The Lure of This Confection

Michael Wood, please keep going to the movies.

But what is the lure of this confection? Why should we care? Why does it matter that Monsieur Gustave and Zero’s brave friend Agatha die before the movie is over and that only a creaking Zero is left to tell the tale? What do the near-Nazis have to do with the story? Anderson says he doesn’t know why he wanted to invent the world of his movie, but it is so patiently and lovingly invented that it’s tempting to guess at a reason. One possibility would be the thought that old Europe, with its shaky and often merely fictitious civilisation, made room for all kinds of people and gave them their chance: it liked the mess the Nazis came to clear up.

Kitchen-sink dreamer

If only all of us could derive so much pleasure from being at table:

My mother was thrifty and energetic. She salted, simmered and pressed beef tongue. She brined beef – brisket or silverside – till it was saltpetre scarlet, simmered it with dumplings and carrots. A weekly ham hock was delivered by Tom Oke, grocer of Milford Street whose business would be taken over by his nephew from far off Weymouth, ginger Roy Osmond, who turned out not to have inherited the grocery gene. There were demarcation lines, specialisations. Bacon, ham and Bath chaps were grocers’ victuals rather than butchers’. Sid the Butcher duly didn’t sell them. The hock was boiled and served with buttered greens and mash. She made steak and kidney pie and steak and kidney pudding. The pastry and the suet crust were her own, ready-made were not yet available: “homemade” was a banal statement of fact not a Luddite boast. Tripe and onions simmered in peppery milk was a dish Grandma Hogg often served when we had Saturday lunch in Shakespeare Avenue; my mother’s version avoided the creamy excess which Grandma, a devotee of all things lactic, including near-rancid farm butter, strove for. Faggots and brawn came from Pritchett’s, they were perhaps beyond Sid the Butcher’s capabilities. Brown trout were fried in butter till their skin was crisp yet their white flesh still moist. Herring roes on toast were sprinkled with paprika (apparently its only use). Crab was a treat. Lobster was a treat for the highest of high days; the gratinated combination of Gruyère, cream, mustard and white wine outdid the flesh. We would eat salmon at suppertime for days on end after my father had caught one: grilled with herb butter or hollandaise, in salad, incorporated in a pie with hard-boiled eggs, mashed and fried as “cakes”. Plaice was fried in butter. Battered fish and chips were deep-fried in beef dripping. So were eggs: in seconds slithery viscosity was magically transformed into a frilly rococo gewgaw. These disappeared from her repertoire after the second incident. She already had form as a chip-pan incendiarist when she put several pounds of dripping on to heat and popped out for a sharpener at The Rose and Crown where she fell in with Sid the Butcher on his lunch break: the house, remember, had a thatched roof.

The Unknown Known

You have to watch this trailer for an upcoming film on Donald Rumsfeld, if just to hear him say, "everything seems amazing in retrospect."