THE ART OF VACATION
Last week we were off school for our annual “Semana Blanca” or Ski Week. While some of our students actually donned skis and toques (ah, that most Canadian of words), most staff used this week as an opportunity to travel and/or recharge our batteries; DP and I did both! Old university mates, Hong Kong-teacher-friend and Oakville Girl, stayed with us in Barcelona for about a week during which we managed to squeeze in a quick 48 hour trip to Madrid with vueling.com. We stayed in the museum district and, as I said in a previous post, DP and I enjoyed a spectacular three-museum weekend.
The viewer looks into a large room in the palace of Spanish King Philip IV where a number of figures (many identifiable from the actual Spanish court) are standing; some are facing out of the canvas while others ignore the viewer and interact with each other instead. In the centre of the painting Infanta Margarita is surrounded by her entourage including her maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind this group, Velázquez has painted himself working on a large canvas. The painter looks out, to a point beyond the limits of the painting. In the background of the painting, a mirror reflects the king and queen who are also placed outside the pictorial space in what feels like exactly the same place that you, the viewer, are standing. Cool! Some people (you know… the people who know about art) say that “Las Meninas” may be the finest painting in history!
This huge canvas (11 feet by 23 feet), painted in black, grey and white, depicts a horrible moment in Spanish history. On April 26, 1937, with Franco’s approval, Hitler’s new air force conducted the world’s first aerial saturation-bombing on the Northern Spanish Basque town of Guernica. The Spanish Republican Government had commissioned Picasso to paint a mural for the 1937 World Fair in Paris and, upon hearing the news of the bombing of Guernica, Picasso had his subject. The painting toured a great deal and was used to educate people all over the world about the Spanish Civil War. In the late 1960s Picasso began to express his desire to have the the painting returned to Spain but he was clear that this could not happen until democracy had been restored. Picasso died in 1973, Franco died two years later in 1975; finally, in 1978, when Spain was transformed into a democratic constitutional monarchy, discussions with the New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (home of “Guernica”) began in earnest. “Guernica” was returned to Spain in 1981; at first it was housed in the Prado and is now exhibited in the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid.
This exhibit, organized by the Thyssen in Madrid, was my introduction to Modigliani, an Italian artist (painter and sculptor) born in Livorno, Tuscany in 1884. Modigliana suffered from pleurisy and tuberculosis as a child and, in spite of the TLC provided by his mother, he was never really free from serious health problems. As a teenager/young man, he studied painting in Florence and Venice. When he was 22, he moved to Paris where he was influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Cézanne. He lived a bohemian lifestyle: he had frequent affairs, used absinthe and hash, drank heavily and lived in Montmartre in dire poverty. The upside of all of this debauching was that he was not allowed to join the army when he tried to enlist. Modigliani died of tubercular meningitis at the age of 35. His girlfriend, pregnant with his child, threw herself out of a fifth-floor window at her parents’ home two days after Modigliani’s death. Both she and the baby died. His story is, without question, the stuff of movies: Andy Garcia portrays the painter in a 2004 film entitled Modigliani.
His portraits of women are absolutely breathtaking.
Now… because you have been absolutely dying of suspense…
THE ART OF PANCAKES
Jack Johnson sings a song called “Banana Pancakes” and it goes like this…
Can’t you see that it’s just raining
Ain’t no need to go outside…
But baby, you hardly even notice
when I try to show you this
song is meant to keep ya
from doing what your supposed to
like waking up too early
Maybe we can sleep in
I’ll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like its the weekend now.
DP is the cook at our little piso (apartment). I may be many things… washer-of-dishes, doer-of-laundry, the girl with the lists, travel planner, the person who remembers to take out the garbage and the organizer of small social events… but I am not the one who LOVES to cook. I love the idea of loving to cook. I adore grocery stores and markets and buying lovely fresh ingredients with a yet to be determined future. I worship at the altar of great food. Funny enough though, this does not all add up to a passion for the cooking itself.
Chef DP has a recipe for pancakes that he has been making since he was nine years old.
Mix dry ingredients:
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
Mix wet ingredients:
3/4 to 1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of melted butter
Blend wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Let mixture sit for 15 minutes. Drop a small ladle full of mixture onto a hot, greased frying pan and cook pancakes on both sides. Recipe makes 7 pancakes. (That’s my favourite part… 7 pancakes!)
So this is the pancake recipe that DP has been using since he was in grade 4. Sometimes (as if my life isn’t already great enough) DP will make pancakes for us on the weekend. Sometimes the pancakes are accompanied by fantastic Catalan sausage. My mom has twice brought us REAL Canadian maple syrup so we always have a supply of the genuine article. (Thanks, mom!)
Towards the end of our break DP made pancakes for breakfast… a batch of fluffy white yummy goodness on a Friday morning when we are normally at school. Apparently we were not able to plow through 14 pancakes on our own (he made a double batch) so he stored the leftovers in the fridge. On Saturday morning, just when I was starting to wonder what we should do about breakfast, I was spellbound by an amazing aroma coming from the kitchen. When I followed my nose, I found that DP had actually come up with a way to improve his pancakes.
DP’s Re-fried Pancakes (also known as Yummy Pancake Goodness2)
1) Make pancakes (see recipe above).
2) Enjoy pancakes with genuine Canadian maple syrup.
3) Refrigerate leftovers.
4) For breakfast the next day, cut the leftover pancakes into squares the size of scrabble pieces.
5) Fry pancake pieces in a frying pan with a bit of butter and some maple syrup.
6) Serve with fresh fruit. Bananas and strawberries are recommended.
So how’s that… an art history lesson and breakfast!