Posts Tagged ‘France’

A sigh of relief or is there more to come?

April 24, 2017

 

Getting up early is a habit that I indulge in each morning. Around 6.30 am the kettle is put on. The kettle is made of stainless steel, has a whistle and its water is boiled on gas. It is almost the first sound that is heard in this household every morning. The silver crested cockatoos are usually the first at that lovely honeyed twilight betwixt dark night and morn’s light.

It’s been three weeks now since I had my morning’s coffee. I swapped over to tea instead.  Helvi still insists on her first drink to be coffee. Making both coffee and tea each morning is a rather nice change from the earlier solo beverage routine. This morning was special. France had voted.

Anxiety always follows me in a symbiotic relationship. I am sure things would just not be the same if all went smooth.  That was one reason I jumped out of bed with a bit more than the usual sprightliness this morning. Watching last night’s news with Le Pen and its right-wing antics had me all keyed up. Last time I felt similar pangs of fear was during the Dutch elections when Geert Wilders was in the running. I felt most ebullient when he was dealt a mortal blow. But…France seemed a different kettle of poisson.

What joy, what relief greeted me opening ABC’s news. Marine le Pen was second. The other main parties will now back the Emmanuel Macron who came in first getting 24% of the vote. The new wonder boy is likened to Canada’s Trudeau. He is on the right  side of politics but in a refreshing twist is actually promising an increase in welfare.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Macron

Just cop this!

“he is “neither right nor left” and that he advocates “a collective solidarity”

And what really attracts me is the following;

“In his book Revolution, published in November 2016, Macron presents himself as both a “leftist” and a “liberal … if by liberalism one means trust in man.”[39] With his party En Marche!, Macron’s stated aim is to transcend the left–right divide in a manner similar to François Bayrou or Jacques Chaban-Delmas, asserting that “the real divide in our country … is between progressives and conservatives”. With the launch of his independent candidacy and his use of anti-establishment rhetoric, Macron has been labelled a “populist” by some observers, notably Manuel Valls, but Macron rejects this term.”[40][41]

France does not suffer from the Westminster political system,  wherein any change is almost impossible to achieve seeing the aim of the British system is to forever try and knock the opposition out by endless warring and shouting from a chair high up ‘order- order.’

With the German right wing in retreat the world is again showing signs that xenophobia and fear of the foreign might be fading. I don’t know how we in Australia will go. At least this government is also getting on the nose, and I don’t think Pauline Hanson is making much headway anymore either.

I feel so much better now, and might even have a coffee again.

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Vive la France

July 11, 2013

Zaporizhian-Cossacks-300x233
Vive la France

Somewhere in the bowels of this blog is a piece about a meal of ‘Boeuf de Tartare avec un oeuf’ (beef tartar), I was unwittingly exposed to while in France. It was in the city of Montpelier to be precise… It caused some hilarity when my ignorance about the world of ‘gastronomigue de France’ was so mercilessly and brutally shown up.

A few weeks before this momentous and shameful event we had flown into Marseille only to be marooned at the airport. The French farmers were angry again and had surrounded the airport with their tractors, sharpened scythes and red faces.

No one could get in or out. We had organized a French Citroen to be rented some weeks before in Australia. We were given the keys at the Marseille Hire-car desk but apart from opening the doors and sitting in the car, we could not drive anywhere thanks to the boycott. I turned the key and tried the engine. A few times going brrrm, brrrrrooom, but that’s about all. The car was brand new and had just done a few hundred meters. It was also the smallest car we had ever sat in, more like putting on a jacket than stepping in a car, but it was automatic. For me having to change driving on the right, automatic was tres important.

One farmer took pity on us. Nothing has ever beaten the sheer friendliness and French ‘fraternite and egalite’ of that farmer ever since. Perhaps he recognized the farmer in me? Anyway, he moved his tractor and beckoned a friend of his to lead us to freedom. Alors, alors he kept saying. We drove over a small kerb and along the edge of the runways passing countless stranded planes, followed by a dirt track and voila, we were near the highway towards Montpellier. He waved goodbye and we shouted ‘merci beaucoup’, followed by a heartfelt ‘au revoir. I had exhausted just about all my French.

A few weeks after:

We were seated in a below footpath restaurant on a cobbled stone narrow street in Montpellier. The atmosphere was muted as were the lights. Couples were holding hands and whispering sweet nothingness while picking at their greens and patate de frites… Helvi ordered a sensible filet mignon done rare, and I softly asked for a beef tartar done ‘medium’ s’il vous plait. The Garcon laughed heartily. I did not think it was that funny.

Helvi, ‘why do you always play the fool? Pardonez moi, I asked? She answered me, ‘beef tartar is raw meat’. No, it’s not. It is beef very rare and tenderized as it used to traditionally done under the horse saddles of wild Mongolian Tartars in pursuit of Cossacks deep inside the Crimea. It is the rarest of meat but only just cooked for a minute or so.

The horrible truth was soon delivered to our table. Helvi was right. A massive blob of raw mince and a raw quivering egg on top was facing me across from a triumphant Helvi. I told you, she sweetly smiled. I don’t know why I thought it was tender steak, but we all sometimes carry lifelong misconceptions, don’t we? I genuinely thought the term ‘beef tartar’ came from an historical fact.

Helvi also drove home another truth about those wild Tartars riding on horses and saddles laden with steaks underneath. “They ride their horses bareback, no saddles.” Can you even imagine riding a horse that way sitting bare-bum on your steak tenderizing it all day? They eat a lot of cabbage as well, she added mischievously?

It just never stops.

Pancakes ( Our diabolical regression in the Art of cooking)

January 30, 2013

Of course, our eating habits have changed. Who would have thought mums now buy a plastic bottle with the advice ‘just shake it’? The ‘just shake it’ seems to be a prepared kind of pancake mix. I would imagine the intending cook fills up the empty space in the plastic bottle with milk and then ‘just shake’ it, with mixture ready for pancake making. It probably makes about five or six pancakes and at $ 1.85 works out at the outrageous price of 30cents a pancake, not including the golden syrup or jam on top. Perhaps the ‘just shake it’ has been embedded from a latent subliminal message from eager husbands pestering tired wives late at night. A clever use of product enhancement.

It must be back-breaking work to put flour in a bowl, and then add some milk, a couple of eggs and whisk the lot together and get the old fashioned pan-cake mixture for a quarter of the cost. Walking slowly past the supermarket’s shelves there were other similar products. A cheese in a tube, some powder that turns into instant mashed potato, but the most irksome of them all, and H is so sick of me commenting on them, are…simmering sauces. My eyes forever keeping guard on our dietary habits, I even spotted a kind of meat-spread in a tube. It was called, I think, devilish spread which came in mild and spicy.

Yet, again, I switched on the telly and it’s almost obligatory now to find and watch a cooking show. No matter what time, there is someone with eyes turned heavenly upwards, saying ‘oh, how yum’ or ‘wow’. Fresh ingredients are tossed together; fish, meat, snails, frogs are being infused, thrown about and cooked almost to the point of a kind of Le Mans’ car race.

It’s all very confusing. There are options in watching French, Italian; Spanish cooks either cooking away in their own country or in top restaurants in Britain. They seem so enthusiastic, you wonder if they have mattresses tucked behind those huge gleaming stainless steel stoves and just take quick naps in between the stacking of delicious looking char-grilled hearts of goats and noodles with infused ginger and deep fried shreds and strips of celeriac with chanterelle-shiitake mushrooms on giant plates.

Then there are culinary delights shown in Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma, even Thailand. Fresh fish swimming, frogs are croaking and eels or snakes still slithering about. Within minutes it is all cooked and on the table with huge smiling families feasting away.

If pancake making is the only thing my grandkids will remember me by; so be it. It would be nice to have an epitaph on my pebble crete slab; “here lies the greatest pancake- maker” (but keep off the grass).

Cooking needs to be an act of love. You can never cook something in total indifference. When the kids are over, pancake making has almost religious overtones. Their own parents’ pancakes seem to lack ‘crispy edges’, I was told by Max who is the youngest of the three grandsons, adding, ‘they are alright though’, not wanting to dob in his parents.

It is not as if I swoon over every pancake but I do hand mix the dough adding water and pinch of salt. I use real butter and cook on two cast iron solid pans on high heat. When I gently lower the mixture into the pan, the edges frizzle and sizzle out into the much desired golden crispy and crunchy edging. While hot, I rush them over to the kids seated at the round table, fork and knife in hand and at the ready. I squeeze some lime juice and sprinkle a light dusting of sugar.

I leave the rest to them.

The Map of Love

June 29, 2012

The map of love

277 Comments

Gerard Oosterman

The most awe inspiring part of a woman is her brain.

The multi-tasking capabilities of the female are well known. Many professors are spending their entire lives studying this phenomenon, trying to figure it out. Are there genetic codes or markers there?

The male on the other hand has trouble just doing a single task, and of course always expects great admiration and respect to follow.

The question is how this multi-tasking of females came about. Is it learned or gene related. Mothers with one on breast and another on hip (babies, not husband) can do cooking, cleaning, talking and write a thesis on 17th century Latvian ceramics…all at the same time.

The female does multi-task. The male with prompting can do serial tasking at best. He does one thing at a time. He changes his underwear one day; next day puts it on top of laundry basket and with luck on the third day or week after, might put his underwear actually into the basket.

During the long and bitter winters here in the Southern Highlands, well above 800 metres, one of the many single tasks that falls on my shoulders is the lighting of just one cube of fire lighter. Most nights our two fires are still alive next morning and just need topping up with wood. If lingering in the warm bed takes long, the risk is that a fire has to be started from scratch with the fire lighter starter.

This takes a male’s full concentration, and stillness is required now, no talking or interruption. The striking of the match first, then slowly approach the cube which is carefully underneath some kindling. Will the match die out or stay alive? The success of a positive day is now in the balance. If the fire starts, all is fine, if not, it might require an accusation to others that it is just not possible to do so many things at once. It will pale the morning.

In Norway, the proven multi-tasking capabilities of women is cleverly exploited and by 2010 40 per cent of company management must be women. If this is not done, companies will be closed down and all men sacked.

There is one thing that man is superior in. Map reading.

Not even Norwegian women can read maps. I suspect that maps are hieroglyphics to most women. Even the concept of North and South are mysterious entities, steeped with bearded explorers and arctic frosts. What is the genetic marker for that failure?

The male map reading genetic marker has been bedded down. This is a man’s speciality and the one thing standing between male self esteem and total annihilation. Keep this in mind fellows. Use it. It is not much, but hey, it is better than standing on a Norwegian street corner during winter after being kicked out of the warm office by a rampaging multi-tasking female work force.

Years ago, I converted a VW Kombi into a sleeper/camper with the audacious use of self tappers and window curtains together with short wooden legs hinged to chip board for a three-quarter bed. We decided to go to France and headed first for Paris.

After visits to Seine bridges, and Musee Du Louvre with Mona Lisa, Left Bank and Montmartre, we ended up at the Champs D’elysees and right in the middle of this wide Avenue we decided to set up camp on the ‘troittoir’. We thought it strange that no one else was parked there but next morning, much to our relief, there were many others busy with putting on trousers and blouses. No doubt, many wrapping up the fruits of true love as well.

We planned to have a breakfast of croissants and coffee after which a tour of the Loire Valley with Chateaux was in mind. This is where the inferior map reading by females became obvious.

Ecouter svp!

Getting out of Paris is almost impossible. This is why many give up and remain there forever. We ended up at a huge round-about with a bronzed statue of a large man on a large horse in the middle. We circled round and round this horse statue like a shark around a cadaver.

Finally, we stopped to ask a ‘gendarme’ how to get away from this endless round-about with the big horse. He not only kindly directed us but gave a special map on how to get off this round-about and towards the Loire Valley with its promise of vin blanc and chateaux.

We did manage to get away, but it was only temporarily, a huge detour, and back on the same round- about circle, no escape; we seemed destined to just keep on rounding and rounding. We were starting to wonder if all roads in Paris always ended up at this same round-about. Was it a fiendish plot to get at English speaking tourists and McDonalds and future Starbucks?

I was getting frustrated but decided to stop and ask police again for directions. Would you believe it, the same policeman? This time he pencilled directions on the map. Again, stoically we drove off. Another 50km, and through banlieues and Algeria, the horse statue again. I was sobbing now, close to being catatonic and pleading with my female partner to direct me from map. Half an hour, looked out and saw this fu###ng horse and the same policeman. He was laughing and pointing at my Kombi.

I then glanced sideways. The map was held upside down.

Remember now, men. We are good at map reading.

Greek Drama with Euro-Neuro

June 18, 2012

Greek Drama with Euro-Neuro.

The unity of Europe with a common currency was a dream that was destined to become a nightmare. It was conceived in good faith but the genes were so diverse and far apart that the result could not have been but a mule, neither a horse nor a donkey, a sterile disambiguation at best.

The United States of America has at least a common language and common culture. Going from north to south there is a common architecture, language and common goals. Through work and credit card they hope to ‘make it’. A simple philosophy of materialism that more or less, (lately a bit less,) that has stood the test of time. And with Hollywood and Gridiron thrown it they have somehow achieved a kind of unity that by and large seemed to have worked for its population.

Just look at Europe and its diversity. The question should be asked; why this need for commonality? If anything, its diversity should have been encouraged and maintained instead of it artificial made homogenous with the push of the Euro.

The Greeks should have been allowed to remain the architects of democracy. Let them sit around cafes, it worked very well in the past. There is a need for the Greeks to do their own thing.

What would a common European culture be like? Should it be like the British, a hotchpotch of chasing something forever obsolete with their love of complicated tradition and dislike of the new? Should it be the simplicity of the Scandinavians or the thriftiness of the Dutch?  Or should it embrace the German method with its icy emphasis on order and meticulous organizational qualities? Perhaps the French way, with its food and love of fashion and truffles. Spain with paella. Oh, Portugal with its deliciously char-grilled sardines. Unforgettable.

The different work ethics, the different languages and above all the different cultures cannot make for a united Europe with all ambitions and its entire people being the same. Europe should celebrate its diversity and share the good but not at the cost of differences.

Years ago, train travel on the Continental express Genoa- Stockholm was an unforgettable experience, not least with all the pass-port controls and different currencies. Why did we ever think this needed weeding out? What is the benefit of this Euro efficiency when it all ends up being boring and monotonous? What are we alive for? Remember the custom officers (Douanes)? They all wore different caps and showed such different idiosyncrasies. Some would look you in the eye and try and determine levels of honesty, or, if capable of smuggling rare cheeses or African diamonds. Other would just nod and walk on. In Genoa you bought a small bottle of wine and half a chicken passed through the train window for 500 lire. In Germany, a Brodchen mit Kase or Bock-wurst.

What’s the point of going to Greece or any European country and not use a different currency? I went to Melbourne last week-end and ended up landing in a different kind of Sydney. Not one Iota of difference. I could just as well been in Perth. The same Harvey Norman frontages, the same large car parks with Big Macs golden arches. The sameness of a stifling all encompassing ennui of dreary monotonous architecture. Is that what the Euro-Visional behavioral architects envisaged? Surely not!

From Rambo Amadeus;

Euro skeptics, analphabetic, try not be hermetic. Euro-Neuro, not be skeptic, hermetic, neurotic, pathetic and analphabetic.

Forget all cosmetic, you need new poetic etc.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHnqF5PLP2w

Beef Tartare avec un oeuf

June 1, 2012

Boeuf Tartare avec un oeuf.

Posted on August 3, 2009by

The Geoffrey Russell Nightmare Special

 

The walk around Montpellier resulted in needing to have lunch so we dove into one of those intimate little lunch and dinner places that seem to appear as soon as one gets hungry, especially in France and even more so in the south of France.

We were shown our seat and left to ponder the menu including a wine list. The atmosphere was intimate with lighting subdued and with all sound reduced to a sotto voce. The garcon in white jacket and with the right un-pretentious manner, putting even the most belligerent customer at ease, came around our table to take the lunch order. The choice by Helvi was a sound one, a piece of top side beef with vegetables and ‘Pomme de Frites’. She was asked for her preferred choice of the ‘boeuf’ to be rare, medium or well-done.  Medium was her choice.

I had chosen the ‘Beef Tartar’, and told the garcon to have it ‘medium’ cooked as well. He laughed heartily but I did not really understand the finer points of his laughter until after the dish arrived. A plate of raw minced steak with a raw egg in the middle of it was what finally turned up on our dimly lit table. There was nothing cooked about it, never mind the ‘medium’ part of it.

I bravely finished the plate but Helvi sensed my lack of enthusiasm and asked if everything was alright. I confessed my total ignorance of beef tartar and thought that the dish was a kind of steak done rare. A bit Russian perhaps, with images of horse riding Tartars doing the cooking of the meat on a fire after a fierce battle deep inside the Crimea.  This embarrassing dereliction of culinary knowledge has been a source of endless mirth and enlightenment to our friends when the tale of medium cooked ‘beef tartar’ at Montpellier gets re-told by my beloved wife. It has been an ice breaker at many a social evening.

In the case of readers being surprised by this embarrassment, please consider that so many of my friends probably think nothing of eating vegemite, a food so horrendous to look at, so terrible to contemplate inside its brown jar, that I feel justified in making slight of this minor slip up.

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Idealism in Chaos ( A Greek Tragedy)

May 15, 2012

χάος

Another big fall in world markets, billions will be wiped off and Greece is tottering on the brink of total economic collapse. Good morning!

Some European countries which were supposed to be examples of how society ought to distribute wealth more equitable are now being lined up to fall like a row of dominoes set up on the dining table of good and well intentioned but un- equitable sharing of the rich Euro baked pork dish with crackling good social security till the grave.

What went wrong? Was it the apple sauce?

The answer might well come from the dining table itself. The excessive ladling out of all those goodies without balancing it to an equal generous increase in taxation revenue was always dodgy. The expenditure didn’t match the income. A classic case of economic delusion that one can live beyond means was always a premier lesson at the kindergarten of economics. If you keep scooping the sand out the sandbox will finally be empty.

The lure of getting more with less income seemed to have overtaken the world of capitalism. Election after election the sound economic principles of setting expenditure to income was eroded away. The voters swallowed it like marsh-mellows on a stick held above the fire of greed and avarice. Right wing governments took over with the promise of more for less and we were all seduced by this ugly Judas kiss. And look at us now? Will there be blood on the streets once again?

With Portugal and Spain queuing up after Greece with youth unemployment at a staggering fifty percent it seems to be hovering on a similar precipice into economic collapse.

In Australia we keep rubbing hands together with glee in how we seemed to have escaped the GFC turmoil with our scooping up of mineral resources. In the process we seem to forget that this is due to luck much more than sound economics. Take out China, and we too would be lining up at soup-kitchens.

Are we too taken in by the lure of more for less? Notice the upheaval in the suggestion of raising taxation on our resource mining companies. Notice how the Three hot headed Musketeers of our resource companies have taken on Australia and its citizens daring to utter getting paid a fair share of the economic resource pie. Notice too, how the principal of taxing those that defile our environment is fought against tooth and nail. Millions are being spent in advertisement opposing this very sound and principled way of making the environment spoilers pay for it. We too are cruising for a bruising being taken in by the fairy floss of more for less.

At least in Europe there seems to be a return to the left with new governments willing to find a solution in bringing the rich back to the kitchen table of give and take.  In France, the rich will have to pay much more tax and many are questioning how anyone should have more than they can possibly need. Capitalism has gone berserk and the masses are paying for the sins of the rich. The poor, for too long have been denied a share for which they have worked just as hard as the rich, which, in the majority of cases inherited the wealth enabling them, with the regimes of lower and lower taxation, to keep on exploiting handy taxation loopholes and fattening themselves on the pork crackling of lenient taxation laws.

It is not for nothing that the collapsing economic capitalist world is looking anew at Scandinavia. They were always looked at askance and with suspicion. How could a taxation regime of over fifty percent continue to thrive giving its citizens a world of social welfare that would sooner or later end in total collapse and disaster? Well, the Scandinavians did not and now seem to own the only beacon of light and insight in perhaps having a solution for those countries on the brink of economic disaster.

We should perhaps look anew at those prophets of lower taxation being the only way forward. Just look how, with the new budget, we have delayed Foreign Aid? We have the top three wealthiest in our society owning over 30 billion. Or is it 40 billion now?

How just is our society and how moral when we can’t support foreign aid anymore and at the same time support not raising taxation for the obscene wealthy?

Boeuf Tartare avec un Oeuf

March 20, 2011

Boeuf Tartare avec un oeuf.Posted on August 3, 2009 by gerard oosterman

The Geoffrey Russell Nightmare Special

The walk around Montpellier resulted in needing to have lunch so we dove into one of those intimate little lunch and dinner places that seem to appear as soon as one gets hungry, especially in France and even more so in the south of France.

We were shown our seat and left to ponder the menu including a wine list. The atmosphere was intimate with lighting subdued and with all sound reduced to a sotto voce. The garcon in white jacket and with the right un-pretentious manner, putting even the most belligerent customer at ease, came around our table to take the lunch order. The choice by Helvi was a sound one, a piece of top side beef with vegetables and ‘Pomme de Frites’. She was asked for her preferred choice of the ‘boeuf’ to be rare, medium or well-done.  Medium was her choice.

I had chosen the ‘Beef Tartar’, and told the garcon to have it ‘medium’ cooked as well. He laughed heartily but I did not really understand the finer points of his laughter until after the dish arrived. A plate of raw minced steak with a raw egg in the middle of it was what finally turned up on our dimly lit table. There was nothing cooked about it, never mind the ‘medium’ part of it.

I bravely finished the plate but Helvi sensed my lack of enthusiasm and asked if everything was alright. I confessed my total ignorance of beef tartar and thought that the dish was a kind of steak done rare. A bit Russian perhaps, with images of horse riding Tartars doing the cooking of the meat on a fire after a fierce battle deep inside the Crimea.  This embarrassing dereliction of culinary knowledge has been a source of endless mirth and enlightenment to our friends when the tale of medium cooked ‘beef tartar’ at Montpellier gets re-told by my beloved wife. It has been an ice breaker at many a social evening.

In the case of readers being surprised by this embarrassment, please consider that so many of my friends probably think nothing of eating vegemite, a food so horrendous to look at, so terrible to contemplate inside its brown jar, that I feel justified in making slight of this minor slip up.

About gerard oosterman

Of Cheap Wine &Jigsaw of Apartment living

June 17, 2010

By gerard oosterman

 We were there at the tail end of summer and the wine vintage was in full swing. The region of the Languedoc is one of the largest red wine growing areas in the world. Apart from those working in shops or businesses, everyone else, during vintage, all and sundry are into grape harvesting and wine making. No matter where we went or where we stopped, the streets and kerbs were red with the flow of must and wine. We were stepping in it.

 The local farmers were immediately selling the freshly made wine and for less than the cost of a bottle of milk. The larger the quantity, the cheaper the price was. We ended buying the red wine in a five litre plastic container for which one had to pay a deposit. The drinking of those five litres had to be done fairly quickly because as air entered the container, the wine would oxidize and spoil rapidly. We would soon adhere to the routine of buying fresh trout with stick bread from the local boulangerie, fry up garlic in some very excellent olive oil, barbeque the trout and with the dipping of the bread into the oil and garlic mixture eat the trout washed down with copious quantities of the cheap wine.

 The Languedoc area is the largest wine producing area in the world and this region alone produces more wine than the entire United States. During its frenzied vintage height, while we were there, our shoes and car tyres were red from the flooded roadside kerbs and guttering with the spoils of the wine making. I don’t know how, but during the couple of weeks of trout and red wine consumption I found enough sobriety reading a book found on the shelves in the dining room. It was George Perec’s; ‘Life, A User’s manual’. A  great story that involves a large jigsaw puzzle with people and their lives living in apartments forming the pieces of the jigsaw coming together bit by bit, a marvellous story