where the writers are
shades of survivorship & the taste of freedom


by Virginia Campbell   

Here in the United States, we celebrate our "Independence Day" on July 4th of each year. It's Summer, and the perfect time for cookouts, fireworks, and enjoying the pleasures of the sun on your face and the fun of bare toes in fresh cut grass. Savor the abundance and variety of fresh produce from Farmer's Markets, or the bounty of your own garden. Don't just stop and smell the roses. Take time to watch the butterflies, hear the buzz of the bees, and let Mother Nature's aromatherapy work its wonders. Find the time to laze in the fresh air with lots of good books. A backyard "mindcation" is a wonderful, inexpensive, and easy way to escape for a while from the everyday issues of life. I very much appreciate my personal freedoms. Due to my financial constraints, I have a very modest lifestyle. However, I find great delight in simple things and I have an unlimited imagination. I get up very early each day, and I relish that morning time with my coffee, my newspaper and my computer. That's the way I prepare myself for the rest of the day and dealing with the world at large.  I have just read a wonderful book which brought home to me how precious freedom really is, and how the cost is of preserving that freedom. "The Soldier's Wife" by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Reading them both enhances the collective story content. Vivienne de la Mare is the wife of an English soldier, and she and her two daughters live with her mother-in-law at the family home in Guernsey. Vivienne's husband was absent from her life long before he went off to war. His affair with an actress alienated him from Vivienne's heart. Left to care for her mother-in-law, who is rapidly succumbing to dementia, Vivienne makes life as pleasant as possible for her two young daughters. When the German occupation arrives in an intense and violent manner, many rapid changes occur in the life of the islanders. German soldiers take over the empty house next to Vivienne's, and she becomes involved with one the officers. Theirs is a poignant, passionate, and ultimately improbable affair. During the time of the occupation, Vivienne is faced with many difficult decisions, some of which may have dangerous consequences for those she loves. "The Soldier's Wife" is written in a beautifully descriptive style, and it offers glimpses into both sides of the horror of the second world war. The shades of survivorship are well represented.

My mother and grandparents often talked about food shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and later during World War II. My grandparents were very resourceful, skilled in gardening and preserving food, and practical in making the most of what was available. As a matter of survival, the characters in "The Soldier's Wife" had to learn to do the same thing. Used to the bountiful produce from the land and the sea, and the superior dairy products from the famous Guernsey cows, the islanders suddenly were faced with scrambling to find substitutions for everyday foods. They learned to use vegetables in many different ways including making flour from dried ground beans and coffee from roasted and ground parsnips. I am not sure that I would be that resourceful, but we never know what we are capable of until we are faced with great challenges. One of my favorite scenes in "The Soldier's Wife" involves the rapture of Vivienne's struggling family's enjoyment of an unexpected gift of overripe peaches. The fruit was sweet and succulent, and it seemed like a taste of Heaven. The juice from the peaches ran freely down their chins as they gratefully devoured their fruity treasure.  Some traditional food favorites enjoyed by the islanders of Guernsey are "Guernsey Gâche" (Pronounced Gosh), a type of fruit cake/yeast bread; "Bean Jar", a hearty dish made with dried beans, onions, and pork; and Gâche Mélée (pronounced Gosh Mel - are), a type of apple tart. Seafood is plentiful, and abalone is a native delicacy. Vegetables are plentiful and varied due to the mild climate of the islands. The dairy products are of the finest quality due to the world-renowned Guernsey cows. I have adapted some recipes in order to share with you the flavor of the islands. I am also providing some links to information about the Channel Islands. It's a tiny, but tremendously fascinating spot on the globe. Famous author Victor Hugo was a resident of the islands for fifteen years, and during his time there he wrote many great works including "Les Miserables".

  http://www.visitguernsey.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Channel_Islands http://www.victorhugo.gg/ http://blog.visitguernsey.com/blog/guernsey-post-war-austerity-ration-book-recipes/comment-page-1/

Chopped Apple Tart 

1 cup all purpose flourl; 1 stick butter; 6 medium red apples; 1 cup sugar; 1/4 teaspoon all spice; 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 cup water; 1 egg.  Peel and dice apples into bite size pieces. In a large bowl, cut the butter into the flour. Add all other dry ingredients and apples. Mix well. Add the water and the egg and stir until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Cook at 350° for 1 hour, or until crispy. Serve topped with butter and sugar or a dollop of fresh cream.  

Creamy Fresh Tomato Soup  

2 strips of bacon
1 onion
2 tbsp. butter
2 lbs. red, ripe tomatoes
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
4 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the bacon and the onion and saute in a heavy kettle until the bacon is cooked and onion is soft. Put the tomatoes in a bowl or saucepan and pour boiling water over them, leaving it for a few minutes, and then draining. Slip the peel off and coarsely chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, the thyme and the bay leaf to the saucepan and saute for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and put the mixture through a food mill. Return to the saucepan and heat through, tasting and adding the seasoning as necessary. Swirl the heavy cream into the hot soup and serve.  

Beans with Pork & Onions

3 cups dry pinto beans (soak beans overnight)
1 medium size onion
3 cups of water or unsalted chicken stock
2 level teaspoons salt
1 heaping teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 pound bacon or salt pork

In a Dutch Oven, cook soaked beans on low heat until tender. Drain and rinse beans. Slice onion in bottom of bean pot and add drained beans. Mix remaining ingredients, except meat, with water or chicken stock and pour over beans. Cut meat into small pieces and stir carefully into bean mixture. Place in 300° F oven and bake for 2 1/2 hours; uncover for the last half hour. Add water if necessary

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 tablespoons butter4  garlic cloves minced 1 large yellow onion, chopped 1 lb white mushrooms, sliced 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1/2 cup dry white wine or apple cider 1 cup sour cream salt & pepper to taste8 ounces egg noodle, cooked

Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add onion and saute another 2 minutes. Then add mushrooms and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour and stir another minute. Add white wine or cider and cook until mixture thickens, stirring frequently--about another 2-3 minutes. Mix in sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cooked noodles and toss to blend noodles with sauce.

Baked Sea Bass with Roasted Vegetables

2 sea bass, cleaned and left whole
1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced
2 large red peppers
1 large red onion
5 small tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsps olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Clean and trim the red peppers and cut into large chunks. Peel and trim the red onion and cut into thin wedges. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Toss all these vegetables and the garlic cloves into a buttered roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and 2 tbsps of olive oil. Place in the oven to roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Cut the skin of the fish about 3-4 times each side. Stuff the fish with sliced lemons. After the first 25 minutes, take the tray out of the oven and sprinkle over 1/2 the thyme onto the vegetables. Lay the fish on top of the roasting vegetables, sprinkle over the remainder of the thyme and then drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Put back in the oven and continue roasting for 20 minutes.


I wish you all the joys of Summer. Most of all, I hope that you always have days when there is peach juice on your chin!