A super mix of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber   

7 am and again on the road in my burgundy car, sleepy as a “never an early bird” can be! Stuck at the level crossing I raise the volume when the Rolling Stones start me up with some relief. I look to my right and a person I know says hello while she is walking on the pavement. She smiles and I return the greeting with another smile. Ah, it wasn’t the same last week! My smile was pretentious, as I was always criticising every human I saw from my metal hut on four wheels. This one has a white regrowth too visible, that one is wearing trousers I would only wear on a Spanish beach in August, another thinks too differently from me, I am sure by only looking at her face. The woman in her thirties walking on the pedestrian crossing must have immeasurable “me” time for wearing all that make up at dawn; the man jogging on the white stripes must be stupid for taking the risk of being put down by motorists that wouldn’t be me anyway, he also must be stiff in Pilates roll backs.

By looking at it now, the usual scene was a dispirited lady criticising all when tired and stressed during the rush hour. Changing from first to second gear, pushing the brake pedal only to stop again after a few seconds gave me freedom to be superficial and small in heart and intelligence. Against my daily ten minutes’ meditation, in those moments I did even forget I had ever meditated. I feel I have never considered myself to be better than any of the people above, indeed I was judging everyone appearing in front of my eyes.

But that was last week. One day, when the light went green and the radio was pumping it up with Elvis Costello as well as me with clutch and accelerator, the car broke down. It had to be put at rest for a full week at a near garage, from where it came out with a brand new gearset. That was the “Deus Ex Machina” appearing on stage to save my life at this delicate moment.

The bus glides on the preferential lane, the doors open at the stops indicated on the screen, letting in ladies and gentlemen who bounce in with no noise. It is Monday and I am back on the road. I am holding my laptop in my warm space and look at the lady sitting in front of me. I bet she is a nurse, and at the next stops more nurses, students, mums and older people come in. I recognise some of them as staff of the near big supermarket. I see them every week when doing my shopping there or ordering a drink in the coffee shop within. The nurse smiles and I smile back. My smile is sincere this time, I am surprised of this and feel no distance or disagreement with anyone on the bus. They have travelled on public transport every day for who knows how many years. I am relieved of traffic as the bus driver, not me, is in control of it now! Many new, unusual thoughts come to mind while I look around. I observe the people out on the street, aware of the fact that I am looking at them in a different way: the lady who didn’t go to the hairdresser, now she is considering the pros and cons of her next project while she is hurrying up and I didn’t even notice her hair, the man running on the pedestrian crossing might like to keep fit in the open air instead of a dull gym, the woman with heels and a cashmere coat has got off a plane from Switzerland and is walking to the physics laboratory nearby. The boys are running to school on their bikes as the rain is becoming heavier, the lady with funky shorts and t-shirt is still wearing brash clothes, brightening the grey air with colour. I feel we are all similar, as not only do we all have to get our things done, but we are also striving to survive, fulfil our ambitions and be happy.

I am persuaded now it is meaningful that a simple change of perspective can help change the mind when it is stuck in a fog of misconceptions that we build mainly because we are angry for something we find more or less difficult to control or change. I admit that moving from car to bus forced me to consider this: criticism may become dominant in our lives so fast without we even realise it. We cannot avoid judgement at all, but must remember that the best judgement comes without prejudices, and this is worth a resolution by us, because we can forget it at any time. Never mind our lifestyle, how virtuous we are, how many “Om” counts, there will be sparks of criticism ready to sabotage our clarity of judgement every time something goes wrong.

On the way back home I know the fridge and cupboards will become empty soon if I do not buy food a little at a time. I get off the bus near the local shop, where I buy the weekly pack of rocket, as I am crazy for it and it contains a massive amount of Vitamin C. For me, adding salt to rocket would undermine its pungent, peppery taste, so I will not use it on the salad. I see a packet of pickled beetroot on the nearest shelf and remember I have not eaten beets for ages, which is certainly wrong. As I do not quite like them so much, I drink beetroot juice often, and I put this into the basket too. It is expensive and heavy in my bag, so I cannot buy much more than bananas, the world’s favourites, milk for the kids and a package of cereals, not heavy but bulky. One corner of it makes a hole in the bag while I am walking home with hat, scarf, umbrella, backpack, gymbag and shopping bag. In the fridge, I find a pack of “Moroccan Falafels” still intact, but it will expire in a week or so, so I put half of them in an oven tray and freeze the remaining ones. I am in search of seeds now, there are so many in the cupboard it is only a matter of choosing which ones fit better today that my salad resembles to no world flavour in particular, as it consists of a mixture of all the flavours of the world. But when peeping at the bottom I see something red, bright as the skirt the lady in iridescent apparel was wearing this morning. It is the orangey-red, mildly and sweetly tasting Goji berries. They are antioxidants and may prevent deathly illnesses, but I always forget them. Then to make up for the months of neglect I scatter a large amount of berries upon the rocket, falafel and beetroot and leave the seeds to another day. Dates feel middle eastern like falafel and are the extra sweet touch bringing this salad a little out of balance, but after all that walking… I have now a brash, singular salad for this late November day. Something is missing. Who’s next? Olive oil is next, I am answering the Who as they sing “The Sweetest Thing”. With those cranberries in the bread as well, it is really over the top, but we are festive by now.


Golden Age Baked Brussels Sprouts with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper and honey, with veg burger 

“It’s the best of days”, wrote the poet Catullus in the 1stcentury B.C. with regard to Saturnalia, the festival ancient Romans held on the days before the winter solstice. And it’s my opening banquet of the festive season a little ahead of December, as on these days we are never too early to shine light in our hearts and stomachs, when the sky is at its darkest and the sun at its minimum.

We conquer the sun at our table with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, coloured berries, the sweet of honey and balsamic vinegar, the twist of sage and pungency of pepper. Then, with the aid of such aristocratic companions and no sacrifice of human or living beings (no gladiators’ or pets’ blood here), we overthrow social order and norm by placing on the throne
for the whole month to come one of the most humble peasants, the Brussels Sprout, and let it rule our dining room.

Here is our King of Saturnalia: a young veg ignorant of gentility and of the mundane world, that I leave in the oven cut in halves and coated with all the bounty mentioned before for half an hour, so that it changes its odour from stable to Capitolium. So did the Roman citizens of the Republic and the Emperors later do, by appointing a person within the people, or a slave, to give orders for a set time and be moderators of crazy days and nights. But they left this remarkable task unfinished: the seasonal kings were put back into fetters at the end of the month, where they stayed hidden and tame for the rest of the year.

I wish the Brussels Sprout was at the centre of our attention and desires always and not only on Saturn’s days, and to elevate its aesthetics and pleasantness there is one simple step to be done: it must be baked or microwaved, not boiled, then dressed in the most delicious ways. The benefits cannot be counted, as it strength can prevent all sorts of nasty things.

Some Christmas cakes, and I mention some Italian ones – Panettone from Milan, Pandoro from Verona, Crustoli from Puglia and the Neapolitan Pastiera, to say just a few in hundreds – are under the same unfair rule: they appear just before the solstice and fade away on the Twelfth night, or Epiphany day, when three biblical kings come visit with gold, incense and myrrh. I pray for them to stay and to sit at the same rank of everyone else, for no more social hierarchy all year round, as in the mythical Golden Age of Saturn.

The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, where the Saturnalia festival began

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