Friday, 15 August 2014


“What do I eat an hors d’oeuvre for? Because I have a drink, and then I have to have blotting paper in my tummy.” - Constantine Stackelberg

Food Friday today is offering you a quick way to prepare an hors d’oeuvre for unexpected visitors who have just “popped in” unexpectedly. As long you have the ingredients at hand, that is, or if the supermarket is across the road.

Smoked Oyster Hors d’ Oeuvre

Crackers or savoury biscuits
1 tin of smoked oysters in oil
1 tub of prepared taramosalata (greek pink caviar dip)
Capers for garnishing
Lemon slices for garnishing


Drain the oysters and put one or two (depending on size) on each cracker.
Put a dollop of taramosalata on each oyster.
Add the capers on top of the taramosalata.
Garnish the platter with lemon slices.

There you are, a simple and very tasty amuse-bouche. Please leave your own recipe ideas on Mr Linky below:

Thursday, 14 August 2014


“Where words leave off, music begins.” ― Heinrich Heine

Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (8 June 1671 – 17 January 1751) was an Italian Baroque composer. While famous in his day as an opera composer, he is mainly remembered today for his instrumental music, such as the concertos, some of which are regularly recorded.

Albinoni was born in Venice, Republic of Venice, to Antonio Albinoni, a wealthy paper merchant in Venice, and he studied violin and singing. Relatively little is known about his life, especially considering his contemporary stature as a composer, and the comparatively well-documented period in which he lived. In 1694 he dedicated his Opus 1 to the fellow-Venetian, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII); Ottoboni was an important patron in Rome of other composers, such as Arcangelo Corelli. His first opera, “Zenobia, regina de Palmireni”, was produced in Venice in 1694.

Albinoni was possibly employed in 1700 as a violinist to Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, to whom he dedicated his Opus 2 collection of instrumental pieces. In 1701 he wrote his hugely popular suites Opus 3, and dedicated that collection to Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1705, he was married; Antonino Biffi, the maestro di cappella of San Marco was a witness, and evidently was a friend of Albinoni’s. Albinoni seems to have no other connection with that primary musical establishment in Venice, however, and achieved his early fame as an opera composer at many cities in Italy, including Venice, Genoa, Bologna, Mantua, Udine, Piacenza, and Naples. During this time he was also composing instrumental music in abundance: prior to 1705, he mostly wrote trio sonatas and violin concertos, but between then and 1719 he wrote solo sonatas and concertos for oboe.

Unlike most composers of his time, he appears never to have sought a post at either a church or noble court, but then he was a man of independent means and had the option to compose music independently. In 1722, Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, to whom Albinoni had dedicated a set of twelve concertos, invited him to direct two of his operas in Munich. Around 1740, a collection of Albinoni’s violin sonatas was published in France as a posthumous work, and scholars long presumed that meant that Albinoni had died by that time. However, it appears he lived on in Venice in obscurity; a record from the parish of San Barnaba indicates Tomaso Albinoni died in Venice in 1751, of diabetes mellitus.

The famous “Adagio in G minor” for violin, strings and organ, the subject of many modern recordings, is by some thought to be a musical hoax composed by Remo Giazotto. However, a discovery by musicologist Muska Mangano, Giazotto’s last assistant before his death, brought up new findings. Among Giazotto’s papers she discovered a modern but independent manuscript transcription of the figured bass portion and six fragmentary bars of the first violin, bearing in the top right-hand corner a stamp stating unequivocally the Dresden provenance of the original from which it was taken. This provides support for Giazottos account that he did base his composition on a baroque source.

Here are the 12 Concertos, Op. 9, by Tomaso Albinoni, played by the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood. The illustration is Anton Domenico Gabbiani’s (13 February 1652 – 22 November 1726) “Portrait of Three Musicians of the Medici Court”.


“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” - Karl Marx

Do you like gadgets? I do! Are you a technology junkie? I am! Do you spend time looking at new developments in electronics, look for labour-saving devices, enjoy finding snazzy new thingamajigs, doodads, thingamabobs and doohickeys? I do! Whether I end up buying any of these is a moot point. However, I do so enjoy window-shopping! Technological developments nowadays mean that whatever we use in our home is rapidly become obsolete and we are often forced to keep up or risk being left on the wayside.

An acquaintance was describing to me the odyssey she had experienced when she was trying to find a new ‘walkman’ to replace the one that went bung on her. She went into many shops looking for it and after talking to the salespeople, she got blank looks, incredulous gawking and snide remarks about “antiques”. I had to explain to her what mp3 files were and that nowadays it was all to do with computers, ripping, downloading, ipods and mp3 players and the such-like (she ended up finding a walkman, by the way, and she was so very pleased!).

In the kitchen, the situation is not much better. We are besieged by all sorts of technology to make the cook’s life “easier”. Don't get me wrong, I love my toaster, the dishwasher and the electric mixer… But one has to draw the line somewhere. Visiting an appliance shop where kitchen doodahs are sold can be a frightening experience. Let me see if I can give you a (of necessity, partial) list of what is available: Jaffle makers, pie makers, bread machines, waffle makers, hot dog machines, popcorn makers, vegetable steamers, soda makers, electric woks, fairy floss makers, cappuccino frothers, crepe makers, rice cookers, electric frying pans, electric pizza makers, ice cream makers, electric whisks, mixers, cocktail stirrers, coffee machines, toasters, grillers, sandwich makers, egg coddlers, egg poachers, egg boilers, omelette makers, electric pans, skillets, steak cookers, rissole makers, chip machines, chip makers, chip cookers, deep friers, food processors, liquidisers, juice extractors, citrus squeezers, electric can openers, knife sharpeners, etc, etc… And yes, people are buying all of  these things, otherwise they wouldn't be making them and selling them, would they?

Add to that several amazing gadgets that you simply can’t live without: For example, apple corers, cherry pitters, egg separators, banana slicers, bean destringers, cake done-ness skewers, wine thermometers, turkey basters, cookie cutters themed for all major holidays of the year, melon ballers, butter curlers, citrus zesters, garlic presses, waiters’ friends, bottle openers of the most intricate designs, several astounding models of bottle resealers, etc, etc…

Do you get my drift? To fully equip your kitchen and be a mastercook you need to probably quadruple its size so all of these wonderful machines can be stored in it and also be conveniently at hand. You need to mortgage your house or sell your children (probably both) in order to buy all of these things and then of course, you need to spend all of your day in the kitchen cooking and using these infernal machines so that you get value for money out of them!

Seriously now, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life was as a guest in the house of relatives of a friend that I visited in Crete. It was in a small village halfway up a mountain. The kitchen was very old, the cooking utensils sparse, the conditions Spartan. A wonderful impromptu omelette was prepared with freshly laid eggs, cheese, prosciutto (the Cretan equivalent thereof) and some wild herbs. A green salad, fresh from the garden was complemented by freshly baked bread and all washed down with a home-made fine red wine. Good dinner etiquette and silver service, white damask tablecloths, embroidered linen and crystal glasses? Well this meal was nothing like that. However, the company was delightful, the hospitality heartfelt and genuine, the meal simple and delicious. It was prepared easily and with the minimum of utensils in primitive facilities, but consumed with gusto and enjoyed by everyone.

Aren’t we making our life more and more difficult as time goes by? Aren’t our “labour-saving” devices getting to be anything but? Aren’t we becoming slaves of the technology? Don’t we have to draw a line of reason somewhere?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


“Try to keep your soul young and quivering right up to old age.” - George Sand

Poetry Jam has given its followers the theme of “Almonds” this week. This is quite appropriate for us in the Southern Hemisphere, as the almond trees have blossomed exuberantly this week – remembering that our August is the wintry equivalent of February in the North. The rashness of the almond tree, blooming in what is effectively still Winter, is proverbial. And yet, the tree flowers and sets fruit, yielding a crop of delicious nuts…

Almond Blossom

In Winter’s last throes, when snow and sleet still fall,
When icy winds shake the bare and thorny branches,
The almond tree breaks out in full bloom –
Defiantly, or foolishly perhaps,
Its candid blossoms, as if of snow fashioned.

When shivering passers-by, chance beneath the tree
The petals fall, like fragrant snowflakes,
Covering woollens and Winter hats with blossom;
There’s hope promised and a quickening of the blood,
With hints of Spring in frozen atmosphere expressed.

As years weigh heavily on my bent shoulders,
And as my skin wrinkles every day even more deeply,
My heart thrills and beats a little faster –
Defiantly, or foolishly perhaps,
Its pulse intense and strong, as if I were an adolescent.

When passers-by see my smiling face, they smile back,
Unknowingly, my mood proving contagious
And making them glow with unexplained elation;
There’s hope promised and a quickening of the blood,
With hints of love, even in hardened arteries felt.


“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

The Lüscher Colour Test is a famous personality test that was devised by psychologist Max Lüscher in 1969. It has been used effectively in advertising, automotive and the fashion industry for many years now. You can try it yourself and the results you get are to be compared with an extremely large database, gathered by Lüscher and his colleagues over many years and trials. The results can be very revealing, maybe surprising, but hopefully very helpful to you as a means of gaining insight into your psyche.

I have often taken the test over several decades and have been surprised as how my personality seems to have changed and also how accurately the test reflected these changes, which I have perceived myself. It seems quite amazing that such a simple thing as selecting colours in terms of preference, can reveal much about our emotional and mental states…

You can take this test online yourself here:
And you can find out more details about the test here:üscher_color_test

Monday, 11 August 2014


“Film is like a personal diary, a notebook or a monologue by someone who tries to justify himself before a camera.” - Jean-Luc Godard

Movie Monday today is devoted to an old Hollywood film, John Ford’s 1953 “Mogambo” with Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly.  We watched this on DVD yesterday and despite its age and slightly passé atmosphere, we rather enjoyed it. We made a matinée of it, in fact, with soft fizzy drinks, home-made popcorn and the heater going full blast as it was cold and wet outside.

Rather than concentrating on the story, which was a simple love triangle, I found myself looking more at the cinematography (beautiful!), direction (impeccable) and the chemistry between the Hollywood veterans. The locations in Africa were also breathtakingly beautiful and the film was rather interesting in that the stance taken is one of green environmentalism, with Gable not wishing to hurt animals if he can…

This film is a remake of the 1932 movie “Red Dust”, also with Clark Gable in the lead. Amazingly, the 20 years that passed the two movies did nothing to diminish Gable’s shine and although the more recent film has the advantages of technicolour, gorgeous locations and great on-location safari shots, the older black-and-white film is steamier and more reliant on the plot and chemistry between the stars for its appeal.

Jean Harlow was Gable’s co-star in the older film, a part taken by Gardner in the more recent one. Mary Astor has the role taken in the later film by Grace Kelly. Harlow and Gable have wonderful chemistry together, and the same may be said of Gardner and Gable, however, the on screen interaction between Grace Kelly and Gable falls flat. This is curious as the two enjoyed a steamy real life love affair for several months around the time this film was made.

I think that it’s worthwhile seeing both films and comparing them. I really like the old Hollywood films and some of the 1930s and 1940s are amazingly good, some are classics that will never age and a few are real masterpieces.  Both “Red Dust” and “Mogambo” are good films, and a good to watch if you wish for some classic Hollywood escapism with great performances by some of Hollywood’s “Sacred Cows”. They don't make stars like that in Tinsel Town any more…