Mrs Darsham Patel, Nisa Food and Wine, Archway. © Dylan Collard.
Charles Jennings writes:
Booze in quantity: voluptuous and magical. There’s even a wistfulness in the expression on the face of the proprietess as she stands guard over (in all probability) a few grand’s worth of drink, as if it’s enough just to be close.
It’s a bit like an fabulous picture I once found in a Paris Match from 1952: a French family of four, posing with their entire annual food and drink consumption – Ce Qu’une Famille Française A Mangé Cette Année.
As you might expect, it shows two small parents and their two small children surrounded by everything they nominally consume in a twelve-month period: a double-page spread of scarcely credible eventfulness, containing entire sides of beef, whole pigs, several metric tonnes of bread and potatoes, some game, a lot of charcuterie, and, of course, alcohol.
Three hundred litres of wine; one hundred and sixty-eight litres of beer; fifty-eight litres of cider. The bottles are set out at the feet of the little quartet like a stockade, behind which they sit with understandable complacency. It is described as une ménagère économe, which nonetheless enables the mother and father to absorb well over a litre of booze a day between them (the kids are plainly too young), to say nothing of the apéritifs and digestifs (about four litres’ worth) which also grace the photo. As an advertisement of French priorities, it is hard to beat; and even now, has a cave-of-wonders feel which combines with a nostalgia for something one has never actually experienced, in a deeply affecting whole.
But it’s only the drink which makes one feel truly sentimental. The fascination of the stuff, bottled or poured, is really an inheritance from childhood – when it was not just dazzlingly jewelled in appearance, full of complex and occult signifiers, but also forbidden – and as such contains longings which are deep, unresolved, inadmissible. Just look at all that booze, glowing with the same coral intensity as the proprietress’s stretch top! How can she stand there so calmly?
… for The London Column.
Charles Jennings blogs on wine and other forms of drink at Sediment (‘I’ve bought it so I’ll drink it’). Up My Street is Dylan Collard‘s project documenting shops between Kentish Town and Archway. His exhibition The Twelfth Man is currently showing at Exposure Gallery, 22-23 Little Portland Street, London W1. Dylan is represented by the Vue agency.