Feb 232018

Today is the birthday (1685 O.S.) of George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel  born Georg Friedrich Händel, legendary German-British baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712. He became a naturalized British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition. This post will be almost entirely musical as a tribute.

Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. Musicologist Winton Dean writes that his operas show that “Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.” Because Alexander’s Feast (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never composed an Italian opera again. Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honors, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

Handel was born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, and is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah remaining steadfastly popular.

One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign’s anointing. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon (1748), has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 (known more commonly as “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featuring at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.

Beethoven said of Handel, “Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means.”

Handel very often had stomach ailments and had to watch his diet. Here is an 18th century recipe for herb pudding which you can use as a side dish, especially with poultry. Groats are hulled grains, often oats. You can sometimes get them in health food stores or online. The pudding mix should be tied loosely in muslin and placed in simmering water for at least one hour. The groats will expand in cooking, so check periodically, and loosen the muslin bag if the groats swell too much.

Herb Pudding

Take a quart of grots, and steep them in warm water half an hour. Take a pound of hog’s lard, and cut it into little bits. Take of spinach, beets, parsley and leeks, a handful of each; three large onions chopped small, and three sage leaves cut fine. Put in a little salt, mix all well together, and tie it close. It will require to be taken up in boiling, to loosen the string a little.

Mar 222015



World Water Day has been observed on 22 March since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared 22 March as “World Day for Water.” This day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. Observance began in 1993 and has grown significantly ever since. For the general public to show support, people are encouraged not to use their taps throughout the whole day. The day has also become popular on Facebook and Twitter.

The UN and its member nations devote this day to implementing UN recommendations and promoting concrete activities within their countries regarding the world’s water resources. Each year, one of various UN agencies involved in water issues takes the lead in promoting and coordinating international activities for World Water Day. Since its inception in 2003, UN-Water has been responsible for selecting the theme, messages and lead UN agency for the World Day for Water.


In addition to the UN member states, a number of NGOs promoting clean water and sustainable aquatic habitats have used World Day for Water as a time to focus public attention on the critical water issues of our era. Every three years since 1997, for instance, the World Water Council has drawn thousands to participate in its World Water Forum during the week of World Day for Water. Participating agencies and NGOs have highlighted issues such as that a billion people worldwide do not have access to safe water for drinking, and the role of gender in family access to safe water.

The theme for 2015 is Water and Sustainable Development which consolidates and builds upon the themes of previous World Water Days in order to highlight water’s role in the sustainable development agenda.

These themes are taken from the official website with my commentary in italics.

Water is health

Clean hands can save your life

It has long been a well known fact that keeping your hands clean is one of the most important, if not the most important, way to prevent contracting infectious diseases. As a pastor I used to shake everyone’s hand on the way out of church and then immediately wash my hands.

Water is nature

Ecosystems lie at the heart of the global water cycle.

Obviously you cannot have an ecosystem without water. ALL living things require water to survive. Some, such as cacti and camels, are ingenious at storing water in dry ecosystems, but they still need it.


Water is urbanization

Every week, one million people move into cities.

The endless migration of people to cities puts an increasing, and at present unsustainable, burden on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs which are frequently polluted.


Water is industry

More water is used to manufacture a car than to fill a swimming pool.

Industry has a complicated relationship with water resources. It has an insatiable need for water which is used for a variety of purposes, such as for cooling. But then it returns the water to rivers and lakes. All would be well if it were clean upon return, but often it is not.

Water is energy

Water and energy are inseparable friends.

Among other things, water is an important source of energy via hydro-electric power. Niagara Falls, for example, provides vast quantities of electricity that serves the eastern seaboard f the U.S. and Canada. Hydro-electric is eminently sustainable.


Water is gender

In many cultures women are responsible for the family water supply.


Water is food

To produce two steaks you need 15 000 liters of water.

Here is a table of the quantity of water needed to produce various foods (click to enlarge).


Sometimes I struggle to find a recipe linked to the theme of the day. No worries on that score today: just the opposite. Too much! I figured that the most obvious use of water in cooking is in making soup – generally speaking, my favorite class of food; spring, summer, autumn winter. I am never happier than when my kitchen is redolent of rich savors from a bubbling pot on the stove. So, I recommend you make your favorite soup today. Mine is an Indonesian chicken soup – soto ayam (which translates as “chicken soup). There are almost infinite varieties, but the basics are the same. You serve a chicken broth, piping hot, spiced with shrimp paste and turmeric and containing noodles and chunks of poached chicken. Each diner gets a bowl and then adds toppings from a selection, such as, green onions, sliced hard-boiled eggs, crispy fried onions and/or garlic, cilantro, and sambal oelek. Here’s my rough recipe guidelines from memory, as ever, with only loose ideas about quantities.


©Soto Ayam

In a big stock pot poach a small chicken with a stalk of lemon grass, 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric, a hunk of blachang (dried shrimp paste), 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander, and a piece of fresh ginger until the meat is just tender. This usually takes me about 50 minutes. Remove the chicken, return the broth to a boil and cook a sufficient quantity of noodles for the number of diners. Cellophane noodles are the commonest in Java and Bali, but it’s your choice. I’ve often used ramen.

Strip the chicken meat from the bones. When the noodles are cooked, make up deep bowls of broth with noodles and chicken. Provide your guests a choice of toppings for them to add as they wish. The standards are crispy fried onions, sliced boiled eggs, and sambal oelek, a fiery sauce made with fierce red chile peppers and tomato (which I have often found at supermarkets in the U.S). There are no limits, however. Other favorites include cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, and sliced boiled potatoes.

You can buy crispy fried onions, but they are easy to make. Slice onions coarsely and spread them with salt in a sieve. Let the moisture drain out, then pat them dry with paper towels. Heat deep frying oil to 300°F and fry the onions until they are deep golden. Drain on wire racks. They can be stored in airtight containers, so you can make big batches. You can do the same with sliced garlic.