Salad Days

Despite indications I may sometimes give to the contrary (e.g. with jovial references to “token salad” when helping myself to a minimal bit of vegetable matter as part of a well-piled plate of food at a buffet), I actually quite enjoy eating salads.  However, it is rare for them to make up the bulk of a meal for me.

Yesterday was an exception.

I had been to the supermarket and picked up a couple of little gem lettuces and some salad tomatoes as part of a special offer on fruit and veg, along with a fresh pineapple.

My plan all along was to make them into salad as part of my dinner.  However, due to a sequence of events including an impromptu beach trip with some friends in the evening, I didn’t actually get round to eating much more than a few handfuls of Bombay Mix until I got home shortly before 11pm.  By this time I was fairly hungry and wanted something quick to prepare and not too heavy to eat before I went to bed.

A few minutes later, I had two delicious salads prepared which I then proceded to eat with a few slices of fresh bread.

I remember reading, several years ago, advice from a cookery guru (I think it was Nigella Lawson, though I’m not entirely sure) that you shouldn’t mix red and green in a salad.  Although I’ve enjoyed enough mixed salads to be firmly convinced that this advice can be safely ignored, I decided on this occasion to make two separate salads – one featuring the lettuce and the other the tomatoes.

My first salad was a version of my default salad, namely some torn-up lettuce leaves and various other ingredients tossed around in a DIY vinaigrette dressing.  On this occasion, the other ingredients were a couple of chopped spring onions, a few capers and a handful of bisected green olives.  The vinaigrette was a simple mixture of a fairly generous quantity of olive oil and a somewhat smaller amount of balsamic vinegar, seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper and rosemary and whipped up a bit with a hand whisk.

The other salad was a bit more experimental, although based fairly closely on my recollection of salads I’ve been served by other people.  I sliced up a couple of tomatoes and put them in a bowl, then sprinkled them with black pepper (freshly-milled, of course – Delia would be proud of me), dried basil, crumbled-up goat’s cheese and a dash of balsamic vinegar, garnishing the ensemble with a single basil leaf.

In total, it was probably no more than five minutes’ work to prepare both salads (and even less to eat them).  There was enough to save a bit for this evening too and, while they weren’t in quite such good condition after a day in the fridge, they were still very tasty.

In case you were wondering about the meaning of the term Salad Days (when not being misappropriated for blog titles), it is usually used to refer back to the bygone days of one’s youth.  Apparently (and I was not aware of this, despite having read the play at least once), the term comes from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, in which the eponymous heroine speaks of:

…My salad days,
When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…

 

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Nothing Much

Over the weekend I read Much Ado About Nothing for, as far as I can recall, the first time (although I did recently watch a film version of it, which is actually what prompted me to read it when I realised that I was unfamiliar with the story.

My favourite line from the play comes early in Act 2, where it is spoken by Beatrice (one of the main protagonists):

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.

Incidentally, I just went to add that to my list of favourite quotes on Facebook and discovered that this section of the Facebook profile seems to have been removed, or at least well-hidden. This goes to show, I suppose, that relying on an online medium such as Facebook (or, for that matter, a blog) for long-term archiving of information is probably not a very good idea. Fortunately I can remember most of the quotes I had on my Facebook page (which were there mostly to help me remember them), so I’ll probably include a few more of them in blog posts over the next few months (I’ve already blogged a few of them over the past couple of years).

The film version of Much Ado that I referred to is one directed by Joss Whedon (the creator of my favourite TV series – Firefly – as well as other greats such as Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) that was made a couple of years ago.  I was keen to see it as I have enjoyed the aforementioned works of Whedon as well as Shakespeare.  It was somewhat adapted from the original play but stayed fairly faithful to the plot and pretty much entirely, as far as I could gather, stuck to Shakespeare’s words (although the setting was modernised).  It was filmed entirely in black & white, which worked pretty well, and featured several actors I recognised from Whedon’s other series, including Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher from Firefly and Amy Acker from Dollhouse (who was playing Beatrice – I’m not sure whether the beard quote was in the film but I think it was).

It was slightly strange hearing Shakespeare pronounced with American accents although, in fact, these are probably just as close to authentic Shakespearean English pronunciation as modern British accents are (if not closer).

One Summertime (or, Measuring a summer’s day)

As I was saying yesterday, summers tend to be all too short in this part of the world.

This fact was confirmed for me today when, having put on shorts and a t-shirt this morning because this week’s glorious summer weather appeared to be continuing, I found myself having to cycle home from work in my shorts and t-shirt in the rain.  As I went along, I cheered myself up by singing a rendition of George Gershwin’s Summertime (with a fairly heavy dose of irony).

This lead me inadvertently to the invention of a new unit for the measurement of distance.

As you may recall if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough or have browsed far enough through the archives, a while ago I ran a series of posts about units of length, relating them all to the span of the Menai Suspension Bridge (NB that link is actually to one of my blog categories; most, but not all, of the posts relate to that particular series).

It just so happened that I started singing Summertime (one complete run through at moderate tempo) more-or-less as I was getting on to the bridge and I finished it at about the time I reached the far end.  Therefore, it occurred to me that I could measure the length of the bridge (or anything else for that matter) in terms of the length of time it took to sing the song.

I therefore (loosely) define a Summertime to be the unit of length equal to the distance traversed on a bicycle while singing the eponymous song.  Of course, it’s not a particularly precise definition since it depends on how fast you ride and how fast you sing (which are not necessarily directly correlated).  On the basis of one measurement, given that the length of the Menai Suspension Bridge is about 256.3 meters and rounding up due to a combination of the inherent lack of precision in the definition of the Summertime and the fact that I hadn’t actually quite reached the bridge when I started singing, the conversion factor seems to be 1S = 300m approx.

And of course, that’s not all that much shorter than the length of a typical British summer. 🙂

 

All too short…

The opening lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 have long been one of my favourite fragments of poetry, probably ever since the Darling Buds of May (which took its name from the end of line 3) was on TV in the early 1990s, although I never actually watched it at the time.

Although I have read the sonnet quite a few times over the years (it’s one of the few that I know at all well – I am currently engaged in a systematic read-through to rectify my limited knowledge of the others), only the first 3 lines are deeply etched in my memory:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May…

When I re-read the sonnet the other day, I was particularly struck by the fourth line and I am trying to commit this (if not the rest of the sonnet) to memory so that I have a more balanced chunk available to recite when the occasion arises.

The line in question runs:

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Perhaps I can appreciate this line more fully now I live in Wales, where our summers tend to be rather brief (although last year was a very pleasant exception).

Today has been one of those days that actually feels like summer.  The afternoon was made especially pleasant by a visit from my brother and sister-in-law.  We went for a nice walk along the cliffs near South Stack (just outside Holyhead), followed by a lovely dinner at the Marram Grass café in Newborough (the third time I’ve been there and the first when I’ve not been playing a gig).  Sadly, like the fleeting summer, their visit was all too short.