artratcafe CAFE – Eggs…Redux

Because it is spring here in Vancouver, and almost Easter, eggs are on my mind and featured on the Cafe’s menu this week.

Our fancies turn lightly to spring and sensual longing and fertility and well, yes, sex.

The name Easter comes from Eostre or Ostara, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Ostara represented spring fecundity and the love and carnal pleasure that leads along that flower strewn path and in pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour. Ostara was a playful goddess whose reign over the earth began when the Sun King journeyed across the sky in his chariot, heralding the end of winter. Ostara appeared as a beautiful young woman carrying a basket of brightly coloured eggs. Her magical companion was a rabbit who accompanied her as she brought new life to dying plants and flowers by hiding her eggs in the fields.

The egg is a symbol of new life. It stands for the renewing power of nature and by extension the attraction between female and male that results in new growth and fertility. This segue shell lead us to the following eggstremely sensual extract from the book: 1933 Was A Bad Year by John Fante:

“Dorothy was at the sideboard, breaking eggs and spilling them into a bowl. Just watching the oval things crack in her white fingers and spill forth with a golden plop created a series of small explosions inside me. My calves shuddered as she scrambled them with a fork and they turned yellow like her hair. She poured a bit of cream into the mixture and the silken smoothness of the descending cream had me reeling. I wanted to say, ‘Dorothy Parrish, I love you’, to take her in my arms, to lift the bowl of scrambled eggs above our heads and pour it over our bodies, to roll on the red tiles with her, smeared with the conquest of eggs, squirming and slithering in the yellow of love”.

Image Credits from top in order:

Easter Eggs inspired by Lichtenstein – artclubblog21.

Ostara by Johannes Gehrts. 1884.

Victorian Woman with Eggs and Smiley Toast from Google Images. Origins unknown.

artratcafe CAFE – Berry Picking Memories 3 – Goosegogs…

This is my third and final post of childhood memories, picking berries in England.  Today I remember Goosegogs:  (All due credits at end of post)

During my childhood summer holidays I always spent two weeks with my mum’s parents, Nan and Granddad. I was very close to my maternal grandparents who eventually came to live with us in the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset.

My grandparents lived in a humble, dark and mouldering Victorian row house in Bristol. My Nan was a superb cook and Granddad was a prize-winning gardener. They had a small back garden packed with flowers and vegetables but this wasn’t enough space for Granddad, so he also cultivated an allotment, (a rented garden in a shared acreage).

My great joy was to go with him to his allotment and spend blissful hours digging, picking fruit and exploring the wild lane ways that surrounded the garden like a maze. I still remember the hot, dusty, fertilizer and tobacco smells of his tool shed, the sensual, smooth feel of new potatoes against my fingers deep in the warm earth and the sun filled songs of blackbirds and robins. But mostly I remember the taste of gooseberries.

Goosegogs we children called them and we knew instinctively when they were ripe and raided everyone’s garden because everyone had at least one gooseberry bush. They grow well in England’s damp climate and have been enthusiastically cultivated and eaten there since the 15th century. My Granddad was no exception and grew enough to supply both of our households. Nan and my mum used them in jam, tarts and other deserts, my favorite being Gooseberry Fool. This creamy desert may be only appreciated by gooseberry loving Brits, however; I recommend that all of you try it at least once.

Here is a classic recipe for it taken from the world famous food writer, Nigel Slater’s column in the British paper, The Observer:

Nigel Slater’s Gooseberry Fool. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin. Smooth, timeless and soothing, the Fool is simply crushed fruit folded into whipped cream – perfect for summer. That said, I like my fools to have a slightly rough texture, with crushed, cooked fruit in among the cream. This is easy to do if you crush the cooked berries with a fork rather than sieving them. The seeds add important contrast to the general creaminess.

The Recipe:  Serves 6
450g sharp cooking gooseberries
3-4 heaped tbsp sugar
300ml double cream

Top and tail 450g of sharp cooking gooseberries. Tip them in a pan with 3 or 4-heaped tbsp of sugar and one or two of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit has burst. Cool then chill. Crush with a fork. Whip 300ml double cream till thick, but stop before it will stand in peaks. It should sit in soft folds.

The Trick:  Use sharp cooking gooseberries, not the sweeter, fat dessert varieties. Other than that, it is all in the whipping of the cream. Put the bowl in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before you pour the cream in. Whip slowly, with a hand whisk. Stop once the cream starts to feel heavy on the whisk and will lie in soft, undulating folds. Fold in the fruit only when it is cool. It will curdle if still warm. Don’t leave it uncovered in the fridge for long; otherwise it will absorb all the other flavours in there. Parmesan fool, anyone?

The Twist: Elderflower, in the form of flower heads simmered with the gooseberries or a drop of cordial stirred in with the cream, is a classic. Red gooseberries will produce a sweeter, slightly murky-coloured fool. The best twist is to ripple a spoonful of lightly crushed, cooked berries through the finished fool to give a ripple effect, adding texture and interest.

Gooseberries have a unique flavour of their own beyond compare. Many discerning writers have paid them compliments, but the words of little Marjorie Fleming, “Pet Marjorie,” the youthful prodigy of Sir Walter Scott, are most memorable. Wrote Marjorie in her quaint and charming diary shortly before her death at age seven: “I am going to turn over a new life and am going to be a very good girl and be obedient…here there is plenty of gooseberries which makes my teeth water.”

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Credits – Special thanks to: – for gooseberry information and the whole last paragraph.  Nigel Slater and The Observer for the recipe, and Google Images for the illustrations.

artratcafe CAFE – Berry Picking Memories 2 – Blackberries…

This is my second post of childhood memories, picking berries in England.  Today I remember the wild blackberry: (All due credits at end of post)

When I was a child my dad was on the road all week, so during late summer holiday weekdays mum and I would often take our bikes into the nearby countryside to pick wild blackberries.

I can still see mum, headscarf and skirt flapping in the warm breeze, with her berry bag over her shoulder and singing as we peddled our heavy old bikes through the green Somerset lanes.

Blackberries were everywhere and so were pickers, so we often had to search awhile away from town to find unpicked bushes, but when we did it didn’t take long to fill our bags, even though we also filled our dyed mouths with the mellifluous, ripe fruit. Then covered in sunburn, scratches and blackberry juice we cycled home, sore and weary, but triumphant.

The weight of our berry bags and our tired legs occasionally resulted in spills, as in one afternoon, both unbalanced and a little dizzy from a glass of cider at the village pub, I cycled too close to mum’s bike and we both went over in a tangled mess of squashed and spilled berries and flailing limbs. Sitting askew on the roadside after the initial shock, we looked at each other and at our new but innocuous wounds and burst into juicy laughter that rose up through the branches of ancient oaks and dispersed amongst the patches of blue sky above us.

The berries from these outings ended up in blackberry pies eaten with clotted cream at weekends, when dad was home, and in homemade jam that lasted us for many months– the jars and fruit radiating summer sun during the bleak, damp, grey days of our English winter.

August by Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking                                                                                                  of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body                                                                              accepts what it is.  In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among                                                                        the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

Image Credits: All from Google Images. Final image: Blackberries in Basket painting by August Laux.

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artratcafe CAFE – Berry Picking Memories 1- Wild Strawberries…

At the CAFE we are taking lots of breaks this summer to pick berries for your scrumptious deserts. As I reach into the bushes I think fondly of childhood experiences in England picking berries.  Today I remember wild strawberries: (All due credits at end of post)

On Sundays we filled my dad’s ancient, wood sided ‘shooting brake’ with baskets and headed up into the Mendip hills of Somerset hunting for the sweetest fruit I’ve ever tasted, the heavenly wild strawberry. Bent double and prickly with heat and gorse thorns we scanned the limestone outcrops of rocks and grasslands for this delicacy. The folklore said that if we ate the first wild strawberries that we found we would soon after find the Big Patch – this usually (and magically to me as a child) proved to be true.

The berries were so small and delicate one needed to pick them with gentle sensitivity, like sewing, while constantly on the lookout for the feared Adder, Britain’s only poisonous snake. Oh, those berries were so delicious that not many made it into the basket. If we picked enough for afternoon tea with Devonshire cream the outing was considered a success.

The hot high sky, the intense sweet fragrance of the berries, the smell of sun- dried grasses, the cries of the Peregrine Falcon through the clear air and the taste of wild strawberries on my stained lips have remained with me ‘til this day. In 1600 William Butler wrote, “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God ever did.”

The berries work well in cooking, although it can be difficult to gather enough of these diminutive berries to use for most recipes. If you do manage to fill your basket, take care with your wild strawberries, as they bruise easily and must be cooked quickly, before they turn to mush.

The wild strawberry has many uses, some of which date back hundreds of years. The leaves and roots have medicinal properties, and have long been used as an astringent. Strawberry juice is a folk remedy for blotchy skin, and strawberry leaf tea is a good source of vitamin C. The ancient Romans were staunch believers in the curative powers of the strawberry. They believed it relieved melancholy and masked bad breath. According to the ancients, strawberries could cure inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, gout, fainting spells, and diseases of the blood, liver, and spleen.

Because of their bright red colors and heart shapes, strawberries were the ancient symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love.

During medieval times, strawberries symbolized righteousness and perfection. Stonemasons applied their carved strawberry signs onto altars and at the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals.

Strawberries just happen to be in season during the world-famous Wimbledon Tennis Matches, a time when tennis fanciers nibble on the berries as a snack while viewing the games. If you were British, you might easily think of the event as Wimbledon Strawberry season.

The United States honored the strawberry with a 33-cent stamp first issued on April 10, 1999. The stamp featured a cluster of bright red strawberries peeking out from their brilliant green leaves.

In Eastern Europe, strawberries are paired with sour cream, while in France and Italy, strawberries are topped with wine and sugar.

Ever consider bathing in the juice of fresh strawberries? Twenty-two pounds of crushed strawberries made up the bathwater that went into the tub when Madame Talien, one of the court figures of Emperor Napoleon, took her bath.

Our wild strawberries were so special just as they were that we ate them raw, usually with cream but never cooked. Other raw eating ideas are: Coarsely mash them into a sauce, maintaining lots of their texture, and pour the sauce over a fruit salad. Sweeten if desired / Slice them into a tossed green salad for a touch of spring colour / Serve them as dessert in combination with blackberries. Create a sauce by mashing a few of the strawberries to pour over the top / Combine them with soaked grains and nuts for a hearty breakfast / Create a unique salad dressing with strawberries. Whirl them in the blender with oil, balsamic vinegar, and seasonings to taste / Make a strawberry smoothie with strawberries, bananas, a splash of lime juice, and a little sweetening / Make a savory strawberry sauce by adding crushed garlic and minced jalapeno to mashed strawberries.

“Are wild strawberries really wild? Will they scratch an adult, will they snap at a child? Should you pet them, or let them run free where they roam? Could they ever relax in a steam-heated home? Can they be trained to not growl at the guests? Will a litterbox work or would they make a mess? Can we make them a Cowberry, herding the cows, or maybe a Muleberry pulling the plows, or maybe a Huntberry chasing the grouse, or maybe a Watchberry guarding the house, and though they may curl up at your feet oh so sweetly can you ever feel that you trust them completely? Or should we make a pet out of something less scary, like the Domestic Prune or the Imported Cherry, Anyhow, you’ve been warned and I will not be blamed if your Wild Strawberries cannot be tamed.”Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

CREDITS:  I am very grateful to for much of the above post and thank you to Shel Silverstein for use of his poem.
IMAGE CREDITS: Photos of Mendip hills, wild strawberries in grass and strawberries and cream from Google Images. / Oil Painting of girl eating wild strawberries by Marta Lipowska, 2011. / Wild Strawberry print – Google Images. / Strawberry postage stamp from / wild strawberries and cream from NAMINAMI. / hand and strawberry photo, “Time for Wild Strawberries” by webdefender.

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artratcafe CAFE – Potatoes and Cabbage and Beets, Oh My…

artratcafe CAFE concludes our celebration of the vegetable with potatoes, cabbage and beetroot. In my British childhood my mum always made ‘Bubble and Squeak’ as  a Monday (laundry day) dinner. It used the leftovers from Sunday – spuds, cabbage and sometimes beets – whatever we hadn’t eaten from Sunday dinner – (Recipe at very end if you make it that far).  This post is again inspired by poets and writers, including: Leonard E. Nathan, Charles Dickens, Alexandra Paul, Carl Sandburg, Charles Simic and Tom Robbins; and also by visual artists who are given due credit at the bottom.

The Potato Eaters. Poem by Leonard E. Nathan.

Sometimes, the naked taste of potato / reminds me of being poor. / The first bites are gratitude, / the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers / like a candle-lit room in a folktale. / Never again was my father so angry, / my mother so still as she set the table, / or I so much at home.

“Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips”.   Charles Dickens.

“Meat is an inefficient way to eat. An acre of land can yield 20,000 pounds of potatoes, but that same acre would only graze enough cows to get 165 pounds of meat”.
Alexandra Paul.

Nocturne Cabbage by Carl Sandburg:

Cabbages catch at the moon.
It is late summer, no rain, the pack of the soil
cracks open, it is a hard summer.
In the night the cabbages catch at the moon, the
leaves drip silver, the rows of cabbages are
series of little silver waterfalls in the moon.

Cabbage by Charles Simic:

She was about to chop the head
In half,
But I made her reconsider
By telling her:
“Cabbage symbolizes mysterious love.”

Or so said one Charles Fourier,
Who said many other strange and wonderful things,
So that people called him mad behind his back,

Whereupon I kissed the back of her neck,
Ever so gently,

Whereupon she cut the cabbage in two
With a single stroke of her knife.

From Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins:

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.  The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…  The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.  The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

“Nothing like a nice beetroot sandwich and a cuppa”  My Dad.


Artist Credits from top to bottom:

Potato Art by Giorgina Choueiri – / The Potato Eaters. 1885. by Vincent Van Gogh. – Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam. / A Child Peeling Potatoes by Evert Pieters – / Cabbage Leaf. 1931. by Edward Weston. Silver gelatin photograph – / Bowler Cabbage – / Beetroot Print by Blaxill – / Beet Print by Ian Carr – / Beet Sandwich –

Phew! If you’ve made it this far you are a dedicated reader and are justly rewarded by this classic British BUBBLE AND SQUEAK RECIPE (named after the sound it makes while cooking). There is actually no specific recipe – it is simply a way of creatively using up whatever you have left from dinner. The major components are usually mashed potatoes (the glue holding all the other vegetables together) and cabbage.


  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • Leftover mashed potato
  • Any leftover vegetables, cabbage, swede, carrots, peas, Brussels Sprouts, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • In a large frying pan melt the butter, add the chopped onion and fry gently for 3 mins or until soft.
  • Turn the heat up slightly and add the mashed potato and vegetables. Fry for 10 mins turning over in the melted butter two or three times ensuring the potato and vegetables are thoroughly reheated plus you are aiming to brown the outside edges but not to burn the bubble and squeak.
  • Press the potato mixture on to the base of the pan with a spatula and leave to cook for 1 min. Flip over and repeat.
  • Serve.

An alternative is to mix the potato and vegetables and form into small patties then fry as above.

Bubble and squeak makes a lovely lunch with a fried egg on top.

artratcafe CAFE – Peas and Carrots…

artratcafe CAFE continues our veracious and verbose verbiage venerating the verisimilitude of the  vegetable this week with Peas and Carrots . Inspiration comes from Canadian poet, Lorna Crozier (see our Cucumber and Onion posts for details), Billimarie and Ogden Nash; and from beloved writer Beatrix Potter. A variety of art works complete this exploration into these versatile veggies. All due credits at the bottom of the page.







Peas Poem by Lorna Crozier
From:   Sex Lives of Vegetables.

Peas never liked any of it.
They make you suffer for the sweet
burst of green in the mouth. Remember
the hours of shelling on the front steps,
the ping in the basin? Your mother
bribing you with lemonade to keep you there,
popping them open with your thumbs.

Your tongue finds them clitoral
as it slides up the pod.
Peas are not amused.
They have spent all their lives
keeping their knees together.








So say we all – And, below, a memory of cafe food in my childhood England:








I eat my peas with honey; /  I’ve done it all my life. /  It makes them taste quite funny, /  But it keeps them on the knife.  Ogden Nash






Carrots by Lorna Crozier
From:   Sex Lives of Vegetables.

Carrots are fucking the earth. a

permanent erection, they push deeper

into the dark damp and dark.

all summer long

they try so hard to please

was it good for you,

was it good?

 Perhaps because the earth won’t answer

they keep on trying

while you stroll through the garden

think carrot cake,

carrots and onions in beef stew,

carrot pudding with caramel sauce,

they are fucking their brains out

in the hottest part of the afternoon.








Another Carrot poem by billimarie:








Remember your mother telling you that carrots were good for your eyes – dark nostalgia from WW2:








And finally an illustration from the ultimate cautionary tale from Beatrix Potter who’s hero, Peter Rabbit sneaks into the forbidden garden of  Mr. McGregor.  There, he gorges on carrots and vegetables until he gets sick.








And perhaps Peter Rabbit had a vision like this (below) after his mother fed him camomile tea –






Illustration Credits from top to bottom: 1. Peas and Carrots painting by Delilah / 2. Pea / 3. Peas on Earth posterGoogle Images. / 4. Mushy Peas posterGoogle Images. / 5. Carrot photo by Robert Thiel / 6. Painting by Rene / 7. Carrots Keep You Healthy…- / 8. Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. 1903 / 9. Carrots 1000 –

artratcafe CAFE – The Cucumber…

artratcafe CAFE continues our celebration of vegetables this week with the sexy, crunchy, fresh and cool Cucumber –  (Middle English cucomer, from Old French coucombre, from Latin cucumis, cucumer). Inspiration comes from poets including Canadian, Lorna Crozier (see our Onion post for details), Ogden Nash and Robert Haas; and writers Dr. Johnson and Jonathan Swift. Art works complete the picture of our love of this Freudian plant. .






Cucumbers by Lorna Crozier
From:   The Sex Lives of Vegetables.

“Cucumbers hide
in a leafy camouflage,
popping out
when you least expect
like flashers in the park.

The truth is,
they all have an anal
fixation. Watch it
when you bend to pick them”.

Dr. Johnson mentions the cucumber in his journals:

“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.” 



And Ogden Nash (1902-1971) writes:

“Who coined these words that strike me numb? . . . 
The cuke, the glad, the lope, the mum.” 

Jonathan Swift, in his book: Gulliver’s Travels, Part 3. A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan. 5, Chapter Five, mentions the grand academy of Lagado wherein he meets a man who is working to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers:

“The first man I saw was of a meager aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me “to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.” I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them”.



And finally: A Poem with a Cucumber in It by Robert Haas:

“Sometimes from this hillside just after sunset

The rim of the sky takes on a tinge

Of the palest green, like the flesh of a cucumber

When you peel it carefully.


In Crete once, in the summer,

When it was still hot at midnight,

We sat in a taverna by the water

Watching the squid boats rocking in the moonlight,

Drinking retsina and eating salads

Of cool, chopped cucumber and yogurt and a little dill.


A hint of salt, something like starch, something

Like an attar of grasses or green leaves

On the tongue is the tongue

And the cucumber

Evolving toward each other.


Since cumbersome is a word,

Cumber must have been a word,

Lost to us now, and even then,

For a person feeling encumbered,

It must have felt orderly and right-minded

To stand at a sink and slice a cucumber.


If you think I am going to make

A sexual joke in this poem,

you are mistaken.


In the old torment of the earth

When the fires were cooling and disposing themselves

Into granite and limestone and serpentine and shale,

It is possible to imagine that, under yellowish chemical clouds,

The molten froth, having burned long enough,

Was already dreaming of release,

And that the dream, dimly

But with increasing distinctness, took the form

Of water, and that it was then, still more dimly, that it imagined

The dark green skin and opal green flesh of cucumbers”.

Apart from cucumber sandwiches, a staple of my Brit childhood, the best use of cukes I have found is for this tequila infusion:  Ingredients:
-1 liter of mid-range tequila
-1 medium (5-6 inch) cucumber, quartered longways
-1 small/medium jalapeno, also quartered longways

1. Pour tequila into a half-gallon jar, or split up between two quart jars. (Save the bottle.)
2. Add the cucumber and jalapeno (or split up evenly between whatever jars you’re using)
3. Put in a cool, dark place for 4-6 days. I’d recommend that you taste the tequila as it’s infusing–I like a spicier infusion, so I let it sit for 6 days. If you’d like it more mild, you could probably let it sit for as few as 3 days.
4. Strain the tequila into the original bottle (or just fish out the cucumber and jalapeno pieces) or a vessel of your choice; discard (or compost) the cucumber and pepper.
5. Serve thoroughly chilled, or make margaritas.






Cucumber Margaritas (with cucumber-jalapeno tequila infusion)–serves 2

-2 small/medium cucumbers, peeled and rough-chopped
-4 ounces of tequila (cucumber-jalapeno infused tequila, in this case)
-1 ounce triple sec
-1/2 ounce lime juice (or juice of half a lime, approximately)
-1/2 ounce agave syrup
-pinch of salt
-a few ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until the cucumbers and ice are fully-incorporated, and serve.

Thanks to:







Illustration Credits from top to bottom: Girl with Cukes on Eyes: / Cuke Sculptures by  Erin Wurm: / Girl Picking Cucumbers by Emily Shanks. Google Images.   /  Cucumber Recipe:  / Cooler Than Cucumbers, record cover:  / Still Life with Cucumbers by Luis Melendez: /  Still Life with Pear, Cabbage, Squash and Cucumber by Juan Sanchez Cotan. Google Images.