i’ve been juggling projects, and the fairground music (metaphoric) in the background is at a pace that is at the same time jaunty and unsettling, rather than frantic and horrifying. i have new spectacles, with a new — lower! — prescription, which has made it such that my left eye no longer feels like it’s being wrenched out of its socket after a not unreasonable amount of time in front of the computer. the constant rain has also been a help, keeping me inside, hunched beneath my mossy green poncho, with my trusty oil heater close by. really, i can’t complain; it’s all good.
it’s been raining for just over a week now. last sunday, we stepped into the grey and wet, and onto the slick deck of a sydney ferry bound for circular quay. we were there mostly to go to the MCA zine fair, and indeed we must’ve done four or five laps of the trestle table maze, because the kid has a girl crush on sonya gee and spent much of her time at the fair nestled in sonya’s lap behind her stand of ‘kind of like a party bag for the unwell’ — “zomg you’re sick”.
in between, we delved into the MCA proper and made a half-hearted attempt at appreciating the biennale, and headed out across the road for lunch and pastry in the drizzly courtyard at la renaissance patisserie.
we started off sharing a baguette filled with poached chicken and aioli, and it was pleasant and all, but we knew we were just passing the time until dessert. unfortunately, there were no rose cream macarons on offer that day (my number one favourite, you may remember from before), so we made do with a trio of jasmin (number two favourite), passionfruit-chocolate, and cassis. the la renaissance macaron is consistently perfect: i have never encountered a brittle hollow shell, and the plump, moist biscuits hold a good amount of well-flavoured filling.
at the counter, the kid had also requested this sunny dome of a gateau — the mango-jasmin mousse cake. beneath the golden jelly skin, it was lush and light, and the two separate mousses atop a thin sponge base burst with fruitiness. not quite halfway through though, the kid stopped, quite bewildered, and whispered urgently, “there are strange beans in here.” upon investigation, i uncovered an entire nest of pinenuts hidden in the mousse, which is all fine and good if you like pinenuts… but we don’t. here’s a fun rainy day activity: pick all the covert pinenuts out of your otherwise enjoyable mango-jasmin mousse cake.
the rainy day fun continued once i got home with my bundle of swag:
two issues of vanessa berry‘s “disposable camera”, each one a rambling little freeform narrative. one has an intriguing recipe for red rice involving a whole tomato, and i will surely give it a try. the other has an amazing fold-out thought map and a reference to the one bit of “microserfs” that i remember: where one of the characters has a meltdown and locks himself in his office, and his colleagues, concerned, slip flat foods like cheese slices under the door to him. i also got some sweet mini comics from miss helen, to whom we were recently formally introduced and with whom we shared pizza and table-top drawings of kawaii cupcakes.
a couple of aisles down, i got a tiny and adorable japan guide from dudley redhead, and the heartfelt memoirs of one girl’s relationship with tamagotchis. (the girl’s name is zombetty.)
from the table of georgia perry and my candy castle, i procured “nu yoik”, a dazzling technicolor tribute to new york, in photographs and hand-drawn type. the kid picked the hilarious “kitten club”, full of cheesy cat pictures improved through the power of collage.
from the same table, i got a two-pack of mini posters: “things to know”, containing such hand-lettered gems as fetes are fun, and absolutely everyone should own a yellow + white striped beach towel, and everyone has two stomachs. one is solely for dessert. so true.
and then, from, uh, the same table, i could not go past the little compendium of illustrated junk food, nor the “save room for cake” colouring book, whose page of macaroons (sic) you would have seen beneath the macarons i told you about earlier.
i found a bunch of typewritten stories from maddy phelan, of which “ladybeard” — about her physical and psychological struggles with, and eventual embracing of, her hirsuteness — was particularly engaging; i still don’t know quite what to do with my hair. i also really liked “POTATOES” (much the same way i like potatoes), with its quirky little drawings and its potted history of… potatoes:
back in my day, everything was made out of potatoes.
we had to walk 15 miles to buy a sack of potatoes and they only cost 5c. or perhaps it was 5 shillings. i can’t remember. and i’ll have you know, our shoes were made out of potatoes.
and so on.
the bumper zine of the collection is lee tran lam‘s sold-out “speak-easy #11: the french issue”, really a magazine of interviews and recollections interspersed with photographs stuck down using ribbon and decorative masking tape. i’m still savouring my way through it, but i especially liked the list of memorable food experiences over lee tran’s four visits to france. the aisle of decorative sugar in the bon marché food hall in paris holds a special place in my heart too!