Jones Wood Foundry, 401 East 76th Street, New York City.
I was recently commissioned to design some cartoons depicting traditional British food being served at Jones Wood Foundry, a British pub-like restaurant in the heart of New York City. What was unusual about this undertaking was that the finished artwork would then be reproduced by a local artist, Adeline Jadot, onto five mirrors, (each 53 inches x 10 inches that’s 135cm x 25.5cm) which stand above the bar. This meant the size of the work would be much longer and yet narrower than anything I’d ever attempted before. As a cartoonist I live in a world of A4…sometimes venturing into A3!
Jason Hicks and Yves Jadot owners of Jones Wood Foundry have invited me to write a blog about the work because they were keen that each of the five cartoon strips not only showed their British culinary delights, but also told a British story to New Yorkers … and visitors from many other parts of the world, of course.
So, on went the thinking cap and after a few emails with an exchange of ideas had zapped their way back and forth over the Atlantic, these were the five themes I would cartoon.
1)Londoners and London landmarks (Beefeaters, London Bridge, Tower of London etc)
2)Pearly Kings & Queens (what on earth…? Aaah, all will be revealed as this blog progresses!)
3)Indian curries (British? Oh yes, very British. It’s an strange week in the U.K. without a curry).
4)The Rolling Stones (50 years on and still rocking…also customers at Jones Wood Foundry!)
5)Shakespeare (The Bard indeed …and the name of Jason & Yves’ other restaurant 24E 39th Street)
So here’s the first. INDIAN CURRIES.
Britain is a multi-cultural country with a large section of the population originating from the Indian subcontinent. Third and fourth generation families whose forebears came from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are now proud to call themselves British. It goes back to the old colonial days of the British Raj, or British Crown when it was said the sun never set on the British Empire and Queen Victoria was dubbed The Empress of India. I can remember as a post war baby boomer using words like brahma (good), loot (money) and khakis (my Boy Scout uniform) without a clue that they were Indian words. We played with Bengal matches on Bonfire night, ate Tiffin chocolate bars between meals and played in the verandah…all thanks to the Indian language.
There isn’t a town, or village for that matter, in the U.K. that hasn’t got an Indian restaurant …and Britain’s cities are full with them.
“We’re going for an Indian” isn’t a threat, it means us Brits are going to an Indian restaurant for a curry (…curry, another Indian word now an integral part of our language).
My city, Birmingham, the UK’s second city is renowned for its Balti belt, a suburb of Birmingham where ordinary Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, then newly arrived immigrants, opened their front rooms to serve their traditional food. Gradually these front rooms became restaurants and soon the whole area was full of ‘us lot’ enjoying their cooking. This was vastly different to the situation in the mid 1950s when the only Indian restaurant in Birmingham that I recall was The Star of India in Hurst Street. How things have changed; us Brummies, (that’s what we folk of Birmingham are known as) can “go for Indian” in any of our city suburbs.
My cartoon idea was to have Hindu goddesses, often portrayed with numerous arms, busily serving different types of curry; balti, vindaloo, korma, tikka, Madras etc. The Hindu religion is so rich and colourful it was an interesting challenge trying to decide on which deity to choose. Very often the same god or goddess can change form, but in the end I decided upon Shiva, Vishnu and Ganesh.
Vishnu is the centre piece of my cartoon. It is said she has blue skin to depict the blue sky and the blue sea. Her name means ‘all persuasive’; can she persuade you to have a balti … or maybe you’ll be a bit more adventurous and try a vindaloo?
To her right is Ganesh, The Lord of Success and the god of education and wisdom. Are you going to tarry a while and watch the NFL or the English Premier League football on one of Jones Wood’s giant screens?Ask Ganesh for some guidance.
To her left is Shiva the auspicious one, both destroyer and reformer and the symbol of sensuality. Call in at the bar of Jones Wood Foundry for a curry, Shiva may say an auspicious start would be a pint of Old Speckled Hen.
Drinking habits in Great Britain have changed a lot in the last couple of decades with a move away from the lagers that flooded the market in the 1970s & 80s and back to the traditional beers that our fathers and grandfathers enjoyed. All the major brewers from the southernmost English counties of Devon & Cornwall to the northern counties of Lancashire & Yorkshire now produce real ales; they have been joined by micro-breweries that have sprung up all over the UK.
Old Speckled Hen is one of the most popular real ales in the UK. Originally brewed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire by Morlands to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nearby MG motor car factory. The beer was named after the old MG run-about which, parked outside the factory paint shop, became flecked with paint and was nicknamed “Owld Speckl’d Un” (try saying that in an Oxfordshire accent!). The company has since been bought by the Greene-King Brewery in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.
Old Speckled Hen is a dark brown beer with a rich, malty taste and a fruity aroma served slightly warmer than the filtered lagers you drink in the States. This allows you to enjoy the unique flavours only real ales offer. It also packs a punch, but don’t take my word for it, give it a try.
Jason and Yves are very proud that Jones Wood Foundry and Shakespeare are the only bars who serve draught ales…real cask ales… all year round in NYC.
Jones Wood Foundry has a curry club serving poppadoms, home made chutney, curries and deserts on Monday nights throughout the fall and winter. Check out the Jones Wood Foundry and Facebook page