The Devil in the White City: Murder,Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson was sent to me by a friend in the USA who is originally from Chicago.
I was completely absorbed in this book, it covered an aspect of American history I knew nothing about and I found it fascinating. Larson has managed to make this most unlikely subject wonderfully compelling. The intense politiking required to get this whole enormous project to come together - it very nearly failed - and the egos of all the personalities, the architects, engineers, local big-wigs, socially ambitious entrepreneurs make for a really interesting read. The Fair itself ran for several months and was a huge success, setting the benchmark for all other Expositions that followed. The optomistic dynamism of creating the World's Fair is counterbalanced by the dark destructive story of Dr H.H.Holmes a clever psychopathic physician who used the lure of the project and the Fair itself to entice an unknown number of young, independently wealthy women to work for him and who he then murdered in the most brutal way.
London has now embarked on a similarly ambitious project - the 2012 Olympics, and despite the fact that 113 years have passed, I think there are still many lessons to be learnt about how a huge project is brought to fruition like the White City was in 1893.
My only quibble with the book would be that it could have been edited down somewhat.
Sorry folks, its back to the veil.
When I had my very mild rant a week or so ago, I felt that others had really said all there was to be said on the subject of muslim women who cover their faces. I was wrong.
I suspect that at the back of much of the western disquiet over women being swathed head to toe in fabric - usually black - with only their eyes visible, was the unspoken feeling that wearing of the hijab, niqab etc were not necessarily based on religious conviction, but on the medieval cultural attitudes of some Muslim men towards women and sex.
This whole furore in Australia has let that cat right out of the bag. Apparently we are all (really?) sexual objects- meat- because we wear make-up, "revealing" clothing, and "sway suggestively" --oh yeah!? And men, poor, weak, feeble creatures that they are, have no option but to rape us because we are presenting ourselves as sexually available. What the f**k?
Others may think that this is just one extreme elderly man, out on a limb, preaching to the converted so to speak, and that he doesn't represent the vast majority of Muslims. That may well be true.
However, women all over the world, and in the western democracies in particular, have struggled long and hard, and some have died, to gain their equal rights in society. The vote, marriage and property rights, equal pay (still a bone of contention) and employment rights, proper education, contraception, have all been hard won. For centuries there have been male religious zealots - Roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed Church, and others who have wanted in their various ways to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. So I believe passionately that women cannot let even one fanatical idiot go unchallenged when they make statements that could influence individuals and the whole attitude of sections of our communities as to how our sex is treated.
Don't get me wrong, I would not like this man to be banned from saying what he has said, - because by allowing him to speak out we know what we have to deal with, and it is better to have it out in the open. Now we must kick up such a stink about his views, that he, and his community will be in no doubt whatsoever that this way of thinking about women, men and sex is UNACCEPTABLE.
Tolerance means what it says - we TOLERATE your ideas, we don't accept them, we don't like them, we won't conform to them and we will publically criticise them, but we won't arrest you for them, silence you for them, and thus far we will not prohibit them - just remember, that our tolerance has it's limits, don't push it too far.
Its Friday evening, and I have a mound of leftover mashed potato in the fridge, which means that Fish Cakes are on the menu tonight. They are so easy, so cheap and even people who say they don't like fish as well as the fussiest kids love them. The trick is to have the mashed potato available. What that means is that earlier in the week when you are making mash to serve with something else, make twice as much and save half. As for the fish. If you have left over cold salmon (which people sometimes do in summer) that's fine, but you can use pretty much any fish you like, including tinned salmon/tuna, or smoked fish such as mackerel or haddock...how much more versatile can a recipe be for heaven's sake?
500g mashed potato
500g fish (salmon fillets, leftover poached salmon, haddock, coley ..what you like)
4-5 spring onions, finely chopped, white and green
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt & pepper
3 tablespoons plain flour
Homemade dried breadcrumbs made from stale bread (you can often buy bags of homemade dried breadcrumbs from Cypriot grocers)
Vegetable oil for frying.
If the fish you are using requires cooking, place it on a microwave proof plate, cover and cook on high for 3-4 minutes.
Flake the fish into a large bowl, season well and stir in the chopped parsley and chopped spring onion. Mix in the mashed potato; beat one of the eggs with a fork and work it in to the fish and potato mix.
Using your hands form the fish mix into balls, flatten slightly to form a pattie shape (not too thin), and roll in the flour, then dip into the beaten egg, and finally press into the breadcrumbs until completely covered. Put them on a platter in the fridge to firm up.
When ready to cook, fry them in hot oil for 8-10 minutes each side.
Serve with lemon wedges, a homemade tomato sauce and a green salad.