- Is anyone feeling pressured by festive family commitments, or somewhat stressed by difficult people in these days as I am? My personal circumstances are easily guessed: as one who does not eat meat, you have to fit in with omnivores in all get togethers, adjust your courses or let someone do it for you with the likelihood of loads of cheese and dairy white sauce everywhere. You thank everyone and are kind, even if you wish you could spend your time doing (and cooking) what you really like. Sometimes you wish Christmas holidays are over soon, you also have to stop blogging even when you have a lot to say. Everyday lunch is negotiated with crucial planning unless you are going out, but it is raining and cold out there. I made this Mediterranean fusion toast in a loved hour of freedom. Grilled Violife, Tofurky, roast aubergines, rocketleaves and mango.
“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.
For toasts and music visit:
A November evening of last year the music ensemble of the community school performed a brilliant rendition of the song “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran, so well accomplished that it was the highlight of the Christmas Concert. In the other songs – “Seasons” by Vivaldi and“Behind your Eyes” in the Limp Bizkit version, which were far more my cup of tea than the smooth, clean note arrangement of the first one – there were many mistakes: one kid went out of tune, one other did not catch up with the time, another missed a bar, and the obvious reason was the pieces were much more complicated! Overall, it was a beautiful recital where the perfect moment was indeed “Perfect”. That was when I liked that song for the first time. This morning we heard it on the car radio while we were in the school run congestion. We looked at each other acknowledging the shared memory and the start of the day became more heartening.
“Do you remember when I played it so well?” she asked me. We agreed that its simplicity has a double side: it is pleasant and boring at the same time.
How am I so demanding of pop music while my attitude towards food is of a different kind, so that complicated recipes and instructions do not add significant value to taste? A friend of mine, who is an accomplished singer, piano and guitar player told me, “The music world is going simple, and we will be persuaded in some way that simple music is good.” I said I would be barricading against that threat and added, “Why are we so much bothered by the opposite trend in the kitchen world, where you have to conjure up dishes so complex and fantastic that will be rejected by a battery of inhumane judges (and also inhumanely rich) if pistachios are not from Bronte (a remote Sicilian town), basil does not come from Cinque Terre (that is in Liguria) and the horrendous meat is a little overcooked or the opposite, undercooked, which is still worse as in that case we would be playing vampires. Someone would find playing vampires fun, and I could have my part in laughing over stainy beetroot blood. Apart from this, why is it wrong to roast the aubergines for “Parmigiana” instead of deep frying them? Once they are in the baking tray and the oven is on for forty minutes you have time to sit at the piano and play that song! According to the experts, baked food cannot stand the test against fried food. This and other cooking nightmares I will not tolerate and while I am still complaining against the frying addicts I would make a quick sundried tomato pesto with a good handful of basil, two or three spoons of pine nuts or cashew nuts, natural yeast flakes and olive oil. Using the mixer slowly of course, not the mortar. The next day, I would take a little leftover pesto that was not used on pasta the evening before and spread it on a pita bread, cook a red/yellow/green pepper (with a garlic clove) in the pan and stuff it inside the pita together with some rocket and a few minced olives, cut the mango, pour a green juice in a cup and make my lunch.
The plate looked perfect to me. I would enjoy it while I am also opening the app for blues improvisation and admiring the beautiful geometrical figures of chords and scales. They are not made up by a chef, but exist in the amazing world of maths and we have to find them out in the straight line of the keyboard.
For the previous post visit:
When tension builds up between us and someone we truly love, often because of each other’s row of expectations, the clear, rightful trio of mind, action and communication tries to escape from the next Pompeii’s lava force with the devising of something clever and neutral, not to say edible.
Here we set to make an avocado toast that is “our avocado toast” in the midst of thousands identical ones. No, this is not a philosophical clone or a replica, just one new element in the freedom of healthy food for busy days.
Peacefully me and my daughter mixed a little extra virgin olive oil with lemon juice and salt. We had separate bowls so as not to clash with each other’s hands and spoons and get nervous. Then we brushed the avocado slices she had already cut before. She said cutting slices so thin was relaxing. Lastly we placed them on top of medium thick slices of a spelt and sunflower bloomer.
It was a fat concentrate full of flavour and never mind the calories: our heart needs it! Added the sesame seeds for decoration (we had a full jar), still more fat and more heart.
This is not something I would eat more than once or twice a week and not because I wouldn’t like to be hearty every day! The soul of this blog is indeed to conceive as many combinations of fruit, vegetables, seeds and so on to put on toasts as can be imagined.
I heard someone comparing avocados with Moby Dick, because like Melville’s white whale they are now everywhere and have become the obsession of so many people owning a fridge.
The other day, as we were looking at magazines while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, an article about whales on the last “Focus” issue grabbed my attention as it was in line with the mother-daughter theme, and with avocados as a consequence.
I copy it below in full, hoping someone might find it interesting reading it.
BELUGA WHALES AND NARWHALS GO THROUGH MENOPAUSE.
Menopause is rare in the animal kingdom. While many species may be less likely to reproduce as they near the end of their life, until now only three animals were known to have an “evolved strategy” where females have a significant post-reproductive lifespan: humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales. But now researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of York have added two more toothed whale species to that list: belugas and narwhals.
The team studied dead whales from 16 species and found dormant ovaries in older beluga and narwhals females, indicating that they had gone through the menopause. The findings suggest that these species are likely to have social structures that involve female beluga whales and narwhals living among a greater number of close relatives as they age.
“For menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards,” says Dr Sam Ellis, of the University of Exeter. “In killer whales, the reason to stop [reproducing]comes because both male and female offspring stay with their mothers for life, so as a female ages her group contains more of her children and grandchildren. This increasing relatedness means that, if she keeps having young, they’re competing with their own direct descendants for resources such as food. The reason to continue living is that older females can be of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring.
For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps the group as a whole survive.”
Studies of ancestral human remains suggests they have similar social structures, which may explain why menopause has evolved in our own species, the researchers say. “Looking at other species like these toothed whales can help us establish how this unusual reproductive strategy has evolved,” says Prof Darren Croft, also of the University of Exeter.
I thank you for dropping by and wish you would have a look at my first post here:
As this blog is at its first words when winter is approaching and Christmas rehersals are on the way, the sound of music is sometimes dictating unconsciously how I am going to introduce this creation of mine named “Toasts and Thoughts”.
The voice is making an effort not to stray off tune when “chestnuts roast on an open fire” as the head wanders and hovers above all everyday worries to make our nutrition healthy, cruelty free and affordable with the least effort possible. I am not a kitchen lady. I would rather spend free time reading, writing, playing music and twisting myself into animal shapes than taking the agony of standing for hours by that white worktop to cram a medley of out-of-times or modern day killings in baking trays. The myriad vegs, fruits and cereals can make life bright. Still singing of flying turkeys and reindeers, the feeling of “toughts toasting on an open mind” was the original archetype for this project.
Here it starts with the first open toast with chickpeas, fresh ginger, turmeric, tomatoes and chilli on wholemeal seeded bread slices.
I asked ginger and turmeric to warm up body and brain, as I learned to appreciate all seasons positively, but I am still very little resistant to cold. If the spices are kept in the freezer they stay fresh for months, let’s say the whole winter. I grated a lot of them for a long time, which secured as much time to think while grating (that otherwise can be boring). Toasting bread to top with imaginative combinations of veg, even leftovers sometimes, opens to new worlds of happy, blissful homemade lunches for days big with singing but still busy with all other chores’ mishmash.
If I wanted to abbreviate the making of this toast I’d have to use powder turmeric and ginger, then I would miss out on the immunising power of the spices and the taste would be completely different. Also, less time to think and sing that Christmas song.
Thank you for joining me!