How do you get people to smile? 📸🍓⚰️
Facts and fripperies that we've loved and learned this week.
In the early 1940s, a newspaper in Texas revealed a nifty new technique to guarantee a happy smile in photographs – no matter how many disgruntled thoughts might be going on behind the beam. The article shared a trick that US diplomat Joseph E. Davies had picked up from “a very great politician.” Saying cheese, he claimed, worked every time. Cue speculation that it might have been his big boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who’d come up with the idea – though it’s more likely it was a photographer of the president’s acquaintance.
A century before, it’s said that British photographer Richard Beard chose a very different foodstuff to ensure his sitters didn’t smile too much. Say prunes, he’d tell them, because broadly smiling in photos wasn’t the fashionable thing back then, and a rather more tight-lipped expression was de rigueur among well-to-do Victorians.
Different languages around the world have their own words to get a big grin. If you’re having your picture taken in Bulgaria, invoke a cabbage. In France, a marmoset can help raise a smile. Latin American countries opt for a shot of whiskey while Moroccans go for bread. It’s apples in Iran and oranges in Denmark. Our favourite might be Indonesia’s green beans, though – we’re going to start using that one ourselves.
East meets west
Artist Sarah Kwan’s East Meets West series is such fun – a witty celebration of all the ways Scottish and Chinese traditions, legends and rituals collide. There’s the culinary, such as Teacake Dim Sum (pictured above) and the wonderful Aye & Brew; the superstitious, as seen in Lucky Cat Sìth, a mash-up of a soul-stealing Celtic fairy cat and the Japanese maneki-neko figurine that’s also come to be known as a Chinese lucky cat, thanks to its popularity in Chinatowns across the globe; and the symbolic, including Blossoming, combining the peony and the thistle. Sarah’s got prints, cards, tea towels, stickers and more, all available from the Red Door Gallery, and all absolutely delightful.
Talking about death is hard. Harder still, however, is when someone dies unexpectedly and as well as feeling wretchedly, inconsolably sad, you’ve got less than a week to remember whether they said they loved or loathed My Way; which photos they wanted in the order of service; and what their opinion was on serving egg mayo sandwiches at the wake.
Broaching the subject of funeral and other death wishes with loved ones can be tricky – when someone’s fighting fit, it seems like tempting fate, and when they’re ill or in their twilight years, it can feel too close to home. The Death Book means that at the very least, you can make sure family and friends know your last requests – and hopefully, it’ll inspire them to fill in their own.
In this brilliant notebook, you can write down everything from the type of coffin you want to the messages you’d like your nearest and dearest to read after you’re gone. Just put it somewhere safe (next to your will and the warranty for the microwave you owned in 1998), and remember to update it if you suddenly get a new favourite song or poem. It’s £12.50, and it’ll be priceless to your funeral-organiser-in-chief when the time comes to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Swiss-born artist Heidi Caillard began making ceramic birds in her Provence village of Lussan back in 1974. Charmed by the birds pecking round her studio, she decided to immortalise them in clay. They were an instant hit. Since 1994, her son Adrien and his family have continued her work and Heidi’s gloriously fat guineas continue to peck their way around the world. Making each bird is a lengthy process – the bodies are moulded to the correct size and shape (each of the birds is life-size), and then the glaze is applied – in an oxide combination that is unique to Heidi’s studio La Céramique de Lussan. After their glaze and enamel bath, the largest birds need eight hours in the kiln (preheated to 1240°C, lemon and stuffing optional).
The chubby little birds come in four sizes, and while it’s the guinea fowl – or pintades as they’re called in France – that are most sought-after, Sian is particularly taken with the plump little quails nesting over at Found In France.
Cream of the crop
There's a real temptation to dive headfirst into autumn as soon as the calendar flips over to September. Cool your pumpkin spice jets, there are three whole weeks of summer left and we’re squeezing out every single last drop. You’ve probably got the sticky dregs of a bottle of elderflower cordial still kicking about, and that’s really all you need for this delicious elderflower cream recipe. Mix 300ml double cream with 4 tbsp elderflower cordial and 1 tbsp icing sugar. Whisk with an electric whizzer for a few minutes (or by hand, if one particularly strong bicep is the look you’re going for) until it’s fully whipped. Serve with the last of the summer’s strawberries and eat outside, ideally with a thunderstorm brewing.
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We’re very keen to visit some furanchos – Galicia's unofficial restaurants.
After reading The Children of Jocasta last weekend, Sian cannot wait for Antigone at the Open Air Theatre. It’s on throughout September.
There are, amazingly, still tickets left for the Interesting Conference tomorrow. Talk topics include “Soil” and “Chartreuse: Tipple, Colour and Clergy”. Beside ourselves.
Honourable mentions: welcome to the jungle | best pecan pie recipe | be still our beating hearts | going to make our own | choose your words wisely.
This weekend, Sian is going on a trek for the perfect hot sauce and Laura is snooping around artists’ studios. Like what we do? Buy us a cuppa.