Sunday, October 04, 2009

It’s autumn again, the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s passing away, her recipe for Golubtzi, tea, the Spanish Olympic dream is over, and life goes on

The Spanish olympic dream is over.
Hi again

I’ve been a bit lazy with my blog recently. Today is Sunday and it’s time I got back to the good habit of writing my posts at the weekend. Since I wrote last, autumn came and amazingly the good Spanish weather has held. So here I am sitting at the table outside the kitchen with Eladio who is reading this Sunday’s El País. He is probably reading about the earthquake in Sumatra where thousands are feared killed, or about the corruption in Formula 1 (by the way the Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso has just signed with the Ferrari team – maybe that will help him be a winner again) or most probably about the continued financial crisis and the Spanish premiere, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s questioned handling of it. Just last week he announced measures such as increasing VAT from 16 to 18% which are proving very unpopular.

He will have read last week about Zapatero’s daughters as the news has now died down. So what happened to his daughters you might ask? It’s very simple, they are called Laura and Alba and are 13 and 16 approximately but hardly anyone knows anything about them as their image is guarded strictly by their parents and there is a tacit agreement with the Spanish press not to publish their photos. A huge hullabaloo was caused when Zapatero and his wife went to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh recently and a photo was published of them with Obama and his wife and the 2 now famous daughters. The photo was published on the White House’s website and when Zapatero asked for it to be removed, it was too late as it had been on the front pages of newspapers in Spain. Zapatero had been hoping that his presence at the G20 would bring him good results but all it brought was talk about the photo. I would certainly not have liked to be his PR advisor last week. The photo was subjected to huge debate but mostly because of the physical appearance of his daughters. They seem very plain and their dress code was unacceptable for the occasion. They seem to follow the Otaku fashion and are great fans of Manga. And here is the famous photo:
The famous photo.
My girls are away. Oli, of course, will be at her flat in Madrid although she was with us yesterday and enjoyed a day by the pool. Suzy has gone to Santa Pola with Gaby and his brothers as they were going to a christening in Murcia last night.

So just the “oldies” are here which is becoming a bit of a norm and is a natural process of our life. The person missing, of course, is my Mother, born Princess Elena Lieven. Last week, 1st October, was the 10th anniversary of her passing away.
Mummy in the porch at 6 Heaton Grove, our family home, in 1975.
She was just 79 and died, unfortunately of that disease she so dreaded, cancer. She would have loved to see the girls grow from fun loving awkward teenagers to the beautiful young women they are today. She would have loved to grow old with my Father, possibly here at our amazing new house. She would have loved to know about internet and email. She would have loved our dog Norah and our cats Joe and Phoebe. She would have loved to read the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson that I am so enjoying now and, of course, she would have loved to cook with me and the girls, dishes like pelmeni, borsch, perushki or golubtzi, the dishes she taught me to make as a child.

And in honour of her, but also because Oli was coming for lunch yesterday, I decided to make golubtzi. I posted the fact on Facebook and was asked for the recipe. And here is my Mother’s recipe for anyone interested.
Golubtzi, Russian stuffed cabbage rolls.
Ingredients: 1kg minced meat (I use beef), one chopped onion, 2 small bags of long grained rice, one cabbage, tomato sauce and a dash of milk plus smetana sauce (one natural yoghurt to be mixed with a bit of single cream, salt and lemon juice). Fry the meat and onion, cook the rice separately, add salt and pepper and mix together. Core the cabbage and separate the leaves carefully and parboil them until pliable. Be sure to remove the larger veins so they roll easier. Then on each parboiled cabbage leaf, place a spoonful of the meat mixture and roll into little packets like this.

Place all the rolls into an oven proof dish. Pour some of the water from the boiled cabbage over all the rolls. Finally heat up some tomato sauce (bought if you want), add a splash of milk to get a salmon colour and pour over the rolls again. Place in a hot oven. When the dish begins to cook and turn brown, cover with silver foil. Leave in the oven for just under an hour. Serve with Smetana (in a separate bowl). One spoonful per portion should be enough.

Food is always mentioned in my blog in one way or other. We have been out to dinner with Pedro and Ludy to Quënco, the place where we celebrated our wedding, I took the girls to Iroco, a lovely modern restaurant in Madrid last week but the main news here is, that despite that, I have managed to lose 4 kilos since I started my diet one month ago. That has not been easy but I have been very constant. Breakfast is a cup of coffee, a small glass of fresh orange juice and a skimmed yoghurt. I am careful at lunch and for dinner I have a bowl of Special K or Bran Flakes. In between I sometimes have an apple and nearly always a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Tea gets a special mention in this week’s blog. Ever since my Father came to live with us 4 years ago I started to have a cup every afternoon but soon realised that it had to be decaf tea if I was going to be able to sleep properly. Thus I consume 365 bags per year of decaf tea and unfortunately last month I completely ran out. I can only get it at an English supermarket in Santa Pola and they had run out too. So I resorted to my friend Gerardo when he went to London recently and asked my friend Amanda to buy me some and give it to him to bring me back. And the tea trading mission was completed when on Friday I finally set my hands on the 4 packets of 80 Typhoo decaf tea bags dearest Amanda had acquired for me and Gerardo had brought me back. And here they are:

And from tea we move to the Olympic dream. If you are not from Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro you have probably not been following this week’s election of one of these candidate cities to host the 2016 Olympic world games. This was held with great rigmarole at the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen. It was Madrid’s second attempt after being beaten by London the last time round. This time I watched and read with greater interest as it seemed there was a big chance for Madrid, although we all now know that Rio won.
President Lula talking after being awarded with organising the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
What amazed me most was the hulabaloo created around the election. So much effort was put in by each city, with people like Obama and the King of Spain flying in or talking on behalf of their cities, there were huge parties organised in all 4 cities, each city had to make a final presentation (as if the members of the Olympic Committee hadn’t already examined them and the city over and over again) with country premieres, like Zapatero having to answer silly questions from Prince Albert of Monaco. None of this was at all necessary and rather unfair for the 3 cities which were not going to be awarded with hosting the games. The deception caused to the people of Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid, as well as the money invested, could have been avoided by a much fairer system and way of voting. The members of the Olympic Committee have far too much power.
The expense of futile parties such as this, just to demonstrate to the Olympic Committee local support, really makes my blood boil.
In the end Rio won, probably because the games have never been held in South America. Madrid won the first round but probably lost after that because there is an unwritten rule that the games cannot be held consecutively in the same continent. I frankly think it would be much easier and fairer all round if cities didn’t have to compete in this way and spend so much time and effort on something so difficult to win. If, as they say, the vote for Rio was “guided”, it would probably be better in the end if the Olympic Committee chose the city each time and did away with this circus way of deciding the fate of a city.

So yes, the Spanish Olympic dream is over. I am not sure it would be wise to try again. Maybe Madrid should just focus on the World Cup. But then again, I wonder whether the FIFA create the same sort of circus as the Olympic Games committee. It remains to be seen.

And yes life goes on for Madrid and for me, of course. I have been enjoying reading Stieg Larsson and finally on Friday the 3rd book in his trilogy Millennium, The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest, arrived and I can enjoy my time with Lis Salander, “the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years”, to quote the front cover. I will be reading it slowly to savour every page as this is the last and I want to enjoy it.

And that’s it for this week. Next week will bring all sorts of things, I know. And on Friday we will be going to Montrondo for another family gathering. But more about that in my next post.

Cheers till then.

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