I once called my favourite child with the gentle reminder that the following Sunday would be Father’s Day. At the time we were not living in the same country and I thought a gentle reminder would be appreciated by both child and father. My gentle reminder however was met with a contemptuous groan.
‘Everyday, somewhere in the world, it is either father’s or mother’s day,’ my favourite child said. (note the lower case)
I have since stopped reminding any and everybody, especially my favorite child, of any and every possible celebration or commemoration, of either men, women, gods, children or other.
Still, was my favorite child right?
There are about 29 different days on which Father’s Day is celebrated throughout the world and 33 different days on which Mother’s Day is celebrated. 78 countries celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June, while there seem to be 86 countries opting to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. Which, coincidentally, is this next Sunday.

This next Sunday, the 14th of May. Just saying….



Powder and Cubes

cube chicken

I just found out that bouillon cubes are not dehydrated stock. I am devastated. For years now I imagined Knorr, Liebig and Maggi factories to be packed with boiling stock pots, obviously of industrial size, filled to the rim with meats and bones, carcasses and vegetables, circled by chefs in white aprons, checked by chemist in similar aprons and in charge of safety and uniformity; everything giving off whiffs of our grandmother’s homey, old-fashioned, red gingham curtained kitchen.


In my imagination, childish and simple, these deep, wonderful liquids were then, thanks to advanced hi-technological know how, acumen and sapiens, miraculously transformed into dry cubes.


Bouillon cubes, it seems, are not dried out stock. They are, in fact, nothing more than little blocks of paste, made of already dried ingredients. Fifty per cent of each cube is salt. The rest is stuff. Flavors, flavor enhancers, MSG, stabilizers, spices, fat, starch …

As I said. Stuff.

Chicken bouillon cubes have never seen a chicken, although for legal reasons about 3% needs to come from some sort of chicken ingredient. Chicken fat for instance. Apparently the chicken flavor comes from baked yeast. I don’t know where the beef flavor in beef bouillon cubes comes from. I do know it comes ‘not from a cow’.

Bouillon cubes are safe. Salty but safe. FDA, EMA approved. Still, I feel duped. Tricked. Deceived. Hoodwinked. Misled.

It is not hard work, making broths. It is just time-consuming and, most of all, it leaves a mess. A big mess. But the result is always great, for believe it or not, very little can go wrong, preparing a home-made stock. Make it, freeze it and Bob’s your uncle. Bob. Not von Liebig, Julius Maggi or Knorr.

For years now I have been making my own stocks, broths and bases. Vegetable, chicken, beef, bone and very occasionally, fish. I cook these up in my –  Ikea ;)  – kitchen. So visualise this: 10 misty square meters of fatty meat and bones and veggies’ fog, steaming away into gooey goodness. Yes, Mr. Lebovitz, I don’t have the surface either and like you, I get on with it.

But not always.

Sometimes life interferes.

Like you, I don’t know in which world those blog writing, organic market dwelling foodies live. Whipping up dinner for eight at a moments notice, their make up flawless, their aprons stainless, their broths at hand. So, like most of us, I grab a cube.

Although safe and convenient and government approved, we seldom know exactly what we eat or what is inside the things we eat. Most of our baking goods for instance are made with egg powder.


Now egg powder is a safe and convenient alternative to the real deal. It has a long shelf life, is easily stored, hygienic (think of where the egg comes from), demands less handling and less energy and is, as a result, cheap. As it comes in different forms and varieties, egg powder has endless possibilities. Whole egg powder for pasta and crackers, egg yolk powder for dressings and croissants, special egg yolk powder, able to withstand high heat, for emulsions such as mayo, and egg albumen (the posh version of egg white) powder for ready-made savoury dishes and pastry products. Egg powder is an indispensable ingredient in the food industry. As is milk powder. Or all those e-additives – E100 or Curcuma. E621 or MSG. E441 or gelatine. But cream powder, cheese powder, juice powder, butter powder…. ? And that’s only the pulverized stuff.

Safe, convenient, cheap. But do I want it? And bear in mind, the alternative is of course somebody at the stove, baking and cooking away. In my case, that somebody is usually, correction, always, me. So, every so often, bring on the cube, I say. That guiltless, salty lump of taste.

As John le Carré once said ‘Your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.’



(L)Eggs and Bunnies


It is the holiest of times for Christians. Christians, yes. That dying breed, that silenced group, that persecuted lot.
Once a religion, distinguished by its pantheon of saints and martyrs, by its rituals, parables and miracles, Christianity has now, for many, become an embarrassment, linked to past sins, to scandals, bans, memories of indulgences, crusades, bigotry and falsehood. Let’s face it. It all smells so medieval, doesn’t it? A club of men, fishermen for C*** sake; the only women either virgins or prostitutes. A bit Hemingway-ish, give or take a bullfight.

Religion is a tender subject. It exposes our vulnerability and places us in the spiritual realm of faith. A leap down that sharp abyss where words and phrases take on an eternal quality, juxtaposing the human and the divine, obedience and disobedience, left cheek and right cheek, right and wrong. And there’s the rub.
On Palm Sunday, two church bombings in Egypt, targeting Coptic Christians, killed dozens of people. The news made the headlines. But it did not create an outrage. Not in the way a vicious chemical attack did. The question is, why not?

A utopian era of contradictions
Everywhere, we salute minorities, coming out of their closets. We try to help the voiceless find their voice, we try and pull the disenfranchised away and free from their marginal position, into the center of power. We strive for equality or at least equal opportunities. Our public debate is a testimony of our desire for fairness and justice. We all want ‘a better world’. But striving for that better world, the question remains what to do with the old world.

The right thought, the right speech, the right action
Public utterances are being closely monitored and dissected for bias and political incorrectness. Cultural appropriation is the new template. Gender neutrality the new paradigm. But what should be a strength is quickly becoming a weakness and the powers that be, or at least once were, are now on the receiving end. How does one defend old beliefs and opinions without falling into the pitfalls of an antiquated discourse?

No matter my religious affiliation, like so many of us, I am what is called a cultural Christian. My calendar, my holidays, my food choices, my vocabulary and expressions are infused with Christian tradition. I am proud of that heritage. But pride is not enough.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

Traditions are not costumes we slip on and off. Rather, they are the transmission of long-established customs and thought processes. They make us who we are and define who we wish to be. Therefore they should never be taken for granted, but coveted and scrutinized, improved, defended and secured. And the only way to do so is through knowledge, understanding, awareness and familiarity.

More courage. Less guilt.

The Holy week and Easter Sunday. A reason for spring cleaning. Egg hunts. Bunny rabbits. Legs of lamb. Or just a few days off.
For many, however, Easter means resurrection. Hope.
And even Hemingway’s old man cannot but agree.

It’s silly not to hope. I believe it is a sin.



A few minor embellishments aside, i.e. eye liner and padded bras, I have always endorsed a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach which is probably why I like Ikea. Ikea is. It is not B&B Italia. It is not Eames or Le Corbusier, Kartell, Boca do Lobo, or French Heritage. Ikea is and I love it. Each time I wander through its display of living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, compact 25 and 35 sqm living solutions, I am in awe. Cosy, functional, romantic, minimalist, messy, zen, urban, industrial. A bit of hygge. A bit of kitsch.


Decades ago, I witnessed the opening of the first Ikea shop in my home town. Suddenly gone, the formica and cheap plywood. Color entered our world, together with tealights and my good friend Billy.

Ah, Billy!

The ultimate iconic Ikean artefact; object incontournable in the development of homo domesticus modernus. And I, femina domestica moderna, was hooked. My student room was an Ikea blueprint, my first studio apartment an Ikea template. And still now, well, I might have outgrown Billy but I am at peace with that.


I read that 1 in 10 Europeans is conceived in an Ikea bed. Par for the course, my children, in getting their interior design sorted, turn to Ikea. Genetic relevance or simply, the art of retail innovation? Best to never underestimate the Scandinavians.

I am not obsessed with Ikea, I am merely drawn to its persistent relevance. And I am not the only one. Douglas Coupland, be it in Eleanor Rigby, JPod, Miss Wyoming, Microserfs, Hey Nostradamus, The Gum Thief – did I miss any? – can’t get away from Ikea-referencing, which I fear might be partly responsible for the disturbing perversion in my mind that links the simplicity of Swedish furniture with the anxieties of life and death.

Oh Douglas. Mass culture and consumerism? You have no idea.

How sad I was this weekend to read that said favorite author is single after being unsingle for 20 years. That after a series of recent crises he is left unsure if he believes in God. That he feels genuinely lonely.

In his desperation, the poor man, not unlike President Trump, felt the urge to howl into The Void. ‘I am so lonely,’ he thus tweeted. And The Void replied, reassuring my Ikea accomplice not to despair, that our lives have meaning, that we are real, that we will live forever.

Apparently The Void likes Douglas more than it likes Donald.

Or does it? Do we need The Void to like us? Will adulation save us from the miseries of life? Loneliness? Lovelessness? Isolation?

I like therefore I am. I am liked therefore I am, what? Happy? Less lonely? More hopeful?

Not necessarily.

Likes are fine. But are they the sine qua non of our wellbeing? Are ‘likes’ the stuff we are made of? Not according to Hater, the latest dating app that matches potential partners according to their mutual hatreds. In an era of social media political correctness, this is a major leap; a break with our growing obsession with like-ability. Thumbs up gets a thumb down. Love, not based on shared interests but on joint dislikes.


Pundits rave about this new found freedom. Cats? Nah! Dogs? Don’t think so. La La Land? Are you kidding? And as for Valentine…

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,                           
I hate flowers,
And I don’t like you.


A Christmas Carol

listFrom around the 12th of December, her life is ruled by lists. As a mother of four adult children who all come to spend the Christmas celebrations at home, together with their boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and children, lists are her lifeline.

Shopping lists. Food lists. Menu lists. Lists of phone numbers, per shop, per ingredient. Lists of what to order and pick up, where, when and at what time.

Candles, a few more decorations. An additional gift for an additional guest. Wine and champagne. Beer for the boys. Bottled water, still and sparkling and soft drinks for the children. Biscuits and crisps. Lots of crisps. Toilet paper. Wipes. Extra wipes.

She takes out bed linen and towels. She hauls mattresses from the attic. She irons tablecloths that have remained folded for far too long. She polishes silver. Makes sure the glasses shine.

She makes pot-pourri and buys the biggest tree that will fit, leaving just enough space for the white glittery angel her youngest daughter once made.

From around the 22nd of December, the first kids arrive. She picks them up from the airport. Happy, happy, happy. She picks them up from the train station. Happy, happy, happy.

The house is full and warm and noisy. Bags and suitcases. Eat, drink! The TV is on the Disney channel. More and more gifts under the tree. The baby coughs, a slight fever. They go and see a doctor. No panic.

The bathroom is forever occupied. That’s the way it is with six women in the house. The washing machine turns and turns. The dishwasher constantly on ‘Express’.

A first minor dispute between siblings. Nothing new. Old stories, familiar tunes. Open wounds that never healed. ‘You always…’ ‘You never…’ and ‘Why do I always have to…?’ Soon forgotten after a glass of wine or two. ‘Remember?’ somebody asks. And the good times return.

Her husband finds the children unruly. ‘Bad table manners,’ he complains. She tries not to agree. But then he mentions the daughter in law she could never quite stomach. And there she goes. Yes, it is all her fault.

The 24th of December. The big night. The anticipation. The children would like their presents now so her husband agrees on a pre-present. ‘One to warm up,’ he says. He is like that. Soft. Malleable. Enthusiastic.

The meal is delicious. Chaotic. But delicious. Excellently paired wines. And real napkins are so much nicer than the paper ones. The seafood fresh. The bird moist and cooked to perfection. A gratin des gratins. Cheese to pass the time. Dessert, not too sweet and very Christmassy.

Later on, around the tree. Coffee. Tea. Brandy. She has made a Christmas playlist.

Everybody likes their gifts. It is way after midnight when she turns off the Christmas lights.

The 25th. A late morning for most and while she and her husband do the dishes one by one a pale face appears. Coffee. Left over panettone. Toast. More coffee. The daughter in law, yes, that one, prefers breakfast tea. Fresh leaves.

No lunch but an early dinner so everybody can spend the afternoon outside. A walk. Or a play. Or a nap.

She checks her list. Check. Check. Check. And now for the phone calls.

More dinner. More drinks. Another dispute, a bit harsher this time. Less good cheer. But they survive even if they do not make up.

They all leave on the 28th. The day of the Massacre of the Innocents.

She has three days to prepare for New Year’s Eve. She lies in bed and goes through her mind list. Leftovers. Washing. Recycling.

She looks at her phone. She waits for their messages. Have they arrived safely? Are they all well? Did they have a good time?

She waits. Her husband tells her to sleep. She tosses and turns. ‘Surely a message can’t be that hard,’ she thinks.

The next day, the 29th the daughter in law, yes, that one, calls. She is the first one. The only one. She is wearing the sweater Santa gave her. It is such a good fit. And warm. Cosy. The children are fine. They had a great time. The food. So good. The bed. So soft. And can she send her the recipe for that delicious rabbit terrine? They say goodbye. She goes over to her desk and takes out a fresh sheet of paper.

‘To Do List 2017’ she writes.
1.Recipe for rabbit terrine

Happy New Year  


Clothes and High Horses

I have a male friend whose taste in women leaves a lot to be desired. I have girlfriends who married complete arseholes. Still, I babysit their children. I listen to their problems. I have them over and cook meals for them. I try to be a good friend. Despite their not so better halves.
In the same way, I dare not think about what my better half’s friends must think of me. But as long as they remain friends with him, I leave it at that.

At times it is not about me or about us, but about them. At times, our judgement and preferences need to be put in their right place. Sometimes that place is ‘aside’.
If we continuously walk through life principled, our chips visible on our shoulders, we risk severe exhaustion. Not to mention sore wrists. Virtuous and righteous, we need to know when to stand down. No need to be irksome. Repetitive. Tedious. Boring. Inconsistent.
Sometimes it is better to go with the flow, to allow the benefit of the doubt its moment and to choose your battles wisely.

Save your rants for when they are important.

I will therefore not mention the Primark shop that recently opened in my neighbourhood even though prices at said shop are suspicious and bring to mind images of certain practices I would rather see abolished. But if you are a low wage family with children that need to be dressed, who am I to judge?
Nor will I mention, on the other side of the scale, how Dolce & Gabbana, so avant-garde, so sexy, so extravagant, have released a collection of hijabs and abayas. Nothing wrong with that. D&G dress women, gays, transgenders, catholics, anglicans, atheists, even men (wink). They shoe Mrs. Theresa May. (as in to shoe: tr. V. shod, shodden shoeing, shoes: to furnish or fit with a shoe or shoes). Muslimahs are fashionistas too. Very much so.

Primark, D&G, Mango, Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, H&M, … let’s face it. We all know which side our bread is buttered.

Do we? We do, but the principled minority, from time to time, doesn’t. Sticks out its neck. And snubs. Where it hurts the least.

Sophie Theallet. Largely unknown clothes designer, known to have dressed Michelle Obama on occasion. What she lacks in international fame she makes up for with inflated ego. In an open letter posted on Twitter she explains that she will not dress the next FLOTUS Melania Trump. And urges other designers to do the same.
Ms. Theallet refers to her noble principles. Diversity, freedom, respect for all lifestyles, and integrity. Sadly, Mrs. Trump misses out. She married the wrong guy.

Following Ms. Theallet’s logic, many other people should go naked through life. Maybe stay hungry? Walk and not take the bus. Stay out of our schools.

Ring a


Not serving or helping people based on beliefs, religion, colour or gender is segregational, segregationist and racist. It reminds us of those episodes in the past, now identified as backward, shortsighted, and based on the wrong principles.

Not our finest hour. A time and place we should not return to.

As for Melania, she could sew her own clothes, wear her old stuff, start her own clothes line, She could buy out her adversaries. But she will probably ignore the whole business. As should we and the Theallets of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, ….

It all starts somewhere.

Remembrance and Old Books

This morning I have been watching the Remembrance Day celebrations. The Last Post in Ypres, the 19 240 figurines on the College Green in Bristol, the poppies thrown in Trafalgar Square, the placing of the wreaths, the reading of poems.
Somehow, this year, it seems the celebrations are overshadowed by Donald Trump’s victory and Leonard Cohen’s death. Nothing however can or should eclipse the historical significance and relevance of the Armistice commemorations.

There are many ways to reflect on our history of war and on the many sacrifices that had to made for us to enjoy its ensuing peace. Wear a poppy or a bleuet de France, promote and defend peace according to our beliefs, political convictions and priorities, either with deeds or words, alone or in partnership.
As for my own, personal contribution, I have been re-reading Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road. Books on the horrors of the war and its aftermath. Books that should be read and re-read, just as commemorations should be observed, honored and repeated. Year after year.

Repetition, the mother of learning, the father of action, ….

I have done a lot of re-reading this year. Literary novels, historical novels, romance, comedy, the classics.
It is remarkable how the written word contains new messages at each reading, how our personal experiences blend and combine with the decisions and perceptions of our old, literary friends. As we change it seems protagonists change as well. What once seemed insignificant takes on a new meaning. Differing points of view that continue to differ, in a different light.
It is the same with our traditions, commemorations and probably election campaigns and results.

Age? Experience? Who knows?

Returning to our bookcases and libraries, be it physically or in e-mode does not equal reliving or returning to the past. Instead it allows us to give our present a new and fresh meaning. To see how we can do things, see things, experience things in a better, fuller and more appreciative way.
That is what commemorations are about.
The true spirit of November 11.



Winter is not coming. Winter is already here. So no GoT opening line. Rather a dull weather forecast of rain, grey skies and falling temperatures. Except in my kitchen. There it is bright and hot.

The pleasures of winter are many. Boots, scarves, gloves. The first open fires, faux-fur throws casually draped over couches and armchairs. Hot chocolate, deep red burgundy, and steaming hot food.

Winter food equals comfort food and the ultimate comfort food has to be a stew.

Stews are an acquired taste. Each country, each region has its own, unique variety, yet most stews boil down to the same principle (pardon the pun) of meat, wine or beer, stock, root vegetables and strong flavored condiments be it mustard, cloves, juniper berries or bay leaves. Just visualize. Venison in red wine jus. Beer braised beef with mustard and gingerbread. Lamb shanks with chestnuts.

Not so new on the block but enjoying a clear revival (the pun is being completed) is broth with as forerunner the good old bone broth.

For my own version of bb, I blanch, roast and boil with minimum interference of carrots, celery stalks, garlic, onions and peppercorns. I use my XL witches’ cauldron, my finest cheesecloth and I have devised a state of the art cooling method that involves ice and transvasing (decant?).


There is nothing like a bowl of bb under a faux-fur, the open fire roaring and your TV switched on to your favourite program.

This year TV is at its best once more with a remarkable offer of royal grandeur and jewelry (get it?), and, not in the least, the holiest of holiest, the Vatican.

The Pope has indeed made his youthful TV debut with Jude Law as Sorrentino’s Young Pope.

I love the young Pope for all his mischief, his secrets, his sharp humour. I love Sorrentino for his scandalously daring Catholic revival ideas.

Now picture this. A phone call, a friend who wishes to introduce his new partner. A weekend together. At ours. The new partner’s name is _____

‘Oh, and by the way. _____ is vegan.’

I do not care about what others put in their mouths. And it is good to break your routine. Switch off the TV. Go on a culinary adventure.

‘Pasta,’ my better half says when I tell him.
Does not pasta contain eggs?
‘Gluten free?’ he tried.

It was time to Google.

We had a great weekend. _____ was charming. And there is such a thing as a vegan stew. It contains vegetables. Plenty of vegetables. Excellent flavors. Rosemary. Rich.
But, truth be told, it lacks that ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Our friend and _____ left. They make a gorgeous couple. I waved them off. Heated up a bowl of bb. Crawled under my faux-fur. Switched on the TV.

Hey Jude!


Ai No Corrida

Many years ago, decades really, my friends and I were having a late night conversation. Wine, food, music, the need to change and improve the world. We talked about life, society, art, and somehow Hemingway’s Fiesta – The Sun Also Rises. From there we ventured into a different subject matter. Hunting and fishing, women, sex, and, inevitably, la corrida. Bullfighting. Cruel tradition or tradition tout court, animal cruelty, tourist attraction, we liberally shared our points of view until our Spanish friend proffered a different view.

You are not Spanish. You can’t understand. You should not judge.

We were an international crowd. We saw ourselves and each other as intellectuals. He was just being silly.

But he was not silly, he was avant-garde. He had, in our small circle, invented ‘cultural appropriation’. Avant la lettre.

Cultural appropriation, for those who do not know yet, refers to objections by members of minority groups to the use of their customs, culture or even characteristics of their ethnicity by artists (but also the public at large) who do not belong to those minority groups.

At the time, we waved away our Spanish friend’s criticism. Nowadays, we would be more belligerent. What if I am half Spanish, the son/daughter of a mixed marriage, one asks. What if my name is Spanish? What if, from my last incarnation I vividly remember the hooves, the Buddhist ponders? What if I know about ‘being cornu’, our French ami wants to know?

Last week, Lionel Shriver (We need to Talk about Kevin), speaking at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival was given a social media thrashing about her speech and appearance. Addressing her audience, donning a sombrero, she recalled a recent incident involving students throwing a tequila-themed party, wearing sombreros. The partygoers were placed on ‘social probation’, the hosts were ejected from their dorm and later put under investigation. Sombreros, it seems, are only fit for Mexicans. Meanwhile Ms. Shriver has been under attack for her latest book in which she features a black woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is kept on a leash by her white husband. As Ms. Shriver says, are not writers ‘supposed to try on other people’s hats’?



Accused of arrogance and condescendence, one critic claims that ‘those from marginalized groups do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal’.

Don’t they?

I can’t wear a kimono, can’t do yoga, or tae kwon do. White folks in Uppsala can’t eat spicy indian curries, the chinese are banned from coq au vin, all you non-Americans, get rid of that barbecue and don’t get me started on baked Camembert. As we are at it, no avocado for lunch, unless if you are from – where does my staple food originates from – and no coconut oil in your hair unless if you are Caribbean, or Indian, or, I don’t know, as long as blonds abstain. Oh, Mr. Shakespeare? Get rid of your Othello fellow! And as for Bond, James. Whites only, please.

Does this cultural appropriation not remind us of something else? Something we have fought hard to eliminate, are trying hard to exterminate?

Racism, yes, that’s the one.

Is my identity limited by the group I seemingly belong to? Can I only be thought of in terms of white, black, poor, rich, thin, fat, disabled, not-disabled. Is it the other who decides who I am and what I can do, think, feel, based on a few, often dualistic criteria? Am I only ‘either/or’, never ‘and’?

Information and communication works both ways. We express our ideas, we learn of opposing views. We have the luxury of being disputatious. Sometimes we offend. Sometimes we are offended. We live in a climate of scrutiny and often, in our disagreements, we become the victim of self-righteousness. Inadvertence is mistaken for deliberateness. Hurt becomes anger. Movements, based on antagonism, gather momentum. It is me against you. You against us. We lose perspective.

I believe in art in its widest form to bring down barriers, to allow us to crawl into somebody else’s skin, to seek and try to understand ‘the other’, even if most art is shit or, with the words of Ms. Shriver, ‘most fiction sucks’.

The real issue at stake here is the freedom of our imagination. It is our imagination that gives us wings, that allows us to explore, to boldly go where no man ( read no one, but I am a purist) has gone before. If we put shackles on our imagination, we will forever remain chained by the petulance of a few zealots, well-meaning or not.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

As Marc Jacobs inspired ire with his models, fashioned into faux dreadlocks, does anybody vaguely remember his clothes?


Meanwhile, Ai No Corrida.




PS. Ai no Corrida is a song by the English singer Chaz Jankel, best known in its cover version by Quincy Jones. The title was taken from Ai No Korida, the Japanese title of the French-Japanese cult erotic film, L’Empire des Sens. Directed by Nagisa Oshima, the film deals with the story of Sada Abe who in the 1930s erotically asphyxiated her lover, cut off his penis and testicles and carried them around in her kimono.


Talk about cultural appropriation….


Charity, Gastronomy and Multitasking


We are in Rio and 18 000 athletes and their Olympic entourage need to be fed, three times a day. I have no idea of the dietary needs of the athletes. Does Usain Bolt go to his nearby canteen and grab a turkey sandwich, joining Michael Phelps who is having a spaghetti bolognese? Does Nafissatou Thiam (Rio 2016 Gold Medal heptathlon for Belgium – just saying) ask for a chicken salad, then caves and orders a side order of onion rings and fries? Are there onion rings and fries? Is there sourdough? Baguette? Full fat yoghurt? Skinny lattes? Veggie burgers?

Whatever there is, it is not all consumed and Mr. Massimo Bottura does not like this. He has therefore taken the high road from Modena where his multi starred restaurant Osteria Francescana is located, to Rio where he decided to make a difference. A meal, made from donated, unused ingredients, for 70 homeless people. Good on him.

Bottura is not alone. Juan Roca, Alain Ducasse, Alex Atala and many more have joined. And meanwhile, in collaboration with Brazilian chef David Hertz’s nonprofit organization Gastromotiva, the RefettoRio Gastromotiva is born. A project hopefully to stay, feeding the poor, the needy, the hungry.

Culinary philanthropy and social gastronomy are nothing new. Jamie Oliver did something similar, Milan’s Refettorio Ambrosiano (also Bottura) is still up and going, scholarships, give-back initiatives, … celebrities join in, politicians show their support, designers design for free, the pope gives his blessing.

It is true. We waste too much food. We are overfed. The world is unfair.

Enter the beautiful world of charity.

One needs not be cynical when it concerns charity. Voluntarily helping those in need is a humanitarian act. It is a duty in all religions. Charity takes on many forms. Giving money, making donations, sharing knowledge, dedicating time.

But when to be charitable?

According the Olympic Games to a particular country and town is, as always, a political choice. Committees, lobbyist, I will not mention the unmentionable. But where ever the Games go to, we should not pretend to suddenly wake up to an unknown reality. The favelas in Rio did not appear overnight. The displacement of citizens, new police strategies, changes in law enforcement, it was all to be expected. After all, there are many versions of Rio de Janeiro.

Soon however, the Games will be over. The question then is, which version of Rio will survive?

Crying ‘shame’ and showing a few minutes of ‘social’ coverage is all very well, making a fashionable entry and proclaim your affiliation with a good cause or viewpoint, why not? But the structural needs for change, beyond charity, are all too soon forgotten. And up to the next hotspot we move.

As for Mr. Bottura. He is a talented chef and I am – I am honest – regretful. A bit bitter perhaps. Living at a merely 250 km from Modena, I have missed the Bottura boat. I could, I should have gone to his Osteria, before the multiple awards. I should have made the effort and book a table. Lead, not lag! But, as I said, that ship has sailed. I missed the Osteria, when prices were still affordable, when tables were still obtainable, when Bottura was still in his kitchen.

Bottura has a charitable organization. He has a charitable vision. A plan. He wants to share his good fortune. He is a good man. But he is no longer in his kitchen.

For whoever now books a table at his Osteria, it will be his talented second in command who will cook the food Bottura has invented. And in a way, now snubs.

It is difficult to please everybody. And when one’s intentions are good, why complain? Well, perhaps because, as long as we stay in the realm of the charitable, certain issues, despite all good motives, are not raised. Targeting symptoms, not causes. The unclear distinction between charity, justice and injustice. Who assesses the efficiency of the charity in question? Who benefits from it?

Feeding people is a noble act. Feeding the hungry is virtuous. Taking time out to help your fellow man is admirable. But multitasking is difficult and choosing between our multiple interests, plural philosophical views and ultimately, daily actions and occupations is a different matter. In the end, something always has to give.

As for Bottura, he does not like waste. Perhaps it was written, not in the stars but at least in his menu. Who else could come up with


Oops I dropped the lemon pie!