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Onions And Eggs Feed A Crew On A Sailing Ship To China

Excerpt from the novel “China Lily”

In 1293,  Cepa  and Matzerath  were part of the crew of The Pegasus, a ship that had sailed from Italy to China on a trading mission. After a couple of months, they arrived in the port of Zaitun,  where they encountered a local trader, Lu-Hsing.

Lu-Hsing takes the two men to a communal dining hall. This is part of their meal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Compared to others of his experience, the crew of The Pegasus appears content with their lot. They are certainly fitting in well in the dining hall, and even mingling with other diners. Thanks to the Captain’s instructions, they are willing to try any of the dishes they encounter, though it helps that they are ignorant of many of the ingredients.

“You want something other than onions?” Lu-Hsing jabs Cepa in the ribs with his shoulder.

“I want something with my onions.”

“You’ve been looking intently at everything.” Lu-Hsing opens his arms expansively. “What do you wish?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Look at me.” Lu-Hsing rubs his belly with a roar. “I am not a picky eater. I’ll suggest anything.”

“You’ve already warned me away from soup.”

“Not warned.” Lu Hsing points back to the bubbling soup they had been looking at. “You can add a lot to soup and make a stew.” He grimaces. “But you still slurp more than you chew. Lu-Hsing wants to use his teeth when he eats.”

“We can stay away from soup.” Cepa smiles. “And I’d just as soon avoid fish.”

“Me, too.” Matzerath puts his hands up in surrender. “We eat enough salted fish to swim.”

“You boys are in the Port of Zaitun.” Lu-Hsing speaks in an authoritative tone. “Fish a specialty.”

“There must be something else.” Matzerath points. “Look at all the cooks.”

“No soup?”

“Pah!”

“Trouble-making Round Eyes.” Lu-Hsing points to a wok near the end of the aisle and starts to walk. “We’ll try there.”

“What does he have?” Cepa falls into step behind Lu-Hsing, followed by Matzerath.

“Oyster omelette.”

“Eggs?” asks Matzerath.

“As many as you want.”

“That will take a big pan.”

“He can use a high-sided wok.” Lu-Hsing pretends to whisk something in a wok. “Plop it right onto a plate.”

“We don’t have dishes.” Cepa suddenly realizes the fact. “We haven’t been back to The Pegasus all day.”

“Lu-Hsing share you his.” He barks an order at the cook, and then turns back to Cepa. “Stay right here. I’ll get them from my table.”

Cepa and Matzerath stand and watch the cook. Cepa notes he is using wood and not the black rocks for his fire. Some oil is dropped onto the metal and immediately sizzles. The cook holds up his hand and extends his fingers; one, two, three, four, five.

“Will you want some?”

“God – yes.” Matzerath nods.

Cepa holds up five fingers and the cook grins. He takes an egg in each hand and hits them together. The upper shell is flipped off and they pour into the wok. He repeats the gesture and the eggs land on top of the others. The last egg is dispatched on the metal rim of the wok and added to the rest before a hint of cooking has begun. The cook then begins to whisk and slide the eggs along the side of the wok before Matzerath has time to make a comment.

“I’d like to see you do that on The Pegasus,” says Cepa.

“I break eggs all the time.”

“I know.” Cepa laughs. And we eat the shells to prove it.”

The cook now twists and shakes the wok by its two handles over the fire. The eggs slide up and along the sides, and then settle more thickly near the bottom. With a grin and a twist of his hands, the cook turns the wok right over. The eggs start to slide out with a couple of drops hissing into the fire. Matzerath’s mouth falls open as the cook rights the wok so quickly that the eggs drop right back into it, now cooking on the other side. The cook puts the wok back on the fire.

“Bet you can’t do that,” says Cepa.

“Just once.” Matzerath laughs. “But the whole ship was heaving at the time.”

The cook begins to nudge the eggs together with a spatula. With his other hand he sprinkles a few drops of brown liquid. Then he adds some coarsely chopped shoots of a green onion.

“Hah!” Matzerath slaps Cepa on the shoulder.

After a quick swirl of these ingredients the cook plops in a bowl of small oysters. He takes his time with these, spacing them with deliberation over the quickly cooking eggs. Then – with a flourish – he scoops up a handful of flower blossoms and sprinkles them over the whole bubbling mixture.

“What are those?” Matzerath peers into the wok.

“Chrysanthemums.”

“We’re eating flowers?’

“When in Rome …”

The cook adds a further dash of the brown liquid and then folds the eggs neatly in half. He flips the whole omelette to the center of the wok and sprinkles a palm full of spring onion – this time finely chopped – over of the still-bubbling omelette. He presses the onion in place with his spatula then removes the wok from the fire.

“Timing is everything.”

The voice startles them both. They turn to see Lu-Hsing standing behind them, holding a large platter. He barks instructions to the cook, speaking too quickly for the two men to understand.

“Stick to ribs – make you happy.”

The cook divides the omelette in half and slides it onto the platter. He then takes the wicker top off a steamer and starts to add heaping ladles of red rice along the sides of the platter.

“What’s that?” Matzerath sounds suspicious.

Hong qu mi.”

“You can see its rice,” hisses Cepa.

“But it’s red.”

“Fermented with yeast.” Lu-Hsing scoops some into his palm and eats it. “Looks good. Tastes great.”

“Aren’t you having a meal?”

“Lu-Hsing eats later – with family.” He moves his hand over the top of the platter and inhales the aroma. “We eat at home – wife is a great cook.”

“I thought you’d be joining us.” Matzerath is clearly disappointed.

“Too crowded. Too smoky.” Lu-Hsing laughs. “Just the place for Round-eyes who want to make contacts. I already know people.”

Lu-Hsing abruptly steps behind the counter and stands beside the cook. He takes a look into the bubbling pots and lifts the tops off of steamers. He finally points with a barrage of Chinese. The cook gets two porcelain bowls and ladles a heaping amount of food into each.

“Got your spoon?” asks Cepa.

Matzerath takes a spoon from his pant’s pocket and holds it up.

“You?”

“Yes.” Cepa has his spoon on a chain around his neck. He takes it out from underneath his shirt and lets it dangle against his chest.

“You boys prepared – good.” Lu-Hsing takes the platter with the omelette and rice. He then points with his chin. “Take your bowls and follow me.”

Matzerath anxiously sees the platter of steaming food being taken away. He nudges Cepa and they again get into step behind Lu-Hsing, who again clears a path through the crowded eating hall. They approach a raised platform under a row of windows, much like the noble’s section in the Cannara’s own tavern. It is still a crowded space, with ten tables set not far apart from each other. Half are vacant, so Cepa can’t tell if Lu-Hsing heads for his ‘own’ table, or has the use of any that is available. He places the platter crosswise near one end of the table.

“You need drink.” Lu-Hsing unrolls a half dozen chopsticks from a cotton napkin, so they lay beside the platter. “Tea or rice wine?”

“Dear God – wine!” Matzerath plunks his bowl on the table. “It’s been a day.”

“Bring both, please.” Cepa sits across the table from Matzerath. “For both of us.”

“Tea is for thirst.” Matzerath takes his spoon from his pocket. “I want drink for more than that.”

“We can’t have you getting drunk.” Cepa lifts his own spoon from around his neck. “Even the crew has orders not to get drunk.”

You are sticking to tea?” Matzerath begins to wield his chopsticks over the rice.

“No.” Cepa laughs. “Although I am also thirsty, I have no objection to feeling ‘mellow’ as I eat.”

“And it will help you sleep.” Lu-Hsing slaps Cepa on the back. “Like mother’s milk.”

“I wish my mother had had tits of wine.” Matzerath wipes some rice from his chin and sucks his fingers. “I would have been a better child.”

Kafka And The Flowers Of Hope – Suitable For The Summer

From my novel Kafka In The Kastle, where I fill in his missing diary entries.

08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal. I was tempted to ask why she was not at the tiny house, or ask her where David Joseph was – certainly not digging around in the soil. But, I’m not to know of him – and certainly not his name. His absence might explain her energy. She said she wanted to prepare for the work on the farm, and this was a sample of what awaited her. It turned out we were not alone.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone. It fell to me to find the flowers. Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them. “Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.” “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

Bluenose II – Ghostly Ship Under Sail, Updated

bluenose-2923783_large
It now is Sunday, and The Bluenose II has come and gone. And, it was not exactly a Ghost ship, but I had difficulty seeing it as it slipped into view from the fog. Even with binoculars. For awhile the ship did slip in and out as the fog wafted in front of it.  But – finally – it appeared side-too (much as it is on the Canadian dime) and all was right with the world.
Also, it stayed insight a good long time – around half an hour. From our reasonably-secluded viewing spot from a hill, there was an uninterrupted view, with just a few small pleasure craft keeping it company.  It was during this leisurely exposure that my partner casually noted that her grandfather had helped build the original Bluenose fishing vessel, at The Smith and Rhuland Shipyard. back in 1921, as he lived in Lunenburg NS. That was the home port of the original sailing ship, and is the home port of the current Bluenose II.
When it was time for the Bluenose II to leave, it went around the island which had been the backdrop as we watched, and started along the coast, headed for Grand Manan Island.
Original post:
Sunday, if there is no fog, I’ll be able (binoculars at the ready) be able to see a famed sailing ship pass the island at the mouth of the harbour. A replica of the ship, at any rate, itself now quite an acclaimed sailing vessel. In addition to setting into many a  port as a nautical ambassador, it is a training vessel for young sailors.
This is the site of the Bluenose II (replica of the original Bluenose).https://bluenose.novascotia.ca/
A detailed history can be found there. Needless to say, it is an impressive .schooner when under sail, and will be an impressive site out on the open sea. I hope it lingers.
I had dealings with The Bluenose II many a year ago.
I was seated on a bench on a wharf in Halifax harbour. I had noted a tall masted sailing boat pass, but I was watching a large cruise ship prepare to leave.
Suddenly a man was at my back. He was asking me to move so I would not get struck in the head. I turned to see the sailing boat – The Bluenose II – coming alongside. It edged toward the dock, closer and closer, and then a crew member on the bow shouted to me.
He asked if I would grab the rope when it was thrown. I agreed. Soon I had the bow line in my hands and at my feet.
I was asked to put it over the ‘second’ post. That proved to be quite a chore for something thicker than my arm and heavy in weight. But, I had had some practise doing such a thing, just not so unexpectedly and on the fly..
It took a couple of minutes, but I slipped it over and jumped back.  It was a taut rope indeed.
Someone yelled thanks, and the crew started preparing the ship to be secure at the dock.
I did write a blog about it at the time, and sent it to the Bluenose II web site. I received the answer below. I’ll have no similar chores to perform when I see The Bluenose II (I hope) out in the mouth of the harbour.
Thanks again for your help. I will pass this along to the ship.

bstrgds

ww

 

Capt Wayne Walters
Director of Operations – Bluenose II

A Ship Under Sail At Sea – The Bluenose II

bluenose-1024x576-1

Sunday, if there is no fog, I’ll be able (binoculars at the ready) be able to see a famed sailing ship pass the island at the mouth of the harbour. A replica of the ship, at any rate, itself now quite an acclaimed sailing vessel. In addition to setting into many a  port as a nautical ambassador, it is a training vessel for young sailors.
This is the site of the Bluenose II (replica of the original Bluenose) .https://bluenose.novascotia.ca/
A detailed history can be found there. Needless to say, it is an impressive .schooner when under sail, and will be an impressive site out on the open sea. I hope it lingers.
I had dealings with The Bluenose II many a year ago.
I was seated on a bench on a wharf in Halifax harbour. I had noted a tall masted sailing boat pass, but I was watching a large cruise ship prepare to leave.
Suddenly a man was at my back. He was asking me to move so I would not get struck in the head. I turned to see the sailing boat – The Bluenose II – coming alongside. It edged toward the dock, closer and closer, and then a crew member on the bow shouted to me.
He asked if I would grab the rope when it was thrown. I agreed. Soon I had the bow line in my hands and at my feet.
I was asked to put it over the ‘second’ post. That proved to be quite a chore for something thicker than my arm and heavy in weight. But, I had had some practise doing such a thing, just not so unexpectedly and on the fly..
It took a couple of minutes, but I slipped it over and jumped back.  It was a taut rope indeed.
Someone yelled thanks, and the crew started preparing the ship to be secure at the dock.
I did write a blog about it at the time, and sent it to the Bluenose II web site. I received the answer below. I’ll have no similar chores to perform when I see The Bluenose II (I hope) out in the mouth of the harbour.
Thanks again for your help. I will pass this along to the ship.
bstrgds
ww
Capt Wayne Walters
Director of Operations – Bluenose II

Kafka Lights His World On Fire

libo-quemandose1

 

My novel. Kafka In The Castle, fills in Kafka’s missing diary entries. This is how I imagine Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod, reacts to one of the many times Kafka burned his own manuscripts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

19 April 1917

Max was horrified when I told him about last night.

“You burned your stories? Are you crazy?”

“I wrote them, so I must be.”

He smiled at that. Max’s anger can be easily deflected, for it is never deep. Max is a very good man, and cares for me more than I do myself.

“And the novel? The Amerika novel?”

I told him that many chapters of that must have been burned. Probably right from the start – they were no doubt the first things I grabbed from the chair.  “Anything else?”

“There were a couple of plays. I remember pages of dialogue.”

Max’s voice became hollow. He might no longer be angry, but neither was he happy. “I didn’t know you had written any plays. You have secrets even from me.”

“I keep secrets from myself. Don’t be offended.”

“What else?”

I could picture him writing down an inventory.

“Some diary entries – those were deliberate.”

“And was that the end of your pyromaniac obsession?”

“Of my own work – yes.”

He looked at me questioningly – he didn’t need another secret.

“There were a couple of bundles of letters from Felice. Neatly tied with string. They burned slowly. I have not had such warmth from her for a long time.”

 

[image] https://quelibroleer.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/libo-quemandose1.jpg

A Birthday Present For Kafka – Party On!

kafka_mimi
(sweet baby Kafka)
03 July is Kafka’s birthday and –  I forgot.
I could say (without any honesty) that I am distracted by COVID-19 and all the changes (some of them fundamental) which are happening around me. {I had my own two week self-isolation to deal with}. BUT Kafka not only lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, he contracted the disease. And he survived, even though he already had the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him six years later.

But, this morning, a Twitter respondent from across the Atlantic reminded me. I have already thanked her. So, I will repost my Kafka Birthday blog.

First, is the letter I have written to him (as yet, unanswered).
Second, is the diary entry I gave him for his birthday, from my novel, Kafka In The Castle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.
 
In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Does Hope In Life Cloud The Reality Of Death?

quote-plenty-of-hope-an-infinite-amount-of-hope-but-not-for-us-franz-kafka-242320

An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Perhaps because the summer heat is getting to him, his patience is thin with those whose hope outstrip the realities of life and – particularly – death.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

17 June 1917

I am told that you can’t lose people, that “…they will always be with you in memory.” Max is heavy with this type of comment – as if the hand of sentimentality brushed off his coat before he set out on each day.

Both the intelligent and the slow of wit seem to be struck dumb by this nonsense. Emotion, I suppose  – hope, I suppose – has no place for reason among its folds. But, if you can not touch, or have expectation of being touched, then the people and places are as gone as yesterday.

There is no way to travel back, and the future beckons with only an empty gesture and a hollow laugh. Bowing low at the open doorway to usher you in, but the room is empty. And will remain ever so.

When they are no longer there to hold their hand out to you – well, then they are no longer there.

 

(image) https://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-plenty-of-hope-an-infinite-amount-of-hope-but-not-for-us-franz-kafka-242320.jpg

A Meal From History: Beef Stew Tonight

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There is beef stew tonight
 
Done in the slow cooker.
 
S L O W
 
Which
 
(Admittedly}
 
Is Not Historic.
 
But
 
The stew itself:
 
There is so much beef …
 
(How much?)
 
So many cubes of beef
 
That
 
There isn’t any room for the potatoes.
 
No spuds
 
Nary a pomme de terre.
 
Onions – of course.
 
Carrots – why, yes.
 
And turnip
 
Rutabaga
 
R U T A B A G A
 
(I luvs the word because
It really looks like what it is
A true root vegetable that
You have to hack apart).
 
All bubble bubble
(but no trouble)
Together in its
Slow Cooker
Which isn’t really
Historic
But I do think
“Cauldron”.
 
And then
 
Speaking of “Cauldron”
 
This bubble bubble
(but no trouble)
Stew
Is going to be served
 
On buttered heels
 
From numerous loaves,
Of bread.
 
Trencherman fare upon
 
Sopping sops.
 
[Should I tell
How Heavenly it
Smells
Upon
Entering the kitchen?]
 
Why – yes! – I should.
 
Surely ale should
Accompany this stew!
 
But
 
What about redred
 
Wine?

On Friday The 13th I Wish …

friday13th

 

“I wish to state before this assembled multitude;

“Before this packed house;

“Before this captive audience;

“That I have every right

“(As much as each of you)

“To be here and represent my interests,

“My justifications

“And my associations,

“Because I am a member in every day,

And, perhaps

“Even as the nights which are too cold

“And the elevators, as they so often do – stop.

“You look askance.

“Indeed, you look at me in That manner

“That indicates

“That

“The corners of your eyes are full of mistakes!

“Which proves to me beyond and above

“To heaven even,

“Even to the very Golden Gates

“Where the various saints

“Hang to the golden bars

“And swing to and fro in the Celestial breezes

“That cause clouds to scud across the sky,

“And there is barely time to think of a reply.”

[Image] http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-MdKIWdDP1wI/TxCSAm2WKAI/AAAAAAAAEfs/z6pxZKrt1iE/s640/friday13th.png

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