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.

First Post of 2023

First Post of 2023

There is nothing to say, except that I have lost my way. Every poem posted to this blog is unavailable for publishing elsewhere. I may not submit them to journals, to editors, to competitions. This is one of the reasons why I have been silent for so long. It’s the same thing with Flash Fiction and stories. ‘Must be unpublished – no social media’. Alas – this blog is ‘social media’. So – I have lost my way, my reason for blogging. What can I blog about?

The weather – we have hardly seen the sun since well before Christmas. Snow, rain, icy rain, ice pellets – ofnadwy a diflas – disgusting weather. The sun shines in my heart. I also have bottled sunshine – sol embotellado – brought in from Spain. But who wants to read wet weather reports, day after day after day? Come to that – who wants to write them?

The news – this is even more depressing than the weather. I sometimes think that the papers deliver as much bad news as possible so we will be happy with the few items that do brighten our lives. Mal de todos, consuelo de tontos – when everybody falls on hard times, only fools take consolation from it.

Politics – spare me from politics and politicians. There is little good to say about any of them. Politicians are treacherous and their policies are worse. I remember the restaurant in Avranches with its sign on the wall – un jour sans vin est un jour sans soleil – a day without wine is a day without sunshine. Well, a day without politicians is a day full of sunshine – no matter what the weather is like outside.

Sports – we are sports-logged. I have never seen so much sport on the TV. Well, to be honest, I haven’t bothered watching it. Event after event, and events running simultaneously all around the world. I am fed up with tennis, soccer, ice hockey, rugby, and all the myriads of championships being played out before us. And the scandals – and the money changing hands – and the grotesqueness of ownership and player trading?

So, what is left to say? I have lost my way and I am trying to find a path through the wilderness of wild words that besiege me. Siege Perilous, indeed. What can I write about? What can I say? Maybe I should start an agony column.

Agony column – send in your questions and maybe, just maybe, I will think about them and comment on them. No. That won’t work. I already have too much on my plate. “Don’t tell me your troubles, I’ve got troubles of my own. Leave me alone, go on home, tell them to a friend, I’ve got troubles of my own.”

The sun – maybe, when the sun returns from his winter vacation, I will actually find something to write about. Maybe not.

Birthday – meanwhile, it’s my birthday I remember my grandfather reciting to me in the kitchen back home in Wales. “Today it is my birthday and I have ten thousand pounds to give away.” He would pause for a moment and then continue: “On second thoughts, I think it best to lock them back in my old oak chest.”

Poems – so the poems will stay in my old oak chest until I publish them properly. Flash Fiction and Short Stories too. In the meantime, any suggestions for this blog will be welcomed with open arms. Including folding it, shutting it down. Maybe it has served its turn and become, like me, out of date and obsolete.

A Good Friend

A Good Friend

Sitting at the kitchen table, sitting with my friend, Geoff Slater. He drove up from Bocabec to see me and help me sign some books. We have published several collections together – McAdam Railway Station, Scarecrow, Twelve Days of Cat, Tales from Tara, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature, and The Water Tower.

Scarecrow and Twelve Days of Cat contain Geoff’s drawings and my prose and poetry, while The Water Tower is composed of Geoff’s photos, taken while completing the repainting of his wonderful mural, adorning the water tower in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Today we signed copies of Scarecrow, Twelve Days, and McAdam. I have been very lucky with most of my literary and artistic friendships. It always gives me great pleasure to receive my friends at home and to talk away the hours on the chiming clock.

I also enjoy cooking for them, and today I made a delicious paella with ham, chicken, and shrimp. More important, the rice – I had a packet of Bomba Spanish paella rice, and what a difference that made to the cooking of one of my favorite dishes. The socarrat, that crispy layer that coats the bottom of the frying pan or paella was simply wonderful!

Writing can be a lonely life. What a blessing is a good friend, totally creative, off whom one can bounce ideas, exchange artistic stories – our narratives as we call them – and even collaborate on the creation of more art works. Geoff Slater – line-painter extraordinaire – I salute you!

Quilting

Quilting

A man among many women,
I sit silent, feeling their eyes
explore my flesh, my stitches.

I need glasses now for delicate
needlework. To thread a needle
the workshop leader has a gadget.

It passes from hand to hand,
ties the perfect quilter’s knot.
My grandpa’s canvas sewing kit,

World War One Vintage, served him
before the mast and in the trenches.
From it, I take a small looped wire.

I remember when I could see and he
could not, hence his need for me
to thread the needle and knot the knot
that he could no longer knot.

Now I choose my tiny patches,
join them, stitch them into a square
and, ironed out, into the quilt.

We must sign them, and I do.
My name and little sayings
in Spanish, Latin, and Welsh.

The leader asks me to translate them
then writes the meanings down.
“Beautiful work,” she tells me.

“Where did you learn to sew?”
I close my eyes, sew my lips tight.
Some secrets I’ll never let go.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Quilting

Comment: I wrote this after reading the section entitled Quilt in M. Travis Lane’s book A Tent, a Lantern, An Empty Bowl (Windsor: Palimpsest Press, 2019). Poems that could double as paintings, proclaims the paragraph on the back cover. I have no such talent. My own poem is more of a memoir in the form of a narrative sequence. To each his or her own, or, in the modern parlance, to all their own. And a poet must do what a poet can do, each of us adding our own little offerings to the great sea that is poetry.








Red Sky

Red Sky
After a long conversation
with my hero:
Travis Lane.


Red sky at night,
shepherd’s delight.
Red sky in the morning:
sailors take warning.


But I am not a sailor,
nor will I ever be one.
Nor a tinker, nor a tailor, nor
part of any nursery rhyme.

So easy to follow the sheep,
and graze where they may graze,
in safety, and the shepherd’s crook
all too close at hand, with both
hands and shoulder all too ready
to save, comfort, and carry
home to the security of a safe place.

Better by far to float along,
guided by sun, stars, and tide,
choosing your own route as you go,
or going with the eternal flow,
going where it takes you,
red skies at night, storm warnings
in the morning, and everywhere
the give and take of creating
new things, new paths, wherever
you may choose to go.

“Red car at night,
wifey’s delight.
Red car in the morning,
hubby take warning.”


Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Red Sky



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

Losing Language

Losing Language

To lose your language
is to lose your dignity and your muse.

It’s to lose the power of self-expression
and to frustrate the longing soul
that flutters like a butterfly
striving to reach for the beauty of light
yet frustrated by the weight
of its now useless wings
unable to rise.

So much the soul sees at night,
wandering in dreams among the stars.
Memories of former rooms
where the old inhabitants still dwell,
shadows among the shadows,
some still gifted with limited
powers of speech,
but others, tongue-tied and silent,
and our chatter reduced
to a net of butterfly buzz words.

Oh for the freedom of flight,
for the liberty of my language found anew
and capable still of shaping and recreating
the world of silence in which I now live.

Based on a Welsh Poem by Harri Webb
Colli iaith a cholli urddas.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Losing Language

Tangled Web

Tangled Web

“Oh what a tangled web we weave
when we first practice to deceive.”


But who are we deceiving, us or them,
ourselves for believing our own propaganda
or them for being deceived by what they hear?

Propaganda, properly goosed,
and the goose wrung by its neck
and strung up to dry before
we pluck it, season it, and cook it
in its own grease
for a heavy Christmas dinner
so much cheaper than a chicken
or a turkey, unless
we breed them ourselves.

Or would you rather duck?
What’s that flying over there?
I don’t know.
Here comes another one.
Flying low.
“Duck!”

Or, as the duck said at Christmas:
“Peace on earth:
but put an end to peas,
please.”

Sound of Absence

Sound of Absence

It’s a lonely walk round the animal park,
the petting zoo with its animated young,
goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, all of them
greedy and alert, ears pricked, eyes open,
munching away, hand-fed by the visitors.

Only the wind moves the swings today.
We walk in silence, but don’t stay long.
That little body that swung the swings,
those little feet that raced from place
to place at such a bewildering pace…

they are not here. We watched them board
the plane, fly up into the sky, head west
and home, and now we, the old folk,
abandoned, hold hands, and walk alone.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sound of Absence