Monday, February 14, 2011

Monstrous and Delicious




Picture 1. The Gherkin – London (otherwise known as “The Erotic Gherkin” – I am not making this up).
Picture 2. Monstera Deliciosa – Mullumbimby Market


Whoever decided to dub the Swiss built skyscraper in London’s Financial district “The Gherkin” has never come across one of these (Picture 2, above), picked up at Mullumbimby Market last Friday. Or perhaps it was just too much of a mouthful….

The first time I happen upon The Gherkin (Picture 1 above) – if you can at all be said “to happen upon” a building of such monolithic and awe inspiring proportions, I just about jump out of my skin. Together with my recalcitrant neo – pubescent boy, we are by some irony, not lost on either of us, on our way to the glorious Borough Market, when I take a wrong turn (a very wrong turn) and end up in a time warp of sci - fi alienation and - devoid of commuters - a Saturday afternoon eeriness, bleak skied and filthy cold, the “gherkin” towering above us like a sleek and sinister up - ended zeppelin.

Only a few hooded youths doing impressive leaps on (I mean off) their skateboards, add any sign of human life. I pinch myself hard on my left wrist, something I do when I’m scared, to stave off panic, to remind myself to breathe. It’s a feeling I’ve had whenever I’ve driven through grimly industrial areas, not a blade of grass, not a flower to be seen. Even my son, mutters “let’s get out of here mum’. We agree that it is indeed awesome, incredible, overwhelming and brilliant. Magnificent and terrible, it makes me want to run and cry.

So when we do make it to the cornucopia of colour and noise that is Borough Market, to the roasting meats, the split open fruit, the huge wheels of pungent cheese with their grey blue skins and even more importantly to the good natured cockney banter “mind yerself luv” because I’m still in a daze from my encounter with “the other side”, I am so relieved that I actually do cry. “You all right luv, you look like you seen a ghost” And I have, a monstrous great hulk of a ghost from time future and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
“Ere, ‘aver a bih of this” and he skewers a slice of  Packham Pear and hands it over to me. “You goh a smile to ligh’ up a man’s ‘eart luv.”
That’s better. That’s much better. “It’s alright mummy – let’s have lunch”
Well, the point of all this was to take me (you) back to Mullumbimby  Market, last Friday. It’s only a quick visit this time – I’m not going to linger, keep my greetings brief, despite the warm hugs and many “Happy Birthdays”(had to slip that one in) and am stopped in my tracks by these formidable Monstera Deliciosa(don’t worry, it took me about 6 goes to get it right too), somewhat incredulously otherwise known as “Fruit Salad” fruit. (Someone needs to get onto the name - giving guy I think, what with buildings called gherkins and Fibonacci – perfect appendages called fruit salad, I’m getting myself into a bit of a pickle.)

Anyway, anyway, the man behind the stall explains that if I put this extraordinary, sculptural piece of “fruit” in a paper bag for a few days, it will ripen and all the little hexagonal bits will go brown and scale off and reveal a sweet soft fruit, I can scoop out with a spoon. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday but being of a trusting disposition, I enter into a commercial exchange and take one home.

This is it on Day One (Picture 2, above). Today is Day 3, but since I’ve only just found a brown paper bag, I’ll give it another couple of days, give the man the benefit of the doubt and report back to you shortly.

Now you might think that this is as good a place as any to sign off but actually I had an ulterior motive for taking you to Borough Market, via The Gherkin and back to Mullumbimby and Monstera Deliciosa, and that is to talk about “Bio – Mimicry”, the marvellous concept that scientists have been exploring since the 70s and which in gaining ground, offers new hope and vision for our beleaguered planet, rather than doom and gloom. The idea is that by observing and understanding the ways that nature works – think a spider’s web as both wondrously simple and still unfathomably complex example – we will soon (in the big scheme of things) be able to “grow” rather than build things. It’s a mind - blowing idea and I love it (notwithstanding man’s ability to fuck everything up that is). So anyway, the point is that the building blocks of our dwellings, our furnishings, our clothes, instead of deriving out of man made, energy expensive, carbon based materials, will instead have their genesis in the petrii dish.
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Instead of all that smelting and smashing and grinding and crashing and drilling and hoeing into things, we’re going to be dripping and dribbling ingredients into petrii dishes and stirring them up a bit and watching them transform and grow into, into – well - pretty much anything we like really. For someone who likes to concoct, to mingle and to merge, to watch the sometimes-phantasmagorical transformation of ingredients in the kitchen, this makes me want to have my time again. I’d study biology (always a favourite subject) with renewed verve. 
More on this to come.

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