Monday, 15 December 2014

Star Gazey Pie – Mousehole …

Our Cornish family by birth or by addiction, 
or near birth appearances down there and regular visits all these years: 
View eastwards over Mousehole, towards
Penzance and the Lizard - our mother had
a cottage up here for a few years

… we always have a good fish pie on Christmas Eve – only a few days to go …

If there’s a symbol of Christmas in Cornwall
It has to be the StargazyPie, served on
23rd December in the homes and pubs around
the Cornish village of Mousehole

It is said that in years gone by, this pie
was made to celebrate the brae fisherman
Tom Bawcock, who’d once ventured out into the
stormy seas and caught a record haul,
which - saved the village from starvation;

… the entire catch was baked into a huge pie,
with the heads poking through the crust
to prove there was fish inside.

Variations on a theme in making the dish can be used … Cornish pilchards (the smaller version of a Cornish Sardine) … 

c/o SeaSalt and their blog  and five of the seven fish
... along with a creamy white sauce, extra fish, hard-boiled eggs and potatoes … making a rich pie – out of which could be seen pilchard heads or tails … ensuring the veracity of the pie.

Tom Bawcock’s catch at Mousehole that day included seven types of fish … pilchards (sardines), mackerel, ling, dogfish, sandeel, herring and a.n.o. ... what ever other fish was caught ... perhaps a shrimp ... a touch of crab ... 

The fish heads on poking through the pastry “appear to gaze at the stars” … and as the whole fish is used in cooking, the goodness of the oil content seeps in to flavour the dish.

The harbour entrance at Mousehole

The Cornish tale be told in true Cornish dialect …:

"Merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie
As aich we'd clunk, E's health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up caame Tom Bawcock's name, We'd prais'd 'un to the sky"

Cover for the book

The children’s book “The Mousehole Cat” by Antonia Barber is inspired by Tom Bawcock’s Eve … it is the story of Tom Bawcock and his loyal black and white cat, Mowzer;

Mowzer - c/o The History Telling Hour

... a lovely tale of Mowzer purring the storm to rest – so they can return safely to harbour … and thus to cook the imaginative Star Gazey Pie.

An individual Star Gazey Pie ...
My mother had a cottage in Mousehole – possibly round about where the photo at the top was taken – for a couple of years, from where she had lovely views across to Penzance Bay and further east to the Lizard.

An Australian friend came down years ago, before I went off to South Africa, and said only you could live in a place called Mouse Hole ... pronounced impossibly in Cornish dialect as "Mauz'l" ...

Enjoy a good fish pie over the Christmas Season …

Much of this information comes from a wonderful Cornish website promoting all things Cornish:  Seasalt ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Paddington Bear – the film …

Now this is a very British fun film … a complete mix of all things we probably do best in this country … with our own quirky, eccentric and accessible take on Michael Bond’s authorial talent in writing Paddington in the first place in 1958.

With a pedigree of all things British, a cast of superlative actors and actresses – with one Aussie import – Cruella look alike … the film touches on many aspects …

  • made by the producers of the boy wizard films, Harry Potter
Julie Walter's take on cleaning: feet on dusters,
dancing to music as she dusts the rocking horse
(she plays the housekeeper)

  • Heath Robinson concepts … with Wallace and Gromit type stunts …
  • a touch of Cruella de Ville, in this case Nicole Kidman
  •  typical British characters …
  • stunts inside the National History Museum …
  •  some cracky whacky escapades …
  • Dr Who indecisiveness of character portrayed ...
  • with James Bond music moments …
  •  murder mystery stunts …
  • constant adverts for marmalade … Paddington survives, thrives and lives on marmalade 

So please take yourselves, your kids, your grandkids, friends who want to see a feel-good move and go see the small bear who is on a big adventure – it’s great fun and you’ll come home feeling warm and cuddly!


Released in the States on 15 January 2015  … and will be much loved down under too ... 


Something for everyone movie … you really can’t help but enjoy it … happy watching …

Bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station - by Marcus Cornish

Worried about WV suddenly appearing .. visit Inger and see Roland and her conversation re resetting your comments area ... I prefer a loose floating comment box - but for now ... I've put it to an embedded one.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Emergency Food Banks … Holiday Food Drive BlogFest …

I wrote about the Food Banks last year … and now we need to remember once again … if we haven’t been able to help a little every month, or hopefully every week since November last year … it’s time for a re-set now!

Help others ... 
Having just re-read my post last November – I have to say I found it quite illuminating … so I won’t repeat myself … except to say if youhave a chance please revisit.

MJ Joachim, from the excellently named blog “Effectively Human”is hosting this event … and has asked that we join her in the 2nd annual holiday food drive.  It’s so sad to think that last year Tina was with us … supporting and guiding us along our blogging journeys – and this one she was co-hosting.

So – pretty please:

  • donate to your local food banks …
  • give to your church for their distribution to the needy …
  • take care of the elderly, disabled or ill around your way …
  • smile as we are out and about ...
  • open doors for others ...
  • be patient at all times ...
  • count our blessings, and join Bish at...

Says it all ... 

Thankful Thursdays on the Random Thoughts blog – Bish has started a new linky list for Thankful Thursdays … seems like an excellent idea … I shall be over commenting and thinking about everyone’s entries in the coming year …

Rosey of Mail4Rosey commentedYou’ve made me think too … today’s the perfect day before Thanksgiving here, and the kids are off school.  There is ZERO reason why we can’t gather up a car load of food and take it to the shelter or food pantry.”  Now it's our turn …

Lenny's sunshine

No excuses please … JUST DO IT!

Guess who has just posted:  that critter lover – the young man, Lenny, with some Master facts aboutChristmas he’d love a visit: he loves company …

Another thought – visit those blogging friends who need our support: remember them …

Helping the Poor – these two ideas came from shopkeeper Mr Turner, of East Hoathly in East Sussex, in the 1700s:

His Saint’s day, which happens to be just before Christmas:
St Thomas Day 22nd December:  I gave 30 poor people a penny each and a drink of beer.

On his birthday in June … My birthday:  I treated my scholars to a drink of beer. 

(Perhaps that’s something we should not encourage … but a gift on our birthday and on our saint’s day to the needy in our area – definitely a good thought – n’est pas?!)

c/o Entyce Creative
Give Tins Instead of Tinsel

In advance ... thanks to you all for doing your bit and helping others ... and thanks MJ for making sure this is annual Holiday Food Drive gets spread around the blogosphere ... 

So as I suggested last year ... with Christmas a-coming and New Year nearly upon us ... let's see if we can, on a monthly basis, help others .. thank you 

PS could everyone please spread by those birdie thingies (tweets), FB link ups et al ... another thank you!! 

Many thanks ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 1 December 2014

"Mr Turner" - the film ...

I went to the see film on Joseph Mallord William Turner … being aware from the reviews that the film had divided the journalists as well as the experts …

St John's Church, Margate - painted
by Turner when he was 11 or 12 (1786)

… and one commenter, Helen, on my previous post, who is an artist, had heard from friends of hers that the film was ‘odd’ … so I was forewarned … and when I attended the cinema audience confirmed this … there were mutterings!

I still suggest you see the film … but as Helen mentioned apparently my post brought aspects of Turner’s life to her attention, which she hadn’t realised in the film. 

Margate clock tower and sands
I have to agree with her … and I realised there were more points I could draw your attention to that might be helpful, if and when you get to see the film.

First I’d suggest you read both posts … the background, then the insights you read here and check out any of the links I’ve given below.

The film covers the last 25 years of Turner’s life … so he’s established, but has an irascible camaraderie with the academicians of his day – he divides them too …

Our first encounter is with a former prostitute and Turner’s two daughters … all of whom he disdains/disowns too, and has no interest in whatsoever …

Haydon's portrait of
William Wordsworth (1842)
He has few friends, he is utterly devastated when his father dies, but he is faithfully attended by his housekeeper, Hannah Danby, for 40 years … he exploits her sexually … and you see her visibly ageing, especially as she has psoriasis.  (Dorothy Atkinson, who plays Danby, really ages on screen … her performance riveted me).

We come across another academician, who is his own worst enemy – Benjamin Haydon, the landscape painter, more can be found in the link, as the story line features in the film.

Mary Somerville

I’m glad I mentioned Mary Somerville in my previous post – she does feature in the film …

Turner’s visits to Margate are shown … and it is here he develops the only loving relationship he appears to have had throughout his life: with Mrs Booth, his landlady in Margate.  She buys a house in Chelsea, and Turner mostly moves in too …  distressing enormously Hannah his faithful housekeeper at the other house.

Dido Elizabeth Belle - the character
which inspired the film "Belle"

We also see Turner ‘behaving badly’ … he drank to cover his shakes from Parkinson’s, his sight affected his behaviour socially, as well as his palette …

The Slave Ship: Turner's representation of
the mass murder of slaves, inspired by the Zong killings
Turner’s concern about the Slave Trade fleetingly occurs … portrayed in his representation of the Zong Massacre … slaves were thrown overboard – so the owners could claim from the insurers.  Some of this was reflected in the film “Belle” ... another worthwhile film.

Mike Leigh, the director, portrays his films in an instantly recognisable reality with a raw, utterly compromising intensity … films you may recognise are “Secrets and Lies” (1996), “Topsy-Turvy” (1999) and “Vera Drake” (2004).

Leigh felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world.

The Archbishop's Palace, Lambeth:
Turner's, aged 15, first work accepted
by the Royal Academy in 1790
We do see Turner’s range across life … he travels, paints, learns about the new developments, stays with country aristocracy, visits brothels, spies on fellow artists and his customers when they visit his workshop, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and royalty …

The film was acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival ... but I am glad I wrote both these blog posts – as a non-art historian with little knowledge … I’ve learnt here and may well go and see the film again with a greater understanding.

Turner must have been pretty non-communicative a great deal of the time … Spall portrays him as mono-syllabic, shambolic, hungry for an understanding of the world around him … a man not revealing his thoughts … yet he was very competitive and thus innovative for a man of his times.

The film poster

I hope you get to see the film – it is really worth it … we also get to see what life might well have been like only 170 years ago … enjoy … both films are well worth seeing!

Helen Tilston, Painter: - a blogger and commenter on my previous post on Turner

Mr Turner (film) – Wikipedia’s entry

Benjamin Haydon, the landscape artist

Belle (2013 film) – should you wish to look, and another very good film about life 210 years ago …

The Daily Mail article on Belle: and how a portrait with amystery lady inspired Belle – the film

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 28 November 2014

Food with Thought: No 2 … Brazil … and how the world was divided into two by Papal Treaty in 1494 …

This is my second Food with Thought themed lunch to highlight an area of the world … and as is my wont give a little extra detail i.e. history …

Brazil and our Apperitif fizz

  • Navigation – and the colonisation of Brazil

  • The Borgia Pope

  • How and why South, middle and North America are mainly Spanish speaking

It was with the advances of navigation and a greater understanding of the seas, that the Portuguese became the great explorers of the 1400s …

Lines dividing the non-Christian
world between Castile (modern
Spain) and  Portugal.  The 1494
Tordesillas meridien (purple)
and the 1529  Zaragosa
antimeridien (green)
… sailing down the west side of Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope and on to India … thus bypassing the controlling Turks of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.

Henry the Navigator, (1394 – 1460), the Portuguese Prince, initiated the exploration down the west coast of Africa and the development of useful tools, such as charts to expedite this desire for knowledge during the 15th Century (1400s).

Tordesillas Treaty
The Spanish from 1492 went west and found land in the Caribbean Islands, before setting foot on the North American continent … Brazil was found at much the same time in 1500 but by Pedro Alvares Cabral …

Surprisingly to me anyway! … a Papal Treaty (Treaty of Tordesillas) of 1494 had already divided the world into two … the Spanish Pope, Alexander VI, (1431 – 1503) instigated this bull

… the purpose was to divide trading and colonizing rights for all newly discovered lands in the world between Portugal and Spain to the exclusion of other European nations.

The attractive charismatic Pope:
Alexander VI ... 
The Portuguese being given control over Africa, Asia and the Eastern part of Brazil, while the Spanish received everything west of that line … only later realising their good fortune …

This is complicated and involves the Borgia Pope mentioned above … he is one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, because he broke the priestly vow of celibacy and had several legitimately acknowledged children.

Therefore his italianized Valencian surname, Borgia, became a byword for libertinism and nepotism …

Anyway – enough of history … shall we eat?  Come share with me an aperitif to set us on our way to that lunch table …

Our sparkling aperitif was Coco Nova Brut – a blend from the hot area north-east of Rio: the Sao Francisco Valley.  A drier style made from blending Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Verdejo grapes – the Verdejo are generally harvested at night – when less oxidation is likely to occur.

Cue in the clues:  This dry sparkling wine fizzes with fresh melon juice, white nectarine flavours, hints of almond, giving an aromatic, often soft, but richer texture of taste.

Salmon and Sea Bass Ceviche
F o o d … we needed food!  This time as our starters we had Salmon and Sea Bass Ceviche with seasoned leaves, decorated with delicate avocado pieces and pickled vegetables … this was positively delicious!

Now I need to go to the left-hand side of the menu to check out the wine … an un-oaked 50:50 blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier … a good acidity: excellent to serve with fish.

Cue in the clues: This light in colour, with a greenish tinge, wine – had a hint of white flowers on the nose, fresh aromas too of pears and pineapples … soft and supple in the mouth … ‘twas good and tasty!

Where do they get these descriptions?!

Our main course wasChimichurri Chicken en Croute– adapted to our English palates … the chicken was served en croute … while we had a choice of a lighter, simpler chicken sauce or the Chimichurri – that’s what I had!

Chimchurri sauce
Chimichurri, originally from Argentina, is a green sauce used for grilled meat … it is based on finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red or white wine vinegar.  This is my style of sauce …

To go with the main course we had a blend from …

Brazil shown within
South America

Cue in the clues:  ruby dark grapes with a hint of white pepper … which should (?) leave us with a clean aftertaste … I cannot remember that part … but …

Rio Sol Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz … comes from the Sertão … the semi-arid region in Northeastern Brazil … a Brazilian historian once referred to colonial life in Brazil as a civilisation of crabs”, as most settlers clung to the shoreline …  

The Sertao ... the semi-arid
The director of the Portuguese wine company Dao Sul just adds to this picture … as he advises his workers to watch out for alligators as they sometimes come up from the river and nip the workers’ ankles as they harvest the grapes.  

As introductions go, this advice is a little unusual, even by the standards of eccentric vineyard owners.

Thinking about this I need another drink before I enjoy the dessert!

A Rosé – to go with the dessert – but this has a very descriptive hue … Rio Sol Touriga Nacional Shiraz Rosé evokes an intense fruity flavour …

Cue in more clues: predominantly cherry, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry … giving us a playful after-taste to enjoy our German-Brazilian dessert.

Pudding!  Torta Alemã is a Brazilian dessert, though its name in Portuguese means “German Pie”.  Many Germans settled in Brazil … so various recipes became absorbed into Brazilian food lore.

This was particularly delicious … the chocolate “ganache” in this pie is called brigadeiro de colher, and is a spreadable version of the very popular Brazilian chocolate fudge truffles called ‘brigadiero’ …

We had Columbian blend filter coffee and brigaderios to follow … I might say we had one older chap on our table who ate all of these – without offering them round … he was remarkably selfish and his conversation was all about himself!!  We were polite and I knew one other lady on the table … so we laughed a lot …

Linda fortunately knew the wine merchant’s representative – her daughters had gone to school and socialised with him and other friends …

Representation of the landing by
Petro Cabal in 1500
… he was the worse for wear, poor chap, as his wife had recently had a difficult birth … but all was well with their daughter … he looked somewhat drained!  But I think was grateful he was sharing the table with us … and ‘felt at home’ with Linda around … and not a load of fuddy duddies!!

Gathered grapes in Brazil

We had this lunch on 21st October and I see I noted that our weather was much the same as in Brazil 19 deg C (66 deg F): cloudy with rain!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, questionable Black Friday … and I’m sparing a thought for Denise in Brisbane after the major vortex storm that ripped their coastline apart on Thanksgiving Day …

Oh by the way .. this was held at the same seafront hotel as the South African lunch ... 

And out of interest our temperature is still so warm ... yesterday the day of posting we had 13.8 deg C - which is 55.84 deg F .. today it's slightly warmer ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories