelled seeds. Its juice is so tricky to extract that some health seekers will pay the exorbitant price charged by one popular brand of £5.01 per litre!

And don’t even talk to me about coconuts. I have battled with hammer and blunt knives against the woody shell of that sweet, white fruit. Anyone who buys a coconut more than once, is almost certainly an expert with a machete and is probably best avoided, if not reported to the local constabulary.

Supermarket misrepresentation of citrus fruit has highlighted the following things:

1. I am an unfocused, irritable, trivial and hungry human, just cellular gunk with a wavering conscience applied to matters of little consequence and I am in need of a leaden piece of yeast extract-smeared rye toast.
2. I abhor the cunning of a market that capitalises on fruit peel.
3. I am angered by my own suggestibility.
4. I shall not pay Lord Henry Super Money Bags Market more money to get into my fruit. To hell with it! I might even buy an orange next time.

In the words of the young Russian chap in the unmissable blockbuster film below entitled: ‘You’ve Been Peeling Clementines Wrong’,

‘Don’t get offended. Boom! Just pull it off and eat it, pull it off and eat it.’

love

Fruitloops

Cue tenuous musical exit

The Little Prince – Review

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Little Prince is a magical tale about a pilot who crashes his plane in the Sahara and meets a boy; a little Prince. The pilot is enchanted by the sweet enigmatic boy and they soon become friends. The little Prince reveals his origins and shares his innocent wisdom. The pilot is slowly reconnected with a long-forgotten way of seeing; a child’s truth that he had learnt to suppress in order to become a socially acceptable adult concerned solely with ‘matters of consequence’.

The inter-stellar adventures of the cherubic boy show the pilot the absurdity of a material world concerned with placing numerical and monetary values upon beauty and life. The man is reminded of the futility of the human race.  The little Prince and the pilot together learn about friendship, love and loss.

In the unassuming demeanour of a child, there is a powerful voice that tricks you into thinking it is but a whisper when in reality, it hollers at your conscience and summons your spirit.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince is one of the most treasured books I have ever read. There are some tales that are made of gold. Live with it. Live with the Little Prince on his asteroid.

View all my reviews

 

About the Author

Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger comte de Saint Exupéry had a very long name.  He was a French aristocrat and aviator.  On December 30, 1935 at 02:45 a.m., after 19 hours and 44 minutes in the air, Saint-Exupéry, along with his mechanic-navigator André Prévot, crashed in the Sahara desert. They were attempting to break the speed record in a Paris-to-Saigon air race (called a raid) and win a prize of 150,000 francs.Their plane was a Caudron C-630 Simoun, and the crash site is thought to have been near the Wadi Natrun valley, close to the Nile Delta.

Both miraculously survived the crash, only to face rapid dehydration in the intense desert heat. Their maps were primitive and ambiguous, leaving them with no idea of their location. Lost among the sand dunes, their sole supplies were grapes, two oranges, a thermos of sweet coffee, chocolate, a handful of crackers, and a small ration of wine. The pair had only one day’s worth of liquid.

They both began to see mirages and experience auditory hallucinations, which were quickly followed by more vivid hallucinations. By the second and third day, they were so dehydrated that they stopped sweating altogether. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and administered a native rehydration treatment that saved their lives. The near brush with death would figure prominently in his 1939 memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars, winner of several awards. Saint-Exupéry’s classic novella The Little Prince, which begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert, is in part a reference to this experience.

 

Biography source: http://www.poemhunter.com/antoine-de-saint-exupery/biography/

 

Interesting 1979 clay animation film of the Little Prince with bonkers music.  Warning: If you haven’t read the book, don’t watch this film in case you cannot get the unremittingly screechy voice behind the little Prince out of your head. 🙂

 

 

Life after Life – Review

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life after Life is a story about a baby, a child and a woman called Ursula who is gifted, or cursed, with the reliving of the same life and the ability to remember her previous lives. The story spans two world wars and its robust historical context provides a tumultuous and fascinating stage for the lives of Ursula and her family, lovers, friends and foe.

In each life, the protagonist effects a change in response to the last, and profound questions are raised both in her individual life stories and as a philosophical theme throughout the book about whether we have the capacity to change our fates and if we did, would it really matter?

It took me seventy pages to get into the story as it leaps across time and lives. This may just be my de-cluttering from the last book I read or a rather slow warming up period to adapt to a new type of narrative structure. But once I was in, I was definitely in and my struggle was rewarded handsomely.

I found the meditative circular rhythm of the many-ended story simply entrancing, soothing and strangely nourishing. Atkinson’s deliciously sophisticated structure serves to build up intrigue in Ursula’s life choices, events and relationships and a commitment to staying with her and finding out if she could and should make a difference.

I only finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and while the concept, structure and context of the story has stayed with me, the characters are long gone and I’m struggling to remember their names. This is unusual for me. I normally remember people, even fictional ones.

Ursula has several lovers in various lives, but I did not get a sense that any of them were significant and they were quite forgettable. The only real tenderness seems to be for her brothers and her father Hugh, who was perhaps her only true love. I could attribute this to a learnt mistrust of men but her female relationships are all quite absent of emotion at the same time.

There is a distance in each character that keeps them on the historical stage, rather than bringing them to life. If it were only one or two characters, I’d assume it were intentional, but as it is most of them, for me, perhaps there is something about writing people into history and in emphasising the popular notion of a ‘stiff upper lip’ war-time mentality, contact with the frailty of human emotion is sacrificed or lost.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Life after Life. It is a brilliantly engaging novel for its intelligent narrative structure, grounding historical context and the philosophical questions it tantalisingly toys with on the cyclical nature of life and its infinite possibilities.

View all my reviews

The Distance Between Us – Review

The Distance Between UsThe Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story of two strangers, Stella living in London and Jake living in Hong Kong is woven together cleverly. The chapter-less structure of the story where you hop back and forth from one paragraph to the next between the parallel lives of the two love interests manages to gradually entwine Stella and Jake beautifully in the readers mind. The past is unravelled with evocative and viscerally described childhood and coming of age experiences that explain the relationship between the two sisters, Stella and Nina, in all its gloriously unhealthy insularity as well as inviting the reader to witness and relate to the complicated and competitive love between siblings.

I realise I may be biased here in relating to the female characters more, but I suppose Stella is the protagonist and as such I was given more reason to invest in hers and Nina’s story. I found a lack in Jake that left me a little cold and the emptiness in his character does not resolve itself at any point, but perhaps it is not meant to. His mother Caroline, on the other hand, is very interesting and I enjoyed the dialogues between Jake and his down to earth friend Hing Tai, who, to me, has a warm and immediate humour about him and a certainty to counter-balance Jake’s watery nature. But Jake himself seemed a little undeveloped. Consequently, I don’t think I cared too much about what happened to him.

There is something about the strength of the peripheral characters in this book, like Stella’s mother, Francesca, and her friendship with Evie, who we get to know just enough about to like and engage with, that add a quality whereby the field of vision is extended widely beyond the main plot. Because of this, because they are not too prescribed, the characters stay with you and grow organically and effortlessly.

I read The Distance Between Us in three nights which for me, as a SLOW reader, is pretty quick and testament to very well placed hooks and shows. I’m sure a normal person could gobble this lingering and resonance-rich novel up in no time at all. Overall, an enjoyable and sensory read.

View all my reviews