from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday 15 August 2017

a sense of wonder

It seems to me that a sense of wonder is a critical faculty in humans. I suspect it's especially crucial to keep that alive as we age: wonder is connected with vitality, imagination, creativity, meaning, and I believe wellbeing, too. And, of course, youthfulness.

It's harder to keep that flame alive in an age and a society that is immersed in scientific materialism with its bias towards the reductive and analytical; not to say cynical.

As it happens, I find much scientific discovery extremely inspiring – of my imagination and of wonder both – but we live in an age where reason and analytical understanding are valued above all else, and a sense of wonder is too often trashed as naïve superstition.

For me, a sense of wonder is sufficiently important to my inner life and its outward expression (often in my writing) to carry a separate small notebook around with me for catching those 'bright moments' that inspire wonder; whether that is the exact observation of the flickering of light on water, the fledgling swallows above the valley, a phrase I hear, an unexpected smile, an artefact like the ceramic camel from the Tang dynasty (1st millenium AD) which was the object on which I had to create a workshop for my interview for the Greenway residency, or, yesterday, a day lily appearing from the mass of greenery which I thought had smothered them all.

There's much to say about this, but since I have a chapter (and more) in my book WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – inspiration & guidance for writers * on this subject, I'll leave that there.

What reminded me of the importance of a sense of wonder is how many of us went out, I see from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, to watch the Perseid shower the other night (in August we pass through the Perseid belt, which means many shooting stars enter our atmosphere). New information: I'm told that the Perseid showers happen when Earth hits a belt of debris left behind by a comet, the so-called Swift-Tuttle, on its 133-year elongated orbit around the sun.

I remember a night when my dad and I walked on my child hood beach one August; we counted 21 meteors in less than an hour.

I remember another night when my daughter and I were on the Land's End peninsula, and stopped the car to get out and lie on the roof falling upwards into the vastness of sky as stars streamed towards and around us. 

Magical moments, as was last Sunday evening as we, having eaten a late supper outside and caught by surprise as we'd forgotten the meteor showers, craned our heads back to watch the cosmic firework show – such vastness we're all part of.


The Lion stretches paws to the edges of the land, roars towards Orion. I so want to be drenched in starlight; imagine finding the timeless in the realm of time.

Must have been August, full moon, one night in Penwith we took the road that joins shore to moorland and drove through that downpour of falling stars – their lucence against the midnight blue a kind of covenant, a promise. Stop the car, you said, and we climbed and lay on its roof, toes towards the ocean, in a shower of light, shivered into brightness.

Those were the days before the dying started. There are benisons of pain as well as joy. 

I think how easily we forget to look up, remember where we come from, where home lies.

© Roselle Angwin

This poem appeared in DARK MOUNTAIN 4)

* I have a request here. Over and over people have told me how very much they've valued my Writing the Bright Moment book. It's been selling by word of mouth. And yet there are only two reviews on Amazon. Whatever we feel about Amazon, reviews really help writers. If you've read the book, and feel you have something to say about it – even if it's only one sentence – I'd be delighted if you'd consider a review.

Saturday 12 August 2017

garden recipes and a hint of wild boar (not to eat)

I mostly like cooking. Then there are times, especially when those times are intense, when there's not only some relief in cooking, but it can be a lifesaver – something so essential, so creative, so earthy, so non-mental, handling the creations of the soil, the rain, the compost, the sun, the magic of seeds.

When you have to create recipes too, for instance when the harvest glut is coming in – as ours is now, finally, after a long slow start – it's an interesting challenge to find a new way to cook courgettes, or green beans.

So here are some recipes for you. They're all vegan, but non-vegans will enjoy them as well; and although they mostly include beans, these are in reasonably digestible forms. Because they're vegan, I take care to include protein. (For more on supplying the nutritional essentials on a vegan diet, see here.)

Sorry there are no photos of the meals – I realise what a difference they make, but never think of it until we're halfway through eating! Here instead are some photos of our veg over the years. (I know that's not the same, but they're pretty.)

Three essential ingredients for the vegan larder/fridge:
  • Nutritional yeast flakes (Engevita); buy the one with added B12 (blue pot). I was a lacto-vegetarian for 40 years, and knew that one day I'd need to take the logical step of removing the products of animal suffering entirely from my diet, but in the four or five years I've been vegan (though I do at the moment still eat eggs from our neighbours' free range hens) I still miss cheese a lot. Yeast flakes help add that – well, yeasty nutty tang. Occasionally I will buy myself some Violife pizza 'cheese' – it's not a bad substitute; made from coconut milk, it's both processed and a bit high in food miles, though, but, you know, one can only be virtuous a certain percentage of the time without pissing oneself off with self-righteousness, as well as one's table-mates.
  • Coyo; the vegan yogurt, made from coconut milk. It's completely delicious, and the sweeter flavour can be compensated for with a shot of lemon juice (my daughter calls lemon 'the third condiment', and it really is). I'm not going to beat myself up a 2nd time for coconut-miles.

    I used to miss yogurt, too (I mean dairy yogurt) – not any more (and if you've never tasted Booja Booja non-dairy ice cream, you've a treat waiting).
  • Cashew nuts are very high in nutrients, and there is no nut (or anything non-dairy else) like them for whizzing up for sweet or savoury sauces with one or other or both of the above; plus they make a fabulous base for a very tasty vegan 'cheesecake' (yes, really). But there's the food-miles issue again; plus unless you buy Fairtrade, the trade is dirty (as of course is eg the cotton trade, unless it's organic cotton) in terms of poor pay and working conditions and some toxicity for the pickers.

    For savoury dishes, sweet chestnuts are a great alternative, and I collect them regularly, even in England, in the autumn, and collect masses to bring back if I'm in France. Not so good for sweet dishes, in my opinion, though – although they are used widely in France, Italy and Switzerland for desserts. (In fact, remembering this, I think I might have talked myself back into them.)

  • In addition, beans – canned beans – of all sorts, including the highly nutritious chickpeas, and all lentils. Of course, in season, green beans; and we grow various beans to freeze so that we don't have to buy canned: pea bean, borlotti, soissons.
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds add an extraordinary amount of protein to any dish; try dry-toasting these, sunflower seeds and, if you're feeling rich, pine nuts too, and when they're popping throw in a dash of soy sauce and the juice of half a lemon.

1 This first one is not mine, but the invention of Meera Sodha, Guardian food columnist at The New Vegan.

It's a warm salad of samphire, potato and chickpea, with chaat spices. My version below uses green beans instead.

While I had masses of samphire in my fridge – fresh from a stone wall at Cape Cornwall after leading my Land's Wild Magic course down there in June, I had none this week, so I substituted French green beans (Cobra) from the garden. I also had no mango powder (strangely enough) but had some coconut flour (I suppose that's equally strange; it was a gift), so I mixed that with a little lemon juice. We did have our own Charlotte potatoes (tick), which didn't stay in neat tidy small cubes like Meera's in her photo, but it didn't matter as the whole dish is divine.

Because TM doesn't like hot food, I substituted half a teaspoon each of mild tagine spices and smoked paprika for the chilli.

I topped it with Coyo, and we had slow-cooked garlic courgettes on the side.

I was at Greenway, where I'll be leading several workshops this autumn (several more to be uploaded yet) as well as creating my own new writing, with the co-ordinator the other day. I was treated to lunch in the café, but she'd brought her own delicious-looking 'allotment soup'. Hmmm. Good idea for the glut.

Our garden can come up with the goods now. (I love the Keravel Pink onions from Brittany.) So here's my herby cream-of-garden soup (for 2):

2-3 tbsps olive oil
I onion and 3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 courgettes
double handful green beans, chopped
1 large potato cubed or diced
stock or Marigold bouillon (up to 1 litre; make it strong)
1 tsp yeast extract or 2 tsps soy sauce

1 double handful fresh sorrel leaves if you can get them – sorrel is easy to grow (wild sheep sorrel will do, but beware it might be tough by now)
1 handful fresh parsley
1/2 handful fresh marjoram
1/2 a dozen sage leaves (all chopped finely)

1/2 tsp each:

1/2 tub Coyo
juice of 1/2 lemon 

SOFTEN the onion in the oil. Add sliced courgettes and garlic, and when they're soft add the potatoes. Turn up the heat a little and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently so the potatoes don't stick, then add the beans.

Add half the stock etc; add more as needed (keep the soup thick). Throw in the spices, and leave to simmer for an hour (stir now and then).

Then add the Coyo and finely chopped herbs, stirring well, and turn off the heat.  Leave to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve with crusty bread with maybe a splash of olive oil. You can sprinkle yeast flakes on top.

3 Pasta e fagioli with mushroom sauce (for 2)
When I was a romantic young student, I met an Italian in a remote part of the Catalonian Pyrenees, and eloped with him right up onto the border with Spain, where we spent a winter in a commune with no electricity, an open fire for cooking, and water collected from a spring half a kilometre away.

Once that autumn I got chased up an apple tree in an ancient abandoned orchard by a trio of wild boar who clearly considered scrumping apples to be their prerogative; but that's a different story.

Drawing by Michael Fairfax, from The Polden Pig

Later, I married him (the Italian, not a boar), and he's the father of my daughter. He died suddenly in late 2015, and in his memory I offer this recipe. He was a good cook, and pasta e fagioli (beans) was one of his staples, though the sauce here is mine. He also used to make all our bread by hand, and, as he was taught by his rural grandmother, he'd use no yeast except what he could gather by leaving a tea-towel out in a clover-field overnight to collect the dewy clover-yeast (yes, really). He was also the best gnocchi maker I've ever known.

The mushroom part
2-3 tbsps olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dozen mushrooms, sliced
a handful of fresh herbs: oregano, parsley, a sprig of rosemary, some thyme – mix and match

Soften the onion in warm oil; add garlic, mushrooms and herbs. Sauté gently. 

Put a big pan of water on to boil.

The sauce
Blend together on a low heat:
200 gms natural Coyo
200 gms ground almonds, finely chopped cashews, or hazelnuts
3 tbsps yeast flakes
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
juice of 1/2 a lemon or to taste
salt and pepper 
(I added some leftover mashed potato)

When the water comes to the boil, throw in some pasta (I use red lentil pasta as I love it and it's full of protein), and a double handful of green beans (or to be more traditional other podded beans) chopped into roughly 2cm lengths. They're ready after 8–10 minutes. Drain and put back in pan with a dash of olive oil.

Mix the mushrooms and the sauce and stir into the pasta e fagioli.

Finally, 4: butterbean and cashew (or other nut) paté or spread 
This works well with broad beans early in the season and later podded beans like soissons or borlotti too.

Put into a whizzer (I use a handheld Braun stick thing):

1 good handful cashew
1 tin butterbeans or kidney beans (or any other bean really, but the butterbeans' mild flavour allows the nuttiness to emerge), drained and rinsed
big slosh of olive oil
handful each fresh parsley and basil
1/2 handful fresh oregano or marjoram
1 tbsp capers
few drops Tabasco (to taste)
nutritional yeast flakes 
shake of Tamari
salt and pepper
(a little chopped onion if liked).

Whizz and enjoy!

I think it might also be good with cucumber and dill weed instead of the other herbs; also sorrel.



Tuesday 1 August 2017

poem for Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh poem

Even in rain the flames burn bright.
On the hill, the barley is dancing.
Heart, make your first harvest:
extend your arms like rays of the sun
to gather in all whom you love
and all too who feel themselves unloved:
the broken, the lost, the abused –
shadow-dancers all. Gather them in –
give them all bread. Give them
cause for laughter, for love.

© Roselle Angwin, 1 August 2012

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