“If people take the trouble to cook, you should take the trouble to eat.” Robert Morley
Spring has sprung in the Northern hemisphere and autumn is well and truly here, in the South. We’ve had a couple of really autumnal days with cold, rain and leaden skies. It was good to see the rain come down, although I dare say we need much more… Nevertheless, I had some delicious strawberries yesterday, flown all the way down from Queensland. The strawberries were red and fragrant, fully ripened. Each berry perfect and shiny, picked at its peak. When I bit into it, the flesh was firm yet yielding, the juice aromatic and so sweet. Here is a recipe for strawberry tart.
STRAWBERRY TART Ingredientsfor the pastry
350 g flour
175 g butter cut in small pieces
90 g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoonful Marsala
1/2 teaspoonful ground cloves/cinnamon
zest of one lemon, pinch of salt. for the filling
1 punnet of strawberries
3 tablespoonfuls strawberry jam
3 tablespoonfuls caster sugar
1 teaspoonful ground cloves/cinnamon/ginger
Sift the flour on a wooden board and make a well in the centre. Within the well add the butter, sugar, egg yolks, Marsala, lemon peel and salt. Work the dough well and quickly, shape it into a ball, cover it with wax paper and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Then roll out l of the dough into a thin sheet and line a 23 cm buttered flan tin. Spread the bottom of the tart with the strawberry jam and then arrange the washed, hulled, drained and halved strawberries thickly on the tart base. Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar and spice mixture. Roll out the remaining 3 of the dough into a sheet and cut thin strips. Weave these strips into a lattice which is used to cover the tart. Neaten the dough edge of the tart by scalloping and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake the tart in a hot oven 210˚ C for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown in colour. The tart is best eaten after 24 hours. Enjoy your weekend!
“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” – Victor Hugo
Today is Mayday, traditionally a day associated with the welcoming in of Spring. In many countries this was the day when people had a holiday, going out into the fields enjoying nature and when the young lads and lasses flirted with each other, their courting mimicking the couplings of the rest of the animal kingdom. Shakespeare in his play “As You Like It”, has this to say:
It was a lover and his lass — With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no — That o'er the green cornfield did pass In springtime, the only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding. Sweet lovers love the spring.
Between the acres of the rye — With a hey, and a ho, and hey-nonny-no — These pretty country folks would lie In springtime, the only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding. Sweet lovers love the spring.
This carol they began that hour — With a hey, and a ho, and hey-nonny-no — How that a life was but a flower In springtime, the only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding. Sweet lovers love the spring.
And therefore take the present time — With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no - For love is crowned with the prime In springtime, the only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding. Sweet lovers love the spring.
The holiday from work on Mayday assumed a rather more serious purpose in the 19th century and this was the observance of Labour Day in many countries around the world. International Workers’ Day commemorated on May 1st is for the people involved in the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, Illinois. As the culmination of three days of labour unrest in the USA, the Haymarket incident was a source of outrage and admiration from people around the globe. In countries other than the United States and Canada, residents sought to make May Day an official holiday and their efforts largely succeeded. In some European countries, working people continue to use May Day parades as an opportunity to show disapproval with the government or to protest cuts in social programs. Although May Day received its inspiration from the United States, the U.S. Congress designated May 1 as Loyalty Day in 1958 due to the day's appropriation by the Soviet Union. Alternatively, Labor Day traditionally occurs sometime in September in the United States.
“Mayday” is also the international distress call which is used by ships and aircraft on radio when life-threatening emergencies strike them. It has nothing to do with the 1st of May, but rather is the phonetic spelling of the French words for “help me”.
Mayday |ˈmāˌdā| (also mayday) exclamation an international radio distress signal used by ships and aircraft.
Noun: a distress signal using the word “Mayday”: We sent out a Mayday | [as adj. ] a Mayday call. ORIGIN 1920s: representing a pronunciation of French m'aider, from venez m'aider ‘come and help me.’
“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” - Jane Austen
There is a special kind of activity that is quite common in the business world and which is called the “Offsite” meeting or the “Retreat”. This is an occasion where selected staff are taken away from their normal work environment and stay away for a couple of days (and nights) in order to work through an agenda and resolve current issues, plan for the future and set future directions. The rationale behind this is that while away from the normal work environment, staff are able to disengage from routine and distractions, thus being able to concentrate fully on agenda items and be able to devote their activities and collective intellectual resources on resolving the issues at hand.
I am currently taking part in an executive “retreat” fro a couple of days and it is a strategic meeting designed to analyse our current activities, identify areas of concern and prioritise intervention strategies in order to be able to effectively plan ahead. I was pleasantly surprised by how much we achieved in these couple of days and how much better we were able to work together as a team and to function effectively as an executive body that set directions for future developments and growth.
We are at a very nice conference and spa centre about 60 km to the north of Melbourne, called Macedon Spa. The setting is lovely, right in the middle of Victoria’s spa country and at the foothills of Mt Macedon. Hanging Rock (the very atmospheric setting for the 1975 Australian film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is only about 5 km from here and there is a real tranquility in the crisp, clean country air. Autumn has really arrived and the temperatures plummet down to single figures for the night, although the days are sunny and still quite pleasant.
It is a good balance, the work and the relaxation, the social conviviality and the resolution of the problems at hand. Getting to know one’s co-workers in this type of environment is a really good exercise and it does contribute to a better organization.
“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” - Henry Ford
We watched a wonderful French movie at the weekend. It was Patrice Leconte’s “My Best Friend” (2006 ), a tragicomedic film which makes a important comment about modern society. The basic premise of the film is how we view friendship in today’s world and how we define that most elusive of relationships: “My best Friend”…
The movie begins at a funeral which is very sparsely attended and in which Monsieur François Coste (Daniel Auteuil), an antiques dealer, finds himself because he has unfinished business with the deceased and wishes to close a deal with the widow, even at a funeral. This puts François’ character in context and makes the viewer of the film regard him as a anti-hero.
François superficially seems to have a perfect life: A young daughter doing well at her studies at University, a girlfriend who seems to love him, a successful business with an astute partner (Catherine played by Julie Gayet), an engagement calendar full of lunch dates and meetings with business associates. However, despite this seemingly perfect existence, François realizes that he has serious gaps in his life.
The pivotal point is the whimsical purchase of an ancient Greek vase at auction, which François buys, even though it is not the sort of thing he trades in, and it is something he and his business cannot afford, and it is against the wishes of Catherine, his partner. The vas is special because it is a funerary offering of one man to the memory of is dearest and best friend. At a dinner with his associates he is hit with the hard truth that none of these people, would come to his funeral. He is forced to admit that not only does he have no friends but also that no one likes him.
Being arrogant, and egotistical, valuing “things” more than people, he denies that he has no friends, and in a silly bet, accepts a challenge from Catherine to prove this hard truth false. The prize is the Greek vase. In the process of finding a "best friend" within 10 days, to win the bet, Coste learns what friendship means, and just how wrong he really was in his values. Instrumental in François’ epiphany is a taxi driver called Bruno (Dany Boon) who is the catalyst in François’ change of character and life.
The film is not amongst the best of Leconte, but it is warm, engaging, earnest, and with the right mixture of comedy and drama, making for satisfying viewing. The acting is very good, restrained and almost phlegmatic in parts, but nevertheless expressive and moving. Highly recommended film!
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.