Thursday, 27 September 2012


Fall is really here. We are still having some beautiful days but more often than not, I am coming home looking for something to warm up my hands and my face. There might have been a lot of stews and soups simmering away in my kitchen lately. I originally planned to make this for my friends Judith and Mimi when they helped me squeeze my washing machine into my tiny kitchen and then build a new sink seemingly around it, but after we had completely re-assembled my kitchen we gave up on the whole dinner thing. And I was stuck with a kilo of minced meat at 8pm, so I decided to not make a quick ragù but something rich and seemingly creamy. I didn't get to sleep until 2 that night, but it was definitely worth it.
I used the recipe from Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy's 'The Geometry of Pasta' as my guide and as always their descriptions were easy to follow (and to adapt to whatever I wanted to make).
Ok, so what should you know before you even start with this recipe - it needs time - if you're really quick with the chopping and browning and stuff make sure you don't have to leave the house for the next 5 hours, if you, like me end up running to the supermarket halfway through the first steps because you've forgotten something, you'll end up needing closer to 6 hours.
It is a fantastic pasta sauce, an even better sauce for a lasagne, it is really nice in pasties (I guess they're not that Cornish anymore once you add the ragù) it freezes really well oh, and it's really nice just with a slice of bread as well.

Ragù (after Hildebrand & Kenedy)
600g Minced Beef
400g Minced Veal
200g Carrot
200g Onion
4 cloves Garlic
100g Butter
60ml Olive Oil
100g Bacon (unsmoked), cut into small strips or pieces
400ml Red Wine
600ml Milk
1kg Tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes, but you could also use tinned ones)
250ml Beef Stock
A sprig of fresh Thyme (optional)

Before you do anything else, find a big pot.
Peel the carrot and dice it. Cut the onion into pieces about the same size. Then, peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices. The original recipe suggests using a large frying pan for the next step but I don't have a large frying pan so I just proceeded with a big pot and waited longer.
Melt the butter and the oil, then sauté the vegetables and bacon over a medium for 10 minutes until they are somewhat soft. Turn up the heat and add the meat in 5 smaller batches. Between additions, allow the water in the meat to evaporate - if you are using a frying pan, this will be relatively quick, if you are using a pot, give it some time. After you have added the last batch, wait for the pan to 'splutter' I know that sounds weird but you'll see - once it starts happening you'll understand. Turn down the heat and brown the meat. You're waiting for some crispy bits to appear which should take about 15-20 minutes if you have that magic frying pan and took closer to 20-25 minutes in my pot.
While you are waiting for the meat, cut the tomatoes into small pieces. If you are using fresh tomatoes and don't like their skins, you could blanch and peel them. I just left the skins on and cut them into pieces.
Add the wine and if you have been using a pan, now you transfer everything to a big pot anyway. Add the milk, tomatoes, and stock. Now is also the time to start seasoning. Add some salt, some black pepper, some chilli flakes (apparently that is somewhat heretical, but who cares?! It tastes nice!) and if you have some, some fresh thyme.
Turn the heat down very low and simmer for 4 hours or so, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add some more stock or water, but you're aiming for a really thick sauce ('as thick as double cream and, stirred up, the whole should be somewhat porridgy' - and you wonder why I love that book?!?!)
Season one last time. I like to add some balsamic vinegar to adjust the acidity.
Now, either go to sleep or dig in :)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday Salon: Something on Grief

Today Preston talks about grief and how there is a space for grief not just at funerals.
Preston normally writes over at see Prestonblog where he writes about art and faith and about writing (because he does a lot of that).
I met Preston through my dear friend Anna who organised for the three of us to have an amazingly fun dinner (you see, the three of us - we like to cook, eat good food, and talk about our blogs). Since then, Preston's writing has made me laugh, has made me cry, has made me think. I hope you get the same joy out of reading his words.

I don’t cry at funerals.

I feel that it’s important to inform you of that upfront. The rest of this would be an exercise in a kind of cheap sentimentality if I did not.

I cry in other circumstances: moments of joy, ordinary graces, when the Host is lifted during the Eucharist, when films end with impossibly true endings—either for the better or the worse. I weep for the sad things, I weep for the sad, but funerals have never moved me to tears. Sometimes before, sometimes after, but not during.

A fistful of dirt upon the coffin. A lily dropped into void. My face offers nothing but solemn recognition, an awareness that something has been lost, but I know then only the smudgness of it, not the something of it.

It is, ultimately, an exercise in self-preservation.


My grandmother wore black for weeks after my grandfather died.

I’m not sure many people noticed. It was an old custom, the mark of the widow, the mark of the grieved, but it didn’t translate.

Would you like to try this perfume? Perhaps entice some man?

That was in a mall once, I think but a few months after. I think she had stopped wearing black by then. I think the sales girl who asked meant nothing of offense. I think these things over and over as my grandmother tells me the story and fights not to weep over it again.

I think I should know what to do in this moment, but I can offer nothing beyond what I think is but an empty bowl, outstretched, to catch her words and hold them for a time as my own.


And what they have stammered ever since
are fragments
of your ancient name.

Rilke, to God, on the fracturing unwholeness of death.


I am a Christian, so I believe in the resurrection of the dead.

I say that as preface to this other bit I want to focus on, which is not about resurrection but the question of before, or, rather, the question of endurance. The question of during.

In the Gospel of St. John, when Mary and Martha mourn the loss of their brother Lazarus, we glimpse the culture of the day. Their mourning is not in isolation or in measured moments, but with a community around them. Their home, full of those who mourn along side them, who sit and listen, speak nothing, allow grief to be a palpable thing, something that sits in the space with them, speaks to them, threatens, perhaps, to overtake them.

There is the moment when Martha rises to meet Jesus far off, to demand why He did not come sooner, to confront. And this is the image that resonates, the image I think of before I think I am a Christian, so I believe in the resurrection of the dead.

When Martha goes to meet Jesus, everyone who was with her follows. They say nothing, from what we can tell, but they follow all the same. Where her grief takes her, they go. The question of duration. Grief observed, not cast aside.


What am I trying to say here?

I am trying, in fragment, to suggest something about how we understand death. Modern culture has insisted that we grieve in haste, that we leave the infirm in their pain until they are numb enough to sit in our alleged peacefulness once more.

Here, my bias is showing, I grant. But what I am saying is this: perhaps we need to be a collective people when grief comes. Perhaps, when I can’t cry at funerals, I can cry in the before and after because tears are needed in those moments, too. Perhaps.

And what they have stammered ever since
are fragments
of your ancient name.


I keep turning it over.

I keep hurtling it up to the vaulted heavens, wondering if it should reach the throne of God.

As I sit, here, beside the one now having lost. As I weep in the before, the after, and ponder this strange place of during.

Friday, 21 September 2012


Growing up one of my favourite cakes was Zwetschgenkuchen (or Zwetschgendatschi if I was talking to those members of my family that live in Bavaria). A thin yeasty dough topped with handfuls of super-ripe fruit (preferably next to some whipped cream) is my idea of heaven.
Zwetschgen are a type of plum. The problem is that the name doesn't seem to translate well. Just from looking at the fruit it looks a lot like damsons do but not completely so I think they are not quite the same thing. The internet is really not helpful here so here is my own description to add to the confusion:
Zwetschgen are a type of plum that has yellow (sometimes even greenish) flesh rather than the reddish hue 'proper' plums have. Rather than being nice and round like plums, Zwetschgen are more elongated. Their skin is a lovely shade of purple and they contain less water than plums.
So whatever you call this type of plum wherever you are, this is the kind I want you to look for when you make this cake.
Now, why am I even going on about the differences here? I think using the right kind of fruit here makes all the difference beween a really yummy cake and a soggy mess. If the fruit contains too much water it starts seeping out too early and the dough has no chance to bake whereas the juice you see in the picture above only started appearing 5 minutes before the cake was done (I couldn't have hoped for better fruit here). My aunt says the ones too early in the season are useless if you want to bake because they still have too much water in them but since I am still too focused on blueberries and blackberries when the first Zwetschgen start to arrive I am only relaying this.
Anyhow, what else can I tell you? The recipe is my great aunt's and most people in my family use her recipe because it's easy and more importantly - the dough to fruit ratio is perfect (lots of fruit and just enough dough).

I use water for this dough but you could also use some lukewarm milk if you want somewhat creamier results.

300g Flour
28g Fresh Yeast (or 2/3 of a pack of active dry yeast)
1 tbsp Sugar (for the yeast)
1 1/2 tbsp Sugar (for dough)
80g Fat (I use butter) melted and slightly cooled
2 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
A pinch of Salt
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2kg Zwetschgen

 Put the flour into a mixing bowl and crumble the yeast into the middle. Add the first tablespoon of sugar to the yeast and mix with just enough water to make a fairly liquid sponge.  Allow the sponge to bubble up for 20 minutes or so. If you are using active yeast, skip this step, add all the sugar later, and keep in mind that you'll need some water later.

Once the sponge is nice and bubbly, add the remaining sugar, fat, egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and knead the dough until it starts having that velvety feel and slight sheen to it that you notice when the gluten bonds are starting to properly develop. If you feel your dough is too dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. If you are kneading the dough by hand this will easily take 10 minutes. Don't give up too early because the dough will be a lot easier to handle later on.

Set the dough aside and let it proof at room temperature for about two hours or until it has doubled in size (you could also go for an overnight proof if that makes things easier for you, keep in mind that you'll have allow for the dough to come back to room temperature before baking it).

While the dough is doing it's thing, wash the fruit, then cut it in half, taking out the stones.
Preheat your oven to 180˚C

When the dough had doubled in size, knock it back slightly and roll it out to fit on a full baking sheet. Yes, in case you are wondering, the dough will be fairly thin. It's supposed to be.

Lay the fruit halves on the dough, skin down. You want them to overlap slightly (about 1/4 - 1/3) so you can fit more fruit onto the cake but don't go overboard - I wouldn't overlap more than 1/2 of the previous row, otherwise the cake tends to become somewhat soggy.

Let the cake sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so to allow the dough to puff up a bit more (super scientific descriptions going on today...), then place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the cake for 25-30 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool before you cut it into generous pieces. Freshly whipped cream works incredibly well with this cake and you could also add a crumble topping before baking the cake (but if I'm honest with you I would just keep the cake plain - that way you can focus on the taste of the fruit).

What's your favourite cake?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday Salon: The Protest

I am very excited about today's guest post - Brittany writes about taking a stand for who you are and what you believe in. Brittany is currently pursuing her PhD  at the University of St Andrews and she's one of those people who make me think that I shouldn't have left before finishing up my write-up. 
I find it frightening that, in a world where we have access to so much knowledge and information, people are judged not based on their choices and their actions but based on how they were born. I am not trying to offend anyone here, but to me that is like saying 'I don't think people who are not part of the majority race should be allowed to go to the swimming pool' (which then later develops into taking away more and more social rights, then legal rights and economic rights). Oh, but isn't that already happening again? Anyhow, I am awed by the strength it must take to stand up in a situation like the one Brittany describes below.

On April 15, 2012, Cardinal Keith O’Brien came to speak in St Salvator’s Chapel at the University of St Andrews.  His bigotry and narrow-minded views preceded him; in response to his previous statements, the University of St Andrews LGBT Society staged a silent, peaceful protest.

Have you read this man’s words? I have. And because of his words, his proclamations of abhorrence and intolerance, I went to the protest. How disappointed I was.  To set the scene: St Salvator’s chapel is extremely old (est. 1450).  The kind of old where pews are in vertical rows, people facing each other rather than an altar.  Ostensibly good for a protest – visibility central! Unfortunately, the members of the LGBT movement were seated in chairs at the back of the church, barely in the peripheral vision of the rest of the audience.

As we filed in and took our seats, the rest of the audience looked on with curiosity – the other students had probably heard of our protest, and those who hadn’t were surely tipped off by the solid-coloured t-shirts in various colours of the rainbow. Their staring was full of discomfort, perhaps from pity, or uneasiness with overt displays of pride, or both. It is already strange to be outcast by virtue of sexual orientation; even stranger to have this ‘casting out’ embodied in a seating arrangement, where we were virtually unable to look the rest of the audience in the eye, people trying and failing to subtly look at us from their peripheral vision.

I’m not one to case wanton judgement. From most of his speech, I could see that the Cardinal was indeed a scholar well versed in scripture. But near the end of his speech, his voice took a hard tone. And his words, his very manner, were so hard and full of hate. My blood was running hot with fury as the ‘normal’ listeners cast awkward glances and pitying looks, fully aware that the subtly virile comments were most certainly offensive to us.

It was the first time (mark it: the first time) that I had ever, ever felt ashamed, judged, or disrespected. A feeling caused by a leader – leader! –of an organization I was raised in, an organization my partner loves and forgives for its firm disbelief in her kind of love. A feeling caused by other members of the audience, who shifted uncomfortably in their seats or snuck glances at us from the corners of their eyes to see if there were any sort of overt reaction.

Now, I am notoriously strong-minded. I like to say what I think, and I like to say it loudly. And there, in that chapel, I considered all the things I would say to this little man after his speech finished. I debated lambasting the University of St Andrews for the role it played in propagating the staring and ridicule. I drew parallels in my mind of Rosa Parks, relegated to the back of the bus, and me, relegated to the back of the church. Oppressed for different reasons, but both the victims of injustice. I thought of Mrs. Parks, and how brave she was when she sat in that bus seat and believed in her equality to the white person who wanted her seat. I wanted to follow her example as best I could.
So I stood.

I turned to the boy next to me, a stranger. “Stand up with me. Really – stand up with me.” So we stood, the two of us; holding hands (my knees were shaking as people stared). My partner stood. And slowly, one by one, with an increasingly obvious scraping of chairs, everyone at the back of the chapel stood as the rest of the audience watched (I will admit to some small satisfaction that nobody seemed to be listening to the Cardinal’s words at this point).

We did not raise our voices; we did not cause a scene. We only stood silently, and somewhat ridiculously, in our rainbow t-shirts, a bright reminder of what we literally stood for.  We held hands with the person next to us (Stranger…if you read this…I’m sorry for my sweaty palms).  We were respectful, but pointed. With that small act of standing, thirty or so St Andrews students demonstrated their worth to a man who actively oppresses them with his ardent opposition to gay marriage, and to an audience who glossed over us in shame.

As the sermon ended, I turned to my left and whispered, “Thanks for being so brave and standing with me”.  The stranger looked at me for a moment, considering my words, and said only: “It felt good”.
Yes. It did.

Brittany Fallon

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chocolate, Pecan & Banana Slices

I could have called these brownies. But that wouldn't have been a fitting description. You see, last week someone brought some banana brownies along to eat after lacrosse practice and I wish I knew who did...but I seem to have forgotten everything about that day other than how amazing these brownies tasted. In all their gooey goodness.
So the idea of doing something similar was born. But as much as I love proper brownies (especially when they're still slightly warm and come with some ice-cream), I don't find them especially easy to handle or to transport or even especially nice to eat the next day when they have cooled down. This is why I made these, a slightly dryer, slightly denser, fudgier (is that even a word?!?), and infinitely easier to handle cousin of the chocolate brownie :)
Oh, and in case you are wondering why I weigh the banana - I have a tupperware container in my freezer that is home to slices of banana. Whenever I buy too many and they start becoming slightly over-ripe, I just cut them into 1-2cm slices (so they are easier to portion later on) and freeze them. That means when I decide to bake something with bananas or that I want to make banana soft-serve as I am walking up the stairs, I don't have to run to the supermarket but can just use the frozen ones.

Chocolate, Pecan & Banana Slices
125g Dark Chocolate
125g Butter
125g Sugar
125g Flour
125g Pecans, roughly chopped
200g Banana (mashed)
2 Eggs
1/4 tsp Fleur de Sel
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Preheat your oven to 175˚C and line a brownie tin (something close to 20x20cm will do) with baking parchment.
Melt the chocolate and butter. You can either be old-fashioned and use a bain-marie or, if you're lazy like me, just melt them in the microwave. I don't see why you shouldn't do that because the whole thing is going to be warm later on anyway as it is baking. I put things into the microwave and heat it 30 seconds at a time (shorter intervals towards the end) until nearly everything is melted.
Whisk until you have a smooth texture, then add the eggs and banana. Whisk until the biggest lumps of banana are gone.
If you like bourbon, add some now. I find booze makes everything better and the bourbon works really well with the banana flavour, and the chocolate flavour, and it will work really well with the pecans, too. Just saying...
Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla extract and make sure things are properly combined until you add the flour.
Once the flour is mixed in, add the pecans and pour the batter into the tin.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out relatively clean - you still want some moist crumbs but you don't want the batter to be relatively liquid anymore either.
Allow the cake to cool for a bit before you cut it into slices - it breaks quite easily while it is still warm.
Personally, I really like these with a glass of milk, or coffee, or tea.

What is your favourite sports-related food? Is there something you can't live without after a competition or do you have a post-training ritual or something similar?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Pumpkin, Bacon, Onion and Cheese Pizza

Fall is nearly here. We are currently enjoying a few more gloriously sunny days but in the evenings you can already tell - not much longer until we can break out the winter cardigans, cook stews and soups and watch the leaves turn all kinds of amazing colours.
So, to put us into the mood, I made a pizza. With a flavour combination that just makes me smile. The pumpkin and bacon work really well together because the sweetness of the pumpkin brings out all those salty, slightly smoky flavours in the bacon. And together they make me feel like I'm in a cabin somewhere in the woods. Perhaps I should make some pumpkin soup sometime soon (with caramelised bacon sprinkled on top, perhaps).
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as I did and are anticipating all the great things about fall as much as I am.

Pumpkin, Bacon, Onion and Cheese Pizza
1/2 recipe Basic Pizza Dough
1/2 tbsp Flour
1/2 tbsp Butter
125 ml Milk
50g Grated Parmesan
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
2 Rashers Bacon
200g Pumpkin (I used 1/2 of a super cute tiny Hokaido one)
1 small Red Onion
1/2 Ball Mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 220˚C.
Heat the milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and keep it near boiling until the next step is done. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and allow the mixture to bubble away, letting it brown slightly. You're aiming for a golden colour, not something dark brown. Take the flour mixture off the heat and start stirring in the milk. Once the two are combined return the saucepan to the heat and allow things to thicken. Stir in the parmesan, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.
Cut the bacon into smaller pieces (slightly larger than an SD card - sorry, that's the only thing I have on my desk right now that is approximately the right size) and gently fry those pieces until the edges start to crispen up (not any longer, otherwise you'll end up with extra-crispy bacon pieces on your pizza.
Peel (if needed) and cut the pumpkin into slices. Most of my pieces were just under a centimetre thick. Cut the onion into 12 pieces (lengthwise) and dice the mozzarella.
Roll out the dough and lay it onto a lined baking sheet. Spread the cheesy white sauce onto the dough, then top with the bacon, pumpkin, onion, and mozzarella. You can grind some more pepper on top of everything if that is your kinda thing.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is brown in places and the crust looks done (as you can see on the picture above I was really hungry, gave up at some point and just took the pizza our of the oven a few minutes earlier than that....what can I say?! I had just come home from a was slightly undercooked pizza or starvation).

What is your favourite thing about fall?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Guest Post: Katie's Guacamole

After I posted the recipe for tortilla chips the other day a number of you requested the recipe for my friend Katie's guacamole. And she blew me away by not only giving me the recipe but writing a guest post for us all with lots of extra explanations and hints. I would say the thing that sets Katie's guacamole apart from most others is her generous use of lime juice. We had a 'tequila and stuff that goes well with it' party back in St Andrews and while Katie made the guacamole I was really surprised how much lime juice she kept adding and how that really brought out all the other flavours. I'll add a picture once I have access to my pictures again (i.e. when the gods at the repair shop finally give me my laptop back...)

So you all saw the post about homemade tortilla chips, but as I have said to several of you before, while the delectable crunch of the chips is irresistible, chips are merely a vehicle for delivering the creamy goodness of guacamole to your tastebuds. Guacamole is so simple, just a few main ingredients, but it can be so satisfying!

Without further ado, here is the recipe for a small crowd- a late summer garden party perhaps?

-5 ripe avocados (when you *gently* press into the avocado with your thumb, there should be some give, but you shouldn't leave a thumbprint in it--this means it is probably brown and mushy inside.)
-2-3 medium sized ripe tomatoes, diced. I like the ones on the vine because they have so much more flavor and less water than the cheap tomatoes.
-juice of 1-2 limes
- bunch of cilantro/coriander leaves. Easy to forget but completely essential!
-salt and pepper to taste. Remember that your chips may already have salt on them, so go easy!

- I like my guac as a cool, creamy alternative to spicy salsa, but if you want to add some kick to yours, you can add a clove of garlic and a teaspoon of finely diced chili pepper

To put it all together is simple, but there are some safety concerns when handling avocados- apparently avocado slicing injuries are second only to fireworks related injuries on 4th of July in the US. Maybe I'm making this up but it helps to know how to handle a slippery avocado. I usually hold it up horizontally and slice in until you meet resistance from the pit; then, rather than slice around it, I roll the avocado along the knife while holding the knife steady. Once the two halves are separated, I use the knife like a machete to chop into the pit; then just twist and lift the pit out, and slide the knife against the edge of your trash bin to get the pit unstuck from your knife.

I cut the avocados into slices, then scoop them out with a fork. I mash the slices with the back of the fork, too, before adding the diced tomato. Then add in the cilantro/coriander, lime juice, and salt and pepper and mash to desired level of consistency. If you want really creamy guac, you can pulse all the ingredients together in a food processor.

If for some odd reason you don't finish all the guacamole (ran out of chips?), it can be stored overnight in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It can sometimes get brown on the surface and look gross, but just mix it back up and it will be green again and good to go. To prevent it from turning brown, I have three tips. 1- cover the surface with cling film and press down so that the film is directly touching the guac, without any air bubbles. 2- if you don't have cling film, you can squeeze some extra lime juice over the top. 3- I have heard that if you store the guac with the avocado pit in the same bowl, it won't go brown, but I usually just toss the pit and so I haven't tried this tip myself.

Alright, that's about all I have to say about guacamole, my favorite food group. Enjoy! Buen provecho!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Tortilla Chips

Before I say anything else - if this post looks really weird, I'm sorry - my mac is away getting cosmetic surgery (I might have dropped it) so I am relying on a linux machine which is all lovely and everything but my entire blog looks different on it and if this post looks about as bad on your machine as it looks on mine right now I'm apologising in advance - because it was not supposed to look like this!
If you grew up in the States and have moved to Europe or are from Europe and spent some time stateside you will have noticed tortilla chips over here come in very weird flavours and if you are lucky enough to find simple, plain, salted ones you will (after dying from shock when you find out how expensive they are) realise that they still taste weird. Ok, eating less of them is probably not a bad idea anyway but sometimes the only thing that will do is some tortilla chips and some good homemade guacamole. Luckily my friend Katie (who also makes a mean guac) showed me how to make your own tortilla chips and now I'm telling you so you can be as content as I was when we first made them.

Tortilla Chips (enough for 4-6 people)
8 Tortilla Wraps(I use the corn ones but wheat is quite nice as well)
1 Lime
Salt (optional)

Turn on the broiler in your oven (or preheat it to 220-250˚C if you don't have one).
Using scissors or a knife, cut the tortilla wraps into pieces. 
Arrange some of the pieces on a baking sheet - make sure they don't overlap, but don't worry if they're really close either.
Rub the top with some lime juice. I find the easiest way of doing this is cutting the lime in half as if you were to juice it and then cutting each half into quarters. The pieces you end up with are easier to handle than if you' attempt to rub half a lime across the tortilla pieces.
If you want your tortilla chips slightly salty I would sprinkle them with salt now because that way it will stick to them rather than just falling off later.
Put the baking sheet under the broiler and stand next to your oven waiting for the chips to become slightly browned and crispy. Do not walk away from your oven!!! They tend to not do anything for ages and then suddenly you look away for a second and they are somewhere between done and over-done.
Repeat with the remaining tortilla pieces.

I don't think you'll really need any suggestions as to what you could eat with them. But I normally make them when I take the baked artichoke dip to a party (because that one really doesn't do well with the flavoured chips) 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday Salon: We're not just losing a Currency, we're losing a Dream

Today I am sharing this space with my dear friend Bettina. Which is really exciting. Because Bettina is way smarter than me an can put her amazing thoughts into really pretty words whereas I just make it up as I go along. In real life, Bettina is a political scientist and has a passion for Europe and Latin America. Her second passion is literature which she is channeling into her own literary blog - liburuak. Today, Bettina is writing about the Euro Crisis and how it is about a lot more than just our shared currency or about a mountain of bureaucracy but how we are in danger of giving up on ideals that should unite us and a system that most young people seem to take for granted (and that both Bettina and I were able to take advantage of when we went and did our undergraduate degrees in this place far far away called St Andrews). I hope you enjoy today's post!

First of all, let me thank Katharina for hosting my rant on here. I've been waiting to get this off my chest for a while, and with this, I had an excuse.

Let me start with the obvious. A lot is wrong with the Euro, a lot is wrong with the EU, and a lot is wrong with how the crisis is being dealt with. I have to admit I have no idea how to fix it and, most likely, neither do the "experts", really. The Eurozone, and more importantly the world economy is one of those complex systems where if you tighten one screw, another one will come loose somewhere else.

The economic effects of the crisis are frightening, but what frightens me just as much or perhaps even more at this point is how easily we have let go of a dream Europeans had previously been constructing for six decades.

Before all economic hell broke loose, I never thought we could go back to old stereotypes so easily. Anyone not living under a rock will have known that they were still around within Europe, but I honestly never thought they would get this nasty again this quickly. From German "newspaper" Bild naming the Greeks almost exclusively with the word "bust" in front,* to Greeks burning German flags and equating Merkel with Hitler, negative national stereotyping has become wide-spread in Europe at an alarming speed. You see, Bild is the most-read "newspaper" in Germany. It's not just some idiotic right wing nutters who are going crazy here, it's a mass phenomenon.

Equally fashionable, closely related and nearly as scary is the Europhobia - because what we are seeing here is beyond Euroscepticism - that is spreading like wildfire across Europe. The crisis-ridden countries of the South blame "Europe" for strangling their economies, while the less afflicted countries blame it for having to fork out "their" money to finance Southern mismanagement. It seems as if many, if not even a majority of Europeans couldn't care less if Europe were to fall apart. And nowhere have politicians risen above exploiting the crisis for national and even sub-national electoral purposes.

What worries me most is that for the first time, Europhobia is gaining a strong following in Germany, traditionally a very pro-EU country, and for good reason: the standing we have in the world, economically and politically, we have thanks to European integration. And we are forgetting that.

This is not only a German phenomenon, though. All over Europe, we are forgetting what Europe really is: an idea, a dream. A dream that we can work together to live in prosperity and in peace, in tolerance and in freedom. What is at peril in the crisis is a European Dream that is just as great and possibly even more ambitious than the American Dream. Because while the American Dream is about achieving your aspirations by working by yourself, in Europe for decades we have dreamt of achieving them by working together.

We have good reason to be proud of Europe and its achievements. Because apart from creating a number of bureaucratic monsters - although bans on bendy bananas and curvy cucumbers are largely mythical - Europe has done an awful lot for each and every single one of us. We have come to take these achievements for granted, and it seems to me that people are just not aware of all the amazing things that would disappear if the European Dream were to break down. Let me give you a few mundane examples.

Thanks to the European Dream, can travel freely across Europe. Wherever you go, you are covered by health insurance just by waving a little blue card with the sexy name EHIC (if you're interested, it stands for European Health Insurance Card). You can work in another country, earn pension rights, and take them with you when you leave. Granted, it's a little complicated in practice, but at least you can do it at all. Thanks to the EU, my boyfriend and I can live in the same country without one of us having to worry about residence and work permits or visa. We just live.

You can study abroad thanks to an elaborate party scheme called Erasmus. You can study abroad outside the Erasmus framework and be spared having to pay ridiculous overseas fees because the European Union deemed discrimination among different EU nationals illegal on your behalf. If you return to your home country or move somewhere else, your university degree will be recognised. You may have to jump through some hoops, but you will get there in the end.

Throughout the Eurozone, you can pay with the same currency. If you're a little older than the Euro, you'll have (hazy) memories of how much of an enormous pain it used to be when you had to exchange money everywhere you went. In fact, if you've recently travelled outside the Eurozone, you will have quite a vivid memory of it. Thanks to the European Commission's "regulation fever", mobile roaming fees are getting lower and lower (they are still excruciatingly expensive, but we're making a start).

If you are travelling outside Europe and find yourself in trouble - say, you've been robbed or lost your passport - in a country where your home country doesn't have an embassy, you're not alone. You can go to any other EU country's embassy and they will help you as if they were your own. The idea is so awesome it gives me goose bumps.

Listing these things harbours the danger of boiling the European Dream down to a few practicalities. These are just a few of the achievements the European project has brought to our everyday lives in the EU.

But the European Dream is so much bigger than that, and we are watching it crash and burn without doing much about it, indeed some seem to be betting on its failure and spurring it on. At the first sight of adversity, we are letting the dream that we can live together in a space free of borders go in favour of a bunch of narrow-minded, simplistic stereotypes.
And the world is watching us, with many onlookers shaking their heads in disbelief. Because here's the thing: the European Dream is not just our dream. In many places, more or less successful attempts have been made to recreate what was perceived as a zone of economic prosperity, democracy, and personal freedom. We're not just endangering our own dream, we're destroying the aspirations of many who wanted to live in an environment a little more like Europe.

Believe me, I am aware of a lot of the one-size-fits-all, sometimes neo-colonial external relations the EU has been involved in where it hasn't exactly covered itself with glory. I am also aware of "fortress Europe" that has sought to shut others out of our prosperity and freedom by building high external walls.

But even so, it is my belief that if we continue to watch the European Dream shattering around us, we make ourselves responsible for other, similar and more fragile dreams being suffocated before they have even been fully born. As European citizens, we bear a responsibility that goes beyond our own borders.

Let's keep dreaming, and let's work to rescue our European Dream. Let's rescue Europe.

* I tried hard and unsuccessfully to find a translation that would even come close to the demeaning term "Pleite-Griechen" Bild is using. There's a linguistic connotation here with the word "Pleitegeier", originally from the Yiddish and meaning someone who goes bust (Wikipedia enlightened me on that one). "Geier", however, also means vulture in German. Mix that together and you hopefully get exactly the yucky feeling that overcomes me when I hear the term "Pleite-Griechen".

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