Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cooking recipes

A few weeks ago Will suddenly got up and went looking for an old red binder with the word Air Canada on the cover, inside are old yellow sheets of paper with type written recipes for various dishes from appetizers to main course to desserts. We have had this binder and recipes for at least 35 years. He was looking for a recipe in particular and wanted to see if we could try it out. We did and it was quite good, a simple sauce to accompany a dish of pasta. Many of the recipes are from a time a few decades ago when people ate heavier dishes. Mind you, I know a lot of people who still eat fairly heavy dishes with lots of cream and butter sauces and cheese topping for good measure. It's the same with desserts, many are fudge chocolate like with cream and a side of ice cream. I simply cannot imagine eating any dishes like that today. My desserts now tend to be a fruit usually fresh never in a can or just an espresso
with a spot of milk no sugar.

So far we tried two recipes and both are sauces requiring fresh tomatoes chopped up and at least 500 gr of fresh leafy spinach. In Europe spinach is very popular usually just tossed in a pan with a bit of garlic, in the USA at least in New England, cream spinach is popular but in Canada you do not see it so often on menus or in peoples homes as a side dish. A shame really, it is a very good vegetable and so easy to prepare but you must remember to clean it well, like all leafy greens. There is always a lot of dirt on the leaves and it needs a good rinsing once of twice under cold water.

Among these old recipes are some of Will's signature dishes, like Smoky Pumpkin Soup done usually for Canadian Thanksgiving in October, Sopa de Tortilla from our time in Mexico 1986-89. Or his
Tomato tart with polenta crust and rocket, or Mushroom rarebit. A dessert he use to make was Treacle tart.

                                        Recipe teasers

So he looked up this Pasta with Spicy Tomatoes and Spinach.  I got the ingredients at the store and made it for dinner, it was easy and quite good. This recipe can be made in less than 30 minutes if you are slightly organized in the kitchen and have a nice glass of wine at hand.

The recipe is as follows:
Pasta with Spicy Tomatoes and Spinach

8 oz of fresh Linguini pasta
1 dried chili pepper, seeded and crushed
5 *anchovy fillets, rinsed under cold water, drained and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb (500gr) of fresh loose leaf spinach, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped.
8 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (you can used the can variety)
3\4 cup of freshly grated parmesan
Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp of good olive oil

* about the anchovy, on the market you can find imported from Italy, fresh anchovies which is a white fish in oil or anchovies only in oil and a little salt. It is very different in taste from the anchovies which are cured and salted, do not use those.

First cook your pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and shake well, coat with 1 tsp of oil and mix up. Cover and set aside.

Heat the chill in 3 tsp of olive oil until the pepper is brown. Remove and discard pepper.
Now using the same large pan used for the pepper you have your base oil flavoured with the pepper.
Reheat the oil, add anchovies, garlic and cook stirring constantly until garlic turns golden brown. Add spinach and tomatoes and cook tossing until spinach is wilted.

Now add your pasta and toss well with the sauce until heated through ( approx 3 min.)

Remove from heat and add the parmesan and pepper. Serve immediately.

This weekend I made Breast Chicken fillets with Spinach and Tomato and for Sunday dinner Sautéd Chicken and Tortilla Salad.
Spring is here now, the Rideau canal water level is back up for boating, The many marathons along the canal have started, we have quite a few in Ottawa. The fishing season has opened and the Tulip Festival starts on 3 May in Ottawa our special connection with the Royal Family of the Netherlands. The weather is now on average 20C very pleasant. So I am switching the sheets to summer cloth and also our dinner menu to more Spring like fare.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


I am currently reading 4 books all on various unconnected topics. The first one is entitled Les Mémoires de Saint-Simon, it is a 12 volume diary transferred in book format of the memoirs of Louis de Rouvroy Duc de Saint-Simon and Pair de France (1675-1755). He is famous in French literature and many enjoy reading him, despite the fact that is grammar is terrible and his French can be described as archaic, meaning that his written French is more in keeping with the style of writing prior to 1700. Many of his sentences run on and sometimes have no verb.  But why is Saint-Simon so appreciated and why do so many people enjoy reading him?

Well his memoirs are devoted to life at Court in Versailles at the time of Louis XIV and Louis XV. His father was a confidant of King Louis XIII. He came from a privileged family and his world view is that of the high circles around the King. He describes life and the people at Court in terms that paint a accurate picture of what it was like. He will often give physical description of a person, their character and personal habits. He tells you about the behaviour at Court and what is required to be noticed by the King. You see intrigue, gossiping, evil doings and great kindness anything is good as long as it gets you noticed. No one is spared not even the King or his brother called Monsieur in his descriptions. Saint-Simon does not like Monsieur who is gay and attaches himself to the Duc de Bourgnone in the hope of gaining political power at Court.

Conducting the business of war in Europe and there were many wars almost one every 3 years which often went on for several decades and all to do with Royal Successions, territory, political ascendency or honour. The King conducts the war and the Court must follow him, literally hundreds of people and servants with all the necessary baggage. Nobles with ambition are required to buy a regiment, dress and feed it and put it at the disposal of the King. It is an honour to pay to raise an army in the service of the Monarch. Battle is done through complicated protocol and following prescribed ideas on rank. Battle cannot be engage until all parties are agreed. It looks more like a parade of troops and flags, Officers dressed in elegant and lavish outfits, with great plumed hats and many ribbons and medals flashing.

He describes going to war against the Prince of Orange (Netherlands) and how the King decides one morning that he is bored and is returning to Versailles taking with him all the ladies of the Court. The Prince of Orange is overjoyed by this stroke of luck and the French Nobles including Saint-Simon are devastated by this news, what should they do now, go home, stay? Battle is engage and Saint-Simon describes who is killed, he only mentions his fellow nobles and who looses his hat or his perruque, the cannonball took the hat and perruque but not the fellows head, we had a good laugh. Then after an 8 hour battle where he tells us that amid the battlefield he had his man servant and his two laquais follow him as is the tradition in case he needed to change horse in mid-stream, brave lads he says. At the end of the day he is famished and has luck would have it for dinner with his fellow princes and dukes there is a great rack of lamb and a good bottle of red wine. By the way there were twenty thousand dead but the lamb at dinner was superb and we won the battle.

Saint-Simon is a man of his time, the people is the Court, his fellow noble. France is the King it is not a territory as such, the centre of the world is Versailles. The Tier Etat when he refers to it is the great ignorant and superstitious un-wash masses which really do not count at all in the scheme of things.

Honours and who got them from the King is also extremely important. Constant battle at Court to get this or that honour or to even get a simple Bonjour or a gesture from the King on any given day is a great honour and can mean all manner of things. If the King stops to speak to you and smiles, well all the Court watching will know that you are suddenly in favour. Difficult to understand in our world of today, we are so very far from that world.

From an historical perspective I find it interesting, it helps understand how the world was then in France and in Europe and the events of that period. Though Saint-Simon's ways of thinking may appear pretentious to us, it was then common. Even Voltaire who was not a nobleman did not write or speak for the great masses, he directed his books and his writing to the rulers of Europe and to the Aristocracy. He had no interest in the common people.

Canada being a Kingdom one can pursue honours from the Sovereign. The Office of the Chief Herald of Canada in the Household of the Governor General can receive petition for a personal Coat of Arms and a flag which if accepted after review will be granted by the Sovereign in letters patent. However we have no one like Saint-Simon to relate the gossip and no Court around the Governor-General.


Friday, 26 April 2013

Volunteers, bénévoles

This week is volunteer week in Canada, being a volunteer I got to partake in the Festivities. It is interesting to me that since I retire I have taken on a new job, that of being a volunteer at the National Gallery of Canada.  I first called the NGC back in May or June of last year, I was still fully employed then but was thinking of the future. I had this Epiphany while in Rome in March so this led me to the NGC. I gathered all the info and at the same time looked at other museums in the Capital and read about what they wanted or offered to people who wished to volunteer.

The Canadian War Museum is a bit of a private club, in the sense that it was built with the approval and in-put of the Canadian Legion and Veterans. The architecture recalls the trenches of the First World War and though from an architectural point of view it is interesting to look at, once inside it is rather depressing, the concrete walls appear to be caving in on you, this is apparently what the Veterans wanted. There is a heavy emphasis on the First World War, Vimy Ridge and the Second World War.
There is a little about other wars in the French Period prior to 1763 and then a gap. Cannot say that I found it interesting, it is very heavy on historical detail and you have to know your history before you go, otherwise you might be a little lost amongst the display. Very few people actually go to this museum which sits in isolation on Le Breton Flats next to the Chaudière Falls. Until the Flats are re-built and people actually live in the area, this museum will continue to look disconnected from the rest of the City. People who wish to volunteer at that museum need to have an army background. Though I am not sure given the lack of visitors what there is to do, it's a bit of a white elephant.

The other museum I was interested in was the Museum of Civilization built by the architect Douglas Cardinal who designed a truly amazing structure on land sacred to the Algonquin People. The buildings of the museum look like Long Houses which were the housing structures of the Native people living in this part of Canada. At the time of construction much was said about how difficult it was to build, new techniques had to be employed. This new museum gave a much needed face lift to the City of Hull, now Gatineau on the Quebec side of the Outaouais River. It does receive a lot of visitors because of the wonderful parkland around the museum and the striking views of Parliament and the cliffs on the Ottawa side of the river. The Museum has now been renamed Canadian History Museum by the Harper Government who wish to impose a politically controlled agenda on the Museum. The museum has received a special grant of $25 million dollars to re-furbish and re-organize the exhibition space. Not much when you think of it, given the size of the exhibit space. The last time I visited I found it a little sad, there was not much to look at really. It is almost as if the Curators did not know where to go or what to do with their mandate. The museum trains their volunteers and it can be intensive but the volunteers are given little to do that is of interest. With the change of mandate I was also disappointed in the direction the Prime Minister announced he wish to take things. Very old thinking in terms of museology, but then again our PM has a very old fashion way of thinking.

Finally I came to the National Gallery of Canada because it was for me, by far, the most interesting museum. The architecture of the building, the art work exhibited, the training and opportunities offered to the volunteer was by far the most interesting. I started taking the training at the NGC back in September and by end November was involved in the school program. It is quite the challenge to go and speak to classes of children about art. They may be young but they are a demanding audience.
Everything you say is noted and they have extraordinary imagination and have a way of interpreting a painting that may not have occurred to you. Presenting art to a class is a performance and requires a lot of preparation. You also have to learn to say that you do not know the answer to a question instead of trying to bluff your way around. The kids will trip you up, they know when you are making things up.
I also discovered that they love modern or contemporary art, it really strikes a cord with them.
They have a way of looking at it that shows the power of the imagination.

So this to me was a great experience and also re-introduced me to our school system which has gone through enormous changes in the last 40 years. I barely recognized the schools so un-structured the whole classroom system is nowadays. It is also poorly funded by our Provincial governments who prefer loads of administration to better educational programs.

About a month ago I was asked by our coordinator if I would like to organized our French language art and culture lectures on Wednesday afternoons, called Les mercredis cultures.
I said yes only to realize the next day that I had to start from scratch and had to build up a portfolio of contact names. I also had a very tight deadline to put together the coming new Season which starts on September 25.

I did it, 14 lectures over a period of 7 months on a variety of topics from painting to sculpture to photography, looking into art restoration, sociology and art in our modern society, etc.
I am also preparing, what I call emergency lectures just in case one lecturer can't make it at the last minute. I am currently also working on the program for 2014-15, trying to find new fresh ideas and topics.

So today on this beautiful sunny Spring day in the restaurant of the NGC the Director Marc Mayer and other curators gave a reception for the 173 volunteers of the museum. It was nicely done in a very thoughtful way. He recalled the hard work of the volunteers, one lady put in 950 Km driving to different schools in the greater National Capital area. Others put in hundreds of hours of their time on various programs. It sounded more like a full-time job than retired people on pension doing volunteerism. In this age of cutback and Political neglect, this type of dedication helps the NGC weather the storm. He said he did not think that the NGC could function as well as it does without the volunteer. Thank you to Marc Mayer for such kind words.

Monday, 22 April 2013


The director of the National Gallery of Canada Marc Mayer has this message for the Volunteers who work behind the scene helping in the promotion of this great National Museum. This is National Volunteer Week in Canada. This is where I have been spending my days as a Volunteer or Bénévole.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

21 Aprile, 753 A.C. Auguri Roma! Belleza Aeterna!

Today 21 April marks the birthday of Rome, the historical date marking when Romulus traced the Pomerium (Sacred boundary of the City) in 753 BCE. Making Rome 2766 years old.

In 1919 the Italian composer Puccini composed this Anthem to Rome (Inno a Roma). The Italian phrase ''Tu non vedrai nessuna cosa al mondo, maggior di Roma'' says it all. You will never see anywhere in the whole world a City as great as Rome. I can honestly say that this is true, nothing compares to it, a City both beautiful and eternal.

The anthem is sung here by Apollo Granforte on a recording which is at least 85 years old.

The story goes that Aeneas Prince of Troy fled the fallen city at the end of the Trojan War and sailed the Mediterranean Sea and finally landed near Laurentum just south-west of the actual site of Rome, married the daughter of a King and his son Ascanius established the Julio-Claudian line which would give us the first Emperor of Rome, Octavian Augustus nephew of Julius Caesar. Augustus claimed direct descent from Aeneas and his mother the goddess Venus.

The story of Aeneas had to be reconciled with that of Romulus and Remus who are said to be the sons of the god of war, Mars. One has to remember that Mars was the favourite god of Augustus and that the Aeneid of Virgil was written under his reign. The date of 21 April is the Feast day of Pales, the goddess of Shepherds. It was a shepherd Faustulus who found Romulus and Remus being nurtured by a she-wolf, the exact spot is in the Roman Forum near the Senate of Rome.

How many cities do you know in this world who have such a founding story.

Altar to the Nation, Piazza Venezia, Rome

Porta Pia, Rome 

Reading newspapers

I ask myself sometimes what is the point of reading newspapers either in print or on the internet. Most National papers in Canada are now owned by large corporations who have little to do with the news world, owning a paper is a matter of prestige and more to the point of pushing ones business/corporate agenda on the public. Canadians believe or want to believe that newspapers are independent and stories based on facts, editorials are serious unbiased reflections on events. Not so anymore, the news is all about entertainment and influencing public opinion.

This past week I read about the Harper government doing away with the Canadian Health Board which  monitors health program delivery in all provinces in Canada. Reason given by PM Harper is that as of 2014 the agreement on health care program funding between the Federal government and the Provinces will come to an end. The Federal government will no longer be involved and this means that Western Provinces who currently are wealthier will have better health coverage than poor Eastern Provinces (this includes Ontario), in general the health of Canadians will be affected.

In Parliament the New Democratic Party (NDP) who are the Official Opposition are presenting a motion on the secret FIPA treaty between China and Canada, the life of this so called free trade treaty is 31 years. The Chinese Government will be able to sue secretly Canadian Companies and demand damages which is to be paid by the Federal Government. You can well imagine that the Communist Party in China will go after all Canadian companies, think Bombardier and will undermine them so that Chinese companies can take over, economic colonization. PM Harper sees nothing wrong with that claiming it will create jobs. Canadian companies will not gain anything in the process and certainly will not be able to sue Chinese companies (mostly owned by the Communist party) for damages in China.
Strangely the little Western African Country of Benin has been able to negotiate a better trade deal with the Chinese.

Parliament is broken, it was revealed by the Whip of the Conservative Party that Members of Parliament do not represent their constituents but the views of the Party Leader. In Canada we do not elect our Prime Minister, the leader of a Political Party is chosen to form a Government by the Governor General based on the majority of seats won by any Party after an election. Something most Canadians do not understand. The right of Members to ask questions in the House on what is of concerns to their Constituents has been taken away by the Party Leaders and instead MPs ask questions based on what the Party Leader wants to hear. The Speaker of the House has become a lap dog to the Prime Minister.  Currently there is a fight in Parliament for more independence for Members of Parliament so they can re-assert their rights. Otherwise what is the point of Parliament if the business once conducted in the House, like the latest Budget, is now handled by un-elected staffers in secret who work for the PM.

In the last 7 days the attack ads against Justin Trudeau have been shown more than a quarter of a million times on television by the Conservative Government of Mr. Harper. Who pays for all this, the taxpayers.  On Radio-Canada this morning a commentator gave this analogy, it was Herr Goebbels, Propaganda Minister to the Fuhrer, who said repeat a lie 10 times and it is still a lie, repeat it 1000 times and it becomes the truth.

The Minister responsible for the now defunct Canadian International Development Agency (now a branch of the Dept of Foreign Affairs) asked for all his briefings to be written in English only, in other words ''Speak White''. The Harper Government tried to deny this but unfortunately for them, there is a paper trail pointing to the Minister. So much for Official Languages in Canada, most of the Members and Ministers of the Harper Government do not speak French and have no interest in respecting Bilingualism. It was Sir John A. MacDonald our first Prime Minister who said in 1867 that if you wanted a man to vote for you, you had to speak his language. Sir John A. a Conservative, spoke French.

Also this morning a story in the papers about a Cézanne discovered in the vaults of the National Gallery of Canada. The morning show on Radio-Canada said that the painting had been lost in 1983 and was only discovered again by accident last week. Great deal of laughter all around, how can you loose a Cézanne. However in the English paper The Ottawa Citizen, the story is very differently presented. Apparently this painting which is just a sketch and is unsigned though it is known to be a Cézanne arrived in Canada from Europe via Bermuda during the Second World War and it is believed that it could be part of stolen art works belonging to a Jewish family or someone, that is not clear. The Citizen goes on to suggest that maybe the NGC knew this all along and was not forthcoming in returning to painting to its rightful owners whoever that may be, no one knows despite research into the matter.

The Ottawa Citizen has always been anti-museum, its editorial line is, why do we need to spend money on art in general, its not efficient and it brings in no money, its for the elite, the masses have no need of art and culture, unless we are speaking of Justin Bieber.

The Director of the NGC pointed out correctly that the National Gallery does not claim to own this painting, it is only acting as custodian for the time being, it is a very complex situation given the lack of records on it and no known owner. The director pointed out that the NGC has never in its long history been involved in looted or stolen art works, The Ottawa Citizen appears unsatisfied.

I have also noticed how the Globe and Mail which use to be a respectable National Newspaper has now sided very clearly with the Prime Minister, the editorial line now appears to be Mr. Harper can do no wrong, while the Opposition and the new Liberal Leader are fumblers.

Canada use to be known as a wealthy country, it is now referred to by political commentators as a relatively poor country.

There is a lot more, this is why I wonder why read the news.


Monday, 15 April 2013

The man who has no argument....

Have you ever heard the expression the man who has no argument is the man who shouts. 
This is what is happening now in Canada in our Parliament and in our political life. Our Prime Minister
Stephen Harper has ordered a new negative campaign against his latest target the new Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau. The campaign at the moment is based on a series of videos stolen from the Huffington Post, yes copywrite material which the Conservative Party has manipulated digitally and is narrated by its spokesperson Fred de Lorey**, the text is saying that Trudeau has no judgement because he participated in a fund raising for a charity. At this fundraising the female audience was asked to bid on a male stripper, Mr. Trudeau is young, muscular and good looking so he took his shirt off but kept his white undershirt on and raised a lot of money for the Canadian Liver Foundation. The video is very tame and frankly looks more like a lot of good fun at a Church picnic.

All this is very sad because instead of attacking him on a political level and issues debated in Parliament the Conservative have decided to pick at the lowest common denominator in the hope that this will embarrass and make small of a political opponent. There is a principle in a democratic debate that is upheld in any functioning democracy governed by Laws, Constitutions and Parliaments. You can disagree strongly with an opponent and oppose any views this opponent may have but you have to remember that it is a democratic debate of ideas and that in the end your opponent in Parliament is a colleague and NOT your enemy, there is mutual respect despite the strong differences.

Under the government of Mr. Harper that idea has been tossed aside, the Opposition is the enemy and must be either ignored or attacked by slander. For the last 7 years of the Harper government has made an art of slandering in any way possible its opponents or anyone in the public seen as opposing their ideas. Facts are never acknowledged, scientific fact is ridiculed, logic turned on its head, this approach to governing is wearing thin.  But it also shows that Mr. Harper has a limited understanding of democracy and that ultimately is far more dangerous.

Today in the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau asked 3 questions directed at the Prime Minister on tariffs and trade during Question Period. Mr. Harper instead of answering went on attacking China and linking Mr. Trudeau to facilitating trade with China. This is a rather bizarre reply, given that a week ago Mr. Harper was welcoming Pandas from China we are now renting for $1 million dollars a year for 10 years to facilitate trade with the PRC.

Mr. Harper has also done much to point out that Justin Trudeau has no experience and knows nothing, cannot be trusted he says. That is another strange statement, given that when Mr. Harper entered politics 7 years ago he had never travelled outside Canada, did not have a passport, and is entire political life was concentrated on what he had learned from extreme right wing elements in the USA who were his mentors, many of whom were part of an Evangelical Church whose main tenet is to bring the Rapture. No one has forgotten the days of robot Harper where his clothes were chosen for him and his make up lady made his face up for official photos.

On the other hand Justin Trudeau was born and raised during the period his father was Prime Minister and received a very broad education and travelled around the world with his Dad. Trudeau by his upbringing has a far more universal experience of the world, Government and Parliament than Harper can ever hope to achieve.

So our current PM is worried, this kid could unseat him. It reminds me of Mark Anthony and young Octavian who inherited the Roman Empire when his uncle Julius Caesar died. Octavian was just 19 years old and Mark Anthony was 40. He thought this kid is immature and has no experience we will get rid of him quickly, that is not what happened and Octavian became Augustus, Pater Patriae.

To my mind Harper is the man who has no arguments, a sad pathetic figure whose vision of Canada is not universally accepted. To the attacks Justin Trudeau replied today that since he was 5 years old he has had a microphone shoved in his face so he is not phased by the latest nastiness.

** De Lorey is a member of the International Republican Institute chaired by US Senator John McCain. see

Sunday, 14 April 2013

new leader

After almost two years of searching the Liberal Party of Canada has a new leader in the person of Justin Trudeau, 41 year old son of our former and long serving Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1919 to 2000.  I remember when his father was swept to power in April 1968 and how Trudeaumania gripped the country, Pierre E. Trudeau was in power from 1968 to 1984. I remember when he married Margaret Sinclair a women much younger than him and when Justin was born on Christmas day. He had two younger brothers Alexandre known as Sacha who is a film maker and Michel who died tragically in an avalanche in 1998, his body was never found.

Today Justin became the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, he was elected with 80% of the vote taken from all 308 ridings across the country, some 104,000 people voted, the most ever in any political party leadership race in the history of Canada. There were 6 other candidates for the leadership but they failed to gather votes. Justin is popular because so many people remember his father and the vision he had for Canada. However Justin is quite young and so far has not said what his program will be, though he made it clear in his acceptance speech today in Ottawa that he would lead the people but not rule the masses, which is very different from the style of our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Who talks down and largely ignores Parliament, taking the attitude that you are either for him or against him.  

Currently Justin is also the only Canadian politician who garners the most donations and this is a serious worry for Mr. Harper. Tomorrow will be his first day in the House of Commons as the Leader of the Liberals and everyone will watch to see during Question Period or QP has it is called how his first question to the Prime Minister will go down. It was noted today that within 3 minutes of Trudeau being named as the new Liberal Leader, the Office of the Prime Minister launch their first negative statement. Again this is the style of Harper, negative and partisan to the extreme, the PM could have been more gracious, after all Canadian Federal general elections is not for another 18 months at least.
The Liberal Party was in power in Canada for 69 years during the last 146 years of Confederation. Will Justin be able to bring them back to power, that remains to be seen. Harper has made it clear that he has a profound dislike for the legacy and the ideas of Pierre E. Trudeau, he will have to be careful not to malign the dead through his son, that would not be acceptable to Canadians.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

busy days and nice evening

Since I retired I started to work as a volunteer at the National Gallery of Canada. It has been a lot of fun, very nice people and so many interesting things to see and learn from. Our group is trained by the Education dept of the NGC so that we can be more informed on the programs of the museum and how to attract more people to our National Museum.

Recently I have been asked to organized cultural afternoons, for the last 50 years the volunteers have organized programs in French and in English presenting a variety of knowledgeable speakers on Arts and Culture. I have finalized the French language program for the Season 2013-2014 entitled Mercredis culturels starting in September. I am very happy with the results and am now working on the program for the Season 2014-2015.

For details on the NGC go to or in French,

Also this week we went to one of the many offerings by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, they have a variety of programs on food and wine,  cooking, cocktails, etc... All very well done in there large studio like kitchens on site in their larger shops, very sleek and modern.

The Chef was Jan Sunstrum from Manotick which is just outside Ottawa. The Sommelier was Janet Unhola who was knowledgeable and very pleasant.

We started with New Potato and Leek Cakes in Blue Cheese Sauce, the wine served was a White Burgundy Montagny 1er Cru 2010.

Then we had Roasted Rack of Lamb in Lemon Salsa Verde, the wine served was Chateau de Puisseguin Curat St-Emilion 2010, a big red at 14% alcohol. Very good and went well with the lamb.

The Salsa Verde is an old Italian classic served with steaks in Tuscany. It has Parsley, capers, 3 fillet of anchovies (these are the white anchovies in lemon juice not the dried up cured thing found on pizza) Anchovy is a lovely little white fish sweet tasting. Lemon juice and zest and 2 cloves of garlic chopped.

The dessert was White chocolate and ginger crème brulée served with a Greek wine Muscat of Samos
chilled.  This wine was wonderful and well paired with the dessert.

We bought some of the red wine and some of the dessert wine.

On the way out I could not resist buying a bottle of single malt 12 year old Scotch, Auchentoshan from the Lowlands, aroma of toasted almonds and caramelized toffee and a smooth finish.

I also bought some other wines this week, a remark had been made that we were somewhat low in the cellar on wines. We must always have a reserve just in case of emergency. So its best to buy by the case.

A French, A Greek, 2 Americans, an Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

Single Malt Scotch currently on offer at home. A habit I picked up in Rome of all places.

And for those of you going to Italy, the famous Carabinieri police, known for their style.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Official song of this Blog.

Thanks to Ella Fitzgerald and this 1941 song, The Muffin Man, Larry Muffin at Home now has an official theme song.

A happy little song which I am glad to associate with my blog. Heard it on the radio the other day on one of those international Jazz radio stations, I think was broadcasting from France.

The Muffin Man lives in Drury Lane, that would be the Covent Garden neighbourhood in the West End of London.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Le Printemps est arrivé....

We have had so far or since the 21 March a funny Spring, typical really of Eastern-Central Canada, bright sunny days with a cold wind and temperatures allowing for the snow to melt, slowly, slowly  Spring is here. Flowers like the little daffodils and tulips are starting to sprout, so it might not be warm but it is nonetheless Spring. At any rate soon enough we will complain that it is too warm.

So I thought that this song composed by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) would help in reminding us that Spring is here. At any rate in one month we are off to Europe, to Dresden, Munich and Salzburg for the Whitsun Music Festival.

Le Colibri sung by Sandrine Piau

Le vert colibri, le roi des collines,
Voyant la rosée et le soleil clair,
Luire dans son nid tissé d'herbes fines,
Comme un frais rayon s'échappe dans l'air.

Il se hâte et vole aux sources voisines,
Où les bambous font le bruit de la mer,
Où l'açoka rouge aux odeurs divines
S'ouvre et porte au coeur un humide éclair.

Vers la fleur dorée, il descend, se pose,
Et boit tant d'amour dans la coupe rose,
Qu'il meurt, ne sachant s'il l'a pu tarir! 

Sur ta lèvre pure, ô ma bien-aimée,
Telle aussi mon âme eut voulu mourir, 
Du premier baiser qui l'a parfumée. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Dansez sous les ormeaux

I came across this piece composed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).
He was a philosopher, writer and a composer of music. He was one of the great lights of the Age of Enlightenment in France, like Voltaire and Diderot, though they had different points of view on equality amongst people. Also in reading Saint-Simon memoirs the notion at that time of equality was not what we think of today, the people, the great ignorant masses ruled by superstition were not present in the minds of the philosopher. They had a different notion, it was more a reform of the privileges of the Aristocracy, doing away with excess and a political ascension of the bourgeoisie, the King would be the King of the French instead of the King of France.

Le Devin du Village, an opera in one act, words and music by Rousseau, was presented for the first time at Court in the presence of the King at the Chateau de Fontainebleau in October 1752, one can imagine the magnificent background of the French Court for this opera which was only a divertissement, it quickly became a big success in Paris amongst the bourgeois. The aristocracy failed to see that it was a pointed critique. A line in particular asks: are their concerts better than our light street dances (musettes), Beauty without artifice or Pleasure without art, references to the excess of the Court.

I love these old French songs, the style is fresh and simple, the words easy to sing. The story is of a shepherd Colin and his peasant girl friend Colette, they are in love but he is seduced by a wealthy lady who lives in a Chateau and she is said to have run away with a gentleman to the City. Le devin du Village, (soothsayer) plays the referee for this couple, bringing them back together in this love story.

This is the closing song of this one act opera, the words sung, Let's go and dance among the Elm trees under the light of torches held high by our suitors (galant). 

However one has to remember that Rousseau was a critic of French Society and of the Ancien Régime.
At the end of the opera, Colin the shepherd rejects the life of luxury at the Chateau and Colette the pleasures of City life among the elite. They prefer the simple idyllic pleasures of country life and their love, imagine on an antique theme. It is a rejection of the pleasures pursued by the aristocracy. One can imagine that the King who was an absolute ruler, laughed at all this silliness after all the Revolution was still 39 years away. Neither Rousseau nor King Louis XV would live to see it. It was for Rousseau a social comment of what he hoped would bring change to French Society. In a way today we have social media to do that, at the time of the Enlightenment it was a more intelligent and more articulate critique of society.

Allons dansez sous les ormeaux
Animez vous jeunes fillettes
Allons dansez sous les ormeaux
Galants prenez vos chalumeaux
Allons dansez sous les ormeaux
Répétons mille chansonnettes
Et pour avoir le coeur joyeux
Allons dansez avec nos amoureux
Mais n'y restons jamais seulettes
Allons dansez sous les ormeaux
A la ville on fait bien plus de fracas
Mais sont-ils aussi gais dans leur ébats?
Toujours content
Toujours chantant
Beauté sans fard
Plaisir sans art
Tous leurs concerts valent-ils nos musettes?
Allons dansez sous les ormeaux.

Friday, 5 April 2013

On a Spring Day

A little music for this Friday, the sort of music I like to play while driving. Well I am off again this morning to the National Gallery of Canada where I volunteer my time to help out at the museum.
Very interesting and fascinating place, so many beautiful things to look at and learn the history behind the paintings and sculptures in the various galleries, courtyards and gardens.

Music by Johann Melchior Molter (1695-1765), the age of the Baroque and of Frederick II of Prussia, Voltaire, Louis XV, the Age of Enlightenment.