Every year I used to remark to my wife on the shortness of the spring and autumn seasons in Cyprus. “Yes”, she would reply, “You said that last year….. and the year before”. True. Nonetheless, the few weeks of spring provide us with a lot of pleasure, especially the flowering of the almond trees, which tinge the hillsides, greened by winter rains, a delicate pink.
William Shakespeare wrote many sonnets and poems that allude to spring and its effects on young lovers. In these lines he explains the reason for the cuckoo’s cry: it is mocking married men who are no longer free and single. They are thus unable to choose freely from the available women. He is also hinting that some men may find themselves cuckolded in the spring.
From “Spring” in Love’s Labours Lost by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
“When daisies pied and violets blue And lady-smocks all silver-white And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue Do paint the meadows with delight, The cuckoo then, on every tree, Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo; Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear, Unpleasing to a married ear!"
The next lines are also by Master Shakespeare, and once set memorably to jazz music on a lovely old recording I still have.
In springtime, in springtime, The only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding-a-ding, Sweet lovers love the spring
Onwards to the 20th Century; another age and another poet. Less elegant, but amusing was the American Ogden Nash, whose work includes this light-hearted ode to spring
Spring has sprung,
De grass is rizz.
I wonder where de boidies is?
Dey say de boid is on de wing
But, dat’s absoid,
De wing is on de boid.
If in spring, as the poet says, a young man’s fancy does turn to thoughts of love, whereas an old man’s, like mine, turns to thoughts of spring vegetables and springtime recipes, which is better for us all. And I can recommend this one…
Spring Lamb and Vegetable Casserole
Look at my picture! The lovely baby carrots, green beans, onions and potatoes in this spring casserole. And easy is the word. Start by chunking lean lamb, dusting in flour and turning in a big oven-proof pan, in which you have heated fat or oil, until browned all over. Add pieces of onion, carrot (and other root vegetables, if you like, such as turnip, swede or parsnip) and cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly. Pour over lamb or chicken stock to cover, put on the lid and cook in a moderate oven (100ºC) for at least an hour or until the meat is tender (this depends on the cut and age of the meat), stirring in the green beans and asparagus about 15 minutes before serving, or adding cooked beans or asparagus just before you serve)
Having grown up in England, I could never quite accustom myself to the seasons in Cyprus. The often blistering summers seemed to dry off, nay kill, grasses, shrubs and other greenery. Anywhere in the uplands that was not covered in vines looked almost desert-like And yet, with the first rains of October, green grew the grass, wild herbs, shrubs and little wild flowers. And then, come February, another show comes along.
As spring unfurls, the hills become a symphony of different shades of green, a paradise for the walker, or bird-lover charting the migrations of many visitors, some of them, like the Hoopoe, most exotic. These are days for townsfolk to take the family to visit Aunty in the village or have a picnic among the greenery. Better still, leave the kids with Aunty and take the wife to a good taverna.
A DELICIOUS PICNIC LUNCH BOX
Fill a couple of plastic containers with good dishes of cold food, rather than make sandwiches, and pack them in a cold-keeper. That’s my advice for a successful picnic meal. And here are a few thoughts on what to put in them…
Home-made chicken and ham pie uses frozen ready-made puff pastry and “stuffed” with chopped, cooked meats “suspended” in a little thickened stock or white sauce. Take the ingredients for “Trciolore” (Halloumi, Tomatoes and Greens) in three little boxes and assemble on the picnic plates.
(Left) Take a Dip on your picnic, like tahinisalata, hummus (pictured) or Baba Ghanoush (Melitzanasalata) with crackers or bread. Or (right) go English with a “Ploughman’s lunch” of cheese, pickles and ham, to which I have added big Greek black olives and some of our delicious local ham.
Ingredients 60g/2oz fine dry breadcrumbs 125ml/4fl.oz light cream 125ml/4fl.oz water 200g/7oz finely minced lean beef 200g/7oz finely minced lean pork 1½ tsp salt ½ tsp ground allspice 1 small to medium onion peeled and very finely chopped 1 egg, beaten 75g/3oz butter A few grindings of black pepper Method 1 In a bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, cream and water. Set … [Read More...]
Detail of Dionysus and Ariadne seated in a vineyard. From a vase depicting the god and his retinue in the Museum of Modern Art, Toledo, Spain An Email from friends in Cyprus arrived this morning as I sat looking out of the window where I write. It described an evening at a local restaurant I remember so well, having spent many happy dinner hours there: my wife and me on our own; … [Read More...]
A few thoughts of Old England Last weekend was quietly celebratory, because it covered my birthday and that of my daughter, who, along with her brother, spent a couple of days with us. I will not tell you my age, because you may remark that I am well past my Sell By date. My daughter will not, either, because she is female. This said, we all had a good time. Apart from one meal “out”, we … [Read More...]
Regular readers will know that I love my food. I enjoy very many kinds of it. This is not to say I am a glutton. I am fortunate in that my disposition is to eat in moderation. As for preferences, I lean very much eastwards – to the Levant to start with, and then to Arabia, Iran and on to India and the Far East. So a large tome that I bought the other day, from an on-line bookstore “The Food of … [Read More...]
Review – “Sax Stories” by Belinda Moore This slim, well presented book offers profiles of forty citizens of Saxmundham, many of them with photographs. They are a good cross-section of the populace and a helpful and enjoyable introduction for the shorter term residents of the town, like myself and my wife (a mere three and a half years). It is almost Ronald Blytheian in style and feeling for … [Read More...]
Encouraged by the favourable entry in the 2014 Good Food Guide, we went to dinner at the Dennington Queen on Easter Monday. An ample car park, in front of an attractive well painted, attractively illuminated period building, led in to a clean, spacious, pretty and comfortable bar and dining area. Just two other tables were occupied, but the staff were in good form, welcoming, friendly and … [Read More...]
By “SuffolkEater” We are always somewhat suspicious of places that advertise quite widely and extol their own virtues on websites. So we approached dinner at the Sibton White Horse with a little caution. We needn’t have done. Basically what their Promos say you will get is what you do. And that is good, genuine English cooking. With the exception of one or two items, like … [Read More...]
BOOK REVIEW – The Undelivered Mardle, by John Rogers. “A Memoir of Belief, Doubt and Delight”. 158 pages, hard back, published by Darton, Longman & Todd at £12.99, with a foreword by Ronald Blythe..
A “Mardle” is a talk of local interest. The people of Letheringham had asked Rendham resident John Rogers to deliver such a talk to them at their ancient priory church. Early on the day he was to drive to Letheringham to give his Mardle, Monday March 26th 2007, John was struck by a severe heart attack that took him to Ipswich hospital and quickly on to … [Read More...]
Once upon a time… Cyprus wine was a joke. The “leading” white wines, made in factories in Limassol, were largely stale, flat and well on the way to oxidisation. The reds, mostly made from Mavro were dull and lifeless. The reason, of course, was that grapes were grown as a cash crop by village people who only made wine in Pithari, but who sold most of their grapes to wineries 40 … [Read More...]
In Britain, sherry may be a minority tipple, but it is a large enough one for a good range to be stocked in wine stores and supermarkets, whereas in Cyprus it is not easy to find and the range available is quite limited. The demise of what used to be called Cyprus sherry also diminished the market. I find it a drink well worth exploring. Perhaps it is because it was the only alcoholic drink … [Read More...]