I was saddened by the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing today. Although, the world was in many ways awaiting the news considering is recent poor health (he had reached his 95th year after all), but none-the-less the passing of such a significant human does evoke a certain melancholy.
I, like many others, only know of the man what has been presented in the media and in his biography “Long Walk to Freedom”. So, ok, I read the book in a rather cliched situation… while touring Africa… it seemed appropriate! It is a tome, and I will admit to returning home having only read half of it and the book was added to the pile of started but not finished books that will someday (that ever elusive future point) be finished. But that is not the point I want to make. The book, or at the very least the part I have read, provided some very interesting insights into this well respected guru. The politics were’t really my thing, but his retelling of his youth was fascinating – his world was so different from my own, and probably yours too. There was one particular event that stuck with me. He writes about being a young boy in the village and playing with his friends. They were taking turns riding a donkey, when it was young Nelson’s turn, the donkey bolted into a thorn bush and unseated him. A scratched child emerged form the bushes to face embarrassment and a sense of loss of dignity in front of his friends. He says in the book: “…I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate.” From that day, he “… defeated my opponents without dishonouring them.”
This reaction, I think, was very telling of the person he would become as it is not unusual (in my observations at least) that children can be quite mean – they tease and bully, often not really understanding the implications of what they are doing – so for little Madiba’s understanding of that moment says much about his perception of the world from a very early age… A great role model even then!
It has been a sad week all around. Aside from the other media ‘worthy’ death of American actor Paul Walker (Miss Prettier-than-Julia-Roberts definitely mourned him), on a more personal note I learnt that a former school-mate had died in an accident and that a dear family friend also passed from motor neurone disease. All of this in the wake (pun not intended) of that very important American event: Thanksgiving. Now you may think that it’s odd to bunch together death and thanks – but I think that death reminds us to be thankful. Thankful for the people in our lives, for the inspiration we get from others, for our health etc.
I had the privilege (another thing to be thankful for) of being invited to a Thanksgiving feast thrown by the Divine Miss B. It was full on: turkey with all the fixin’s and amazing cornbread.
Now, not being an American (though I have claimed honorary status for this one day each year) it has baffled me why they/we have such a feast so close Christmas and that Thanksgiving seems to be a bigger deal with family more likely to come together in November than December. The Divine Miss B explained it very simply.
“Everyone can celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s not a religious holiday, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist, it’s a holiday for everyone.”
Now, I like that!
At Thanksgiving, after gorging ourselves silly, we went around the table and had to say what we were thankful for. What I am thankful for everyday is that I wake up not fearing for my life, my health, my right to free speech (even though apparently we don’t actually have this right in Australia), that I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, that I have food to eat, that I have great friends, that my friends and family are in the same predicament of good health etc… It turns out I have a lot to be thankful for…
What are you thankful for?
Anyway, onto the important stuff – food. Apparently a staple thanksgiving dinner is beans. Of course, not content with boiled or steamed, I decided to make a tangy three bean salad – very tasty. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to make it again for Christmas. Now I didn’t measure anything because it hadn’t planned to blog about it, but I was asked for the recipe so here it is. I’ve guessed at the measurement so to put the usual caveat out – add as much or as little of anything you like, trust your taste buds to tell you when enough is enough.
Thankfully tangy three bean salad
1 large handful each of 3 types of vegetable – I used french green beans, yellow butter beans, and snow peas (you could use any crunchy vegetable really)
1 tin of chestnuts (I couldn’t find fresh ones)
6 spring onions
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup light olive oil
a generous splash of malt vinegar
juice of one orange
1 very heaped teaspoon dijon mustard
caster sugar (actually add as much as you need to get the balance of tartness and sweetness, I think maybe 1 heaped teaspoon?)
sea salt and white pepper to taste
1. Drain the chestnuts, place on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees Celsius until dried out a bit. Allow to cool and then slice/ crumble.
2. Boil the vegetables so that they are cooked but still firm (for the beans this was somewhere between 3-5 minutes), remove from heat, drain and rinse in cold water.
3. Blend all dressing ingredients together.
4. Mix together beans, chestnuts and dressing. Serve cold.