Wednesday, 18 April 2012

On being Unique

Now I am not saying that that Margaret Mead  is not a worthily quotable person “ …you are unique, just like everybody else” but I do think that the  David Foster Wallace passage, below, is a more poetic take on the same. Clearly not a man for a sound bite. But I do like it. I think I might have to read him. Anyone familiar with his work?
 ‘‘We all have our little solipsistic delusions, ghastly intuitions of utter singularity: that we are the only one in the house who ever fills the ice-cube tray, who unloads the clean dishwasher, who occasionally pees in the shower, whose eyelid twitches on first dates; that only we take casualness terribly seriously; that only we fashion supplication into courtesy; that only we hear the whiny pathos in a dog’s yawn, the timeless sigh in the opening of the hermetically-sealed jar, the splattered laugh in the frying egg, the minor-D lament in the vacuum’s scream; that only we feel the panic at sunset the rookie kindergartner feels at his mother’s retreat…Solipsism binds us together...That we are, always, faces in a crowd’’ – from the story ‘‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way’’, in the collection “The Girl with the Curious Hair” (1989).


Friday, 13 April 2012

Macaroons - Amaretti (those thingy's with almonds) and spanakopita ( (spinach and cheese pie to the non Greeks out there)

I woke up this morning to a call from my Mother telling me that my Grandmother is not terribly well. Considering her age and frailty everyone is very concerned over her recovery.
I had to cook. I had to do things with my hands in a warm "this reminds me of family" way. I had to do things that were manual and distracting so that I could think about Gran and my Mum and my family who look after my Gran so far away. And, I did not want to step out of  my nest for anything as mundane as ingredients. I wanted to wallow in my bit of  worrying and be comforted by cooking.
When Philip was home over Christmas he made us this delicious spinach lasagna. It reminded me that I love spanakopita. My friend Frances was visiting a couple of weeks ago and she made a delicious spinach and cheese pie with phyllo pastry. So I was already semi geared up to emulate these two people this week, but did not get around to it.  I now had the incentive. I googled recipes. I borrowed bits from many. I  gathered my ingredients and adjusted etc. In the end I had a respectable pile of spinach, parsley, dill, feta cheese, cottage cheese, onion, nutmeg and salt and pepper and egg. I had phyllo pastry. I put it all together and made individual pies. My folding of the phyllo pastry was dreadful but effective. I made enough to cook some and  freeze some. The frozen ones being beautiful triangles, the cooked ones, well they tasted great.
The ingredients that made the difference between nice and delicious? I used a big handful of dill and and a big handful of parsley, oh and the nutmeg.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying out baking macaroons and amaretti. Something I have not done before. Which is surprising considering that I do like baking with ground almonds. Well who would not, the rich, dense, aromatic flavour is inspired. My efforts have been okay. They have tasted lovely but I keep making them too big and for the most part not stiff enough. I decided that the reason for this is that I have not been using, the recommended, piping bag.
This required a shopping expedition. In this town of plenty I found more piping kits than I would ever know what to do with. Unfortunately the variety I found assumes that I am looking for a piping bag to become a master cake icing specialist. Now, there are a couple of things that I am pretty sure I will not be doing in my lifetime. Bungee jumping is one and cake icing is another. The former because I will never engage in something that requires my weight to be written on my thigh for all the world to see  ( unless I am unconscious and having my weight displayed is a life saving exercise) and  icing because it just looks so disciplined, and organised, and hard.
After walking around the shops in "straight from work clothes complete with six inch heels" (fool that I am) I finally found a piping bag. I looked at the bag. I looked at the picture on the box. I knew for sure that this was a wasteful business. Please, if anyone can correct me on this guide me on the proper use of piping bags. It just screams at you from the packaging that you are going to have a lot of wastage of stuff left in the bag. I was right. I have now used the piping bag method of making ameretti. There was a lot of  mixture left in the nozzle. I think for the macaroon recipes I have tried it is the answer. But for the ameretti, which seem to be a bit more dense somehow, I think I will try rolling them up in balls and then squashing them a bit. Will see how that goes.
This evening I will have a traditional amaretti with a glass of sherry. I will think of my mother in law because she is the person I "do" sherry with. I will think of my mum and her side of the family because that is, naturally, what has preoccupied my day.

Oh, and it is Greek Easter, so strictly speaking if I was a traditionalist I would be fasting. Well darlings Kali Anastasi .

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Possibility of Taking Pictures

What Bryan got Nikon D5100

You may remember that I blogged  that I needed to start taking pictures. I am one step closer to that. I am plotting and scheming.
At Christmas time I decided that Bryan needed a camera for his Christmas Gift. Unfortunately the camera  he wanted was not to be found. So  he put his name down at a shop that promised that as soon as they got them in they would give him a call. This is my Christmas Gift to him  - remember? Anyway, lets not go there I have enough to deal with. A  few weeks ago Bryan got a call telling him the camera was available. He dithered for weeks. "Do I really need it?" he agonised "Yes you do" said I insistently and a little guiltily. I have had my Christmas gift from Bryan since, well, Christmas. And I have also spent a little bit of our ( more his than mine ) hard earned cash on "clothes for work" ESSENTIAL don't you know. But I am being side tracked. Bryan's agonising was due, pretty much in full, to the fact that he already has a lovely Nikon that he bought many, many, years ago. Back in the day when cameras had film in them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with his old camera , although he is finding it increasingly difficult to find film.  So he was agonising.The important thing here is that Bryan had to  have the camera as his Christmas gift because if he did not then I would be stumped as to what I could possibly give him, so very many months after Christmas, for Christmas. And there was also the matter of future tie in gifts. He has a birthday looming and now that "we" have gotten over "his" agonising, and he has the camera in his grubby paws, there are endless possibilities for accessories. Don't you just love consumerism. There is the small matter of me wanting a camera to take photographic evidence of the HARD life I lead living with Bryan. But that is just a side matter.
There is a sting in this tale. Sadly I am once again (remember the i-pad) sharing my bed with Bryan's new love. I try to sleep whilst he sighs delightedly at the tutorial that he is watching that tells him what a marvellous clever man he is for getting such a magnificent camera. He coos over all the fantastic functions  some luscious photography babe is going on about. He spends hours lying in bed taking pictures of the wall using different settings and showing me pictures (way after bedtime) of the wall in sunset mode and then the wall in cartoon mode and the wall in night mode and the wall in candlelight mode and the wall.....  you get my drift.
I will bide my time. I will hijack his new pet. I will post photos.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Art Fix In March

House guest extraordinaire Frances ( partly  ,but not exclusively, on account of her yummy cooking skills) and I got a small art fix by catching the Art Bus at the tail end of Dubai Art Week. I chose the Al Khos Art Bus route as I do not have a clue about getting around that part of town. As you can see  I had a well thought out and considered reason for choosing our route. As it turned out I think I made a good choice.
We saw  memorable, thought provoking and wonderfully interpreted  artistic exhibitions . Were treated to collections  hosted by passionate gallery owners / workers. And  saw, well, ho hum, some dreadful work. That's how the crumble cookies darlings.   
The Samawi Collection was my favourite stop, I am so very, very relieved that the collection is privately owned and that nothing was for sale. It almost pains me to admit, but I will admit, that I would have been forced to sell my beloved husband into slavery to pay for a couple of the works that I drooled over - had they been for sale. And you know, quite apart from the fact that I would miss Bryan terribly , and deprive my children of their father ( although as they get older that is not such a burden.....)there would be the whole dreadful business of trying to explain why Bryan was not at work anymore...... and the repercussions of judgement from Family and Friends ( did you hear etc.....) Like I said such a relief that the art was not for sale. 
I think Frances’s  fave was Traffic another private collection and I think, an Art History Type like Frances idea of heaven.
There were two noticeably disappointing exhibitions. A speciality Indian Art gallery had one piece that I liked, an installation that I took to be that of eggs about to hatch. Womb like sounds cocooning warm light bulb eggs . The rest of the work was tired, not well put together and frankly poorly chosen. There is such a wealth of amazing Indian Art out there that I thought it showed either laziness on the part of the gallery or a complete lack of artistic eye in the works displayed. I am not talking about differing taste. Good art is finely crafted. The materials are expertly manipulated.  You might not like what you see but you should never have to question the quality of the work.  The other exhibition we were not overly fond of was an inelegant attempt by three artist to shock us. Their slightly off kilter  installation  was, I think supposed to mirror a home and the collection of artworks there in. Again the criticism is one of poor workmanship. If you want to play with the public’s senses and with their minds have the courtesy to do so with good workmanship. 
We had an interesting encounter with the lady manning the cash till at the Lime Tree CafĂ© & Kitchen where we stopped for our  lunch break. Frances and I rushed in all excited by our ½ days fun. We wanted to order our lunch and then pop out to the gallery next door ( while our lunch was loving prepared) and then come back to our  "delich deli ready lunch". So we eagerly asked if we could do this. The reply was a decidedly bored and  disinterested  "Whatever”  ( think  Catherine Tate   doing her best "Am I Bovvered” teenager here) complete  with a small sigh and slight eye roll. And all this from a grown up. Not some 15 year old or stroppy 20 something clinging to her teens  but a full on grown up person. Frances and I were hard pressed not to burst out laughing. I think this was noticed and our “server” immediately  up-ed her tempo and improved her manner. It was a flash. Just an unexpected flash come and gone in a moment but quite entertaining.
It was a love-er-leeeee day.

And if you are interested in a well written  ( ie not my ramblings) piece about art. Try This:

Nyanga - Pictures

Every now and then I see a picture that reminds me so much of what I miss about home that I want to cry. Thank you Patrick for posting such a beautiful picture of Nyanga. I can smell it. I can feel the cool air. Sigh. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And this photo reminded me of another  Nyanga picutre that I love. A painting by Mike White.

Pretty Nyanga pictures just keep popping up via Patrick.