Thursday, 4 January 2018

Reading, Thinking & Domesticity #1


My plan is to have a regular post that will include a variety of domestically related ideas and practical matters plus things that I've read that don't make it into a more formal 'book review,' such as articles, current affairs and anything else that I think is interesting.




'Domesticity' - Latin,  domesticus, from domus, a house (home)
The word 'domesticate' means to accustom to live near the habitation of man; to tame. 'Domestication' is the act of taming or reclaiming wild animals. Sometimes it feels like that in family life. We're taming and reclaiming lives, including our own.

Liturgy has been a word that has resonated with many of us over the past few years. The dictionary definition is:

  A form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship,
 is conducted.


I emphasised the word public above as it is an important point, especially in light of the article below. Are we seeking authentic community & commitment, or self-expression and aesthetic experience? 

‘The desire for liturgical forms of worship that are structured, ancient and formal, steeped in Scripture and Church Fathers, is commendable if the desire is for that liturgy to shape community life together, rather than being a new form of aesthetic and preference for a consumer-driven culture.But if all this is is a reflection of the "hipster magpie" making serendipitous finds in the vintage store alongside the 78 records then it's highly suspect. Taking a piece from this era, an object from that era, and blending it all together to form one's own "authentic experience", completely divorced from the values and frame of the cultures and eras from which these things are taken, simply means that yet again style has indeed trumped substance.In other words, as Jamie Smith points out, the point of all liturgy is to embed  itself as practice in our communal lives.  But if the practice of our individual lives is to be a private consumer then, ironically, a return to liturgy can mask such a practice with the appearance of worship.’


A couple of new authors I read in 2017 were:

Dorothy B. Hughes who wrote The Expendable Man in 1963. Published by Persephone Books, this is a suspenseful story that starts with a solitary man, a young doctor, driving through the desert towns of the American Southwest, as he returns to his hometown for a wedding. From the beginning there is an undercurrent of unease that builds up as the story progresses. It is a time of racial unrest, where an innocent decision taken by the wrong person in an atmosphere of prejudice, may have disastrous consequences.
A great story with a romantic thread that despite its lack of character development kept me spellbound till the end.

There was a picture in a gold frame hung on the mottled gray of the wallpaper. It was of a country cottage, smothered with roses, banked in green, shaded by leafy trees with a brook at their feet. In spite of what this man was, in spite of what he had done, the pathos of that picture smote Hugh. That it was there, a home, an old home far from this desert wasteland. That misshapen old relic was once a country child, was once a boy with dreams, once a student with aspirations, once a Doctor of Medicine. The poignant cry rose silently in him: What can happen to a man? Why? 


I’ve read books in the spy/espionage genre by John Buchan and Helen MacInnes and thoroughly enjoyed them but this was my first foray into the darker world of subterfuge where things don’t end well. I was prepared for a dismal ending with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré (also published in 1963) but I was interested in reading something a bit different, and le Carré's book is set during the Cold War, an era that has always intrigued me. However, this was such a good story that I tended to reflect not on the ending, which was inevitably tragic, but upon the clever plot, the twists and all the little hints I missed while I was reading.

John le Carré’s was a British security agent who left his life of espionage to write full-time after the success of his third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The book thrust the author into the spotlight when it was published in 1963. Written over the course of six weeks, le Carré had flown from Bonn to Berlin as soon as the work on the Berlin Wall began and looked on in disgust and terror. His observations of the ‘perfect symbol of the monstrosity of ideology gone mad,’ coupled with his deeply unhappy professional and private life, resulted in this chilly, disturbing tale of Alec Leamas, the spy who wanted to end his life of espionage, to ‘come in from the cold.’
Burnt out and cynical, Leamas agrees to one last assignment before he leaves his life of spying. Unwittingly he is used by British Security to secure the position of a British double agent (a man Leamus hates and believes to be the enemy) and to his dismay, ends up in East Germany. There he finds that the young woman, the one who had begun to awaken his humanity, has been caught up in the machinations of both sides because of her association with him.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a bleak look into the ruthless game of espionage with its accompanying lies, fears and treachery but it also has a few swift moments of beauty:

He knew then what it was that Liz had given him; the thing that he would have to go back and find if he ever got home to England: it was the caring about little things - the faith in ordinary life; the simplicity that made you break up a bit of bread into a paper bag, walk down to the beach and throw it to the gulls. It was this respect for triviality which he had never been allowed to possess...

Inspiring Reads from 2017 


One of the best books I read last year was Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. In fact it's one of the most inspiring books I've ever read and I wholeheartedly recommend it!!

Exceptional books for those aged about 12 or 13 years and older were The Forgotten Daughter and The Small Woman.

Domestics

I've been cooking regular family meals for close on thirty years and in the last twenty years, I've had to cook in bulk for my growing family. Cooking en masse doesn't lend itself  to gourmet creations - at least not in my case. I have a few dishes that are standard, mostly because they are popular and don't require too much work to produce. Every now & again - actually, very rarely, I come across a new recipe that makes it into my hit list. This was one I found late last year, although I've changed the herbs around a bit to accomodate the eaters here: Herby Green Roast Chicken
The author of the website is a diabetic so the meals are low carb but she has a whole range of options which work well for families plus a free ebook. I'm trying out a few of the dishes in the ebook and this is one that I liked but everyone else was turned off by the green colour: broccoli sandwich bread.

Something I've done this year is to use cauliflower in place of white sauce when making lasagne. I just use a packet of frozen cauliflower, steam it, and them put it in the blender with a few dollops of ricotta cheese & a little seasoning. It thickens up very well and makes a good, healthy substitute.

I've always been good at beefing up mince, pardon the pun - I grate a huge amount of zucchini and mix it up in the mince as I cook it. Sometimes I add a grated carrot or two as well, but the zucchini alone is great. I add some burrito seasoning with some hot water and let it all simmer for a while. If I need to extend it even more I'll add a tin of kidney beans and some tomato puree or passata sauce. Great with salad, burritos & grated cheese.

We're in the middle of summer here and we're reasonably close to a number of beaches and my sons often head off to one of them on the weekend or after work if it's been really hot. A couple of the beaches are known for their strong rips. I read this article today about rip tides that occurred on a Sydney beach eighty years ago. This was a more unusual event, but rips kill many more people every year in Australia than shark attacks but they don't get anywhere near the same attention & warnings.


Patchwork

I really like the look of triangles in patchwork and recently found an easier method of sewing them.
So now I'm experimenting with all my blue fabric scraps...




These are only two ways but there are oodles of options, as we keep finding out...





Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth? 




13 comments:

NancyElin said...

Wonderful post, Carol!
Book suggestons
....I will investigate and
love the 'white sauce' substitue. That is such a good idea!
I find it so refreshing to mix book reviews...with
my 'readings and thoughts' on other posts
Some of the best comments come into mind sporadically and I like to
capture them while reading poetry for instance!
Your patchwork is beautiful.

Aflyonmyhomeschoolwall said...

This was a pleasant and thought-provoking morning read for me. Thank you.

I cook in bulk, too. I wonder what it will be like to someday cook just for my husband and myself someday . . . 15 or more years from now. :)

Silvia said...

Lovely post, Carol.

Ruthiella said...

Oh I loved The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and it set me off on reading all of Le Carre at the time. That was something I used to do when younger, get hooked on one author.

This was a hard post to read while hungry! I am not much of a cook but your cauliflower substitution has me wanting to try it.

Carol said...

Thanks, Nancy.

Carol said...

Anne, I’ve made one or two meals in recent months where only three of us were home for dinner & it felt a bit weird! My two older girls who don’t live at home complain they still cook in bulk. At least they have the advantage of eating leftovers for the rest of the week.

Carol said...

Ruthiella, I’d be keen to read some more of his books. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is one I’ve heard of but I don’t know much else about the author & the sequence of his books. Will have to look into it.

Carol said...

Thank you, Silvia 🙂

Sharon Wilfong said...

Those are some beautiful patchwork designs. I wish I could sew.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is the only Carre book I've read. I liked it at the time although it has a yucky ending.

I hope you have had a good new year and here's to more great reviews for 2018!

Carol said...

Hi Sharon, I wonder if all his books have that kind of ending. I suppose if you're reading about spying during the Cold War you have to expect that things usually don't end well.
All the best for 2018!

cleopatra said...

Oh my, I just love The Forgotten Daughter and I mean LOVE! One of my favourites. It's the first book that I felt really portrays slavery in a real and resonating way. And the theme of forgiveness was beautiful as well.

Lovely quilt designs! I knit and cross stitch and have always wanted to quilt but just haven't tackled it yet!

Carol said...

Snedeker was a great writer & there were so many things to live about this particular book.
I used to do a lot of cross stitch but framing everything was so expensive that I stopped doing it. I learnt to do patchwork & quilting by signing up for a block of the month project that took you through all the basics. I really need to have a creative outlet.

Sean Parker said...

Patch work and tea is equal to chilling while work.
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