Friday, 27 March 2015

FOOD FRIDAY - RICE

“Rice is born in water and must die in wine.” - Italian Proverb

Food Friday is devoted to rice as yesterday we had a lovely risotto at home (recipe later!). Rice is one of the world’s staple foods and to give you an idea of the enormous scale of its cultivation, here are some astounding figures: In the year 2003, the world produced about 589 million tonnes of paddy rice. Most of that (≈534 million tonnes) was grown in Asia. In 2002, it is estimated that rice fields covered almost 1.5 million square km of land. Again, most of those fields are in Asia - around 1.3 million square km. When all developing countries are considered together, rice provides 30% of people’s energy intake and 20% of their dietary protein. Whenever I have visited SE Asian countries I have been impressed by the enormous tracts of land that are devoted to rice cultivation. I guess that is why most people have a typical image of the Far East in their mind and this image at some point includes a flooded rice paddy…

Rice (Oryza sativa) is a grain belonging to the grass family. The plant, which needs both warmth and moisture to grow, measures about 2 metres tall and has long, flat, pointed leaves and stalks bearing clusters of flowers producing the grain. It takes between 3 and 6 months for a rice plant to reach maturity. On average, farmers need 2,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of rice, the plant needing to grow in flooded fields (rice paddies). Rice is one of the few foods that is non-allergenic and gluten-free. Scientists believe there are about 140,000 varieties of cultivated rice.

Historians believe that rice was first domesticated in the area covering the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas (north-eastern India), and stretching through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Southern China. Traces of early rice cultivation have been found in the Yangtze valley dating to about 8500 B.C. Cultivation and cooking methods are thought to have gradually spread to the West so that by medieval times, southern Europe saw the introduction of rice as a popular and nutritious grain. The rice fields of northern Italy are a picture that comes to my mind with the classic 1949 Italian film “Bitter Rice” with Vittorio Gassman and Silvana Mangano. However, rice still remains a food that is associated with an Asian way of life: For example, in Myanmar, people eat an average of half a kilogram of rice every day. The average European consumes much less, only about 3 kilogram per year! Three of the world’s four most populous nations use rice as their staple food: China, India and Indonesia. Together, these countries have 2,500 million people.

Brown rice is unpolished whole grain rice that is produced by removing only the outer husk. It becomes white rice when the bran layer is stripped off in the milling process. Compared with white rice, brown rice is more nutritious because it contains bran, which is a source of fibre, oils, B vitamins, and important minerals. Just a clarification, the black “wild rice” comes from a completely different plant (Zizania palustris) and is native to North America growing predominantly in the Great Lakes region. See this link for an erudite review of wild rice.

Today, rice is grown and harvested on every continent except Antarctica, where conditions make its growth impossible (not much is grown as a crop in Antarctica!). The majority of all rice produced comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. Asian farmers still account for 92% of the world's total rice production. Talking with a Chinese colleague, I was told that rice in Asian countries is viewed very much as bread is viewed by the European. Just as in the Southern Mediterranean countries bread was the basis of every meal, in Asian countries boiled or steamed rice is the basis of every meal.

Rice and its by-products are used for making straw and rope, paper, wine, crackers, beer, cosmetics, packing material, and even toothpaste! Now for that risotto recipe. Risotto is a classic dish of Italy prepared with special varieties of rice rich in starch, especially the Arborio type, and there are a multitude of recipes and variations. They all have as common feature the toasting of the rice with butter or olive oil, before broth is added to cook the grains thoroughly.

RISOTTO AI FUNGHI
(Mushroom Risotto) 

Ingredients
2 tablespoonfuls of butter
2 tablespoonfuls of olive oil
2 cups oyster or morel mushrooms (may substitute any other full-flavoured mushrooms), wiped clean, trimmed, and chopped
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup dairy cream
7 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoonfuls of butter
1 tablespoonfuls of olive oil
4 medium Spanish onions, peeled and minced
1 and 3/4 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ground mace to taste
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Method
Put the butter and two tablespoonfuls of the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce liquid by half, about 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium, add cream, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Boil the stock and then reduce to a simmer in a saucepan.
In another deep, heavy, saucepan, heat the second lot of oil and butter. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the rice and ground mace, and stir to coat with butter and oil, toasting for two to three minutes. Add the simmering stock, stirring to keep the rice from sticking to the edges of the pan. The stock should be almost completely absorbed in about 20 minutes. The rice should be cooked and creamy, but still in separate grains.

Stir in the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley if desired.

Please add your own favourite recipes using the Linky tool below:

Thursday, 26 March 2015

VEGETARIANISM OR NOT?

“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?” - Author Unknown

An acquaintance told us this anecdote the other day: He was at the supermarket shopping and he bought a frozen chicken together with his other grocery items. When he got to the check out, the young cashier looked at the chicken with revulsion and asked the customer to handle the chicken himself and put it in a bag, as she couldn’t do it. Our acquaintance complied and placed the chicken in a plastic bag. He was intrigued enough to ask why. The cashier (a young woman of about 16 years) explained that she was a vegetarian and she couldn’t bring herself to touch a “dead animal”. This intrigued and perplexed our friend who is a staunch omnivore.

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans are vegetarians who abstain from eating or using all animal products, including milk, cheese, other dairy items, eggs, honey, wool, silk, and leather. Dieticians agree that it is possible to be a vegetarian or a vegan and meet all known nutrient needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including seasonal fruits and vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Sweet and fatty food intake is best limited. Some other terms that may be seen in relation to vegetarianism:
Ovovegetarian - eats eggs; no meat
Lactovovegetarian - eats dairy and egg products; no meat
Lactovegetarian - eats dairy products; no eggs or meat.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is often seen in vegans, as this vitamin comes primarily from animal-derived foods. Vegetarians don’t have a problem as a diet containing dairy products or eggs provides adequate vitamin B12. Vegans can consume fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soymilk, or other soy products, that are good non-animal sources. Tempeh and sea vegetables are not a reliable source of vitamin B12. To be on the safe side, if you do not consume dairy products, eggs, or fortified foods regularly, you should take a non-animal derived vitamin supplement.

Many cultures and religions around the world espouse vegetarianism as a matter of course and long tradition. An excellent web page on religion and vegetarianism can be found here.  Amongst the lay Westerners, some of the many reasons for being a vegetarian are for health, ecological, and religious concerns, dislike of meat, compassion for animals, belief in non-violence, and economics.

Although I am not a vegetarian, my meat consumption is minimal. I love all sorts of vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses and consume all of these in many ways. The Greek Orthodox faith has several strict fasts throughout the year and what this boils down to essentially is that the faithful need to be vegetarians or vegans during these times. Biologically speaking, human beings have been designed as omnivores. The ancient maxim of Cleobulus, one of the seven sages of ancient Greece, springs to mind: “The mean is best in all things.”

As far as the check out girl is concerned, I respect her vegetarianism and would defend to the death her right to it, however, I think her attitude of “no see, no touch, no think” dead animals is a trifle affected, but after all she is young and she still has to learn a lot about this world and its curiosities…

An amusing and interesting article to read:  “Why I Hate Vegetarians” by Julie Bindel in the “The Guardian” (13/6/2005) 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

POETRY JAM - TEA OR COFFEE?

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” - T. S. Eliot

Poetry Jam this week sets as its theme the doublet tea/coffee. Contributors are invited to: “Write about your first cup in the morning, or a special event that happened when you were drinking either at home or in a café. Share your fist cup of the day with us.”

Although I love tea and drink quite a bit of it, coffee is what I choose to start my day with. As far as the way that I drink it is concerned, typically a caffé latte in the morning, and if I have another cup during the day, it is usually an espresso or a double espresso without any sugar – coffee that is dark, strong, bitter and aromatic. Occasionally I will have a Vienna coffee or rarely a cappuccino.

Here is my poetic contribution:

Haiku for an Autumn Morning

Look! The East’s on fire
Darkness is quickly dispelled:
I start to think of work.

A crowded train; packed
Escalators, hubbub, din –
Cold streets are empty.

Fragrance of coffee
Warm cup; steam in the cold air.
Bitter taste, absence.

Words, numbers, papers:
My desk chaotic. Your call
Orders my morning.

A full day ahead,
The diary’s crammed, I talk on,
Loth to lose your voice.

A sunny morning,
Cool air and leaves that yellow:
Work as clouds gather.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

LITERARY TUESDAY - THE DREAM OF SCIPIO

“Do not applaud me. It is not I who speaks to you, but history which speaks through my mouth.” - Fustel de Coulanges

Do you ever feel as though the whole world is crumbling around you? Do you see the news on TV and wonder how long this current situation can last before we all perish? That we are at point in history where something momentous and disastrous is waiting to happen? A crisis, a turning point where the slightest ill-considered action of our leaders will bring upon us a doom worse than that experienced before by our forebears? If so, you are not alone, there are others around the world who are watching the current state of the world and feel the same way.

What must have been the thoughts of the last civilised Romans as the hordes of the Barbarians were clamouring outside the gates of Rome? How did the Florentines feel when the plague was upon their city and decimated their friends and relatives? The images in the mind of the soldier in the trenches of WWI as the flashes of the bombs and deafening sounds crashed around him, and the first whiff of poison gas was smelt? The emotions of the beautiful dark-eyed woman as she was shuffled on the train bound for Mauthausen? Can they have been so different from the thoughts of the terrified people of Baghdad as the bombs exploded around them daily? The businessman who is travelling on the London underground as the special operations squad men barge in looking for suspicious packages on the train? The woman in the US hearing the report on the radio of gunmen having opened fire in a school – her own children’s school?

“Things have never been more like they are today in history.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower said and he was restating the old dictum “History repeats itself” rather prettily. I read a novel lately that takes as its premise this endless spiral of history repeating itself as it corkscrews through time. The novel is “The Dream of Scipio” (2002) by Iain Pears. It is a historical novel, but it is set in three different time periods. Periods of crisis and doom and the stories the author weaves share a common theme, and are all set in Avignon in France. There are three protagonists: A Roman nobleman, Manlius, owner of a villa in the Gaulish provinces of the Roman Empire as the barbarians are about to descend upon it; Olivier de Noyes, a poet, in the fourteenth century plague; and Julien Barneuve, a historian, under the Vichy government and the German occupation of France in the WWII. The title of the novel “The Dream of Scipio” is taken from a Neoplatonic philosophical work by Manlius (based on that by Cicero), which is read by the other two heroes later in time.

The author tells three interwoven stories that any reader knows from the start cannot have a “happy end”. All three of Pears’ heroes are doomed – they know it, we know it. That is the tragedy of their existence and as we continue to read, we come to dread our own future, as Lamartine says: “History teaches everything including the future.” The novel has as one of its major themes that of intolerance, more specifically, anti-Semitism. In all three cases, the heroes’ abstract interest in maintaining the culture around them is counterpointed by a personal desire to protect a Jewish woman close to their hearts.

“Culture and civilisation,” Pears says, “is equivalent to breadth of knowledge, tolerance and understanding of others, dissimilar to oneself.” This is a novel that despite its obvious literary merit, historical allusions, philosophical questioning about what is culture and how we maintain our civilised state in the midst of adversity, is also one that is easy to read and enjoyable as a work of fiction should be. It is a novel of ideas, philosophical ponderings, a treatise on history but also a moving love story that repeats itself three times in the span of the 1500 years that the novel encompasses.

“Are you civilised if you read the right books,” Manlius asks himself, “yet stand by while your neighbours are massacred?”  This sentence in the book touched me greatly – as I felt it was addressed to me personally. It is not enough to think rightly, be well read and be civilised by reading the “right” books. One’s moral obligation is to also align oneself on the side of right as dictated by ethical benchmarks drawn by one’s ideas and ideals, and make a stand, act – whatever the price may be… A fascinating book that makes one think and feel, a book of great poignancy and an extended deliberation of how one resolves ethical conflicts, emotional commitments, and the quest for the true meaning of human life. A complex but lucid book by a highly civilised and literate author.

Monday, 23 March 2015

MOVIE MONDAY - REVENGE (TV SOAP)

“While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself.” - Douglas Horton

Soap operas are an extremely popular and an immensely prolific genre of TV program. This type of serial drama and suspense features related story lines about the lives of multiple characters. They can be found locally produced in almost every country of the world and reflect that particular society’s culture, mores and values. The stories typically focus on emotional relationships to the point of extreme melodrama. Usually, the lives of the rich and poor are contrasted, the soapie often allowing the “common people” viewing it to live vicariously the lives of the rich and famous. The term “soap opera” originated from this type of drama series having been sponsored by soap manufacturers in the past.

We have watched a large variety of soap operas, originating from the USA, Australia, UK, Scandinavia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, etc, and it is surprising how similar they all are in terms of characters, plot lines and conclusion. They all seem to pander to basic human needs and desires: Desire to be rich (and perhaps, famous); need to be loved and to love; desire to be desirable and to feel wanted; need to live in a society where justice is served; desire to allow people to reach their full potential; a wish for the good to be rewarded and the bad to be punished; and of course for the heroes and heroines to live happily ever after…

Production values vary immensely, with some extremely polished series where good actors sink their teeth into interesting and involving plots of some originality, to series that are ludicrous, with bad actors hamming up stock melodramatic situations or wading their way through badly disguised fairy tales. And of course, there is everything in between. It does depend a lot on the creative team behind the series, and not so much on the country of origin, as one may see extreme bathos and surprising quality in any one country’s output of soapies.

At the moment, we are watching the USA soapie “Revenge” whose first season began in 2011 and it is still going strong this year, in its fourth season. It stars Madeleine Stowe, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann, Nick Wechsler, Josh Bowman, Christa B. Allen and Henry Czerny. The series was created by Mike Kelley and as is usual with soapies, it is written and directed by a whole team of people, who obviously keep the suspense up and ensure that enough plot twists and turns maintain viewer interest.

“Revenge”, as the title implies, takes as its premise a common desire of many of us to avenge ourselves on those who have done us wrong. The plot commences thus: As a summer to remember begins in the exclusive Hamptons of Long Island NY, new arrival Emily Thorne dazzles the members of high society by making herself known in the exclusive social circle of Grayson Global CEO Conrad Grayson and his socialite wife Victoria. But it soon becomes clear that the beguiling young philanthropist has a dark past. Emily was once known as Amanda Clarke, a young nine-year-old whose life was torn apart when her father (Grayson Global hedge fund manager David Clarke) was falsely accused of channelling money to a terrorist organisation responsible for the downing of a commercial airliner. Now living under an assumed identity, she is determined to seek vengeance on the people who destroyed her father’s life (the two main conspirators being Conrad and Victoria Grayson) by making their lives come crashing down around them.

The production values are high, the acting is excellent, direction tight and the pace rapid and with few pauses for reflection. Unlike many other soapies, there is not much time wasted and the viewer is kept engaged without becoming bored. We are watching this on DVD, without ads and we are enjoying it much more than watching it on commercial television. Of course there are numerous clichés, many stock dramatic situations and predictable character traits. However, there is enough originality, humour and likeable characters to maintain viewer interest in what is proving to be a very long-lived series. The IMDB score for this series is 8/10 from about 90,000 voters.

This series started being remade in 2013 in Turkey as “Intikam”. Yagmur Ozden moves to a yali (Bosporus mansion) at a rich neighborhood on the shore of the Bosporus in Istanbul. Her real name is Derin Celik. Her father, Adil was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Derin was sent to an orphanage and believed that her father was guilty. Adil wanted her daughter to learn the truth and kept a diary to be given to her. Derin learned the truth about her father when she was 18. But it was too late. He died in jail as an innocent man. Derin comes to her childhood neighbourhood with a different identity to seek revenge against the people who betrayed her father. The lead role is played by the captivating Turkish star Beren Saat who has in many other quality Turkish TV soapies.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

ART SUNDAY - HANS HOFMANN

“The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.” - Jackson Pollock

German-born American painter and educator Hans Hofmann (1880–1966) was an influential 20th century artist whose work paved the way for abstract expressionism. Hofmann was born in Weißenburg, Bavaria on March 21, 1880, the son of Theodor and Franziska Hofmann. When he was six he moved with his family to Munich. Here his father took a job with the government. Starting at a young age, Hofmann gravitated towards science and mathematics.

At age sixteen, he started work with the Bavarian government as assistant to the director of Public Works where he was able to increase his knowledge of mathematics. He went on to develop and patent such devices as the electromagnetic comptometer, a radar device for ships at sea, a sensitised light bulb, and a portable freezer unit for military use. Even with such great abilities in science and mathematics, Hofmann became interested in creative studies, beginning educational art training after the death of his father. In 1932 he emigrated to the United States, where he resided until the end of his life.

Hofmann moved to Paris in 1904 with the help of an art patron. There, he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie Colarossi. Hofmann immersed himself in Paris’s thriving art scene, meeting such artists as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. He also became friends with Robert Delaunay. During this period, the work Hofmann created followed the leading avant-garde movement of the time, cubism. In 1910, Hofmann had his first solo show in Berlin.

Living back in Germany at the start of World War I, Hofmann was excused from military service because of an earlier respiratory condition. Unable to return to France during the war, he opened an art school in Munich in 1915. Over the years, Hofmann earned a stellar reputation as an instructor of art. Worth Ryder, a former student, invited Hofmann to teach in the United States for the summer of 1930. Germany’s changing political climate made Hofmann decide to permanently settle in the United States in 1932.

Hofmann based himself in New York City, where he worked as an instructor at the Art Students League before establishing his own school in the city. In 1934, Hofmann began a summer program in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching, Hofmann also continued to make his own art, producing in 1940 “Spring”, a notable work that was created by dripping and splashing paint onto a canvas. Becoming known for his abstract paintings, Hofmann landed a solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery in 1944.

In 1957, his work was the subject of a retrospective showing at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The next year, Hofmann retired from teaching in order to focus on creating art. Hofmann was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1960, alongside Philip Guston, Franz Kline and Theodore Roszak. By then, he was considered a leading abstract expressionist who created vivid and inventive paintings. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art mounted a major exhibition of his work.

Hofmann became an American citizen in 1941. His first wife, Maria “Miz” Wolfegg, whom he had married in 1924, passed away in 1963. Two years later, Hofmann married Renate Schmitz, who served as a muse for many of his final works. At the age of 85, Hofmann died on February 17, 1966, at his New York City home.

The painting above is Hofmann’s “Composition” painted in 1942. The medium is oil on board and the size is 90 by 105 cm. This piece is part of a private collection and shows the artist’s love of colour and strong geometrical features that add up to a well-harmonised means of expression. There is both tension and rest in the work, expressed by both form and colour. Straight and curved lines, areas of bold colour, energetic brushstrokes coexisting with flat expanses. A highly satisfying work that captivates the viewer’s eye and imagination.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

MUSIC SATURDAY - CHERUBINI REQUIEM

“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” - Tecumseh

Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842) was born in Florence, the tenth of the twelve children of the theatre harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola. His father was his first teacher. As a child he had further instruction from leading Florentine composers and had an early composition, a Mass, performed in 1773. He continued in adolescence to write further church music and a smaller number of secular dramatic works.

In 1778, after the performance of his cantata “La pubblica felicità” (Public Happiness) in honour of the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, the future Emperor Leopold II, he was awarded by the Grand Duke the means of further study with the well known opera composer Giuseppe Sarti, a former pupil of Padre Martini. Cherubini’s period from 1778 to 1781 with Sarti in Bologna and from 1779 in Milan, where his teacher was maestro di cappella at the Cathedral and distinguished at the Teatro della Scala, brought the chance to compose operas for Florence and other Italian cities.

In 1784 and 1785 he was in London, where he won success in the theatre, and from there he travelled to Paris. It was through the violinist and impresario Viotti, established in that city, that Cherubini was presented to Queen Marie Antoinette, and in 1786 he settled in France, collaborating with Viotti under the patronage of the King’s brother at the Théâtre de Monsieur at the Tuileries, before his great success with the opera “Lodoïska” at Viotti’s new Théâtre Feydeau, a venture curtailed by the Revolution, when Viotti took refuge in London and the wine-trade.

After a period of retirement to the countryside, Cherubini returned to Paris in 1793, eventually finding employment as an inspector at the new Institut National de Musique, the future Conservatoire. The decade brought settings of texts approved by the new, secular régime and operatic success with what remains his best known opera, “Médée” (Medea), and with “Les deux journées” (The Two Days), an opera that had its effect on Beethoven’s own later Fidelio, the first performance of which Cherubini attended in 1805 during a successful visit to Vienna at the invitation of the director of the court opera, Baron Peter von Braun in 1805. Here he met Haydn, Beethoven and others and saw to the staging of his opera “Lodoïska” and of a new opera, “Faniska”.

Napoleon’s occupation of the city in that year brought Cherubini unexpected if perhaps grudging favour, and Napoleon took advantage of Cherubini’s presence in Vienna to make him his director of music in Vienna late in 1805 until early in 1806, responsible for concerts at Schönbrunn, where Napoleon had taken up residence. After this Cherubini returned to Paris, where he retained his position as inspector at the Conservatoire but now wrote relatively little, finding occupation in the study of botany and in painting.

As time went on he was able to return to composition, with the one-act opera “Pimmalione” (Pygmalion) staged at the Tuileries in 1809 and with an “Ode à l’Hymen” the following year for Napoleon’s second marriage. The restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon’s defeat brought him appointment in 1816 as a superintendent of the King’s music under his former patron, now Louis XVIII. Further official honours followed, with significant appointment in 1822 as director of the Conservatoire, a position he held with distinction until a few weeks before his death in 1842.

The Requiem in C minor for mixed chorus was written by Luigi Cherubini in 1815 and premiered 21 January 1816 at a commemoration service for Louis XVI of France on the twenty-third anniversary of his beheading during the French Revolution. The work was greatly admired by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. Here it is performed by Boston Baroque on period instruments and directed by Martin Pearlman.

This particular setting of the requiem Mass consists of seven movements:
I. Introitus et Kyrie [0:00]
II. Graduale [7:35]
III. Sequentia: Dies irae [8:52]
IV. Domine Jesu Christe [16:46]- Hostias [22:40]
V. Sanctus et Benedictus [29:27]
VI. Pie Jesu [30:41]
VII. Agnus Dei [34:08]

In 1820 a funeral march and a motet “In Paradisum” were added. In 1834 the work was prohibited by the archbishop of Paris because of its use of women’s voices, and in 1836 Cherubini wrote a second Requiem in D minor for men’s chorus. The “Requiem” is orchestrated for SATB-choir, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, 3 trombones, timpani, gong and strings. Note the absence of flutes and SATB-soloists, and the presence of a gong, notably in the “Dies Irae” section.

Friday, 20 March 2015

FOOD FRIDAY - GREEN SMOOTHIES

“I’m strong to the finich, ‘cause I eats me Spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man! (toot, toot).” ― Popeye

Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for good health, maintaining good gastrointestinal function and taking into the body many essential nutrients and dietary fibre. An easy way to consume these (especially for children who often cannot be cajoled into eating enough fruit and vegies) is by making smoothies. Here are a few healthful recipes:

Green Fruity 1
Ingredients
1 ripe banana, cut in chunks
1 cup grapes
1 small tub vanilla yogurt
1/2 apple, cored and chopped
1 and 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 tbsp honey
1 kiwi fruit (optional)

Method
Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve.

Green Fruity 2
Ingredients
2 kiwi fruit
1 ripe banana, cut in chunks
1 ripe pear, cut in chunks
2 scoops low fat vanilla ice cream
2 tsp malt powder

Method
Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve

Green Savoury
Ingredients
1 cup iced water
1 tomato, chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped kale
2 radishes, roughly chopped
1 tsp French mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon spirulina powder

Method
Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve.

Green Power
Ingredients
2 cups fresh spinach
1 leaf kale (can substitute with more spinach if not available)
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1 sliced frozen banana

Method
Place all ingredients except banana into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Add banana and blend smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

Please add your own favourite recipes below using the Linky tool:

PABLO NERUDA

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” ― Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was born on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile and died on September 23, 1973, in Santiago. His real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto and he was a Chilean poet, diplomat, and politician who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was perhaps the most important Latin American poet of the 20th century.

Neruda's body of poetry is rich and varied, but has developed along four main directions,. His love poetry, such as the youthful Twenty Love Poems and the mature Los versos del Capitán (1952; The Captain's Verses), is tender, melancholy, sensuous, and passionate. In “material” poetry, such as Residencia en la tierra, loneliness and depression immerse the author in a subterranean world of dark, demonic forces. His epic poetry is best represented by Canto general, which is an attempt in the style of Whitman at reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America and the struggle for freedom. And finally there is Neruda's poetry of common, everyday objects, animals, and plants, as in Odas elementales.

Pablo Neruda continued to write prodigiously almost until his death (the collection of his complete works, which is continually being republished, filled 459 pages in 1951; by 1968 it amounted to 3,237 pages, in two volumes), rising in the ranks of 20th century poets. He also received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda died just two years after receiving his Nobel Prize on September 23, 1973, in Santiago, Chile.

I Will Return

Some time, man or woman, traveller,
Afterwards, when I no longer live,
Look here, look for me here,
Between stone and ocean,
In the light storming
In the foam.
Look here, look for me here,
For here is where I’ll come, saying nothing,
With no voice, no mouth, pure,
Here I will return to be the movement
Of the water,
Of its wild heart,
Here I will be both lost and found:
Here I will be perhaps, both stone and silence.

                                                Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

POETRY JAM - LOOKING BACK

“Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love.” - William Shakespeare

This week Poetry Jam sets as a challenge the following theme: “This week go back to a year in the past and write a poem about your life or life in general at that time.”

Halley’s Comet is a short-period comet visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Halley last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061. Halley’s returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BC. Clear records of the comet’s appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognised as reappearances of the same object at the time.

Here is my poem duet:

1986: Night of the Comet, I

And then tonight
Was the night of the comet.
Clear sky spattered with stars
And in the midst of astral dust
Of star-strewn chaotic order,
A faint, fuzzy, ill-defined light
Lost in all the others.

“Search and ye shall find!”
The night crisp, cold, pungent
And beside me...
“Ask and ye shall receive...”

Have I found you?
Faint, pale and ill-defined
A light amidst a billion others,
Yet only that one mattering;
Like that once in a lifetime glimpsed at,
Faint, pale and ill-defined,
Comet-light...

1986: Night of the Comet, II

Billions upon billions of suns
Strewn through the endless emptiness
Of the cosmos,
I look at them and yet remain indifferent
To the immensity that stares at me,
Being able to contain it all
Within the low walls and ceiling
Holding my brain.

I love...
I love you and that is more important
Than the speed of light within a vacuum.
What should it matter if now a million suns
Should suddenly decide to supernova?
What if I am but a mite on a speck of dust?
It is enough that I have loved,
Nothing can take that from me.

I feel, I love, I understand,
I am small, insignificant, an atom only
In the endlessness of eternity
And yet I love and I can pinpoint my existence
In unfaltering co-ordinates.

What if the earth should suddenly expire?
What if Death around each corner lies in wait?
My only fear now is that we two are on a parallel course
And that the threads of our two lives will never cross...

That which I feel
Is infinitely more important
Than all the vastness looming above,
Below, on all sides of me.
The space within me
Annuls the space without.