For a person who loves good ingredients and has no objection to cooking, I haven’t been cooking much lately. Otherwise occupied, I've been coasting along with easy, tried-and-true basics. Suddenly, I feel inspired.
Have you ever heard of Susan Jane White? If not, where have you been? Where have I been? She is former President of the Oxford Gastronomy Society, author of the bestseller The Extra Virgin Kitchen, and winner of the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year, 2016, for her book The Virtuous Tart.
She calls herself geeky. I would use the word “scholarly.” Although now healthy, married, and the mother of two little sons, there was a time when dietary choices made her very sick indeed. After being hospitalized and going from one doctor to the next, she finally found out that her food choices were the culprit.
She does not suggest that everyone go on a gluten-free, sugar-free diet. What she does clarify is that eating whole foods and grains rather than processed ones is not restrictive but, in her words, “liberating.” She maintains that she means to “take the hell out of healthy.” I believe her.
So taken was I with her writing, I immediately downloaded her first book, The Extra Virgin Kitchen, onto my kindle. The first few chapters alone are worth the price. I love the way she writes. She is thoroughly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and funny. As for her recipes, they are most definitely granola (adjective), chalk-full of healthy, energy-giving rather than energy-draining ingredients, and there is something for everyone. I am persuaded that they’re worth a go. I think the first recipe I might try is her “Smoked Salmon Blini with Healthier Hollandaise.” Another really interesting recipe is her “Muhammara Noodles.” She takes her version of a typical Middle-Eastern dip and mixes it with fresh zucchini and carrot “noodles.” Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
But don’t take it from me. Susan Jane has an enormous fan base, as in 7,000 plus followers on FB and Twitter, which I think is a lot for a foodie. Both her books are bestsellers, she writes a popular column for The Irish Independent, Ireland’s largest newspaper, and maintains a wonderful blog.
Check out her blog. Her recent article about gluten is excellent. http://susanjanewhite.com/
Happy Saint Joseph’s Day! He is one of my favorites, Patron of Home and Family, Patron of all who work. Following is an old, traditional prayer that I especially appreciate. Sometimes, work just seems so unappealing!
Glorious St. Joseph, you are the pattern of all who work. Obtain for me, please, the grace to work conscientiously and to put devotion to duty before my selfish inclinations. Help me to labor in thankfulness and joy, for it is an honor to employ and to develop by my labor the gifts I have received from almighty God. Grant that I may work in orderliness, peace, moderation, and patience without shrinking from weariness and difficulties. I offer my fatigue and perplexities as reparation for sin. I shall work, above all, with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must then render of time ill-spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.
For Jesus through Mary, all in imitation of you, good St. Joseph. This shall be my motto in life and in death. Amen.
Wishing all a beautiful Sunday.
I absolutely love all the fun associated with St. Patrick's Day -- the more, the merrier, in my opinion.
But I would also like recall to the saint. Even without the myths and legends that surround him, Patrick, saint and patron of Ireland, is a fascinating historical figure. He was a man on a mission, determined, prayerful, and brave.
Born in Scotland of Roman nobility in the year 387, he was kidnapped and enslaved by the Irish at the age of sixteen. During his captivity, he was slave to the chieftain and Druid priest Milchu of Dalriada. He tended flocks, praying much of the time. After six years of slavery, he escaped and eventually made his way home to his family. He didn’t stay with his parents long, however. Religiously-motivated, he traveled to St. Martin’s (his relative) monastery in Tours, and ultimately embraced the priesthood under the guidance of St. Germain at Auxerre.
But, according to St. Patrick himself in his Confessions, the Lord prepared him to return to Ireland. He was to convert the Irish. While Druidism certainly did not disappear, many Irish natives did accept Christianity and were baptized by the saint.
What I had not realized was that he left a few writings, not just a prayer or two. Chief among them are his Confessio, which is a short autobiography, and a letter called Epistola ad Coroticum. There are also various prayers and sayings that are accepted as his genuine work, including the Breastplate of St. Patrick. I leave you with a selection from a version of this beautiful prayer.
May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!
Image: from St. Patrick’s Confessio, Book of Armagh, Trinity College, Dublin
“March, various, fierce, and wild, with wind-crack’d cheeks…”
Charles Churchill, Gotham
Welcome March, month of sowing, wildness, and wind. Considering that those attributes have been ascribed to March for hundreds of years, I cannot help but wonder about the “sowing.” If there’s wind, rain, and snow, why sow? But then, there are clear, sunny days, too, and farmers and gardeners are always eager to begin. I’ve begun, even knowing that we could still have a freeze. Springtime beckons.
Even for the Romans, it was a month of contradictions. From the Latin Martius, March was named after Mars, the Roman god of war and agriculture. Accordingly, it was a month of planting, which sounds peaceful enough, and yet also of war. You might recall that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March. Since March was the first month of the new year in the early Roman calendar, the timing was strongly symbolic, a sort of New Year’s statement. More generally, the ides were one of three monthly divisions in the early Roman calendar and fell around the middle of each month.
I tend to agree with the ancient Romans about March being the beginning of the year. It has my vote! Everything is waking. In the northern hemisphere, March is the month of Spring. Meteorogically, it begins March 1. Astronomically, our spring or vernal equinox is March 20 this year. That’s when the sun will cross the celestial equator on its way north. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus, equal, and nox, night. During an equinox, day and night are just about equal. As Spring passes, of course, we can look forward to longer days.
Nowruz, the Persian New Year, does fall on the Spring equinox. It’s an ancient, pre-islamic observance with many beautiful traditions. Promoting peace and harmony with nature, it has been added to the United Nations’ “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”
March also has some wonderful feast days. Saint Patrick, whose feast day is March 17, is celebrated all month. Another beloved feast day is that of Saint Joseph, March 19.
As for me, I love this month. For me, it is a prayerful month, a time of renewal in spirit as well as a renewal in the nature I love. Despite the contrary weather, plants are awakening from dormancy and it is time to sow.
It is a time of hope.
Images: March, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Mars, Guido Bonsatti, 1550
Surely, the past, present, and future connect in this miraculous state we call life. In this light, history and all human experience are ever-present. Wouldn't it be nice, then, if we could enjoy each other, if we could appreciate and celebrate our differences? Let us love! Let us have fun. Let us toast each other and wish each other well. Now, in our awareness, is the time to be happy, to do our best, to live fully to our purest, highest standards.