Today we are throwing a party for JP. Finally he is celebrating his anniversary with us, after a few years working in this date. He has been showing his joy and we are all pretty mobilized.
Our guard George was the first one directly involved with the preparations. He usually is. He has spent Thursday gardening and painting. He painted and repaired an extra toilette so that we don’t have people coming and going inside the house with all inherent inconveniences and risks. In the end of the day he was all smiles. His energy is a rarity and galvanizes other people around him. This time we have two guards on duty, because the last party someone took wood art from the front patio.
JP has invited twenty friends, but owing to the last party I am thinking double. I organized the following menu for him: 1) Starters: peanuts, cashew nuts, chamuças, rissoles and cold chicken. 2) Mozambican feijoada (beans stew). 3) Brazilian feijoada. 3) Barbecue meat and chicken. 4) Orange and pinapple slices. 5) Sorbet. 6) Special cake (my present to JP). 7) Black forest cake.
I believe JP is popular not only because he is always paying drinks but also because he is a good company and someone friends can rely on. Because of all this, I think he deserves to have a really good time.
This week I received really good news in terms of summer programs. They came after a few others not so good. It was time something positive happened to make me forget the worst.
Since December we have been in ‘house arrest’. First it was the rain turning the roads into dangerous muddy pools. Subsequently it has been the heat and humidity.
In the end we are doing what people living in cold climates do: whenever possible seeking refuge from the harshness of the weather. We seem unable to stay far from the air conditioner. Cowards!
I’ve been the worst coward of them all. I spend my days watching people coming and saying: “I should have stayed home… Outside is like hell!”, rivers of sweat flowing from every single pore of visible skin. I have become a coward from listening to others’ misery.
Extreme temperatures have their own beauty. One afternoon I wrote down the following: It’s so beautiful outside! It’s sunset now. As we have the air conditioner on, it’s exquisite the contrast between the hot red outside and the fresh somber inside. Maybe you, living in a cold climate, have a similar feeling when it’s very cold and you look outside through a window of a cozy heated room. The indelible attraction of contrasts!
It’s February again and February it’s me. I don’t believe I own the month or that I am owned by it, so then why not just say: I love this month and maybe I am loved by it too? And this one started with a few remarkable facts.
I normally avoid reading horoscopes, but why not when it’s my month and they promise a new life? One came with the Sunday newspaper magazine I leaf through because of a column and the picks of the week, and ostensively promised “a look into your life, money and the week ahead”.
As a curiosity I register here what the stars had to say to me about this particular period: “Excellent! The communication planet has straightened up after weeks of confusion, and you’re raring to go. This is the real start of your year, with several planets in your sign and luck on your side. Make demands. You’ll be heard.”
I knew something was wrong, but I would never have guessed I could have hopped a whole month of time. Now I am not sure if I know how to demand or to whom to demand, but I’ll keep you updated if my luck really changes and the goodies start to happen or I dig that treasure buried for too long.
My kitchen has phases. I was clearly aware of this when TD, usually inviting himself for lunch (and welcomed), when he is here, SMSed the following text: “What’s on the menu today? Peking duck?”
He knows we never cook duck at home, despite the fact that Paul and Andy would appreciate it from time to time. Duck, rabbits and a list of other graceful living beings are uninvited over my table. I would cry if insisted.
But TD’s message made me see that we are going through an oriental kitchen phase. Though not a Chinese phase, it’s definitively a Japanese one.
Last week, while investigating the back-room big freezer where usually we only keep the huge fish JP brings home, chef Tieta discovered the best cut of Dente de Cão tuna. I immediately SMSed TD and girlfriend something like: “Discovery of prime tuna cut asks for another sushi dinner. Besides, I still have salmon.”
The answers I got were like: “Yes!!!!!” This time the menu included: two options of soup, tempura, tuna and salmon sushi, our pecan cake with Madagascan vanilla bean ice cream and strawberry mint pesto. So the last day of January, we had our third sushi dinner at home, not only proving that things have the tendency to happen thrice in a row but also that we are living a Japanese kitchen phase. Sayonara!
The idea came when JP brought home the fourth fish in a week. The last one was a “Dente de Cão” tuna or “Dog Tooth Tuna”. I am not sure if it has the same designation in English, but as soon as Paul saw it he said the tempting word: “sushi”.
We had active company for the first sushi dinner at home: TD and girlfriend. The active means TD had a role in the kitchen too. If I understood it well, local DJs decided to throw a goodbye party for JP and as a consequence we were only four at the table. The food was really good, but then for a sushi dinner you just have to have really fresh fish and a little of knowledge. We were lucky to have both.
This was our sushi dinner: 1) The completely ignored Tieta’s brown lentils soup. 2) Seabell’s sushi in a bowl with sticky rice, salmon and a few other goodies. 3) TD’s sashimi with various fish and the tuna as the shinning star. 4) Td’s seared tuna marinated in some oriental miscellanea I suspect he invented, but it was amazingly delicious.
In the end we all felt there was no room for dessert right away. Only half an hour later someone remembered Seabell’s mixed berries sorbet with fresh cherries and wafers. It was the perfect dessert for the dinner we had just had.
The next day things complicated as soon as Andy coldly dropped that JP refused to emerge from the chain of parties he had embarked a few days ago. He missed for the second time his flight to Cape Town and the course he is supposed to attend there.
Instead of a cozy Sunday at home we had to rush to the airport and book another flight thanks to a tax paid at the last moment. After that we stopped at the new in town café-bar Dolce Vita and had a late lunch of seafood salad and linguini del mare. I left thinking about JP’s dolce vita and the worries we get because of it.
Since I wrote this post a week ago, JP missed that third flight to Cape Town and, as it is evident, he passed the course for a more favorable tide. Meanwhile, proving that things have the tendency to happen three times in a row, we also had our third sushi meal last night. The second one was on the road from Johannesburg.
Age is a difficult subject. Recently I watched a movie dealing with age and making us feel how the “right age” seems to correspond to such a short period of out lives. I always liked joviality, be it in young, middle aged or old people. The only exception was a couple of ladies I knew in real life and a lot I watched on the screen. They were evidently old and effortfully trying to pass for twenty.
Recently I found myself analyzing why I didn’t like their looks and attitudes. I concluded the following: it’s not age what I really hate in them but the way they look. So the root of my displeasure is taste related and not age related.
My second thought was: if one has to have good taste to keep looking good that means only wealthy people can afford youthfulness. It’s an upsetting thought, but in general kind of true.
I would hate to be someone hardly trying to look younger as much as I like the idea of being someone naturally looking younger. As someone easily passing for a different age, I have to be aware of this factor. Am I looking for age related compliments? Fortunately the answer is no. For a start most people got my age wrong when I am not dressed up. It’s evident that people close to me don’t count because they can easily be regarded as plain flatterers.
Observing two people really close to me I discovered two curious attitudes. Paul is definitively a second mirror, the one I trust to control any kind of excesses. Andy is the nicest of my divers, not only towards me but women in general. He “always” notices a good-looking woman and he has a nice way to say it. “Ugly!” is his favorite compliment.
Weeks ago Andy entered our TV room to find Paul and I deeply surprised with a news clip about people fighting over a square of sand somewhere in Mozambique. Maybe you are already thinking: “That’s the fate of humankind. People always fought for any square of land. Look what’s happening in Gaza.” Wrong. Your observation is not appropriated for this particular sort of fight.
The reason of our puzzlement was to hear about people fighting because they want to eat that sand, be it because of hunger, particular proprieties of it or both.
As soon as Andy was informed of the reason of our astonishment, he replied: “Why be surprised? After all they eat cats, don’t they?” And he told us about a day he was sitting with friends in a café and one of them pointed to a man carrying a skinned body. “A cat,” he said.
They started to bet. The majority couldn’t believe the cat possibility. They called the man and put the question. The man not only confirmed but also showed to the incredulous group a plastic bag where he was carrying another skinned and sliced cat ready for the pan.
Eating sand or any other living being is just one of the sad consequences of the extreme poverty people live in. It’s not pretty to see people eating sand, cats, cockroaches, rats, ants, grasshoppers or whatever. But then poverty is not pretty at all too.