Monday, January 31, 2011


from dark December
January looks
pristine under
the bright expanse
of New Year
stop smoking,
visit old auntie,
be kinder to
the neighbours.

as we plod on
our steps get
dirty underfoot;
the white snow

best of intentions
have lost their lustre.
the first trip
to the corner store
has already been made.
no phone call to auntie.
the neighbours . . . .

as always
January concludes
sadly sullied.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Het Vaderbeen

hij heeft
één been
met mij
het vaderbeen

kan ik
wel staan
nu hij is

het moederbeen
blijft ferm

het vaderbeen
en wankelt

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Green Cabbage Pasta Sauce

Every week I fetch an organic vegetable bag. This brings surprises and vegetables that I would not have bought in the first place. At the end of the week there are some left-overs: a carrot, half a pumpkin.
This is where pasta kicks in! For any ingredient will potentially turn into a good pasta sauce.
This week it was a chunk of green cabbage:
Crisp some slivers of bacon in olive oil. Set aside.
Fry some sliced red onion in the oil, add pressed garlic and thinly sliced cabbage.
Stir and cook until softened.
Add a can of tomatoes and cook further to sauce consistency.
Stir in some crème fraîche.
Serve with the strips of bacon. For vegetarians: crumbled feta cheese.
Mix in cooked spaghetti (my favourite, for the least mealy of the pastas).


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Veggies and Peanut Butter

I learned a cooking trick in Zimbabwe. Stewed vegetables are often "seasoned" with peanut butter, and you know what? It tastes delicious!
So here is one variation:

Stir fry sliced onion and garlic, add sliced cabbage and grated ginger. Cook until al dente. Stir in soy sauce and a spoonful (to taste, spoons can greatly vary in size!)) of peanut butter and some hot sauce (sambal, harissa, tabasco). Toss in some toasted peanuts.

Serve over rice, and enjoy!

Friday, January 07, 2011

In Depot

I’m reading In Depot, a journal written by the Jewish journalist Philip Mechanicus, while he was staying in Camp Westerbork during the war. He saw himself as a chronicler of life in the camp, and he wrote detailed and almost detached entries in his diary on a daily basis: about the mud, the crowding in the barracks, the shipments of persons picked up in raids, and the weekly shipments of hundreds of people each Tuesday with destination Poland.
Poland, more than ever the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller [had yet returned, or sent news.]
The facts are old, the details new. What amazes me most is the immense and intricate administration the Germans kept for the extermination of the Jews. The scores of lists of exceptions that were maintained: the baptised Jews, the half-Arian Jews, the German Jews, the foreign Jews, the ones who had bought their place on a list with diamonds, and the Weinreb list, put together by the prominent Jew Weinreb. The sick, the ones under punishment, the ones with privileged jobs, all these Jews held special positions of which they hoped or believed that they would exempt them from transportation.
Until a decree from Berlin annihilated their hopes with the stroke of a pen, and they were sent away on the next train. And then new lists emerged.
Why? Why, if they knew in advance what the end result was going to be?
While these thousands of people were held in storage, they squabbled and fought over food, over room for their luggage, over stolen shoes in the winter; they held chess tournaments and impromptu concerts; they basked in the sun behind barbed wire; they celebrated birthdays and visited amongst each other.
They tried to sabotage their work for the German war industry while they politely passed the newspaper from gentleman to gentleman.
What makes the diary even more poignant is the knowledge of hindsight. We know what happened at the other end of that train journey; we know why the journal ends abruptly.
Mechanicus boarded the train himself.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Flirting in High School

When I was in high school, we had a math teacher who was an incorrigible flirt. He was an ugly man, but he certainly had charm, which overrode his looks. Girls benefited from his behaviour. Students generally liked him. And so did I, until the day my father died.
I had come home for lunch to the news. My younger brother decided to skip school for the afternoon, but I did not know what else to do, so I came to class and went through the motions with a huge lump of grief under my heart.
Astronomy: the phases of the moon. My mind wasn’t in it, and I had trouble drawing them, but the teacher was only too eager to help me with examples and jokes.
The next day the news of my father’s death had made the local newspaper. I met the teacher again in a crowded hallway between classes. “Was that your father in the paper last night?” he yelled across the heads of the pupils. I was stunned.
While others discreetly expressed their condolences, this teacher avoided me from then on. I despised him for that. But I also felt that for my exam results it would help to be in his good books again. I decided to pay him back in kind: I started flirting with him, charming him.
For a long time he tended to ignore me as much as he could, but he finally came round.
And it paid off: I got good grades for my final exams!