Monday, June 14, 2010

Collections & Collecting

I was going through all my Greece photographs and I realised that a lot of my still-life shots had a recurring theme—collections, groupings and repeating patterns. I think it’s human nature to find or enforce some kind of order in groups of objects and I guess I respond to these instances of visual order strongly due to my innate O&M personality!

That got me thinking about the collections in my own home and once I started itemising, I found quite a few different things that I consciously and unconsciously put together in similar groupings.

My oldest (15 years and going strong), and most conscious collection is my “Piggy Pack” as I call it—small pig figurines made from various materials and hailing from all over the world. Me being me, it isn’t any ordinary piggy pack, but one with stringent entry rules. My initial requirements were that the pigs be small in size and pink in colour. The colour rule went the way of the dodo fairly soon but I still enforce the size parameter strictly. Rule number 2—the “eerie” factor. Pigs in general have a tendency to look either scary and grotesque (i.e., “eerie”) or adorably cute and congenial. I naturally prefer the latter variety, and hubby and I put every new potential member to the “eerie” test, which is quite subjective mind you, before it is purchased. And finally, the last rule, established to prevent a quick descent to freakish “pig-ladydome,” is that the pig has to strictly be a figurine and not a pig-shaped object or item with pig motifs; i.e., no pig-shaped bowls or pig hand towels. I present my loving and ever expanding Piggy Pack.

Moving down the ladder are my collections of coloured glass bottles; vintage chemistry beakers; miscellaneous kitchenware with spouts (I know, I’m odd, I like spouts!); and white ironstone and porcelain serving dishes. And don't even get me started on my “minor” textile and shoe hobbies! 

Not to be left behind, hubby, in the past seven years, has started his own collection of Ganesh figurines. His goal is to collect one from each region and state in India in as many different materials as possible. So far he’s covered 10 Indian states, 3 countries and 8 different materials.

So there you have it, a window into my obsessions and compulsions—some impractical, others improbable, and all addictive. Each and every one giving me immeasurable joy and unending pleasure.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Warm Mushroom, Spinach and Salami Salad on Buttered Toast

This dish was inspired by my stroll through the farmer’s market this afternoon, where the vegetable stands were overflowing with a bounty of mushrooms. It’s my (healthier) homage to the creamy mushrooms-on-toast that I ate as a child at Sky Room and Flurys. The recipe was a terrific success, even with simple whole-wheat sandwich bread as a base. I think I’ll gussy it up a bit with a fancier brioche or baguette and serve it as a first course at my next dinner party. 

3 tbsp butter
½ lb Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
Salt (to taste)
2 tsp black pepper
3-4 Shallots, sliced (or half a small white onion)
3 tbsp Sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
½ lb Spinach
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
½ lb Salami, chopped into half-moon pieces
8 slices Bread
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet or frying pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté for 5 mins over medium-high heat until golden. Set aside mushrooms in a bowl. 
  2. In the same pan, heat another tbsp of butter; add shallots and fry for 3-4 mins until lightly golden. Deglaze the pan with vinegar, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom. Turn off heat. 
  3. Add mushrooms, spinach and thyme, stir well, and put the lid on, allowing the spinach to wilt in the steam for 5 mins. Remove lid, add salami, and stir. 
  4. Toast bread and spread the last remaining tbsp of butter on the slices. Pile salad mixture on top of each slice and cut diagonally. Serve immediately.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spring-Summer Home Refresh

As many of you know, I am an unabashed textile whore. When hubby and I bought our apartment in Dec 2008, the most exciting prospect for me was 1686 sq. ft. of brand spanking new space to decorate with my growing textile collection. Since we moved in, one of the things I do to keep things fresh is to update some of the soft furnishings seasonally to rotate my collection—cushion and throw pillow covers, slipcovers, throws, drapery.

I have most of my soft furnishings made in India, so it’s easy enough for me to indulge in glorious silks, brocades and linens. In fact I’ve become so efficient in recycling old drapery into new cushion covers and throws into duvets (with Mama coordinating the upholsterers and tailors in Calcutta of course!), that hubby thinks I should start a wholesale/retail venture here in NYC. Fat Sister Furnishings, perchance . . . ?

At any rate, I’m digressing. Here are a few snapshots of my Fall-Winter to Spring-Summer home refresh. Some of the changes—like repainting the guest room a butter colour (from a warm mushroom tone), and changing the accent wall colour behind the bed in the master bedroom from an avocado to a darker sage green—are things I’d been putting off for a while and are not seasonal enterprises by any means. These colours are staying put, at least for a while! But changing just the cushion covers and throw on the sofa and chairs in the living room, slipcovers in the dining room chairs, table linens for dinner parties and the drapery behind the master bed were quick and easy updates.

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The final (and possibly biggest) change was a pure stroke of luck. I’d been looking for a new coffee table to replace our 7-yr-old Ikea one since we moved to this new place. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted—simple square or rectangular shape, solid stone top (ideally marble or limestone) with a wood base and some storage space. I looked everywhere (in 3 continents!) and my persistence finally paid off when I stumbled across this beauty at a sample sale at Ligne Roset, from where we had bought our dining table and chairs. I guess my stubborn refusal to settle for anything less than perfect paid off with a monolithic, white Carrara marble top on a dark walnut base with storage in the middle—everything on my wish list. Best of all, I got it at 60% off, even though it was a new addition to their 2010 collection!
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Next on the to-do list is addressing the sliding pocket doors that separate the living room from the media room, and re-tiling the kitchen backsplash. Both these projects have been in the planning stages for a long time, and I’ll post pictures and details once they’re done.

© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar