Author Archives: Natalie Bennett

What to do with a swede…

My organic delivery box has held them for weeks, and they’ve been sitting at the back of the fridge, looking reproachfully at me whenever I opened it. I’ve tried straight boiling them, but they really don’t taste great.

But I did find this recipe and while it is a bit fiddly for my taste, it does produce seriously yummy soup, and the sort of thing that is ideal for using the scraps around the place. (I skipped the celery and added sweet potato, and am using yoghurt instead of cream, although really it could do without a creaming agent.)

No this isn’t going to turn into a cookery blog, but this was a real discovery!

Do not adjust your set…

Yes, should you have happen to have had Sky News Live at 5 on at about 5.45pm British time, that was me on there talking about blogging. Almost as much of a shock to me as it was to you …

The occasion was the six-month anniversary of their blog.

A coup attempt, and a great scandal

My 19th-century retroblogger, Frances Williams Wynn, is today writing on one of the great 19th-century European scandals, that of Caroline Ferdinande Louise, duchesse de Berry.
From Wikipedia:

She was the daughter of Francis I of the Two Sicilies and married Charles Ferdinand, duc de Berry in 1816, thus becoming duchess of Berry. She became an important figure during the Restoration after the assassination of her husband in 1820. Her son, Henri V, was named the “miracle child” because he was born after his father’s death and continued the Bourbon line.
She unsuccessfully attempted to restore the Bourbon dynasty in the reign of Louis Philippe (1798-1890), known as the July Monarchy. Her failed rebellion in the Vendee in 1832 was followed by her arrest and imprisonment in November 1832. She was released in June 1833 only after giving birth to a child and revealing her secret marriage to an Italian prince.

Dumas wrote up her story at the time, and Baroness Orczy wrote a biography in 1935, but there doesn’t seem to have been much done on her since. (Unless anyone can tell me of other material?)

The Deutz mentioned is the man who betrayed her to the French authorities. Miss Williams Wynn thinks he was the baby’s father, but that doesn’t seem to be the view of the modern sources.

You know you are getting old when …

… after spending a whole day pulling together the paperwork for your tax return, you think: “Next year I will organise this better”, then a second later think “who am I kidding? Of course I’ll continue to file the papers in a heap on the floor for months at a time. I always have.”

Still, I rewarded myself by going to see the RSC’s The Crucible (brilliant – report later today) and strolled home through the West End enjoying the emergence of the rituals of the spring mating season (even if the weather still isn’t co-operating). The provincial flocks in their best new denims were pouring out of Les Mis on to the tour buses that had entirely blocked Shaftesbury Avenue, while outside the nightclub near Oxford Circus Tube, a chorus of pavement T-shirt-sellers had set up a melodious version of “Skinny, Hoodie, Skinny, Hoodie” for a band whose name I couldn’t quite read upside down.

Advice from the older generation

I couldn’t find it on the web, but was reading in the Sunday Telegraph a review of the autobiography of the actress Liz Smith, Our Betty: Scenes from My Life. It records:

“Her grandmother [who had raised her] died while Liz was serving in the Fleet Air Arm. Her parting words as she set off for the Second World War were: ‘Always make sure your vest is aired.”

That reminded me irrestibly of our “home economics” teacher from high school, who was a very old-school “cookery” teacher who’d never quite made the leap. (She thought I was great because I was always finished first; little did she know that I achieved that by only really cooking the top layer of pikelets or whatever, and burying the half-cooked ones underneath. It didn’t really matter, since nothing we cooked was actually edible anyway. The “boiled frozen vegetables in white sauce” still sticks in my memory as a particularl culinary highlight.)

She was very concerned about safety when the Indonesia class went on a field trip to that country, and had some essential advice:

Always carrying a clean pair of underpants in your hand luggage, in case you get kidnapped.

A full supermarket, and nothing to eat

The world’s top 25 food companies have not taken significant action to improve diets, with only a handful acting on excess fat and sugar and only 10 are tackling salt levels. That explains why, increasingly, when I pop into Sainsbury’s (sorry – I try to avoid it, but it is on my way home) about 10pm, starving, without having made any dinner preparations, I increasingly can’t find anything I want to buy. (Increasingly because I have got more fussy since I’ve got into organic fruit and veg and more home cooking – or at least home food-assembly …)
The arrest of Charles Taylor and his trial for war crimes is one further small step for humanity. A reasonable comparison with him is probably Idi Amin – who was able to live out his natural lifespan in peace and comfort in Saudi Arabia. The increasing application of international law is a really significant advance for the human race and might, you can only hope, act as a check in future on dictators tempted to act similarly. An interesting thought:

The term “international law” was invented in 1780 by the jurist Jeremy Bentham who said he hoped it was an “intelligible” phrase. By 2080 it will probably be the most important form of law across the world.

Combining history and politics, Jonathan on Frog in a Well reviews Libby Lewis’s novel The Apprentice. Apparently the history is reasonably well done – as for the politics, well you can judge for yourself…