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Kafka And A Hungry Bird Give Thanks

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[Franz Kafka and his sister, Ottla.]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the many diary entries Franz Kafka either did not make, or destroyed after the fact. He would have made no references to an actual ‘Thanksgiving Day’, but I feel this is close enough.

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

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light.

Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness.

When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.

“Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature.

Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

The Moose of October Get Hunted and Killed

4082807-female-moose-cow-0

On a recent bus trip through the forests and hills and valleys, which offered kilometres of burgeoning Fall colours, and many other delightful distant scenes, this wee incident happened at a bus stop.

 

The bus went into a small village because a couple were getting off. The bus stop is in a parking lot of a Mall, beside a Tim Horton’s (I think).
Anyway, as the couple got off, a heavy-duty Ford pick-up drove in beside the bus. Attached to the truck was a a longish metal open-bed trailer. On the trailer was a deceased female moose. Perhaps it was too big to drape over the hood of the truck. This was a commonplace occurrence in the days of my youth. Or are those days long gone?

Buddy with the moose pulled up beside the Liquor Store.

Out he gets and walks with purpose into that fine establishment.

Intones the bus driver:

“There you have the perfect combination. A dead moose and a bottle of rum to celebrate.”

[Image] https://photos.travelblog.org/Photos/127380/421162/f/4082807-Female-Moose-Cow-0.jpg

Chow Down: Fake Food To Go (With Your Fake News)

 

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Please, Ladies and Gentlemen, I think it’s time to – please, if you don’t mind – it really is time to begin our – thank you, that’s much better – time for our meeting to start.

As you can see by looking around, this gathering is exclusively for Department Heads, and there will be no minutes taken. These projections are for your ears only.

Not only would we not wish another company to get them, but there is a chance the general public may become concerned, little realising the economics of our endeavours. A brief history of colours, dyes and artificial essences will give us a place to start. Run the strawberry jam, please.

As you can see, Ladies and Gentlemen, the colours on the slide are excellent. The rich red hue of the strawberries is exactly the colour you’ll find in the jar. We spent years developing that dye. Also, the years that went into getting the artificial taste and smell to adhere to the colour is something that most people would not imagine.

 Of course, even with our best efforts, there has always been a problem with that cloying, rather heavy sensation on the tongue. That has been offset by the addition of more sugar. We had complaints when the product was first introduced, but it appears these have now disappeared with new generations who know nothing different. People just accept that strawberries, strawberry ice cream, and strawberry jam all have their own tastes. Next slide, please.

Oh, yes, well, we’ll pass over this slide quickly. I just put that in to show you we finally managed to get rid of the strawberries altogether. As you can see on the close-up, the red glob is really made from compressed fibres – as one of our chemists said, more straw than berry. Even the seeds are produced and added with a gum mixture. We have found that bone meal seems to last best of all.

Now, this next lot we are very proud of. Bronson, these should be of particular interest to you, since they deal with our fast food chain.

The buns are made of very porous fibre, almost like real dough. and the brown colouring gives them a nice toasted look. The meat patty is still half real – we can’t seem to budge the government on that. Still, being able to advertise 100% all beef helps – as long as the fat, bone, guts etc that go into it all comes from a cow, we’re home free. Notice the use of the black lines of dye, to make it appear the meat has just come off the grill.

An interesting experiment has been done with some of our ever-thick milk shakes. We wanted to see how long the latex used to keep it together would hold up under the combined attacks of various strawberry, chocolate, etc. dyes, the fats and gums of the milk mixture, and the acids from the artificial flavours. You’ll be pleased to know that some of them still were thick after four months of refrigeration.

It is easy to see how latex based paints can last for so many years. We are now experimenting with making our french fries out of pulped wood chips. Texture, flavour and colour have all been overcome, but there still seems to be some unfortunate reactions to the hot fat.

[Image} https://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/2015/11/20/60e34786-c484-49a6-8043-848a0523156c/1eca0dcddb6e9e3cb2f8b8f9a6ce42d7/manufacturing-fake-food-a-620.jpg#

It’s Cow Appreciation Day / Ici #CowAppreciationDay

beefchart3
Oh, wondrous bovine,
You blessed cow,
Milketh you we
For your cow wine.
 
Taketh we your steaks,
Your roasts,
Your hide.
 
A nice calf’s liver
And veal beside.
 
From your gorgeous eyes,
And your gentle moo,
Dear hoofed creature,
We love you!

Scampi On A Plate Will A Meal Make

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There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast.

Quarts of wild strawberries will float in flagons of cold Rhenish wine.

Blueberries will be hidden by thick cream, and golden honey shall trickle from plates of buttered toast.

Braces of quail and brown roasted turkey will be surrounded by steaming heaps of new potatoes and tender ears of corn.

Joints of beef and lightly curried lamb will stand between bottles of red Anjou wine and jugs of red Italian fire.

A smoking, suckling pig will have bowls of dry, yellow squash at its feet and stacks of cheeses at its head.

Pastry and pies and a foot high chocolate cake will stand among jars of brandied fruit.

A cask of aged port will remain, to do justice at the end.

Then I shall settle back to patiently await my dinner.

(Image)4.bp.blogspot.com/-zZ6ui4BpCgo/UxPh7mmVsoI/AAAAAAAAAtc/wDO5GnUBoak/s1600/IMG_6670.jpg

Gulled By The Gull – The Smart Bird Strikes

 

seagull-beakI was by the harbour – chilly though it was – standing on one of the wharfs that was still in sunlight.

I had been cautious as I approached the edge, because I did not want to disturb an injured seagull, It was huddled beside a corner post, trying to stay out of the wind. I figured there was enough room for both of us.

The gull did shift its weight from time to time, and seemed to keep its side toward the wind. It was not a sleek-looking bird, and had misaligned feathers on one of its wings. It favoured an odd side-hop when it moved. I wondered what misadventure it might have experienced.

There was little traffic on the harbour, but the sunshine and clear sky made the water a deep and beautiful blue. I was looking out toward the ocean proper when a commotion startled me. My decrepit gull was fast into the air and then, even faster, into the water. Seconds later the bird was back in the air, its beak full of crab.

The gull landed a very safe distance from me. It began to dispatch the crab with fast and furious strikes of its beak. The gull kept the crab on its back as it pecked away at the softer underside. This was no delicate fine dining, as pieces of the crab’s shell flew in various directions, and made sounds as they landed on the surrounding dock. Soon, the only motions the crab made were from the piercing of the gull’s beak.

Considering that I dine – admittedly, with a tad more finesse – upon lobster, I had no problem with the gull acquiring its own meal. It had been earned.

And I will make no more assumptions about the state of gulls by appearance alone.

(image) http://www.cepolina.com/photo/nature/animals/birds/seagull/gull/4/seagull-beak.jpg

Harvest Moon Harvest Leads To Thanksgiving

harvest_moon-662x0_q70_crop-scale

The ground has been kissed by the harvest moon.

They put their hands into the rich earth – dark, moist loam, which clung to the vegetables while it caked under their fingernails – and dug at the hills of firm potatoes. They pulled the limp stalks – were satisfied when the bulky vegetables came out of the ground and rolled to a stop by their feet.

They shook the roots, loosening clods of earth and any remaining potatoes, then threw the dead plants onto a pile at the end of the row.

They scraped the excess dirt from the vegetables, placing the large ones into a barrel, and the smaller – even tiny – ones into a basket.

They wasted nothing.

They dug further with a hoe to make sure none were missed.

 

They paused by the remaining tomato plants, and picked the full fruit. Perhaps over-ripe, yet the sun warmed skin was firm

enough, and they ate the red flesh with pleasure, letting seeds and juice gush to the ground.

They smiled at each other as they ate, wiped the back of their hands across their reddened lips at the same time, and dried their damp, muddy fingers on the legs of their pants.

They stood and pondered by the onions, which they had been taking from the field for months. They plant and replant, but there are few left with tops that have not fallen over. They pull about half, but leave the rest for a couple of weeks and the whims of the gods.

They loosened the earth and marvelled in the strong, healthy smell which each carrot released from the good ground. They left the green leaves on the crown to feather from the tops of their baskets.

Occasionally, one of the orange vegetables would branch into a pair of walking legs. Or even form a strange, running monster which clung fast to the earth.

Some were so thick, that forefinger and thumb could not encircle them. Each was carefully drawn from the nourishing land, so slender tips would not break and mar the beauty of the perfect whole.

 

They brushed against the brittle leaves as they checked upon the pumpkins growing among the corn stalks. They tapped the largest of the full, orange fruit, and were pleased at the hefty girth. They saw some could ripen further, and plotted when the time would be best to gather them.

They broke one medium-sized pumpkin free from its dying vines, and put it aside to have with their evening meal.

As they walked through the withered corn stalks, they were surprised to find an occasional ear that – although small – was ripe and full enough to eat. Overlooked when the others were plucked, they had struggled to a humble maturity.

These were also gratefully gathered, and together would afford them one last taste of sweet corn. As they husked their unexpected bonus, they listened to the wind rustle through the dry corn plants.

DE

(image)https://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2016/09/Harvest_moon.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale.jpg

There Will Be Scampi



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There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast.

Quarts of wild strawberries will float in flagons of cold Rhinish wine.

Blueberries will be hidden by thick cream, and golden honey shall trickle from plates of buttered toast.

Braces of quail and brown roasted turkey will be surrounded by steaming heaps of new potatoes and tender ears of corn.

Joints of beef and lightly curried lamb will stand between bottles of red Anjou wine and jugs of red Italian fire.

A smoking, suckling pig will have bowls of dry, yellow squash at its feet and stacks of cheeses at its head.

Pastry and pies and a foot high chocolate cake will stand among jars of brandied fruit.

A cask of aged port will remain, to do justice at the end.

Then I shall settle back to patiently await my dinner.

DE

(image) https://s3-media2.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/-v7NytmayyRWevrX2_O64A/o.jpg

Eating Fine Food In 13th Century China

In my novel, China Lily, my main characters, Cepa Cannara and Matzerath, are on a year-long trading voyage from Italy to China on the good ship The Pegasus, thirty years before Marco Polo did the same. In this segment, they have a meal with their host, Lu-Hsing.

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

delicious-oyster-omelette

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

“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, 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, 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.”

DE

(image)http://www.funnymalaysia.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/delicious-oyster-omelette.jpg

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