Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Starving Student Chicken

The following story is from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook that I bought at a second hand bookshop. I know what you're thinking. Seriously? You're telling us a story from a cookbook
Just read it is all I'm saying. If any of you have read the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, I'll bet you know that what ever comes out of their pages is going to have some substance.
The cookbook is basically a compilation of "101 Stories with Recipes from the Heart" and each recipe has some significant tale given by the contributor. This story is so brilliantly witty, I had to share it. It was sent in by John and Kyoko Enright with their recipe for Starving Student Chicken.

Many years ago, in Japan, a starving student lived in a tiny room that happened to be just above a very fancy restaurant where rich folk came to dine. (That students starve seems to be a truly cultural universal.) The student had only one meal a day -a meager bowl of rice, which he ate in the evening before studying.
One day the student was on his way home for his frugal meal, when he chanced to meet a friend just outside the restaurant. They stopped to chat. Not surprisingly, being just before the student's meal time, they talked of food.
"It is so wonderful that I live over this restaurant," said the student to his friend. "Each night as I eat my little bowl of plain rice, I can smell the delicious odor of the wonderful food this restaurant serves, and I can imagine myself eating those tasty dishes down here with the rich folk instead of eating my rice alone up in my room. There is one chicken dish that I especially love. The garlic and pepper smell seems to creep right into my rice bowl and nourish me!"
Unfortunately, the greedy restaurant owner happened to be standing right near the door of the restaurant greeting his customers, and heard the student's words. He marched out, grabbed the student by the ear and demanded payment.
The student, horrified, protested that he had no money, but the owner simply marched him to the nearest police box and filed a complaint, insisting on payment.
By chance, court was in session at that very time, presided over by Judge Ohta. The case could be heard immediately. Judge Ohta had a wide reputation for both justice and wisdom, but the student was too caught up in his misery to realize this as the hearing started.
The owner was surprisingly eloquent in his accusation. He cited the terrible load of expenses borne by the restaurant and the need for all those who used the restaurant in any way to help meet these costs. The student's defense was pitiable: it was simply a plea that he had no money and could not pay. Judge Ohta looked thoughtful for a moment, and then began his judgement.
"Clearly," he addressed the student, "you must pay for the value you have received from the owner." If possible, the student looked even more frightened and dejected that before, while the owner, if possible, looked even more smug and righteous. 
"Do you have any money with you?"
The student found a couple sen (far less than a penny) at the bottom of his very limp purse and took them out. "Rattle them together," said the judge. Bewildered, the student did so, producing a pathetically thin sound. "Good!" said Judge Ohta. "The sound of money is sufficient for the smell of food. Case Closed."

What did you think?


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

For a very special bunch of people

 Every year on Christmas day my family and I wake up, wish one another Merry Christmas and open our stockings. Later, we have our celebratory lunch, and then as it all seems so close to being over, we all jump into the car and jet off to our neighbourhood hospital. Hospital? 

Well lets start with what my mother does for a living. She is currently the Director of Quality and IT for a top medical company. So, having a connection to the healthcare world and being an amazing person, she started the tradition of going to our local hospital on the festive day to give out cookies and treats to the staff, to thank them for working that day to help others stay alive and well, and also to wish them a wonderful Christmas. In the beginning we were simply handing out store-bought cookies and wafers. However, those little packaged monstrosities were to be vanquished two years later by none other than moi

Our confectionery gifts needed a little more love in them.

So instead, I've been baking homemade delights ever since. This year I decided on fudge. I don't own a candy thermometer - I don't eat nearly enough sweets to require one - so my fudge was a bit of a flop in the beginning, but throw chocolate into anything and it will come out sweet (See what I did there?). A sugar-butter concoction to white chocolate fudge. Yum! 
My fudge was beautifully accompanied by mince pies and butter cookies made by Julie, a family friend and a divine lady as a Christmas present to the family. With the surplus of candied goods in our house, her tasty eatables made their way to some well deserving hospital employees.
This year though, only my mother and I took the trip to the place for the injured and sick. We figured that two "hang-arounders" mutely walking around and not doing anything was pointless, so her and I jetted off to do our seasonal good deed.
Want one?
The staff were so delighted and absolutely loved being appreciated for what they were doing. I thought it best to show you all what these magnificent human beings actually look like.

Pose for the photo- Beautiful!

"This is white chocolate fudge, and these are butter cookies, and these are what's left of the mince pies (a clear favourite)..."

That's Petros, the manager of the Intensive Care Unit, but also the hospital manager for the day. Such a sweet man.

This inspirational lady is a nurse working in Infection Control. She came in specially that day for one of her patients and threw her an in-house Christmas party with over 20 families coming to visit. There was food, decorations and of course, a whole lot of love. Wow.
Someone came to work looking stunning today!

It melts my heart to see how happy they are when we come around.   I even got all teary eyed at one point. Heck, my whole body is permeated by the love they show to their work and patients. One guy down in the emergency room said to me, "We do it because we love it. That's why we're here today" 
God bless you man.


It's a holly jolly christmas

I adore Christmas. The twinkly lights, the Santa Make a Wish stalls in shopping centers, the carols, the food, and not to forget the ever cheerful mood of the populous!

As November slowly, and I mean slowly, came to an end, the 'just don't talk to me or I'll eat your face off' atmosphere of practically everyone I know began to ease up. Thank the Lord! Everyone had been tip toeing around each other for far too long, so the arrival of the red and green month was enthusiastically embraced by all. It's time for us to roll back on our heels, laugh with our family, watch cheesy holiday movies with our friends, stick the turkey in the oven and be damn grateful for what we have.
How sweet? This photo fell out of one of our stockings when we were putting them up. Sigh...

As a child, I fiercely believed in Father Christmas. My dad, designated "Santa", would always disappear on the eve of the 24th 'to go to the bank' or 'to get some more beers'. I always had a sneaky suspicion that Santa's crow's legs in the corner of his eyes were way too familiar, but as an impressionable, innocent 6 year old, I didn't dare question Rudolph's burly sleigh driver. 
I once even had the evil though of tugging at Old Man Christmas' beard just to check that it was real (Gasp!), but afraid of unknown consequences (coal in my stockings, no more Santa, ever!) I promptly kept my little paws to myself.

For years and years, the turkey for Christmas lunch fell on my grandmother, who might I say makes a mean turkey. Her earthy stuffing packs a punch of comforting flavour, and the subsequent "Toasted Turkey Mayonnaise" that my mom makes for the post feast supper is also always delicious. After who knows how many decades though, my gran gave up the goose (Wrong bird, but...shrugs). My fresh out of French chef school aunt on the other hand was just warming up! She and I got together 3 years ago to take up the task, and well, to say our banquet of food was good is an insult how damn good it was. We've officially been hooked on Gordan Ramsey's turkey with apple cranberry sauce (to die for) for the past two years.

Up until a week ago, I was in no rush to un-hook myself.
Now here is a funny thing. My gran informed us that this year she was ace for making her turkey again. Yippee!

While at the table, I asked for everyone to say what they are grateful for. All in all, we were just joyed with the company of each other. What a wonderful world.

With regards to our holiday tree, this year the whole house is the tree! Bobbles and lights have been hung up everywhere and what a beautiful sight they are. We decided that our old tree needed some new owners, so our gardener and his family(along with present packages for his siblings, his mother and grandmother that my mom beautifully made up) received our tree and a few decorations this year. They have never had a tree before in their lives. I'm so glad that we were the ones to give them one to celebrate the day.  

Stockings are up. Mine is the one with the white puppy, and it was lovingly filled with beautiful trinkets my mom picked out as gifts. I got one of those bookmark dictionaries from Exclusive Books! It's pink. I love it.
White chocolate fudge, mince pies and butter cookies specially for a bunch of super people working to keep people alive and well.
 Also, my family and I have an annual tradition where we all bustle into the car with a tray of some sort of treat to hand out to staff at our neighbourhood hospital. It is to thank them for working on the special day and to wish them a Merry Christmas. This yearly excursion though, is earning its own post, so look out for that one. It really is quite a hear-warming event of my Yuletide.

Merry Christmas everyone.

P.S How did you spend your fine day?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Aroma of the holidays

At this very moment I am making koulouria with my grandmother.
There is absolutely nothing on Earth like the smell of freshly baked koulouria in the house. For those who don't know, koulouria are a sort of Greek bread ring, almost like a bagel, but slightly sweeter.

If you ever want to know my family history from beginning to end with every insult, smirk or drama, my gran will fill every single detail in for you. I have been making these bready traditions since I was about 6 -of course my duties were vastly different to the current times as the fear that I will eat a ball of the raw dough when nobody is looking is no longer applicable. They think. Ha, kidding. I know it all. I love it. The whole event is such a brilliant bonding activity and the fruit of our labour is always a plus. We haven't put any in the oven just yet, but the scent of warmth and just a hint of spice that the dough gives of is already enough to lift the spirits.
I am writing this as I roll and make rings out of the dough, with my notebook and a pen on the side, if you were wondering why I am talking in the present tense.
Okay, we've put some in the oven and I am now updated to the fact that while on the hunt for yeast cubes, an employee at the grocers tried to "fob off" my gran. She basically just threatened to dump her whole trolley there and then and find a shop where they would treat her properly. Instead, a friendlier employee found her what she needed. Drama at the Supermarket.

Almost ready.
They are AMAZING.
Take a look.

Does this not look delicious? If I could send the mouthwatering warmness of the above koulouri virtually, I would. No such luck, so I hope my endless adjectives have at least attempted to aid to the gospel that are my grandmother's koulouria.

P.S. What are your Christmas bonding traditions?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hi World, again

Fishing villages on the Kenyan coast. Big Bus tours in London. Hookers in red heels on the Hollywood boulevard. A picturesque morning fruit market in Heidelberg square. Gang wars raging on. Adagio for strings played by the London Philharmonic.  Meditating Tibetan monks. A friend leaves for good. A 76 year old reading Percy Jackson The Olympians. A jazz concert in the Civic Theatre. A Jick-white cat in the street. A gong in the living room. Peanut butter in the pantry. A blanket bought in Tanzania (made in Nigeria) on the bed. Me, sitting on the bed.

I cannot even begin to cover all the things that occur on this Earth. A million different things are occurring on the tips of my fingers, never mind a bustling street market. The cosmos is humongous. My mind yearns to expand to the very end reaches, to take it all in, to see. The universe is constantly sending messages out to us. Don't go down that road. She's the one. Read this. Even possibly, shut up. Well, I've been receiving a certain message from the great macrocosm for a while now. It's taken me a hell of a while to get it all up and running but here it is;
It's time. Time that I introduce myself, my real self, to the world.

Hi World, again. I'm Anthea Vander*, and to my previous readers, Taylor -my old pen name. I live in South Africa. I do not ride an elephant to school, and lions do not roam our streets and we certainly don't eat them - a Bangladeshi man did indeed once ask me this. I go to a school that really is quite incredible. We learn Greek there. How cool? I'm 16 years old and I'm half Afrikaans, half Cypriot. (Yes, Cypriot is different to Greek, though only the two really recognise it)
I play the violin and I've recently finished my Grade 6 exam which I passed with distinction. I've also just been accepted into the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra as a 1st violinist (So excited!). I am doing intermediate ballet with a teacher, I might add, that I adore. Mountain climbing and hiking are two passions of mine. As some of you may know, I summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 and it was frankly one of my greatest experiences and triumphs of my life so far. As a muso, I listen to everything. Rock, classics, indie,a liiitle bit of metal, opera, you name it. I'm also a bit of a book worm. The Host and Jumping to Confusions are my two most beloved paperbacks. So, now with the basics over, I'll get to the point.

I've decided to out my blog to my family and friends. How scary is that? The Daydreaming Blogger has emerged from the cocoon, broken free, jumped off the building with a multi-coloured parachute on her back and has transformed into Petite Dynamite.
I am Petite Dynamite.

New topics will begin to pop up on my pages bar very soon -in union with the others currently there- which have to do with current affairs, history, music&books&movies and my own writing and life. Not forgetting to also express what it's like living in my vibrant country. I also don't plan on forgetting as a theme all the marvelous commodities and bizarre things in existence on this extraordinary planet.

I'm dedicating my blog to one, the expansion of the mind to the total amazingness of our contrasting world, two, spreading the beauty of my nation to the rest of the globe and three, my journey, including my writing pieces, in becoming a world renowned writer on par with J.R.R Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and J. Powel. (Chuckles) That last one was just me clowning around. It's actually Julie Powel. I just liked the "J" initials effect. Finally, my own odyssey of life is going to play some sort of role here. It is my blog after all.
I am so grateful for who I am and what I have. I could very well have been born into poverty and abuse, but instead, I've grown up with two of the best parents in existence, a brother who at times grinds my teeth but is actually a really cool dude, an extended family who is ready to jump into the fire right behind me, a bunch of wicked (in the positive sense of the word) friends and put plainly, a totally awesome abundance of opportunities.
I figure it's about time I start embodying myself fully and quit being the jail keeper of my life. It's time to be me. The me that is ridiculous, spontaneous, remarkable, totally in awe of our speck of a planet in the universe and true.

Now, as I can't merely abandon the Daydreaming Blogger, I felt it only fitting to give my final solutes to my blogging beginnings and complete a somewhat tradition from the first blog post I ever wrote.

The Challenge: Isn't it obvious? Life 
The Goal: Future writer, violinist, traveller... To be honest, a whole lot of Future things. 
The Risk: Hanging by the neck until dead. Whoops! Wrong era.
2012: Hmm, quite possible, everything.

My intro post is a liiitle long, I know, but indulge me; It's my intro post.

*No real surnames on this blog, comrades. It is the World Wide Web after all.

P.S. Dear family and friends, and acquaintances and people that may know me but I might not know them,
Hello. I'm doing a very scary thing here indeed. Telling you all. I'm not going to give you a list of rules or anything like that. Just a simple good-natured request to not divulge my real surname and that when it comes to commenting, be kind. I haven't had any training -just yet- in the art of writing and blog making so consideration to that fact would be much appreciated!
Oh, and enjoy. (Smiles)