A version of this piece originally appeared in German in the Slow Food Magazin 04-2017.
As a college student, I ate a lot of green-brown stew. I may have had different plans, but for a while, everything I started cooking ended up as the same sort of undistinguishable concoction. I did not yet have the understanding of how different ingredients behave in the pot, and how I could maintain their distinct textures and flavours. Recipes were of no great help when the stove was lit and all types of things were gurgling here and hissing there, distracting from the instructions in small print in the recipe book – if it wasn’t too late for those already. It was frustrating, because I would have liked to eat something other than greenish mush, something that more closely resembled the appetizing pictures in the cookbooks. If I did indeed cook from a book, because I rarely could actually afford to buy a whole set of ingredients as required by the recipe at the time.
I heard Gillian Slovo, the South African-born author, last Saturday at the International Literature Festival Dublin 2017. She was talking, along with fellow writer Danielle McLaughlin, to author and psychotherapist Susie Orbach, on the topic of Why We Write. Orbach was fantastic in gently teasing out subtexts and hidden corners of thoughts – it felt more like being privy to an intimate conversation than listening to a panel discussion where, in the worst cases, the same old clichés are being rehearsed.
Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956) is mostly remembered today because of a children’s book. He created Winnie-the-Pooh, the loveable bumbling teddy bear and his friends, putting his little son Christopher Robin as a character into the stories. But Milne wrote many more things – plays, poems, novels and newspaper columns. Continue reading →
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was a French novelist, dramatist and poet, and is considered one of the greatest French writers. Outside of France, his best-known novels are Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, although many may know them through their adaptations into numerous films, plays and musicals. Continue reading →
Paul Schmidt (1934-1999) was a US American professor of literature and translator of mainly Russian and German authors (Chekhov, Brecht…). He also wrote poems, plays and essays himself.
The above quote was taken from his essay “A Winter’s Feast”, published in Parnassus – Poetry in Review in 1990. The essay reflects on a passage from Russian author Alexander Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin, which was entirely written in verse. Continue reading →
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936) was an English journalist, writer and critic. He is now best known for his books around the fictional priest-detective Father Brown, but he was a prolific writer on many topics, publishing around 80 books and 4000 essays. He was fond of using humour in his writing, though they often dealt with serious topics such as politics, economics, philosophy and theology. This quote is taken from his essay “Cheese”, from the collection Alarms and Discursions (1910). The essay starts light-heartedly and even nonsensically, bemoaning the “neglect of cheese in European Literature”, but turns into a reflection about civilisation and modern society, and the value of diversity within them. “Good” civilisations are “varying and yielding, because they are alive,” he writes. Like good cheese.
A few Sundays ago, I made my first jam. Orange marmalade to be precise, from untreated Sicilian blood oranges. It took me a few hours, and I had to wash the kitchen floor and myself afterwards because everything got a bit sticky, but I did it. That evening I was sitting on my couch just looking at those glorious five jam jars with their orange-red filling. Proud as if I’d laid an egg.
Since then, I’ve made my own apple sauce and taralli (sort of pretzels), and there’s a box of orange peel in my freezer waiting to be candied. I am a bit surprised myself by my recent domestic adventures. But there is a reason behind all this. What inspired me to the jam-making…well, actually, that’s the point. I was not inspired, I was pushed. By 10kg of beautiful Sicilian oranges sitting in my hallway. My colleague’s brother has an orchard somewhere at the south-eastern corner of Sicily, and she organised a delivery of oranges up to Piemonte, for a good price, but you had to take 10kg minimum. What are you going to do with so many oranges? Marmalade, that’s what. Because you don’t want a single one of them go to waste… Continue reading →