Friday, 24 April 2009

ANZAC DAY - 2009

“The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

Anzac Day in Australia is one of the most moving and universally commemorated days on the Australian holiday Calendar. The Anzacs are the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought against the Turks in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915. This was a major campaign of World War I that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula, on the European side of the Dardanelles in 1915–16. The Allies (with heavy involvement of troops from Australia and New Zealand) hoped to gain control of the strait, but the campaign reached stalemate after each side suffered heavy casualties. Total Allied deaths were around 21,000 British, 10,000 French, 8,700 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders and 1,370 Indians. Total Turkish deaths were around 86,700 - nearly twice as many as all the Allies combined. New Zealanders suffered the highest percentage of Allied deaths compared with the population size of New Zealand.

The song "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by Eric Bogle is about the Gallipoli campaign and gives a heart-wrenching personal message about the solders who sacrificed all for “king and country”.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

On this Anzac Day, I wish you peace whoever and wherever you are.


“Chemicals, n: Noxious substances from which modern foods are made.” - Author Unknown

Pierre Gagnaire is a famous French chef who has a restaurant in the Hôtel Balzac in Paris’s seventh arrondissement. A meal there will cost you about $400 AUD per person for the food, house wine included. The type of food you can have there is interesting, to say the least, in the best tradition of nouvelle cuisine. For example, A veal gelée topped with a single white haricot bean; maize cooked in a consommé and served with egg yolk and a slice of melon. A single strawberry with a sugar glaze with stewed mango and a caramelised hazelnut, topped with a chorizo crisp and a marshmallow with red pepper purée and raw red onion. A frozen pink grapefruit ice cream topped with a radish, chives inside filo pastry, puff pastry served with goat’s cheese and seaweed and a wholemeal bread stick. And that’s only for starters!

For main course, you can sample sole with apple and pink grapefruit, served with braised lettuce, turnip, spring onion, peas and cream sauce. Shellfish consommé and five very tender crayfish with a cream sauce. Duck cooked in small pieces in a gravy of the cooking juices, along with a dish of potato with a crisp outside and laced with foie gras and girolles. While dessert can include a caramel soufflé with allspice, served with liquorice ice cream and a glass of caramel syrup topped with a swirl of spun caramel; or maybe you would fancy a chocolate soufflé with a chocolate sauce served on a dessert bowl rather than a soufflé dish. Maybe all you would want would be a little ice cream of pistachio and chocolate, a few almonds and hazelnuts, a raspberry purée, vanilla cream and chocolate cream and a parfait of pistachio, vanilla and chocolate.

I don’t know about you, but just reading all that puts me right off. I mean, grapefruit ice cream topped with a radish? Strawberries and chorizos? Give me a break! I would like my food more honest and earthy, simple (how difficult it is to do good simple!) and tasty, savoury flavours separate to sweet ones (no I do not like sugar in my savoury dishes, nor salt in my sweet ones). Fruit is delicious on its own or in desserts - fish with apple and grapefruit? No! Nevertheless, his restaurant enjoys the status of three Michelin stars!

More recently, M. Gagnaire has outdone himself. He has created a menu based on totally synthetic ingredients! How does this sound to you: “Jelly balls in apple and lemon flavours made entirely of ascorbic acid, glucose, citric acid and maltitol (otherwise known as: 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol).” Or maybe this is more appealing: “Polyphenol sauce – made with pure tartaric acid, glucose and polyphenols”. Yummy! I hear you say…

The chef says: “In the future, chefs would shun vegetables, such as carrots, and would instead use the molecules, which make up carrots - carotenoids, pectins, fructose and glucuronic acid - instead.” M Gagnaire purports that: “If you use pure compounds, you open up billions and billions of new possibilities. It’s like a painter using primary colours or a musician composing note by note. Compound cooking not only can taste good but can also end food shortages and rural poverty because farmers could increase profitability by fractioning their vegetables.”

Oh, to have a slice of home-baked crusty bread, a freshly cut garden salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, lettuce with natural virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar! A plate of home-made gnocchi with delicious pasta sauce made slowly and naturally! M. Gagnaire can keep his Michelin stars and his 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol…

Thursday, 23 April 2009


"The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." - Oscar Wilde

Today is Saint George’s Day. He is the patron saint of England and Greece and remarkably little is known about his life. Other countries and cities that claim him as patron saint include: Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany, Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice. He is also the patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis. In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts.

He is popularly identified with the knightly ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry. Pope Gelasius said that George is one of the saints “whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God.” What we know about him is confined to the following few bits and pieces.

Saint George was born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey, and he lived in 3rd century AD. His parents were Christian and the family later lived in Palestine. George became a Roman soldier, but protested against Rome’s persecution of Christians. Although he was imprisoned and tortured for these ideals, he stayed true to his faith. He was beheaded at Lydda in Palestine.

His life story has been embroidered with chivalrous and valorous deeds, including the slaying of a dragon and the rescue of a princess. This is a remarkably similar tale to the ancient Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda. He was martyred and died on this day in 303 AD. He became the patron saint of England after the Crusades, upstaging St Edmund in this role. He was reportedly always rushing to England’s aid whenever he was needed in battle and as late as in World War I, soldiers reported seeing him on his horse on the battlefield.

On St George’s Day, when blue is worn, The blue harebells the fields adorn.

Word of the day:
patron saint (noun)
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, or person.
ORIGIN Middle English: From Old French, from Latin patronus ‘protector of clients, defender,’ from pater, patr- ‘father.’
Middle English, from Old French seint, from Latin sanctus ‘holy,’ past participle of sancire ‘consecrate.’

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.” - Cree Indian Proverb

It is Earth Day today, a day devoted to environmental issues and a day when we highlight the plight that our planet is in and we take part in activities where we show each other that we can all do something to save the Earth. Senator Gaylord Nelson of the USA, Founder of Earth Day, had the idea for Earth Day in the early 1960s and his idea evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962.

He recalls:
“For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political "limelight" once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.”

We are running out of time and the signs of the destruction of our environment are manifested all around us. It is up to everyone of us to do something to make a difference! Here is my poem, a little gloomy, but nevertheless unfortunately true… We must remember the words of Chief Seattle (1855):
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Earth Day, 2009

The Earth shakes, shudders, sick
Covered in dark pall of smoke
Lost in hopeless contemplation
Of an uncertain future.

The moon looks on
And mirrors her sister’s fate
As stars impassively
Witness the decadence.

The Earth dejected, weeps
Black tears; coughs up polluted phlegm
Regurgitates poisoned food
And dies an ever-quickening death.

The oceans froth and spew up
Choking fish, dead algae,
Mercury-tainted jellyfish,
Suicidal whales by the score.

The Earth despairs, breeding
Sterile offspring, mutated monsters,
Dead plants, addled eggs,
Species driven to extinction.

The air is charred, ice melts,
Cyclones, bushfires, earthquakes
Vie with Tsunamis and errant climate
As to which will seal our fate.

The Earth remembers, wistful,
Past springs, all green and flowery;
Summers golden with ripening grain,
Autumns replete with bountiful harvest.
The Earth recalls, regretful,
A million birdsongs, playful fish,
Pure rain and limpid waters,
With winters when snow was still white.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


“In Rome you long for the country; in the country - oh inconstant! - you praise the distant city to the stars.” – Horace

According to legend, the City of Rome was founded on this day in 753 BC. This was linked with the festival honouring the Pales, a pair of deities who guarded cattle and other livestock. Farmers ritually cleaned farm stalls, made offerings to the gods and purified the animals. A bonfire was lit and herdsmen jumped over it three times. A feast followed with much drinking and eating. As the predominantly rural population migrated to the cities and the metropolis of Rome, this rural festival became transformed into the feast that celebrated the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Rome, also called the “Eternal City”, is situated in the west central part of the country, on the Tiber River, about 25 km inland. It has a population of about three million people. The city was founded on the Palatine Hill, but as it grew it spread to the other six hills of Rome (the Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Viminal and Quirinal). Rome was made capital of a unified Italy in 1871. Within its confines it has a self-contained sovereign country, Vatican City, which at 44 hectares and with a population of 900 people is the smallest country in the world. This came into existence in 1929 and is distinct from the Holy See, which was in existence long before this date.

Some expressions in English referring to Rome:
“All roads lead to Rome” is a proverb that means there are many different ways of reaching the same goal or conclusion.
“Rome was not built in a day” means a complex task is bound to take a long time and should not be rushed.
“When in Rome do as the Romans do” implies that when abroad or in an unfamiliar environment you should adopt the customs or behaviour of those around you.

Rome is one of my favourite cities and I love visiting there. The people are friendly and vivacious, the monuments and antiquities stunning, the museums wonderful and the food good. It is a place that always offers something new and there are many beautiful day trips around it also.

Monday, 20 April 2009


“Why should people go out and pay money to see bad films when they can stay home and see bad television for nothing?” - Samuel Goldwyn

I was in Adelaide for the day today with a very heavy schedule, however, we had some very good news at the end of the day, which made the trip worthwhile. It was a very long day when one considers I got up at four in the morning and only managed to get home at about 8:45 pm this evening.

Something different for Movie Monday today as I haven’t had a chance to watch anything at the weekend. I would like the readers of my blog to give me their suggestions for watching a film that they have recently watched and which they would recommend for us to see. I will comment on a movie we watched recently.

My suggestion is the 2008 John Patrick Shanley film “Doubt” with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, I am sure but it is a good film (sure enough betraying its theatrical origins from Shanley’s play), and which manages to maintain viewer interest and it is really a showcase for the actors who give satisfying performances (especially so the two leads). Amy Adams and Viola Davis who have supporting roles also do a marvellous job, as do the child actors. The film is set in the mid-1960s in a Catholic school where a nun and priest clash over a perceived impropriety where a child is involved. Powerful theme and a highly critical film of the church as an institution, and of the religious people in it as defenders of the faith… A good solid drama, with great performances but with a bit of a fizzler of an ending.

So, what good film have you seen recently that you would recommend to us?