Friday, November 05, 2010

Recipes: Omelette à la piperade

Piperade refers to a mixture of onions, peppers, and tomatoes sauteed in olive oil. It is of Provencal provenance, and very versatile. You can use it as a basis for pasta sauces, or as a topping for pizza. Try adding anchovies, capers, and salt-cured olives for variety. You can also add eggplant and zucchini if it strikes your fancy. Vary the herbs too - basil and parsley work nicely. This is a breakfast or luncheon treat - unctuous, melting sauteed vegetables in a cloak of silky scrambled eggs. The fresh thyme really makes the dish, as does a long slow simmer of the vegetables in fragrant olive oil You can make individual omelets, as I am here, or just make scrambled eggs and add the vegetables. Serve with toast or roasted potatoes.

Ingredients - for 4

For the piperade:

1 red pepper, sliced
1 orange of yellow pepper
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
pinch hot pepper flakes
2 tbsp tomato sauce or commercially-prepared salsa
t tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

For the omelets:

8 large eggs
4 tsp water
salt to taste
4 tbsp butter
4 oz soft goat cheese
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese


For the piperade, saute the onions and peppers in the olive oil with the hot peppers and thyme. When onions are translucent and peppers are tender, add the garlic and saute until garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce or salsa. Simmer until reduced and vegetables are meltingly soft.


For each omelet, whisk 2 eggs with 1 tsp water and salt to taste. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a medium skillet until bubbles have subsided. Add omelet mixture and shake pan until omelet begins to form. Add a a few tablespoons of piperade mixture and top with 1 oz crumbled goat cheese and 1 tbsp parmesan. fold omelet in half and flip onto a plate.

Repeat for remaining omelets. You can keep the omelets warm in a 200 degree oven as you make them.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Struck Down

Today I started an exercise tape, because you know, sound mind - sound body. And then I ate some bacon and now I am debating whether or not I should go back to the exercise tape or prepare a briefing on Ministerial Responsibility and all I really want to do is degrease the Boeuf Bourgignon I made last night and make a plum tart, and isn't that just the way of the world.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Back to School

...And the government shall be upon his shoulder...

I have decided to go back to school. Not that I haven't always been a student, learning where I may. In truth, I think I've gotten an excellent education from my various adventures, but there comes a time when one must concern oneself with practical things, which is why I find myself at a medium-sized Canadian university studying the machinery of government. My father is ecstatic, my mother relieved. As for myself, I wonder how I got here. But studying government isn't as much of a stretch as you may think. Any analysis of the way things work invariably leads you to study the motivations of people, both base and noble...which is what you have to do anyway if you're to get anywhere, regardless of your metier. If I have learned anything, it is that heroism and mediocrity can coexist quite well in anyone, and although this is confusing at first, once you come to terms with it, you sleep a lot better. That, in a nutshell, is how one lives with studying government. But it is early, yet.

The other day, in a furtive attempt at hitting the books, I learned a few things about the bureaucracy of ancient Rome, notably that there were two orders of civil servant. The first consisted of aristocrats who - needing neither wealth nor status - sought prestigious short-term appointments - like leading a glorious campaign to subdue the barbarian hordes. The second order comprised the multitude of career functionaries who made the best of it supplementing their incomes however they could.

I always thought of myself as the former. In fact, I thought I was quite clever in getting as far
as I did without having to obtain any formal credentials whatsoever. Life was good for a time, far from the maddening crowd. But then I started knocking on closed doors, and I came to the realization that it is not so bad to be sensible. I prefer prudent.

And now I am in a computer lab- my first day on campus, dressed in what I thought was collegiate wear, but which I soon realized was a tad ridiculous and at the very least unfashionable. The other students are so trendy! Perhaps they will take me shopping. They speak a babble of foreign tongues! Perhaps I should learn what they are saying. And they are so young - I feel like I should be teaching them. Perhaps I shall, in time, although I feel I will learn learn as much from them as they from me, which is a good thing. I am too young to be set in my ways, which is partly why I decided to come here in the first place...

This morning I got lost 5 times, which is how it should be.

I hope to lose myself every day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


One day I decided I wanted to be a monk. I was in grade 5, you see, and we had just watched a sex ed movie entitled "And Then One Year". I was horrified at the prospect of actually having to acknowledge my body - its fears and foibles; thought my life would be better spent listening to Gregorian chant and practicing the calligraphy I was so fond of. Of course, one can't just go and be a monk right way. You have to take the time to think about it and decide if that sort of life is really for you. I believe the word is discernment.

Well, I have long since overcome my desire to take the habit, but I still value the process of taking time to decide what sort of life you want. But there is something to be said for just jumping into something and letting things sort themselves out, after you have taken the plunge. It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop, said Confucius, who was a monk of sorts.

But then there is the fact that your life continues (whether you like it or not) regardless of what you do. You take a breath and then another and these add up to something. Perhaps foolish to expect more than equation of breath + breath = life. Perhaps it is good to know we are essentially all doing the same thing, and that it is enough.

But there is still the desire to take the plunge and try new things, which is how things should be, and the purpose of all discernment - to lead you to the point where you can move forward.
And so I have found myself in my brother's apartment, faced with the prospect of painting the walls a new colour, something I myself have never done. It can't be that hard, can it? If I make a mistake, I can always start again with a new colour, one more to my liking. This is good.

Yesterday I started lining all the window frames with green painter's tape, just to make sure I wouldn't go outside the lines. But then I discovered I am actually quite good at touching borders and going up on ladders to tackle the tricky, out of the way places. In fact, I thrive on it.
I decided to throw out the painter's tape and paint with a slow, steady hand - a clear eye and unlimited forgiveness for all the times I knew I would stray.

And I did better than I ever thought I could.

The walls are a light purple colour - one I quite like. Tomorrow I may change my mind, but paint is cheap, and I am a very good painter.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Prenzlauer Berg, Friday, 4:15 PM

Oh GOD! You poor thing! Didn’t you know that to survive a Berlin winter you need either a sun lamp or good medication? I use both. Why? Well first of all, Berlin lies in the north, which means there are only about 4 hours of good sunlight at the best of times. Secondly, we are situated in the extreme eastern part of the time zone, so we get about an hour less sunlight than say, Frankfurt. I mean, if you go clubbing on a Saturday, and sleep in on Sunday, there is the distinct possibility you may never see the light!

Oh Darling, don’t worry about it. Pretty soon this city will come alive and it will be asparagus season! Big fat white asparagus, thick as your arm - drenched in butter…just melts in your mouth, really. Don’t give me that face….you and your dirty mind! Oh and the chanterelle mushrooms! I go to the market at Winterfeldplatz on a Saturday and stock up, then straight home to toss them in a pan of golden, foaming butter. Fantastic. If you are feeling particularly indulgent, you can top the whole thing with white truffle oil. And dear, the rents are

so cheap in this city you really can afford such a luxury from time to time. You really MUST come by for dinner with Lutz and me some time…there is nothing I can’t do in the kitchen! Oh, cheer up- save the weltschmerzen for the vicars, as Prince Phillip used to say... I mean, in less than a month you will be able to visit the flower sellers on the Pestalozzistrasse - with their effulgent bunches of parrot tulips wrapped in pale, pale tissue. And there will be parties by the Spree, and foaming beer to moisten those sad, parched lips of yours. If you just wait a couple of weeks….

I know Berlin can be grey. Grey streets, grey skies, even grey people in the old Communist East. But I assure you, once the sun comes out, everything changes and you can then tell everyone you know you survived a Berlin winter. Really, it’s the closest you can get to a purple heart without inflicting wounds! Shall I design you a badge? What! I’m serious!

Now, don’t you just feel that much better? So, come along with me and we’ll have a mug of hot glűhwein at the bar down the road. And then off to bed, because Saturday night we’re all going dancing until dawn and I will be EXTREMELY disappointed if you don’t come.

You know, you look so much better when you smile. And I love your outfit, very smart.

And your sunglasses! Perfect. You know, I always say that in order to buy the right sunglasses, you really have to know who you are. To your own eyewear be true!

So shall we say tomorrow around eleven? The boys are coming round my place to sing karaoke to old Eurovision songs and then it’s off to the Irrenhaus club for a weekend immersion in sin!

In a word, bliss!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Neue Nationalgalerie, Thursday, 7:15 PM

Tell me, how did you manage to snag invitations for THREE gallery openings in one night? We’re the only ones left in town? I hardly believe THAT. Georg and Andreas are in Paris, true. And Achim’s in Rio. Or is it Australia? Who can keep track! Oh, don’t feel so guilty about reaping the spoils – consider it compensation for enduring a Berlin winter! Besides, who needs the beach when you have Paul Klee?

But don’t tell me you come to these things for the ART! I certainly don’t. I find it much more interesting to look at the people. For example, have you ever noticed that Germans never have scuffed shoes? They’re always perfectly shod. Apparently it’s a national obsession. But I don’t mind - I’ve always loved good shoes. In my genes, wouldn’t you know: my grandfather was a shoemaker. Apparently, he fixed Gomulka’s boots in Siberia during the war. That’s how he survived. Of course, I learned this last week. Don’t you wish there were access to information legislation for family secrets?

And didn’t anyone ever tell you how to walk at these things? You must PREEN. Walk from the hip bones, like a dancer. I tell you, with the right walk and polished shoes, you can go almost anywhere. And you have to have a really well tailored jacket. Ideally, bespoke. Hand tailoring is the ultimate mark of status. Actually, the ULTIMATE mark of status is inheriting couture from a dead noble relative and then having the garment reworked to fit you like a glove. I saw it on TV once… But if your ancestors worked the plow, as mine did, you have to make due with good fabric and an expert tailor. Ideally, the jacket should be slightly worn and paired with expensive frayed jeans and interesting boots. But you can never look too put together, otherwise people will think you have to work for a living, and that would never do. If you can’t inherit, then marry well. If that doesn’t work, pretend.

And you may look down at the floor to observe the shoes, but that is the only excuse. Look at the paintings head on, and keep going.

Well. All this pontificating has made me mighty thirsty. ‘Tis a pity they don’t have free booze at these things anymore. Economic crisis… Let’s go down to the “Heile Welt” and have a gin and tonic.

I am tired of looking at paintings head on.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Netto Discount Supermarket, Wedding, Monday, 7:15 PM

You know, I think the Germans decided to conquer Europe because they couldn’t stand their own food. I mean, is it any wonder they stock the liverwurst beside the cat food? Is there even any difference between the two? Of course, it’s not as bad as it used to be. My friend told me the first time he saw Mozzarella in Italy, he thought it was lard. Alice B. Toklas said she billeted German soldiers during the war who had never even TASTED butter. I wonder about her though: the world was coming to an end and she talked about how they preserved meat in white wine; hid dried fruit for the liberation. Maybe that’s not so crazy after all – saving something precious for better days. Besides, I have found that artists often retreat within themselves during crisis to create esoteric works which have nothing at all to do with their surroundings. Oh well, not everything can be Guernica. But maybe it should. And I have always believed that people who say art isn’t political should be shot. Now THAT would make a great installation.

Oh, what of it. Have you been to the Hamburger Bahnhof – the museum for contemporary art? There was this piece called “shithead”….I needn’t describe it, but I will tell you I was thankful they protected it behind 3 layers of glass. Oh, and there was an entire airplane hangar full of urine samples. I ask you: what’s wrong with a pretty painting? Wait…please don’t tell me.

So, what does one bring to a pizza party at a commune? I would bring ham, but I think the hosts are Israeli. Oh who cares, I’ll tell them its turkey. You know, I haven’t the faintest idea of how I fell in with the granola expat crowd. I met this girl in my German class, and before you know it I’m talking disarmament with documentary film makers from Kazakhstan with more facial hair than a mammoth. Of course, there are no Germans at these evenings…Why? Oh I think they think we’re crazy: A German would never move to another country to just “find themselves”, without a job, without any sort of support. Would you, raised on the milk of socialism…cradle to grave security, 6 weeks of holiday a year? No, this nomadic quality is a particularly North American affliction, a product of our frontier mentality. The mode of transport may have changed, but we’re still a bunch of naïve idiots in a wagon train looking for a pot of gold.

And where did I get my refreshing optimism? Darling, you know it’s impossible to explain a mystery. Now go and get me a beer…

…the one thing that links us all.