Monday, December 31, 2007

Oyster Mushrooms

This is A's favourite mushroom recipe:

Fry the mushrooms whole in butter (with a little oil added against the burning of the butter) on a high heat for only a minute until brown .
Turn them over for another minute, sprinkle them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

The quickest recipe ever! You don't even need to clean the mushrooms, or cut them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dr. Phil

I adore Dr. Phil. Not the man as such, the man in the show. He is such a clever manipulator. Full of debilitating one-liners like “How is that working for you?” or “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”
Immediately we are sucked into the logic of his reasoning. We, the audience, are not always certain in what direction he is heading. We need to hang on his lips to find out if he will be on his or on her side; if he will bear bait the grandmother; if the victim is truly a victim and not a perpetrator. For he does like to turn things around for us at times, our Dr Phil. However, as soon as we see where he is going, we follow him like lambs, we applaud his every word, we nod in agreement, for he speaks the thoughts that we already had, or should have had, in our minds.
O, he is so understanding, so wise, so funny, so charming, and we fall for him like blocks.
I love it: his arch manipulation, the drama, the naiveté of his guests who must be really keen on their fifteen minutes of fame to pour out their most horrid secrets.
Or they try to hide them. But then they have misjudged their host, for he is on to them! He ambushes, smirks and Whammee, gotcha! We are given even better drama.
Commercial? O yes, absolutely! And this is clearest on the shows when Phil has turned into a Santa and he is giving away present after present on behalf of certain companies. Those days I turn off the TV.
But all the other days I am hooked!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

These Things Happen

(If they do, there is hope.)

A U.S. Marine squad was marching north of Fallujah when
they came upon an Iraqi terrorist, badly injured and

unconscious. On the opposite side of the road was an
American Marine in a similar but less serious state.

The Marine was conscious and alert and as first aid was
given to both men, the squad leader asked the injured Marine
what had happened.

The Marine reported, "I was heavily armed and moving north
along the highway here, and coming south was a heavily armed
Insurgent. We saw each other and both took cover in the
ditches along the road. I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein
was a miserable, lowlife scumbag who got what he deserved,
and he yelled back that Ted Kennedy is a fat,
good-for-nothing, left wing liberal drunk who doesn't know
how to drive."

"So, I said that Osama Bin Laden dresses and acts like a
frigid, mean-spirited woman! He retaliated by yelling,
Oh yeah? Well, so does Hillary Clinton!"

"And, there we were, in the middle of the road, shaking
hands, when a truck hit us."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mousse au Chocolat

This is such a luxurious dessert, and yet not difficult to make. And the great advantage is that it can be made in advance, so all you have to do at the end of your dinner party is to appear among the ooh!s and ah!s of your guests.

Slowly melt 200 grams of truly dark chocolate with 120 ml of warm water in a double boiler. When softened, take off the heat and stir to a glossy shine.
Split 3 large eggs and stir the yolks into the chocolate.
Whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Gradually add 40 grams of light brown castor sugar. Keep whipping until shining.
Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture. This will take some time, but it is not difficult.
Pour into elegant glasses or cups and chill in the cellar of fridge.

This will serve 5 people.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Visiting Uncle Pete

When P and I were young and innocent we visited the relatives of J, our Afro-American friend, while we were travelling through the Deep South of the US. They lived in the boondocks of South Carolina, and we had trouble finding them, so we asked in a convenience store in a small town.
Oh, yes! They knew him. They knew that ole’ nigger, said the white owner. And he did, for his directions brought us to the farm.
Uncle Pete was expecting us. But he wasn’t expecting us to be white. We saw the double take he was trying to hide. The white salesman, however, with whom he was doing business at that moment, was quicker to react. He immediately came up to us and shook our hands. Why? Because we were one of his kind?
Uncle Pete quickly recovered from the shock and received us most warmly. We were introduced to his children and his grandchildren, who all flocked to the house, living nearby.
Aunt Jemima fed us a gorgeous meal with fried chicken and black-eyed peas and kale, and we all sat around the table talking and eating.
Jo, uncle Pete’s son had us completely sussed. We were Dutch, right? P worked at the Dutch embassy, right? Well, he knew how to deal with spies. Charm the hell out of them, that’s what one did. And so he talked and talked, and told jokes and slapped P on the back.
He was a charming man, and we only learnt later that he hadn’t trusted us at all.
We took a little walk on the land, and were introduced to more people. One of them, a retired fieldhand, had the clearest lake-blue eyes in his dark brown shining face. Absolutely stunning!
We then joined the family on their visit to the church, and sat as guests of honour in the front row. We were welcomed by the reverend in his sermon and had to stand up. Paul made a little impromptu speech of gratitude.
After the service everybody crowded around us. They all wanted to shake our hands, to touch us. They all wanted to greet and welcome us. The fieldhand also made his way up to us through the throng. “Remember me?” he asked. I think it was a test. All blacks look alike to a white girl, don’t they? But how could I forget those amazing eyes!
I was too young and shy to say it then, so I will say it now: I have never forgotten the most beautiful blue eyes in that old wrinkled black face!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Adam's Cuddles

For a while we had the routine of feeding the cats extra wet food in the cellar. At the same time we would clean the litter box.
This would be Adam’s moment of rapprochement. Gradually he would venture more and more, and we would tell each other of conquests: Now he rubbed against my legs, Now he turned over on his back.
We have stopped the tasty snacks. The old cat who needed them most turned his nose up at them.
Still Adam prefers to be petted in the cellar in the morning. Elsewhere in the house he is wary and evasive.
When we go down to clean the litter box, he runs before us on the steps and starts nuzzling them. He rubs against our shoes, he begs for the hand to stroke him.
He gets no food, just cuddles. It is Pavlov all over.

And Eva? She sits at a safe distance and wonders what this is all about.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Peanut Soup

To compliment the left-overs of a delicious stir-fry dinner I made peanut soup.

Fry sliced onions with two or three cloves of garlic and grated fresh ginger in (peanut) oil.
When soft add a tablespoon, or two, of peanut butter and enough water to make a soup consistency.
Add spices like ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamon (all c's!), depending on your taste and your larder.
Add some honey or brown sugar.
Don't forget to spice it with either red pepper, or tabasco. Or add chopped chilli pepper to the initial fry.
Cook for half an hour or more. Mash with the mini masher.
Adjust seasoning and serve with chopped scallions on top.

To make peanut sauce, follow the same recipe, but use less water.
Serve with stir fries.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


De koning was verwaand. Zijn tenen lang. Hij wenste ze niet te laten vertrappen door een piepkuiken, dat nog maar net de arena betreden had. Dus dineerde hij in zijn eigen statiezaal, ver van de mêlee van het strijdtoneel.
Minzaam hief hij het glas naar het gepeupel, deze verwende koning bullebak.

Tot de apotheose kwam. Totdat de koning gekroond werd tot zonnegod. Toen schreed hij trots en welgedaan door de gangen van het paleis, de onderdanen buigend om hem heen.
De deuren werden opengegooid voor zijn grootse entree: de koning had overwonnen. Alweer.

En het piepkuiken feliciteerde hem.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Autumn Bowls


When the leaves had started to fall and the days were shortening, my mother would take us out to the woods. We would gather twigs, and vibrant oak leaves, starry mosses, mushrooms, acorn pipes, and shiny chestnuts. We would lay them all gently in baskets we had brought, and when we had had enough we would go home.

There my mother would spread the garden table with newspapers, and she would allow us each to select a bowl from the cellar shelf. These we would fill with fresh smelling, moist earth from the garden. We would stamp it down with the palms of our hands and on top we would build our own autumn gardens. Where elves could live, and gnomes. And if we were in luck, spiders too.

When we had finished, the bowls would get pride of place in the windowsill and on the sideboard and on the coffee table. As I remember it, we all won prizes: most original, most beautiful, most varied.

But I don’t think any of us cared much for that. The bowl was the prize.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Appels, appels, appels

Van onze boom in Frankrijk kwamen tonnen appels, en zo kreeg ik de kans om alle recepten voor appeltaart te proberen, waarop ik mijn hand kon leggen.

Via C. kwam deze me onder de ogen. Beslist één van de lekkerste. En hij doet wat hij belooft: krokante korst, gaar deeg en rins-zoete appelen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Green Cabbage Stew

This is a wonderful wintry dish:

Fry smoked bacon in its own lard, or in a little vegetable oil, until it has given off its own fat and it is crisp. Fry chopped onion in the fat until soft and brown, with curry powder to taste. Add a pressed clove of garlic and chopped (green) cabbage and stew until softening. Add peeled slices of apple of a tart-sweet variety. Cook until all ingredients are done. Season with salt and pepper.

The secret is the saltiness of the bacon combined with the sweetness of the apple. Raisins would do the same trick!

Delicious with potatoes boiled in the skin.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lazy Cat

Our cat is the laziest cat in the valley. She eats, she sleeps, she appropriates the best seats and purrs, and that’s about it.
This summer we have changed the regime. In French regime means diet, and that’s what we have done: made her diet by giving her very limited amounts of crunch.
It works! No longer the laziest cat in the valley. She is not wholly satisfied with the new regime, so she keeps begging for more crunch, but when it is clear she is not getting any, off she goes to where there is plenty of food. This will either be a family of field mice from the woods behind us, or a mole from the next field.
Contentedly licking her whiskers she will sit on the terrace, contemplating whether that morsel was enough, or whether she will go back for another portion.
She seems quite happy with this new life style, like all the other women on a successful diet. Besides, there is still ample time for sleeping, and appropriating the best seats, and purring.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Grilled Vegetable Salad

This recipe requires some time, but the result is scrumptiously delicious.

Grill lightly oiled (olive, of course!) and salted (coarse sea) slices of aubergine, courgette and tomato until browned and shrivelling. Layer in a dish and sprinkle with balsemic vinegar. Leave to soak up the juices for several hours or overnight.


A treat, of which there will never be enough!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Barn in the Valley

Our house lies in the nook of a valley. Not a grand valley, not vast and wide. Intimate, protective, the hillside embracing the back of the house like a bent arm.
The front has the view: the field with the cows and the apple trees; the hedge along the lane, that has become invisible by the bushes, but that you can visualize, because you know it is there. The farmer’s tractor passes along it, and our own car coming back from grocery shopping.
Blocking part of the view is an old barn. Looking out on the valley you want it gone, it is in the way: get lost, we don’t want you!
Not that we don’t know what is behind the barn. We do. We have seen it from other angles. What’s behind it is the brook, with the grasses and weeds growing in its bedding. Part of the total of the valley. And though we cannot see it from our terrace, we imagine it. It is a secret corner that is yet known to us. We guess the colour of the weeds, the curve of the stream, where the cows are on the slope.
We are talking about what it will be like when the barn is gone. How would it look? What would we see?
Could it ever equal our imagination?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weather Forecast

In town:
Close the curtains. Turn on the TV.
The weatherman (or –woman) will show you maps of Europe with lines and the arrows at which he/she will wave significantly. Totally irrelevant to whether you should go out with an overcoat or a brolly, but you just have to wade through it to get what you want.
Eventually your patience will be rewarded with a grit full of suns or clouds, with or without dotted stripes, and numbers.
Fortunately the weatherman (or –woman) will explain all the suns and the clouds and the numbers, so you know what to expect the next few days.
In case the weatherman (or –woman) is wrong: Off with his head, or to be more modern: Sue the company.

In the country:
Open the curtains and look up at the sky.
Assess the direction of the wind. To help you, plant a flag in your garden or on top of your house.
Tap on the barometer to see if the pressure is rising or falling. Rising: take a sunhat with you. Falling: umbrella or raincoat.
In case you are wrong: tough luck!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

General Assembly

of the 2CV Club Basse Normandie.

Obligatory means of transportation to the meeting: your 2CV.

Meeting from 11 to 12. Starting with introductions, lots of kissing and ending with drinks: crème de cassis and white wine, or water.

Followed by a luncheon, which lasted well into the afternoon.

We were French, in social class ranging from a vicomte, who tried to insult me, to a retired construction worker, who was well informed about European politics. More importantly, he owns the oldest vehicle, dating from 1953.

There was also a Japanese/Argentinean couple; a few crazy Englishmen, who thought the Hundred Years War hadn’t ended and had decided to settle not far from where they burnt Jeanne d’Arc at the stake; and us.

We sat on the little terrace of the president/secretary/treasurer of the club, who—with his Danish wife—had prepared the meal, and talked a lot about cars!

The next day it rained 23 mm!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Walk through the Woods

This walk takes a little under two hours.

When you have gone though the gate, shut it behind you to keep out the cows. Turn right. Immediately on your left you see the small cottage hugging the shoulder of the road. In an amiable way greet the couple who will undoubtedly emerge to see who is passing by. Have a short chat, but don’t become over sociable, for they have a tendency to stick their noses into all your affairs. In addition they are inclined to an overindulgence to alcoholic beverages.
Having shaken them off, follow the road up. Above the field with the tied-up goats you see a house. So does the dog, who will bark at the two dogs in the yard. They will run along the fence, and will sometimes slide under it to come closer, but they are harmless.
The house is inhabited by a truck driver who was once convicted for sexual abuse of children. After he had spent his time in jail his boss gave him back his old job. He lives alone with his animals. At night we sometimes hear opera coming from across the valley, or jazz. But we’ve never seen him.
At the end of the road turn right, cross the main road and take the trail into the woods on the left. At the next intersection turn left again. After you turn right where the path forks, you will come to the best chestnuts in the area. They are small, but they are full and without worms, so they are worth a forage.
Be careful, the track here gets muddy. Avoid the puddles by walking on the Left Bank. Watch out! The dog loves the pools and tends to rush through them in order to splash as much mucky water as he can.
When you’ve reached the road, turn left, cross over at the intersection, and when you’ve come to the main road again, take the road across, slightly to the right. Turn left into the tree-lined lane between the fields. Then right onto the rocky path that goes steeply down.
The small mansion you pass on the right is P’s dream home. Look at the vintage cars in the shed, peep through the windows. Although the house seems to be abandoned, you will still see a dirty glass on the kitchen table next to a half empty wine bottle. The palm tree in the living room is still standing, although the grass outside is high, and the weeds are everywhere.
The owner was long gone, leaving unpaid bills. But the other day he turned up at the tax office and paid all his debts. So gone are P’s dreams to buy the house.
Turn left at the T-crossing, and left again at the next one.
When you’ve reached the top of our road again, turn right into it.
After a friendly wave at the neighbours you deserve a nice cup of tea!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Papa Pomodori

M wrote this delicious recipe in our French cookbook, which she got from Jamie Oliver, I believe.
This is my variation:

Fry onions in olive oil, with garlic.
Add fresh or canned tomatoes and water.
Cook until done.
Add salt, pepper, basil or other herbs like tarragon or oregano.
Mix with the mini masher.
Stir in old bread.
Serve piping hot with crème fraîche.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Complete silence
reigns at night.
for an owl
in the distance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Garden

I´ve never been a gardener. Gardens are lovely places to wander in, to admire, but digging earth never appealed to me.
Until now.
Here I´m turning into a proper middle aged lady, scoop in gloved, soiled hand, babbling about Lupines and fertiliser and sunny or shady borders. I´m becoming besotted with digging and planting and replanting, stealing seeds from flowers I like, asking friends for cuttings, foraging wherever plants are for sale.
The results are stimulating. I now have lavender and foxglove, hollyhocks, roses, phlox and daisies, dahlias, poppies, lilies, and the list goes on.
I´m beginning to create my own cottage garden to wander in and admire!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Laundry Day

After days of showers Friday woke us with sunshine. We quickly jumped out of bed and stripped it. An hour later the sheets were billowing in the wind.
A few years ago we bought antique linen sheets in a jumble sale. I sewed them together into a modern duvet cover. It is wonderful: crackling thick and slightly rough; comforting in winter; cool in summer, easily absorbing our night sweats.
We depend on the weather for a dryer, so we always need to choose our laundry days with care. The linen sheets are especially hell to dry.
The wind did the job and the sun bleached them.
In the evening we snuggled up into our new bed, fragrant with summer air.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weather Report

28 mm rain since Sunday evening;
15° C;
Barometer 763 mm, and rising ever so slightly.
A steady drizzle at this moment.

We'll light a fire and read another book.
Fourth game of scrabble.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The train is full, bursting at the seams with piles of luggage and holidaymakers pushing their way to their reserved seats. Smart Parisians who have rented a cottage for the summer on the fashionable coast, foreigners visiting friends who own a house in the country and do not care about fashionable: it is the simple, unspoilt land that attracts them.
In Lisieux about half the train disembarks. The Parisians drag their enormous suitcases across the platform where the local to Dauville is waiting. All the others are met by frantically waving relatives, who have already arrived, who have already put on their shorts and funny sunhats, who have already shaken off the hustle of city life and look relaxed, décontracté, the business of contracts and appointments shed.
We are picked up by Bernard, our farmer friend, who looks odd among these people, with his plaid cap shading his rugged face, his gnarled hands thrust in the pockets of his neat Sunday pants. The dog Tazi has spotted him long after we have, but is the first to greet him, jumping up against him.
In the car home we hear the main news. How the family is doing, which shops have changed hands, that the summer has never been this wet. That is a real concern. The farmers cannot reap the corn, or bring in the hay. They will need at least three weeks of dry, sunny weather.
Although Bernard retired a few years ago, these things naturally still worry him. It puts our city worries in perspective.
At the house the grass has grown ankle high and the weeds have had a field day. But the hollyhocks are in full bloom against the half-timbered walls, and the sun is shining on the terrace. We open the shutters and make a pot of tea.
We are home.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Raw Herring

This is the season when the fleets come in with the new herring, succulent and fragrant.
Traditionally it is eaten raw. Iconoclasts dip it in chopped raw onions, but the real connoisseur consumes it neat, with a glass of ice cold Jenever.
The other day I served it as an appetiser on a bed of rucola, decked with raw onions and a wedge of lemon.
Not the purist's fashion, but delicious!

Monday, June 25, 2007


Blogonomy: hegonomy of the blog.
The most hated word of internet lingo.
Sorry, folks!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Broad Beans

Broad beans are absolutely delicious with juicy, succulent bone ham. A problem, when you try to avoid meat.
The other days I cooked the broad beans as usual, drained them, added crème fraîche and freshly grated parmesan. And the traditional herb, summer savory, of course, which is supposed to help digest the beans.
It was almost as good!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

English for Business Purposes, Advanced Level

You think you understand English pretty well? Forget it! The language is way more subtle than you think. The British are so dexterous in hiding their true meaning that the foreigner is bound to be led astray.
Here is a guide to help you in your dealings with this strangest of peoples!


All dogs are called Max. Have you noticed? Truly, all dogs are.
So when we got our new dog from the animal shelter his name was . . . . Right, his name was Max.
The first thing we did was rename him, and now he has been Tazi, or Swiepo for a long time. These names have their problems too, but at least they are not common.
A few years after we got him, Tazi ran away in the woods near our house. I crisscrossed it various times: no dog. I went home, went back to the woods and called his name: “Tazi!!!” and went home again.
Then I got a phone call from a vet nearby. The dog had been crossing a road and had been hit by a car. So they had brought him to the vet’s practice. Not much wrong with him, could I come and pick him up.
The vet asked for his identity papers. From his tag he did not know what his name was. So he had just tried a few on the dog.
“Buster,” he had called, “Rocky, Max!”
Bingo! Tazi had looked up expectantly.
See? All dogs are called Max. Even our own.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Den Haag aan de Taag

Half tien in de lobby
Wat gaan we doen?
De tram
knarst rinkelend om de bocht.
Thé wijst uit het raam,
Terwijl E leunt op zijn stok.
Waar gaat het heen?

Voor de bocht
is er de weg zonder enige bocht,

volgens Pessoa.
“Ik neem de bacalhau,”
zegt Jan op het terras.
De wind kolkt
de rode wijn
in de glazen.
“Wat is het ergste
dat gebeuren kan?”
vraagt San.

Fado’s in een café.
“Ik ga niet mee,”
zegt Mauke, denkend
aan brede armen
gehaakt in elkaar.
Rob lacht naar
de dames in
zwarte gewaden.

Vasco da Gama
Ging van Berlijn
om de Afrikaanse bocht.
Die weg was voor hem de weg.
Wij houden het bij bica
uit kleine kopjes.

Voor Brasileira zit Pessoa
en staart naar de tram in de bocht.
Hier eindigt niet
de tocht naar Lisboa.
De Taag stroomt
langs de kromming
van Haagse herinnering.

Monday, May 07, 2007


The traditional way to cook spinach is to dump the washed spinach in a cook pot bit by bit, and let it shrink over high heat. When done, it was chopped to pulp with an axe and served with a creamy sauce.

I prefer to stir fry a chopped onion in olive oil, and when soft and translucent to add the (chopped) spinach bit by bit and stir until done. Adding crème fraîche is optional.

Delicious with new potatoes, served with a knob of butter, and a hard boiled egg.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Rain

They’ve taken away the rain.
Where is it?

Not in the diminishing ponds,
reflecting the blue sky.

Not in the clouds.
For they, too, have disappeared.

Where is the rain?
What have we done?

We’ve driven our vanity.
We’ve dressed ourselves in pride.
We’ve travelled to faraway lands,
where life was simple.

But we have learnt nothing.

So now they’ve taken away the rain.

And yet we are blinded
by the dazzling sun.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Have I Done Today?

What have I done today?

Made various phone calls
with minimal result. (+)

Watered the plants. (+)

Drank too much coffee. (_)

Bicycled through the sunny streets
to go on a shopping spree. (+)

Bought two cardigans and a skirt (++)

Played Chuzzle on the computer,
which took more than an hour. (_)

I haven’t moved mountains.
Nor have I saved a baby elephant,
or given birth to a brilliant idea.

was no different
from any other day
in my everyday life.

It was a fine day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The World at Large

Now that Eva has been spayed, we have let the cats loose in the great, big world outside. I took the hatch out of the cat flap and within twenty minutes both of them were carefully treading in the garden. They love it! Eva is often lying on the grass looking at the flies buzzing around her head. She has caught her first mouse, and has played with it endlessly.
Adam is too lazy for such activity. He will stroll leisurely along the terrace or sit in a strategic spot, grooming his dusty fur.
His interest lies more in eating food than in earning it.
He loves me most when it is breakfast time. The other day he has fondly accepted my stroking his back and scratching behind his ears. He purred cautiously and nuzzled my hand. In fact: he couldn’t have enough of it!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Vegan Stew

A. made the most delicious vegan stew last night.
She fried garlic and chopped red onion in olive oil, and added peeled, diced carrot.
Then she added chopped courgette, cooked it all for a little bit and threw in a can or two of chick peas and ditto tomatoes. Stirred.
Then she seasoned it with salt and pepper, hot paprika, cinnamon, a splash of balsamico vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar.
She let it all cook a little longer to allow the flavours to marry and served it piping hot over brown rice.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Poor Eva

P and I had decided that it was better to have Eva spayed, although we don’t like the operation. The trouble was how to catch her.
We managed to lure her alone into the kitchen, closed the doors and the hatch into the dining room. Thus we hoped to be able to chase her into a corner and into the travelling cage.
No such luck. She dashed about in all directions, across the counter, under the table, along the window. She was quick as black lightning and we decided to give up.
We were both flushed and slightly out of breath. I opened the door and the hatch. Eva was sitting in a corner on the counter behind a cookpot. Her mouth was half open, she was panting heavily.
“Watch that she does not break the teapot,” I said.
P moved it away from her. Eva stayed where she was.
“Look at her,” said P. “I’ll give it one more try.”
He put on his gloves and made a brave dash for the scruff of her neck. She kicked and bit and scratched, but the cage was ready for her and quickly closed behind her.
In the afternoon she came back with a bare belly.
She settled on a pillow in the window and went to sleep.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Writing Careers

Two of the women in my group of six aspiring writers are beginning to be successful. They have each published a number of short stories in a magazine, and they have each been asked by the publisher to write a full length book; either a novel or a collection of short stories.
We, the others, the other four, are excited for them. Excited and a little jealous.
I, being the oldest, am probably the least jealous. My vista of challenging opportunities is sinking behind the horizon, and I am gradually getting at peace with it.
Had I really had the talent and the drive I would have been somewhere else at this moment. But I am not, and that is alright.
We cannot all leave an imprint on history. In fact, only people of the stature of Aristotle can.
And I am no Aristotle.
I am just me: here today and gone tomorrow.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


De regering maakt zich zorgen over taalachterstand bij jonge kinderen, en wil de kinderen om wie het gaat twee dagdelen per week naar een voorschool sturen om de taalachterstand weg te werken.
Op zich niets mis mee. Maar wat is dat, taalachterstand? Hebben ze werkelijk van alle kinderen gemeten hoe de beheersing van hun moedertaal is?
Natuurlijk niet! Het gaat om een achterstand van allochtone kinderen in het Nederlands, in vergelijking met autochtone Nederlandse kinderen.
Niemand, die door heeft dat deze kinderen helemaal geen taalachterstand hebben.
In tegendeel, ze hebben een voorsprong. Ze spreken over het algemeen hun moedertaal op het niveau waarop alle kinderen gemiddeld hun moedertaal spreken. Daarnaast zijn ze al begonnen met het beheersen van een tweede taal.
Aardig van de regering dat ze deze kinderen ook nog eens de gelegenheid geeft hun voorsprong te vergroten!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mushroom Chowder

We had a delicious mushroom chowder last night:

Sauté an onion in olive oil and salt until lightly browned. Add cleaned (with a brush or a dry scouring pad!) and sliced mushrooms, Oyster would be good, but the Parisian variety will do. Cook down until all the juices have evaporated, stirring often. Add a splash of white wine, cook down again, repeat with another splash of white wine.
Meanwhile boil a peeled and diced potato with sliced leek and celery stalk in water, or vegetable stock, with a bay leaf and thyme, until soft. Add to the mushrooms, with some hot sauce, red and black pepper, parsley. Cook a little longer to allow the flavours to marry.
Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, more parsley and a piece of fresh brown bread.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Deborah Catesby

New website under Links!
This time by a genuine writer. And good friend.
Go check her out!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Retiree Students

It is quite en vogue these days for retired men to go back to university and take up a study, usually history or philosophy. The students proper are not always happy with these venerable older men who crowd the lectures and working groups, asking intelligent questions of teachers younger than themselves, and bringing their experience and maturity to the discussions.
I can’t blame them. University should be a place for venerable professors and inexperienced immature students, who should be able to stumble out of sight of fathers, their own or anybody else’s.
If Daddy is bored after retirement, and would like to explore new fields of knowledge, let him go to the library, either public, or that excellent research one, the Royal Library. There he can use the skills he learnt when he was a young student, doing research, writing a paper if he insists. And if he wants to discuss what he has studied, let hem start a debating group, where he can explore the essence of Kant versus Plato with fellow dads, and keep his brain sharp as a razor.
But for Pete’s sake, let him leave the university to those who belong there!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Black Annie

When we had just moved to the US I bought A. a black baby doll for her birthday. The white ones seemed uninteresting, having their eyes closed, while the black dolls looked sweet.
When A had unwrapped the package she immediately flung the poor baby into the corner of the room, because she smelled so chemical, we later found out.
However, when the smell had worn off, Annie became A’s favourite.
Jonathan, our Afro-American friend, was amazed, shocked in fact. How could a white girl have a black doll? But we, not having grown up in a racially conscious environment, we didn’t see why not.
Annie has remained A’s favourite, and Jon has since told the story as an example of cross-racial thinking.
We didn’t think it was such a big deal!

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Earth is Humming

The earth is humming
a deep rumbling sound,
caused by the waves of the seas.

Is it content and unconcerned
about the creatures
crawling on its skin?

Is it happy in the wind,
rolling round in its diurnal course
with rocks and stones and trees?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Adam was Lost

Adam was lost. At the usual morning feeding ritual, only old Schmiego and Eva were present. Strange. Where could he be?
P. went upstairs and opened all the doors of the attic.
Five minutes later he came crying down the stairs: “I was all alone. You left me. I was all alone.”
“Adam,” I called. “Come on then, Adam.”
“I was all alone. Where were you?” he answered.
He didn’t care about food. He wanted to talk to us.
“I’m back,” he nuzzled his sister.
“I’m back,” he tried to follow Schmiego, who would have none of it.
“I’m back,” he told me, and daringly climbed onto the table where I was reading the paper.
“Yes, Adam,” I said. “You’re back.”
He is now checking out the familiar places.
Adam is back.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Roasted Sweet Potato and Cole Slaw

We had a delicious meal last night:

I roasted a peeled and coarsely chopped sweet potato in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and thyme in a 225 centegrade oven until soft and browned at the edges. Mixed in some crème fraîche just before the end.

Served it with cole slaw: made a remoulade with half yoghurt/half mayonaise, salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice and honey. Stirred into it some grated carrot and some shredded cabbage.

The biggest job of a dish like this is cleaning up! The rest is o, so simple

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nothing to Say

There are days
when I have
nothing to say.

Those days
I’d rather be

Friday, January 26, 2007

Feta Walnut Dip

Grind 1 cup chopped walnuts in the food processor with a good handful of parsley. Add a cup of crumbled feta, pepper, paprika and some milk or olive oil to loosen. Serve on whole meal toast.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Glassy Film over the Puddles

A glassy film over the puddles? Powdery sugar sticking to tree branches?
What is this?
Frost? Snow? A blistery Easterly wind?
Do they still exist?
Is this what they call winter?

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Way to a Man's Heart

The way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach. Adam is every bit a man in this respect.
In the morning, when I am feeding Schmiego, the venerable old cat, who needs some extra flesh on his bones, he anxiously walks before me down the cellar steps, nuzzling my shoes. He is beginning to like me.
He will now even call me, when he thinks the level of crunch in his bowl has become dramatically low, trusting I will fulfil his every wish. Today he was so sociable I could have touched him, had I wished. But I didn’t want to push my luck.
While Eva is still aloof, Adam and I are slowly becoming friends!

Talent and Perseverance

Being an artist is not all about having talent. It’s a start, but no more than that. More important are dedication, perseverance, and a certain degree of fanaticism.
I do not have those traits where art is concerned. I would not have discovered I can draw at such a late stage in life, if I had. I would have spent all my spare moments drawing, in the most impossible places, on all sorts of paper. Instead, now that it turns out I don´t do too badly, I find it hard work and I stop fairly soon. I don´t give up entirely, for my successes are a reward, but I would like to be perfect right away.
Not so A.
She had wanted to be an actress for most of her life, and she went right ahead and did it. Her dedication is enormous. She is willing to network, which scares her. To expose herself at auditions and be turned down. To be lonely in her search for an audience. She possesses what it takes to succeed in a career as an artist. She has talent, it is true. But above all she perseveres against the odds.
That is the mark of the true artist.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Belgian Endives and Feta

(Or chicory if you will. You know, the white stuff.)

Last night I tried to get inspired by cookbooks, but everything seemed too complicated. So I stir fried some chopped endives in a cast iron frying pan on a high heat, stirring constantly. (In olive oil, naturally.) I added very little salt. When cooked, I mixed in some crème fraîche plus ground pepper, and sprinkled crumbled feta over the top. Browned it all in the pan under a hot grill.
Served it with boiled potatoes, mashed à la Jamie Oliver, i.e. with olive oil.
The bitter taste of the endives and the saltiness of the feta were just delicious together!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Reward for a Good Day

Today has been a good day. I really have been very good.
Strong. A tower of strength, so to say.
Got up at eight.
Well, not quite eight, but close enough.
Did all the tedious rituals of showering and getting dressed. Such a waste of time really, but it did make it easier to pretend to have a life.
Made quite a show of being busy, tidying the bathroom, and starting ditto with the bedroom. Until I realized that I didn´t have to keep up appearances anymore. Franklin had left, remember?
Thank God for that, fussy little bastard! “Attention to detail, Jenny. That’s what it’s all about.” Well, he can stuff his attention to details up his arse now.
Therefore left the bedroom to its own devices.
That was not so good. Made up for it by eating a proper breakfast, with muesli and low-fat yoghurt and even a piece of fruit, a canned peach, if you want to know. Fibres and protein, the whole nine yards.
Drank pints of low-calorie water. Cleansing my innards. Not sure if they needed cleaning. Did it anyway.
Even went jogging in the park. Went frigging jogging in the park! In the pouring rain! I must have been out of my mind, getting soaking wet. Was that cleansing, or what? Soul and body, including the cardio-vascular thingamajiggies.
Didn´t smoke all day either. Even though the Marlboro cowboy has been beckoning.
Would have done Frankie proud. As if he ever noticed when I had cut down. All he could ever say was, “Filthy habit” with that sneer on his face, that wasn’t just meant for my habit.
See how strong I’ve been? Read the newspaper, instead of watching TV all evening. No news, though.
Solved some slant-eyed sodo-cues. As if that was fun.
Drank only wine.
Been really effing strong today.
So where is my reward?
Where is my Goddamn reward?
Surely not another night of masturbation on the couch watching James Martin cook for the upper classes. There must be more to being free.
For God’s sake, spare me another night of hanky-panky while his nimble fingers are shaping patties on the kitchen table!
Where is the real reward? The phone call, the winning lottery ticket.
What good is drinking low-calorie water anyway?
Gin. Where is the gin?
And my fucking cigarettes!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cauliflower Dahl

Cook lentils in ample water with some crushed ginger, half an onion and a piece of red pepper. About 30 minutes.
Fry a sliced onion in oil, sesame or other, and salt. Add spices: garlic, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mustard powder. Or take a shortcut and stir in Patak’s mild curry paste, which is not altogether mild to a Western taste. Mix well. Add sliced red bell pepper and cauliflower florets and make sure they are well coated with the spices. Pour coconut milk over it all, bring to the boil and simmer until done.
Drain the lentils, take out the onion, ginger and pepper and stir into the curry. Check the seasoning.
Serve piping hot.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gees Egg

When A. was a toddler she refused to eat eggs. We tried them in all shapes and forms: soft boiled, hard boiled, scrambled, fried. No, she wouldn’t eat them.
So alright, we gave up.
Until we discovered one day that she had eaten a hard boiled egg at the neighbour’s and enjoyed it. From then on she would eat our eggs too, but only if we told her that P. had especially gone out to the neighbour, who had especially boiled an egg for her. A “Gees egg”, we called it, after the neighbour.
Unbeknown to her, we have been borrowing her special eggs for years.
And in our house a hard boiled egg is still called a “Gees egg”.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


R., a friend of A., who is a graphic artist, once looked at my weblog and told A. that my watercolours were something, but with my acrylics he could see I was just messing about.
To his chagrin A. told me. But I was grateful for some professional criticism and saw that he was right. So no more acrylics, unless I stop messing about.
The other day I told R. that I had started drawing with a pencil and he gave me some friendly advice. (Now knowing it was welcome). And suggested I buy a scanner.
I immediately went out and did.
Wow, what a difference it makes!