Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Force of Communication

The other day we had a discussion about communication. The young son of friends claimed that 80 % of communication is non-verbal. The father, who likes to challenge his children with intellectual matters, denied that. He spoke a sentence about democracy with a lot of difficult words, and said, “I couldn’t possibly convey this notion without words.”
To me that was not communication. But what is?
It seems that women choose a partner who will strengthen the immune system of their offspring. They select him on the basis of smell. Forget about his poetic serenades and his gorgeous torso! Here the interchange goes through the nostrils.
Another study claims that the timbre of a man’s voice is meant to impress his peers. Bollocks! I believe its purpose is to captivate the hearts of women. The father I mentioned earlier has a beautiful deep voice that I find very seductive. I don’t care what he says. He can win me over purely with the sound of the words he speaks, not with their meaning. How verbal is that?!
So what is communication? The exchange of ideas? Feelings? Affection?
Do we care as long as it is seductive and pleasant?
I don’t!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Red Tomato Soup

I discovered a trick to make tomato soup a brighter red with natural ingredients:

Sauté onions and tomatoes with a red bell pepper in some oil, add salt, then water and simmer until the vegetables are softened. Puré, mash through a sieve -- if you want to get rid of the seeds and the skin -- and dilute to a soup consistency.
You may add tarragon at the beginning, or parsley at the end, but don't, if you want to keep the soup a pure red.
The pepper does the trick. It also adds a delicate sweetness that compensates for the acidity of the tomatoes. Altogether a delicious soup!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Iedereen kan schrijven, alleen Bennie niet. Vader kan het: hij schrijft een brief, vouwt dubbel en steekt hem in een envelop. Hij likt hem dicht en schrijft nog meer aan de buitenkant van de envelop. Moeder schrijft ook. Ze heeft een boekje met vlammende draken op het kartonnen kaft, waarin ze regels schrijft. “Mijn huishoudboekje,” noemt ze het. Broer schrijft verhalen, die hij aan hen allemaal voorleest. Ze gaan over Marsmannen die de zon aan flarden schieten.
Zelfs zusje schrijft. Ze zit aan tafel over een schrift gebogen. Met het puntje van haar tong tussen haar tanden tekent ze lettertjes.
Iedereen kan dus schrijven, behalve hij, Bennie.
“Welnee,” zegt vader. “Je bent heus niet de enige. Het kind van de buurvrouw kan het ook niet.”
Ja zeg, dat telt niet! Het kind van de buurvrouw is maar een baby. Die kan niks, en al helemaal niet schrijven.
Iedere dag van de week gaat vader naar zijn werk.
“Vader, waarom gaat u naar uw werk?”
“Om te praten, en wat te lezen, en te schrijven.”
“Wat schrijft u dan?”
“Van alles: nota’s en brieven en zo.”
“Kijken?” Vader geeft hem een vel papier met rijen lettertjes erop. “Wat staat daar?”
Vader pakt het papier terug en leest: “Notulen van de vergadering van zevenentwintig september jongstleden. De voorzitter opent de vergadering door allen welkom te heten. Vervolgens geeft hij het woord aan de secretaris. Deze vraagt of iedereen de notulen in goede orde ontvangen heeft. Zo genoeg?” vraagt vader.
Bennie loopt naar de keuken waar moeder geleund tegen het aanrecht staat te krabbelen in haar boekje. Hij trekt aan haar rok. “Even niet,” zegt ze terwijl ze gewoon doorgaat.
Van zusje mag hij wel zien wat ze geschreven heeft. “Mooi, hè,” zegt ze. Ze gluurt vanachter het blaadje dat ze omhoog houdt. Hij ziet allemaal kriebels die staan te wiebelen op de lijn. “Mooi,” zegt hij. “Mag ik ook ’ns?”
“Nee,” zegt zusje. Ze trekt het blaadje weg. “Dat kan jij niet. Daar ben jij nog te klein voor.”
“Ik ben niet te klein!”
“Jawel,” zegt zusje. “Je moet eerst naar school. Dan kun je het pas leren.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Frying Pan

My best frying pan comes from Woolworth’s in Georgetown, Washington D.C. We were moving there some 30+ years ago, and stayed in the Georgetown Dutch Inn until we had found a house.
This was our first encounter with the United States, and it was very different from what we had expected. Old houses with attractive fronts, small shops and restaurants. No sidewalk cafés, however. They only came later, and we missed them sorely in the warm weather. Clyde’s, the restaurant where we ate most often, served hamburgers, of course, but also Reuben sandwiches, enormous stacks of slices of toast with meat and sauerkraut, held together with a cocktail stick – if I remember correctly. After a while we got bored with eating out every night, and that is when I bought the pan.
In the hotel we lived in a suite: living room with kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom, all three provided with a telephone. Especially the one in the bathroom was subject to much ridicule. The kitchenette was rather well equipped in machinery: a four burner electric stove, oven, and a dishwasher that the maid would daily run full cycle for our two glasses. I quickly learnt to wash them by hand.
The pan came in handy. It was a medium sized cast iron frying pan, which cooked us omelettes, sauces for spaghetti and stir-fried vegetables.
It still does, better than any of the others, even its big and small brothers!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Frying Fish

P’s grandmother was an expert in frying breaded fish. The fish remained intact and the crust was nice and crisp. His mother, who was a wonderful cook, failed dismally where frying fish was concerned, much to her distress.
For P, on the other hand, it is about the only thing he can cook, and he loves to make a great show of preparing his trout. They are wonderful!
I now have finally uncovered the secret of frying fish successfully, when I read a recipe by Jamie Oliver.
Make sure you heat your frying pan thoroughly. I use cast iron pans, which are heavy but stable and they can stand a lot of heat. Then add the oil. When it is “rippling”, the pan is hot enough. The fish will stay whole, and the crust will be crisp. Don’t fry longer than just a few minutes on either side. Thus the flesh will remain moist.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Leven in Dagen van Zonneschijn

Leer je leven
in de dagen van zonneschijn,
dan komen er weken
met regen en storm.

Koud en kleumend sta je
te wachten tot het overgaat.

Maar het gaat niet over.
Regenen zal het altijd.
Stormen ook.

Dat is wat je leert
na de dagen van zonneschijn.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Parools Stripstrijd

Parool heeft een stripstrijd uitgeschreven. Deze week gaat het tussen Ruben Steeman van Elke Dag RuSt en Flo. Wij zijn natuurlijk voor Ruben! Stemmen dus!

Friday, April 07, 2006

On the Playground

Since I have known Fatma I have spent time on the playground in her neighbourhood. There are hardly any ethnically Dutch people there. Women wearing headscarves, Moroccan men and people from the Dutch West Indies and Surinam. Fatma meets the other women and chatters with them in Arabic. The women apologize to me, but I don’t mind. I urge them to speak Arabic with their children, even though the teacher tells them to speak Dutch. They nod, yes, yes, is better to speak Arabic at home, and I am their friend.
Sometimes Fatma goes on an errand, and I stay behind to watch her children. They come to me when they have fallen and scratched their elbow. A little girl with big brown eyes digs into her coat pocket to dump a load of marbles into my cupped hand. They are beautiful, shiny and scratched with numerous tiny dents from playing. She tells me their names: dragon, the sea, the sky, disco and one: the sea of Morocco. It is green and yellow and red. I didn’t know the sea of Morocco was green and yellow and red. And so gorgeous!
It is very peaceful to sit there, basking in the sun, watching people do what they have done since the beginning of time: play, gossip, tending children.
The riches of life.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Leek and Potato Soup

This is a comfort soup and dead simple. We invariably make it on first arrival nights, either in France or at home, because the preparation takes so little time and the reward is great.

Sauté washed sliced leek in olive oil and salt. Add peeled, diced potato, just one medium size for 4 persons is enough. Add just enough water to cover. Or half water, half milk. Bring to the boil and simmer until done. Add parsley or dill, or both, blend and add more water or milk for a soup consistency. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

If no milk was added the soup will be in dire need of crème fraîche!

Serve with coarse brown bread and salty country butter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006