Wednesday, January 21, 2009

more january joy

i know they are always around, but it is only in the depth of winter, with grey skies and blue moods always at my heels, that i begin to appreciate their deep sunny colours, their thick cheerfuly bitter skins,their aromatic scent, their tanginess and juiciness.

citrus fruit.

(i read once that a study was done which showed that the one consistent difference between men and women was whether they adored (women) or hated (men) the skins of citrus fruit. our household at least confirms the study; the girls are mad about them and the boys spit them out. but i asky you: who pays to have such studies done? and are they hiring?)

so here are three favourites, sunnying up my days:

in the foreground, the bergamotte. the name alone. yes, i know, names are big around here at the moment. one of the key ingredients in earl grey tea. looks suspiciously like a lemon, but has a far stronger, more aromatic scent and taste(although the local detractors claim they can't tell the difference...). to be used sparingly, one slice at a time, in your cup of tea.

the large deep orange fruit are mineola. a new addition to our family repertoire, they are a softer, sweeter, more interesting version of the orange (again, the detractors etc....). yum. love the deep orange colour.

finally, never to be forgotten, my personal secret for coping with all potential january nastiness, to be gobbled whole, in order to fully experience the bitterness and bite on the tongue, the sweetness and softness of the just-under-the-skin inner flesh and the lemony sour burst of juiciness. wow.

kumquats and cold showers. for a truly zingy midwinter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

eat more kale

is the title of a beautiful print in Nikki McClure's Collect Raindrops, a book i have been leafing through for two years now, looking for, and finding, inspiration, quiet and beauty. time and again, as i leafed, i would stop by this particular print, somewhere in the winter section. eat more kale.

slowly, it acquired a special meaning, kale. it became symbolic of an entire lifestyle, a beautiful sane engaged grounded lifestyle, involving rich wholesome organic home-grown food, time on one's hands, a place in the countryside, a wood-cutter musician for a husband, and somewhere between the nappies and one's art, between the apple and the tomato sauce, deep peace of mind.
a lifestyle which clearly Nikki Mc Clure had, and i did not. but, not to despair, i told myself, for one day, all that would change. one day, i would simply start to eat more kale... and the world would open its secrets to me. the name alone, k-a-l-e, i loved to say it out loud, kale... sheer poetry...

of course, and please not to laugh yet, until two days ago, i didn't actually know what kale was. not that that was important. a vegetable. a winter vegetable. exotic yet grounded. beautiful. tasty. filled to the brim with the best mother earth has to offer, vitamins, minerals, the works. oh, kale.

then, last week, on the-day-before-the-market-when-all-meals-for-the-week-are-planned, i happened to be leafing through this cookery book (the cover of which was done, suspiciously, by none other than... Nikki McClure) and i happened to happen on the recipe for "white bean and kale minestrone". my heart skipped a beat. this was it. THE moment had arrived. tremulously, i penciled 'kale' onto my list, with a mental reminder to google for kale's dutch name.

except i didn't (google), because life got in the way, and suddenly, there i was, at my usual vegetable stand, with a list in my hand proclaiming 'kale' and still no clue as to what it was i wanted. i asked my vegetable man (sometimes he knows the most amazing things), he said he didn't know... wasn't sure... it sounded familiar... he would ring someone to ask. so he did. ring. ask. and he came back...

... with a boerenkool.

i think maybe you have to be dutch to appreciate the true amplitude and depth of my disappointment. boerenkool is not poetic. it means 'farmer's cabbage'. which is not poetry. boerenkool is also not exotic. every dutch family has eaten it every week of every winter for the last ten centuries. granted, it is a winter vegetable with all the good stuff, but it's pretty hard to chew, and it tastes (not together surprisingly) of cabbage. pffff!

what an anti-climax. i could barely stop myself from bursting into tears in front of the vegetable man. but i managed somehow. took the 'kale' home. laid the 'kale' on the table. looked at the 'kale' for a while....

...and got to thinking... that maybe this incident really was a parable for 2009. what if kale really is everything i always thought it to be, and i have been eating it all along. what if maybe in my husband's soul, there is music and wood-cutting, and maybe maybe my life actually is wholesome, organic and peaceful. as peaceful as it would be if i were Nikki McClure. if not more. what if i actually already make applesauce and tomato sauce and art. and what if, maybe, 2009 is all about that. about the fact that the boerenkool you eat is amazing kale, and that amazing kale is good old boerenkool. that poetry is right here, in my kitchen. that it has been here all along. waiting for me to see. waiting for me to take notice.

all right, 2009! i am ready. ready to stop wanting and start having what i already have. although, if it's all right with you, i would still prefer to call it kale...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

lost and found glass museum

we blew into