The sixth sense and an extra dimension…

I was giv­en the per­fect going-home present last night, after sup­per with friends; two plump, mottled, ever so slightly mis­shapen and exquis­itely per­fumed quinces. They ful­filled everything you could wish for in a gift: taste, touch, scent and rar­ity, with a sprink­ling of eccent­ri­city.

My vis­it to Tate Mod­ern in Lon­don to see Ai Weiwei’s new Sun­flower Seeds exhib­it was any­thing but ful­filling. Now that we’ve been banned from walk­ing, ankle-deep, through the one hun­dred mil­lion hand-painted por­cel­ain sun­flower seeds, the work has been stripped of a dimen­sion. The snooti­er art crit­ics claim the work is the same wheth­er we walk through it or not. But that’s just wrong. Sun­flower Seeds was sup­posed to be a work to exper­i­ence not just with the eyes, but with our ears, our hands and our feet. Rop­ing it off with the kind of pro­sa­ic black bar­ri­er you would find at an air­port has stripped it of its demo­crat­ic power — and its glory too, for that mat­ter.

I stomped grump­ily away from Sun­flower Seeds to join the line for the new Gauguin exhib­i­tion. That was pos­sibly even worse as an artist­ic exper­i­ence. Duck­ing and dodging around the crowds, I saw more shoulders, elbows and necks than I saw paint­ings.

My dis­ap­point­ing day got me think­ing about what hap­pens when our senses are cheated. Bit­ing into a taste­less, scar­let tomato. Smelling a bunch of hot­house flowers devoid of scent. Sli­cing a downy, blush­ing peach and find­ing it has the tex­ture of moss. And even when all five senses of see­ing, hear­ing, touch­ing, tast­ing and smelling are ful­filled, there’s still a little some­thing miss­ing. Shouldn’t we add the sense of mov­ing to the list? Trail­ing through the sea-shore with the salt water froth­ing at our ankles; pick­ing black­ber­ries while zig-zag­ging along a shaded lane with thorns snag­ging at our sleeves; eat­ing a per­fect apple on a climb up one of Dorset’s highest hills. Or fol­low­ing the curve of the hedgerow while hunt­ing for sloes to add to gin.

The slightly tricky thing about sloe gin is when to drink it and what to drink it with. Lunch time? Not really. In the even­ing, before din­ner? Not sure about that. And then it struck me. It needs that extra dimen­sion. Just as the Itali­ans drink sweet Vin Santo while eat­ing bis­cotti, why not pair sloe gin with spiced ginger bis­cuits? Ginger goes per­fectly with the plummy-ness of sloes, and if you invite a friend to share your feast and you pick the sloes your­self you will have ful­filled all six senses by the time you’ve fin­ished. Sight, sound, touch, taste, scent and move­ment. Bet­ter than Tate Mod­ern can man­age as it turns out.

Spiced Ginger Biscuits

Pre­heat the oven to 175 degrees C

80 g but­ter

80g light brown caster sug­ar

2 desert spoons black treacle or molasses

250g plain flour

Half tea­spoon bicar­bon­ate of soda

2 roun­ded tea­spoons ground cin­na­mon

2 roun­ded tea­spoons ground ginger

1 egg yolk

2 or 3 table­spoons milk

Icing sug­ar to dust

This is a vari­ation on Nigel Slater’s ginger bis­cuits, but it’s slightly more suited to sloe gin. Beat the but­ter and sug­ar togeth­er until it is light and well mixed. Add the treacle, fol­lowed by all the oth­er ingredi­ents apart from the milk. Add the milk gradu­ally until the con­sist­ency is per­fect for rolling but not too soft. Cut into shapes and bake in the oven for ten minutes. Sprinkle the bis­cuits with icing sug­ar and pour the sloe gin.

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13 thoughts on “The sixth sense and an extra dimension…

  1. Allow me a moment to organ­ize my thoughts:
    1. I love quinces and I wish they weren’t nearly as expens­ive as they always are. They make fant­ast­ic com­potes, jam, and oth­er treats and you’re one lucky per­son to get two as a present. Someone obvi­ously knows and likes you.
    2. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve star­ted going to museums on odd days at odd hours in order to avoid the masses. I took this pic­ture on my trip to Par­is last year when the masses couldn’t be helped. Believe it or not the Mona Lisa is in there some­where:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalina813/3939262115/in/set-72157622259400407/
    3. I’ve nev­er even heard of Sloe Gin, nor would I know where to find the ber­ries by me, but I’ll be on the lookout from now on.
    4. And finally, as long as you’re drink­ing with a friend, and espe­cially if there are bis­cuits involved, any time is a good time for booze 😀

    Thanks for shar­ing!

  2. Thanks for stop­ping by Anna. Sloe gin is very easy and sat­is­fy­ing to make — just gin, ber­ries and sug­ar — but if you don’t have a handy sloe bush nearby, you can also buy it ready-made.

  3. Exactly! I so agree with you! Life is an accu­mu­la­tion, a gath­er­ing togeth­er of all of the senses: sen­su­al! And when we are held back from that exper­i­ence it is so unsat­is­fy­ing! But these cook­ies are won­der­ful! And paired with the sloe gin — now that is an exper­i­ence worth hav­ing!

  4. Well this is really handy because I need a ginger bis­cuit recipe where the bis­cuits hold their shape — I’m doing a pop-up sup­per for Allan­tide — car­a­mel pears ( I wish they were quinces) and I wanted a ginger bisc to go with them and now I have one. Thanks Charlie.

    Oh and I made sloe vodka with cin­na­mon and vanilla this year.. look­ing good…
    x

  5. Hi Liz
    Do let me know how the pop-up sup­per goes. I think it’s such an inter­est­ing idea. I think your sloe vodka sounds infin­itely more exot­ic than mine — how deli­cious x

  6. I made the bis­cuits — rolled them out really thinly and they were the per­fect accom­pani­ments to car­a­mel pears. Thanks so much. I pub­lished a write up on feastsandfestivals.co.uk

    So thank you Charlie — exactly the right thing at the right time..
    x

  7. Mmmm, my sloe gin is cur­rently brew­ing from last years sloes. Need to bottle it! I love the idea of pair­ing it with ginger bis­cuits too. Noth­ing I hate more than a dis­ap­point­ing fruit or veget­able — floury pears are the worst in my book — or taste­less can­ta­loupe mel­ons…

  8. I am impressed to read such a power­ful story about The sixth sense and an extra dimen­sion… | Eggs On The Roof. I will post a link on my coupon site to this blog post. I will be back to read more.

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