A Very Spanish Omelet

A Very Spanish Omelet

Spanish Omelets – I learned how to cook them in Santander, Spain, when I was attending summer school at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez y Pelayo. No – I didn’t learn at the university. My landlady taught me. She always left me an egg and a potato for supper. The first night she showed me how to cook a tortilla española. She showed me how easy it was – and from then on, she left the ingredients out for me and allowed me to cook the nightly omelet for myself.

Ingredients: splash of olive oil, pinch of salt, 1 potato (peeled, diced, or sliced), 1 egg.

Preparation: heat frying pan, put in the olive oil, let it warm, add the diced potato, add pinch of salt (to taste), fry until golden brown (or to taste) stirring all the while. Beat egg in a bowl. Add beaten egg to fried potatoes to make omelet. Turn omelet over in pan to cook both sides.

Seems simple, eh? But not so fast. Olive oil: I prefer Spanish olive oil, of a good quality. Other national olive oils will serve just as well, but they will change the taste of your omelet. Pinch of salt: now that’s easy. Or is it? I prefer pure sea salt. However, check the chemicals listed on the side of your salt box. Some add iodine, others sugar. No two salts are the same. Your omelet will change taste with the salt you choose. Gets complex, doesn’t it? Nothing complex about a potato, is there? But kind of potato will you use? The Universidad de la Papa in Peru lists approximately 80 different kinds of potato. Each kind will change the taste, and the texture of your omelet. Dicing or slicing? The cut of the potato will also change the taste of the omelet. When we took omelets to the beach in Spain, we always knew who had made the omelet according to the way in which the potato was sliced. Thin slices or squarish chunks? Regular cut or cut in irregular fashion? Sliced then chopped smaller? And as to the potato prior to frying, par-boiled or uncooked? Both ways lend a different texture to your omelet. De gustibus non est disputandum – there is no arguing about taste. There is nothing as simple as an egg – really? White shell or brown? Pale yolk or dark? Free range or battery hen? Fresh or, well, just hw fresh are some fresh eggs – “Eggs from Australia, fresh as the morning” -? Guess what – you omelet will change in taste, texture, and color according to the type of eggs that you use and the chicken that laid them. I wrote Add beaten egg to fried potatoes to make omelet – very true. But the good cooks that I copy actually add the hot fried potatoes (with as little oil on them as possible) to the whipped egg, and allow them to settle and gel together before returning the mixture to the pan. Not so simple then, this omelet cooking. Experiment. Try different methods and different blends of the four basic ingredients. When you find the blend you like best, stick to it.

Cebollista o anti-cebollista – the annual tortilla cooking competition in Galicia permits only four ingredients, as listed above, in their omelet entries. They do not permit the use of onions / cebollas. If you do wish to add an onion to the potato mix as it fries, you may most certainly do so. But the same cautions apply to onions as to potatoes. Be aware of what you are using and how you are using it. And whether you choose to use onions, or not, remember you have chosen a side in an ongoing war – cebollistas contra anticebollistas! Most people are one side or the other, rarely both.

Other things often appear in Spanish Omelets, sometimes under one name, sometimes under another. Next time, if any interest is shown in these recipes of mine, I will elaborate more on The Very Spanish Omelet.

Be Yourself

Be Yourself

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde.

One of my favourite authors. A creator of bons mots and a specialist in renewing the meaning of meaning within words. And yes, within the witticism is a pearl of great price. We must indeed be ourselves. But who are we? That is the question. And how do we find ourselves, or know when we are lost, or know when we are found? Alas, all of us must seek those answers for themselves. No one size fits all.

Re-reading Robert Bly’s The Sibling Society, I am struck by his description of a lost generation that looks sideways for knowledge and ignores the long-held traditions of those earlier generations who brought us here and led us to where we are now. Lost people living in a lost world of instantaneous, shallow distractions. Deflect, distract, don’t think, gaze in awe and wonder, and let the show go on.

The Romans, towards the end of their Empire, had words for it too – bread, wine, and circus. Wrap yourself in an invisible cloak of instant pleasures, think no negative thoughts, do nothing, indulge, enjoy, envy, and climb that ladder as fast as you can. Onwards and upwards into the clouds of unknowing and uncaring.

Up there the Wizard of Oz performs his magic, his illusions, his trickery. Only believe and thou shalt see – whatever it is that the Magician wishes to show you. Don’t think. Don’t doubt. Be like someone famous. Copy them. Imitate them. Smoke like them. Drink like them. Be like them. Try to be them. There are some wonderful role models out there. Only believe ….

And forget about the Fall of the Roman Empire, forget about Oscar Wilde, forget about Robert Bly, forget about me. Above all forget these words – “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”

Forget them – or carve them into your heart and follow the Delphic Oracle and “Know thyself” or Shakespeare “To thine own self be true”. And remember – you can always make each day a good one. It’s up to you.

To be a writer (Revised)

To be a writer
revised version

To be a writer ….

Those who would true valor see,
let them come hither.
One here will constant be,
through foul or fair weather.
There’s no discouragement
will make her once relent
her first avowed intent,
to be a writer.

Those who beset her round
with dismal stories,
do but themselves confound:
her strength the more is.
No blank page can her fright,
she’ll with a sentence fight,
and she will have a right,
to be a writer.

Rejections nor false friends
can daunt her spirit.
She knows she at the end
will a book inherit.
So critics fly away,
she’ll fear not what they say,
she’ll labor night and day
to be a writer.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
To be a writer

revised version

Comment: I first wrote this poem in January 2021. It is, of course, a rewriting of John Bunyan’s hymn / poem, To be a pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress. In the original version, I kept the male pronouns. However, after collaborating as the only male participant in [Quick Brown Fox] Brian Henry’s Advanced Writing Group of 13 fantastic women writers, I realized that the female pronoun was, in so many cases, the most appropriate one. I therefore made the necessary adjustments. You can find the old poem at this link – personally, I prefer the new version! https://rogermoorepoet.com/2021/01/11/to-be-a-writer/

Knowledge

Knowledge

“Knowledge: that which passes
from my notes to your notes
without going through anyone’s head.”

aka
Filling empty heads.”

I came here a beggar, begging bowl
in hand, begging for knowledge,
at the seat of all knowledge,
from the hands of those who knew.

They fed me, taught me,
brought me into knowledge,
as they knew it, but I yearned
for more, so much more.

I found it, one morning,
in my morning mirror, shaving.
I looked into my own eyes and asked:
“What are you teaching?”

My answer: words and empty words,
formulae handed down to me
over generations of people
who thought they thought because
they repeated what others had thought.

This was not what I sought.
Then, and only then, did I look
into the eyes of those I taught,
those who sought knowledge from me,
in all my worthlessness,
and I asked them what did they need,
what did they want to know,
and why did they want this knowledge.

Then I asked them how I could help them
to attain that knowledge for themselves
and to use it to construct their own lives,
on their own, without interference and shame
as I had never done.

Then, and only then, did I know
I had become a teacher in the true sense
of the word, and that together with me,
my students had learned to teach themselves
multiple ways in which to grow.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Knowledge

School Days

School Days

Sixty years ago, in 1962, somewhere around today’s date, I left my public school – private school – boys’ boarding school and entered the real world as a free man. I was lost. They educated me to be part of a world that no longer existed, the world of walls, and boundaries, of lists and rules, of school reports and chains of authority, older boys > house monitors > prefects > head boy of house > head boy of school > masters > house masters > head master. That great chain of authority was to rule me for the rest of my life.

Lists

This is my clothing list. Six times a year I packed all items into my school trunk, 3 times to go to school and 3 times to go home. Six times a year I unpacked all items from my trunk, 3 times when I arrived at school and 3 times when I arrived home.

Reports

I still have my school reports signed by by teachers, initials only, and my father, full signature. He had to sign so that the teachers could ascertain that yes, he had read my school report and that no, I had not hidden it from him. The report is a disaster story. I look back on some of the comments and wonder what worlds, what different realities, were we living in? One verbal remark, made in class: “Why are you in the sixth form?” “I am going to university, sir.” “The only way you’ll go to university is on a train.”

I sent that gentleman my train ticket, but he didn’t choose to remember the comment, made to a fifteen year old boy.

Scars

I still carry them. So many of us do. Less than most, possibly, for us ne’er do wells and miscreants.

In the beginning was the word, and the word, maybe, may endure. I guess, maybe, one day we’ll find out.

The Auld Enemy

The Auld Enemy

Divide and Conquer

They divided us into houses, Spartans and Trojans,
and encouraged us to compete with each other,
single combat, and then team against team,
house against house, eternal, internal civil war.

We divided ourselves into Cavaliers and Roundheads,
Monarchists and Parliamentarians, Protestants and Catholics,
and we continued those uncivil wars that marred the monarchy,
brought down the crown, and executed the Lord’s anointed.

We fought bitterly, tribe against tribe, religion against religion,
circumcised against uncircumcised, dorm against dorm,
class against class, territorial warfare. We defended our bounds,
bonding against all outsiders to guard each chosen ground.

With it came the denigration of the other. Not our class.
Scholarship boy. Wrong end of town. Wrong accent.
We don’t talk like that here. Speak the Queen’s English, you…
and here … we inserted the appropriate word of vilification.

Our wars never ended. We carried them from prep school
to junior school, to senior school, sometimes changing
sides as we changed schools or houses, always clinging
grimly to our best friends, protectors, and those we knew best.

After school, all those prejudices continued to hold us down,
haunted us through university, red-brick or inspired spires,
Trinity Oxford, Trinity Cambridge, or Trinity Dublin,
each gilded with the white sniff of snobbery that gelded us.

Alas, we carried them, piled in our intellectual rucksacks,
through university, into grad school, out into the wide world,
infinitely small minds based on prejudice and pride, continuing
our tribal warfare, unable to understand anything at all,
other than us or them, shoulder to shoulder, divide and conquer.

Comment: My thanks to Brian Henry for publishing this on Quick Brown Fox.

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Auld Enemy: Divide and Conquer

Lists

Lists

We all have them somewhere,
we few, we few, we privileged few,
sent away to boarding school
before we even knew what was
tucked away in old school trunks,
or locked away, cobweb-covered,
in the dark recesses of parental minds.

This is my ‘back-to-school’ list.
It contains everything a young boy
needs, or can think of, when leaving home:
shoes, shoe polish, many brushes for shoes,
hair, clothes, teeth… everything: name tags,
shirts, socks, underpants, trousers,
jerseys, ties (of a quiet color),
sheets, pillow cases, hankies,
sports shirts (house and school),
pen, pencils, ink, blotting paper.

So many memories spring out
from this list, so many skeletons
shake their fists, or wag a finger, or wave,
hello, farewell, from that old trunk.

Look: the safety razor to shave
that first hint of hair on a juvenile face.
Bible and prayer book, too,
though I never used them.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Lists

Revisionism

Revisionism

Chalk on a blackboard.
Black, red, blue, green markers
on a white board.

Here comes the eraser.
The board is wiped clean,
or almost clean, figures,
letters, blurred, just about
ready for the next class.
This happens again and again.

What remains?
Notes in a student’s book?
Memories of a lesson
in tedious boredom,
the teacher droning on and on.

“Knowledge:
that which passes from my notes
to your notes,
without going through anyone’s head.”

Yesterday’s lessons:
dry dust of a doctoral thesis.

Revisionism:
“What color is the blackboard?”
“Last year, it was green, but
this year, the blackboard is white.”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Revisionism

Into the Sunset

Into the Sunset

So, the writing is back. I have reformatted The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature and am now checking it through one last time before I send it to the publishers. This feels good. I haven’t stopped painting though. Luckily the original, hanging on the wall, looks better than the photo. My angles are all wrong and the colours are definitely not as sharp as in the original. As I always said, when introducing Spanish Art via slides and photos: “Do not trust the imitations. Go back to the original.” Easier said than done, especially when the original may be tucked away in a foreign museum hidden in a small town. As Dylan Thomas once said of Swansea Museum: “it’s the sort of museum that ought to be in a museum.”

As for the Introduction of Art, and please note I do not write ‘the teaching of art’, here’s my article on my career as an art facilitator! ‘In the beginning was the picture and the picture was in the book.’ I guess my art career ran parallel to my career as a facilitator of Spanish literature, prose, theatre, and poetry. Some things you can present and introduce. But no, you cannot teach them, not unless you are completely without humility and understanding.

Now that’s what it is meant to look like!

Blood and White Wash

Blood and Whitewash
A Thursday Thought

2-September-2021

Blood and Whitewash is the title of this painting. It has a subtitle: My Plan of Attack.

The origins of the title, and hence of the painting, go back to the Goon Show, with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and of course / wrth gwrs, Harry Secombe, the Swansea Comedian and Master Singer. Away in boarding school back in the late fifties, one of my greatest pleasures was listening to the Goon Show on one of the dormitory’s transistor radios. As a teenager, I found the jokes and the accents incredibly funny. Still do. That’s why I painted this painting. Alas, it is silent, and you cannot hear the accents.

The following snippet of dialog occurred on one such Goon Show, I cannot remember which.

“What are we going to do?”
“Well, this is my plan of attack.”
“That’s not a tack, it’s a nail.”
“No it’s not. It’s a tack.”

So above you have my painting of My Plan of Attack, resurrected after all those years. I throw my mind back to the First World War.

The General:
“He’s a cheerful Cove,” said Jimmy to Jack,
as he walked to Arras with his pack on his back.
But he did for them both, with his plan of attack.

And there in essence is the history of the painting. First, the plan of attack, then the failure and the blood-letting, and then the white-washing of the whole history, a white-washing that turns failure into success, defeat into victory, and loss into gain. But in WWI, it was the poor Tommies who bore the burden, and all the other front line troops who obeyed orders, went blindly over the top, and charged unbroken wire with fixed bayonets.

“If you want to find the sargent,
I know where he is, I know where he is,
If you want to find the sargent,
I know where he is.
He’s hanging on the old barbed wire.”

“If you want to find the chaplain,
I know where he is, I know where he is,
If you want to find the chaplain,
I know where he is.
He’s hanging on the old barbed wire.”

“If you want the whole battalion,
I know where they are, I know where they are,
If you want the whole battalion,
I know where they are.
They’re hanging on the old barbed wire.”

Singing as they marched to their deaths, obeying orders, like sheep, and nipped on by the eternal sheep dogs. Things were so bad at Verdun that instead of singing, the men marched, bleating, like sheep. “Sheep unto the slaughter.” There was so much ill-feeling and rebellion in the face of orders and certain slaughter, that French regiments were decimated, one man in ten shot for mutiny, as they marched bleating, instead of singing, to their deaths.

“Oh, we’ll hang out our washing on the Siegfried Line,
have you any dirty washing, Mother dear?”

“Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” So, tell me, “where have all the young men gone, gone to graveyards everyone, when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

And that, dear friends, is my thought for today: The History of My Plan of Attack. When, indeed, will we ever learn?