Elephants. My small elephant collection rejoiced at the news that Ringling Brothers will be phasing out elephants from their circus shows starting in 2018. Whilst a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmentalists on behalf of the elephants, which amply demonstrated Ringling Brothers had been training the animals with electric prods and kept them on trains for up to 30 hours at a time, the company that owns the circus got fed up with the constant nagging and intrusion. The elephants will live out the remainder of their lives in a sanctuary RB own in Florida. This is not exactly an elephant spa, but was a way to breed more elephants for the shows, as obtaining them from the wilderness had been out of the question for some time. Baby steps but steps nonetheless.
Advice. It’s not often I take advice from someone half my age but my awe for Lena Dunham, baffling most of my friends, is undiminished. If you use any form of social media, chances are you have been derided, offended or insulted at some point. Experts will tell you never to engage with a bully. Behind the anonymity of a screen, human beings often become disembodied entities. During the recent Paley Fest in L.A., Ms Dunham admitted to not reading any of the tweets she receives, while still tweeting herself.
“You think you can take it all,” she told the crowd. “Like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so funny, somebody called me a fat cow who deserves to be dragged through the street.’ But, it does affect you internally.” And who needs that? Bury your nose in a book and disengage when need be.
Art. I can’t imagine life becoming so overwhelming I would want to shut myself off in my room and never come out. But, then again, I don’t live in Gaza. Tired of being harassed for wearing jeans, for appearing in public with men and for being an artist, Nidaa Badwan shut herself in her 100 sq ft bedroom where she created a world that suits her better. Titled “100 days of solitude”, although her self-imposed confinement has been much longer, Ms Badwan created 14 photographic canvases that look like paintings, all with herself at the center of an imagined world.
“Everything is beautiful, but only in my room, not in Gaza. I’m ready to die in this room unless I find a better place.”
Cooking. I am a late-comer to the crock pot party. I never owned one until a family member gifted me one, which sat unused, in its box, for 18 months. I couldn’t see the point of putting a bunch of ingredients in it and let them cook for hours. What’s the fun in it? I see cooking as engaging with and transforming raw ingredients, not as a hurry up and wait experience. A few days ago I came across some crock pot recipes that sounded intriguing so I took my still shining model out of its box and gave it a shot. The result for the sausage and bean stew I made was layered, complex and utterly delicious. The only difficulty here is remembering to turn the pot off after it’s been sitting there for seven hours or so.
Cake. A friend commissioned me desserts for her birthday party. As I write, a giant white chocolate, three-layered cake filled with strawberries and cream is waiting assembly in my kitchen. But the chocolate meringue one is just about ready. This is easy and spectacular in its presentation: just make your favourite flourless chocolate cake (which will please the gluten-free crowd as well); take it out of the oven when it’s barely set and let it cool to room temp; whip up about 8 egg whites with sugar into a meringue, spoon it on top and put the whole thing back in the oven for another 15 minutes or just torch the meringue if you have one of those handy-dandy kitchen blow-torches.