sunday cooking 10

my entire family sans me were invited to a wedding lunch, so I decided to cook myself a feast in their absence. (havoc in the kitchen without anyone’s interference!)

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this is the first time I bought (half a) fresh chicken from the butcher – usually I’d only order the breast, thought I’d try something new. marinated in salt, pepper, italian herb mix and a splash of orange juice.

I oiled the pan with the chicken skin before sautéing the onions, followed by the peppers (I like my peppers very soft). next came the potatoes and the chicken, and a can of lager.

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chicken stew! the recipe asked for stout, but I substituted it with a strong brew in my possession that I didn’t enjoy. great way to use up unwanted alcohol.

my sister ate my leftovers for dinner and she liked it! hooray. but she prefers last week’s egg-tomato dish haha.

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What is Arcadia, anyway?

From Ben Okri’s In Arcadia

“Arcadia is our secular Eden…A place of dreaming, and songs, an oasis, a refuge from the corrupting cities, a semi-ideal landscape, a qualified paradise. A place with the quietly troubling presence of death, and exile, and stony mountains, and suicide, and sinister shadows, a place that cannot be dwelt in for ever. Then, with the passing of centuries, something happened to Virgil’s Arcadia. It became transformed into a terrain of the mind, a terrestrial paradise, a place of tranquility and rural calm, the domain of the yearning spirit.”

* * * * *

The images that the phrases ‘terrain of the mind’ and ‘a place of tranquility’ suggest to me is that of church, followed closely by the sea, and then, quite oddly, a hotel room. Prayer and meditation sometimes bring peace – i am no stranger to kneeling in a pew and crying to God in desperation and loneliness. The seaside always feels romantic and relaxing; there’s something about the swish of the water that brings balm to the troubled soul. The hotel room, well, I love staycations. I live with a lot of clutter, and a hotel stay is a reprieve from my mess, even if just for a day.

What is your earthly Eden, your secular Arcadia?

Holidays of the Spirit / The Arcadian Dream

From Ben Okri’s In Arcadia

“‘Even if we don’t believe in it, we need the Arcadian dream,’ Lao said suddenly. ‘If only as a place where the spirit can rest. In life the body can have many holidays, but the spirit has so few. The body’s holidays are simple: sex, sun, beach, sea, sleep. But the spirit’s holidays are rarer: they are ideas, inspiration, Arcadias. The holidays of the spirit are more important than those of the body. The body has lots of holidays while it’s alive, and a long one when dead. The spirit has few holidays when in life. The holiday of the spirit replenishes civilisations, makes spiritual evolution effortless, and makes it possible for us to go up to the higher levels that we despair of reaching. Holidays of the spirit help us assimilate faster and more thoroughly all that we are and have been, they help the inner distillation, and they make us grow faster, greater and more organically. Holidays of the spirit are what bring about our true transformation from chrysalis to butterfly, from weakness to wisdom, from saplinghood to strength. We need Arcadia, for without it we will die of our neuroses.'”

* * * * *

Holidays of the body are sometimes already lacking in our frantic, hectic lives. It was merely a month ago that I was on holiday, and already I am tired and in need of another. But it is true that vacations also make me restless, feeling rather like I am wasting time when I could be catching up on some reading or personal projects.

Perhaps it is the holiday of the spirit that I am looking for during the holidays. The practical question for us, then, is how to experience a holiday of the spirit. Reading and meditation come to mind. Possibly attending workshops or conferences where the exchange of ideas happen, poetry slams and book recitals, or indulging in a fine arts performance, ruminating over something watched at the theatre. Furthering one’s studies.

Noting even as I create this list that these will likely interfere with the ‘holiday of the body’; case-in-point being that the most satisfying or thought-provoking reads are rarely ever easy, popular page-turners.