El Cheapo Recipe: Peanut Soup

Before I plunge on with my investigations into the joy of English Tradition and food, an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation (it originally came out of someone’s mum’s cookbook from… somewhere).

What Put In Soup

1 wonky onion, chopped (< 6p)
1 stalk of celery, also chopped (13p)
1 wonky carrot, chopped (< 5p)
a moderate sprinkle of curry powder, ginger, and cayenne (or chilli flakes), and some black pepper (cumulatively works out at maybe 2p)
Say about 15g of peanuts, depending on how nutty you want it–(< 5p)
A generous dessertspoon of crunchy peanut butter (< 7p)
A generous dessertspoon of plain flour (8p)
1 stock cube dissolved in 300ml of hot water (5p)
A splash of oil for frying (7p)

Total: 58p. Celery and carrots are optional, you can also add minced garlic or substitute fresh ginger for ground if you like, and increase or decrease peanuts to taste. The ratio you don’t want to mess with is the stock / peanutbutter / flour one.

How Make Soup

Put your onion and oil in a pan. Start frying the onion. Add the celery and carrot as you go. If you’ve got garlic and fresh ginger at this point then add them too. Also add the peanuts but not the peanut butter.

Fry that and move it about in the pan so it doesn’t stick. Keep that up until the onions start to look sort of see-through a bit or go slightly limp. Then add the stock, peanut butter, and the spices but not the cayenne/chilli.

Stir until the peanut butter dissolves. Get that stuff up to the boil then turn it down to simmer and let it bubble a while. Then stir in your flour until that’s mixed in properly too.

Let everything cook down a bit until it’s thick, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick. Add your cayenne/chilli, let it go for maybe 1-2 minutes longer.

Put food in bowl, put bowl on table/knees etc, eat with spoon, congratulate self on making an entire meal which is basically peanuts.

A bowl of peanut-butter soup, on a cushion, next to a plate with a large crumpet on it and a glass teacup with some ginger root floating in it

Admittedly all I’ve really done here is make a less complicated and smaller serving of something else, and that soup is dangerously close to being satay sauce, but I think if you need to get a lot of protein/fat and calories into your body and don’t have a lot of money, you can start to get sick of peanut butter sandwiches pretty quickly, and it’s good to have other options.

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Old Made New

As promised in my post about English Cuisine:

Jack Monroe has done sterling work in looking up, for example, recipes in the British Library and converting them for the modern palate and the foodstuffs available to us; I’ve made “worts” from Cooking on A Bootstrap myself and found it a good base for all kinds of customisations, in line with Ramen Hacks.

I’m already in possession of cookbooks focussing on different eras of historical English cooking: The Form Of Curry ; Lobscouse and Spotted Dog; a British Museum publication medieval food, a compendium of cookable Saxon recipes…

With these providing inspiration and starting points, balancing availability and ease, and hopefully acknowledging the colonial influence on our modern palate, I’m hoping to be able to work my way towards “English” food that can be either complex or simple, challenging to eat or comforting, supermarket-lazy or foraging-and-gardening-hard.

Starting out with detailing those “Worts Hacks”, and some attempts at one recipe from a modern interpretation of Saxon recipes.

Worts and All

“Worts” isn’t a very appealing name. The description of the dish–“a kind of gruel or savoury porridge with vegetables in” isn’t very appealing either, but it’s actually incredibly nutritious and tastes fantastic. The rice version, kayu, is a staple of Japanese tables, and savoury millet porridge is a time-honoured dish in Chinese medical history (especially for women who’ve just given birth).

Jack Monroe includes this old English dish, updated, in Cooking on a Bootstrap, which gave me the opportunity to see if it was something that I could work with.

A photograph of Jack Monroe's Cooking on a Bootstrap book, a bowl of "worts" flecked with spinach, and a cup of ginger-based drink. There is also a wooden spoon.

Curry Worts:

An image of a bowl of worts, this time blurry and much more yellow

After watching Samin Nostrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I got a better idea of why Jack was making us put lemon juice in everything, and happened to have an orange sitting around… much less acidic, but an interesting flavour. The curry spices I added were purely because I, uh, periodically don’t think food is food if there’s no spices in it.

Pros: cheap to make (of course), easy to make, easy to modify
Cons: people are not going to like the idea of savoury porridge to begin with.

Saxon Sides

In my great mission to find Old Recipes Already Made New without actually having to eat my own bodyweight in rabbit because only rich people wrote things down, I found a pdf of helpfully-assembled Saxon dish recreations using plants which would have been available at the time, largely. Unfortunately not all of the ingredients were available to me, at the present moment, and a lot of substitutions had to be made…

150 gram hazelnuts / 110 gram butter / 1 handful sorrel / 1 bunch chives / 1/2 bunch wild marjoram / 1 kg chopped leeks / 1 kg shelled peas / 500g bulgar whear / large sprig mint / salt: fry nuts in butter, add chopped and washed leeks and herbs, sweat to opaque. Add peas, mint, salt and just cover with water, simmer until peas are cooked. Add bulgar wheat and cook until water absorbed, 5-8 min.

Take image from below post

A plate of steaming food featuring grains and legumes.

I had a dearth of the right ingredients (especially sorrel) and swapped peas for beans, wheat for rice–but the hazelnuts imparted an excellent flavour.

Take image from below post

A bowl of mixed grains and leeks with grated cheese on top

I got a little closer to the written recipe (without sorrel), having tinned peas and most of the herbs, but still no sorrel or wheat.

I will say that both versions tasted good, although very different tastes. The latter was much more interesting, but the former was more familiar to the modern palate.

a bowl of porridge with leeks and edamame in

Still no wheat, and had to substitute peas for edamame this time, but I finally got hold of some sorrel, and I’m very glad I did–it changes the whole flavour profile of the dish. Of course, the great thing about this experiment is that all three variants are dishes in their own right, and all were delicious in their own way.

Pros: Delicious, well-balanced.
Cons: can get expensive because some of the ingredients are harder to find that they would originally have been (especially the nuts), requires cooking coordination.

Get Ready to Rumbledethumps

A traditional and still much-loved Scottish recipe, a kind of baked bubble-and-squeak with cheese as a crowning glory, I figured this would be tasty comfort food.

an oven dish held in a teatowel, full of a creamy plain with an S of brown sauce sunk into the top

Verdict: bland. Needs a lot more salt, probably a bit more butter, and would benefit enormously from some fried garlic. Perhaps even garlic-frying the cabbage instead of boiling it lifeless would help?

Pros: very easy to make with leftovers, cheap ingredients, not likely to offend anyone.
Cons: bland, requires two rounds of cooking.

What now?

Having already had a bash at possibly the least English thing in Lobscouse and Spotted Dog (kitchiri, a teen favourite of mine), it may well be a good idea to try focussing a little earlier. I hear “golden leeks” is a pretty good dish, but I’m gonna need cash for saffron first.

Towards a real English Cuisine

Can you spare a few moments to think about English food? Try not to throw up in your mouth. I know the tradition ranges from “uninspiring” to “outright disgusting”, and is synonymous with colonialism, lack of imagination, poor nutrition, inferiority complex, and the rather bewildering tendency to just arrange items on a plate without anything holding them together. What I want to do is see what can be done about changing that: and this is, it turns out, inseparable from the politics of our present and of our past.

I’m going to start by talking about Brazil, and about Japan, because that’s how this thought achieved its genesis, although it’s been brewing away for a while, as you’re about to see. I’m also going to talk about America, and Russia, and about what this is, and what this isn’t.

Let’s talk about Nikkei

Fusion foods occur pretty much anywhere migrant populations settle in, and often in time they’re absorbed into the host culture as if they were always there, to be compounded and fused again when new populations move elsewhere. It’s really cool the way culture and human migration work! But I specifically want to talk about what Japanese migrants to Amazonas in Northern Brazil and to Peru etc did in the last century. It finally brought home something that had been dancing around the edges of my brain for a while, by recontextualising it:

Faced with a lack of traditional ingredients for the food they were used to, the immigrants improvised. They took local fish for the recipes they had brought with them; used local plants to produce familiar-and-yet-different iterations of the meals and components they remembered. Some of this was raw necessity combined with the very real homesickness we all feel when disconnected from what we’ve grown up with, especially in terms of food–and some of it was the heart of traditional Japanese cooking, a strong sense of place and connection to the local environment’s potential which comes more readily from Shintoism than from, say, Western Christianity. The result was a delicious, novel, unique fusion.

A devotion to local ingredients, native plants and animals, and a strong connection to the rhythms and possibilities of your own country is of course not just inherently Japanese. It’s something that all populations at some point, to some degree or other, have engaged in, or we wouldn’t exist at all. Seeing it in the context of a fusion of two cultures I don’t belong to helped clarify what I was thinking about, but it’s certainly not unique to either of them.

Indeed, some of this may sound familiar…

Getting wild about the wild

You may remember in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 a Danish restaurant with a strong ethos on providing local ingredients (often foraged) and local cuisine in a very high-class modern fine dining style was judged the best restaurant in the world. Noma has won a modest shedload of awards and done a great deal for making Scandinavian food–traditional food–cool again.

The movement hasn’t been limited to Denmark. Scotland, with a wealth of wild places and plants to draw upon, was already in on the deal before Noma scooped its top awards. Culturally, Finland has more or less never abandoned the right to forage and has begun re-embracing it with gusto. Once the bedrock of how humanity fed itself, it was hoped that this fine dining experience and scattered grassroots movements could coalesce into something more permanent, sustainable, and healthy.

Not everyone was convinced, however.

And I fully admit I’m drawing on more important work done by people who have lost significantly more, and more violently…

Reclaiming culinary traditions for health and cultural wellbeing

Destruction of traditional knowledge and the severing of a people’s connection to the land is one of the myriad crimes and atrocities of colonialism that went far beyond the simple acts of violence and brutality which grab the imagination. Resilient, resourceful, and struggling and deeply oppressed, communities strive to revive and redistribute knowledge that previously fed them and enriched them physically and emotionally.

Forced into food deserts, all across America Native communities have been rebuilding their agricultural and ecological-maintenance networks and producing both staple foods and convenience food products from traditional sources, reconnecting with the sacredness of food and feeding in their lives. Young chefs are combining fine dining and indigenous traditions drawn from multiple sources to revitalise the love of and connection to the food culture that these communities owned. And they are making beautiful plates of food.

Elsewhere, the trend continues. I think perhaps the English need to do what Vladimir Mukhin has done with traditional Russian cuisine, but perhaps in reverse. Our problem is not that we fail to celebrate our traditional food in the highest levels, but that is the only level at which we have acknowledged the existence of good, indigenous recipes at all. Mukhin has said that Russians have claimed there is no such thing as Russian cuisine. The same can be said of the English and perhaps for some similar reasons.

And still concepts which were once at the very core of how people fed ourselves are being derided as fads or fashions…

Nose-to-tail movement & eat the seasons

In any culture that values the animals it slaughters, for the work put into them and for the cost of keeping them, as well as the non-specific value of a life itself, making good use of every part of an animal is just common sense. Divorced from this practice by the rejection of behaviours connected to austerity/thrift in the rationing years during the decades that followed, the English found ourselves having to re-engage with concepts like “offal” and “feet” and “oxtail” that other cultures had simply never abandoned.

Some strong and loud proponents of movements such as “nose-to-tail” cooking have emerged. Keen to re-engage us with the best practice in butchery, thrift, variety and a grown-up palate, chefs and cookery writers began hitting TV and bookshelves with the notion that pretty much every part of an animal is edible and that we should be making the most of them. Some of them even broached the subject that, if you were going to kill something, it was far more respectful to actually make use of the whole animal instead of wasting that life.

Unfortunately, as ever the Great British Public has no appetite for being told what to do, and even less appetite for being told what to do by people who are successful, rich, or posh. The movement was enthusiastically embraced by the kind of people who would probably have eaten the stuff anyway–the adventurous, the gourmet, the gourmand, the seekers of the new, and the hipsters. Everyone else took their cue from the tabloids, turned their noses up at “posh people food”, declared sensible squeamishness, invoked the spectre of BSE/CJD, and and went about their burger-eating day.

Other attempts to reconnect the UK with its food sources, like suggesting that we return to the practice of eating seasonally in order to get food at its best and to lessen our reliance on high food-miles produce or energy-inefficient hothoused veg with no flavour have been met with similar disdain, indifference, or silence.

So far no one’s even suggested trying to get England to reconnect with its marine food supplies, despite our long and lovely coastline and abundant shellfish and small fish varieties (mostly exported). I suspect that’s because the English suspicion of fish has become so ingrained that getting us to so much as deviate from tinned tuna to tinned sardines constitutes an enormous leap.

Gradations of re-acclimating to food are clearly necessary.

How did we get here?

I’ve touched on what’s led to our general state of what I can only honestly describe as Food Stupidity above, and much-loathed celebrity chefs have all weighed in with fragmentary theories over the years, pointing to the current symptoms (lack of cooking knowledge, fear of various ingredients, cheap-and-nutritionally-void fast food) without looking into the longer-term causes.

Previously I’ve covered them in a more humorous style while talking about the fear and dislike of vegetables, but I think a truncated timeline would probably begin with the Enclosure Act and weave its way through Industrialisation, internal migration, urbanisation, two World Wars and the decimation of of generations (divided by a Depression which ruined things further) alongside rationing and austerity, and finally the “prosperous” rejection of anything that smacked of thrift or tradition. Meaning that when I was born in the early Eighties, there was a minor cultural war taking place between “awful but good for you”, and “tasty but possibly made out of a tape deck for all the good it will do you”, and whoever won, your digestive system lost.

As you might expect from something that takes in over 200 years of social change, there’s more than just “how do we eat more vegetables” and “where is our food identity” that needs addressing… As you might expect from something that takes in over 200 years of social change, there’s more than just “how do we eat more vegetables” and “where is our food identity” that needs addressing…

The bigger problems

Bringing back a more local-oriented, nurturing/nourishing, less instant cuisine to England is beset with obstacles and most of them are far beyond my power to do anything about.

The food infrastructure of the country (as many of us have discovered in the face of Brexit emergency planning) is heavily dependent on imports to provide year-round supplies to large supermakets for a public that’s been repeatedly taught that aspiration is out-of-season eating. Getting vegetables (and meat and other produce) from sources other than supermarkets is supremely difficult for many people, and while farmers’ markets, farm shops, and direct delivery services have made a dent in the monopoly of the supermarket, the lifestyles that have been created make it hard for these alternatives to take root. Local greengrocers/butchers/fishmongers/cheese shops and so on are a luxury most places don’t have.

A lot of anti food-waste campaigners have discovered the reality that while many households may also benefit from advice on how to use leftovers and store food correctly so that they don’t waste their own money on food they don’t eat, many of the problems also arise as a result of our industralised and borderline abusive farm/supermarket relationship, which produces environments harmful to supermarket workers, harmful to farm livelihoods, and detrimental to the efficiency of food production in the country as pricing structures and demands wrongly blamed on EU legislation (which is far more concerned with fairness of weights and measures and the health and safety of workers, livestock, and consumers) lead to illogical and frustrating practices becoming the norm. Even when farms aren’t being encouraged give up on crops by pricing or leave food to rot due to a lack of available labour (our current rules do not see fit to allow people to supplement JSA by doing seasonal labour, only to replace it at the potential cost of never being able to qualify for it again), the agribusiness landscape has become such that larger businesses are the only ones which can financially survive–by planting environmentally damaging monocrops and sluicing the fields with organophosphates rather than giving us a variety and sustainability.

We also face a terrible lack of education, not just in terms of food preparation and cooking skills (which took a serious blow with the generation preceding mine as their parents… failed to raise them, and then got punched in the neck in my generation as Home Economics classes were lobbed out of curriculums due to lack of funding, teachers, and interest from the Education Education Education government… Ironically). We’re also broadly very uneducated about how the farms & fishing industries create food, and what the food processing and manufacturing industries do. In other cultures farms and farming are viewed with some degree of sane respect, as the source of food, which is kind of important. Food and eating for the English continue to be a mysterious source of shame.

This lack of food education and disconnection from food production leaves us vulnerable to fad diets, and a particularly mendacious food press intent on selling these products, and on shifting the blame, where possible, to a shame-increasing culture of personal failing, which is then twisted up into class anxieties. People on limited means with limited time are berated for enjoying food that has been developed at the costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds specifically to be addictive and appealing (if unfortunately often nutritionally void and overpriced), then told that any intervention externally to provide alternative options is “nannying”, a serious impingement on their freedom to choose.

There is no freedom to choose if you are given no other options! The personal failing angle is milked to extremes. It is not the fault of people who don’t know how to cook that they don’t know: people are supposed to learn this as children from their communities, families, and teachers; institutions which are eroded by capitalism. Reskilling a population and helping to break through neophobia with food products is something that can’t be presented as a personal penance for “failed people” or as a wonderful “mission” for the privileged middle classes. Free resources, a welcoming social environment, a sense of reward and agency are all necessary for people effectively learning anything.

At least the moneyed classes who miss out on this knowledge have the option to enrol in cooking classes.

In a lot of other cultures too, kitchen gardens and self-sufficiency are a big part of understanding food. Allotments were part of food-growing reality still when I was very young, in the 1980s, and have been subsequently wrecked as an idea. “Growing your own” has been slowly mocked into the ground as backwards and contemptible, then picked up again by the privileged as a retro occupation and firmly branded “not for you” to the people who would benefit most from it. And increasingly we’re boxed into buildings with no access to any kind of growing space.

Community gardens–a brilliant, healing idea which get people in touch with nature, provide social contact for the isolated, skills for the unconfident, and free food for the hungry–are persistently unfunded, ignored, earmarked as other because of their associations and once again publicly derided as pathetic, and “not for you, the cool person reading this newspaper”.

But growing your own food takes time and requires the investment of effort; cooking from scratch does too. And we’ve created a society in which people need to work 3 jobs at once to survive; where it’s acceptable for homes to have no functional cooking facilities; where people have to make choices between heating and eating (cold, tinned food). We cannot attach blame to people who barely have time to eat at all for being unable to pass on cooking skills and food culture to their kids.

The problems are cultural: the arrogance of the moneyed class in assuming the landscape will bend to our financial requirements rather than suiting the farming to the landscape (as some farmers still do); the narrowing field of foods we’ll actually consume as neophobia and food ignorance deprive us of choice; the very character of the English that makes us resistant to being told what to do as long as there’s someone telling us that we’re not being told what to do. We’re constantly told our diet is poor (and it is), but never told the truth about why: it’s always because we “have no willpower”, rather than because we’ve societally detonated the concepts of seasonal eating, growing our own, buying from producers, shared foodstuffs, leftovers, or knowing what ingredients are–leaving us doing our best to survive on what we’re marketed and sold by companies who never see one hundred of the blame hurled repeatedly in the faces of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

What this isn’t

This is absolutely not a call for Splendid Isolation, Turning Back The Clock, Unindustrialise Now Because I’m A Hippy. Time and societies can only move forward from where they’ve reached, taking in mind all that has changed and all that has happened. Excavating a food culture from this mess is going to be an act of reinvention, and I think one that is sorely needed. It can’t be done through denial, either.

I cannot deny the role of England as a trading and colonising nation in shaping our post-Middle-Ages cuisine, nor how our lust for the new has brought both benefits and detriments to our diet; for a cuisine to reflect us and feed us we have to embrace that the nation is a paradox. A paranoid island fortress obsessed with exploration, terrified of the new but utterly addicted to it. Here to misuse spices, put sugar in absolutely everything, copy the French and claim we did it first, and to take to other people’s food with almost embarrassing gusto for such a traditionally mind-numbingly xenophobic people.

One way to embrace this is to, in this process, always take pride in the things we have gained from the enriching experience of immigration, and to remember that we have gone to great and frequently brutal lengths to get our hands on sugar, spice, tea, and coffee over the centuries and should probably not insult our own history by disavowing these things as “non-native” (as if we ever would; the English are world-renowned for our hypocrisy) any more than we should take credit for the dishes that we’ve purloined.

It’s also not some diabolical attempt to impose a Total Lifestyle Change on a population, or to sell recipe books, or aspirations. I just think it might be nice for a country coming to grips at last with its own status as Not Special Or Important Actually to have its own culinary identity, as food is so close to the heart–and that it may be helpful for our health and economy to look at feeding ourselves differently at least some of the time.

Why and how?

First of all, while I think that we’ve made attempts in this direction before, they’ve always been at the peak of fashionable cuisine. The kind of high-priced dining experience that is fated by the very nature of its exclusivity not to be a revolution but a trickle-down concept that might eventually descend to those of use with enough capital only to feel guilty that we can’t afford the right kind of saucepan.

Top-down changes don’t usually stick, especially around things as fundamental and as basic as food.

This may sound like the kind of proposal you submit to a government board for some funding to waste on ultimately getting nowhere. The kind that’s accompanied by a campaign of scolding and fronted by a celebrity chef and sparks only an angry response on Twitter and in the redtops about how we’re being nannied.

It won’t do, either. No one likes being lectured.

But there is a fundamental connection between what we feed ourselves and our sense of identity as a people. And if politics–the inevitable catastrophe facing neoliberal globalism being exploited by alarming nationalism–in the recent years has show anything, it has shown that a lot of populations are suffering from a serious identity crisis.

It’s been easy for malignant parties to frame this as the fault of immigration; the “influx” of a small percentage of the population, who bring new cooking techniques, languages, cultural practices, skills, and ideas, of which our fragile identities are immediately suspicious. The truth is I think that the rot began a long time ago with the imposition of identity in the form of nationalisms to be milked for support in endless wars of expansion.

If you’re thinking “I came here to read about food, not politics”, I’m sorry. Food is unfortunately inherently political, especially when people are being starved. There is no such thing as a natural famine–they are always exacerbated and manipulated by the ruling classes of whatever location the deprivation begins in. Often those ruling classes rule from afar.

It’s all the more insulting to see this happen in a country which has been taught to let its crops rot, to throw out edible food and to starve its population for having the temerity to be unable to find enough work; or for having bodies which aren’t fit to meet the demands of increasingly unbearable work.

In a sense it’s fitting that we have such terrible, terrible food emanating from the base of our national consciousness, that we have lost our sense of culinary self, that we have lost our skills, and that we have turned all of our thoughts about food into nothing but scolding and guilt about our bodies and the impurity of our intake. Food is supposed to nourish us and bring us together but we’re psychologically fractured by decades of political and journalistic abuse.

So I don’t have a governmental proposal. The problem is simply too big. Below I will outline a few ideas I’ve had about working on some of the peripheral issues: the food supply, the agribusiness dominance, the social fracturing, the deprivation, and the lack of skills that are hurting us as a people. But I’m one person, and I’m painfully aware that I’m one person who took until his mid-thirties to figure out how to make food he didn’t hate and to stop acting out eating disordered behaviour both personal and national; that I’m calling it a good day if I manage to wash the dishes after I’ve cooked, and the kind of charisma someone needs to communicate grass-roots culinary movements is the kind of charisma that leads countries, rather than “occasionally managing to make 50% of a very small audience laugh on an open mike night”.

Besides, I think Jack Monroe has, alone, done a significant amount to help douse some of the more dousable flames.

So I’m sticking to trying to find, adapt, and experiment with “traditional” recipes with a heavy bent towards foragable/growable food for this general climatic area. Hopefully that will if nothing else inspire a few people to try it themselves. Also, feed your neighbours.

Why English and not British?

For a combination of political and agricultural and dietary reasons, I’m sticking with “English” cuisine. First, as a person who is effectively English in cultural background if dynastically, like most of us, a bit of a hodgepodge, I don’t think it’s a good look to tell Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish people how to deal with their shit. Secondly, we have different agricultural and environmental situations. Scotland has a much smaller population and more wild territory and a lot more coastline; Wales has done a lot less in the way of falling out of contact with farming; Northern Ireland is different again. While there’s variety in England, as a political entity it’s got different challenges to deal with, and a much bigger population is one of them. In terms of diet, too, we have a different history.

However, I will hopefully be able to draw upon dietary traditions elsewhere in the Isles due to our climatic similarities and shared plant and wildlife, and the influence we’ve undoubtedly had on each other. This should also extend to looking at what is done traditionally with similar plants and animals in the Republic of Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Germany, and the Netherlands where appropriate as we have been hugely culturally influenced by them over the course of our history.

Ultimately “English” culture has for a very long time been heavily influenced by ideas imported or nicked from other places, adopted and adapted for local use. I would assume the same of food culture.

How did we feed ourselves traditionally and what did we feed ourselves traditionally?

Historically, England’s class system (with its feudal roots) has divided what people eat between the producers of the food, who supplement agricultural plenty with foraged and trapped/hunted wild food, versus those who can afford traded exotic spices and fruits. Eventually these rich-people foods would become more accessible to the poor (via colonialism and imperialism, but also via preservation and new farming methods), and things like pineapple, sugar, cinnamon, and turkey stopped being exotic rich fare and became everyday. The story of deprivation under siege that was generally known as The Blitz (etc) demonstrated pretty well how much the British Isles had come to rely on our trading links with the rest of the world, in particular the rest of what was at the time the Empire.

(No snide comments about our current situation please, I’ve already had them all pass through my mind).

The process was not wholly complete: foods reserved for the aristocracy by tradition and associated with particular rituals and restrictions remained restricted: venison, pheasant, grouse, hare. There were rural populations whose connection to large estates allowed them access to these meats but the majority didn’t get the opportunity. So now there is an association with game that it is a pretentious indulgence, which its association with high-end restaurants and celebrity chefs is doing little to elide–but it was originally just an inherent part of the diet, before the feudalist society made deer the food of the privileged.

Some foods went in the opposite direction. The socially-mobile shellfish, the upwardly-aspiring bivalves went from being the food of poverty to being the food of privilege. Oysters, and later crabs and crayfish, have seen themselves lifted away from their working-class roots–in the case of crab, within a human lifetime. And we’ve stopped eating horsemeat altogether.

As colonialism, following on from the example of the Crusades (do the English ever visit anywhere without doing our best to destroy it? Why do we have so little respect for difference?), brought the English to different cuisine and then the cooks of different cuisine to England, fads and fashions moved from just individual ingredients (often misused) and the inferior reproductions of continental dishes, into fusions and love affairs with new worlds. We got into curry. We met with Anglicised dishes from China. The process continues to this day, in waves: the exploratory palates pass on diluted versions to the more cautious, and we are gradually globalised…

…but unlike many other cultures, we’ve lost our sense of culinary self along the way. Our attitudes to food have frequently been unhinged: not about nurturing and comfort but about fuelling, about punishment, about class distinctions–Industrialisation and Protestantism combined to produce ugliness, unhappiness, and disconnection.

So what am I looking for?

What do I want from an English Cuisine?

  • Local food sources
  • Use of indigenous plants & animals
  • Ecologically-robust plant and animal consumption
  • Diminution of destructive agricultural practices (especially monoculturing of crops & out-of-season growing where unnecessary)
  • Perhaps an aim towards managed wild populations or farmed indigenous species
  • A greater cultural value placed on food the production and preparation of food and evven just on eating in general
  • Better food education and an end to diet culture
  • Greater self-sufficiency for individuals and for the country in terms of food production
  • To include methods and dishes from our national past that draw upon the locally available items, and to stop behaving as though these dishes are shameful or boring
  • To consume these things alongside or in fusion with the foods we have enjoyed from other cultures ,or experienced as fusion from immigrants in this country–we need to understand that a large part of our national food identity as we understand it has come from our interactions with other cultures and their adaptations to being in England (and Scotland and Wales) and that in future this will continue to happen, and that this is a good thing.

Farming definitely needs to change. It needs to stop being treated as a shame and a problem, and needs to be treated as an opportunity and a necessity. What vegans have got right, absolutely, is that we need to rely less on meat consumption and to look at better practices in animal farming than we have in place; having stringent animal welfare legislation is pointless if it isn’t enforced and the same is true of our workers’ rights legislation (both agricultural, food production, and otherwise).

Unfortunately our climate and soil makes it impossible to efficiently produce for a balanced all-plant diet–that kind of thing works better in places which are more verdant. It’s a lot more effective for sheep, pigs, cows, deer, rabbits etc to convert some of our more hostile landscape into protein than it is for us to try to graze it ourselves. But we an stand to eat a lot less meat and a wider range.

We should definitely eat more seaweed and acorns. In future we’re going to be eating insects whether we like it or not, and some farmers have got a head start on this. And sure, culturally we’ve moved away from one of our most efficient traditional sources of protein and fat: sheep and goat  (and horse!), which can thrive in conditions that human-edible plants struggle in, but fortunately one of the few positive side effects of the global reach of the late empire is the influx to the isles of people who are very familiar with making delicious goat & mutton dishes.

A broadened palate, a wider range of indigeneously-acquired products, and a globally-available increase in skills and knowledge would give us the best of tradition and of the future.

Where should I start?

Enclosure, Industrialisation, two World Wars, a Depression, the associated destruction of communities and traditions, and the dramatic pace of modernisation have led to a fractured diet and a traumatised approach to food and eating and the loss of valuable food culture. It needed be irreversible; we need to stop looking on agriculture and eating as somehow shameful and backwards and accept that the most technologically advanced countries in the world (which are not us in the slightest) value and cherish their farms, their farmers, and their food. They take pride in their food traditions and they pass on food knowledge within communities. We would benefit from doing the same.

I don’t want to diminish the problems facing us, and one of those problem is poverty, and another is habit.

Jack Monroe has done sterling work in looking up, for example, recipes in the British Library and converting them for the modern palate and the foodstuffs available to us; I’ve made “worts” from Cooking on A Bootstrap myself and found it a good base for all kinds of customisations, in line with Ramen Hacks.

I’m already in possession of cookbooks focussing on different eras of historical English cooking: The Form Of Curry ; Lobscouse and Spotted Dog; a British Museum publication medieval food, a compendium of cookable Saxon recipes…

With these providing inspiration and starting points, balancing availability and ease, and hopefully acknowledging the colonial influence on our modern palate, I’m hoping to be able to work my way towards “English” food that can be either complex or simple, challenging to eat or comforting, supermarket-lazy or foraging-and-gardening-hard.

Further resources

http://www.lifehacker.co.uk/2015/02/17/complete-visual-guide-edible-wild-plants-uk
https://www.countryfile.com/how-to/foraging/monthly-foraging-guide-whats-in-season-where-to-find-it-and-how-to-forage-responsibly/
https://www.lowimpact.org/edible-seaweed-season/
http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/an-introduction-to-seaweed-foraging/
https://everyonelovesafungi.wordpress.com/profiles/

https://www.sheknows.com/home-and-gardening/articles/1108731/indoor-vegetable-garden/
https://greatist.com/health/best-plants-to-grow-indoors

A little art, a little feature writing

Rushed as I am, I am still finding time to procrastinate, which is great news for my gallery and bad news for my everything else.

The Big Headline

Two blog posts up so far over at the professional portfolio, the most recent of which is about restitution and colonialism, under the catchy (and appropriately: stolen) title, “Display It Like You Stole It“.

The art

I’m infuriated. This took minutes. Why does it look better than the stuff that takes weeks?

Welcome to 2019: Still No Tyrell Corp.

As a fan of Blade Runner I’m massively disappointed to find we’ve entered The Future without artificial owls, interplanetary travel, and, mostly importantly, really good see-through umbrellas with light-up handles (you can by either a good clear plastic umbrella or one with a light-up handle, but for some reason when you buy one that combines the two it arrives broken and then the manufacturers argue with you about a refund for three months).

Apart from the disappointing lack of specific consumer goods, the continued Western descent into fascism,. the massive global weirding of the weather, and whatever other apocalyptic nonsense the year ahead is going to bring us, I’ve got a couple of projects technically going but none of them up to a point that I want to bring them into public yet.

Instead, here’s some art:

A little pop art

Some drowning

One WW1 spy

And a still life I feel like I’ve been working on since the dawn of time.

Other than that, I’ve been putting together my portfolio site, and doing work for ArtString. Which I am honour-bound to tell you is a funky little app which will enliven future visits to London museums for you!

And hopefully the new year will suck less than the old one. I mean. Miracles do happen.

The Autumn Collection

Hi guys! I’ve been learning how to do vectors properly in my spare (spare?!) time.

Here’s a selection!

A very convoluted tiling pattern of mushrooms, oranges, apples, physalis and autumn leaves
Starting big: the chaotic autumn pattern! Click on the image to buy on a number of products
A tiling pattern of falling autumn leaves and alternating up and down golden mushrooms
Separating out components for a simpler pattern: again, click on the image for the products if you like!
A sparse pattern of death cap mushrooms on a dark gray background, they look a little like the arrows on cartoon convict jackets
Simple and gothic, the first pattern. Click for more minimalist options!

 

Storehouses of Knowledge or Warehouses of Risk?

Futureproofing: Disasters?

In light of the recent and absolutely catastrophic cultural and scientific loss both to Brazil and to the world in the fire that consumed the national museum in Rio, there are a lot of questions to be raised about what the future is for museums as conservators and curators of culture to join the pre-existing questions of where museums go next in terms of public engagement and education.

While visiting a museum UX designer friend for some museum lates recently, I got into conversation about this – at that point extremely current – devastating loss to the international community, and what solution we’d propose to the problem of protecting vast collections, accrued in some cases over hundreds of years, from disquieting disasters like this one – especially in a climatically and financially uncertain future.

Over the course of our  conversation we toyed with an idea taken from our understanding of data centres: redundancy and remote sites. While every item in a museum’s collection is necessarily unique, perhaps it isn’t always safe to keep multiple similar artifacts in the same location, at risk of wiping out all the examples of [X] in one devastating stroke. Remote storage, increased intermuseum loaning, and split collections could all help mitigate some of the risk faced by centralised collection – as well as providing both scholars and members of the public with greater opportunity to interact with collections geography might otherwise exclude them from.

The V&A is one step ahead on this; selling a warehouse site used to contain a large part of its collection not currently on display, the institution is moving the collection to Stratford to a location to be known as V&A East, where the materials will be on display in an innovative new way: completely surrounded by glass to allow 360-degree viewing.

Futureproofing: Engagement?

Turning away from the problem of how to preserve these storehouses of knowledge for future investigation and education, there’s also the question of engagement: what do we do with museum collections to entice more people to visit and interact with the museum space and museum artefacts, when so much of life and the world is now online?

One way to handle this is what the Museum of London has proposed for its new Smithfield site, to open in 2023: instead of restricting access to the entire collection to standard museum opening hours, with monthly or weekly late opening evenings, to allow visitors to decide for themselves when they want to access the culture and history of their city. The 24-hour-access collection is a step towards broadening London’s goal of becoming a truly 24-hour-city away from solely night-clubs and the odd cafe and restaurant and into more cultural areas. It also promises the possibility of enlarging the reach of “just in the area and popped in” visits.

Another is what three major public institutions have already stepped forward to do: make their entire catalogue available online for casual browsers, with varying degrees of navigability and information. With open access to the museum/gallery catalogue API come apps making the experience of collection interaction easier and more flexible, like ArtString:

ArtString’s raison d’être is to get people talking, either out loud or online, about art and artifacts in museums and galleries. Founder Julia Mariani noticed that many museum visitors feel intimidated by the official style of museum placards and the sense that there’s a secret language or hidden knowledge people need to have in order to really “get” museums. Her aim with the app is to allow people unselfconscious enquiry and enjoyment, interacting with the collection and each other both at home and in the locations themselves (three, so far: the British Museum, the Science Museum, and the National Gallery), curating their own collections and sharing their thoughts and knowledge to build up different focus and more background than can be provided in the limited space of museum placards. 

Obviously there are a lot of other questions about the future of museums and interaction: decolonising collections which have the taint of slavery and oppression in their history, for example, or acknowledging the authorship of discoveries and inventions, both misattributed and obscured – as well as using these changes to help invest new generations with an interest in and commitment to the preservation of and engagement with their own and other cultures. 

The Uncomfortable Art Tours of historian Alice Procter have enjoyed a certain amount of press coverage since their inception, and rightfully so: broadening our understanding not only of collections but of how collections are built – engaging the public with the history of museums, not just of their contents. As the name suggests, this can often be a difficult as well as illuminating experience.

Futureproofing: Technology?

One question that arises in almost any conversation about the future of an institution is technology. In some conversations the pondering of how to incorporate new technology into museum exhibits seems almost a substitute for thinking creatively about the future of an institution at all – but in some instances, as in the sadly-defunct “natural selection” video game in the Natural History Museum’s Ecology gallery, it can be a raging success.

I spoke to an academic with related expertise about what she sees as the future of technology in museums, in with particular relation to whether new technologies can help students of the arts.

3D printing and VR have applications for entry-level appreciation – children and people who want to take up anatomy drawing or composition studying – but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for the real artefacts for any kind of study above, say, GCSE. The real life experience is always superior for a reason, and that’s going to become more apparent the further up the academic ladder you go. However, as an early starting point for engaging curiosity and artistic understand they’re the modern equivalent of plaster casts and prints – but accessible in an instant, globally. For cast-strapped art students who want to copy Michelangelo’s David from every angle, VR or a good-quality 3D print maybe a lot easier than travelling to the V&A to view the full-sized cast – or to Florence.

It’s important to be cautious in implementing new technology and not do it for the sake of doing it, but instead really think about what effect these new technologies have on the learning process. For sculpture and other physical arts (such as large-scale paintings where the dimensionality of brush strokes are visible) materials themselves matter and are a huge part of understanding the work of art, its construction, and its context. This isn’t something that can be replicated yet!

Museums and galleries are guardians of quality experience as well as conservators of physical artefacts, and they shouldn’t be tempted to make technology that can’t yet walk try to run a marathon; it’s better to do it well than to do it soon.

Futureproofing: Commercial?

Museum and gallery lates have been an enormous success in getting people who normally have no time for these daytime institutions to come out and reconnect with places and collections which may have previously be consigned to remembrances of childhood. Allowing adults to roam with a glass of wine and ask questions they wouldn’t ask in front of their children or friends’ children has brought millennials in particular back to museums. But more can be done: while talks and explainers with specimens are an additional treat, what really seems to have fired up museum-goers at my recent compare-and-contrast expedition to South Kensington (and a past Halloween visit to the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum) is the chance to create and play.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Deconstructing Masculinities event, two of the most popular areas were the disco – as it is with every late event – and the room in which a craft station had been set up with the aegis of getting visitors to create their own cover for a men’s magazine out of printed samples, using it as a creative springboard to talk about what they want from masculinity. As these things often do, by the time I’d arrived this had turned into a large number of excited adults sitting on the floor with gluesticks and scissors, all competing to see who could construct the most aesthetically offensive withering satire on media representations of masculinity, and there were some real corkers in there.

Which, in tandem with the notion of digitised collections – both 3D and photographic – and the foregrounding of the personal experience, leads to the question of how much of a museum’s treasure trove can be effectively rented out? While museum spaces – vast, aesthetically unique, immediately recognisible – are already favoured locations for filming TV and music videos, for hosting corporate, media, and governmental events, there are other realms in which museums can monetise their appeal without charging visitors and thus closing the door on the eager minds of tomorrow.

To take an example that draws all of these threads together:

A fully-digitised collection of 3D artefacts or specimens, available as online licensed printer files or in-store printables (the way that it’s already possible in many gallery shops, such as the National Gallery, to have a printed on-demand image from the gallery’s collection on any size of poster or card, while you wait), allows for tactile exploration of museum and gallery objects and a greater understanding of them. For schools, purchasing a schools license bundle allows children to get to grips with both the museum collection and their own interpretation of creating – learning how to replicate a particular scan in a classroom CAD package for printing or to use pre-existing arfefacts as a springboard for their own creativity and understanding. In-house, a painting station allowing children and adults alike to customise their own printables produces a new level of creative interaction and play, and gives the opportunity for further education about the artfacts chosen and their appearance in the collection. Commericalising this process with the sale of limited licenses or individual printables is non-intrusive, and still centres the educational and playful experience.

Likewise, 2017’s ingenious personalisation of museum experiences with the 50th anniversary of partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England Wales and the associated LGBTQ history tours of museums, galleries, and palaces has spawned many exciting variations, both official and unofficial. These have a wealth of functions: they allow for new ways of seeing a collection which involve no physical alteration to the collection itself, they impart more information to visitors than can be fitted onto specimen placards, and they help to personalise the experience of the collection to each visitor’s interests. With the addition of apps like ArtString into this mix, the experience of personalised museum tours becomes even more personal – and breaks the boundaries of the physical museum space altogether, allowing visitors to entice friends and family from around the world to experience collections from every perspective.

Futureproofing: Connectivity

Apps like ArtString are only made possible with the generous provision of full online collections. What stands out for me about ArtString is that it reaches across individual museums and galleries, assisting visitors in a “joined-up” way of looking at history and the present, instead of partitioning things off along arbitrary lines. For example, it’s long been argued that the division of sciences into “physics, chemistry, biology” is at heart misleading – all of these are ways of describing the reality we live in, but at different levels of function and complexity. They have to be taken as a whole to truly understand the universe!

Similarly, cross-museum cooperation allows for greater synthesis of ideas in visitors and conservators. Historical perspectives that join up the scientific progress of an era with its art and natural history, its changing thought patterns and social progress, allow for a broader understanding of the world, of each individual culture, and of scientific advancements in their proper contexts.

What ArtString shows is that great connectivity between institutions of art, science, history, natural history and culture doesn’t purely have to be a matter of reciprocal email campaigns and object loans for exhibitions or study. Simply linking together relevant concepts in the digital realm can induce visitors to pay more attention both to the world they live in, and to which institutions they can learn about this in!

For a practical example:

I went to the National Gallery after an appointment. In the Sainsbury Wing, there is a painting of Saint Sebastian or ten; the specific painting I mean is by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano in Room 57. Looking at this painting, you might wonder why the loincloth the saint is wearing is a pale shade of pink, and why he appears to have no blood coming from his arrow wounds.

Now I know, because of a placard on a painting that I saw at the V&A Museum some years before, that a lot of medieval paintings have “white” cloth because the cloth was originally painted red using a paint made from the plant Madder, which because of its organic base and short wavelength, is particularly susceptible to fading in natural light.

I also know, because I watched (several) BBC 4 series in the intervening period, that a lot of paints during the Renaissance underwent a change in composition of manufacture which continued all the way through the Victorian period (when dangerous green dyes made of arsenic manufactured from the mining waste – from the mine I grew up on top of, fact fans! – were gradually replaced with safer new alternatives), and onward into the mid-twentieth century as synthetic pinks and purples were discovered. This information in this paragraph has been itself synthesised from three separate BBC documentaries (one about colour, one about dangers in the Victorian home, and one about the history of chemical discoveries), and the delightful William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

Mineral pigments, I learnt from one of those documentaries, are much more long-lasting, like the blue used in many of the Marian robes in the medieval paintings in the Sainsbury Wing: this blue is derived from Lapis Lazuli – available to view in its natural state in the Natural History Museum’s geology and mineralogy galleries, or in carved and jewellery form in the Egyptian galleries at the British Museum.

The process of colour creation continues to this day. In fact, there has been a recent and well-publicised art world spat about this, between hipster pigment creator Stuart Semple and celebrated British artist Anish Kapoor, whose arresting, often red-heavy work has been displayed and is still displayed at both the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern.

In this story of colour, answering a simple question about a bloodless St Sebastian painting in Room 57, I’ve taken you through knowledge collected by chance viewings of documentaries, and through the V&A Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum (where else would you go to learn about the chemical processes in making dyes and pigments?), the William Morris Gallery, the British Museums, and the Tates. I’ve taken you on a whirlwind tour of a good six hundred years of pigment history moving forwards, and could just as easily take you back through time to talk about the evolution of Madder – with a visit to Kew Gardens – or the historic uses of Lapus Lazuli and Cadmium, and how trade in mineral pigments helped develop connectivity in the ancient and modern world.

Not all those institutions have their full collections online yet, but with time and investment it could be extremely easy to give highly-focused and well-connected tours like this which tie together past and present and potential future, art and science and history and the natural world, and most importantly use a single question as the starting point for a whole galaxy of answers.

Conclusions

Finding a pathway that protects collections and engages future visitors, making the most of the museum as a place of learning without engendering too many extraneous costs won’t be an easy task. Compromises will be need to be made, but if they’re approached as collaborations with enthusiastic outsiders rather than failure to implement in-house there’s potential for serious innovation, at least so far as getting new faces into museum spaces go. As for getting academics to engage with collections – well, sometimes the old ways are still the best.

Venom (2018): A Misunderstood Romance For Our Turbulent Times

Hotly-anticipated and almost instantly critically panned, Sony’s Venom has spawned a cascade of memes and a throbbing pulsating slash fandom which has mystified those same professional movie-watchers who derided it as “fantastically boring”, “incoherent”, and riddled with bad CGI (I’ll give them that). Far more importantly, the social media hotbed of fannish discourse that is the microblogging site/hellhole Tumblr has adopted the central couple as its flagship… ship.

Venom, whose titular character has already been compared to someone drizzl[ing] Creme Egg filling onto a bin bag, is an absolute masterclass in how to balance horror (bodily and external), action (some whizzy fight scenes and a bathetic bike chase), comedy (…lobsters), and romance against each other, to pepper respectable action sequences from 1999 with clunky eggfart dialogue generated by a bot, inexplicable delivery without logical emphasis, a nonsensical plot – and produce a thoroughly entertaining movie on the strength of genuinely warmth of character decision-making rooted in kindness rather than ideology, and a cast who were determined to have fun – with no amount of embarrassing dialogue preventing them from serving up whatever performance they felt like giving.

Also, I think a lot of respectable critics haven’t really grasped a vital fact about Millennials – and even more so Gen Z – which is that they really, truly are extremely thirsty for big monsters. The bigger, slimier, more toothy and threatening the better. Google the word “kaijufucker” if you don’t believe me and enjoy having your afternoon ruined.

In the opinion of my afternoon’s companion, the movie opens with 20 minutes of completely unnecessary nonsense. I find it hard to disagree. The movie-watching public probably don’t need the majority of set-up that’s fed to us in action movies in particular, and while the opening crash-landing of the Life Foundation spacecraft and its subsequent goo refugee symbiotes gave some smaller part actors an opportunity to add to their showreels that I absolutely do not begrudge them, the attempt to build tension with this didn’t really work and was quite boring.

We’re all hear to see Tom Hardy get tongue-boxed in various orifices by a living sex toy while having an absolutely catastrophic case of the junkie sweats and gurning like his life depends on pulling a plausible Jim Carrey impression – so let’s skip the niceties.

Mr Hardy, playing himself as a vlogger who has accidentally got a job as A Real Journalist with absolutely no investigative skills (plausible, unfortunately), immediately shits up his job and gets fired for trying to publicly generate some sort of conscience in Riz Ahmed’s beautifully understated Elon Musk pastiche villain. He’s then promptly dumped by his long-suffering girlfriend, Michelle Williams, because of his complete failure to respect her boundaries, and completes the classic movie downward trajectory into a “loser apartment” and scenes of frantic job-hunting while haunting the local corner store and trying to avoid low-level gangsters. Although, as he has the wherewithal to live by himself in a whole apartment in San Francisco, one of the most housing-crisis-y cities in the US, we have to assume he’s not doing too badly.

Elon’t Muskn’t, the off-brand Pharma Pioneer at the not-at-all ominous Life Foundatain meanwhile continues to blithely murder his way through the large homeless population of said city in the pursuit of “saving humanity” with an untested injection of a recently-acquired alien lifeform that’s already detonated a couple of rabbits, which is… ethically problematic. The idea El-not Mus-off appears to be peddling is that what with ecological Armageddon looming, mankind – or at least the part of mankind that runs the Life Foundation – could escape to a life beyond the stars rather than stick around to fix its mess. Who could possibly… do… such a thing? Oh. Perhaps the problem with Venom isn’t that it’s far-fetched, but that in a time when every news report feels like a waking nightmare, it’s not really far-fetched enough for fantasy,

One of the scientists acting as a shepherd to shoddily-constructed tests and general murder finally develops a spine about her misgivings and for some reason takes her problem to Eddie Brock, a man who spectacularly crashed out of his career practically in front of her eyes. Eddie Brock, disaster journalist and haunter of cornerstones, loved by homeless women but loathed by his ex-girlfriend’s cat, goes through the inevitable dance of “I absolutely am not helping you” / “oh no I’m personally invested now” and accompanies his whistle blower in breaking into the worst-secured secret science facility on the face of the earth. Huge, wall-sized doors slide open at the touch of a palm. One solitary security guard is on patrol. The security at my local gym is better than that, and to the best of my knowledge we only have the usual range of deadly contaminants in the shower room.

A series of predictable disasters plays out now, replete with red flashing lights, gratuitous suffering vulnerable people, and one black alien goo impregnating our reluctant protagonist, and now the fun truly begins.

Two moist losers, against all the odds, have found each other and become one sweaty, unbalanced idiot eating last night’s chicken from the bin and muttering to itself. Then! Terrible Bad Men with small mouths come to split these two newly-weds asunder!

Every minute of Tom Hardy’s possession by interstellar parasite and self-avowed loser Venom is a romp. He saw the chance to flex a set of comedy muscles that rarely get the opportunity they deserve to put on a gun show, and he went for it – much to the gratitude of thirsty Tumblr fans and to the detriment of live lobsters.

As an aside, one of the reasons you will discover that Venom and Brock are absolutely the core couple of this movie is that ex-girlfriend Anne’s new boyfriend absolutely does nothing to conform to the jealous ineffectual stereotype that the Replacement Boyfriend normally does in an action movie. Instead, he behaves… like a doctor, treating a man in obvious distress, doing his best to care for his physical and mental safety, and not once throwing even the slightest bit of a shitfit about his girlfriend speaking to her ex. That is maturity!

The core of the several terrible movies baked into one moreish cakewreck of a movie is an odd couple romcom. Leaving aside the illustrative line about having “one of those things up your ass” (it could have been anywhere else in your body – probably was – but you had to make it like that, didn’t you?), leaving aside the keynote smooch which is, technically, an interspecies threesome – every moment of this film exists for the sole purpose of getting the two main character together in a beautiful, bickering unity, a meeting of like souls. If that’s not the definition of romance, I don’t know what is.

Admittedly, it’s perhaps a similar sort of romance to the kind Bryan Fuller made for NBC, but I don’t think that should disqualify this charming little globe of used lube from picking up some romance movie plaudits.

And besides, in the comics – it’s canon:

A comics page showing a discussion between Eddie Brock and the Symbiote, who is represented in the form of lights and shadows. Dialogue follows - Venom: I only do what you want, Eddie. What we want. / Eddie: And what DO we want? / Venom: We want to be TOGETHER, Eddie, FOREVER. / Eddie: Yes, love / Venom: We want to hurt people in the way, people IN BETWEEN. / Eddie: But NOBODY is. I'm just WORRIED that you're not okay. / Venom: There is ... Anger. HATE. Sometimes feel weak. Sometimes Strong. Even weak, will kill ANYONE who-- Eddie...

Venom #150, Writer: Mike Costa, Artist: Tradd Moore, Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro, Letterer: Clayton Cowles.

Image of a partial comics page showing an explosion from a helicopter caught in a giant spider web. Eddie Brock is piloting another helicopter. Speech, from Eddie Brock: So, it's true. The symbiote is here. MY symbiote. My darling.

I rest my case.


It’s the blogger’s birthday today! Why not swing by and shower me with money