Wednesday, 1 February 2017

February 2017: death


It always makes me cringe when people say: “She’s passed away.” Or they put an animal 'to sleep'. 
Why not use the proper words? They died.
We don't like to use the proper words, but we all know what is meant.

As I am getting older, it becomes more and more important for me to prepare for death. A good death.
A good death, in my eyes, includes having a more or less clear conscience. For when you are dying, you realise at last, fully, the consequences of your deeds. The usual excuses and justifications don’t work anymore. That final clear insight must be what is meant by hell, or purgatory.

A good death also means: to be ready. Happy to have finished. 
I always suspect that in many cases people die when they want to. An extreme version of this you find in India, where the Jain ascetics bring about their own death “when normal life according to religion is not possible due to old age, incurable disease or when a person is nearing his end” by gradually reducing the intake of food and drink - a gentle form of suicide. They call this 'sallekhana' [1]. “Jain ideology views this as the ultimate act of self-control and triumph over the passions, rather than simply as suicide.” says the Encyclopedia Britannica. 
In our culture, suicide is usually the end result of unspeakable misery or depression, or the ultimate cry for help. Sallekhana, on the other hand, demands “giving up this body with complete peace of mind, calmness, and patience, without any fear at all” [2].

So what has all this got to do with eating?
When my aunt was in her late eighties she was in hospital and not expected to live long. I had been summoned from England to see her one last time. A nurse came along.
”And what will you eat today”?
“I don’t want to eat anything at all, I want to die”.
“How about some nice ice cream, with custard?”
“.... oh, ok then, I'll have that".
My aunt happily survived for two more years, surrounded by loving family and helpful nurses.

We eat not only because we’re hungry: we eat because we want to go on living.
Either that, or because we feel we have to go on living, say, to look after our dependants, or because we’ve still got things to do.

And what we should realise, is this. If we go on living, this means that whether we eat meat, fish, insects, or plants - something else has to die. “One man’s death is another man’s bread’ we say in Holland, America, and, apparently, Albania. 
Which is why I want to be buried, not cremated. What use are my cremated ashes, compared to the lovely compost my whole body will make? The churchyards may be full, but there are woodland burial sites where your body can feed an apple tree, or woods for walking in. This is little known. There are even guides on how to start up such a site yourself [3].
The last words come, of all people, from Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc.

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.“ 

More info at
And is a very interesting website. I agree with everything on there. Does that make me a pantheist? Or just realistic ...... is there a difference?

PS If you have strong feelings about how you should be treated - or not - should you have an accident, or become seriously ill and unable to communicate your choices: make a 'living will'. If you don't want to 'live' as a vegetable because doctors must do anything to keep you alive: make a 'living will'. See or and many more online. 


TO EAT, and live:
Veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.

TO SOW/PLANT (outdoors):
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. Apple trees, if the weather isn't too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.


The shops are still full of those lovely winter squashes. See [4] for what else to do with them. 

1 bunch broccoli tough stems removed, olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves, chilli powder. 
Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil. Drop the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for 1 min. Remove and drain. Use right away or hold for future use.
Coat a large frying pan with oil. Add garlic and chilli and slowly sauté. Once the garlic is brown and aromatic, remove it and discard. Add the broccoli and stir in the oil to heat up. Sauté it for a couple more minutes, depending on how well cooked you prefer it. Season if liked.

900g cavolo nero (or kale), stems and center ribs discarded, 240ml finely chopped onion, 1 or more tsp grated coriander seeds, olive oil, salt, pepper.
Cut cavolo into 1cm wide strips across horizontally. Cook in salted boiling water 3 mins or more. Reserve 60ml liquid, drain. Sauté onion until soft. Add cavolo, salt, and reserved liquid. Simmer, stirring, until the cavolo is just tender, 3-5 mins or longer if you prefer. Season. Lovely with game!

225g parsnips, rosemary, fresh (flat-leaf) parsley, 6 chopped cloves garlic, 675g floury potatoes, 675g swede, 225g carrots, salt, pepper, 80ml olive oil, (fresh chives), plenty of grated mature cheese.
Cut up roots and potatoes quite small. Put in cold water with the rosemary and garlic. Cook till soft enough, drain, and mash - catch the water for soup or in case this gets too dry. Mix in salt, pepper, and part of the cheese. Pour some oil over it and sprinkle with parsley and chives. Give more grated cheese separate in case people want it. 

1 shredded savoy cabbage, 2 chopped chilli peppers (or powder), 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tblsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt. 
In a large pan/wok, sauté garlic and peppers for 1 minute. Add cabbage and stir-fry for 5 mins, until it starts to wilt. Don’t overcook! Add salt to taste. 

To see more recipes for this time of year, click on 2016 and then February, on the right hand side.