June 26, 2011

In Greek Key

Speaking of Mediterranean, I have been in Athens (for work) over the past few days. Since I have not seen much of the city, perhaps during a moment of calm I can soak up some of the local flavor through Greek icons.

First on the list is a perfectly modern deity: Athena. Her attributes are impressive: wisdom, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill. Sure, her parents may have had a troubled relationship, but this patron of Athens, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is “urban and civilized, the antithesis in many respects of Artemis, goddess of the outdoors.”

Athena Greek goddess of wisdom

The popular flowing pattern is called meander motif. Meander takes its name from the river Meander, which has many turns and is mentioned by Homer (Greek poet, not Simpson). The pattern is laden with meaning, of course. It is symbolic of infinity and flow of things, bonds of friendship and devotion, four seasons, and waves.

greek key the meandering pattern

St. George – or St. Georgios – seems to be everywhere around Greece. There seems to be many legends but St. George is best known for his epic battle with a dragon. His depictions are stunning, here are my two favorites, one a Byzantine icon....

St. George Byzantine icon

...and another a more modern, 19th Century interpretation by Gustave Moreau.

St. George slays the dragon painted by Gustave Moreau

More from Klatch when I return!

June 17, 2011

What's on your nightstand?

A few weeks ago Chef Matt shared some of his 'go to' cookbooks.  Today my dear friend Anne shared a snapshot of her nightstand stacked with books she is reading, an interesting and eclectic mix:

History of Love by Nicole Krauss

1. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I just finished that one myself, think of it as magical realism gone shtetl. The book is quite sad, actually heartbreaking at times, but beautifully written. 

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson

2. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson

Aw, a Nordic murder mystery.  Anne, I admit, that one was a surprise! And how cool is the name Steig?

Manhattan Transfer by John dos Passos

3. Manhattan Transfer by John dos Passos. 

Anne has been residing in heart of NYC for a few years now so it's fitting that she is reading this book described as "expressionist picture of New York" (New York Times).  I've added it to my GoodReads list!

baby books

4. Another baby book

Every expectant parent, it seems, receives volumes from well-meaning friends on baby rearing.  Anne is brushing up on sleep habits basics. 


5. Book of Sudoku Puzzles

Anne has always been a crossword lover.  Despite its exotic Japanese name, turns out Sudoku was first devised by a Swiss mathematician in 18th century and then popularized in late 1970s by a puzzle magazine publisher. 

Come to think of it, I quite like having a peek at what books are stacked on freinds' nightstands.  So send me a snapshot of yours!

June 14, 2011

Vilja Song

Speaking of opera, Vilja Song is one of the most lovely arias of all time (from Franz Lehar's Merry Widow).  The song itself has very little to do with the plot so I won't bother retelling it, but Vilja has a story worth telling.  Vilja (also known by Wila, Veela, Vila) is a mythical forest fairy.  Though Google delivers tantalizingly few images, Rossetti's romantic painting below works with the mood of the song (according to some legends Vilja is cursed never to find true love and if they do, that love will die a terrible death, how is that for melodramatic).

Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti  “The Blessed Damozel”

This version of the song is performed by Sissel Kyrkjebø (soprano from Norway).

June 10, 2011

Dreaming of Tuscany

I confess, when it comes to cooking I am a fly-by-seat-of-my-pants sort of cook. When to my great surprise my herb garden continued to prosper, I needed inspiration to maximize the newly found bounty. The answer: Tuscan White Bean and Kale soup.

The name alone transported me to a place where Chianti flows freely….

…marks of Etruscan civilization are at every corner….

…villas are basking in glorious sunshine and names of towns, like Cortona, roll off the tongue…

Photo: Traveltuscany.net

But I digress. Back to the soup. After perusing Epicurious for inspiration, here is my very own version:

Step 1: Soak a bag of humble white beans in water for a few hours. Or overnight. Whatever works. Before cooking, rinse the beans well - trust me, that is an important step that should not be omitted.

Step 2: Sautee onions in a soup pot with some veggie oil, just to soften. (Carrots would have been nice here too, but I wasn’t about to go to the shops!) Add the beans and pour stock. It’s a soup so you will need a lot of stock, veggie or chicken. Homemade stock is nice, but any low-sodium stock will do the job. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Add a bit of salt if needed

Step 3: Pour some Chianti or similar beverage (in a glass or a paper cup, not into the soup pot). Sip. Refill as needed.

Step 4: While the beans are cooking, it’s time to tackle the kale. Wash the leaves well, cut out the rough stems, and chiffonade the curly greens. Add kale to the soup when the beans are nearly cooked.  Continue simmering.

Step 5: Harvest some herbs from your garden and chop up the leaves. I used a lot of sage and oregano with just a tiny bit of lemon basil. Add the herbs to the soup towards the very end of cooking.

Now, slice up some crusty bread and serve! If the soup is only ‘meh’ and bland, add more salt and herbs. Or some lemon juice to brighten it. Or add some Chianti will rescue it (still in the cup, not in the soup). Simple peasant food at its best!

June 6, 2011

Fairest of Them All

World Fairs are still around, who knew? In the days before Globe Trekker these pavilions from exotic lands, I imagine, were a window into the world. Oh, and World Fairs gave us both Eiffel Tower and Seattle’s Space Needle (thankfully for France’s tourism industry Parisians decided not to tear down the Eiffel Tower, which was only intended as a temporary structure).

Though the Fairs (or Expos) might be past their glory days, blame the Internets and Expedia, the posters from the World Fairs early days are still very much awesome.

Here are a few I wouldn’t kick off my living room wall:

Paris 1889: this one gave us the very famous Tower. The Expo ran from May thru October and some reports say that 30,000,000 people visited the exhibition.

Brussells 1910

Turin 1911 - official logo. Love that Art Noveau lettering!

...and the poster (a little saucy for 1911, no?)

Chicago 1933: A Century of Progress. The Expo celebrated city's cenntenial.


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