The Power of Food


Ravensbruck Cook Book Photo: Sydney Jewish Museum Collection

On this Foodie Friday, I am taking a slightly different approach to the topic.  While I will be returning with recipes and reviews next time, my musings this week led me to ponder the importance of food beyond mere nutrition.

Most all of us know that food brings people together. The Christian celebration of the bread and the wine is often called “communion.”   It is something to share in common. The Sedar meal of the Jewish Passover symbolically calls those sharing it to remember the events of Exodus. In the United States there is a tradition, and nostalgia, related to the legendary “first thanksgiving,” when the English Settlers and Native Americans shared a harvest meal.  Food is a social glue.

Foods also have personal significance. Most all of us have that special dish from our childhood.  The one that was always at Grandmother’s house, or that you made on the weekend with Mom. Some smells, and tastes transport us to “better days.” A particular flavour of ice cream, or a brand of chocolate or even breakfast cereal can awaken memories.

Add this personal psychological/emotional to the nature of some food stuffs (sugars and fats especially) and we enter into the realm of comfort foods. Be it lasagna, cheese cake, or even Pop Tarts we seek comfort in the filling familiarity.

As those who are familiar with my postings know, I teach Holocaust Studies as part of my portfolio. The power of food can be seen even in this sad subject. here is an account by Holocaust survivor Edith Peer,

“It was bitterly cold, our spirits and bodies broken. We shivered, not only because of lack of proper clothing, but because of our empty stomachs; we were desperately hungry. There was nothing to warm our emaciated bodies after the infamous ‘Appel’ (roll call) twice a day.

       So we started to talk about glorious food, food that was served around the family table during better times. I was able to gather some paper and pencil and asked my fellow inmates to write down their recipes in the hope that, if the unbelievable miracle of freedom ever eventuated, I would be able to feed my feeble body with those gourmet dishes.”

The  vary thought of food, of the glorious dishes of their freedom, gave hope.  Many of the recipes of the cookery book they produced were exaggerated, and with proportions which are implausible.  They however, were hopeful expressions brought about by the “healing” power of food.

Food unites, food comfort, food gives hope.  Let’s rejoice in the power of food.






Entitlement Revisited

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I wrote some time ago about the tendency of many people to take the attitude that life owe’s them something. I have had students who have expressed opinions which suggest that their parents are here “because of them” and not the other way around. The self has become the measure of all things for some people.

There is a rabbinic story which captures the flaw in the modern doctrine of “entitlement.”

Some travellers were taking a journey by boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath himself. His companions, shocked, inquired, “Why are you doing this?” He replied, “What business is it of yours? I’m not drilling under your part of the boat, but my own.” They all shouted, “But you will flood the boat for us all!” (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6).

Our actions are often far from individual in their consequences.  John Donne was right when he penned “No man is an island.” Scripture tells us that the fall of all humanity came through one man (Romans 5:12, I Corinthians 15:21). Likewise, each of us has a greater impact on those around us than what we might think.

For those of faith, our actions are monitored by those who come into contact with us.  Our inconsistencies (rightly or wrongly) reflect on our brethren, and on God Himself. We are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Likewise our virtue is a light unto the world, and a city upon a hill.

But example aside, all people by their actions impact others. Our risky behaviours may endanger others. Our wastefulness may deprive future generations. Our untrustworthiness may leave others hurt.

At the centre of this is the “the hole is in my part of the boat” attitude. We as people of community, a family based in love, need to stand in contrast to the 21st Century cult of the individual.

As Paul reminds us, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2: 3-4).”



Honey Apricot Smoothie

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I got some really lovely free-stone apricots from a local farm shop recently, and was trying to think of a summer drink to make with them. As morning smoothies are a great day starter, I went that route and the taste of honey being a great compliment to the fruit came up with the following recipe.


  • Apricots 4 ripe
  • Honey 2 Tbs
  • Milk or Rice Milk 300 ml
  • Ice 4-5 cubes
  • Sweetener 1 tsp (optional)
  • Ground Cinnamon 1/2 tsp (optional)


Halve the apricots and remove the stones. Place these and the milk into a blender. I recommend that you stick to dairy milk or rice milk as the recipe has some delicate flavours which can be lost with soy, or coconut. Blitz until the fruit is well broken up, then add the honey and a little sweetener (if used) and the ice, then blend until smooth. Either add the cinnamon for a final blitz or just sprinkle it on top of the glass when served. I have tried both and find the garnish approach better for keeping the apricot flavour of the main drink.



Sacrifice is Choice


We often talk about sacrifice in regards to Remembrance Day or Memorial Day.  Those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” is often referred to. Sacrifice is the surrendering of something of value to you on behalf of others or for a cause. If the thing surrendered (a life, etc) has no value to you, it is not sacrifice.  Placing a pound or dollar into a beggar’s cup or charity bowl, for most of us, is not sacrifice.

Jesus showed this in the Temple with the widow’s mites.

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;  for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had (Luke 21: 1-4).”

Jesus in noting this, was discounting the offerings of the rich.  No, they were not worthless, or without merit, but they were not sacrificial. The widow’s offering was. Would the world have understood if she gave one mite? Probably so. But God saw her sacrificial heart. She didn’t hold back.

Abraham showed a similar spirit.  He had spent years learning to trust in God. He had obeyed, but often with a parachute plan of his own in place (taking Lot, etc).  But he had come to see as God called him to see. That is why God’s call for the sacrifice of Isaac was so profound.  He was asked to surrender what he saw as his reward for previous obedience. Yet, he was prepared to do it. Not joyfully, but obediently.  Sacrifice was a choice, and he chose God’s path.  The end result was that it was not required of him, and Isaac was spared.

Jesus likewise chose to go the path of sacrifice. The temptations of Luke 4 illustrate this. Jesus is first challenged as a man.  His human need for food is focused on by Satan. Jesus  chooses to focus on His spiritual rather than his physical.  A minor sacrifice, but a sacrifice all the same.

 “And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (verses 3-4).’ 

The devil then offers Jesus a shortcut in His mission.

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God (verses 9-12).’ 

Surely, such a spectacle would have made believers of those who doubted Him. But was that as important as the groundwork He was to lay in His ministry to uneducated fishermen, and tax-collectors? He was to spend three years on the road, facing a life in which,  “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).” He again chose the path of sacrifice.

The greatest temptation seems to be a way out of His coming death.

“Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (Luke 4: 5-8).’ 

The devil essentially says, “all those on Earth are mine.  They have followed the path of sin. Worship me, and I will give them to you.  No death required.”  Jesus again chooses sacrifice, rather than self.  “I will go to the cross rather than worship evil.”

But the path sacrifice is not easy.  Look at Abraham, on the way to sacrifice he saddled the donkey, then cut wood. He was a bit all over the place.  It is like us today starting the engine, then packing the suitcase. Stress, and the expectation of sacrifice can do that. Gethsemane shows this as well. Jesus despite His triumph over Satan in the wilderness, still sought an alternative. “Father, if there is any other way!”  But in the end it was “Your will be done.” He chose sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a choice. What choices will you make today?



Manchester, Meetings, and More

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I have to say that I have never visited Manchester purely as a tourist destination. I have had several meetings in the city, however, and seen some of the sights.

As meetings and conferences are the main reason for my going to the city, I will initially focus on venues. The first of these is Manchester Central. This is a spacious conference centre with a comfortable, and well arranged main hall, and several fit for purpose breakout rooms. The staff were efficient and helpful, and the catering was above average for such venues. The sound systems were good, and ease of access was superb.

On a smaller scale, the meeting rooms at the Hilton Manchester Airport were also really good. Parking was a little tight, but the hotel’s facilities were first rate. The meeting rooms were clean and good repair, lighting was good, and access was very good.  Catering while buffet style was tasty and sufficient in quality and quantity.  Tea and coffee facilities were multiple and easy to find and use, and snacks were readily available including “healthy” options such as fruit.

I was able to get out and about a little during the various conferences, and found a few really worthwhile things to do.  One of these was Manchester’s China Town. While relatively small, it does provide an ornamental gate, a Chinese pavilion, and a wide assortment of Asian eateries (Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and others).

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As I am a sushi fan, I checked out Wasabi on Faulkner Street. It was busy, and seems very popular. The belt system, and decoration were very much in keeping with other sushi bars. Don’t take that to mean it is just another sushi factory, however. The dishes on the belt were fresh, and regularly restocked making for a very good selection. The portion sizes were good, and the presentation very good. The set meal offers are good value for money, and the overall atmosphere and quality much like my experiences in Japan, and a step above many sushi chain restaurants.


For those not so fussed about East Asian cuisine there is Efes on Princess Street. The taverna is set up fairly nicely with a bar area near the entrance and a buffet beyond a live music stage. The background music was Turkish, and the decoration while not overly abundant still remains on theme. The assortment of dishes was good, with Turkish and other Mediterranean fare as well as some British classics (chips). The salad and vegetarian selection was good, and the food tasty. Service was friendly on entering, but once served I was left to “get on with it” in regards to the buffet. This did require me, therefore, to flag down a server for a second drink. All in all, it was a good value for money meal, in adequate surroundings, and filling, well prepared food.


Those who have followed me in the past know that I am also partial to Hard Rock Cafes. The Manchester hard Rock is by far the best service I have had from the chain.
When I arrived, I was told there would be a short wait for a table. I was told 10 to 15 minutes, and given a pager device. After 8 minutes, I was called and shown to my table.
The server was attentive, friendly, and super hard working. I don’t usually focus on the cleaning habits of servers, but she not only was wonderful as a server, but took no short cuts bussing and cleaning other tables. It gives me a secure feeling knowing such attention was paid to hygiene. That said, she served me quickly, asked questions about previous Hard Rock visits, and was genuinely friendly. The Norwegian salmon meal was well cooked, with a very large portion of broccoli and a tasty drizzle sauce. The mash was also very nice with a creamy consistency and well seasoned. The atmosphere was Hard Rock, no complaints there. All in all, one of, if not my best, Hard Rock experiences.

In my next travel post I will look at accommodation and additional attractions in and around Manchester.


Leading From the Middle


While I am a good student, and a competent academic, I have never really been a “high flyer (nor have I aspired to be).  I was a non-commissioned officer in the forces, vice chair of several civic and professional organisations; and when I have held roles such as “President” or “Director” it has always been at a “middle” tier of a larger organisation.

Put simply, I am very experienced at “middle management.” Being in the middle is a challenge, but also a blessing.  Okay, on the down-side you are expected to carry out the plans and wishes of those higher up the organisation. You are limited at times in your own initiatives, by the protocols and requirements of the system.

That said, middle leaders have more of an interaction with the “rank and file.” You get to celebrate in their triumphs and accomplishments, not just the meeting of the “bottom line.”

Middle leaders, when they truly lead, motivate and inspire. They enjoy loyalty and a sense of purpose. But how do you get to that point?

First, is the realisation that true leaders don’t command, but by definition are followed.  It is not “standing behind” or “dictating from upon high” but showing the way.  It is sharing your vision, and taking part in the process.

This balance is often missed by those who aspire to “management” (and often by organisations themselves). I remember when I was in the service, we were putting up a command post tent. It was a windy day, and the canvas was whipping around.  I reached out to grab a pole to help steady it, just as the battalion commander came past. He actually scolded me! “You aren’t a worker bee any more.” Here I was a middle ranked NCO helping to get the job done, and supporting my guys.  This was a great middle management learning experience. Why?  It taught me how to lead from the middle.  I responded “Aye, aye that, Sir.” Delegated someone to take the pole.  Then after he had passed drove some tent stakes.

A second lesson was that “stuff” flows down hill.  As a middle manager I have always taken the approach that (unless it is really bad, or outside my skill base to deal with) the shortcomings of my team are my issue.  I never, unless as noted above, flag the flaws of my followers “up hill.” Yet, I always praise them upwards. In a similar fashion, criticism from above rests on me, not my team. Yet, compliments from “above” always get to those who deserve them.

It in the end is not “about me.” Jesus had said “He who wants to be first, should be a servant.” This really fits the “leader” model. Serve, and you will be followed. I have come across this management advice in the scripture (as above), in union leadership “It is about the “Rank and File,” and in Toastmasters training I received yesterday, “It’s about the members.”

Leaders need always remember this. You are not a leader if no one follows. Position and title are empty without their organisation/cause being successful.


Dairy-Free Purple Cow (3 of 3: The Purple Plow)

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Here is the third installment of the Purple Cow theme.  This drink the Purple Plough (Plow) is dairy free, and as such is more plough than cow.  It has much of the same approach of the previous two recipes, but as it contains no cream or ice cream is a little less thick.  To compensate for this ice is used as a “thickening” measure, though it does require a rather quick consumption or the benefit is lost.


  • Purple Grape Juice 250 ml (Welsh’s, etc)
  • Soy or Coconut Milk 250 ml
  • Vanilla Syrup 1 Tbs
  • Ice Cubes 4 or 5


Place the ice in a blender and add the milk, juice, and syrup. Blend on medium until the ice has made the mixture mildly “slushy” and then serve. I have experimented with adding a tsp of coconut oil to the mixture to aid the thickening, with a mixed result.  On once occasion it didn’t blend well, and while it did the second try it did make the coconut taste a little too distinct (especially when coupled with coconut milk) lessening the impact of the grape and vanilla flavours.  It is something you might like to play with, and it remains a fun drink, with a childhood nostalgia to it.



Jeweled Lemonade

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Here is a snazzy way to serve lemonade at a summer picnic or barbecue. It uses classic still lemonade, but also a few additional juices in ice form to give a nice visual effect, and added flavours as they melt.


  • Cranberry Juice Cocktail 100 ml
  • Cherry Juice Drink 100 ml
  • Lemons 5
  • sugar 4 oz (more or less to taste)
  • water 1 litre
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Fill 1/2 of an ice tray with cranberry juice (your “rubies”), and 1/2 with cherry juice (your “agates”). Place in the freezer over night. Wash your lemons in warm water, then thinly slice them into “medallions” preserving any juice. Place the lemon slices and sugar into a large pan.  In another pan bring the water to the boil.  Pour the hot water over the lemons stirring so all of the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to cool to “warm.”  Then pour all of the contents into a large glass container and allow to chill overnight.  Using a slotted spoon remove the lemon rings and using a second spoon squeeze any remaining juice from the slices.  Be sure to sift out any seeds at this point.  Place several “jewels” into large glasses, and top off with chilled lemonade.

I have made the present batch as above, but the choice of juices is up to you.  You might want to try grape juice “sapphires,” or lime cordial “emeralds.” Do note that orange juice “gold nuggets” was only a limited success when I tried (maybe you will have better luck with that one).




Purple Cow Drink (2 of 3 : The Creamy Cow)

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Here is a non ice cream variation of the classic Purple Cow. It uses the same flavours, but gives a creamier texture, and a lighter lilac colour.


  • Milk 300 ml
  • Purple Grape Juice (Welsh’s or other Concord type) 250 ml
  • Vanilla Syrup (coffee shop type) 1 Tbs
  • Cream 1 to 2 Tbs


This is a super simple recipe in that everything goes into a blander and is blitzed until smooth.  It makes two glasses worth, and has a pleasant taste, and pale purple colour.



It’s About “Us”


Building on from his message on communal and corporate prayer, Pastor Vince brought our focus onto the body as a whole. The idea of community is important. While not the proper etymology it still is still telling that the word community gives us a “common” “unity.”  It is exactly how it should be.  In the Book of Acts we see this.

  • “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place (Acts 2:1).”
  •  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people (Acts 2: 44-47).”
  • All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32).”

We can see clearly that the early church was unified.  It had everything in common, bot in possessions and in belief (“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship [Acts 2:42]”).

But how do we achieve this level of community? Paul tells us simply, Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2: 1-4).”

See, it isn’t about me, it is about us! And this is fully in keeping with Jesus’ prayers and wishes in John 17. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity (vs 20-23).”

Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” God asks a similar but greater feat of you.  What can you do for your God, your brothers, and your world? It is about “us.”