Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

De Brander op de radio

Paul Waayers: "Je bent erin geslaagd een heel sterk beeld neer te zetten."

Over de Brander op Hot Talk

Monday, June 04, 2012

Losing Track of Time

We’re losing track of the time.
Days don’t follow the order of weeks anymore.
Days are days: morning is wake-up, night is bed-time.
In between is being.
A meal,
A walk,
The sun is warming,
The weeding is done.
Sometimes we heed time:
The opening hours of shops,
The arrival of a friend at the station.
Until we float back into fluidum of being.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Al dagen bezig met één scène

Al dagen bezig met één scène.
Telkens verder eraan schaven.
Lopen in het bos met de hond,
en dan denken: o ja, ze heeft rode konen, zoals die vrouw daar met haar Labrador.
En de man heeft krullen, net als R.
Hoe het licht in de kamer valt en de gordijnen opbollen in de wind.
Hoe het ruikt naar oud hout.
Een merel die zingt in de avond.
Zo moet het dan langzaam ontstaan.
Stapje voor stapje.
Tot het genoeg is.
Nou ja, genoeg . . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mung Bean Salad

I had become listless and felt I had lost the inspiration for producing a meal that was not a run of the mill favourite. Not pasta with a vegetable tomato sauce again, nor an Oriental stir-fry, nor oven-roasted potatoes and cauliflower. I wanted something new, but where to find it?
And then I saw the mung beans that I had bought some time ago for just this type of mood, glimmering at me from the jar I had put them in. So here they come: mung beans in a salad!

Boil the mung beans. No need to soak them for an hour in advance; I did not see a difference. They take about 30 minutes to get done. Of course I allowed them to soften some more by steaming them a little longer in the hay box.
Meanwhile prepare a generous vinaigrette with olive oil, cider vinager, coarse grain mustard, and honey. Stir in the drained beans. Add thinly sliced red onion, ditto yellow pepper, thinly sliced or diced tomato, generous handfuls of chopped parsley, and some pitted black olives.
Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Allow the flavours to marry for a while and serve.
Simply delicious.

Of course this can be made with lentils or other delicate beans, and any variety of raw vegetables.
Sky 's the limit!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

In Praise of Asparagus

White Asparagus is deemed so delicate that it is called Edible Ivory or White Gold. It was already eaten in Aswan, Egypt 20,000 years ago. It is hard to imagine that vegetables, which we still eat today, were already grown in prehistory. For some reason I find that comforting. Not everything changes. Some things continue as they have been for times immemorial.

I grew up with the magic of the white asparagus season. The first time when you see them in the shop they are still wildly expensive. Then they become more abundant and more affordable. Harvested from the second Thursday in April until St. John (24th of June), as they still are, they are seasonal. I like the fact that they are not available all year round. It makes them a delicacy, something to look forward to, to discuss. During that time they are offered on the menu of every respectable restaurant in the whole of Western Europe. I don’t know why they never crossed the North Sea, let alone the Atlantic. This is really strange, as they are so celebrated in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Spain.

Cooking White Asparagus

Before preparing white asparagus soak them in a generous amount of water for half an hour or more. Then first break off the wooden ends by snapping the stems. There is a sort of natural cracking point. You can use these ends for soup. Or snap off the ends before soaking. That makes more sense. Carefully peel the stalks with a potato or asparagus peeler from the tip down, making sure that all the bark-like skin is removed. Plunge the shoots in ample cold water, enough to keep them submerged. Add a little salt and slowly bring to the boil. Some cooks will turn off the heat as soon as they are boiling. Others will leave them simmering ever so gently for 4 to 8 minutes. Then they too will turn off the heat and leave the asparagus to continue to cook in their water. Check whether they are done by pricking the end with a fork. When you feel no resistance they are.

Lift them carefully out of the water with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on a tea towel.

Traditionally, white asparagus is served with thinly sliced bone ham, mashed boiled eggs speckled with generous amounts of chopped parsley, melted butter and new potatoes, boiled in the skin. Some gastronomes will serve them with Hollandaise sauce. I never do, lazy bum that I am: too complicated!

Now for eating them. There are two ways:

1. Pick them up with your fingers by the end and eat them like that, lifting them to your mouth like a raw herring. Be ready to have the juice dripping down your sleeves up your arm, but this is one of the very few foods that etiquette will allow you to eat with your hands (globe artichokes being another), so don’t complain and make the most of it!

2. Pick up the end of the stalk with your fingers of one hand (again!), and scrape down with your fork towards the tip. Slush will come out, which you can then mix with the egg and potato that you have also mashed with your fork.

Both manners of consumption are messy, but hey, this is a delicacy! It makes you eat more slowly and savour the flavours more carefully.

For dessert there is really only one option: strawberries. Of course you can serve them with castor sugar or whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But I wouldn’t. Because it would spoil their natural sweetness, their succulent fragrance. Of course I am not talking about the supermarket variety. You may do with them whatever you like, it will improve them. I am talking about the rose-red, warm, luscious berries that make your mouth water.

So: enjoy this summery feast!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wij Hebben Niks Gedaan

hebben niks gedaan.
het zijn zij,
de dwazen, de kwaden.
herdenken in mei,
hun daden 
en onze eigen

om nooit te vergeten
hoe het was
staan wij stil
op de dam
terwijl de wereld
hongert en raast.

wij staan stil
want het zijn zij,
de dwazen, de kwaden,
die het hebben gedaan. 

herdenken in mei
onze onschuld.


Op de hoek van het kruispunt staat een man de verkeersstromen waar te nemen. Hij leunt met zijn rug tegen het laatste huis, één voet rustend op het frame van zijn fiets, hand losjes op het zadel. Hij beweegt niet. Alleen zijn ogen trekken lijnen: auto’s van links slaan af; fietsers naar de overkant; bus zwenkt de bocht om; voetgangerslicht tikt voor blinde met hond, rechtuit.

Hij denkt niet, deze man. Hij kijkt. De lichten: rood—oranje—groen; rood—oranje—groen, brommers, vrachtwagens, schoolkinderen op de fiets. Het zijn bewegingen, linksom, rechtsom, pirouette.

Na een tijdje is hij weg. Dan is het genoeg.

Dan staan er weer curven aan de binnenkant van zijn hersenpan.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Staithes still stands

Nestled, snuggled, scorning to hide
in the crook of Crowbar’s arm
from the savaging salt frenzy
of the wrecking ocean
swallowing the harbour
broiling over the “Cod and Lobster”
scurrying half up the first flight of street
Staithes still stands
fierce in fishermen’s pride
and full of humility
in the face of the infinite
washing her doorsteps
calling in the falling thunder of seas
in the night air
touching the soul’s quick
in hymns of other-world gull choirs
crescendos of piercing jubilation
shattered in a thousand cliff-ricochets
till lilting lament of the last gull
for every heart ever broken
still the will
slipping still-winged over
into sleep
nestled, snuggled, scorning to hide
in the crook of Crowbar’s arm
till the first gull recalls
the day to Staithes.

Chris Percy, resident of Staithes

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Spinach Revisited

First spinach of the year:

I fried a chopped red onion in olive oil. Stirred in a crushed clove of garlic. Added the apinach handful by handful until wilted.

Served by pressing the excess liquid through a slotted spoon, and slid the spinach onto the plate.
Just new potatoes and crème fraîche on the side.
Generous turns of the pepper mill and salt if you like.

O, what a feast of spring time!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kan een Vrouw een Homo Beschrijven?

Ik heb een roman geschreven, waarin de hoofdpersoon ontdekt dat hij homoseksueel is. Kan dat eigenlijk wel? Ik ben vrouw en heteroseksueel. Dus hoe kan ik me in de gedachtenwereld van mijn personage inleven?
Henk Krol zei onlangs in een interview dat hij voor 10 % homo is, en dus voor 90 % mens als ieder ander. Flaubert, Tolstoy, Couperus en vele anderen schreven over de zieleroerselen van een vrouw. Prachtig, geloofwaardig, grote literatuur. Nabokov’s bekendste werk gaat over een perverse man. Was hij pervers? Hoe kon hij zich dat verbeelden?
Schrijven IS verbeelden. Personages zijn mensen. Dat in de allereerste plaats. Ze hebben verlangens – naar geborgenheid, vrijheid, bewondering. Ze maken fouten – ze bedriegen hun vrouw, beledigen hun buurman, rijden door rood. Daar hoef je geen man of vrouw voor te zijn om dat te begrijpen. Dat in universeel herkenbaar , of in ieder geval algemeen menselijk.
Dat mijn hoofdpersoon homo blijkt te zijn, maakt zijn gevoelens niet per se specifieker. Hij heeft lustgevoelens, schuldgevoelens, verlangens naar erkenning en voldoening. Het verhaal gaat om deze mens, met dit karakter, en dit conflict. Het gaat niet over DE homo, of DE brander. En voor het beschrijven van die mens is inlevingsvermogen nodig. Inlevingsvermogen, niet in de homo, maar in de mens.
Want echt: DE homo bestaat niet, net zo min als DE hetero, of DE vrouw, of DE Afrikaan, of DE Nederlander. We zijn allemaal individuën, en in de eerste plaats mens. Al het andere kan ons in grotere of mindere mate vormen. Maar de mens blijft universeel.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


We hebben een uur uit de dag geknipt.
De dag lacht erom.
Uitbundig schijnt de zon.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Jamie Oliver's Quick Salsa

Grate on a fine grater:

¼ of a red onion, or less;
½ a clove of garlic, or less;
2 tomatoes, cut in halves, deseeded; just the flesh, holding them by the skin. Discard the skin;
Sprinklings of salt and pepper;
Generous slosh of olive oil;
Ditto of lemon juice.
Mix together well; taste.

Toss into vegetables, or serve wherever you would use tomato ketchup.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writing about Food

To write about food is to savour it. To imagine its flavour, its texture, its taste; the way it caresses the tongue and the palate.

I am not a cook in a professional sense. I cook for family and friends, and when I am alone, I cook for myself. I generally don’t use processed foods in cellophane and jars. Nor do I like spending hours preparing complicated concoctions. Most of the time it takes me up to half an hour of cutting and sautéing before I can sit down to a glass of wine, while the pots are simmering on the stove.

Fresh foods taste better than packaged ones in my opinion. I have tried them, the supermarket ready-made meals. They taste like the factory in which they were prepared: dull. I may spend a little longer, but the joy of handling a leek, cutting it lengthwise, and washing it under a running tap is part of the joy of anticipation. While I fry it in a little olive oil the perfumes are already beginning to pervade the kitchen. I wave my hand above the cook pot, the way I have seen professional cooks do, and that, too, is part of the fun. Adding crushed garlic, fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and lots of crème fraîche at the end has already turned it into a pasta sauce. All I need to do now is cook the spaghetti, drain it, add it to the sauce and serve it with freshly grated cheese, parmesan or good old Gouda. Remember: freshly grated, not packaged. It really makes a difference.

This is “cooking made easy”. Not “cooking for dummies”! Make no mistake! When you enjoy what you are doing, when you give it your undivided attention, then you cannot be a dummy.

Jamie Oliver, of course, is a great example of this trend. When you see him jumping about with his knives, his wooden boards and his saucepans, you know that what he is creating is not hard, and yet it is going to be delicious. I like his style. His proportions are “handfuls” and “splashes.” He gives you the sense that a little more or a little less does not matter so much; that experiments are allowed; that it all depends on taste. Your taste. Unlike Nigella Lawson, he hardly uses short cuts in the way of a tin. That is why I like her less, in spite of her seductive flair.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Monday, when we went to the market, there were very few stalls. Too cold. We bought our wintry vegetables from the back of a small van. A older couple stood in front of it with a tressle table selling the produce from their garden. We bought green cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes. Plus walnuts to replace the ones that the dormice had hauled away and cracked.
These vegetables lasted us all week, and in an amazing variety of dinners: oriental stir fry, carrot salad, stewed cabbage, spaghetti with leek sauce as mentioned earlier, onion tart and a vegetable soup.
The meals fortified us after walks in the snow. We built wood fires in the wood stove and the hearth, and managed to keep the cold at bay.
For cold it was!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Spaghetti in Leek Sauce

This is an embarisingly simple recipe. But as I was cooking I kept adding ingredients that seemed somehow right.

So: just stew some cleaned and sliced leeks in olive oil. Add pressed garlic and thyme, if you have it. Stir in crème fraîche at the end with some chopped Camembert, and grate nutmeg over it. Freshly shelled walnuts would have been great, but I remembered too late.
Stir in cooked spaghetti and you have a delicious, simple meal!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


“We hadden een uur vrij. Van gym. We hadden geen gym. Meneer van Haver was ziek. ’t Was het uur voor de grote pauze. Dus we zijn met een stel naar het winkelcentrum gegaan.”
Zout ruikt het. Het is ook benauwd hier. Zout, en wat zurig. Jobs handpalmen wrijven plat over zijn dijbenen naar voren en weer terug. Ze laten donkere vlekken achter op zijn broekspijpen.
“Kun je namen noemen? Wie waren daar bij?”
Hij schraapt zijn keel. “Nou Dennis, Michiel, Armin. Chantal en Eva, maar die verdwenen meteen in een geurtjeswinkel.”
Hij drukt zijn handen met gestrekte vingers stevig tegen zijn knieën terwijl hij over ze veegt. Op, neer. Op, neer.
“En toen?” Jansens ballpoint bouwt wankele torens van blokken in de marge van het formulier. Ik haal voorzichtig mijn neus op, maar verroer me niet.
“We gingen een platenzaak binnen. Nieuwe singles kijken. Maar we hadden geen geld.”
De pen van Jansen begint de blokken in te vullen. Niet allemaal. Als het pak van een harlekijn. Hij kiest telkens een ander blok dan ik.
“Het was er druk. Met mensen die lunchpauze hadden. Er lagen nieuwe cd’s van Amy Winehouse. We stonden ernaar te kijken. En toen staken we ze in onze zak. Voor de grap.”
De pen stopt. “Ik vind diefstal niet zo grappig.”
“Wie waren dat, die dat grapje uithaalden?”
“Dennis en ik. De anderen waren bij de videospelletjes blijven hangen.”
Jansen buigt zich nu over zijn formulier en begint te schrijven.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am now connected to the universe via Facebook. Suddenly I plunge into the worlds of artists, writers, publishers and ordinary citizens. To my surprise I am now friends with well-known journalists and novelists, who are apparently not too proud to add me to their circle. Or are they too careless to check? Only one person so far reacted cautiously: “I don’t know you. Why should I want to be connected to you?” A valid question. When I gave her my reason she sent me some kind words.
It feels like walking in a market place.
“O hi. I am telling you I have just moved.” (Or “had a new baby”, or “painted the shed”, or “bought a new car.”)
All very friendly. Not very deep. Never about the death of the cat or the canary. Or a gloomy walk in the rain. No one is depressed.
All on the face of it. A happy face.
It is a tool. A fun tool, so far.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Did you realise that possibly the most distinguishing feature of man is that he can imagine things that do not exist? Unlike animals we can conjure up people, machines, occurrences that are sprouted entirely from our brains; that have no match in the existing world.
This is by no means a revolutionary thought. But it is an interesting one to pursue for a moment.
Animals have memory. They remember what time of the day they are fed; they recognise acquaintances, dogs, their owners and their friends. They can even have these memories without being triggered. We know this must be true, when we see a dog lying on her bed, asleep, and in her sleep she is barking, slapping her tail on the floor, and even sometimes making running motions with her paws.
Humans can go far beyond that. We can conceive what is not there. And we do it all the time. Thus we prepare ourselves for a job interview, thinking of the kind of questions we may be asked beforehand. We dream of the partner we believe would suit us best. We decorate a room. It is called creation. We are little gods, inventing our own new world over and over again.
Some are better at it than others. Way better. These are the artists, the composers, the sculptors. However, in order to appreciate them, we, too, need imagination. Otherwise form and sound would have no meaning. They would not move us.
Imagine how it works. It starts in the mind. It starts with memory, i.e. the ability to store previous images. Without memory one cannot imagine or create. The mind would remain an empty slate and there would be no identity. Memory offers the building blocks for new forms: a poem, an abstract painting, a song with words. Bit by bit they take form, first in the mind in which they are kneaded and shaped, this way and that. And then, carefully, abstract thinking can become more concrete. Still kneading and scraping away, like a sculptor does with a granite rock. Sometimes going back to the drawing board, the mind.
It is an arduous process for the artist, however logical the outcome may seem. It is an arduous process for all of us.
Because after all we are all artists: creating our lives from day to day; the story that holds us together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Minestrone Soup

I was not in the mood for the small pumpkin that was waiting in the vegetable tray, and P. hadn't liked my Brussels sprouts concoction, so I could not make them the main charaters in my next meal. The fridge held some more left over veggies which I turned into a delicious minestrone.

Fry in olive oil what left over vegetable you have, chopped. For me it was leek, carrots and Brussels sprouts (!) and a peeled potato in chunks. But onions, mushrooms, broccoli etc. would do as well. Add some water and a stock cube, if you like, but salt and bay leaf, parsley, celery, sage etc. would even be better. Add a can of chopped tomatoes. This is allowed in winter. In summer I believe the tomatoes should be fresh. Add some macaroni if you have it, or a can of borlotti or other white beans.

Simmer until soft.

Check for salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese.