Wednesday, 28 March 2012
On Saturday, two events occurred. Ben's birthday and the first Tin Pan Alley - a vintage market in Norwich, set-up by my friend Amy.
Now, what I am about to say will probably be considered near blasphemous for a middle class, twenty something who likes brogues and tea cups; but I hate vintage markets. The word 'vintage' is so often used to cover a multitude of sins, which anywhere else would just be considered 'a load of smelly old shit'. You spend hours trawling through rails and rails of stained dresses resembling your nan's curtains and may occasionally come across something comparatively pleasant but then can't face buying it because you know the smug bastard who's put a £20 price tag on it picked it up in the local Oxfam for 75p. And at least if you got it from Oxfam you'd have the satisfaction of saying "Oh this? I got it for 75p in Oxfam" when the person who asked was really hoping you'd say ASOS.
Not to mention, vintage clothes don't fit me. Everything was so SMALL back in the day. But I suppose they didn't have pizza or Hobnobs to contend with. If I were to shop vintage according to a sizing era then I'd probably end up circa Botticelli, with less visible bosoms.
And it all reeks of moth balls and death.
So, I am probably not best placed as the friend of the latest vintage entrepreneurs. When the idea was first raised I nodded and grinned and said 'ooh, lovely', a bit like you do when you first meet someone's baby and it's hideously ugly. But as plans progressed it was clear this was not going to be your run-of-the-mill jumble sale for people with victory curls. For a start half of it was going to take place at night time, with booze and bands (now you're talking). It was going to be in an awesome old building, there would be furniture, not just smelly clothes, and people selling necklaces made out of buttons and broken crockery had been outlawed.
I warmed to the idea. And when it came to the main event I had to eat my high-street-bought hat, because these ladies pulled off a blinder. The building had been superbly decorated from head to toe, with different goods on different floors. The atmosphere was full of joy de vivre, with none of the awkward, 'PLEASE BUY MY STUFF/I should have listened to Mum and got a job at Aviva' air from stall holders hiding behind dog-eared mannequins. Everyone was up and about, having a natter, making new BFFs, drinking gin.
And the goods were good. Minimum amounts of smelly old shit, and stuff which I actually wanted to buy. Below is a charming little posie from Jo Loves Flowers, who I sadly can't find any reference to online. I also picked up a lovely plate (at which Ben did the ugly baby reaction) and a cardigan which fits (is made for a boy)! Tin Pan Alley, I doff my cap to you.
Going back to a few weeks before the event, Amy asked if I would make some cakes to sell on the Sunday. I swiftly agreed - mainly though flattery at the idea that anyone would still be interested in buying my baked goods - then later that day realised the market was actually on Ben's birthday, resulting in a lot of swear words. So, I bowed out of the baking on the basis that I would be required for festive quality time.
The night before the market and I get a phone call from Amy. "Erm, we seem to have got confused between bicarbonate of soda and baking powder....the banana cake's gone wrong. Can you help us out?". Again I decline, feeling horrible, but I am determined to be a good girlfriend and do something wholesome with Ben, like a picnic, or a coastal walk, or getting him to paint the landing or something. I hang-up, anticipating mass GF brownie points, only to be informed that the birthday boy is actually scheduled to spend the entire afternoon holed up in a box room recording noises and pressing buttons. OH BLOODY SPLENDID.
So, I conclude that I will bake something in the name of Ben's birthday and double the quantities to help Amy out. I ask him what sort of thing he'd like (fruit cake, coffee cake, or something with booze), all of which I dismiss on the grounds of being too complicated or too gross and tell him he's having raspberry blondies.
If you, like everyone else I have used the term to, haven't heard of a blondie before then they are basically the white chocolate alternative to a brownie. When I tried one straight out of the oven I have to say I did a massive 'MEH'. But put them in the fridge overnight and, woah mama, they are an artery clogging delight.
225g butter, very soft
3 med eggs
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g white chocolate (chips or finely chopped into chunks)
1 tsp baking powder (NOT BICARBONATE OF SODA, AMY)
Couple of handfuls of raspberries (I used frozen)
Pinch of salt
So, you can cream your butter and sugar and sift your dry ingredients, or you can bung it all in a bowl (all but the raspberries) and mix - the choice is yours. I go with the bung method, as you know. Once suitably mixed, spread out into a greased baking tin (about 10" square) and scatter over the raspberries. Bake on gas mark seven for about 25 mins then check - you want it to be going golden and firm on the top but still pretty soft/gooey (not wet) underneath. If not done put back in the oven and check every five mins until as desired. Turn out to cool and slice. If you're feeling generous you can stack and tie with a girly bow and give to someone as a present, as below. I gave them to myself.