Stay for Tea

Down the rabbit hole: Josef Lada, costumes and Czech fairy tale movies

I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes while browsing online. It starts off with me searching for a song, a recipe, a moment in history – you name it. Then, a connected thread in something I’m researching will take me down a tangential path, and that might lead yet to another, and suddenly several hours have gone by. I will have about 30 different tabs open in a browser and, usually, will discover some new thing for me to find fascinating. For a long while I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog, in between recipe posts, and that’s when I realized that if the trip down the rabbit hole is fun and interesting to me, maybe there will be at least one or two other people who’ll enjoy it. So here we are. Today, I’d love for you to dive into the world of Czech fairy tale movies with me, kicked off by the artist Josef Lada.

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Some of you might know about Josef Lada, a self-taught Czech artist with a distinct style. He isn’t terribly well known outside of Europe, but is influential enough to have had a Google doodle done for him on his 124th birthday and even has an asteroid named after him! Lada’s work is both satirical, since he honed his style as a caricaturist, and idyllic, most noticeable in his folklore illustrations and seasonal paintings.

Mikeš the Tomcat

Mikeš the Tomcat

Lada is well known for illustrating The Good Soldier Svejkby Jaroslav Hašek, and I’ve been hunting for an English translation of Lada’s illustrated book about Mikeš, a traveling black tomcat. (I don’t even know if such a translation exists.) 50 Watts, a must-follow blog on all things illustration/book design, has two image posts of Lada’s pieces for you to enjoy.

Beyond his paintings and children’s books, Lada also had his hand in film, both directly and indirectly. When I was growing up, there were a lot of Czech and Slovak films and TV series that were being shown in theaters and on TV in the USSR, dubbed in Russian. A while back, I found a forum where people would post plot summaries of movies they couldn’t name. In one thread, I stumbled onto a discussion of a childhood film I’ve been trying to recall for a while: a Czech movie about a little girl and her brother who are transported to a magical picture land by touching an ink blot in a book. The movie turned out to be Kaňka do pohádky (Inkblot in the Fairytale, 1981) and the book portal in question was a volume of stories illustrated by Josef Lada. Read the rest of this entry »

Cocktailing

I have a tendency to get involved in far too many activities, meet-ups, projects and the like, and sometimes those don’t have a long life span. It’s been a particular point of pride and pleasure for me that for several years now I’ve managed to remain a consistent and active member of one of my groups: LARC – Ladies Advocating Respectable Cocktails.

I seem to have amassed a goodly amount of spirits & cocktail recipe books.

I seem to have amassed a goodly amount of spirits & cocktail recipe books.

Since late summer of ’09, we’ve met more or less once a month to mix cocktails on a theme, share personal stories and reflections, and get to know each other over a tipple. I started out timidly, browsing cocktail recipes online instead of inventing my own. As I’ve learned more about the nuances of a balanced cocktail, I’ve gotten more adventurous, actually crafting my own (at least, I think they are) cocktails. We’ve had all sorts of monthly themes, from base spirits, to countries of the world, to more abstract ones, like creating a drink inspired by a song or a passage in a book. Our group is a small and manageable size, and we never drink a full glass of each cocktail, instead passing around a couple of tumblers, or decanting into small tasting portions. At each gathering, conversations go from academic to intimate, sometimes devolving into silliness, like writing (in the spirit of exquisite corpse) a short passage inspired by a side-splitting reading of that awful 50 Shades of Gray book. But mostly, we’re there for the friendship, and the booze. And pizza, which seems to be our general go to food for the evening.

Below are two of my most successful – because I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some disappointing flops –  recent creations. (I’m afraid I’m terrible at noting quantities, but it’d be roughly 2 measures first ingredient, 1 measure second, and half a measure or dash of each of the remaining. Give or take. Sorry. Play with it!)

habibi

Cold brewed coffee, brandy, Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters, Torani Amer, home made orange-cardamom simple syrup (with some orange peel in the shaker). The theme was “vessels” hence my glass coffee cup & saucer.

The theme was songs, and I picked this eerie, entrancing, synth heavy Bee Gees song. Vodka, Galliano, St George Spirits’ Aqua Perfecta Raspberry liqueur, and Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters. No photos of this one, so instead, listen to the song.

Blue Easter eggs

My mom never took the old food coloring and googly eyes route when it came to Pascha egg dying. (I don’t know that many Russian moms did anyhow, at least when I was growing up.) Eggs would be stuffed into nylon hose, with a knot tied to separate each egg and keep it from cracking. With parsley or dill pressed against the egg, before wrapping, she’d boil them in a pot of onion skins, which would create lovely sepia pigmented eggs.

The last time I dyed eggs at home (a few years ago), I tried two different dying options. One was strong black tea and turmeric. The other was red cabbage (and a beet root). It’s the latter batch that turned out to be the most surprising and pretty. Red cabbage, because it contains anthocyanin, will normally turn blue during cooking. Adding acidic liquid like lemon juice or vinegar would help preserve the red pigment. I didn’t do that, instead ending up with a batch of lovely royal blue eggs. Because I also tied them quite loosely in the nylon, the little parsley leaves moved around and created this marbled effect. That part wasn’t exactly intentional but I kind of like it.

blueegg

And here’s how the tea and turmeric eggs turned out:

Some eggies cooking in the tea & turmeric mixture

Some eggies cooking in the tea & turmeric mixture

teaegg

If any of you try this out, I’d love to see the photos of your results!