All posts filed under: stories

Not all recipes are a success

Not all recipes we try for the blog succeed. Some might seem a good idea for a post, but after  repeated tries we might declare defeat, to much regret of the other food interpreter. The spectrum of abandoned recipes ranges from the disgusting  to the blunt. The disgusting are an obvious choice to drop- but the blunt? We always feel that we did something not  quite right – perhaps next time we will change the measures a little and it will succeed. Fact is, you know quite early if the recipe has a chance or not. Of course we end up eating the blunt; at least the ingredients are of a good quality, and we have a topic to discuss over dinner. And then there are the photos. We end up with a stock of photos we like for recipes we do not (the opposite is also often the case). Uploading the finished dish will not do – but why not the tomatoes, onions, eggs and peppers?

Where lemons grow

“Do you know the land where the lemon-trees grow, In darkened leaves the gold-oranges glow, A soft wind blows from the pure blue sky, The myrtle stands mute, and the bay tree high? Do you know it well? It’s there I’d be gone, To be there with you, O, my beloved one!” I know of a German girl who dreamed of the south because of those verses of Goethe, as her father read them to put her to sleep. “The land where lemons grow” is also the title of a book of Helena Attlee about citrus crops in Italy. It opens up a fascinating historical, cultural and economic perspective of Italy, and once you read it, it becomes an essential travel companion in the citrus producing areas of the country. The truth is that in the Mediterranean we take the citrus trees (lemons, oranges, mandarins, sour oranges, grapefruits or citruses) for given. The road in front of our door is lined up with sour oranges (that fill the air in spring with their unmistakable scent, covering …

Extra Virgin Green Olive Oil, cold pressed

Every autumn Popi recruits workers, volunteers  and semi-volunteers to harvest the olives. When it comes to olive oil she is a perfectionist. The green olives have to be combed down from the trees gently, inspected one-by-one and carried to the oil press within a strict schedule. Luckily for all in the last years she has settled for one of the presses half an hour drive away, a big improvement over the long drives of the past, when she had confronted and discarded every facility in the prefecture. This year someone suggested to use harvest machines for speed. When we arrived the device was flat on the ground, Popi looking down to it in disgust and explaining that is was a really bad idea, the way it hurt the fruit.  Popi goes around, inspecting how all are performing,  and explaining what great fun it is to gather the olives: ‘It is not at all tiring, only a great opportunity to exercise, and that only for the first day, then it is not even a challenge’. As sunset approaches she intensifies her rounds of disks full of meatballs and …

Singapore: beyond the chilli crab

You can try to understand Singapore by eating and making sense of it. The options (at least in cookbooks) are categorized as per ethnic group: Peranakan ( descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in the Straits and married the native Malays), Teochew, Hokkie, Indian, Eurasian ( English influenced or Kristang – the Portuguese variety). As you would expect to happen in a city-state with a big expat community the influences keep criss-crossing all the time: fish head curry (created by Singapore’s Indians from Kerala with some Chinese and Malay influences) or afternoon tea with mooncakes are local favourites.  Have one bite and it’s like having watched three hours of BBC documentary. The options are overwhelming, and the quality usually excellent. Hawkers in Singapore are sort of national institution. They offer cheap, clean and authentic food and tend to cluster. Besides the well-known hawker-centers you can find them in malls, by the seafront or just around the corner. The most typical hawker center is probably Lau Pa Sat, the old cast-iron market designed by the British in the 19th century. It’s …

Cabinets of Curiosities

Cabinets of curiosities were collections of objects in a period when the science disciplines were not fixed as they are today. If you had to fit the objects into modern categories, you would classify them under ethnography, archeology, biology, medicine, art or hoax. Cabinets of curiosities provided an interpretation of the world according to the collector-patrons that assembled them and were put to use to elevate or asset their status. Then the science books were written and the cabinets fell out of favor, got assimilated in museums or vanished into oblivion. I do not know how their contemporaries viewed those collections. Did they realize the objective point of view or did they take the small indoor universes as a somewhat credible transformation of the world? Could they distinguish between the thrill of the bizarre and the potentiality of the measurable and actual? I cannot answer with certainty, because the association I have is the disappointment of a child when he realizes that the mystical and the unexplored is chastised in a world of precise maps …

Fried potatoes with eggs

When I was a child my mother used to cook fried potatoes with eggs in the summer. We spent the summers in a small house by the sea. You walked down the few steps from the veranda and you were on the sand beach. On the bed at night you heard the gentle sound of the waves on the sand – the wind blew north to south and the coastline was shielded from big waves. The smell at the front of the house was crisp from the sea, on the back moist from the fields. There were no cars, no electricity. The small kitchen had a door at the end of a corridor leading to the one side of the veranda. From the kitchen you could see the sea and at night from the sea you could see the light in the kitchen –and my mother preparing the food. In the evenings we children played on the moist sand and came on the veranda when dinner was ready. Our diet in the summers was defined …