The Girl under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming

This is a historical romance ie chick lit book I have been reading to cope with the social isolation that we all have to perform right now to rid ourselves of Corona Virus. Its in a similiar style to the Victoria Hislop books that I have read and tried to emulate.

This is a very interesting book as it documents the fictional life of Penelope Angelika Georgiou or Penny George as she goes by when in the UK. Pen as she is called in later years recounts her life as a Red Cross nurse in Athens, Greece during the Second World War. Its thoughtfully written with an accurate portrayal of what an upper class debutante would have to face going it alone with only her Greek heritage and looks for protection against an uncertain world.

It seems that the books that I enjoy most inadvertently tend to evoke my own life as Leah is in the Yorkshire Dales while writing these books which is where I originally hail from. The character Penny has for a middle name, my name in Greek and she reminds me greatly of myself. Very much like when I was reading Angelology and Angelopolis about 5 years ago. That was on my other blog as this one didn’t exist then.

Parsis and Zoroastrians

This is a book I started reading in my hotel in Mumbai as there is a big population of them there and I was curious to find out more about them. As far as I know they don’t exists anywhere else in the world.

Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Balsara) was the most famous one as far as I can tell but I didn’t even know that myself until I had watched Bohemian Rhapsody which is an awesome movie. Zoroastrianism also turns up in Nietzsche as he wrote Thus spoke Zarathustra which is the name of their God. Although it’s a much changed version according to the book’s author which I’m afraid I don’t recall.

I had a spare day since Covid 19 had cancelled my city tour so I settled down to read through a photographic journey of the life of the author so far. The writer grew up in the Parsi culture in Bombay but was educated elsewhere so that is why they were able to explain in English so well a religion that is not well known in the rest of the world.

Parsis is the cultural name given to Zoroastrians to separate them from anyone else that was living in India. The Parsis are originally from Persia but left due to persecution from Islamic forces long ago. However, they were followed much later on so became very insular. Where as before they were at the forefront of business and became very rich a bit like the Jews of Europe .This fear and persecution has contributed to their downfall in the eyes of the author since they will soon no longer be numerous enough to be considered a community (30,000+). At this point (25,000) they will now be labelled a tribe. There is a very big emphasis on staying within your community and they will provide for you that’s why this downgrading of their status is such a big deal to them.

I was unable to get more than half way through the book as I had to leave the next day but the information about the lives of the children who were becoming priests was fascinating. It is part of the culture for at least one boy in the family to learn how to be a priest even if they subsequently decide that is not the field that they want to go into.

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Delhi (part 1)

Best wishes

Angela

Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark

I bought this book in October 2018 and I have picked it up several times reading bits and pieces digesting the content. This is not a book you undertake lightly for though it is written well; it’s content is revolutionary as it’s pushing at the boundaries of what we currently understand about quantum physics. I still haven’t got more than a third of the way through it as it takes complete concentration and focus which I rarely have available to me. It’s only due to storm Ciara that today I have started it once more.

I have found though that I keep coming back to this topic. When I’m bored and don’t know what to draw; I draw a rainbow, the universe, a sunset or the night sky. I have taken more photos of sunsets around the world than I can count! I’m fascinated with astronomy as I’m always watching Brian Cox. There has to be something in this for though I have explored many, many avenues; This one remains relatively untouched because of the brain power it takes to comprehend it.

I also find that only when I have covered all of the bases and I’m in a really deep meditative like state do I start to appreciate the complexities that are inherent in physics. It usually starts with boredom as I’m unsure what to do next and ends up with some amazing revelations about my self, my place and the world around me. Tapping into the strength of our minds is where our creativity comes from and our best ideas whatever they may be. Walking is good here as espoused by many a scientist who had there breakthroughs then, having a bath like Archimedes with his famous Eureka statement or the more unusual like Einstein working as a patent clerk.

Whatever it is that you do, find some time for yourself as you will be much happier once you have discovered that latent content locked within the fortress that is your brain. You have everything that you need to progress in life already. You just have to find out how to use it to benefit humankind.

Michael Pollen – Cooked

He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on NetflixCooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.

In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.

In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.

In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.

In Earth he examines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.

I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.

Best wishes

Angela

Advocating for autism

As a proud autistic adult I have written 2 new books and these are about how to deal with the traumatic and emotional events that life throws at us like dealing with grief, social occasions, adolescence etc

Imagina and A Life of Ice and Fire.

This is in addition to Autistic Communication and Autistic Education.

My other books are on How to learn the Greek language, Greek life, More Greek, How to learn languages and finally A Life of Halcyon Days which is a romantic chick lit book set in Greece.

Best wishes

Angela

On finding out the reasons for things – cookery edition

When I was just starting out to cook for my self I made the usual student meals. Everyone knew that bacon and cheese were wonder foods that could pretty much rescue anything disaster that you happen to make in the kitchen. Bacon was also the cure if you had drunk too much. What those experiments teach you is the importance of salt and fat to your food.

You don’t realise this then as the object of food then is fuel that is to be cooked quickly and eaten just as quickly so you can get on with whatever activity you were doing before.

I also realised why you always eat pancakes with honey and lemon. There soft, sometimes chewy but also crispy and sweet so all your taste buds are covered.

I’ve have had Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s 3 good things cookery book for a while. It’s another textbook sized cookbook that goes into detail about the ingredients that chapter is focused on. I’ve used it quite a lot as it’s simple and quick to put together but the results are amazing. I have his River Cottage cookbook and his Bread cookbook too. Bread is a thing the British don’t do particularly well as anyone who has even eaten a slice of white sliced bread will know.

I also like Jack Monroe as I bought her first book about cooking on a budget. She it turns out is autistic and has some Greek heritage too so that might have something to do with it. It’s a good book as the receives are simple to follow and there all costed and portioned well. They use some unusual ingredients like tinned peaches but if your as limited on funds as she was you have to improvise.

Another one of my favourite chefs is Jamie Oliver as when he first came on the scene he was known as the Naked Chef due to his stripped down style of cooking. He has made many a book and program since his Jamie’s Great Britain but I find this a brilliant book.

I also have a Readers digest book on potatoes which I find quite authoritative when coming up with new ideas for what to do with spuds.

I thought I would list the best books that I have found for autistics to use so that they can learn some independence. It works for students just as well as there are no fancy ingredients unlike Nigella Lawson.

Thriving Autistic Adult Series

  • Best wishes
  • Angela
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

    Just like my earlier post In praise of wine, it sometimes takes a novice to learn all the necessary requisite skills of an activity, to be able to explain them to others in an easily digestible manner.

    She has a 4 part Netflix series which I watched over Christmas as it gave me insights into Mexican cuisines use limes and sour oranges (acid), The Japanese obsession with the sea (salt), The Italian love of dried meats (fat) and her own life as an American immigrant from Iran. (heat).

    There is also a Blinkist book which I read this afternoon that gives some scientific explanation for the use of different elements in cooking. She explains why

    • Middle Eastern cooks love salt to an unhealthy degree (not just the climate),
    • why vegetarian cooking takes some re-education (fat is flavour),
    • why white wine or tomatoes are counted as a cooking acid where as lemon juice is a garnishing acid
    • and why we love crispy food (heat).

    I have just received her cookbook in the post from Amazon and it’s a veritable textbook! It’s at least an inch thick so it’s certainly a distillation of all other knowledge that she has gained while working as a professional chef in America.

    I like cookbooks that go into depth about the why things happen rather than just assuming you know all of the kitchen tricks already. When girls left school during my parents era they were given a book that detailed how to do all the different dishes that were commonly eaten them as well as advice about the ingredients. This was to back up the domestic science lessons that they had received. It helped them to run the household a lot smoother. While this was patriarchal, gender equality wasn’t present then. It did however allow women the skills to perform to the best of their ability.

    I think we have lost something essential by stopping teaching cooking in schools. I don’t have the innate knowledge that has been passed down from generations or a handy cookbook to assist me to run my own life. I think it would benefit all students if they had such a book. Good mental health comes from good food and the knowledge that you can look after yourself on a budget. With this in mind I have decided to make this a part of a series on things that an autistic adult needs to survive in the world. When there mind is calm then they can contribute there brilliance to the world whatever it may be.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    In praise of wine

    I has just finished Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker on Blinkist and it made me think of the wine tasting I had been on when I was on the cruise in the Canary Islands and the many wine tastings that I had attended in Greece. They do all follow the same guidelines of

    • Observing the colour of the wine,
    • Swirling the glass to check the viscosity of the liquid – the more slowly it drops down the glass the better the quality,
    • The smell of the wine to appreciate its aroma – this builds appetite for the wine to come,
    • The tasting of the wine by sipping – allowing it to run all over your mouth so that all areas of your tongue can appreciate the liquid and finally
    • The mouthfeel of the wine itself – is it light, medium or full bodied.
  • I hadn’t until I read this considered not only the restaurant etiquette of ladies before men and guests before hosts working in a clockwork manner but the job that the sommelier (wine waiter) has to achieve of balancing his guests desires with the food that they are ordering.
  • Many of us don’t know what we want to drink as we are not well practiced in the subtle nuances that are present in wine. There are so many variants possible like vintages, varieties, the infamous terroir. It’s mind blowing the combinations that are possible but it is the job of the sommelier to know all of this while also being able to walk and talk while not spilling a drop. That’s quite an ask so respect your bar staff next time you see them.
    • I thought since drinking alcohol is such a big part of being an adult this needed to be included in the Thriving Autistic Adult Series
  • Best wishes
  • Angela
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

    Circe by Madeline Miller
    Circe by Madeline Miller

    This is the Retelling of the story of Circe from her birth to her involvement in the Odyssey and beyond.

    Circe here reminds me of myself as her company is unwanted by all who surround her as she is different from all the others. She is not interested in the great parties, the gossip or the other guests. Instead she is prone to wondering the great halls alone wanting her fathers attention while avoiding her mother.

    This lack of attention causes great loneliness in herself as she has no purpose. She has great strength but doesn’t believe in herself because of the ridicule she has previously received from her loved ones. Her innocence and naïveté cause her to fall in love with the first man she sets eyes upon. This is unrequited love but she cannot see it until he falls in love with another. All she wanted was to help another because she cared for him but it wasn’t to be. She repeats the pattern as she cannot help the fact she has so much love to give it spills over. She needs an outlet but without children what is an Ancient Greek girl to do?

    You can listen to a sample of this book if you are not too sure about buying it on Audible. It is alternative history as the female side of things tends not to survive. Hence we have history or his story.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Telling tales in Greek

    For Christmas I got this book. It is a children’s book to help English speakers learn the Greek language. It is the tale of the Odyssey and Odysseus. However the Greek that is taught in this book is the original Ancient Greek. This means extra learning of words that they no longer use. It’s interesting looking at the origins of the language though. Some words however remain the same.

    The best part of this book is it’s focus on grammar including the most difficult point I have come across so far – the genitive sandwich.

    This is very difficult for an English speaker because we don’t really have cases, declension or even gender in our language anymore. We therefore don’t ever need to worry about genderised conjugation or even really conjugating.

    English is a hodgepodge of rules that have been adopted from all of the different invaders. This makes it a difficult language to learn because it’s not as pure as older languages are. You do however get compensated by having many cognates with other newer languages.

    Another reason for the inherent difficulty in processing Greek from an English speakers perspective stems from the genitive case being the one that you use to indicate possession. In our enlightened times we wouldn’t ever think of saying ‘of Daniel’ to indicate that something belongs to Daniel unless we were referencing The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s anti feminist and very archaic to think in terms like this.

    Grammar wasn’t taught much in schools when I was attending in contrast to previous eras. I believe they have changed that now with an emphasis on more exotic foreign languages like Mandarin instead of just European. This means that today’s school children are better equipped to handle the linguistic diversity that is present in the world. At least in my opinion.

    Best wishes

    Angela