Sunday, December 21, 2008


Nee, ik wist ook niet wat het was. Maar na uitleg heb ik begrepen dat het met de Taj Mahal te maken heeft, en met het masculien meppen van je piemel. Meteen zie ik jonge kerels, luid brallend, met bierblikjes en flessen Baccardi in de hand.
De youtube jeugd heeft swaffelen uitgeroepen tot het leukste nieuwe woord van 2008.
Het zij zo.
Maar het zij helemaal niet zo, gelet op de discussies die het uitlokt. Wat een verontwaardiging over de ondergang van de taal, en de mores, en wat niet al meer! Wat een Ik, Jan Cremer opwinding!
En wat genieten we ervan! Net als onze voorouders al eeuwen lang hebben gedaan.
Het gaat wel weer over. Morgen is het voorbij. Dan zitten we weer tot over onze oren in de Recessie. Of is het Depressie?
Weet jij het? Of was je net aan het swaffelen?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Er Lag een Ballade in mijn Bed

Er lag een ballade
in mijn bed.
Een sluimerende klankenzee,
in dons gevat,
en diep van zin.

Ik dacht:
ik grijp hem vast,
pak hem in,
leg hem morgen
naast mijn bord.

Bij ’t ochtendlicht
uit bed gestapt
was het gedicht
in mijn matras.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Country Kitchens

I love watching British programs about houses. Especially houses in the country. A couple is wanting a move to a rural, quieter life, and think the country can offer it to them. To keep chickens, and grow their own produce.
Well, we’ve gone through the same process, and viewing homes is a secret passion of me.
All these couples are different in what they desire. Big houses, small houses, quiet, or in a village. All different. Except for one wish: they all want a country kitchen. For entertaining, you see. They like to entertain, and therefore they would like a country kitchen. You can visualise them, Nigella Lawson style, stirring their pots, while the guests sip white wine from elegant glasses, leaning against the counter.
What is a country kitchen, I have wondered? Having followed the program for quite some time, I think I know now: a country kitchen is sizable, with lots of cabinets, a butler sink (a must), an Aga range cooker (a desirable) and possible a cooking island. A cooking island! How country is that??!! Robinson Crusoe rescuing the culinary shipwrecks!
Well, our house in the country does not have a country kitchen. It has a small kitchen, that we have made more efficient, I will admit to that. And next to it, separated from it by a counter (sorry, almost an island, but not quite), is our dining room. Equally small.
It is the way farmhouses were built. Only the very big houses had big kitchens for their personnel. One friend of ours, who lives in a magnificent farmhouse has a big kitchen, with a huge fireplace and a table in the middle. But her cooking is done in the alcove under the stairway, on a gas range with 2 burners. The table is the workplace for chopping and kneading dough, and all other chores.
She turns out the most wonderful dinners. She cooks in the kitchen and entertains in the living room and the formal dining room. That is country living!
So what of the country kitchens in the program? Sorry, all fake. Nostalgic humbug for a time that never was, except in our imagination.
And a final question remains: can these people cook like my friend?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Spaghetti with Leeks and Oyster Mushrooms

Stew leeks in oil with a little salt until done. Stir in a generous amount of crème fraîche to make it creamy.
Fry some finely chopped shallots in oil in a frying pan. Add butter. Once the butter has stopped foaming fry the sliced mushrooms for a very short time. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Serve the leeks and the mushrooms over spaghetti.
With grated or slivered parmesan.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paris on Sunday

On the square outside the station the clochards are drying their laundry. They have laid out pants, t-shirts and sweaters on the grid of the Métro. The clothes are billowing in the hot air. The owners sit against the wall with their dogs, basking in the sun and gossiping.
The sunny morning has driven people out of their homes to walk their dogs, buy a baguette, or a packet of cigarettes. Or to have coffee on a side walk café. Parents are taking their children to the park.
Sunday means lunch with the family. Many fresh bouquets in the hands of daughters or grandparents will soon be passed on to their hosts. Mothers are taking their only sons out for a meal. Restaurants are packed with families enjoying nice food and a glass of wine.
Life is good on a Sunday in October and Paris is smiling.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rural Pretentions

We pretend. We pretend to live the life of farmers, but in reality it is fake. It is make believe. We find it quaint, and we think that this what life should be like. But it isn’t. Not for us.
We do enjoy the farmer’s market and its stands with just some home-made jams, some lettuces and some eggs; and others with only jars of unprocessed honey.
In our community we try to share the spirit of neighbourliness by offering our surplus of apples to others, by borrowing machinery, and by thankfully accepting produce from B.’s plot.
But we don’t really live this life. We only pretend.
For we don’t get up at six every morning to milk the cows. Nor do we grow our own vegetables. We do not work outside in all weathers. Nor do we have to scrape and save to get by.
We are like Henry Thoreau and his Walden. He celebrated the simple life, pretended to live it. But in reality, he benefited from the town nearby, and from his mother, who would bring him her pies.
That’s us: celebrating rural life, but not living its hardships.
Enjoying our own type of Walden.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kibo and Minoumie

Kibo is a hunting dog. A lion hunter, in fact. Which is great for conversation starters, but not much else. We particularly did not want a dog who chased animals, considering the farmland around us. We couldn’t afford to have angry farmers, calling us to make claims.
So the society for Rhodesian Ridgebacks found us a replaceable dog, who was not a hunter. And indeed, Kibo will never run after a wild animal or a tame one.
Except cats. Cats, our other housemates both in the Hague and here!
I suspect her previous owners used her to get rid of feline visitors in their garden, but for us it was a nuisance. Initially, the dog’s entrée into the household involved a lot of screaming: “No! Kibo!” “Down, Kibo!”
Over the summer Minoumie, our French cat, learnt to evade her. The cats in Holland hardly tried, and just live in the cellar.
But things are looking up. This time, Kibo shows more respect for Minoumie. The cat now spends her time as usual: lying on the best chair in the house. And Kibo walks around her, and most of the time ignores her.
Only when Minoumie leaves her throne to find her food, does Kibo try to pursue her. Not the chase of a hunter. The chase of a good-natured dog, who stands there wagging her tail, and does not understand why this animal won’t play with her like the dogs she meets on her walks in the woods. Minoumie still does not quite trust her. But she will allow Kibo more benefit of the doubt.
There is hope for our cats in the Hague!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flageolets in Crème Fraîche

This is a delicious dish that A. learnt during her years living in a house for vegetarians while she was at college:

Soak flageolet beans overnight. Cook in the same water, adding bay leaf, sage, half an onion if you like, etc. Drain when done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in lots of fresh thyme and a very generous amount of crème fraîche. Ideally the beans should be swimming in it, if you are not afraid of your figure!
Top with grated Gouda cheese or gruyère, and heat in a 200° C. oven until golden.
Serve with a crispy green salad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Iris Huilt

Iris huilt. Ik weet niet waarom. Ze vertelt het niet. Ik wil haar troosten. Ik ga naar haar toe en sla mijn armen om haar hals, maar ze duwt me weg. “Niet doen,” zegt ze. “Ga maar spelen.”
Ik wil niet spelen. Ik wil Iris troosten. Bij haar op schoot kruipen, kusjes geven en “knuffel-, knuffel-, knuffeloentje” zeggen met mijn neus in haar hals. Zodat het kietelt en ze lacht. Ik schuif tegen haar aan. Ze draait haar rug naar me toe. “Ga weg, Vishva!”
Op mijn kamer is het saai. De dino’s slingeren verveeld achter de deur. De nieuwe politieauto zit nog in de doos. Mijn vingers peuteren eraan, maar ze hebben geen zin. Het lukt niet. Ik klim op mijn bed om bij het raam te komen. Het gordijn is altijd dicht. Dat moet van Iris. Eerst moet ik het dus optillen. Ik duw het weg van mijn gezicht. Nu kan ik de galerij zien. Hij is leeg. Er loopt niemand. Ook niet de hond van de buren aan het eind. De hond moet altijd aan de lijn. Altijd. Anders loopt hij weg, volgens de meneer van de hond. Alleen als hij op de galerij is, mag hij los. Dan rent hij als een dolle heen en weer. Zo blij is hij. “Zielig,” zegt Iris. “Dat doe je toch niet, een hond op een flat!” Ik vind hem eng, zo hard als hij rent. En zielig. Ik vind hem ook zielig. Net als Iris.
Door de spijlen van het galerijhek kan ik het grasveld zien. Het vale groen en het bruin. De benen van de jongens die erover rondhollen. Hun jassen die op twee hoopjes opzij liggen. Een bal vliegt door de lucht. De jongens juichen “goal!” of zoiets. Ik hoor het niet precies. Het is te ver weg. Ik hoor Iris, die op de gang loopt. Luid rammelt ze met haar sleutelbos. Kletterend valt hij op de grond. Ze vloekt. “Godverdomme!” zegt ze. Dat mag niet. Je mag niet vloeken.
Ze doet de deur van mijn kamer open. Snel laat ik me op mijn bed zakken. De jongens vallen achter het gordijn. “Op je kamer blijven, Vishva. Ik moet even weg. Lief zijn, hè?” Ik knik.
“Wacht.” Weg is ze. Dan komt ze terug met een puntzak snoep. Tumtummetjes, en engelse drop en spekkies. “Waar is je gameboy?” Ze graait hem onder de kast vandaan en klikt hem aan. “Hier. En zoet zijn, hè?”
Als de voordeur met een klap achter haar dichtgevallen is, duik ik voorzichtig achter het gordijn op. Ze ziet me niet. Ze is al halverwege naar de lift. Haar hakken klakken luid op het beton. Klik-klak, klik-klak. Haastig. Alsof ze moet opschieten. Alsof ze de bus moet halen. Alsof ze doet wie het eerste beneden is. Dat wint ze, want ze is alleen. Er is niemand anders op de galerij. Geen hond.
De jongens zijn gestopt met voetballen. Ze staan in een kluitje te schreeuwen. Hun jassen liggen nog steeds op hoopjes, maar ze kijken er niet naar. Ze kijken alleen naar elkaar en schreeuwen. Ze zwaaien met hun armen door de lucht. Straks komt Iris eraan. Dan gaan ze haar slaan. Ik wil niet dat ze haar slaan.
Maar Iris wordt niet geslagen. Ze gaat niet over het gras. Ze gaat over de stoep. De jongens zien haar niet eens. En ik ook niet. Ik zie haar bijna niet. Alleen door haar rode jas weet ik dat het Iris is, die daar op de stoep loopt. Ik kijk en kijk, tot ze verdwenen is achter de kantoorflat. Tot ze echt helemaal weg is.
Tot er geen Iris meer is.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple Day

Today I've handled more apples than ever in my life!!

I made apple pie, and apple sauce from more of the one apple shown above: a beautiful pink, silky dessert, that tastes wonderfully tart and velvety at the same time.

But most of all I have cut up two full apple baskets and cooked them to a pulp and strained them through colander lined with a cloth, ladle after ladle. Dumping the stiff residue into the compost bin and ladling more watery pulp into the colander, and more, to made a juice. Eventually I hope to have collected enough juice to make apple butter by cooking it to a thick siropy consistency. No sugar added, it should turn into a delicious spread. An experiment that is a lot of work, but will hopefully turn out wonderful!

In between the apples we went to the market, and had lunch with fresh bread and Camembert cheese, and we went for a walk with the dog. And I cooked lotte according to a recipe in our French cookbook, and spinach. Spinach from the biologic farmer, with holes in the leaves where slugs had tasted it before us. And found it satisfying.
And so did we!

All in all a fruitful day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumnal Welcome

The place welcomes us with vibrant yellowed leaves. They are echoed in the golden glow on the hillside across the valley.
The sun has only just left. It returns in the evening, flaming orange in the hearth.
It warms and colours mauve, umber, cadmium red and yellow.
A full autumnal palette that relaxes and excites.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dog Breeds

Since we have had Kibo, our imperfect Rhodesian Ridgeback, we have inadvertedly joined a new class of dog owners. These are people who have dogs for their breed and not their character. And o, no! That is not the same thing. Character has to do with friendliness, attachment, playfulness.
Although these characteristics may be typical of a certain kind of dog, breed is also about looks, about breed standard, about being a typical specimen of the type. And thus it is about snobbery.
Today we met a friendly couple on the beach whose Rhodesian Ridgeback would only play with dogs of her own class. The owners understood, because Ridgebacks amuse themselves in a way that is different from other dogs, they assured us.
Bullocks! Kibo enjoys fooling around with all types of dogs, as long as they like to run and growl and bite in a friendly way.
Nothing uppity about her!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lentils and Mushrooms

Cook Puy lentils in ample water with half an onion, bay leaf and other herbs like sage and thyme. Add some salt at the end.
Stir fry a thinly sliced onion in vegetable oil. Add garlic, curry powder, shredded chilipepper, red bellpepper strips, and sliced (wild) mushrooms. Season.
When done, stir in a good dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and serve over the drained lentils.

Who said cooking for one was a hassle?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Domestic Bliss

We are a household of tea drinkers. We drink it morning, afternoon, and evening. Real, black tea made from leaves. The problem is dumping the leaves. I used to turn the pot upside down among the plants in the garden, but they were not overly happy about it. Now I strain the leaves in a sink tidy. However, they leave brown smudges on the white ceramic butler sink.
Chlorine bleach seemed an answer I was not going to accept, but no one could advise me on a gentler cleaning method. So I experimented and found the solution: soda crystals!

My mother-in-law could doubtless have given me the chemical explanation. It must be the grease that is dissolved, and the stain that has been stuck to it.

I don’t care how it works. I fill the bottom of the sink with hot water and drop some soda crystals into it. Then I start scrubbing with a scouring pad, and hey, presto! Brown spots gone! Shining white sink!

O, the bliss of cleanliness!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hot Air Balloon

Now the bubble has burst. The bankers have been selling futures to their customers. Silly, for how can the future be for sale? But we, credulous fools, bought the emperor’s clothes en masse.
We like hot air and clothes. Psychologists have discovered through tests that people are more inclined to seek contact in warm weather than when they are freezing, huddled in woollen coats. That we are friendlier to strangers when we are warming our hands around a mug of hot tea. (Why we need tests for such self-evident truths is beyond me!)
So we wanted hot air to fill our (bal)loony heads. And we wanted pretty clothes to parade through the streets. We wanted to believed in the phantoms and the illusions.
And now, finally, the little girl in the corner has cried out: “Look! The emperor has no clothes on!”
Hopefully it will lead us back to using hot air for heating our houses, and to buying no more than the clothes that keep us warm.
And to leaving the future where it belongs.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Struggle of Writing

What a struggle writing is! My head may be full of words, sentences even, but nothing coherent. No story line, no plot. Not even a shimmer of one. At best a scene, an image.
Alright. It is a start. But it does not seem to be leading anywhere.
How much easier it is to run away to a phone call that has to be made; an urgent errand at the grocery store; to write a role play for a training session.
So much easier than sitting behind a keyboard, squeezing out word after word, when yet no inspiration is descending on my effort.

Come on! No dawdling! Get on with it!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Daily Blog

I didn’t do it, although I intended to: leave a print of the day on my blog. I didn’t leave that print.
Not because there was no time. Or because I didn’t know what to write about. There were plenty of thoughts that passed through my brain. About the discrepancy between the weather and its forecast. About local greeting customs. About news that filtered through. And about the foods we ate, the friends who visited.
Oh yes, I could have written a blog a day, at times enlightened by a photograph of dog or man or cat. Easily. There had been enough to tell.
But I didn’t tell it.
I weeded, and pruned the roses, and went for walks with the dog, and took my time cooking meals. I played games with P and with A, and immersed myself in a book.
And thus a day-to-day report of a summer in France will have to wait another year. Again!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cold Cucumber Soup

- Fry an onion;
- Add chunks of cucumber;
- Boil in vegetable stock or salty water until soft;
- Puré;
- Cool down;
- Add crème fraîche and yoghurt;
- Serve with chopped chives.

Delicious on a hot summer day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thought for Food

I thought I already knew Americans were fed mainly cardboard, but a book I just read confirmed it more than I, in my naiveté, deemed possible: America is fed on what the food industry feeds the government in lobbying. Proper produce is refined to a state of empty foam rubber and then nutrients are added to make it healthier. And, surprise, surprise, the sum of all the additives is never the original thing.
Science has taken over from nature. Heavily supported by the food industry, which earns from those poor obese people whose bodies crave for nutrients. Which makes them eat more. Which makes them ill. Which makes the doctors and the pharmacies rich.
Here the cream and the butter are fresh, and made from raw milk. They may curdle and turn sour, but they are fragrant and delicious. Meat tastes like meat and the vegetables are full of flavour, and crunchy.
We have been conned by talk about cholesterol, and beta-thingies, and anti-occidants, and what not. That is not food! Food is a juicy pear and the crust of freshly baked bread with a slice of creamy Camembert.
Enjoy the real thing and leave the fake to the people who value science over nature.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I spent the day alone. P. having gone to Paris.
Alone, in a place that can be very lonely.
The first time I realized my loneliness was when we had moved to Washington, when we were still very young. P. had gone on ahead, to case the joint, so to speak, and I followed him a few months later. We lived in a hotel in Georgetown, aptly called The Georgetown Dutch Inn. A quaint little place, with mock antiques in the middle of this bustling fashionable part of the metropolis.
P. may well have been lonely, when he first arrived, but he had his job during the day. I had no job and loads of time to waste. A car at my disposal, but nowhere to go. I used it for visits of politesse, with the Ambassador’s wife and the wife of the second in command, who welcomed the announcement of my presence with a forceful “Goddamn!” and offered me whiskey, when I expected morning coffee.
At times I felt very alone in this strange country, that was not at all what I had anticipated from the movies and series I had watched on television. But I made a discovery: there was always one person with me, whom I could rely on. Who was always there, and who wouldn’t let me down: me. She was very reassuring; she wouldn’t change, whatever the circumstances. And she wouldn’t let me down.
She has been true to form, and she has never left me.
She is still here. While I wait for P. to come back on the train from Paris.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pain Perdu

What better way to combine a leisurely Sunday breakfast with using up old bread:

- Beat a few eggs. Stir milk into them. Or soy milk, for those allergic to dairy products. You won't taste the difference.
- Soak slices of stale bread into the egg mixture (but not too long) and fry in butter until crispy and brown. Keep warm in a dish with a lid on a low flame.
- Serve with salted butter and sugar and cinnamon and slices of fresh fruit.

Prepare to eat more than you should!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Outside and Inside

Outside is so much larger here than inside. Not just because of the size and the number of rooms in the house. Outside is wide, spacious. It is full of smells and sensations like wind and basking sun and small drops of rain. It invites and attracts.
That is why I take so much more pleasure in gardening here. Every possible moment may be spent pulling up a few weeds, planting and replanting. Contemplating and deciding. Looking and taking in.
It explains why the garden in the Hague gets neglected. It is like another room in the house that needs cleaning. It feels so much more like house work.
I have planted Rhudbekia, 2 varieties. Campanula, Verveine and Impatience. And all the weeding I had done in the springtime has paid off: there is much less work to do and much more to enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kibo at the Market


We took Kibo with us to the market. She followed us dutifully while we selected plants, peaches, fresh goat’s cheese. The smells of freshly grilled chicken, farmers’ sweat, and live geese and rabbits set her nostrils working overtime.
The way back, with its winding lanes, was less exciting. When we arrived at the house Kibo and I got out. I opened the gate as she jogged up the pathway.
She came running back, ecstatically licking my hand: “Look! Look! We’re back at that place where you can race through the garden!”
And dashed off again across the field.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Before we go, I cannot imagine being there. It’s like the memory game we used to play at birthday parties, when Mother would lay 10 objects on a tray, covered by a tea towel. She would then reveal them to us for exactly one minute. Staring at their bulges under the cloth, we had to write down all ten of them: thimble, pencil, napkin ring. . . .
The recollection of that place, however familiar, is no more than a blotch that appears in a frame amongst the cares of tidying the house, the last meeting and phone call, the hairdresser, the packing.
As we travel, the house and its concerns recedes. The language changes, the landscape, the purpose. We eat in a restaurant. A full menu, leisurely and anxious to get on our way again.
And then we arrive in the middle of the night. The house looms in the headlights of the car. The cat welcomes us. We make the bed and settle as best we can.
We’ve set foot on yonder shore.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oriental Stir-fried Broccoli

Marinate a cubed cake of tofu in
soy sauce, crushed clove of garlic, some freshly grated ginger root, lemon juice, a slosh of dry sherry or sake or dry white wine.

Make peanut sauce by slowly cooking
a heaped tablespoon of peanutbutter, soy sauce, a crushed clove of garlic, finely chopped shallots, some freshly grated ginger root, hot sauce to taste, and enough water to make it a sauce consistency.

Stir fry a thinly sliced onion, some slices of ginger root, small florets of broccoli, constantly stirring on a high heat. When the broccoli is beginning to soften, but still firm, add the tofu with a slotted spoon, and a handfull of beansprouts. Pour over the marinade, that in the hot wok will evaporate and thicken.

Serve the stir-fry over brown rice and drizzle the peanut sauce over it.

Who says vegan meals cannot be absolutely scrumptious!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Adam has an idol. Now that his sister Eva is permanently hiding under the rhododendron, because of the big canine monster, he lacks a feline body to rub against. So he follows old Schmigo wherever he goes.
Schmigo likes the adoration as long as it doesn’t interfere with his pride of place in the pecking order. He will now and then graciously lick Adam’s ear. And smack him the next moment to keep him in his place.
Adam takes it all in his stride. That, apparently, is the price of being a groupie.
He circles his hero, and cuddles him.
He is content.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grilled Courgette Salad

The advantage of deciding to make a meal from what's in the fridge, is that it yields wonderful new concoctions.

I grilled sliced courgette and tomatoes, that I had dabbed in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
Into a bowl with a can of drained chickpeas and a slosh of balsemic vinegar. A turn with the pepper mill. Tarragon or thyme would be good herbs to go with this dish, but we were to impatient to try.

It fulfilled its promise!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Label Mania

J. is an adorable one-and-a-half-year old. Active, enterprising, cheerful, exploring his new world. I spent a delightful, but tiring afternoon with him, while his parents were discussing serious matters in a family meeting. He climbed on the chairs, he banged the poles of the table football, he ate six chocolates and three bananas. Some of the social workers present were clearly not amused. Children should not be present when their social problems are discussed. The parents were too preoccupied to heed him at all.
All afternoon I did nanny duty. J. never became cranky. He accepted my changing his nappy, he was easily led back from rooms where he had no business. He found cars to ride on the windowsill. He was just an adorable, never quiet toddler.
At the end of the meeting Grandma gave her opinion, as she had done incessantly all afternoon. “You, as a teacher, must recognise that he has got ADHD.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied. “He is a naturally active child, behaving as can be expected from a child his age. This is what they are like at one and a half.”
“But he doesn’t see the danger of what he does.”
“Of course he doesn’t! He’s a toddler! That’s what he needs to learn.”
“Well, the social worker says it too: he’s got ADHD.”

Are people happier with labels? It seems so. More interesting to fix a sticker on a behaviour and hide behind it. Thus the responsibility is with the child (for being so active) and the social workers (for fixing the problem).
And we are all Pilatus.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Broad Beans and Feta

I love broad beans, when they are young and freshly shelled. Shelling is quite a job, but the delicious smooth, yet crunchy texture, and their slightly bitter taste are fully worth it. They are at their best served with succulent bone ham, but I resisted the temptation to stop by the butcher.

I cooked them for only a few minutes and then tossed crumbled feta and chopped summer savoury into them. I ate them with boiled new potatoes, served with a richly melting knob of butter.

I ate them all by myself. And had a feast!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Het Maakbare Geluk

Ik walg een beetje van de discussie over embryo selectie.
“Beperk lijden dat te vermijden is tot een minimum,” schrijft Elbeth Etty in de NRC. En dat is de crux, daar gaat het om: we mogen niet meer lijden. Dat moet vooral vermeden worden. En wat dat kost, dat mogen we niet vragen.
Zodra de Christen Unie zich roert over een ethische kwestie staat heel Nederland op zijn kop. Iedereen heeft meteen zijn mond vol over dat christelijke gedoe. De scheiding van kerk en staat die er niet zou zijn. De fundamentalisten die ons de wet voorschrijven.
“Het kan toch niet zo zijn!” roept Wouter Bos, terwijl de medici hun kont tegen de krib gooien en gewoon door gaan met hun medisch gemanipuleer.

Ik zie dat niet zo. Ik ben blij dat er mensen met een geweten in de regering zitten. Niet omdat ik hun geloof deel. Absoluut niet. Voor mij is er geen God, en de bijbel ken ik maar zo’n beetje.
Ik ben blij dat er mensen in de regering zitten die belemmeringen durven op te werpen in ethische kwesties. Ik zou nooit op ze stemmen, en toch ben ik blij.
Want wat is de prijs die we betalen voor het lijden dat we vermijden? Genetische manipulatie, euthanasie, abortus. Ik ben ertegen. Vooruit: tenzij . . . . En dan alleen in extreme gevallen. Maar ik ben ertegen.

Wat is dat, lijden? En wat vermijden we met botox, bilcorrectie en make-over? Het maakbare lichaam. Het maakbare geluk. Neem vooral een pilletje tegen verdriet, en ook één om een lastig kind te kalmeren.
We mogen niet meer louteren. We mogen niet meer leren van onze fouten, en sterker worden door verdriet. We mogen niet meer het leven nemen zoals het komt en daar het beste van maken. Alles moet ons op een presenteerblaadje worden aangeboden, en wie dat tegenhoudt krijgt de volle laag.
En kijk, daar walg ik van.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Snuggling up

Last night Kibo tossed and scratched and shoved Tazi’s rug until it finally lay at my feet. Contentedly she snuggled up against my legs, her curved back warming my shins.
When I started to fondle and tickle her ears and nose, she lifted her head against my fingers in utter bliss.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Ze laat zich op haar rug vallen in het zand, haar armen en benen wijd gespreid. Ik kniel naast haar neer. Mijn schaduw kruist haar lijf. De zee ruist. De wind proeft zout. In de hoogte krast een meeuw.
Haar ogen zijn gesloten tegen de zon. De haartjes van haar wimpers liggen doodstil op haar wangen. Haar neusvleugels trillen telkens even uit. Ze likt haar lippen nat. De wind beweegt een krul die op haar voorhoofd ligt.
Van haar hals omlaag naar het hemdje dat los om haar lijf floddert. Haar navel piept eronderuit: een lief kuiltje, een meertje om uit te drinken.
Borsten heeft ze niet. Babytietjes zijn het, met tepels als gepelde lychees, sappig en vol op haar ribbenkast. Ze liggen roerloos. Twee tere, roze hoopjes die door haar dunne topje schijnen. Ik buig ernaar over om ze te bekijken, twee aandoenlijke heuveltjes. Om te zien of ze als rotsjes op zullen springen. Of mijn kijken dat kan flikken. Kijken tot ze stevige rotsjes worden.
Maar ze houden zich gedeisd. Week en zacht en weerloos lief.
Dan tuit ik mijn lippen en blaas erover.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Adam and Eve Revisited

Adam and Eve may be undomesticated, but they do seek us out. This warm spring morning I have opened the French windows, and they frolic in and out, almost carelessly aware of where I am. While Eve is rolling on the warm stones of the terrace, I move around with my morning activities. When I come too close she rolls back on her feet and scurries to a neighbouring bush.
When we get up, all three cats are charming the hell out of us on the landing. But this is because they expect a saucer of can food. Adam will rub the furniture and allow us to stroke him, and he rewards us with some nuzzles.
When I return home in the evening, all three are waiting in the hallway. Not for food. They have access to their crunch all day. For my step on the floor, my voice when I address them.
Undomesticated. And craving for human company. That’s our Adam and Eve.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


is our bond
grey ash
and blond
hourglass sand
our hand
but bony fingers
cannot hold

fresh cool
of wet earth
after rain
floats against
an inky sky
a wink

the abyss
of us
holding tight
onto nothing
that is gone

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fennel Salad

Quick, easy and delicious.

Thinly slice a washed and quartered fennel bulb, after having amputated the green stalks.
Ditto with a peeled red onion.
Toss in a bowl with a can of drained chickpeas and crumbled feta cheese.
Dress with a vinaigrette of olive oil, balsemic vinegar, whole grain mustard, honey, salt and pepper.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Politici zijn woordkunstenaars. Achterstandswijken, alias probleemwijken zijn nu prachtwijken geworden. Vroeger heetten dat achterbuurten, vast ook al een eufemisme van een politicus.
En dan de taalachterstand, die ze menen weg te moeten werken met voorscholen. Dit is een product van het nieuwe integratiebeleid.
Voorscholen moeten de taalachterstand van allochtone kinderen wegwerken. Zo zou de integratie bevorderd worden. Maar, hoe kan het ook anders: op die voorscholen zitten alleen allochtone kinderen. Autochtone kinderen zitten op peuterspeelzalen, die hebben geen extra taalonderwijs nodig. Zo is de integratie nóg niet gediend.
Wat doen ze toch moeilijk! Als je gewoon één school hebt voor alle kinderen, zonder extra onderwijs, met alleen maar een juf die regelmatig voorleest, die liedjes zingt en die kinderen leert spelen, zouden de bruine kinderen dan niet spelenderwijs leren van de witte, en andersom?
Voorscholen en taalachterstand! Wat een krampachtige politiek!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Roasted Beetroot

Normally beetroot is only available boiled. It is wonderful in salads and warmed with butter, cloves and fried onions. But when it is sold raw, it can be roasted, which is so much better!

Peel the bulbs with a potato peeler and cut into chunks. Stir into them olive oil, balsemic vinegar, salt and pepper. You may add a chopped red onion and a few sprigs of rosemary to the mix.

Roast at 200 C/400 F in a preheated oven until soft.

Sweet and lovely!

(Left-overs make a great salad ingredient with sliced Belgian endives (chicory), sliced celery stalks, apple and walnut.)

Monday, February 25, 2008


"Hebt u witlof?" vroeg M.
"Witlof!" zei S. "Houdt u van lof?" vroeg hij de groenteboer.
"Nee, meneer. Ik eet geen groente. Ik lust het niet."
S. grijnsde, terwijl M. de lof in haar boodschappentas stopte.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Celeriac Revisited

This was another delicious celeriac recipe.

Warm half butter/half oil in a thick bottomed cook pot, and add cleaned, diced celeriac with some salt and (optional) a teaspoon sugar. Just leave on the stove cooking for as long as it takes to be done: 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve with blue cheese sauce:

Melt crumbled blue cheese (de Causses or d'Auvergne) and grated regular cheese (Cheddar, or Gouda or Gruyère, depending on your native country!) into a tablespoon of crème fraîche, until all is well mixed and one substance.

The sweetness of the celeriac and the sharpness of the blue cheese go very well together!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In de Tocht

koud en grijs
dunne strepen
geen mens
blauw licht
langs een glazen deur,
die niet open staat,
en niet dicht.

geen storm
geen hagel
of regen
klam, grijs
geen bocht
en toch
geen zicht
op geel
op zonneglans.

van kille

ik sta
te rillen.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Kwijlend ziet Nederland toe hoe de Vos het knaagdier in zijn hol lokt. Voetje voor voetje. Nog een stapje, en . . . . KABEMMM

Tevreden slaat de Vos zijn armen over elkaar: de heksenjacht is geopend!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ballad of La Baronne

She had three children, all from indifferent fathers. She raised them in the house of her mother, who raised them with her, in proper Mediterranean style.
Her children were her everything. But men?
When she believed she had finally grown into her wisdom at the age of thirty, she swore she would never look another man fondly into the eye. Men? They were brutal, unreliable good-for-nothings. Men? They were scum.
The children backed her. They jealously wouldn’t ever allow a man in the house. They called their mother la Baronne, and Grandma la vieille. Life was good for them with two doting women.
When they had left the house and la Baronne was left with la vieille, she met a retired carpenter, who did look her fondly in the eye. But she ignored him. She was over fifty, and she was not letting herself into that nonsense! She had sworn celibacy a long time back, and she was going to stick to it!
But the carpenter was amusing and tenacious. He loved her, and he wouldn’t let her go. Finally she decided that looking back into his eye couldn’t hurt. A friendship without sex, what could she lose?
The carpenter was gently patient. He worshiped her. It was something la Baronne had never experienced before. Gradually she was won over. “Love without sex?” she whispered. “I promise,” he said, while he kissed her hand.
She had never known what it was to feel happy. She felt so sheltered and content. He bought her a house in a little village, surrounded by lavender fields. He asked her to marry her, and she agreed. She was happy, so utterly happy.

This is where the story should end, but it didn’t. The carpenter fell ill and was diagnosed with lung cancer. It happened all very quickly, and before la Baronne realised what was going on, he was dead. She buried him the day before her wedding date, in the little village where they were going to live among the lavender fields.
So she is still living in the house with la vieille, who is really old now. Her children visit from time to time.
The rest of her days she regrets ever to have met the carpenter, ever to have known true love.