Monthly Archives March 2016

Mar 26, 2016

Sister in Seattle

Sister in Seattle

She sits upon the pavement cold,
wrapped around in rags of faded hues.
Eyes fixed upon the Latte held in hands to warm
the fingers that thrust through the worn out gloves of blue.
The Latte? Given by a stranger on this freezing Sunday eve.
(An angel or a caring soul? Or – maybe it was you?)
‘Could become 10 degrees below tonight’
booms a passing Dodge car’s radio.
She sits beside a bulging plastic bag,
her precious luggage filled with ‘objects d’art’
gathered from her ambles (or her morning jog?)
past the downtown homes that are her Nordstrom stores.
Upon curly steel-gray hair, she wears a cap
(Discarded by a disappointed fan perhaps.)
“Seattle Mariners” it reads “Nineteen Ninety-five”.
Regally upon her head, it sits with jaunty pride.
A Queen, decked in her coronation crown!
From sack of paper, brown and stained with fat,
with little finger crooked, she delicately plucks
from within, a ‘to die for” cinnamon roll,
which she’d found behind the fast food chain
around the corner from her place of rest.
It had beckoned from a bursting garbage can:
these favored gourmet stores for those who live
and sleep and sometimes die upon our streets,
(paved with the gold of Visa, MasterCard,
Discover and American Express!)
Yes – ‘tis Our Lord’s years, two thousand two, three and four….
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Mar 26, 2016

Are you a mentor-to-be?

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Questions #15
Rite of Passage Five – lower case gourmet
(1945 to 1948 –Age 14)

Q:

Could you, in the upstream later years, offer yourself to a young person as a mentor? If so, what would motivate you to do so?

 

I have gained mightily over the years from both men and women who were my senior in both age and wisdom. They were somewhat expert in their respective fields. You have already met André Simon, the President and Founder of the International Wine and Food Society. You will soon meet several more in both wine and food and the media.

My formal education had been disjointed by the war and constantly moving from school to school and had concluded at what we Brits call a “crammers”; a one on one teacher who, in a short space of time, “crams” ones head full of likely examination answers!

I succeeded in graduating by the skin of my teeth and began my culinary training at Brighton Technical College.

I had grown accustomed to ‘catching up’ in my studies and motivated, as always; by my fear of failing, I became a good listener.

Actually I was more of a ‘sponge’ soaking up everything and anything without much discernment. My mentors needed to provide wise counsel on what to accept and what to reject. For the most part I listened!

So…what about now?

Back in 2008 I struck out into a totally unknown ‘field’ and began to grow my own edible plants in a brand new kitchen garden.

Up until that time I had never met a plant I couldn’t kill (other than bamboo and mint). Rapidly a whole team of mentors who were incredibly generous with their time and patience surrounded me.

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Seven years later (time I let my soil lie fallow?) I was asked for my ‘short-lived’ advice and actually wrote a book “Growing at the Speed of Life!” about my first year. I’m cautions and try very hard to explain my relative inexperience but, at the same time, I love to see the joy in a new gardener’s face as they devour their very own homegrown vegetables! How about you –are you ‘expert’ at anything you could pass on; it’s never too late.

Graham

P.S This week I read Treena’s poem: “Sister in Seattle

 

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Mar 19, 2016

Waiting

Waiting

All nature’s new beginnings.
Wake to stirrings of adoring.
All expecting, waiting, aching.
Stretching up, anticipating,
Beautifying, glorifying,
Giving thanks while testifying.
This new-birth, so purifying,
Sings a song while prophesying.
Hope and life are now reviving
God and earth are harmonizing.
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Mar 19, 2016

Mentored by Modeling

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #14
Rite of Passage Five –lower case gourmet–
(1945 to 1949)

Q. Who was your mentor during your discovery phase who has continued to influence you in your adult life?

I could not have been more fortunate in receiving some early attention from a man who influenced a great many wine and food enthusiasts worldwide. Monsieur André Louis Simon was the founder of the International Wine And Food Society. He did this when I was only one-year-old and engaged in a quite different kind of a bottle?

Mr. Simon owned a small country estate “Little Hedgecourt” near my parent’s hotel and it was there that at fifteen years of age we met. I knew of his reputation from my parents; exactly why he decided to share his life with me I shall never know. It wasn’t lengthy but it was certainly meaningful.

André was an enthusiast; he lived his message by being reasonable, moderate and exceedingly well mannered in a courtly fashion that fits the French culture so well. He modeled moderation but never, to my knowledge, railed against excess. He listened more than he spoke. He was a kindly man.

He explained to me one day (while sitting in a rowing boat on his small lake) that he had never taken up cooking the food he was so fond of eating. In his warm very French accent he recounted, “I decided to make a custard. When it had set I prodded it and the fork sprang back into my hand. I decided to stop trying.”

It was André who introduced me to great wines, by a simple sip, and encouraged me to always be engaged when eating…with both food and wine. “The two go so wonderfully together and when in good company the dining experience can be second to none.”

I was able to see this put into action as, day after day, I observed my father’s customers on their search for exactly that kind of enjoyment.

Over the years André and I had several opportunities to reunite. He was always gracious, even more so as he aged. It was during a visit to New Zealand that I had initiated that he mentored by modeling the extraordinary gift of gratitude.

André Simon, a truly great man in the world of fine food and wine, was, in his mid-eighties the perfect guest. He achieved this by being grateful for even the most minor kindness or hospitality he was offered.

Andre Simon

He liked to take a nap each afternoon and during that time he took the opportunity to write a brief thank you note to everyone he had met in the previous 24 hours. André came to our house for dinner during that visit and followed up by writing the introduction to my very first book.

The times we spent together were not lengthy but his gentle example in the midst of so much strident self-promotion has stayed with me over the years.

So…what about now?

André was, and still is, my flash of silver mentor and I would love to be more like him as I move on through the upper reaches of my life. Whilst I no longer consume wine, or alcohol in any form, I chose not to do so, in part, because of Andrés insistence in moderation being the key to avoiding excess and harmful addiction.

He understood that, if moderation was the standard, then excess would soon be obvious. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and so, for those who find it difficult (or impossible) to stop at say two glasses of wine, I decided that I had best not be seen publically (or privately) to continue with my early gifting and understanding of fine wines.

Do I propose that wine drinking or alcohol consumption is wrong? No, I do not –yet, let me once more say that André Simon’s early mentoring and his generous and kindly nature with his urging of moderation were helpful in my personal decisions and my public advice. By all means embrace moderation in all things and be sure to set a carefully thought out limit such as 1 or 2 glasses (8oz) of wine. If you cannot stay within that limit, then please consider seeking some help.

Graham

P.S. This week I read Treena’s poem “Waiting

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Mar 12, 2016

Summer Daze


 

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://www.grahamkerr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/poem18.mp3″]  Summer Daze

Summer Daze

Winter’s season; a faded utterance.
Spring, maturing, leaves behind her viewpoint.
Summer, breezing in with arrogance –
Warming earth and wisdom’s aging joints.
Lazy summer days soon lose their thrill,

No rains to quench, the thirsting rill.
Birds pretend and flutter in scorching earth.
Hydrants burst, inducing child-like mirth.

Sultry dawn, her breakfast, summer’s dew,
Green fields turn dun, skies are washed-out blue.
Ceaseless sun gives nature no reprieve
To ease relentless, blaze upon her sleeve.

Breathless prayers entreat for cool respite,
Sweating inner city streets, ignite.
Flies, beleaguer babes, their crying grieves,
Smog-filled skies, inhaled, bring miseries.

Autumn, come, condone no more delay.
Bring your cooling beauty here today!

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Mar 12, 2016

Art as an Addiction

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #13
Rite of Passage Five -Lower Case Gourmet-

Q:

Can the balanced association of wine with food be seen as an “art” form or is it a beautifully presented indulgence leading, occasionally, to an addiction?

I own an original oil painting of the Breton coastline and early morning fishing boats by Francois Carbu. It is a work of art that I choose to look at quite often, I find it quite motivating with its early morning energy. If it were not in its place I would miss it. Is it therefore addictive?

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I think not.

 

Recently I purchased a CD by Helene Grimaud that was simply titled. ‘Water’. It too is a work of art that I enjoy listening to, especially since it blends with my own work of imagination with a river. If it were not on my player I would miss it. Is it therefore addictive?

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 I think not.

Some would argue that a perfectly balanced seafood dish like Crepes Fruits de Mer served with say a Batard Montrachet (a classic white French Burgundy) is also an ‘art form’

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If it were readily available to me on a good menu in an excellent restaurant, would I choose  it? You bet your boots I would! Is it therefore addictive?

I am pleased by my painting and music but I am pleasured by the perfect juxtaposition of great food and superb wine. I see the painting and I hear the music but with the food and wine I see, I smell, I taste, I touch and can also, in some cases hear, as in ‘sizzle’? I can be fully engaged in multiple senses all at the same time to which I can add the heady enjoyment of the wine that so brilliantly transports alcohol into my bloodstream where it provides the sense of ‘wellbeing’.

I grew up in this environment; from the age of eleven I was introduced to great food and fine wines. The ‘pleasures of the table’ were explained to me as one of the chief pursuits of man and amongst the great ‘virtues’ of the epicurean tradition. Some of our customers were true ‘gourmands’ others were simply searching for a pleasant experience. Both often wound up quite ‘jolly’, to the point at which driving might not have been such a good idea. Were they addicted? That I cannot answer, all I can say is that they often returned and seemed, for the most part, to be well satisfied. I was pleased that they were pleased.

Looking back I can see how my interest in wine with food began when I was about fourteen. It was only experimental sips, but it came with very informed explanation and I listened carefully. Eventually (as you will find out) I became so practiced in this ‘art form’ that I became addicted to the ‘idea’ rather more than the underlying alcohol. I ‘knew’ the great wines even when presented in ‘blind tastings’ with labels wrapped in fine white damask. I became impressed by my ability and how it was admired by those with good palettes.

That…was to be my addiction and that’s how it began.

So…what about now?

There are, in the United States alone, about 17 million households where at least one individual is addicted to alcohol  and where the least amount, no matter how brilliantly wrapped in a fine wine, could result in harm. I have become interested in this and other kinds of self harm for at least the last forty three years. In 1975 I decided that my well know enjoyment of wine whilst I cooked on television might have triggered a desire to join me in  “just a short slurp”. Many have told me that they had done just that and for the most part there was no down side. There were those “odd” times when real harm followed such a joy filled performance and it was these that eventually got my attention.

I quit in 1975.

Do I think that food and wine can be an addictive ‘art form’? When its enjoyment becomes a ‘driving passion’ then yes, I do believe, it can.

 

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Mar 05, 2016

Can you hear the spring?

 

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://www.grahamkerr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/poem17.mp3″]  Can you hear the spring?

Can you hear the spring?

Listen!
Hear the sighing of the trees
with their unborn buds of May,
longing for their cloak of leaves
to herald in the spring’s birthday?
Hear those whispers through the park?
Feel His presence most profound?
Sense the hope in every heart?
Perceive the stirrings from the ground?
Nature’s eagerness, her zeal –
as she stretches out her hand
to direct the springs caress
upon her forest and her land.
She breathes, but bides her time –
a pregnant pause – expectancy.
This hush before contractions push,
readies and helps each shoot to bud,
each precious bulb to bloom,
and every tree, both large and small,
to show their various shades of green.
Nature’s birth is God’s delight.
So let’s take time with Him;
To hear the rustling in the trees,
watch in awe the blossom’s bloom.
Come, join us now, it’s gone so soon!.
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Mar 05, 2016

Do the Roses Smell Good?

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #12
Rite of Passage Four –First Love–
(1945 to 1949)

Q:

Ambition: Whose example did you want to follow?  If it was a parent, then did you want to do better than they had done?

I made my transition from a child’s allowance to an earned income at the hotel that my parents managed. I worked at a task that needed to be done by someone and that someone had become me.

I scrubbed a public restroom and received both money and a needed dose of humility. I had no illusions about my future as a janitor; what I wanted to be was an Hotelier…like my father…but more so, much more so!

I had caught a glimpse of the then managing director of the Dorchester hotel, in London. I remember him as a tall, elegant man with courtly manners and impeccably dressed. Oh how I yearned to be just like him, even down to the pearl pin in his pale grey silk tie!

In the same way that many a child gets an idea for their future by observing a parent I was quite definite about my career path at fourteen years old. I was also determined to do better than my father.

He did a great job, they both did. Loved by staff and customers and the owners! Who could beat that for achievement…but it wasn’t the best and, for some unknown reason, I wanted to be that person, the person who wins!

So…what about now?

My father never had a driving passion to be the best. I think he understood that it was unlikely since the war had interrupted any truly successful career path. It was enough for him to do a small thing and do it well and he did just that.

I find myself, at this time in my life, asking what might have happened if I had wanted to be more like my father and content with whatever that might have meant rather than always trying to be…better?

I have been a ‘driven’ man almost all my life. I have tried so hard to be…the best. For my “fifteen minutes of fame” I may at least have appeared to be the most successful but at what a cost!

As you read on about my journey and my feelings at the time…you will begin to see this ‘driven-ness’. It was a mix of the fear of failing that had taken root during my early schooling and my willingness to beused in a business that values both proficiency and personality.

I spent my life in hot pursuit of both and, for a great many years, never knowing what it meant to be…at peace.

It’s a peace that I’ve known for the past decade and it’s growing stronger every day.

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Ah! but the roses really do smell good!

They only nod their heads when you rush past them!

Take some time dear friends; you may achieve less but actually live more!

P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Can you hear the Spring?

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