THE JOY OF SIMPLE PLEASURES


 

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My picture tells the story beautifully.
Gently steamed fat spears of fresh asparagus, doused with butter, and eaten with brown bread.
Nothing nicer. You can keep your gourmet highlights like caviar.
I’m very satisfied with my simple supper of fresh asparagus.
Not only satisfied, but content and delighted!

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WINTER COMFORT FOOD


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Cold winter weather always drives my Inner Cook into action. Chiefly because I’m constantly hungry, as opposed to hot summer weather, when I wilt, along with the salad leaves. So its time to make Chai tea – Ceylon tea with a mixture of spices. I’ve grown lazy and buy the tea bags instead of making my own, but its hot and warming; all that ginger, no doubt.
At a recent Village function the good ladies of our Village Catering team produced Sago pudding, which was to die for. I thought: the hell with it, and had seconds! My, it was good. Two of my fellow diners screeched: Urrrggghhh – NOT SAGO! And flatly refused to have anything to do with it. Turns out they were the victims of Boarding School cooks, and I know exactly where their phobia originated. I also have grisly memories of leathery rice puddings, slimy tapioca, and worst of all, baked egg custard. Shudder.
However, moving on to happier times and rosier memories. I managed to find a copy of a much-wanted cookbook ‘Retreat’ by Daniel Jardim, a noted South African vegetarian cook. And within its pages I found a recipe for Boeboer. I can hear you saying “Huh? What’s that?”

 
It’s a Malay dessert, made by the local Muslim community, on special occasions. Cape Town has a rich cultural heritage stemming from the early days of its history, when the Dutch East India Company imported slaves from Indonesia and Java. Their descendants form an essential part of our city’s mixed community, and their cuisine reflects their traditional Asian heritage.
Here’s a Boeber recipe from the web:http://boekatreats.com/recipe/boeber . If you decide to try the recipe, please note the cup measurements are British standard cup measures, (250 ml) not American.  I can never remember whether the US version is bigger or smaller; the point is, there’s a difference!  And, by the way, the mixture needs to be stirred constantly.
Enjoy!

 

 

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GOOD OL’ NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC


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It doesn’t seem to matter which charity book sale you attend, when or where, but you can count on finding a pile of that familiar rectangular, bright yellow bordered magazine. Often in mint condition, and dating back to the Year Dot – obviously lovingly kept in a cupboard or garage, evidence a lifelong subscription to the magazine. I note on the May 1988 copy I bought on Saturday ( Vol 173, No. 5) that 1988 was their Centennial Year. That’s an achievement, for a magazine devoted to the sciences, travel, and photography.
At various points in my life I’ve been a subscriber, or been gifted with a year’s subscription. And my 12 copies are stacked neatly on the shelf, for future reference, or to read that fascinating article on undersea exploration that I don’t have time for right now . And of course, during my next Marie Kondo book blitz off the pile goes, to a charity book sale.
Yes, I know we’ve got Google etc. etc. but nothing beats paging through the magazine’s gorgeous photos, and beautifully illustrated pictures/charts/diagrams on a topic you had never thought of or encountered before. Why, only this morning, over my mid-morning cup of coffee, I discovered an article on Fleas: the Lethal Leapers. I’ve now learned a whole lot of facts I rather wish I didn’t know!
But kudos to Nat Geo for keeping the flame of enquiry burning – may they live long and prosper.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/

 

 

 

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CREOSOTE


 

 

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My garage smells of creosote. The clean, tarry odour is wafting off the bundle of five metal fencing posts I bought this afternoon at my local Builders’ Warehouse. I need the posts to stake up my collapsing Cup of Gold creeper. It’s grown too heavy for the original wooden trellis that provided support when I originally planted the creeper.
Finding the fencing posts in the cavernous warehouse was a mission, and fitting them into my small car was another challenge. I know, with certainty, that the creosote has rubbed off onto the floor mats in the back, but you know what? creosote is black and so are the floor mats. Isn’t that fortunate? And I’m no petrol-head so I won’t be diligently scrubbing the mats to remove the traces of creosote, always assuming I could actually find the stained bits on the black flooring. I love the smell of creosote, so if I’m now driving a creosote-scented car, I shall sit back and enjoy the odour.

 
Just in case you’re puzzled by the red and white tape wrapped round the posts, that was the bright idea of the young man who carried the posts from the vast warehouse to my car. Understandably, he wasn’t keen to be covered in sticky creosote. And as a bonus point, the red and white provides a nice visual contrast to the black metal.
I suppose the manufacturers coat the posts with creosote to deter rusting. Fat chance, living three kms away from the coast. The salty air is not kind to metal or paintwork.
The smell of creosote manages to be both clean and slightly antiseptic, as well as tarry and aromatic. In bygone days wooden poles were always creosoted to prevent the termites from chomping through the timber. I remember from my Central African childhood how determined those hungry little ants can be. Seemingly solid door frames would suddenly crumble and disappear, the interior long since devoured by the white ants. So creosote was liberally applied.

 
Today’s creosote reminds me of another tarry odour : that of Lapsang Souchong tea. I enjoy Lapsang Souchong, with its smoky, tarry flavour. Not everyone’s favourite , for sure, but I like it. I was introduced to Lapsang Souchong years ago by a very exotic lady, who’d grown up in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Quite why or how she’d come across it I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a 1920’s fad? Or maybe her mother enjoyed it? I shall never know, but the sticky metal poles in my garage certainly have evoked memories for me.

 

 

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DESERTED SHOPPING MALLS


 

 

 

 

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Have you ever visited your local mall, and found it almost deserted, and very dimly lit? This was my experience today and it was distinctly eerie.
Shop doors locked, and in many cases, steel shuttered. Subdued lighting. Very little sound. I’m sure we can all agree that shopping malls are always bright and loud– very noisy, a combo of voices, music, public announcements, clacking heels, shopping trolleys rattling wheels, wailing kids, people yelling into their cell phones because of the noisy surroundings.
But not today. I approached the Help Desk at the entrance and asked the young lady: What’s going on? Where is everybody?

To her credit she managed a small smile, and told me Eskom was load-shedding in their area today. I pointed up at the ceiling lights and said: And these?

Our Generators, she crisply replied. She waved a typed list at me and announced that the businesses on the list would be operational today, despite lack of power. To my relief, I saw the name of my Bank on the list. My primary reason for visiting the mall was to withdraw money. So much for the secondary idea of a leisurely coffee and maybe a sinful slice of cake.

 

But relief died rapidly when I approached the escalator to reach my First Floor bank. Blocked off. Stationary. No service today due to load shedding. There is no staircase linking ground floor and the banking hall. Okay – so that meant I had to join the crowd of people patiently waiting for the one and only lift. Ummmmm. What if the generator ran out of diesel and marooned us between floors? What if/what if/what if ????

 

Get a grip, woman! barks my mental sergeant-major. I shuffle into the lift and sardine myself into the last tiny space. Good thing I’m small, hey?

 
The banking hall was in low light gloom, and almost empty, barring for the two security guards having a happy chat at the other end, oblivious to all else. So absorbed were they, I don’t think a herd of elephants trooping past would have registered.

 
The bank doors were firmly shut – chained actually, never mind shut! But two ATMs beamed out beacons of light. I nervously inserted my card and went through the cash removal routine, praying that the machine wouldn’t eat my card – I’m due to leave on a three week trip in two days’ time, so this is no time to go ten rounds with the Bank to extract my vanished card. But for once, disaster decided to leave me alone and swooped down on some other hapless person.

 
I scuttled out of the cavernous, dystopian gloom at speed. I noted, grimly, that despite there being no interior power, the external power was still operating the flippen’ parking ticket machines, exit booms and so on – free parking on a power-down day? Nah. In our dreams.

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Close The Door (They’re Coming In The Window)


Some of my readers may remember this crazy 1955 hit song by Jim Low. The lyrics make no sense whatsoever, but no matter, there was a jolly, sing-along tune. This was back in the Olden Days, you understand, when you could hear the words and sing-along.
The reason the song came to mind was when I was sorting out my pics on my PC and I found the following pics, taken in 2017, whilst on a visit to my Durban family.
Let me introduce you to Scooby. He’s annexed the Boss’ Lazy-boy, master of all he surveys.

 

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Sometime Scooby gets locked out. Oh the injustice!

 

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But Scooby has a plan. Not worry. Where there’s a window, there’s a way.

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Scooby surveying his outdoor kingdom, being watched by his junior apprentice , Cooper. Cooper has also mastered the art of window-entry.

 

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Like I said: Close the door, they’re coming in the windows!

 

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REMEMBERING ANTHONY BOURDAIN


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The following post appeared on this blog in September 2012, and today it seems fitting to re-post it. I suspect my readership has done a 360° turnaround since I posted it. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve read it before or not. I’m posting it in memory of Anthony Bourdain who has entertained me for years, and I’m truly sad to learn of his suicide in France, on Friday 8 June, 2018. He was a one-off, an original. I’m a fan, and always will be . I enjoyed his zest for life and food. I shall miss him.

 

 

MEDIUM RAW by Anthony Bourdain is sub-titled “a Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook” .I’m pretty sure if the Publishers felt they might get away with it the sub-title would have read “A F—-ing Valentine etc” because the F-word is Bourdain’s favourite word, he uses it in almost every paragraph, he uses it adverbially, he uses it adjectivally, he uses it as a verb. He has even invented a collective noun ‘clusterf…’ to describe gatherings of hungry journos and industry peeps. This is not a book to tuck into your maiden aunt’s Christmas stocking. But if you love food, cooking and eating then open the book and prepare to be entertained, astonished and illuminated.
Anthony Bourdain was the Bad Boy of New York chefdom, some years ago, and hit the headlines with his first culinary exposé “Kitchen Confidential”, which was a riveting account of cheffing, boozing, drugging, oh – and cooking. Some twelve years later he’s calmed down quite a bit (he recently married and now has a baby daughter with whom he is besotted); he wrote more books, got onto TV as a hit show host (No Reservations – Around the world on an empty Stomach) and he writes foodie columns for top-end magazines & newspapers in the US.
Now he’s laying into the food industry with his customary verve – he must have as many – if not more – enemies than friends. There’s a chapter in Medium Raw titled ‘Heroes & Villains’ in which he names names and plunges in with gusto. He’s opinionated, outrageous, opinionated, funny, opinionated, philosophical, opinionated and passionate and loves nothing more than a good rant. You should read his indictment of the beef industry in the US and what goes into a hamburger. You will never eat another hamburger that you have not personally prepared, this I promise you.
For all his fearless bravado, it has to be said that when it comes to food, the man writes like a dream. There’s a chapter appropriately titled ‘Lust’ where he describes dishes he’s eaten all over the world – Borneo, Singapore, Italy – never mind the location; when I’d finished reading that chapter the pagers were covered in drool …. he describes this type of writing as ‘food porn’. He’s not wrong – I nearly had an orgasm.
I’m a great Bourdain fan, but I’m glad he’s not mine. He may be long, lean and devilishly good-looking, but Mrs B is welcome to him. I reckon she’s got her hands full!

 

 

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MEMOIR : LIFE MAGAZINE & LEON TROTSKY –by A M Smith ©


 

Browsing through Old Friends from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg, sparked several thoughts in me. While eating my breakfast this morning I was reflecting how, when you’re a kid, you seldom understand the context of events. And when I was young nobody ever explained context to us – we were supposed to be seen and not heard, and constant questions were not welcomed or tolerated.
Continuing this train of thought I remember reading LIFE magazine and an article on the death of Leon Trotsky. Somehow the blurry black and white photos remain a fading memory to this day. Quite why the article made such an impression on me, I can’t explain. Perhaps because the man was murdered, and my Dad’s murder mysteries were my reading resource.
Considering I lived in a remote backwater of the dying British Empire, it was a miracle I even had a copy of LIFE magazine in my hands at all. There were no bookstores in the country. Granted, the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland had bookstores, but they stocked only religious or educational materials.
The expat community subscribed to a wide range of British and American magazines , which trundled slowly over the ocean, via the post, and fell into our eager hands many months after publication. The magazines were greedily consumed and then circulated around the district on a rota. Each magazine had a list pinned to the cover, with the names of the recipients. You were honour bound to read the magazine quickly, and then send it on to the next name, perhaps with a few magazines from your own hoard. If the next recipient lived fairly close by, you sent your gardener with the precious bundle – on his bicycle if he owned such a luxury, or on his feet if he didn’t.
But if the next recipient lived on a far distant tea estate, you would take your bundle up to the Sports Club on your weekly visit, and pass it over to the next person. Or ask another member to do you a favour and act as go-between and postman. Everybody obliged. The magazines were a link to the outside world, to civilization, to HOME. That mythical , longed-for Paradise, over the ocean. Far, far away from Nyasaland*, in tropical Africa.
So: when I read about the death of Leon Trotsky in Mexico all those years ago, the news was not by any means fresh, given the magazine circulation system. Our family didn’t subscribe to LIFE, we were merely on the rota. I had absolutely no idea who Leon Trotsky was, or his political importance. I probably knew where Mexico was, because I collected stamps and often used my small atlas to locate mysterious, faraway countries.
I’ve resisted Googling the death of Leon Trotsky, because I want this to be a memoir. One detail I do recall: he was stabbed to death with an ice-pick. Of course, I’d never seen such an item. It wasn’t common in tropical Africa. Ice cubes – yes, we had those. But ice-picks? No.
Neither was Communism – in the early 1950s which was when I probably read the article, mentioned in colonial Africa. Adults in my tiny world generally didn’t talk about world politics and events. Cut-off as we were from the rest of the world, our only source of news was the crackly, wavering broadcast news from the BBC in London, which tended to focus on the Home Counties plus a little international news. Most of which I ignored anyway. Assuming I could hear anything at all. The radio reception varied from poor to terrible.
I grew up in a vacuum so far as news and culture was concerned. Boarding school didn’t help much in this regard either. Sequestered as we were, and listening to our portable radios being (a) strictly controlled and (b) tuned to the Hit Parade from Lourenco Marques Radio in Portuguese East Africa*, I was a complete ignoramus. Youngsters today have an enormous exposure to global events and global culture. When I think how little I knew about anything as a young adult, it’s amazing I have survived this long, from such a scanty launch pad.
Yet here I am, in my senescence, surrounded by the digital, electronic world. It’s nothing short of astounding how much the world has changed in sixty five years in terms of communications and life-style. And you know what? I love living in the early 21st century!

  • renamed Malawi
  • renamed Mozambique

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THAT MARKLE SPARKLE !


 

 

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Like many of my friends I have been enjoying the splendid spectacle of the Royal Wedding. Brilliant sunshine, pomp, ceremony, glamour, the rich and famous, and of course, a genuine love story. How refreshing to be witness (even if only via the medium of the TV screen) to a heart warming, joyful event.

 
And yet there are the naysayers: the nasty comments on social media about the relevance of the monarchy, the racial aspect, etc. etc. Really people! Can’t we just for one brief day focus on a bright, happy celebration and wish the couple well for the future?
Daily we face an onslaught of political and economic woes, globally and nationally. Our local news has been detailing the judgement in a particularly horrific family murder case. So gruesome that I don’t want to say anything more about it.
Just for a couple of days can’t we chorus: Don’t worry, be happy! Sounds good to me!

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MEANINGS AND MEMORIES


Very occasionally I share my creative writing on my blog. Here is a short piece on the theme of STORM .

STORM (n) – violent weather with wind, rain or snow.

STORM (vb) –  attack or capture (a place) suddenly

STORMING (adj)  – characterised by or displaying dynamism, speed or energy

STORMY (adj) – characterised by storms  *

 

I remember words have  an abundance of  variations .

I remember  storms in teacups.

I remember storms of outrage.

I remember storms of criticism.

I remember  stormy emotions.

I remember stormy tears.

I remember dust storms.

I remember  hail storms.

I remember Highveld summer storms.

I remember Cape winter storms.

I remember storming  winds.

I remember storms of laughter.

I remember storms of applause.

I remember storming  passion.

I remember I’ve forgotten hundreds of other storms over the legion of years that march towards the end  of my long life.

I remember I’ve now forgotten more than I am able to remember.

 

* Source – Collins SCRABBLE Dictionary

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