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Showing posts from January, 2010

About Tomatoes like Red-skinned Water Balls and Illegal Immigrants...

Yes, tomatoes that look marvellously red and sun-ripened in the middle of winter: those are the wonders of modern agriculture for you!

Last night, I watched a French TV newscast (France 2) reporting on the invasion of Spanish tomatoes in French supermarkets, all the way up to Paris - coming in by the million every month of the year. The TV crew had gone down to the South of Spain to investigate the production area around Almeria. A fantastic landscape of plastic greenhouses, bulging sheets of white plastic endlessly rolling over the hills. And under these sheets (that can be conveniently opened or shut according to temperature), there are rows upon rows of tall tomato plants. They grow on gravel and are fed water by the most sophisticated drip irrigation techniques. And a lot of water is used for each plant: there was mention of 3 liters per day. New tomatoes ripen every morning and are picked by crews of East European and African labourers. Then they are packed in nice looking pla…

How about a nice ARTICHOKE RECIPE to comfort us a bit?

News are so bad and so sad these days, especially the ones coming out of Haiti...That's when I run to my kitchen for a little comfort. How about a nice "tortino" Florentine-style made with some tender spring artichokes?

There are lots of recipes for this on Internet but, as far as I can see, most of them are wrong. The objective of this recipe is to produce a fluffy omelette that rises in the oven like a soufflé and is filled with crisp, flavourful pieces of artichoke. I've had this only a couple of times in Florence, in one of those old-fashioned trattoria where you just know that you're eating traditional food of the best kind, and it's taken me several tries before I could perfect the recipe.

I could refer you of course to Artusi, the author of the definitive treatise on Tuscan cuisine, but I'll share with you the little secrets that I have discovered that ensure your tortino will come out just right. It's very easy to do but it requires some ca…

The Haiti Tragedy: another Ghastly Tale of Missed Opportunities ?

Last night, TVs around the world showed a huge American military helicopter land on the vast grounds of the collapsed presidential palace in Haiti, bringing in the first soldiers to re-establish order after the situation had (as expected) degenerated into uncontrollable looting and violence.

Then a terrible thought hit me.

Yes, a terrible thought: why haven't these nice empty lawns been used BEFORE as a HELIPORT to bring in the needed aid? And when I say before, I mean immediately following the earthquake when all other entry routes were blocked or clogged up with traffic? Why not create a heliport to fly in water, medecines, doctors, nurses, tents, electric generators etc and set up a field hospital right there on the presidential grounds? Why not a heliport to bring in additional support and fly out the worst cases of wounded victims to other hospitals in the region (Santo Domingo is near, but so is Cuba)?

WHY NOT?

Yes, WHY NOT A HELIPORT FIVE OR SIX DAYS AGO? When we were perh…

Is Haiti going to be the next humanitarian circus?

I am scared.

And horrified.

When I see the images on TV, I am horrified. Human tragedy is unbearable. I have never liked the way journalists dramatize a situation, yet this is a truly dramatic situation and we can only let them get on with it and try to ignore their banal comments and cheap attempts at dramatizing. Like everybody else who is watching TV these days, I wish I could be there to help. Don't we all?

But most of all, I am scared. Yes, I am afraid that much of the help that is going out to Haiti is arriving either too late or is doing little good as aid convoys clog up the few incoming routes. It's like having a lot of people rushing together to get through a narrow door with the result that they all jam up and no one gets through, or few do, and those who do get there late, when most of the tragedy has been consumed...

The images speak for themselves.

What on earth is going to happen next in Haiti? This is a fundamental question and it was drawn to my attention by…

Guess what: the contemporary art market is...a market!

I didn't say it, Don Thompson said it... (I mentioned him in an earlier post. Just to remind you: the title of his book is THE $12 MILLION STUFFED SHARK, published by Aurum Press, 2008). Of course, he's an economist and not an art critic: he's bound to see the art market in purely economic terms. But he took a couple of years to research it, he spoke to everybody that counts and he makes a pretty convincing case.

If you're interested in contemporary art, this is a read you shouldn't miss!

What I found most surprising is how exiguous this market really is: in the sense that, according to Don Thompson, major players are really FEW. There are, he says, about two dozen superstar "branded dealers", about as many "branded collectors", including Charles Saatchi who's a little bit of both. Then there are two major auction houses (Christie's and Sotheby's) plus a couple of minor ones (Philips de Pury and Bonhams international). What else? Th…

The Biggest Event in 2009? A Non-event...

Yes, I believe that the most important event in 2009, and even for the whole decade, is what has been universally viewed as a resounding failure:the Copenhagen climate conference held in December.

A non-event.

The classic case of a mountain (the meeting of nearly 200 countries to discuss climate change and what to do about it) that has given birth to a mouse (an agreement with no deadlines, no strings attached - simply to continue to discuss the matter in Mexico this year and South Africa next year). Neither developed nor developing countries were happy with the result. The only country that walked out of Copenhagen feeling it had been a victory was China.

Surely other events in the decade have a better Claim at Shaping History: 11/09, the War on Terror, the Big Recession, Obama's election, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Gaza, Darfur etc etc. So why should a fiasco like the Copenhagen Conference be viewed as a milestone event?

For a very simple reason: it signals the return of …

How about an exquisite DIET desert to go with your Festivities Champagne?

I had a dietary problem on New Year's Eve: I needed to come up with a sophisticated desert to finish dinner off with a flourish - something special to go with Champagne - and yet be low-calorie and light, and easy-to-digest, and with NO egg yolks, all of this to stay in keeping with the unbelievably strict dietary requirements of my 96 year-old mother!

The desert had to be based on...cooked fruit, bah! Well, I did devise something rather special that I want to share with you and that I'm consigning to my blog so I won't forget it the next time a need something super duper AND light!

Let me know how you like it.

I did it with pears and apples and a few big, juicy California prunes thrown in for good measure, but I guess you could use any other fruit you like: apricots and, why not, strawberries, blueberries, any berries you happen to have handy. And in one respect I broke down: I used cane sugar (I love its nutty flavour) and a little wine, but I suppose that if you wanted to…