Gettin’ Juiced on Mateus

Seriously.  I’m writing this long-hand.  With purple ink.

I was in the SuperStore booze store hoping to buy some low-priced expensive Cognac (mission accomplished, BTW) when my eye (I’ve only got one eye that really works) was strangely drawn to that classic tacky shape, the Mateus Rosé bottle.  Nine bucks or so.

“I can use a retro nine buck candle holder to put beside that one in the basket,” I think, and I pick up a flagon, feeling a bit of sadness that it is sealed with a screw cap rather than a dried out, mouldy technical cork like in the old days.  Oh, well.

Maybe the stuff will actually taste decent.

Taste!

I suddenly realize:  I’ve been making a lot of tasting notes of local micro-brewed beers lately; why don’t I make tasting notes on the bottle of Mateus?

Later, in the evening, thinking to get some suggestions for food pairings, I go to the Mateuse web page . . .

I enter into the age verifier

06
12
1915
Canada

and I’m in.

Oh.

“Serve chilled,” the splash screen tells me.

I shove the apple juice, pudding cups, day old tortellini and bottles of Maudite  out of the way and squeeze/jam the Mateus under the top shelf.

Hmm.

I seem to need a swimming pool (nope), a candle in a lantern (I could put a candle in the Mateus bottle — if it were empty) and a woman in a bikini (as if) before I can proceed to the next step.

Oh.

“Taste it.”  the page tells me.

I click and a drop-up menu arrives.  Let’s not pull punches:  I click “Gourmet” and then it asks

“By wine”

I’m doin’ Mateus, not  Aglianico del Vulture   for goodness sake.

“Mateus Rosé Original”  Click.

Oh.

“Shrimp, Mango and Spinach Salad”

I hate shrimp.

I look at the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 large mango, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
200 g of baby spinach
200 g of cooked shrimp

Method:
In a small bowl mix all the sauce ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.
When you are ready to serve place the spinach in a bowl, followed by the mango then the shrimp.
Pour the sauce over them carefully and sprinkle with shallots. Serve immediately.


Wait!  What sauce ingredients?  There are no sauce ingredients listed?

I don’t like shrimp and I don’t know what sauce to use and I don’t have a mango, shallots or baby spinach.

I opened the bottle a while ago.

I’ve had a few glasses, just to prepare for the tasting, now apparently without culinary accompaniment.  I’ve got lots of fine Quebec cheeses downstairs, but I’m saving them for the good stuff — my home made wine.

Enough.

Tasting notes:

Mateus Rosé

Good gracious!  The bottle’s almost half gone already!  I hope this screw top holds the little bubbles in a bit longer.  I pour it into my glass and it looks like a cranberry cooler.  Tiny bubbles  (thank you screwtop!)  The colour isn’t really pink.  There’s a coppery touch to it.  And the red, while light, is quite deep.  Very attractive.  The colour fades to transparent at the edge.

The bouquet:

I have a bit of a cold, so bear with me.

Pleasantly fruity.  None of the chemical stink so abhorrent in that other “young” wine, Beaujolais Nouveau.  Mateus has the aroma of a satisfying, if plain, table wine, summery and fresh.

The taste:

Quite dry, really.  Again the fruitiness.  And the refreshing bite of the effervescence.  Good gracious!  There’s nothing wrong with this!  It’s a perfectly drinkable rosé table wine for under ten dollars (in Alberta that is a fairly good price)!

Newsflash!

This isn’t your teenage self’s Mateus!

On a hot summer afternoon with a nice selection of fruit, a wheel of washed rind soft ripened cheese (I recommend Quebec’s Champfleury ), various bits of bread and crakers, maybe a wee bowl of capers, and some friends if necessary, Mateus would be more than satisfactory for all but the most hoity toity of the hoi poloi  .

Give your wallet a break this summer.  One hot afternoon try gettin’ juiced on Mateus!

Even if you have to hide the bottle.
Oh.  Look.  The fine print on the back label:

“Aperitif, Oriental and Italian food, Barbecues, Salads, Shellfish.”

With the addition of “Gettin’ Juiced” I’d say they’re dead on!

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What is a Youth: Thoughts on “The Hunger Games”

I’m just finishing up reading The Hunger Games my pop-culture fix for the week.   Honestly, I’d never heard of it until I saw a young lady on the subway reading it a few weeks ago and googled the title.  I do that sometimes:  see what a stranger is reading and look it up.

Definitely a page turner and definitely a quick read.  But, from very early on I was overwhelmed with the thought, “This is nothing but a pastiche of Heinlein’s juvenile novels, particularly Citizen of the Galaxy and Podkayne of Mars.”  Thankfully, Heinlein’s predilection for incestuous paedophilia is absent, but everything else is pure Heinlein:  a strong resourceful and most emphatically beautiful young lady (with special emphasis on her hair), nasty government, children wise and strong beyond their years thrust into an unthinkable no-win situation . . .  The Hunger Games is every bit as well written and entertaining as  any of Heinlein’s teen sci-fi adventures.

And, Romeo and Juliet of course.  I was amused by the unexplained four note phrase at the end of the trailers for the film version, immediately recognizable as the recurrent bar of “What is a Youth?” the infinitely popular “love theme” from Zeffirelli’s 1968 film.

One thing I was surprised by was the low level of violence compared to some of the online parental moaning I’d noticed in the run up to the film version.  Yes, there is killing and blood and even a little pus (I was surprised that, despite the mention of the moon’s phases, there is no mention of Katness’ “little visitor” during her month or so in the Arena), but it’s not overblown and, thankfully, it’s realistic in a very cautionary way.  Katness feels (good or ill) for the victims, her own and others.  The violence is not gratuitous, desensitizing or unnecessarily graphic.  Playing ten minutes of most computer games will provide more violence than The Hunger Games displays in 374 pages.

All in all, The Hunger Games is a competently crafted piece of popular youth fiction, a very entertaining read, and, as such a runaway best-seller, perhaps a worthy contribution/starting point for the discussion of violence that so many societies (and families) should be having.  What is a youth, after all, but an incomplete person finding out about the world and their place in it?  There is violence in the world.  Would we rather our children  learn about violence through experience?  or vicariously, through a sympathetic, (fairly) well-written character who shows us the lasting horror of perpetrating it?

No parent should worry if they see their kids’ noses stuck in The Hunger Games.  Very many adults would possibly benefit from reading it as well, particularly if it led to a discussion of violence and its effects.

On another note, I am sadly waiting for the anti-vacination loonies to take The Hunger Games up as a metaphor of childhood vaccination (“lethal lottery” might be catch-phrase).

(Update:  I’m not surprised that I’m not the only or the first to notice the musical reference to Zeffirelli’s film in Rue’s whistle song [the four tone phrase I mention as being at the end of the trailers]:  http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/whistle+song )

 

(Update May 8, 2012:  those like me who have positive feelings about The Hunger Games are in good Company.  It seems Stanley Fish likes the books as well.)

Idle Thoughts on “Thureth”

The other night I sat down for a moment and picked up my old copy of Volume Six of the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records — The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems — letting it fall open where I had stuck a slip of paper years ago and my eyes fell on the little poem from Cotton Claudius A.iii. known modernly as “Thureth”.

What a charming little gem it is!

    Ic eom halgungboc;         healde hine dryhten
    þe me fægere þus         frætewum belegde.
    þureð to þance         þus het me wyrcean,
    to loue and to wurðe,         þam þe leoht gesceop.
    Gemyndi is he         mihta gehwylcre
    þæs þe he on foldan         gefremian mæg,
    and him geþancie         þeoda waldend
    þæs þe he on gemynde         madma manega
    wyle gemearcian         metode to lace;
    and he sceal æce lean         ealle findan
    þæs þe he on foldan         fremaþ to ryhte.

Eleven lines in the voice of a book.  The book begins with the simple statement that it is a Benedictional, a book of blessings — a “hallowing book” in Old English. Then the book tells of his Lord,Thureth (healde hine dryhten) (or does the book say “the Lord held Thureth”?  Or is there a touch of both meanings?), the man who ordered the decorations adorning the book.  One has a sense of the book primping just a little, but not more than modesty allows — “look at these decorations Thureth put on me! May the Lord keep him who dressed me up like this — to the greater glory of God, of course!”  Then the book goes on to mention that Thureth has also set aside many other worldly treasures as an offering to God and that all may know of his righteous life.

There is a tension, so common in Old English poetry, between humble devotion to God and the eternity to come on the one hand, and the irresistible enjoyment of earthly pleasures of treasure and ornament.  The book alternates from line to line between what may be partaken of on earth (on foldan gefremian mæg) and thoughts of the Lord, between having many treasures in mind (on gemynde madma manega) and offerings to the lord.  And the working of the book’s adornments are placed parallel to the Lord’s creation of light, just as the God’s miracle-working power parallels Thureth’s good works.  There is an embracing of the material, an elevation of the use of wealth for good works and of art itself to something just a little lower than the work that God himself does.

The poem ends with what is a standard statement the all shall have an eternal reward who live righteously on earth but one can’t help but think that the book is itself thinking of it’s own eternal reward, the adornments Thureth ordered for it and which it so proudly mentions in line 2.

Far from being the rejection of the worldly that has sometimes been fashionable for critics to find in Medieval literature, “Thureth” is a celebration of the worldly as a pathway to the Eternal.

And “Thureth” is also a tasty little bonbon of poetic personification.

The Apellean Sketches

Sometime before the end of 2005 I chanced upon a passage in the writings of Pliny the Elder:

quattuor coloribus solis inmortalia illa opera fecere — ex albis Melino, e silaciis Attico, ex rubris Sinopide Pontica, ex nigris atramento — Apelles, Aetion, Melanthius, Nicomachus, clarissimi pictores, cum tabulae eorum singulae oppidorum venirent opibus. nunc et purpuris in parietes migrantibus et India conferente fluminum suorum limum, draconum elephantorumque saniem nulla nobilis pictura est. omnia ergo meliora tunc fuere, cum minor copia. ita est, quoniam, ut supra diximus, rerum, non animi pretiis excubatur.
It was with four colours only, that Apelles, Echion, Melanthius, and Nicomachus, those most illustrious painters, executed their immortal works; melinum (a white clay) for the white, yellow ochre for the yellow, red ochre for the red, and lamp black  for the black; and yet a single picture of theirs has sold before now for the treasures of whole cities. But at the present day, when purple is employed for colouring walls even, and when India sends to us the slime of her rivers, and the corrupt blood of her dragons and her elephants, there is no such thing as a picture of high quality produced. Everything, in fact, was superior at a time when the resources of art were so much fewer than they now are. Yes, so it is; and the reason is, as we have already stated, that it is the material, and not the efforts of genius,  that is now the object of research.

Natural History, Book XXXV, Chapter xxxii

Feeling a desire to explore the possibilities of such a limited palette, I searched for a subject which would be personal but which also had a depth of history which might allow me to reach back through Pliny to the Greek painters of which he wrote.  I stripped down my own palette to something like the colours Pliny describes, to concentrate on the “genius” of the painting rather than the materials.   I searched through snapshots I had taken a quarter of a century ago while working as a graduate student on an archaeological dig in the mountains of Basilicata and found my subject.  With only zinc white, lamp black and red and yellow ochre, I began work on a series of tiny (6 inches by 4 inches) views of the landscape of southern Italy.  Most depict the area around the dig I worked on;   a few are views of landscapes and ruins around the Bay of Naples where Pliny died during the eruption of Vesuvius almost twenty centuries ago. 

The first Sketch, “Diana Herculania I” is an image that I had wanted to paint somehow for a quarter century, the product of a quick snapshot with a pocket Instamatic camera on a hot day in the ruins of Herculanium.  This first experiment with the limited palette is timid:  the sky is yellow ochre and the brush was far too coarse for the little canvas

Diana Herculanea I, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2005

A few years later, in Sketch 16, I revisited the image with a little more confidence (and a smaller brush):

Diana Herculanea II, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2007

In 2007 I contributed four of these tiny paintings from the incomplete series to the Art Gallery of Alberta’s “Free For All”, a salon exhibition in honour of the closing of the old Gallery and in celebration of the new Gallery to come.  My four paintings, “Morning in Lucania”, “San Giovanni di Ruoti: View from Room 58”, “Poseidonia II”, and “San Giovanni di Ruoti II” (Apellean Sketches 3, 7, 9 and 10) seemed to me to be overwhelmed by the unexpected thousands of art works the Gallery received for the show.

Morning in Lucania, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2005

San Giovanni di Ruoti: View from Room 58, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2006

Poseidonia II, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2006

San Giovanni di Ruoti II, Acrylic, 4″x6″, 2006

Shortly after the exhibition opened, however, I had a phone call from Patrick Jacob, at that time the owner of two private galleries in the small town of Eastend, Saskatchewan.  He invited me to visit the town and the surrounding area between the prairie and the Cypress Hills, suspecting that the landscapes would suit the style I had been working in.  In the end I spent time in two summers in southwest Saskatchewan, producing quite a large collection of paintings, a number of which Mr. Jacob bought for his galleries. I found when painting summers in southern Saskatchewan that a limited palette was still ideal, although I found it very necessary to substitute Pthalo blue for the black of the Apellean Sketches.

Eastend Sketch 9, Acrylic, 6″x6″, 2008

A result of these explorations over two years and more are the twenty-four Apellean Sketches, most of which capture views from a single mountainside over the course of a few weeks of summer twenty-five years ago.  By imposing on myself some of the limitations which confronted the Classical painters, by looking at the scenes over the shoulders of painted figures, by attempting to hold onto stormy Mediterranean skies using only black and white pigments, I offer in these tiny paintings  a taste of the thousands of years of history that saturate this – or any – small patch of ground.

In Chapter xxxvi of Book XXXV of his Natural History Pliny also writes of Apelles “that he knew when to take his hand away from the canvas.”

I hope I’m learning that lesson as well.

The twenty-four Apellean Sketches were on public display together for the first time at the Visual Arts Alberta Association Gallery in Edmonton for the month of February, 2010.

All material copyright © John Richardson (like you didn’t know that.)