““Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins, travel writer
A bit of this, a bit of that, this post. First, we’d like to officially explain to the wee hag tromping out in the garden in her wellies that it’s time for her to shove off for the season. But Winter seems rather of a mind to stay for another weekend or three, park on the porch, blow cold all over everything, and criticize our efforts at bundling up. She continues to inconvenience us all with sadistic joy – having been a guest we’d not minded too much lo, these last months, she’s making sure that just before she goes, we remember her. BRRR!
Before the auld hag decided to give us one last memorable blow, Spring was, in fact, springing right along. The snowdrops didn’t show this year – perhaps not enough snow? – but the crocuses are well up (and withered, because of the latest frost), and we even managed to have daffodils in time for St. David’s Day, which was the first of March. As always, those of Welsh ancestry here put a daff in a buttonhole or in their hair – some of them not forced in greenhouses, but picked from the yard or the side of the road. Tulips, which are generally only in bloom here during the last days of April and into May, are pushing up already. The fields – never wholly leaving off their greenery – have shed their dead frozen browns and fairly glow with new life; a few of the more gullible trees have grudgingly put forth a few tentative buds. The hedgerows – always the last to believe that winter has passed – will not be far behind.
In the field next door, the farmer has out new breeding stock. The sheep all have blue bottoms, to show they’ve been visited, and they’re carefully brought in each night to prevent any crafty rams from … perhaps opening the gate and wandering into the field? Prevent competing farmers from wandering off with their impregnated stock? Who knows.
We met with friends for dinner in the city the other night. We’d planned to celebrate a few things – T. finishing another manuscript, getting a really good reviews from Kirkus for her upcoming release, and, quietly a birthday, as well as celebrating D. finishing his corrections. He, alas, disobliged us and has not yet quite finished (having had to finish corrections for a journal piece first). Being of a thorough mien – and not at all interested in further rounds of correction – he’s taken his time, but promises that he’ll be finished before Monday, and has planned a meeting with the advisers again for next Tuesday. Meanwhile, T. is still celebrating, since her mother got her personalized balloons… if you have a remotely unusual name, much of your adolescence seems to be spent searching for versions of your name on license plate key chains and T-shirts. T. is still pleased out of all reason with having her name put on a balloon. Oh, and on, you know, book covers. Compensations for adolescence at last.
On the job front – academic work remains scarce, and applying for multiple jobs seems to be as effective as shouting down a well. In many ways, it’s “who you know,” and D. is trying to decide whether he wants to exploit some connections or if he even wants to work within academia. He’s slightly burnt out on the whole thing. Time will tell. Meanwhile, we finally got the online appointment-maker to work, and are set up to give our biometric details to the UK in return for them extending D’s student visa to August. And then, it’s goodbye Scotland (or, we’re told, we could take a 3-hour train trip to Aberdeen, on the off-chance that they would do our biometric ID’s on a walk-in basis and that getting our biometric ID’s done would speed the process and give us the chance to apply and pay £1,000 for new visas, yay!).
That’s something that rattles around in our heads every day – we are already a little sorry not to have taken pictures backstage at the Royal Concert Hall because “our Christmas show was the last time we’re going to perform there!” We have “last time”-itis, a disease that can strike the victim with intermittent bursts of nostalgia. T. finds herself a little teary-eyed at the end of chorus each week, because this is the last season and the last time we’ll rehearse to sing a Choral Classics concert… (which isn’t quite true; we may have one more in May). Lately she’s been sad that she didn’t buy the score to the Berlioz Te Deum and chose to rent instead. Not that all the scores on earth will be lost after the performance – or even tomorrow – but no, the one marked-up from these rehearsals is the one she wants, and is finagling her way into buying a fresh clean score (she claims that she got the one she has wet in the rain, so it shouldn’t be returned, as it’s damaged) to return with the rented ones, and keeping the other… She does not believe she will regret renting the score to Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, however, because she’s having trouble falling in love with it – which is rare. We have several weeks of rehearsal left before our April 21st performance of that, so time will tell… perhaps she’ll find herself weepy over the clashing modal pitches and parallel vocal movements, which give a plaintive, lamenting sound to the work (it only makes sense, after all Stabat Mater references Mary as “standing mother,” who stood and wept at the cross. A Stabat Mater is a simpler form of requiem.)
All in all, chorus is going well, our Benign Dictator, er, Director, continues to grumble and insult us throughout rehearsals, and and this time around, the doors remain open for tenors (although D. would REALLY like for there to be no more, and particularly no more who are both loud and off-key and can’t count!) and basses (they burble along and who knows / cares if they’re on pitch)) as well as first sopranos (there are enough of them, if only they had some power in their voices) and altos to join even now. However, with the addition of a few gents after Christmas, the tenors are finally coming quite loudly into their own – let’s emphasize quite loudly – they’re so loud that they’re coming into someone else’s own at times, but they’re balancing out. (D. wears an earplug on the left side, so as to be able to hear anything other than … well). The second sopranos continue to be superb, of course. They even have purple pencils which say so.
In response to a few requests, we are, with much amusement, going to post more pictures of our food. While we can no longer in any fashion consider ourselves food bloggers, we still haven’t broken the habit of snapping a shot of the odd cake or icing attempt. In truth, we get ideas visually all the time for meals and that’s why food magazines – or, magazines marketed to women, anyway – have a wealth of glossy, hyper-realistic photographic food images. Our food will *never* photograph that well, but that only means it’s not Photoshopped plastic, and it’s edible…
First up is the classic Southern Italian ribollita. It’s served in many an Italian restaurant, but it’s definitely country food – it’s the Italian equivalent of beans on toast. The word literally means “reboiled,” and apparently, in feudal times peasants gathered the leftovers from the trenchers of their “betters” and dumped them in a pot at home with a little cabbage or kale. The dish always includes leftover bread… so imagine them really clearing the table, and eating after the lords, plate and all.
Our ribollita included bread, but not much bread lasts long enough in this house to go stale! We used instead a chewy and tangy sourdough toast with flax seeds which we made with whole wheat flour – but apparently this batch used white winter wheat, because the bread looks very golden blonde – probably from the flax! Anyway, simmering some lovely cannellini beans, zucchini, onions, carrots, chunked tofu and crushed tomatoes made our “soup” which we garnished with a few shreds of parmesan. Sadly we had no cavolo nero – the dark, leafy Italian kale – or it would have been perfect. As it was, it neared perfection well enough, managing to be both toast and veggie soup at once.
We are eating tons of lentils these days – they’re such a good, inexpensive source of protein that there’s certainly reason to add them to anything. (We were a little alarmed at Alton Brown’s lentil cookie recipe, but… there’s truly no reason to add them to anything. Even cookies… We’ll be trying those… eventually.) We make lentil soup – curried mulligatawny for T., and a blended lentil and veg soup for D., which T. says looks like sludgy brick mortar, because he blends it too much — but, to each their own.
We grew up with lentil loaves, but that’s not been one of the things we’ve made, because… well. As we said: we grew up with lentil loaves. Like a casserole, the “loaf” tends to be considered potluck food, akin to the omnivore cafeteria lunch “mystery meat.” It’s something which might be good, depending on whose mother made it. T. claims that her mother’s lentil loaf was pretty good, but not something even that cookery paragon made very often. D. doesn’t much remember his mother making lentil loaf, but lentil patties, instead… regardless, none of these memories were as clear as they should have been, so we decided it was time to resurrect this dish to see if there’s a reason we don’t make it.
Sadly, no, we did not use the Magic Loaf Generator for this dish. (It is, however, still there for YOU to use!) T. based her sort of thrown-together recipe idea not on past loaves she’s known, which generally call for Special K (?) and eggs, but on on IsaChandra’s lentil meatballs at the Post Punk Vegan blog. She started with minced garlic scapes – hard-stemmed garlic – from the veggie box, and boy, that stuff brings tears to the eyes. Ditto the minced yellow onion. She pulverized a box of stale crackers – about a half cup – then added a quarter cup of nutritional yeast. Two cups of vital wheat gluten, a quarter cup of oat bran, a teaspoon each of sage and oregano, a quarter cup of oil, two tablespoons of soy sauce, a quarter teaspoon of liquid smoke and two teaspoons of dried vegetable bouillon followed. Finally, two cups of lentils in their leftover juice, which was about another cup of broth. This was stirred together until the gluten saturated, and then it had to be kneaded by hand. They didn’t want to come together in anything but small blobs, but this actually is a good sign – we didn’t want them to be too dense. We formed the disparate blobs into temporary loves and lobbed them into two oiled loaf pans.
One loaf got a treatment of about four tablespoons of hot sauce, and the other did not – but both baked for forty-five minutes, covered with foil. They emerged browned and luscious looking with a great savory smell, juicy, meaty texture, and amazingly good flavor. D. suggested slathering his with ketchup; T. …shuddered, and opined that she would prefer hers with spicy apple chutney or mushroom gravy with, say, a fluffy almond studded quinoa, garlic “mash” or veg like peas or corn or kale on the side. It’s a perfect main dish, or lends itself to being cubed into salad or roughly chopped and included in the mother of all omelets. It goes really well in a hearty sandwich with all of the fixings. Most people can’t do that with the traditional squishy potluck loaf.
Because D. no longer gets a Word of the Day from his old coworker, ‘Drew, we’ve been a bit short on an organized collection of Scottish commentary. We do enjoy the bits from the the writer at the Caledonian who parses “Useful Scots Words,” and also find that, on the whole, just about everyone we know is full of uniquely Scottish things to say, and we don’t need much help locating creative speakers. As our time here ticks down, we find ourselves hoarding up the clever and amusing wordplay as we find it.
Just the other day, one of D’s coworker whom T. calls Thing 1 (referencing The Cat in the Hat book by Dr. Seuss – Thing 1 and Thing 2 have the same name; in this case, he’s a David, too) told him that Scots must always discuss the three w’s – Weather, Women and Wine. Well! In honor of National Women’s History month, and because she strutted and vamped and begged D. to snap her picture (and was pole-dancing on a light-pole), we present for your edification today’s personification of Spring.
Also known as The Stirling Gel, she was downtown the other day, showing off her boa, hat, and floral frock – and probably freezing her wee elbows off, but oh, well. Spring is a dashing lass, whose sheer chutzpah will harry along the auld wee hag, Winter, soon enough. We think our Stirling Gel is a perfect personification, and suspect she might have made her dress herself.
And, that’s all the news from Cambusbarron, where it seems all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the sheep are blue-bottomed.