Sunday, March 14, 2010

The film that changed my life / The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming (1939)

The film that

changed my life

The Wizard of Oz

by Victor Fleming


Daryl Hannah
Interview by Eva Wiseman
Sunday 14 March 2010 00.05 GMT

n America they show The Wizard of Oz every year around the holidays. Before you could rent the movie any time you wanted, watching it was almost an annual event. I loved the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man but I was never a little girl to pretend to be Dorothy. It was the idea of another world existing beyond our own that appealed to me, and I loved going to magical places like these in my imagination.

There were a couple of other movies that helped me to do that as well – the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryChitty Chitty Bang BangBedknobs and Broomsticks – but The Wizard of Oz was the main one that inspired me in my life, because after watching that film I read Judy Garland's autobiography and then started reading the life stories of the other actors in movies I liked.
I read Garland's book when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, when I was 10 or 11. It said: she's an actress, she had an agent, she went to Hollywood and she was discovered at an audition. I thought: Oh! That's how you do it! It took reading that for me to put two and two together and realise that the stuff in the movies wasn't just some distant world that existed and was somehow filmed and ended up on the TV; it was actually a job you could get.
I knew then that that was the job for me. I wanted to go to the Land of Oz, and meet the Cowardly Lion and all those creatures, I wanted to be able to fly, all that stuff. Once I realised that might actually be possible, I started pursuing it. The film still inspires me now, for sure. I will always be in love with movies like The Wizard of Oz. Such a wonderful way to ignite your imagination.
A Closed Book, starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Conti, is out now on DVD

Monday, March 8, 2010

Joss Stone's heaven and hell

Joss Stone

Joss Stone's heaven and hell

Joss Stone, the singer-songwriter, on Costa Rica's rainforests, her favourite London hotels and the importance of travelling light.

Interview by Bertan Budak

Great holidays…

Which was your best holiday?
Costa Rica a few years ago with my hairstylist, Brian. We took a small plane to Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica's most beautiful national parks. It has one of the most stunning beaches I've ever seen. We stayed at the Si Como No eco resort, at the heart of the emerald green rainforest, where you're surrounded by trees and exotic creatures. You could be sitting outside eating your breakfast and see a sloth climbing up a tree. I also remember seeing a beautiful neon-blue-coloured butterfly, which I fell in love with. We went whitewater rafting and explored the tropical forest, which was incredible.

And the best hotel you've stayed in?
The Soho Hotel in London, which is amazing. Each room has its own unique design, colour and personality. It's a very trendy hotel and the bathrooms have these wonderful textured walls. I've stayed there on numerous occasions and found the service to be very polite and friendly. They always remember you when you come back, and even which newspaper you order. I also like their sister hotel, The Haymarket – another place with a unique and funky design.

What do you need for a perfect holiday?
Not much, really. Just some lip balm, cash, underwear and someone good to spend it with. I don't need to be surrounded by riches and extravagant shopping places to have a good time. I also don't see the point of five-star hotels. What a waste of money. I prefer to spend my money on souvenirs.
What do you always take with you?
When I can, my dogs Missy (named after the rapper Missy Elliot) and Dusty (named after Dusty Springfield). I'm hoping to take them on my next tour, but I seem to have misplaced Missy's passport, which is really annoying. My dogs are like my family and I love them to bits.
What's your best piece of travel advice?
Always call your bank to let them know you're leaving the country. I travel all the time and my bank constantly turns
off my card, which is irritating. Even when I do let them know, they block my card anyway. I'm with Barclays, but I'm thinking of changing because it's so annoying. I would also suggest that you carry some cash, as you never know when you might need to catch a cab.
Where do you want to go next?
I'm hoping to go to Hawaii with my friend Brian, who was born and raised there. He has visited my home on numerous occasions, so it's only fair that I see his. He has shown me some great video clips of the area where he grew up and everything looks so beautiful. I'm not one to go clubbing on holiday. I'd much rather chill on the beach, and Hawaii looks like the ideal place to do that.

… and disasters?

Which was your worst holiday?

I haven't had any. Holidays are far too short not to enjoy. I've only ever had four holidays in my life, and they've all been amazing. I've been to Greece, Costa Rica, Miami and Turkey, where I stayed in Olu Deniz. It's so beautiful and the water is ridiculously blue. Holidays are rare for me because I'm very busy and when I eventually do get some time off, I'd much rather spend it at home in bed, not in another country.
What's the biggest packing mistake you've made?
Once, I packed three really heavy lyric books. I thought I'd enjoy reading them, but I hardly got around to doing it. My advice would be to travel light and to remember that everything you need is available to buy wherever you go. And let's be honest, you're going to buy loads of stuff when you get there, like clothes and souvenirs.
The worst hotel you've stayed in?
A hotel in Miami. I was only 14 and because of a reservation error my mother and I had to share a bed. On top of that, the place was infested with ants, it was smelly and the walls were very thin, so you could hear the people next door. We were too afraid to eat there, so we ended up either eating out or stocking up on groceries from a nearby shop.
What do you avoid on holidays?
I avoid drinking the water until I know whether it is clean or not. I've heard loads of horror stories of people being ill and coming down with diarrhoea just from drinking the water in other countries. It makes it extra difficult for me because I'm a vegetarian, and most of the salads and vegetables are washed using tap water. We're so lucky to have clean water in Britain.
  • Joss Stone will be playing in London at the O2 on March 11 and the Shepherd's Bush Empire on March 12. Her latest album "Colour Me Free" is out now




Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jeanette Winterson pays tribute to Rose Gray


Jeanette Winterson pays tribute to Rose Gray

With their emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce the River Café cookbooks revolutionised British cooking every bit as much as Elizabeth David

Jeanette Winterson
Saturday 6 March 2010 00.05 GMT

ating Italian street food and reading Elizabeth David" is how Rose Gray described her early excitement for cooking. Those present participles "eating" and "reading" are the clue. The best food writing makes you want to get cooking – so that you can eat. Eating fabulous food makes you want to read about its history, its geography, its alchemy.

The British are bad at food, but good at turning out self-invented cooks. Our amateurism, which became a defining national characteristic in the 19th century as a practical protest against the "professionalism" of commerce and trade, has long disappeared from sport, but has produced most of what is valuable in the arts – and cooking is an art.
By art I mean a lot of creativity and some necessary chaos. Food is a natural product – or should be – and whatever is natural comes with unruly and surprising elements. Our culture has endeavoured to make food as artificial and synthetic as possible – then it is predictable and can be controlled. No real cooks really follow a recipe – the recipe is just the beginning, after that we make it our own, adding or taking away, using what is in the garden or the larder, not only what is on the page. Such inventiveness is at the heart of cooking, along with a happiness, not just a willingness, to use foods as nature provides them – fresh and in season.
At the River Café in London, opened by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers in 1987, the signature style was not crenellated haute cuisine expensively marketed for an ignorant English palate. It was family Italian, robust, joyful, plentiful, distinct in its flavours and, above all, fresh and seasonal.
It was more than seasonal, it was daily. What is to be had in the market? What is the weather like? The creativity of the menus, like any other kind of creativity, was a response, not an imposition. But you can only respond when you are sure of your skills, and knowledgeable at a level far deeper than swotting up or showing off. The natural ease and simple delight of the River Café response to Italian food came out of love and understanding. The River Café cookbooks are about teaching you to cook by teaching you how to love food – not by rote or method.
The British first experienced this with Elizabeth David. The Dictionary of National Biography calls David "the best writer on food and drink that this country has ever produced". It is 60 years since her first book, Mediterranean Cookery, was published, and it's no surprise that Gray thought of her as a lifelong inspiration. That book, revelatory in its elegance and passion, appeared only a year after Fanny Cradock's frightening The Practical Cook (1949) – a recipe book as far away from love of food as Sweeney Todd should have been from meat pies.
The Sweeney Todd approach to cooking – brutal but efficient – stained generations of housewives, and they were housewives, for whom food from Mrs Beeton onwards became both a daily anxiety and a sign of success, or not, as a woman. Long before women were punished by the diet industry for what they ate, they were punished by the food formulas – I don't want to call them recipes – of what they cooked. For nearly a hundred years, all those writing from Beeton (1861) to Cradock (1949) gave women a How To without a Why. Food was duty, like having sex to produce children and not because you might enjoy it for its own sake. David said that if Mrs Beeton had been given to her as her first cookbook, she would likely not have cooked again.
For the second world war generation, Marguerite Patten was the guide appointed by the Ministry of Food to help the Dig for Victory housewives make marvellous meals out of dried egg and condensed milk. Monty Python had a sketch where the demonstration involved an elastic band and a paper bag – and something to do with a whisk. Patten could cook and she had enormous enthusiasm, but for the housewife, enjoyment was low down the list – unsurprising on a diet of austerity measures followed by rationing.
Food, far from being an art, came under the headings of domestic science or home economics. Yet the British have always liked their cookbooks, and Patten's 174 volumes have sold around 17m copies. Delia Smith, in the TV age, has sold around 21m books.
It may be because we are so bad at food that we love reading about it. Smith began by finding a corner in the British Library and reading all the cookbooks in the stacks. David talks movingly about long rainy days in Paris when she was studying at the Sorbonne, secretly reading cookbooks on the side, and finding that austerity France was not nearly as gastronomically impoverished as austerity Britain. She delved to find out why this should be so, and found the simple answer – either you love food or you don't, and from that love or its lack will follow your entire approach to cooking and eating.
The self-punishing Brits just didn't love food. In a way, austerity and poverty were more of an excuse than a reason. We couldn't enjoy ourselves, could we? Bring on the sausage and sultana casserole followed by sad cake (it doesn't rise). The awfulness of English food became a one-woman crusade for David. Although she became passionate about food in France, her 1954 Italian Food is a beautiful book that tried to convince the British that there was more to life than steak and kidney pie and salad cream. Olive oil was so exotic that David advised her readers to get it from the chemist, where it was sold as a cure for earache.
The British and food make an odd combination. Even while David was doing her best to re-educate the nation, Cradock was wearing evening dress and showing us how to slide mushrooms underneath the skin of a turkey. Lest we imagine that our changing attitudes to food have been one long march of progress, remember that fearsome Fanny invented prawn cocktail not in the 1950s but in the 1970s. The Brits were as thrilled with this marvel as they had been at the sight of her wrapping half a cabbage in tin foil and using it to serve sausages on sticks, like a hedgehog in a spacesuit.
As late as 1987, when Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers were sourcing food for the River Café, good fresh seasonal ingredients, the staples of Italian cooking, were hard to come by even in London. That this changed had a lot to do with their energy and determination. The River Café ethos was that everyone should be able to cook at home easily and well, and that this depended on what could be got in our food shops.
My favourite of the River Café cookbooks – River Café Green – is a month-by-month cornucopia of what nature supplies. In the winter it is right that we should eat darker, heavier food – compare for instance a winter and a spring minestrone, the one slow-cooked and dark-leafed, the other light and clear and quick. The pleasure of cooking and eating what our bodies can sense – the change of season – brings a deep satisfaction that is more than the food on the plate. River Café Greenmoves you through purple sprouting broccoli and artichokes in March towards the first rocket and spinach of spring.
The pictures in RCG are particularly good – Gray and Rogers, both of whom had backgrounds in art and design, turned the cookbook into a thing of beauty. This is not food pornography – the pictures have a real-life feel that Nigella Lawson has taken forward in her own books, so that food is not some strange concoction or unattainable piece of styling, but a lovely celebration of life that, with a bit of care, most of us can manage at home.
There is a nice introduction in the original River Café Cookbook in which Rose and Ruthie talk about bringing Italian home cooking into their restaurant, with a view to taking it back to the domestic kitchen in their cookbooks. Food belongs at home. Eating is what we do every day, alone and together. If it isn't pleasurable, we might as well switch to the little pink pills predicted in the 1960s. In a way that's what commercial fast food and processed food is – a way of eating that avoids all the pleasure of ingredients and of cooking.
I believe that in so much as we all need to eat, we all need to learn to cook – men and women alike – and the best way to start is not by sweating over a stove but by curling up with a glass of wine and a cookbook. River Café Easy is the Italian version of Elizabeth David's 1984 classic, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Both books offer a refreshing, stress-free love affair with food.
Making your own fast food from raw ingredients is to me more satisfying than dinner party cooking. Try toasted ciabatta salad, or fresh baked sardines – so cheap and so pleasing. Fancy food is often fake food, and that is why the River Café approach is never the kind of cooking that can lead to a nervous breakdown.
Pleasure is the key, and Gray – who was 50 when she opened River Café with Rogers, and closer to 60 when she wrote her first cookbook – had a direct and uncomplicated approach to what makes our lives better. Spending all day cooking is never a waste of time, but it can be daunting. Spending 15 minutes cooking fresh fish with herbs and a salad offers a sense of competence that can transform your relationship to cooking.
Read the recipe you like the look of once, cook it once, and then cook it again without the book. It will become yours, and so the confidence of being able to cook creatively increases, and with it, much joy in life. That is what Rose Gray wanted and what she has left behind.


Jeanette Winterson pays tribute to Rose Gray