Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fiona Kidman, beside the Dark Pool

Fiona Kidman's two volumes of memoirs have had a powerful effect on me. I wrote a more detailed response recently but it is too personal for a public blog.

Particularly powerful lines for me in beside the Dark Pool:
"The 1970s had seen seismic shifts in the way women lived. Many of us couldn't recognise ourselves in our mothers' lives at all." p.57

This has prompted much reflection for me. When I was a teenager and a young adult, I assumed the world of paid work would be my place. I was off to conquer the world, to experience the things my mother and aunts told me were not mine to experience. It was much later that it came to feel an act of rebellion not to work outside the home full time and sometimes not at all after I had my children.

And this line, in which Kidman writes of the process of returning home with her mother before her mother went into the Home of Compassion,
We went through boxes of photographs, mementoes of her past life, recipe books, and reminisced." p.236

My throat caught a little on the recipe books. I made a cake for Mum last weekend. Just like when I was a child, the day before I had attempted to help her in the kitchen (preparing for Dad's 70th birthday party, a sizeable event which she was catering singlehandedly). It had not gone well. The next day, with some deep breathing, I offered to help again. This time I convinced Mum to pass the cake making over to me and to go out and do her other tasks. With the kitchen to myself, I made a good cake and Mum was delighted. When the cake was duly admired later in the day, she told everyone that Sandra made it. It was carrot cake, a recipe attributed to one of my aunts, typed up in a folder.

But when I read those little lines in Kidman's books, I thought of the handwritten books which Mum kept before she had a computer. There was one covered with a white background and a blue print. I hope she hasn't thrown it out, because that is what I want one day. That cannot be bought in a shop. As often, I think also of my maternal Grandma, still alive but no longer baking cakes. I hope her handwritten recipe books will be cherished by someone, even if it turns out not to be me.

Today was the second of the crackers experiments. I used yesterday's recipe as a base to branch out from. Today's recipe:
1 C wholemeal flour
1/2 C plain white flour
1/2 C sourdough starter (mine is quite wet, and is rye or wholewheat, depending on whatever is to the front of the cupboard or my fancy, I think the secret is the freshness of the flour rather than any other technique)
1/2 t sea salt
2 1/2 T soft butter

Whizzed it all up in my Kenwood mixer (which Mum gave me - the gift of kitchen whizziness which she spent years looking for so my sister and I could have one each of the particular older model she thinks best) until it looked like breadcrumbs and then added 1/4 C milk (maybe less). Leave in the hot water cupboard for a couple of hours. Could do longer, but my day dictated a certain speed. Then I followed the original recipe for rolling (do it on the baking tray and no greasing needed) the crackers and sprinkled sea salt on top.

I am very pleased with them. Fionn says they are both good but that yesterday's second batch (I threw the first batch out as they were undercooked and unappetising) was the best. Certainly they are disappearing fast enough. Very good with hummous. I don't know why it has taken me so long to try cracker making. All psychological, as making cakes is much more challenging than making crackers.

Speaking of which, with a week of school lunches ahead of me (not special, just like 39 other weeks), I made a chocolate cake. Which the children ignored in favour of the crackers. Could it be that I am doing something right with this parenting project? What a jinxsy sentence to write.

I offered our neighbours some eggs this morning. Happy to pass them on. But oh the present which came back over the fence: whitebait. It was frozen so I am saving it in the freezer for next weekend. It won't be tarnished by a flake of flour - egg and a pinch of salt is all that is needed for the perfect whitebait patty.My yellow banksia rose against the red fence which Favourite Handyman painted for me on Christmas Day. Last year it had a piffly show but this year is a definite improvement. I didn't rain it or prune it or anything ordered, hence some pleasing rambling.
The little rose that could. I raised this from a cutting in a plastic bag, following a set of instructions I found online. It is a pink rose which runs a bit wild round here, so a good one to start with. Only this one was in the wrong place and then I left it in a bucket of water for weeks, probably months, until I noticed it was still alive and planted it in the ground, out the front, just a piece of green shelter cloth between it and the gusty sea breezes.

Today I noticed it was doing well, but with spreading buttercup, convulvulus, plantain and a grass weed (possibly twitch) in competition for space, sun, nutrients. I got out the kitchen scissors and gave it some room from the intruders after I took this photograph and then arranged aged donkey poo around its base.

Irises outside my bedroom window.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I finally had a go at making my own crackers today, using this recipe from Towards Sustainability, a blog I have admired for a long time. I undercooked the first batch, and the second were good. They need a little rock salt for perfection, but the amount devoured by the short boy bodes well for using them in school lunches. This morning I most emphatically was not in a Sally Fallon mood, but by the time I'd made successful banana choc chip muffins and the crackers, been hydrosliding for the first time in 25 years and had divine barbeque sausages and halloumi and grilled tomatoes for dinner (none cooked by me), I was feeling a little more receptive to the idea of soaking and fermenting the flour and dancing twice around a purple feather for my next cracker experiment. I pulled the sourdough starter out of the fridge and fed it and plan to make a cracker mixture before I go to bed tonight.

I found marinated artichokes in the supermarket for the first time ever, flipped out the $6.49 for a wee jar and had my first taste. Yes indeed I like them which means now I should be more motivated to actually cook my garden produce this year. Last year I left the hearts to flower. Lovely purple flowers, but a little food would also be good.

Yesterday I mounded up the spuds and transplanted my tomato seedlings into larger pots. Parsley and silverbeet are running to seed in the garden. Time for change.

I'm still knitting sleeve ONE of the purple cardigan. It'll be done in time for the poem I guess.

Tomorrow is Beltane according to my Southern Hemisphere Pagan calendar. Off to google and see what seasonal celebrating opportunities it offers.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brain brilliance from Reading the Maps

she's wearing her don't talk to me face
as she makes the kids lunches

(The Muttonbirds, "A Thing Well Made")

Last night when I was posting I felt ridiculously intellectually inept. To be honest I felt politically inept, which seems not the same thing but worse. Why couldn't I see clearly how things should be (as in not just how they should not be, but the positive stance on how things should be) ? This morning Favourite Handyman turned National Radio on before 7am and we listened in dismay to the details of the Hobbit stoush. Rounds 1-13 to Warner Studio for sure. That sense of the dark kitchen, of the grim but essential functional start to the family day in the Muttonbirds song seemed to link to my own mood as I made sandwiches and chopped salad vegetables this morning.

All day I lived in a different sphere, at work almost all day and dealing with the politics of the micro scene, not the national and global issues. The kids and I swore off Friday fish and chips (i.e. tomorrow's) in favour of eating all of our roast chicken and vegetables and then going out for pudding. As I tucked into orange and cardamon cheesecake made by the super talented Nell, I didn't think about the big issues then either. I'm solo parenting for the next 24+ hours so no adult to rant to now that it is quiet and I am back in my own head.

I have found a superb post on the subject of the Hobbit stoush and the wider context of class struggle. Reading the Maps has written Off the Fence, Comrade. I love it. His strongest contribution is in his discussion of what solidarity means in an era where politicians are proud not to have an ideology and focus groups and party policies circulate around each other in endless self centred vacuums.

Do I have any other news? Is the realisation that I may be knitting that damn purple cardigan well into old age count as news? Thought not. I have not even been for a stroll around my garden today. Paid work and solo parenting be damned. But out the front, I have five deep purple irises in front of our bedroom and they are beautiful. Bulbs didn't flower there for the first couple of years but they seem now to have adapted to the shady, south-facing conditions. There is a weka hanging out in the creek and at the neighbour's place today and if it decides to visit our place, my garden is in deep trouble.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quinoa experiments, Angela Merkel

I've put quinoa in soups before and making it into gluten free tabbouli was on my list. In the weekend my sister told me about cooking it in stock which seemed like a nutritionally wizard combination. Then I found late this afternoon that Soakednuts had answered my query, only there certainly wasn't time for nine hours of soaking before dinner time. So I soaked the quinoa in water and a little lemon juice for a couple of hours, then thawed some pork stock and cooked the quinoa in that. In another pot I sauteed bacon ends, mushrooms, celery, red pepper, green pepper, carrots and broccoli. Things went a little belly-up when I turned the stock off and the vegetables up before going out to the washing line, instead of vegetables off and stock up. But there had been continued quinoa soaking in very hot liquid and it looked fine so I mixed the two pots together and served it with spoons and forks given the soup-y base.

Not that utensils of any kind were required for the over-tired short people, who declared their plates yuck (perhaps because it wasn't chips, or gingerbeer?) and have gone to bed without any dinner. I liked it, though I don't think the blurred soup-y stir-fry-ish combo is about to win any awards for texture. Taste-wise, worth doing again.

A little gardening today. I transplanted some basil seedlings, though I've kept them on the windowsill. I moved the strongest pumpkin and zucchini to the lean-to but the smaller seedlings can stay on the study windowsill for a while longer.

Yesterday's birthday girl came to find me in the school playground this afternoon (at pick-up time) to tell me how much she likes the skirt. Awwwwwwwwwwww.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about politics, but that when I get to the evening and have space to blog, I am too tired to organise my thoughts with any kind of clarity. I started tonight but had to give up as I couldn't find a blog post I wanted to link to (from Home Paddock, an earlier one on the debate on foreign ownership of NZ farms, as well as the more recent, amusingly written one on Save the Cities) after ten minutes of searching, I gave up on starting. I don't see the issue the same way as Home Paddock but I did find that her clear assessment of the benefits and drawbacks in the debate gave me a useful framework for constructing my own thoughts. What I wanted to find again and cannot is a reference to the drop in farm values if foreign ownership is further restricted and how this would negatively affect the amount of money that retiring farmers could spend (and thus boost or not boost local economies).

Also in recent months, I have occasionally been reading some extreme right wing views put forward by Lindsay Mitchell in her blog. I guess I am self-medicating for low blood pressure. But the thing I have been thinking of is how for some people, it is exploitation when people are on a benefit and for others it is exploitation when people are working for big business and the lion's share of the value they create goes to the boss, not the labourer. Sometimes I wonder if I am an anarchist at heart, but if you were to see how bossy I am in real life, you might decide, as I have, that I could no more live in a commune or get involved in Playcentre than I could become a ballerina.

I am not wishing to imply that work is not important. Work is really important, whether it is working for money, or cooking meals and raising children using a shared pay packet. Everyone deserves the right to work. I am all for policies which create as many jobs as possible.

I know this is all a bit fuzzy. But I do feel a moral responsibility to try and think aloud about politics and how we organise our society. Not because I have the best thoughts (God forbid if tonight's offering was as good as New Zealand could get) but because thinking and talking about politics and rubbing off on different perspectives is, I think, seriously seriously important. When our treasured Guardian Weekly arrived on Monday, I read this article with dismay. Merkel claims that German mulitculturalism has utterly failed. She is laying the ground work fast and furiously for greater acceptability for the demonisation of immigrants to Germany. The race scapegoating card is being played almost everywhere across Europe at the moment, and I feel quite fearful that another holocaust may become thinkable again. Underlying her claims (and, for example, the NZ administration who welcomed Pacific Island workers in to our freezing works and forestries in the 1960s and then hauled them out in Dawn Raids when economic conditions declined in the 1970s) is the idea that certain people deserve more privilege. They were historically wealthier and this level of privilege must be regained or maintained, no matter who else gets shafted in the process.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fiona Kidman and my Dad

We had a weekend away for my Dad's 70th birthday which turned out fabulous. The children enjoyed getting brown bottles of drink out of the ice boxes to drink and sitting up by their uncles drinking just like them. Ginger beer is trendy stuff.

On the way home we stopped at the Maruia Hot Springs. In 35 years of travelling through the Lewis Pass I have never stopped there. It was a truly beautiful experience and I could have stayed all day. The children liked it but they could not have stayed all day which is why we did not. The utase-yu, a cascade of warm thermal spring water which you sit under, is particularly wonderful, like a back massage. I stayed until the very last second when the others were all out of the pool and getting impatient, just like the children do to me at the playground.

Today my two three year old helpers and I went to the fabric shop in town and I picked out some more poplin to make twirly skirts for my outlaw nieces. Orange fabric with black rick rack for the six year old who has her mother's dark colouring, and bright pink fabric with pale pink rick rack for the four year old blondie. Does this give the appearance that the Christmas grouch is making presents in October?

Why yes it does. You could call it growing up, depending on your thoughts on the importance of Consumermas, or indeed I might call it making something for two little girls I have never met who we will see on Dec 25 which is personalised as I refuse to buy shop stuff for children who probably have it all anyway and if they don't, then they don't need it 'all'. We start the northward trek in less than seven weeks, so a little forward planning is just the capital E side of essential.

I finished Fiona Kidman's memoir, The End of Darwin Road, last night. It turned out she is a 1940 baby like Dad. It was fantastic. After a party peppered (not too heavily, for which I am grateful) with comments putting me in a box, I found it nourishing to read of this woman who loved her children and wanted to be with them and who simultaneously longed for something which wasn't housekeeping and suburban mores. She fought hard for her sense of self and paid high prices at times, some of which are only alluded to rather than spelt out. I realised that one thing I like about Wetville is that it is kind of wilder and more free, even in its suburban form, than other places I have lived. Our chooks symbolise something about our lives, not just about the greenie slightly self-sufficient thing but the refusal to create smooth lawn surfaces, bland and tidy exteriors. I've come back clearer in wanting to keep living here, just a few hundred metres from the waves and gnarled logs washed up by fierce weather.

Most of my potatoes are up, I've got two zucchinis and four pumpkin seedlings (have to grow them from scratch when you see the prices in the garden shop - $3.80 per pumpkin plant!) and the tomato seedlings are looking very healthy. Tomorrow I will do some transplanting and move the stronger seedlings off the windowsill and under the lean-to. I set up some beer traps last night after observing the carnage on my broccoli when I was too lazy to lay beer traps as soon as I transplanted.

Off to read the second volume of Kidman's memoirs...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

twirly skirt

Earlier this week Fionn came home with a birthday invitation. The birthday girl is rather a favourite of mine and despite Fionn-the-consumer-luster requesting we shop at Toyworld, I fancied making her a skirt.

I did. All in one day. Finito already.

This is massive massive progress. And I did it with my helper Brighid with me. Sure, a lot of creative things happened in the rest of the house while I sewed, but we both were happy.

It didn't even take all day. I can't believe that I am actually turning into a functional sewing-person.

This pattern:
I made the bottom left picture, but with a plain hem instead of contrast trim. I didn't do the cute swirl and flower additions either.
The photos are taken before I had hemmed the skirt and also the elastic is still poking out as fitting the waist is why I tried it on my model. As the model is in bed asleep, I can't take final photographs but I have finished it.

I used poplin and it is so soft and drapey and now I want to make one for me... I've wanted one before but thought it would be huge on my hips and massive on the fabric bill. But actually the amount of fabric on my hips wouldn't be huge and I do have an op shop circular tablecloth waiting for at least a circle skirt attempt... It's not fine poplin, but it would give me a chance to learn how to make one. I would look for a pattern with a flat waistband for me, which would lead to me having to learn to fit a zip...

I also planted some broccoli and kale. I got as far as putting a bottle of beer and the opener outside to make beer traps, but then 5pm happened (surely 5pm is code for chaos in multiple directions for more parents than just me?) and it is still out there and Favourite Handyman noticed my negligence of precious items and commented as soon as he got home.

My brother is coming to visit tomorrow. We are all excited, and the children just about bounced right up to the ceiling with excitement when I told them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spinach & sewing

I made torta di riso e spinaci (rice and spinach cake) for dinner. I also made another muesli slice based on this recipe, only with no cornflakes and I soaked the oats in fruit juice for a while first and I put linseeds and pumpkin seeds and chocolate in as well as dried fruit. Tastes good but is a bit crumbly. I think I will try throwing an egg in next time.

My sewing is progressing. Tonight I did some ease stitching for the first time ever. Then I made the hems on the cap sleeves. As I carefully measured the 1.5cm hem allowance and then folded the raw edge under, ironed that in place and then sewed a narrow hem, I remembered my Mum teaching me to sew. Mum, a very skilled seamstress, has never owned an overlocker, and neither has she made a garment with raw seams showing. Every edge was neatened by being folded under, pressed and sewn. My own approach has been far cruder. The fabric on this current project frays quite easily but I still can't face neatening every edge a la Mum on every seam. I have so far used a zig zag stitch on a small stitch length setting to neaten the edges and bind them together.

It rained all day. We do live in Wetville after all. So when I wasn't investigating the madness of my offspring or making food, I surfed the net and learnt more about sewing and fitting. I didn't keep a good track of all the sites to link to, but reading through the plus size sewing section of Pattern Review really got me to understand how wearing clothes which fit properly will be a zillion times more flattering than baggy clothes. The kinds of clothes which I really like never fit me in shops, and given they size them for a B cup, no one should be surprised. I need to teach myself and practise following a pattern before I start altering it. The fashions of the 1950s (which I like) were only really possible for most women because they could sew. You can't sell highly structured and fitted cotton clothing in a shop and expect it to fit all size 12s (or 18s or whatever) equally. This leads on to why plus size clothing (which is finally becoming available in mainstream affordable shops like Postie Plus) is all knits and flowing layers. Making structured clothes is just too expensive. Jeans are the one item which sell enough that manufacturers make styles to suit different body shapes.

Reading about sewing is of course easier than sewing itself. I am now on the decreasing part of the sleeve in my knitting. The endless purple crossover cardigan, hopefully to be worn in 2011, as 2010 is not looking that likely.

I have had almost no thoughts on anything which is not sewing or cooking or mothering or work (rather few thoughts on the last two for that matter). Which isn't to say that everything is alright out there. A local physician called Paul Holt gave a very frank assessment of the state of our health services here on the West Coast last week. We are spending incredible amounts on locum specialists because it seems no one wants to live here permanently or even in a medium term fashion. The layers of bureacracy which support a mountain of health managers and administrators are suffocating our town, indeed our country's health. I'm rather dubious about this target-driven health model as well. For example, there are people paid to race around our nation's four-five year olds checking things like their immunisation status and what they ate for breakfast that morning (not joking, I was at my son's check two years ago) and whether they are brushing their teeth. There are also people paid to race around injecting teenage women for HPV. But if you work in an education setting and you observe a need which would benefit from a public health nurse assessing, fixing, educating on how to manage the problem (like impetigo, or soiling, or diabetes), then you cannot get hold of one for love or money because health provision is based around specific, measurable targets. To make the accountants happy.

Then, to make matters more complicated still, I still have my concerns around the power of big pharma and the vulnerability of everyone to its tentacles.

As the rescue of the Chilean miners came to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion at the end of last week (providing the kind of gripping narrative that I suspect reality tv show programmers are always after), I wondered about all the miners who have perished in places less well off. Chile, I surmised, must be just wealthy enough to manage this wonderful and undoubtedly expensive rescue. So I was very interested to read John Pilger's article, reproduced on Against the Current, on the Chilean mining and political scene.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rewa Biddington

Obviously 15 minutes on the sewing machine is licence to go fill up the fabric project drawers to bursting again. Yesterday Brighid and I just happened to drive by an op shop on the far side of Wetville. Brighid spotted this spotted green fabric and thought she would like me to make her a skirt out of it. I'm thinking I might do a dress for her though, given I seem to have advanced beyond elastic waist everything this week.
There was a big stash of clothes on the racks which were named, indicating I think that the person had been in a retirement home. I chose three frocks belonging to Rewa Biddington, and I've been wondering about her story ever since. When I learn more about her, I will publish it on my blog - I'd like something of her story to live on. These frocks are from the 1970s I think, all home made. I remember these kinds of fabrics from my childhood and they repulsed me for ages, probably until very recently. Now I really like them, in all their printed polyester glory. No ironing here. I had a wee squiz at the 1970s dresses pages which google found for me and I think these fit into the category of styles for the older woman who did not want to wear the very short fashions of the young.
I'm not sure just what I will do with them next (apart from put them in my project pile) as I like them as they are but I'm unsure I have the style to pull off retro without looking ridiculous. I remember admiring my peers at university who wore retro op shop gear with long black boots and looked amazing. But they were 19, tall with long fabulous legs and I'm pushing forty with lumps and puddles of fat front and back.

The girl in her new op shop apron.
A kilt. Such a good idea. The lady selling me all these things asked where I would wear it and I wasn't exactly sure. I just felt it was a good idea to have one. Hmmm.
Later yesterday, more treasure. This cupboard and shelves set with a formica top was about to be thrown out and Favourite Handyman thought I would like it for a potting bench. Indeed I would and do.
Showing off my progress on my dress. This looks distinctly like a bodice doesn't it? I don't think I have ever attempted something with such shaping and I certainly can't find a cotton dress with shaping in the shops to fit me. Fingers crossed. Last night I discovered a great sewing website called New Vintage Lady: vintage sewing for the stout woman. I love the title and I've learnt a lot from reading her site so far, even though I'm not sure I agree on her 'rules' for flattering a stout woman. Stout is a fantastic word though, and I recognise many of the styles from photographs of my stout paternal grandmothers and great aunts.
This afternoon I weeded the strawberry bed, added a bag of compost, poured on some liquid bokashi fertiliser and then Favourite Handyman made me an improved structure for bird protection. Last year I had hoops arched over the bed and although it did keep the birds out, it was a bit low and as the strawberry plants grew, they got squashed by the netting. So this year I have a square frame attached to four posts to create more bird-free space.

Also in my garden but not photographed, I transplanted sunflowers into little pots (from the tiny newspaper 'pots' I germinated them in) and they are now outside on the potting bench, under the lean-to. I transplanted some basil and culled my tomato seedlings down to the best in each cell and somehow, as I was buying some extra bird netting, I bought some broccoli and curly kale seedlings. I also bought beer to make a beer trap so these new seedlings are not lost to slugs (who have already been raiding my tiny home-germinated kale seedlings) but now it is dark and I realise I drank some beer and forgot all about the beer traps. I've been weeding around the roses some more and I began to tidy up the sprawling compost, with the help of five chooks. They do like an afternoon out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Darting with the Toyota

Today the sun shone, I played superwoman (not exactly, and no cape, but I did work for money all morning, come home and clean the toilet and sweep the porch and hallway and prepare dinner, pick up four children across one kindy and two schools, drop them all off and go back to work for a meeting involving lots of different documents and different people all talking and being discussed at once, collect husband and children, cook noodles and the prepped fish and vegetables and then read a lot of stories to a short child while the boy and man were at martial arts). At the end of all this homing-working-mothering stuff, I remembered all the compliments I had on my lovely skirt today, the one I made myself. I also knitted my cardigan and my boots and t-shirt are hard wearing items I bought nine and six years ago respectively in London, so I was feeling that perhaps I manage more ethical shopping then I thought (usually I fall back on the Sallies).

Which led to the thought that I could actually find the dress pattern and fabric which I started in January and maybe finish it then I could waltz around wearing a dress I had made my very own self. So I carefully poked around the pile of cloth and sewing pattern at the back of the computer monitor, rethreaded the machine and now I have made two darts. That'll be enough for one night - if I try more, things will be sewn back to front and upside down. I don't think they advise such a 'system' of sewing organisation as mine in the textbooks. The plain blue fabric makes up most of the dress, with the blue patterned fabric as the waist and crossover contrast. The second photograph is my Toyota, bought second hand at Onehunga ten years ago, just before we decided to head across the seas on our OE.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the knowledge that I have a pile of sewing to do for my planned small gifts for the C-word (this year we are spending it with the outlaws who are joyous consumers and Christmas lovers) which needs to be done in less than eight weeks. I can't bear to buy readymade tat which they don't need and so home made and thus hopefully personal and thoughtful is the only answer. Not quite, buying nothing is the other answer which is what we do when we are down here but given the shared consumer fest is to be attended in person this time...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

roses and barbarism

It's all cottage charm if I narrow the camera in sufficiently. The thyme does look pretty. The larger green leaves beside it are buckwheat.
First rose of the season. Dublin Bay.
This chook has lost feathers below her throat. None of the others have and I need to research what is or might be going on.
It amazes me how the same rose plant can send out both deep green and deep red leaves at the same time.
I gave this succulent to Favourite Handyman last Christmas.
It is part of our cactus in tyres corner garden. So far, so good. Nothing else grows in this corner as it is south facing.

Slavoj Zizek has written an article in the Guardian which I think is really important. Liberalism multiculturalism masks an old barbarism with a human face talks about the politics of fear and the creeping acceptance of racism across many spectra of society. How creepy but quite believeable is this quote?:

Robert Brasillach, the French fascist intellectual, who saw himself as a "moderate" antisemite and invented the formula of reasonable antisemitism. "We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; … We don't want to kill anyone, we don't want to organise any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual antisemitism is to organise a reasonable antisemitism."

Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the "immigrant threat"? After righteously rejecting direct populist racism as "unreasonable" and unacceptable for our democratic standards, they endorse "reasonably" racist protective measures or, as today's Brasillachs, some of them even Social Democrats, tell us: "We grant ourselves permission to applaud African and east European sportsmen, Asian doctors, Indian software programmers. We don't want to kill anyone, we don't want to organise any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable violent anti-immigrant defensive measures is to organise a reasonable anti-immigrant protection."

Zizek draws on Europe and the United Kingdom for his examples, but I could think of many incidents and quotes from New Zealand society which support his argument. It is really, really worth clicking through and reading the entire article.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

buckwheat & snak log substitutes

The best part of today, even for a non-television watcher, is that Paul Henry has resigned.

More domestically, the cardy I began six months ago, is still on needles. I am about 2/3 of the way through the first sleeve. The completed back and both fronts are nestled in my knitting bag. It was all very well fancying a lighter woollen garment which was less bulky at work, but at this rate it will take longer than a pregnancy.

Yesterday I had a go at a Snak Log substitute, something I'd been meaning to try for months. Having misplaced my Edmonds book for the 31st time, I decided to start with this online recipe. I whizzed everything up quite finely with my whizzy stick machine and this meant the dried fruits (papaya, cranberry and apricot) were not specifically detectable to the boy who claims not to like them in baking or indeed on their own. I put some sunflower and linseeds in as well. Then I ground up some dark chocolate (Whittakers Ghana is on special in my local supermarket atm) and sprinkled it liberally on top instead of making chocolate icing separately. The verdict has come back very favourable from the short and fussy testers and I like it as well. Next time I shall play around with soaking the oats first. I tried it one other time in prune juice which got the thumbs down, but next time I shall try apple and blackberry juice as at least they already drink and like that.

This afternoon I made chocolate and banana muffins (sneaking in some almonds with the ground chocolate) and Fionn said that everything I had made this weekend was absolutely delicious. Which is obviously why I opted to breed. Because in amongst saying 'no!' eightyfivethousand times per day, I also cook not badly on occasion.

I took the children to see Laksmi our holistic therapist and superskilled wonderful person this week and she wants Brighid to eat buckwheat. We've been eating soba noodles which she loves. We all like them, but at $16 per kilo (ordinary insecticide version), I am wondering about getting a pasta machine and making my own. I've been reading about kasha and will get there eventually, but today I tried adding buckwheat to my cromarty cob sourdough.

I'd need to try my buckwheat sourdough again to get something I could confidently pass on as a recipe. But here is an attempt, as I know I have a few readers also in the privileged possession of Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters. I used recently refreshed rye sourdough starter as the production sourdough instead of adding wheat etc to the rye as per his Cromarty Cob instructions (cos' I was impatient and had starter in the hot water cupboard where I was experimenting with getting it more bubbly and powerful). Then instead of 200g strong white flour and 200g plain white flour, I used 300g strong white flour and 100g buckwheat flour. I then proceeded as per the recipe, only the above measurements are still out as I added several additional handfuls of strong white flour as I went. I opted for lots of white flour rather than wholewheat as I wanted to balance out the lack of gluten in the buckwheat in terms of rising likelihood. But here it is, below, and it tastes very nice. You can see from the marbling effect that when the production sourdough and the bread dough are different colours, they never quite mix despite the kneading. Not that I kneaded much - I figured the rye doesn't like it and the buckwheat ignores it.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I have nothing special of my own to say about saveloys, but this is a lovely post/intro/poem on the subject of bright red working class meat. That you eat, not like lipstick.

The beautiful weather broke today. It broke all over the third load of washing. I was diligent enough to rescue loads one and two but as for the third, it can stay out there for a few more rinsings.

Inside, we have three sunflower seedlings and three basil seedlings newly arrived on the windowsill. One variety of sunflower has a blue seed coating (fungicide I suspect) and it looks quite surreal to have a bright blue 'lid' on an emergent stalk.

It is Spring and I am cleaning all sorts of things. Fionn and Brighid and I cleaned the car the other day. Normal activity for some, like unearthing a midden for us. At work, I am cleaning my desk, in readiness for the resumption of regular hours on Monday. Also, perhaps, in readiness for changes on the paid labour front. I have written to my boss advising him that I am cutting my hours of availability for 2011. Brighid is four in January and I want to spend her last year before the machine with her. We can garden together. Better than hairdressing, wouldn't you say? (Brighid cut her own hair the other day and the description by one friend of 'reverse mohawk' is rather apt).

This morning I cooked up a big pot of chickpeas and turned them into hummous to freeze like my clever thrifty friend Megan only I'm not sure how incredibly clever I was economically. I ran out of time to make sandwiches for the children who were about to go to our lovely Sharon while FH and I went to work, so I threw money at the Do-Duck-In, which obliged with gingerbread men and lolly cake.

Clearly, a mother who makes too much hummous and forgets to make sandwiches is not an entirely bad thing if you are three. Or seven.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Yesterday I sowed tomato (oregon spring and sungold) seeds, costata romanesco zucchini seeds and pumpkin musquee de provence seeds. Today I sowed eight potato seeds around some calendula, each one wrapped in its own comfrey leaf taken from my little comfrey forest. I remember the first year we were here and I seemed to spend so much at the garden shop on herbs (some things I either couldn't grow from seed or couldn't wait patiently enough or just couldn't get germination) and now we have pay-off.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

beach picnic

No camera today. I have recently sustained three consecutive days of blogging with photos though. The children and I spent much of today on the beach at Trumans Track near Punakaiki with friends. There is a section of beach with a waterfall coming down onto it from the cliff above and this forms a perfect pool for children to play in rather than anywhere near the ferocious sea. They also played on and off rocks and found a sea anemone. It was bliss. My souvenir is some seaweed for the garden.

Onion weed can grow on the slimmest of resources. This morning I moved the established blueberry pot, assuming that the substantial onion weed plant beside it was growing out of a crack in the concrete. In fact, it was growing from a thin layer of soil sitting under the pot and on top of the concrete. I gave it and the worms and slugs living also on this slender and seemingly rich biomass to the chooks.

I am now the delighted owner of Claudia Roden's Food of Italy, via trademe. For the moment, it is Roden and David who interest me most as names which come up again and again in food reading, particularly when I lived in London. Food of Italy was first piblished in 1989. So, far I've been intrigued to note the differences in the use of fat throughout Italy. Traditionally, she explains, butter was used most in the north, then lard in the less far north and centre and olive oil in the south. She notes that now (1980s), olive oil has become popular throughout Italy and cooking in lard is out of favour. I am hoping as I get through the book that she does reference which recipes would once have always been cooked in lard.

Given my interest in cooking with animal fats (and the fact that if I want lard I have to render it myself whereas I can buy beef dripping ready to go), I would like to know more about traditional foods cooked in dripping. Apart from chips. The chips in dripping were so good the other night that this week when I was about to go and buy takeaway fish and chips, Brighid said"no! I want home made fish and chips!" She didn't get her wish as takeaways was not about culinary excellence but about food on the table very promptly with no cooking on my part. But I liked her protest all the same.

An interesting post which squares with my frustration at what passes for nutritional advice in mainstream media (can I just say one more time: fat is not the devil made incarnate, it is just fat) is here.

I am so very glad we do not have a television. But all the same, given the behaviour of Mr Paul Henry, a man who works in the state sector and therefore surely has a particular responsibility to uphold principles of human rights and dignity, I am ashamed of this aspect of my country. I am ashamed of the people who have supported his racism.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

sunshine gardening

Another day of promise and delight. I sowed kale seed this morning, both curly kale and lacinato kale (also called tuscan kale and walking stick kale) and then bought some large pots and a new blueberry plant at the garden centre. One large pot is for the new blueberry (of my two last year, the weaker one is now one long stick with three leaves on it). The second is to transplant the lemon tree into as it is now too big for its current pot. I have learnt through the killing of fruit trees that our garden is just too wet and waterlogged for fruit trees. Pots are an expensive alternative but our own lemons will be wonderful one day. Last year we ate a few blueberries which were delicious. Actually, I ate the few blueberries - gardener's perk. I would like a gooseberry bush but given the thorns, I am waiting until the children are older.

This afternoon Brighid and I went out to Raelene's to collect donkey poo. Brighid seems to really enjoy farm life, plonking around the sloshy paddock in her gumboots and pink gloves picking up donkey doo. I vowed to go out poo-collecting more often.

Favourite Handyman mowed the lawns and I decided where to put the spuds. I had a closer look at our neglected rhubarb plants and they are so weed-bound (though surviving magnificently, anything else would have died long ago) that I think I need to dig them up, loosen all soil from them, dig the garden over and lay down cardboard and mulch and just cut a hole for each rhubarb to replant it in. More gardening tomorrow... perhaps I need to resign from work and just grow food all year round...

Photos from today's excursions (other people ran and cycled, but I merely strolled):

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thyme, veges & sunflowers

Seed sowing day. FH and the children made newspaper seedling containers with a gadget I got from the Warehouse and in them we sowed lots of sunflowers and also some pohutakawa. I sowed basil, thyme, feverfew, red onions, leeks, rocket, lettuces and the children finished the sowing project with some calendulas. The thyme is to make an edging around the old chook run garden to make it harder for the lawn to encroach. The feverfew is to transplant out the front to grow a wild daisy look in competition with the ivy and convulvulus and blackbery and twitch...

I had to get a bit realistic about the relationship between my gardening time and what I want to do, so the spuds will be out the back in an existing bed after all.

Some pictures from our walk this afternoon:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Food, fear and power

I've finished the biography (the Artemis Cooper one) of Elizabeth David. I loved my adventure into her world with all the enthusiasm of a voyeur who can choose when to begin and when to slip away. Often I flag part way through biographies, but I wanted to know everything Elizabeth David did.

The term 'Mrs David' was one which she recognised as very useful. She saw marriage as somewhat essential for a woman of her era (and class, but really I suspect 'era' still covers it). I was struck by the number of people in her circle who divorced, sometimes multiply. It seems this scourge to morality and family life only became so once 'everyone' was doing it, perhaps from the 1970s. Or could it be that divorce and damnation was ever present and current conservatives choose to see it as a 'this generation' malaise rather than face what none of us wants to: our parents and grandparents and generations before all had sex, not always with one person only, and all lusted after it like us?

Elizabeth David had a huge determination to know food and know history and I think I have fallen in love with that. She knew that the power of food goes well beyond mere satiety. Of course her books are written for a middle class audience - how are cooking books any different these days? Some of us frequent the libraries to read food histories and recipe books and others can buy as many of the books as all of us dream of. Readers of foodie books have a confident literacy and a sense that they can participate in food choices beyond staving off starvation.

David's food journeys took place over terrain and time. She spent time in Egypt, Greece, India (her least favourite place), Italy and France and these experiences informed her food writing and brought romance and sensuous promise to post-war austerity British readers. They also took place over time as she became increasingly interested in scholarship and precise historical details. The only book I have read of Elizabeth David's is her one on bread and I would love to get hold of it and re-read it (not to mention all the others). I know now that this was one which she spent a great deal of time researching from an historical as well as a practical perspective.

I have also been thinking about food and expediency today. There is so much handwringing over the horrors of our recent past in food writing. Too much fat, not enough animals, overprocessed, too many animals, white grain, brown grain, the list goes on. Yet surely food consumption changes take place for perfectly understandable reasons. The householders who embraced pre-packaged food after World War Two had very good reasons for preferring to have time to do things other than stand at the stove. I admire them, frankly. Thousands of years ago when people embraced grains as well as proteins and herbs, I imagine the fact that you could gain weight and feel full more easily with grain-based meals was most advantageous. Only the most powerful were not a harvest away from hunger and a little fat around the belly must have been useful.

The fashions of food right now are fragmented in a rather post-modern way. In a multicultural society, most of us understand that religious beliefs can shape food consumption beyond the fish-on-Fridays-for Catholics that our Pakeha parents and grandparents knew. Everyone has heard of veganism, even if it does still hold freakshow status for some of my relatives who quizz my sister on meat each time they see her. Gluten-free, dairy-free, nut allergies and egg intolerance - these are all familiar terms to those of us with young children right now. If none of them apply to our own offspring, then we know of children at kindy or Playcentre for whom these are very important terms.

The official mantra which is maintained by the government and mainstream nutritionists is that fat is bad, most particularly fat from animals. Grains are good for these people and although sugar and processed foods are supposed to be in moderation, for some reason the focus often falls squarely on fats. Those of us who find the principles of the Weston A Price Foundation of value may or may not find some of Sally Fallon's research compelling (the criticism that she quotes in a circular and esoteric fashion is well placed in my opinion), but there is something which rings true about her text and our experiences as we flick off the low fat salad dressing and follow Michael Pollan's advice to eat food like our grandmas ate. I recently read about the blood type diets and while it makes logical sense, particularly in explaining why some people thrive on vegetarian and vegan foods and others find themselves so much healthier with more meat and more animal fat, there is a didactism in Dr D'Adamo's approach which ultimately put me off.

We are the generation with food allergies and intolerances on a mystifying scale. For me, the most salient factor is the whopping amount of antibiotics which us children of the seventies and eighties, who are now parents ourselves, ingested. No doubt one part of a larger puzzle, but the most significant piece for me. If we seem obsessed with what we put into our bodies, then it is not imaginary, but an attempt to balance systems which show serious signs of imbalance. Putting our collective trust in the medical system has empowered pharmaceutical companies and saved some lives. It has also disempowered many people, and food is one way in which unwell people seek to empower themselves, particularly those with auto-immune diseases which do not respond well to drugs.

The control of food is not only about 'health' or about body shape as it correlates to media models of sexiness, but also about control. This is most extremely seen in traditions of religious persons, in many faith contexts, fasting for ritual and sometimes ever-increasing periods of time. But it is more pervasive on a widespread scale as a sign of mind and body control. The 'good' person chooses his or her food carefully and modestly, just as they choose their mate carefully and just once. It is no accident that the narratives focusing on the control of food intake focus on women; in a patriarchal society the need to control the physical urges of women is paramount. A woman entirely at home in her own body is a dangerous thing to a power structure which requires endless expenditure on diet foods, gym subscriptions and fashionable clothing.

What I love about Elizabeth David is her determination to live her life her way, to fight passionately for what she believed was the best choice, and her joy in food.

Tonight's walk along the beach. Almost an entire day without rain.