Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On the Delights of Susie Boyt

Those who know me well will know that I have a crush on Susie Boyt. On the list of my secret love interests, she ranks very near the top, right up there with Rosie Thomas and St. Clare. While cleaning out my room at the end of the semester, I happened upon an old Financial Times with one of Susie's columns from August, "Remembrance of things pasty". Here's a particularly delightful passage:

When the plan was hatched to buy some pasties and we drove to the dairy and selected the medium-sized Traditionals and watched as they were wrapped by the lady in the pinny whose hair was flecked with flour, and the cost was indelibly scored on the half-cellophaned bags, I was in a wonderful trance.

I hadn’t tasted a Cornish pasty for 10 years – I don’t eat things like that these days – and I pictured a savoury fantasia of crisp, dancing, short-crust pastry crescents, camply crimped at their edges, encasing a luscious yet delicate combination of strong-flavoured meat and thick gravy and tender vegetables ... We were in Cornwall, after all. I licked my lips and felt daring in the extreme. My inner librarian stopped telling people to be quiet and threw off her spectacles and unpinned her hair.

Imagine my shock, then, when I bit into said baked morsel and immediately realised my mistake. I had been fantasising not about a Cornish pasty (mutton, onion, potato, white pepper) but a steak and kidney pie (steak, kidney, mushrooms, ale-gravy)! It’s a wholly different beast. How could I have been so stupid? The Cornish pasty’s innocence in this matter was not under dispute, for it was neither trying nor failing to resemble its distant second cousin. It was a case of mistaken identity, and I was the victim.

Susie is so many things that the modern world is not: classy, well-read, unpretentious and cheerful. In an age when cynicism and depression are almost vogue, Susie writes, "Few people associate cheer with style, as high spirits are the antithesis of cool. Yet I do wish cheer could make a comeback. It’s really not a bad look." Well, perhaps it's making a very small comeback, on the second page of the Life & Arts section each Saturday morning.
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