Passion

I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
*

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We are history makers

I must confess to being addicted to Downton Abbey, which my wife and I have binge-watched over the last few weeks.

I revel in the furnishings and costumes and displays of the times. The fashions and the cars have been wonderful. The treatment of the themes and developments of the day and the changing technology, culture and traditions has been well done.

In perspective, the series covers approximately the period from my father’s birth year in 1910 to just before the Great Depression. To think that at the start, there were no telephones and motor vehicles were new-fangled.

How lucky students of history have this rich live display of the times to better understand the context and concepts of values and societal change … and how close we are to history as it happens.

Yikes!! That is a sobering thought! So much has happened since my Dad was born … 

In his lifetime:

  • the horse largely disappeared
  • there were two world wars, his father served in one and he in the other.
  • the atom was split
  • a man stood on the moon
  • telecommunication enslaved the world
  • the degradation of the world was accelerated by oil.
  • the balance of power moved eastwards

I think what we are left with is that change is constant and it is better to anticipate it and embrace it, rather than resent and deny it.

Martin Luther King was wrong: we are the makers of history; we are not its product. Its time we accepted this.

 

The poisons we love

Imagine if chocolate was found to be the cause of a major proliferation of diabetes in children. smarties

Revolting image – sorry! (It will probably kill me too! I love Smarties…).

Would we stop eating chocolate …?

So, what’s my point? Well, it’s the poison we all have built into every aspect of our lives, surrounding us and almost indispensable! I am talking about plasticplastic in all of usPlastic affects human health. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

It doesn’t decompose, it breaks down until we can’t see it and has entered every water system in the world.  Plastic soup anyone?

It is simple. The continued production of plastic must be prohibited – like dangerous drugs are. But plastic is so useful and efficient! Can you imagine your kitchen without Tupperware type containers? Or your house or your car …?

But plastic is very new technology. Its not even a hundred years old. Our parents and grandparents did without it. It’s certainly not essential, it’s useful …. and we are lazy, spoilt and indisciplined. We continually deny what we know is bad for us, because it makes our life easier, more fashionable, funky (think tattoos and body piercing).

I mean dogs lick cane toads for the buzz, for heaven’s sake, why can’t we be stoopid like them?

Plastic producers made plastic functional, fashionable and pervasive. It can’t be their fault – they were doing us all a favour, producing such cheap and useful stuff. But now that they know… it is all different.

In a 2014 Florida USA Court judgment, a tobacco producer was ordered to pay damages of $23 BILLION to a chain smoker’s widow. Think of the damages payable by plastic producers for all the harm caused to the population of the world by pollution and carcinogens in their products!

So next election, vote for the party that produces the best plans to:

  • educate our children about the fact that plastic is poisonous
  • ban the production of plastic
  • generate programs to eradicate or recycle plastic into less harmful products
  • funds research which enables widespread bio-degradation of plastic.

Yeah! I know this is a daydream and if the billions wiser than me can’t see it happening, it is not likely to happen…

plastic scavengeBut how would one dispose of these formerly loved poison lumps? Dump them in the bin, to be a treasure discovered by some Third World scavenger? (Yeah, refuse is exported to people rich, poor countries.)

 

Or chuck them in the river when no-one’s looking?

plastic wave

 

                                                              Apply your mind to save your future!

Reality Check

This video eloquently expresses the future shock boomers and later generations (people just like us who you know) are facing.

It sounds almost poetic; it is quite long, but stick with it (I know it’s hard for you) – it is a major life lesson:

TED video: retirement reality check

Remember that this woman is from affluent America!!

Swallowing our pride and coming out are the hardest thing to do if you’ve grown up in the Consumer Age, keeping up with the Joneses. Downsizing and offloading all that hard earned stuff is not easy.

when I get older

Relying on the State is just foolish. Age pension will shrink as longevity increases.

Check out your parents – they will hide their plight from you; it is anathema for you to help them out!

  • Show them this video
  • Talk to them;
  • ask them to show how they are coping
  • suggest ways for downsizing and trimming sails
  • consider more communal living if it reduces living costs and increases income

If you are young, start now to work out how you are going to live after you retire (probably at age 72).

when I get older i will

My view is that families should combine on rural land and produce as much food as possible.

 

A Patriot

I spell the word with a capital letter. A Patriot to me has always been a person worthy of the highest praise, possessed of the highest virtues.

Until yesterday, when I saw the title of a photograph in an exhibition that I visited with my daughter. It was one of a series of photographs depicting the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, USA. The picture was of a bearded older man in camouflage, clutching a rifle with a sort of blank fervour in his eyes.

I am conservative, a white male (oh dear!) with, I hope, a modicum of balance and perspective. But I didn’t like that label, nor could I criticise it. I talked with my daughter, a teacher, about it. I mentioned that I had once written about the need for the institution of learning about the cardinal virtues and the need for iconic models for our youth and that my view had been criticised. What virtues could beat Courage, Prudence, Temperance and Justice, as proposed by St Thomas Aquinas?

courage  temperance prudence (2) justice for one side

She responded obliquely in the way of the New Age; not contradicting but offering a different viewpoint. She felt that diversity was the key and that inclusiveness and tolerance would yield a good basis for future societal foundations. I felt my gorge rise with hot words of … watering down values and standards to reach a common denominator that would suit all which would not be a standard at all, which was the fault of liberal democracy and… and …  

But I stifled them, stumped by the thought that she was probably right and that I was a dinosaur, out of time and that my steam would be obsolete and silly.

Anyway Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Ze Dong, Pol Pot and Robert Mugabe were probably Patriots too!

Justice fails

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“,  known as Blackstone’s ratio.

Avoid legal punishments as far as possible, and if there are any doubts in the case then use them, for it is better for a judge to err towards leniency than towards punishment”  is a statement attributed to Muhammad.

These are fundamental precepts in the administration of justice.

But the systems in practice fail terribly:

On the one hand, most crimes are undetected and unreported. Because of the above precepts an extremely low percentage, possibly less than 5% of reported crimes result in prosecution.

Where is the justice for victims?

jail birdsOn the other hand,  many people are apprehended by the justice system, processed, imprisoned and almost invariably degraded, dehumanised and criminalised by that experience.

This article was prompted by a TED video presentation by Robin Steinberg on the injustice of the bail system in the US.

The statistics presented were horrifying: on any day in the US, 75% of people charged cannot afford the bail set.

There are over 400, 000 people in custody awaiting trial, unable to pay bail.

jail life

We are talking of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where bail is rarely refused. Imagine what it must be like in less sophisticated societies!

  • If you can’t pay bail, you likely can’t afford a lawyer, are unemployed and struggling to feed your family.
  • If you are employed you will likely be fired, your family .evicted from your home. In jail there is a high risk of assault and rape;
  • you are exposed to hardened criminals and gangs who enforce their demands. You have limited contact with your loved ones.

Jail is an ugly and terrifying place to be.

The bail project is an organisation which pays the bail of those who are unable to do so.

  • 96% of people sponsored in this way, return to face trial
  • Over 50% of these cases are dismissed
  • Less than 2% of those charged  receive jail sentences.

Of those that remain in custody, 90% plead guilty, many just to get out of jail.

The criminal justice system is a cruel failure where most crimes are undetected and many innocents plead guilty to avoid prolonged incarceration.

 

What are the options?

Probably some subordination of individual rights to community interest as universal surveillance becomes the norm..

Can you see that getting through existing Parliaments in western democracies?

nice day for rev

That is a topic for another day.

 

That’s where that thought went…

My granddaughter asked me to come and play; I replied that I was writing, to which she inquired: Why do you write?

To paint pictures with words … Really?

things to avoidNo, but I usually avoid the answer as I suspect it has something to do with a struggle to confront irrelevance or worse, insignificance.

I like the idea of creating something for others to see. Why does one seek recognition? Is it Pride:  a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements … consciousness of one’s own dignity …?

Wikipedia sets my anxious Catholic-bred mind at rest. Pride can be positive – a humble and content sense of attachment… a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging. Or it can be an irrationally corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments … synonymous with hubris.

Hubris is the terrible sin which saw Lucifer cast out of Heaven and transformed to become Satan. It is essentially placing one’s self above others, which as Satan experienced, attracts God’s great wrath.hubris

Strong individuals who drive themselves on to achieve their goals often start to overemphasize the worth of their own wisdom and fail to seek out or consider the counsel of others. Their thinking takes on a circular nature:

I have achieved because I am wise therefore I need only to follow my own advice…

This lack of regard for others inevitably leads to isolation, avoidance by others and great internal conflict which, when faced with failure  often manifests in uncontrolled outbursts and increased isolation.

The cure for hubris? A mirror could be used to provide perspective; or perhaps a challenge to seek ways to show gratitude frequently. A re-ordering of values and objectives would help – but who would be able to beard the lion in his den?

According to Greek legend and as Lucifer discovered, unchecked hubris leads to Nemesis.

 

I find that I am a great avoider, maybe we all are. Avoidance defers scrutiny and if neatly accomplished, may attract regard for the adroitness of the manoeuvre, distracting attention from the reason therefor.

sidestepOf course, in the strict light of day, there is no escape: avoidance is more likely a want of courage, which is unacceptable… (how does one avoid that?)

That’s what happens when one indulges in idle thinking!