Monthly Archives: June 2013

On top of the box….a palimpsest?

In my previous post I featured this photo:Tea TrayOn top of the box you can see a serving tray, a Susie Cooper tea set and a copper vase. These items used to belong to my paternal grandmother. They are the small remnants, little leftovers, of a long and busy life; of good food and warm kitchens, delicious pikelets, cream sponges, roast dinners and much else besides.   They  are the tangible reminders of times I experienced with my grandmother, as well as  reminders of times I only know through hearsay. One of the hearsay pieces is the serving/tea-tray.  Like my grandmother was, it is simple, sturdy, good quality and without frills ! I am told that the wooden tray came from the tea rooms that my grandparents owned for many years in a small, rural town. The tea rooms were one part of their business. In its entirety it included a butchery and a bakery. It was advertised (in 1948) as the town’s  Up-to-date Cash Meat and Bread Mart, where small goods were a specialty.

The business was sold long before I came in to existence but the building it was in (which included the family home) was a place of occasional family pilgrimage. It was not a beautiful building, in our family’s estimation, but it had enough status, having been part of the town’s life since 1910, to be registered as  a Category 2 historic place (#5193) on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register. Category II status means a place is  of ‘historical or cultural heritage significance or value’. So, imagine our mixed emotions, our consternation, when we saw our place of family history like this, following the earthquake of September 2010.

Just a few weeks after the earthquake, it was already in the process of deconstruction for safety reasons. Sadly, since then, most of the building has been demolished and it has, naturally, been deregistered as an historic place.  However, a  modified, and safer, building, respectful of the old design, has arisen in its place.  And I believe it still remains a place of good food and hospitality.

When I look at the items on top of the box, and reach back in my mind to their underlying stories and foundations , I wonder if, what I see before me are truly remnants, or simple leftovers, or my own unique version of a palimpsest. ( I really would rather like one! But my grandmother would much prefer ‘leftovers’. We always had lovely ones for Sunday night tea 🙂 )

© silkannthreades

What do you see?

What do you see?  What do you hear?……..All EarsI see a box; I see a rug;A box, a rugI see a flower on the Tree of Life; I touch a flower on the Tree of Life;Flower on the Tree of LifeI see a tray;Tea TrayI sense tea; I taste cake;Tasty treatsI feel the shape of the tea-cup in my hand;Cup for my handthe warmth of the teapot in the afternoon sunWarm feelingsand I hear the quiet silence of my house on a winter’s afternoon.

Today, 27 June,  is Helen Keller’s birthday.  If you would like to honour this remarkable woman, spend a few moments honouring and treasuring each of your five senses, no matter how perfect or imperfect they may actually be.

Then enjoy some time with the wonderful people at Helen Keller International; and be inspired by my dear friend Victoria Quinn as she writes about the Human Yardstick; and, finally, check out Good Housekeeping and up date yourself on 10 Facts about Helen Keller. Did you know she loved dogs?

https://www.facebook.com/HelenKellerInternational

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-quinn/checking-in-on-the-human-yardstick_b_3404554.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=global_motherhood&comm_crv

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/inspirational-people/facts-about-helen-keller#slide-1

© silkannthreades

Take one box

Take one box Take one box

Take one box (take 2)Take one box (take 2)Take one box (take 3)Take one box (take 3)Take 4Take 4Take five Take 5-ishTake a key

Take another lookAnother lookPenultimatePenultimateFinal take? Final take?Boxes, chests, travelling trunks, cartons, suitcases……these containers for possessions, precious and plain, have been part of my family’s life and history for generations. They have traversed the world with us, and then some.  For as long as I can remember, boxes/trunks/chests have been as integral to my living spaces as the kitchen sink. Unlike the kitchen sink, I love them.

On 20th June, the UNHCR asked us, the people of the world, to consider, as part of World Refugee Day, what one thing we would take with us, if we had one minute to flee our homes. http://unhcr.org/1family/   The question is difficult to answer, and, of course, there is no, single correct answer.  I don’t know what one thing I would take. When we  fled our home after the big earthquake  in February 2011, I took my laptop, my mobile phone, my handbag, which happened to have cash, credit cards, passports and medications in it at the time, a bit of food, and a handful of clothing.  And the keys to the house.  ( I have heard it said that people fleeing will often take the keys to their house even though the house may have been lost; and/or  the owners have no idea when they will be returning ) As you can see that’s more than one thing!  But I had more than a minute to think about what to take 🙂   However, I will say that, out of all the things I took away with us that day, the one thing that turned out to be the most valuable  was  knowledge. The knowledge that boxes and belongings are non-essentials. When it really matters I know how to let them go.

© silkannthreades

In whom we trust…..

In my last post, but one, called Short Stories, I promised to provide recipes for the featured spicy lentil soup and easy fruit and nut cake.  I dealt with the soup in my previous post, so now it is the turn of the cake. Whilst the soup recipe had its genesis in my trusty Edmonds Cookery Book, the fruit cake recipe comes from another trusted and reliable source of everyday cooking wisdom in New Zealand; Dame Alison Holst. ( http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/new-years-honours/4504137/Dame-Alison-Holst-Queen-of-the-cookbook/ ) A food writer and television chef ( and oh so much more, in my opinion ) she produced the first of her many cookbooks in 1966. Today, there are approximately  four million of her books in print.   Again, like the Edmonds Cookery Book, that would equate to about one Alison Holst cookbook for every person in New Zealand!

The fruit cake recipe is from ‘Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook” by Alison and Simon Holst, first published in 1998 by New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd P1020775The recipes that Alison and her son Simon present are meticulously tested and are fail safe.  They are utterly reliable and delicious, easy to prepare, and I haven’t met one yet that I didn’t like.

The ingredients for Easy Fruit and Nut cakeIngredientsThe method (with apologies for the poor photos)  and the final result.

Dame Alison, who was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011, graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Home Science and was a lecturer in Home Science before she began her present career. Over the years, as well as cook and write, she has raised over $4 million for charities.  She is a ‘star’ in New Zealand and held in such high esteem that, one year, it was  rumoured that she was to be appointed as our next Governor General. She was not, but, this year, she was placed 4th on the annual Reader’s Digest  most trusted people list. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1306/S00264/new-zealands-most-trusted-in-2013-revealed.htm)

At the top of the most trusted list is  Sir John Kirwan, former All Black, coach, and depression awareness spokesperson and advocate.  Next comes Willie Apiata, soldier and Victoria Cross winner and, in third place, is  Richie McCaw.  He was the All Black captain who brought home the all important Rugby World Cup in 2011!  At the time, he was akin to the saviour of the nation.  The current Governor General holds the position of the 8th most trusted person in New Zealand, well behind Dame Alison, the cook.

Now, the most trusted list is  not something I take very seriously but I do find it interesting. And it’s fun to compare our list with the Reader’s Digest list for America where the top positions of trust seem to be held by actors and news anchors.( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/readers-digest-announces-100-most-trusted-people-in-america-206435821.html)  In both countries, politicians occupy lowly places on the list, which makes me wonder, at least in the case of our country, why we vote for them at all,  if we don’t trust them!  In fact, it seems quite nonsensical.

Perhaps we would be  better off if we simply voted, via the likes of Reader’s Digest, for John, Willie, Richie and Alison to lead the country. Under the guidance of these multi talented individuals,  we would most likely be a fitter, healthier country. Alison would see we were well nourished, John would guide us mentally and physically, and Willie and Richie would  help us maintain the  team spirit  to fight the good fight for the nation’s wealth and prosperity. Indeed, with these four trusted leaders in charge,  the governing of our country could become efficient and economical and ‘common sensical’, just like one of Alison’s good, wholesome, everyday recipes. With our improved health and nutrition and fitness, the Ministry of Health would have very little to do; as would the Transport  MInistry, because, with our new-found energy,  we would all be able to walk so much further and faster than we do now. Alison, with her teaching skills and home science degree, could organise the education and budgetary needs of the country; Willie could take care of security and defence, with a little policing thrown in; and Richie, being a lad of the land, could take over all matters agricultural. Lots of politicians and massive Government bureaucracies would be surplus to requirements. What a saving; there would be enough money freed up to provide everyone with a living wage, and a lot else besides.

Joking aside, Sir John, Dame Alison, Willie Apiata and Richie McCaw, and many others at the top of the list, are wonderful examples of fine citizenship. We are lucky to have them. They make a fine mix.

Enjoy your cake.

Photos from these sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Apiata

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richie_McCaw

http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/sir-john-kirwan-most-trusted-kiwi-5470276

http://alumni.otago.ac.nz/page.aspx?pid=782

© silkannthreades

Recipe, as promised

Substantial

Spicy Lentil Soup

As promised, in my previous post, here is my recipe for Spicy Lentil Soup:

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter or oil in a large, heavy duty saucepan. Add one onion, one carrot and one stalk of celery,  all coarsely chopped. Add one clove of garlic, peeled but whole. Stir. Then let these ingredients ‘sweat’, or gently cook, with a lid on the saucepan, for as long as you can be patient.  Do not let the mixture burn or brown. I sometimes let my ingredients ‘sweat’ for about 15 to 20 minutes because the longer I leave the carrot, onion and celery and garlic, the sweeter the soup will be.  Remove lid and add 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/4 tsp of chilli powder and one dried, red chilli.  Stir for a minute.  At this stage, I add 3 or 4 slices of bacon*, chopped in to large pieces. Stir and cover for another minute.  Then add one cup of washed, red lentils. I stir and cover for a few seconds whilst I open a 400gm tin of crushed tomatoes in juice. In go the tomatoes, another stir and cover, and a few more minutes to allow the lentils to be coated with the tomatoes etc.  Lastly add 4 cups  of liquid stock and half a cup of bulghur wheat* . I use chicken stock made from stock powder or cubes. Add salt to taste. I  use  a teaspoon of salt.  Simmer covered, on very low heat, until the lentils and vegetables are soft; usually about 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooked, remove the slices of bacon and blend the soup till smooth. (Remove the whole chilli too, unless you want a really spicy soup!) Chop the cooked bacon into smaller pieces and use for garnish, along with some chopped parsley.

* I haven’t tried to make this soup without bacon but I am sure it could be made without.

* The bulghur wheat is optional but it does make the soup superbly thick.

My spicy lentil soup is adapted from the Spicy Lentil Soup recipe  in Edmonds Cookery Book, 45th Deluxe Edition, 1999.P1020772The first Edmonds Cookery Book was published in 1908 by young Mr Thomas J Edmonds who had established a thriving business selling baking powder to New Zealand housewives.  He promised the home baker that, with Edmonds baking powder, their baking was ‘sure to rise’ and so it did, and has continued to do so ever since.  He made his  first sale of baking powder in 1879.  Edmonds became a trusted name in our country’s households. In the last 50 years, or so, over 3 million Edmonds Cookery Books have been printed, which equates to almost one copy for every  person in New Zealand 🙂

Thomas Edmonds built his first factory in our city, Christchurch, in 1922. The factory and the company’s trademark  “Sure to Rise” slogan are featured on the cookery book cover. The factory was not only famous for its products but also for its beautiful gardens. Even when the factory was demolished in 1990, the site continued, and developed, as a garden for the public to enjoy.  Thomas Edmonds was an enlightened employer and subscribed to that lovely philosophy of a beautiful workplace to enhance the lives and working standards of his employees. He also wanted to live in a beautiful city and, to this end, was a prolific benefactor to the city. Sadly, some of his gifts to the city were destroyed in the recent earthquakes and have since been demolished. Amongst them was the Repertory Theatre, which began life as the Christchurch Radiant Health Club.( http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/radiant-living/the-origins-of-radiant-living)

Thomas Edmonds believed in the therapeutic qualities of the sun, and in the study and practise of diet.  I think I would have liked him. And I am sure he would have enjoyed a bowl of my soup,  followed by a bowl of my custard.  Good healthy, economical, everyday fare.

Such a pleasant, sunny piece of our city’s history. I wonder what Mr Edmonds would think of his successful home grown business, now in the hands of multinational, Goodman Fielder. Would he be pleased, philosophical or pragmatic about this development?  Or would he be worried, just a little, like me, about a company that will not tell me  why it proudly proclaims on the back of its Edmonds Sure to Rise Baking Powder that this important “Part of New Zealand’s Heritage” all “started in Lyttleton”, when clearly it did not; there being no such place. Thomas Edmonds first footprint on New Zealand soil was made in Lyttelton. (Spot the difference Lyttleton (wrong); Lyttelton (right) )

And can you spot the common denominator on the custard packet and on the cover of the cookery book?

So, here’s to the sunshine and soup  in our lives. Hopefully, we will see the sun again tomorrow.

http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/Publications/ChristchurchCityCouncil/ArchitecturalHeritage/LegacyofThomasEdmonds/

http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Practical-Living/People/E/Edmonds-Thomas/

© silkannthreades

Short Stories

Rain

Rain

viewed from my window.

Soup

Soup of Substance of Substance and Sustenance, Lentils and Spice.

CakeNutty Fruit Cakeeasily made with Fruit and Nuts.

Rain, Soup, Cake; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Like the soup is sticking to my ribs 🙂

Footnote: Recipes for soup and cake in my next post.

© silkannthreades

It’s all turned to custard

It rained on my mother’s birthday (15 June), it rained yesterday, and it rains still…and HOW! 110 ml in the past 36 hours.  Rivers and drains and ditches are overflowing and some of the city streets are flooded. When the weather deteriorates like this, or when anything worsens, New Zealanders often say ‘It’s all turned to custard.”

I don’t know the origin of this expression. When I left New Zealand in 1977, custard was confined to the family dinner table. When I returned to New Zealand in 1999, I was astonished to learn that a great many things, including our attempt to win the Rugby World Cup, had “all turned to custard”.  Why custard? Why was poor, innocent, humble custard chosen to represent the unbright side of life. Had New Zealand become a nation of custard haters in my absence?

I love my custard. So I am deeply affronted by the sullying of custard’s good name. 😉CustardI make all kinds of custard but,  for my favourite quick custard, I use Edmonds Custard Powder. Edmonds used to be a genuine New Zealand brand but it has been sold out to a bigger overseas concern . So does that mean even our national custard industry has turned to custard?

So, those are photos of  the beautiful custard which nourished my body and soul yesterday.  Here is how it was made: Three tablespoons of custard powder, mixed with one tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 cup of cold, full cream milk.  Mix into a smooth paste.  Add 1/4 cup cream, mixed with a lightly beaten egg to the mixture.  Heat 1 and 3/4 cups of full cream milk and add this heated milk to the cold mixture.  Put the combined mixture in to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, with frequent stirring, until the custard thickens. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond essence and serve hot or cold. This recipe makes a very thick custard. ( I like thick custard with a thick skin on top! ) To make a thinner custard use 2 tablespoons of custard powder.

That’s the custard. Now look at the photos of the weather that has ‘all turned to custard.’ Can you see a connection to custard? I can’t.

Footnote: I have taken a light-hearted approach to custard, and the weather, but the weather and flooding are extreme in some parts of the country. There will be extensive damage  to land and property as a result.

© silkannthreades