Thursday, December 22, 2011

together ... with gifts: community!

In my latest E-NEWSLETTER sent out last week I celebrated the people and places I visited on my UK Research Trip. Quite an exhausting process it was recalling details and documenting it all, checking facts and links, so much so that once it went out I more or less came to a stand still. On the computer that is.

Click here to read!

I relished cooking for a sunday afternoon tea, reading a highly thought-provoking novel set in London, Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig, going to my local library and coming home laden with cook books, fresh magazines and a talking book.

Hearts and Minds

A week later I'm only just getting my focus back on the computer.
I owe emails and Xmas notes still! I wrote a blog post on Saturday morning and deleted it just as I was about to Publish. So on Monday... after the most charming gathering the previous afternoon... I did nothing... all day. NOTHING! Well, I finished that gripping novel and watched a few films.

Now I feel ready ... my studio table has been cleared the inks are out and soon I will be off and painting! I've got a few things form tumblr to add here... this one below made me long to get out my ancient sewing machine and try some stitching again. I know many of you are extremely proficient with needles and textiles. 

Two programs by English chefs celebrating Xmas  viewed on ABC Catch-up TV got me thinking... re-runs from previous years I'd not seen them before. The first was Rick Stein celebrating Xmas in Cornwall. Having spent a wonderful week in Cornwall in October I made a point of watching this. 
If you are in Australia you can watch it here. It featured so many traditions like the annual Wassailing ceremony from Saxon times celebrating the earth's cycles, renewal of life and hopes for the next harvest... the green man presided over the ceremony transporting us back through the centuries.

It was actually quite a comprehensive history, reminding us of the daily struggle for food in the lives of so many who lived on potatoes and pilchards for much of the year in this region. The singing fisherman were a treat explaining how their songs developed to keep their rhythm for the arduous daily work tasks.

One Cornish dish featured was the Stargazy pie  ... this is a pie I vaguely recall from children's books always seemed so far-fetched... so to learn the background is quite something!

Star Gazy Pie History and Folklore-Cornwall

Star Gazy Pie is a dish unique to Mousehole (a fishing village in West Cornwall with a most beautiful harbour). Prepared in the Ship Inn, ate on 23rd December- Tom Bawcock's Eve. Long ago Winter storms had prevented the fishing boats putting to sea. In a lull in the bad weather one of their number Tom Bawcock managed to catch enough fish to prevent the village from starving. A pie of many fishes was made from the catch -Star Gazy Pie.

A cornish speciality
I was really delighted to see Rick Stein included the Eden Project is his program... interviewing the founder Tim Smit who was recently written up here in the Independent ..."Tim Smit doesn't do well with the word "no". He successfully persuaded 300 people – bankers and financiers who tend to like the word a lot – to pour £141m into what was basically little more than a disused clay pit. Some 15 years later, what he referred to then as the most derelict place on Earth is what we know as the Eden Project."

Whilst at the Eden Project I posted twice here and here.

The other one I watched was Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Xmas

He invited 6 lucky guests to dinner ... Yes it was perfect and you would be very privileged to sit at this table with the likes of Richard E Grant and the hilarious Sue Perkins. It was most engaging watching as he took off to the Middle East to get hold of frankincense, myrrh, and gold, to a Paris Perfumier to find a sent of leather, burning wood and whisky, the north to get Reindeer's milk. 

Despite all the science and the exquisiteness of it all I must say the Cornwall xmas was, to me, more endearing by far. 

I liked hearing Tim Smit refer to Xmas as a time for community... with the note he had learned that:

The word "community" is derived from the Old French communit√© which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organized society.[2] (wiki)

A community garden in Melbourne - I added this photo as I thought it i such an apt contemporary symbol for community... gardens shared by people of all backgrounds coming together for a common purpose.

I've been keeping in touch with friends at the Millennium Seed Bank and hearing how they are faring in the cold. No snow as yet.
I know many of you who pop by here are experiencing the depths of winter at the moment. 

We are having a much cooler time than is common as this time of year here in the sub-tropics. Xmas is rather a strange experience at best in the midst of summer... the traditions of the north translate less convincingly. 

Frozen Christmas pudding
 good idea for the heat... Frozen Xmas pudding!

Sometimes I think that means here in Australia we end up with the commerce, a holiday and little sense of tradition apart from some food items and gifts.
Still ... many make something special of it that transcends mere commerce. At best we get to slow down and notice things... remember others and make space for sharing and exchange.

Plum and cherry fruit mince tart
image from Gourmet Traveller Magazine

So I rather like that idea of community ... together ... with gifts! And the idea of gifts being much more than what comes with a price tag from the big stores.

Seeing people making gifts in their kitchens, with their hands, or in their workspaces... stopping to think about what they can offer and exchange... who they can invite to share their table or a note or card that is sent off containing more than a few rushed words - to and from - this makes for something more soulful. Extending the notion of family to include many more than one's literal family seems appropriate at this time.

I know many of you will be giving things you've created. That's my next task really!

As to the xmas menu here ... this is a popular Xmas dish here in Queensland...

Gourmet traveller

well my friends... your'e all invited over for a bite....

crab and cucumber sandwiches

I am making my own version of rocky road with cranberries and nuts and toasted coconut flakes... so I'll let you know how that turns out if you don't pop in! Not sure that I'll get to make those sandwiches... something more rustic is on the cards!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whatever your beliefs and traditions... I hope that you have a peaceful time this year as 2011 draws to a close.

Love and warmest wishes to all!
   Sophia xx


Forgetful Angel, 1939
Paul Klee  (1879-1940)
Paul Klee : Forgetful angel

Found over at Seed Capsules tumbler!


Mary Helen-Art Saves Lives said...

I love your posts..and the special Klee angel is so sweet that I must say thank you for all of your travels and inspirations. Merry Christmas . Mary Helen

ronnie said...

dearest sophie allow me to humbly offer this story of an aussie christmas tradition sans commerce (sorry to be a-linking rather than writing it all out here.... but I hope you'll understand why if you get to read the tale)

oh and let me also wish you a very wonderful christmas (on this the summer solstice) and happiest of happy new year! xxx

Sophie Munns said...

There's something about this 'Forgetful angel' I agree Mary Helen.
The word 'forgetful' in the title got me thinking. We like to think of angels watching over us... and here perhaps is the hint that one might have forgotten their duties? ... an imperfect angel?
Well thats life isn't it... imperfect... why ultimately the notion of the perfect xmas is suited to a TV program ... not real life.
Thank you for your warm message and may you have a heart-filled time!

Ah... sounds like you have something well worth sharing Ronnie. I will be popping over! And wishing you a lovely festive season... thanks for your delightful message!

S xo

Printed Material said...

Sophie, Looks like being a foodie Christmas! As we're being treated to lots of re-runs on the BBC at the moment I might get to see that Rick Stein thing second time around. Seems appropriate at the start of the Winter Solstice today. Have a great Christmas and New Year and thanks for that Paul Klee image. If you had shown me that cold I never would have put it down to him. I'm always used to seeing som much colour from him. Wonderful stuff.

annamaria said...

Another lovely post, thank you Sophie. I was delighted to read the etymology of the word community- sounds like an invitation to one big party!Love it! And your wonderful travels will keep bringing forth food for thought anf food recipies as it seems! And yes, the forgetful/imperfect andgel is the perfect addition to Christmas.
Enjoiy it all dear Sophie! Best wishes for a Merry Christmas!XXOO

Sophie Munns said...

Hello Lesley!
I hope you came across the Rick Stein Cornwall Xmas.
I did make the rocky road but probably wont do too much cooking this year... all low key here. Did go shopping at a market last night in the rain and mud for fresh fruit and veg....that was fun in a way... recalled childhood jumping in puddles when mud slushing around in your croks might have been a lot more fun! I had to laugh though!

Glad you liked that Klee angel. May your christmas be delightful and 2012 bring much inspiration and creative fulfilment, peace and prosperity you way!
S xo

Sophie Munns said...

HI Anamaria,
loved seeing your paintings from the last month... always fascinating to see what those paintbrushes are up to!
Well heres to imperfection and sharing gifts of all kinds ... may 2012 bring you many enriching opportunities and delights. Have a lovely Xmas!
S xo

nathalie et cetera said...

mmm! so much food! that fish pie is quite intriguing!
Wishing you a happy holidays season!

Sophie Munns said...

Happy holidays Nathalie!
Amazing story that a pie was born in honour of the brave fisherman!

Velma said...

we gripe if there's no snow or there's too much snow...but christmas looks like it will be cold with little snow. no matter. solstice is past, the days begin to lengthen. a simple christmas here, but full of love. oh, and a few dogs.

Sophie Munns said...

Enjoy your christmas holiday won't you Velma.
Ours coincides with the end of the year summer holidays... Some have a long break now, from work and that translates to many going away at this time as its the big annual break with certain businesses closing for a week ...even up to a month, depending on their trade!
So Xmas can be loaded with extra meaning for people here in terms of a cycle of completion. Its february before things all take off again... mind you... plenty remain at work throughout the period.
x S

r.bohnenkamp said...

Cheers and a very Happy Christmas to you Sophie and yours!!!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Sophie ! So enjoy reading what you are doing. All great things to you for 2012 ! Best ~ Robyn xo

Gloria Freshley Art and Design said...

Happy Holidays, Sophie! As always, a delightful post. Many thanks for creating it. Glad to hear you've had a brief respite; you've had quite a year! I'm looking forward to seeing what 2012has in store for you, and I'm hoping you'll have plenty of time to paint....if that prospect appeals to you, that is! Wishing you all the best in the coming year. Thank you for all you've given. Gloria