Friday, July 14, 2006

Are you sitting comfortably ? ...then I'll begin.

Today is my 56th birthday and I have decided to celebrate by starting a blog.
Like thousands - millions ? - of other first time bloggers I am not really sure what I am getting into, but have decided to give it a go for at least one year, posting at least 3 times per week.
That will give any spectral readers I may acquire one post on Reading ( books, magazines, newspapers etc), one Rant, and one Recipe.

How hard can that be? I rant every day, I cook every day, I read's going to be a doddle. Here goes.

READING: I've just finished "Getting Mother's Body" by Suzan-Lori Parks, a book I'd never heard of before this week.This was one of the three paperbacks I got at my bookclub's Summer Swap Supper last Tuesday. I didn't intend to read it straight away as I have a To Be Read pile higher than Everest, but I had a quick peek at the first page or two, and then before I knew it I'd read the whole damn thing.
It is a first novel (or as the Americans would say a 'debut novel') and is set in Texas in the 1960s. The story is of a girl called Billy Beede who is pregnant and unmarried. Her wild-living mother has been dead for six years and there has always been a family rumour that Willa Mae had a valuable pearl necklace and a diamond ring buried with her. Billy and various members of the extended family, plus hangers-on including an ex-preacher and his one-legged wife, a lesbian transvestite pig breeder and a college student, embark on a race to reach the grave, dig up the coffin and get the treasure. Each character takes turns to narrate a chapter so there are multiple points of view which makes the story very lively and at times hilarious. Some of the quotes on the back cover compare the style and setting of the book to writing by the great American writer William Faulkner. This makes me realise how many writers I still havn't tackled, Faulkner being one of them - sigh.

My next read is to be "She May Not Leave" by Fay Weldon. I always enjoy FW's writing and this new book - published in 2005 - looks like a light frothy number which is just what I am in the mood for. I've borrowed it from the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution library, a wonderful source of reading material. HLSI is a members only organisation, and has a terrific programme of classes, workshops, guest speakers etc, but for me the big attraction is the library. It also has a comfy reading room with all the latest newspapers, journals, glossy magazines etc. There is a coffee machine, but the coffee is foul, and in winter there is a roaring fire. With a take-away latte from Cafe Nero, it is a great place to while away half an hour on a rainy day.

RANT: Why is this still able to happen in Britain ? - an intelligent, educated, 25 year old young woman Samaira Nazir is brutally stabbed to death in her home by male members of her family, in full view of, and with the compliance of her mother because she has refused to marry any of the men they want her to marry. And the family refuse to accept the young man she has chosen herself. In her community this is called an 'honour' killing - DIS-honour is nearer the mark. Why, in our school system, when kids have to do PSHE aren't they taught - particularly in areas with a high immigrant population - that in the UK you can marry whoever you choose, forced marriages are illegal, and 'honour' killings are murder pure and simple. Samaira was not living in some isolated village in a remote part of the muslim world where mediaeval codes of behaviour still prevail, she was here, in Britain, she should have been safe from such barbaric attitudes. But she was not safe, and she was not safe because we have been less than forthright with immigrants about the norms of British life and insisting they adhere to them if they live here. Is it because we are too nervous about being called racist or Islamist? We all pride ourselves on the tolerance of our society, but there are limits to tolerance, and we have to make that clear.

RECIPE: What is going on in Lebanon at the moment is absolutely ghastly. My heart goes out to those poor people caught up in this tit-for-tat war of attrition, missiles raining down on them. I could rant about that too but won't, as wiser folk than I have tried and failed to figure out the complexities of the situation in the Middle East. I have never been to Lebanon, but there is a Lebanese salad we all love and eat vast quantities of in summer, so I thought that this should be the first recipe I post.

125g burgul (bulgar/cracked wheat)
2 bunches spring onions, washed and chopped
250g tomatoes, skinned, chopped and drained
4 heaped Tablespoons chopped parsley
4 heaped Tablespoons chopped mint
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt + Freshly ground black pepper

Put the burgul into a bowl and pour in enough fresh cold water to cover. Leave for ½ hour to soak. Drain, then squeeze dry between your hands.
Put the prepared burgul into a bowl, and add the finely chopped spring onions, mint, tomatoes and parsley. Stir well to mix then stir in the oil, lemon juice and season to taste.
Leave for an hour before serving.
Keeps well in fridge for 2-3 days. Rich in vitamin C.

Once you start making this salad you will be hooked and find yourself making it every week. It is great in pitta pockets with left over ham or chicken, brilliant salad for a braai, or even as part of a mezze-style starter together with tzatziki and baba ganoush.

So thats it - I'm off to enjoy a glass or two of Cava and open pressies and cards. Toodle Pip!

Whoops! already made a ballsup, this post is dated 14th July, as I started drafting it then, but I posted it today 16th July and I didn't know how to change the date - so many details to learn.

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