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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lemon Myrtle Roast Chicken

The Lemon Myrtle leaves arrived from Australia. They smelt like a cross between lemon and marjoram. For once, the whole family was unanimous in its praise of the roast. They liked it! And I have a wonderful new recipe to gleefully gloat over.

I took 4 leaves of lemon myrtle and crushed it into small bits. I mixed the lemon myrtle bits into 100g of butter and added 1 small teaspoon of salt. Taking a blunt butter knife, I gently detach the skin from the meat so that I have space between skin and meat to insert the herb butter. The idea is to distribute the herb butter evenly under the skin. This makes for an extraordinarily crispy skin with very juicy meat. The lemon myrtle has a rather intense flavour. It permeated the whole bird and oozed out onto the vegetables. The whole pan smelt of lemon and marjoram. It made me want to float.

I roasted the chicken on a bed of water-dense olive-oiled vegetables (zucchini and tomatoes) for 1.5 hours at 180C, turning after 45 minutes. The resulting sauce comprised of vegetable juice, olive oil and lemon myrtle butter was so good, my family asked for bread to soak it up. This is definitely a dish I can use to entertain.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Japanese Cucumber

My Japanese Cucumber project has been a most satisfying experience. I threw the seeds haphazardly into the "magic pot". I call it the "magic pot" because everything that we have put into that pot grows. Rubber trees, longan trees, salak trees, curry leaf trees and orange trees... That's a great many trees I now realise. The magic pot belonged to Little Boy. It was his very own pot for growing his very own garden. But seeing how magical the pot was, I devised a shameless scheme to get the pot for myself. And get it, I did. And now that we are eating my cucumbers at dinner, I find it very hard to even feel guilty about my shameless behavior towards Little boy.

Anyway, the little Japanese Cucumber seedlings grew about 2 inches a day and in 2 weeks were taller than I, crawling enthusiastically up the trellis occasionally glancing backwards at me as if to say "Look Ma, how high I have climbed!" Then they surprised me with a dozen or so little yellow flowers. Some had mini-cucumbers tagged on at the bottom. Others didn't. I then learnt that the ones with mini-cucumbers were the girl flowers and those others, were the boy flowers. I learnt also that I had to cut off the boy flowers, peel off its petals, and use its anthers to pollinate the girl flowers. Otherwise, the little mini-cucumbers will shrink quite away. Needless to say, I set about the job of artificial plant insemination... oops pollination... with great gusto! I made sure every girl flower had at least 2 pollinations.

Everyday, I watered with a dilute solution of fertiliser feed, because the gurus on my gardening forum say that is better to feed often, but with very dilute feed. After feeding, I would sit down in front of the "magic pot" to admire the growing cucumbers, and count them. The whole family has made much fuss of my big cucumbers. We have eaten 2 with much ooh-ing and ah-ing. Now, I feel inspired to move forth into even greater farming exploits - batavia lettuce, brinjal, okra, capsicum.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Woman's Beauty

I did not write this. But it speaks to me.

"One of the highlights of spring in Washington D.C. is the short period during which the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. With literally hundreds of trees in flower... the sight is breathtaking. But the spectacle is also very brief - particularly if a hard spring rain comes along at the height of the season. Under the best of conditions, the blossoms are at their peak for only a few days. Like the physical beauty of youth, the cherry blossoms are temporary and fragile.

After the blossoms' brief and sensational parade comes the hard work. If cherry trees are to survive, the roots - out of sight and unheralded - must push down into the soil, penetrating into the dirt, stones and muck to extract the moisture and nutrients the tree needs to live. The branches and twigs must reach upward, lifting the budding leaves to the light in good weather and bad. All during the long hot days of summer and into the fall until the frost comes, the roots, branches, and leaves must do the grubby, ordinary, day-to-day work to sustain the life of the tree and prepare it for bringing forth the next spring's blossoms. Though less dramatic, these life sustaining processes are no less miraculous and certainly no less essential than the fertilization phase that was initiated by the blossoms with their outrageous, glorious, but transient, display of beauty."

The following is what I think.

The above just about sums up a mother's life journey. We were all physically beautiful once. Every one of us. Then the children came, and some of us leave the workforce and go out of sight where unheralded, we push bravely through the diaper changing muck and children's vomit in order to hold our children up to the light... come what may. Fathers work and earn a significant place in the world. Mothers are the roots of the home. We clean the toilets, patch up the knees, listen to hurtful comments and push and push and push, to extract as best we can, moisture and nutrients so that we can bring forth the next spring's blossoms - our children. We live very undramatic lives filled with the mundane and the boring. All that mothers do after our brief season of youthful beauty in the sun is less dramatic BUT more essential than the outrageous, glorious, and transient display of youthful beauty that once defined who we were.

And then we realise that we have another sort of beauty - that of laugh wrinkles and soft eyes, that of steely resolve when storms hit the family, that of compassion and love and gentleness, and encircling arms.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Little Boy Emails The Someone

Little Boy emailed The Someone faraway in England. And The Someone replied kindly to Little Boy. It was all of an exciting occasion you know... because Little Boy has never had a real email correspondant before. Mommy, Daddy and Big Sister's emails don't count as real correspondance because we all live in the same house and he knows that our emails are meant to humour him.

This time, it's different. The Someone now lives in England and was happy to share his observations about charming old buildings. This is proper and necessary email correspondance because The Someone lives in England, and Little Boy lives here. Little Boy put great effort into drafting his email. He made sure he checked the spelling of every word. He thought long and hard before he found a suitable topic. He took pains with sentence structure and grammar. With all that effort though, Little Boy completely forgot to start every sentence with a capital letter, and he forgot to change the title of his email when he changed his topic. And when he clicked "Send", it was done with an exuberant sigh of satisfaction, and an enormous grin that showed two missing front teeth.

And when The Someone replied, it was yet another joyous occasion. Little Boy rushed to the computer upon waking, and logged onto his email account. A big squeal burst from him upon noting that there was ONE new email in his inbox. Then, he squirmed onto his chair to devour the correspondance with shining eyes and a pleased grin. Little Boy has a long way to go before the days when he will dread emails... when the email inbox is crowded with 200 messages that must be processed or else... For the moment, Little Boy feels good to be a little more grown up than he was yesterday. Because you see, a big boy gets good and proper emails.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hercules the Frangipani Tree

The Husband bought me a frangipani tree. The Husband doesn't do things in halves. Me, I would have bought just a small manageable tree that I was certain would fit through the doorways en route to the roof terrace. The Husband bought instead, Hercules, the frangipani tree. I was afraid, unsure, uncertain and most apprehensive that Hercules would not fit through the doorways but under the watchful eyes of The Husband, and his gentle but strong hands, Hercules came through every doorway unscathed - all 3 metres tall and 2 metres wide of Hercules.

Hercules is a most superior tree in every way, not to be compared to the lesser plants dotting the landscape in our neighbourhood. It is taller than most and has leaves of the most pleasant dark colour. I could tell that it was somewhat apprehensive at the first, with its droopy leaves and hesitant air, but it has since settled in quite nicely into its giant pot, which used to hold what The Husband called "our mosquito of a guava tree".

The man at the nursery told us that Hercules will bear white flowers with a faint tinge of yellow. Though I would have preferred deep red blooms, I refrained from criticizing The Husband's choice. It wouldn't do to have him change his mind about his gift to me, of a tall and handsome tree. And I rather think that colour was the farthest thing from The Husband's mind. "Well, of course it will bloom, my dear" he says. "A frangipani always does, no? That is its job. What is most important is that the tree is strong, healthy and therefore best able to do its job." So, The Husband peruses all the frangipani trees at the nursery with a critical eye, and picks Hercules, the strongest and most healthy looking of the lot.

The Husband looks now upon me with the expectation that I will not only keep dear Hercules alive, but that I will get it to bloom in abundance. And I like that tree so very much that it is exactly what I will do. Hercules gets its leaves sprayed every morning with diluted milk. Hercules gets fed a fertiliser potion with generous proportions of potassium, which as we all know, is what every tree needs to build strong plant cells from roots to stem to leaves to flowers. Hercules' few rust spots are lovingly bathed in a weak solution of tea tree oil and soap flakes. Hercules is a most pampered tree. A 3m by 2m baby of the family.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dandelion Tea

When we lived in the USA, the lawn outside our home would often get crowded with dandelions. Dandelions have yellow flowers which ripen into puffs that children love to blow on JUST to see the seeds float off with the wind. Wherever a seed settles, another dandelion will grow, much to the dismay of people who like immaculate lawns.

I love dandelions. The French call them Pissenlit, literally PeeInTheBed. The French know what they are talking about because dandelions do help you clear water from your body. Not only that, they stimulate the liver to clean the blood of toxins. French people can buy dandelions from the supermarket in big bunches and they eat them too, in salads with a variety of interesting viniagrettes... and you wonder why French women are slim and have lovely complexions?

The first time I had dandelion tea, my body's response was violent. I had diarrheoa about three times that night. I suppose it was because there was so much dirt in my bloodstream because ever since then, it has not happened again. I felt good though, after the purging. I felt lighter and clearer headed. And ever since then, I've taken it every month to clear excess oestrogen from my bloodstream and preempt the tiredness, moodiness, water retention, aches and pains that come with many women's monthly cycle. Sometimes, I forget. In those months, I suffer greatly because of the excess oestrogen in my bloodstream. Clearing waste on the morning after the months's first dose of dandelion always feels like having a fever pass from my body, a feeling of tense heat carried away by a concatenation of corrosive acids all lumped in one black mass with yesterday's foods. And my body feels cool and clean on the inside. Friends with gout have taken dandelion with good results. And I believe my regular intake has contributed to my very low cholesterol levels despite a diet high in animal protein.

The best thing though is that dandelion is cheap and easily grown. If I was sure my lawn in USA hadn't had all sorts of herbicides and pesticides poured on it, I would have eaten every bit of dandelion faster than it could grow! Now, I live in the tropics and I have no lawn. So I have to buy something that God gave us in abundance because He knew that it was good.