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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.”

Happy Birthday To Me / Hippo Bird Day Two Ewes

 

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There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast for my birthday.

     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.

[Image] https://image.slidesharecdn.com/brthdy-1225815250925041-9/95/happy-birthday-1-728.jpg?cb=1225786507

I Am A Sophisticated Friday Night Drunk

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(Some New Brunswick Friday entertainment)

 

It is a Friday night
In New Brunswick.
There are Friday nights
In old Brunswick,
They are called
Freitag Nacht.
 
 
In New Brunswick (perhaps of old),
The guys and gals
Got drunk,
And ate well,
To celebrate
The weekend.
 
 
Steaks and beer,
(Maybe fish & chips),
As long as one was
Well-oiled
To slide into Saturday.
 
 
But I am a
Sophisticated
New Brunswick
Drunk
 
 
Though
Perhaps not
Refined.
 
 
With my steak
(and fries),
I have red wine.
Red red wine
Though – admittedly –
From a box.
 
 
But it is
High-toned
Red red wine
(In a box),
Imported
From Australia.
 
 
Where they also know
How to eat steak,
And let ‘er rip
On a Friday night.
 
~ D.E. BA U.E.

Eats On The Menu From Heaven

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Bernard’s Bartibog Bridge Bistro
Has hearty Baloney Bouillabaisse
And other, fine
Experimental cuisine.
 

Dare one speak of eggs
Deviled
Yet
So Heavenly?
 
 
Cherished Cashew Chowder
A nut
And a Tusk
Entree to Paradise?
 
 
Frothy frankfurter frappé
Crunchy ice crystals
And a hint of
Condensed milk.
 
 
Tuesday Treat
Tufted Titmouse Tourtière
Feather light
And airy.
 
 
Blue Fin Tuna
Blue Plate Special
Blue Sea fresh
Blew me away.
 
 
Vibrant Velvety Vichyssoise
Leeking its rich taste
Into crème de la crème
So cold it’s hot.
 
 
Succulent Seaweed Soufflé
Dulse Vita Maritime
Ripped from the rocks
Of a Grand Manan shore.
 
 
Pickled Peach Pie
I Scream Ice Cream
Delightful dessert
“Will that be to go?”

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?

Then Came Each Actor Upon His Ass

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Then Came Each Actor Upon His Ass

And it was good.

So very good.

And each had food

Unto itself

And unto himself

The feedbag was full

The groaning board groaned

The drink was abundant

The water trough quenched

The wine barrel quenched

And it was good

And so the first day passed.

 

Eat The Elderly And Not The Rich

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[Swift]

 

Save them for later.
Now, hear me out, because I’ve been thinking about this.
First, some full disclosure. I, myself, aspire some day to make $5M, so that is my starting point on “rich”. I don’t begrudge anyone having $5,000,000. A pleasant, round number, which most people will still have to strive for. And – all things being equal – someone with $5M isn’t really causing much corruption and destruction to the earth. Leave them alone. They buy stuff. They give big tips.
But, anyone above $5M – well, they’re, er, fair game. Get out you bows and arrows.

Now, everyone is worried about the Economy. Not the earth we live on, and not the myriad types of life that exist upon it. “Money makes the world go round”, as is sung in Cabaret. But money (and homo sapiens sapiens love for it) makes the World die. Bye-bye. It was fun while it lasted.
However, why not wed two practical ideas (one very popular at the moment) and save the Earth two fold, by getting rid of the elderly and the rich? The Elderly are sucking the life out of the Earth, taking resources and giving little back. Sure, they are the ones who made the prosperity in the first place, but their time has come. Let the species survive. Get them out on those ice flows while there are still ice flows.
Instead of crematoria just getting rid of the Elderly bodies, adjust them to a lower flame and, only figuratively fry them up. It can be a new twist on “aged” meat. Spicing optional.
And then, when a taste for a human delicacy has been honed, turn to the rich. They are well fed, generally in good physical shape, and already nicely-flavoured from their extravagant life style. Succulent suppers all around, with plenty left over for hearty stews Red wine or white at the discretion of discerning diners.

Yes, this is a modest proposal.

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

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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

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