Archive | October 2010

Ya’ Nevah Know

Things can be going smoothly and then someone throws a wrench into the works.  We had a direct flight reserved a long time in advance and even our boarding passes the day before but when we got to the airport, plenty early, there was no sign of our flight on the boards.  It had been cancelled due to strikes!  This happened during the night.  The route is one that is subcontracted but the major company did a fairly good job of making the rearrangements, telephoning to get the last two seats on a connecting flight which was provided by the company shown above with which we had never flown before.  It was very tight connection but they sent a driver and vehicle for the terminal change.  Fortunately I stopped when I saw the name of our destination being held up instead of rushing headlong into the airport to try to find the shuttle.  When it came time to board, there was a problem with a scribble on our passes, an additional piece of paper seemed to missing.  From now on when I see a scribble on my boarding pass, I am going to ask what it means.  I remember being singled out for special treatment previously, based on a scribble.  Our suitcases didn’t make the connection but they will be delivered this morning.  So the competent good will actions of some made up for actions we perceived as inconsiderate by others.

In the pocket literature on this plane (which ordinarily doesn’t fly this route) there was an article on Copenhagen, mentioning a neighborhood called Christiania.  It only said it was an alternative community so my curiosity was whetted.  Here is a link:
The article in French was not the same as this one in English.  I like the idea of functioning by consensus and simple laws.

Meanwhile I have been waiting for a truck to brush my hair. 

P.S. I found a comb and the suitcases have arrived.

A Perhaps Unusual Taste

What is the taste of truth?  Is it a minor ingredient?  What would pure truth be like?  Overwhelming for we humans whose spiritual palates have degenerated?

Is truth on your list of what’s good?  Why do we often find it so unpalatable?

Common images in our language are “the bitter truth” and the “sword of truth”.  Sometimes it’s “sugar-coated” to make it easier to swallow, swallowing also being used in relation to tall tales, another euphemism for lying.  …when a guy sweet talks ya’…..  she was brutally honest….

On the other hand we have:
     *Honesty is the best policy.
     *What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

So somewhere remains a recognition of the value and desirability of truth.  But how much untruth do we recognize today?  Has not lying and deception become so commonplace we don’t even realize it? 

It is still a case of splinters and beams—we easily point out the lies and their effects when they come from others but what about our own?  We all contribute to this universal soup; the ingredients each one of us adds make up the taste of the whole.

The first place to look is within.  On the list of ingredients of my self, is truth one of the ones with so few parts per million, it doesn’t have to be on the label?

Does truth have to be bitter, brutal?  Can we not be truthful and loving at the same time?

Sometimes we may lie in order to escape the reaction of the other in relation to our actions.  Turn this around—what in my reactions would cause someone else to lie?

I remember sermons on standing up for what one believes.  How about having the courage to stand up and admit our shortcomings?  Then we need the spiritual strength to forgive, hopefully followed by even more strength so as to change.

And now for a splinter: 
Last week the government was assuring us there would be no shortage at the pumps.  On Friday a colleague wondered why are people filling gas cans?  I remembered when I first came to France hearing the government say oh, no, we are not going to devalue the franc, no, no.  And then 3 days later, they would devalue it.  People are filling gas cans because they’ve been lied to before.  Saturday evening there was no diesel fuel to be had in a nearby town.  Yesterday the pumps were closed when no attendant was on duty as purchases are limited, when there is any fuel to be had.

Truth and trust go hand in hand.  Savour the notion of being able to trust, then mix up a batch of honesty.  Don’t forget a healthy dose of love and compassion.

Taste Week ou la semaine du goût II

The women at the library did a very good job of setting up an exhibit presenting a wide array of food, games and tasting.  They had posters and print-outs of most food elements and displays of sugar, spices, herbs, tea, and cereals.

On this table there was a tray of banana slices, chocolate and apple pieces to be dipped in mixtures of ginger sugar, cocoa or cinnamon sugar.  There was also gazpacho to be sampled and a menu game.  We were to select a slip of each colour paper and put the elements together to create a dish.  The woman with me was sort of saying yuck (she pulled out calf’s head), while I was thinking, hmmm, maybe, about my omelet of Savoy pink river trout with Madagascar algae juice and Sauternes jelly

One of the librarians accompanied children in composing these vegetable heads inspired by the artist Arcimboldo.  She confided that she was careful not to mess the vegetables up too much so that they can still be used for soup.
On this table was a presentation of preserves and other products, some home-made, some purchased.  There was a jar of Marmite (a British product that people either love or hate, it seems) but I think they should have had some toast on hand since that is how one usually eats it.  I enjoyed the red pepper with saffron preserve.

Here were some jams and chutneys made by my club friends – apple and ginger, rhubarb and ginger, tomato chutney, and not in the photo, a South African preparation somewhat reminiscent of piccalilli and a Christmas chutney – all delicious.

Here you can see some more homemade jams, cookies, my applesauce cake and a coffee Queen Victoria cake.  In the background are chef’s hats made by children earlier in the day.

Quite a few people stopped in and had the courage to taste.  One man told us that when he was in London, the food wasn’t that great and he gained 7 kilos.  I guess he had managed to eat it anyway.  Most people very much enjoyed the different foods and were copying the recipes for the jams and chutneys.

The library ladies plan to do the same thing next year which gives a bit of time to prepare entries for the photo, poster, and cross stitch contests.

Food is a large part of culture.  I think it is important to be open to different tastes and ways of doing things so that we rise above and go beyond culture, to realize that we are all human beings and that more than one way of doing a thing may be “right”.

Taste Week or la semaine du goût

A few years ago when it became apparent that many children thought fish was rectangular and milk came from cartons, the French government decided it was time to do something so that the sense of taste does not disappear completely into the bland expanse of industrialized products.  France has many traditions in gastronomy and produces a great deal of high quality food products.  This week is dedicated to taste.

We had our own little festival at lunch with “farcis”, a specialty my mother-in-law used to make.  This could be translated as stuffed vegetables, but in this family when one says “farcis”, it is almost a term of endearment, so I am thinking “stuffies” would be a good name.  

I saved up some round zucchini and Yellow Stuffers tomatoes—what luck, there was a yellow summer squash in the garden!  An onion was hanging around under the counter.  My husband got the sausage meat at the market from a company that raises the pigs and feeds them a lot of flaxseed.  

Hmmm, I thought I had blogged about this dish already, but I can’t find it.  Oh, it was just a brief reference in the post on gnocchi.  It takes a bit of time to make, but it is flexible—you just take what vegetables you have, hollow them out (you can steam them to make this easier), grind that up with some ground meat, an egg, garlic, a fair amount of parsley, thyme, pepper, anything else you like (salt if you are not using sausage meat), and bake.  The more different vegetables you have, the better it is, but if all you have is zucchini, that’s good too.  The usual ones are zucchini, eggplant, tomato, potato, onion.

Then I cooked up a pot of applesauce and made an applesauce cake to take tomorrow to a local library which is putting on some events for this week of savours.

Some people are afraid of taste.  I remember an incident when I was maybe 7 or 8.  A missionary family was visiting and you know how you can tell in a group of people that something is up, without knowing exactly what?  Well, I knew the daughter was getting people to taste something “weird” but I was more curious than scared, knowing full well it was not chocolate or a raisin, I ate a fried grasshopper.  It tasted like grass.

Another memory I have dates from age 19.  I was working at a conference center for the summer and heard people talking about anchovies.  I had no idea what they were.  Some didn’t mind them; others seemed to think they were so overboard as to be unfit for human consumption.  On a day off, I went into town on the bus and had a pizza.  When I saw anchovies on the menu, I went for it.  What was all the fuss about? I wondered.  They were just small fish.  In later years, I greatly appreciated the ones my mother-in-law prepared, salting them fresh from the Mediterranean.  

Thinking about the taste of fish reminds me of The Revelation of Arès xxx/16.  “I have not two tastes. (It is) the fish nerve (that God puts) in my mouth; the griddle cake is left (to the hanged men).”   Believers are not to be insipid, but full of life.

Two Things I Saw Today

Although I have been trimming this hedge for over 20 years, this is the first time I remember seeing something purple hanging from it.  I guess this is its fruit, perhaps not quite ripe yet.  The hedge is lonicera nitida, a member of the honeysuckle family, but not a vine.

Another thing I don’t remember seeing before is the light refracted on a spider’s web.  I had a hard time getting the camera to capture what I saw, so here are two photos, one of which is focused and the other shows more of the colour I saw.