Tag Archives: Italy

Covid-19 – a young patient

I just started watching the WHO video on the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic. The screenshot below is taken from that video. It’s something all young males should see:

A young Italian Covid-19 patient on a ventilator

Look at his chest. This is not the chest of an old man. It is the chest of a young man who was probably fit and healthy. Yet there he is, hooked up to a ventilator, his lungs full of fluid, unable to breathe on his own.

The old bullshit about how you’ve got nothing to worry about is not true.

Change your behaviour NOW.

The life you save may well be your own.

Meeks

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It’s official – Covid-19 is a pandemic

One of the first things I read this morning was that the WHO have finally declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. It’s hardly a surprise, and yet the news sent a sick shiver down my spine. I only hope that authorities all over the world finally throw away their rose coloured glasses and put their countries on a war footing.

What does that mean?

I hope it means that governments close borders, stop public events, restrict public transport, set up drive through testing stations, and triage industry so that everyone gets the necessities of life, like toilet paper. Beyond that, I hope they force industry to change production, where possible, so that critical medical supplies and equipment take priority.

Why? Because we will not be able to source these critical supplies from overseas, not once the virus really starts to bite. Sadly, we are about to learn that self-sufficiency is more important than global trade agreements.

Will it be possible to become ‘self sufficient’ in the critical things?

Maybe. I have no idea whether local companies have the capacity to build hundreds of new ventilators, but at the very least, we need to have people capable of repairing them if need be. And those people should become critical resources in their own right.

Ditto food production and transport.

Ditto food delivery to beleaguered households.

Ditto medical supplies, not just for hospitals, but for people with chronic illnesses. If they can’t get their prescriptions filled, many will die.

Ditto delivery of prescriptions.

And on and on and on. I don’t know enough about how to run a city much less a country, but someone must, and that someone or someones have to put procedures in place to deal with the logistics of supplying a country in lockdown.

Will it happen?

I don’t think so, not yet. From statements put out by state and federal governments here in Australia, it seems that most are still trying to juggle health vs the economy. An example of this is the Andrews government’s decision to allow the Grand Prix to go ahead in Melbourne. We’ve heard on the news that members of the Renault, McLaren and Haas teams have been put into self-isolation while awaiting test results. Yet the government and organisers are still saying the race will go ahead…with spectators.

Why can’t we be sensible like Bahrain and ban spectators? Or be like China and postpone the Grand Prix altogether?

Covid-19 is already loose in Melbourne. The latest victim is a teacher at Carey, a prestigious private school, who tested positive despite NOT having travelled or knowingly interacted with someone who has. That means the virus is already in the community.

I very much fear that shutting the economy down will cost less, in the long run, than letting this virus rampage through the community at the speed of light. Have a look at this graph from Dr John:

The difference between a fast spread and a slow spread of Covid-19

The labels are mine in case you don’t want to watch the whole video [which is here]. In Italy, the authorities were taken by surprise and the virus pretty much spread unchecked before they even realised they had a problem. That is basically the red line. The North Italian hospitals are only treating the most severe patients and they are still not coping. Translate that into people dying because there are not enough beds, ventilators and staff to keep them alive.

The blue line on the graph is what happens when governments stop people from congregating and spreading the virus. There are still infections and sick people in hospitals, but the hospitals can cope and the fatality rate goes waaaaay down.

Oh, and by the way, all those who think that Covid-19 will only kill off the ‘old and sick’, think again. The latest figures from Italy show that the median age is now 65.

Median does not mean ‘average’. Median means the middle point in a long line stretching from youngest to oldest. Or, to put it in really simple terms, there are now as many people under 65 dying of Covid-19 as above 65. Think about that.

You should also think about the positive side of this equation. The ‘draconian’ measures enforced by China to stop the spread of Covid-19 are working. The rate of new infections is slowing. That means China is coming out of the sharp red spike on the graph. Their situation is improving.

Here in Australia we are still in denial, and every day of ‘business as usual’ and ‘let’s protect the economy’ pushes us closer to the Italian nightmare.

We must do better.

Meeks


Recipe – Italian rice croquettes

The Offspring and I are trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diet and have discovered some sensational vegetarian dishes. Rice croquettes [or Arancini here] are one such delectable dish:

This one, lonely croquette is the only one of the 18 that survived for the photo. The rest were wolfed down. 🙂 To give you some idea of size, that’s a bread-and-butter plate with sliced sweet and sour pickled cucumber on the side.

The dish we actually ate was served with raw julienned carrots, pickles and a dipping sauce made from one, beautifully ripe avocado, mashed, and mixed with about two tablespoons of Jalna Greek yoghurt. Thisyoghurt is pot set, creamy and absolutely plain. Beautiful stuff. 🙂

Oh, I forgot, inside each croquette there was one of these:

These are baby Bocconcini – small mozzarella balls around which the rice croquette mixture is formed. In hindsight, getting the very small ones may have been a bit of a mistake as the flavour was a little lost amidst the rice, but still, very moorish. 🙂

I found the recipe for the rice croquettes in an old, slightly battered cookbook that I picked up from an op. shop many years ago. The book is called ‘The Italian Cookbook’ and was written by Maria Luisa Taglienti, copyright 1955. I haven’t cooked many of the recipes, but each one I did try worked beautifully. So here’s my version of rice croquettes. 🙂

Ingredients

2 cups of rice [I usually cook with long grain rice but bought arborio rice just for this recipe. It was worth it]

3 tablespoons ready-cooked tomato sauce [I wasn’t sure what she meant by tomato sauce so I used I sacchet of Leggos tomato paste. The flavour of the rice was delicious]

4 tablespoons butter [I used lightly salted butter as I prefer to sprinkle a little more salt on top rather than over salt the whole dish]

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese [I used shaved Parmesan and added a little more to get the correct amount]

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup diced bel paese or soft white cream cheese [I didn’t know what Bel Paese cheese was so looked it up and found it could be used as a substitute for mozzarella, so I bought the Bocconcini. Next time I may try a cream cheese instead]

1.5 cups of breadcrumbs

2 cups of olive oil [I don’t like deep frying so I only used just under 1 cup and substituted peanut oil for olive oil as it is excellent for frying].

Method

I thought I might have to cook the rice like a risotto with the tomato sauce, but you boil it in salted water instead [approximately 15 minutes].

Next, you have to drain the rice and allow it to cool completely. I made two mistakes here. First, I rinsed the rice instead of just draining it. I think it would have been easier to form the croquettes if I’d left the starch on the grains of rice [to make them stick together better]. The second mistake was that I didn’t leave enough time for the rice to cool. It took well over an hour at room temperature, so dinner was a bit later than usual. Next time I make these croquettes, I’ll boil the rice ahead of time so it’s ready to go by the time I’m ready to cook.

Next, I removed about 20 Bocconcini from the liquid in which they come and allowed them to drain thoroughly.

Once the rice cooled sufficiently, I mixed in the tomato paste/sauce, butter, Parmesan cheese and beaten eggs. You can use a spoon or fork but hands really are the best for this. Besides, you’ll have to form the mix in your hands anyway so why make more washing up for yourself? -grin-

Forming the croquettes is messy but relatively easy. Place a spoonful of the rice mixture in the palm of your hand. Squeeze it with the other hand until it holds together. Make a small indentation in the middle and place one of the Bocconcini in the indentation. Cover with another spoonful of rice mixture and squeeze together to form a firm ball. Roll the ball in breadcrumbs and set aside.

Continue forming the croquettes until all the mixture has been used up. I made about 18 croquettes, but they were smallish.

Once the croquettes were formed, I heated the oil in a heavy, cast iron pot rather than a frying pan. The pot was big enough to hold 3 or 4 croquettes and the oil came to about 1/3 of the way up their sides. I allowed the croquettes to fry gently, turning as required. When they were golden brown all over, I eased them out with a slotted spoon and arranged them in a pile on a platter with the avocado dip and the julienned vegetables.

Enjoy!

Meeks

 


Sunday decadence!

What do you do with a rich, moist cake that kind of falls apart? Easy, you make a trifle, of sorts. Then you eat it for Sunday brunch because…hey, all that cream will go off, right?

So…are you curious? Thought so. 😀

This first photo is actually showing the bottom of the cake. I put a heap of Morello cherries into the batter and they all sank to the bottom. Duh.

That meant the bottom stayed a bit wetter than the top, and that resulted in the top of the cake falling ‘away’ from the bottom when I decanted the cake onto the cooling rack. Sigh. Had to scrape the ‘bottom’ out and place it on top of the rest of the cake.

Note: the cake is a variation on the ‘Apricot and Olive Oil Cake’ recipe found in the ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’ cook book. And yes, it does use olive oil instead of butter. Anyway, when made according to the original recipe, the cake turns out perfectly every time. I made a few changes…

This next photo is a closeup of the cake showing the morello cherries [circled in yellow]:

So, anyway, the cake tasted sensational, it just looked sad. That’s when the Offspring had this brilliant idea: why not make some crème frangipane and turn the cake into a trifle?

I was a little skeptical, but as the cake had turned into an ugly duckling because of me, I could hardly demure.

The Offspring made the crème frangipane and proceeded to put a very simple trifle together [no jelly and the custard was kind of folded into the whipped cream, but who’s being a purist?]. Then we ate it…

No pics coz there’s no trifle left. You’re just going to have to take my word for how utterly delicious it was. 😀

But to show I do have a heart, here’s the recipe for the crème frangipane we used [it’s not the authentic French recipe, but it’s delicious and MUCH easier to make]:

Ingredients

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

2/3 cup full cream milk [light milk just doesn’t quite work]

1 egg yoke [from a fairly large, free-range egg]

300 ml of thickened cream [that can be whipped]

Method

Mix the sugar, corn starch and milk until there are no lumps. Then place the mix in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir constantly until the mix thickens.

Take the pot off the heat and immediately stir in the egg yoke. [This is a kind of cheats custard].

The original recipe* says to flavour the custard with either Kirsch or vanilla, but we left it plain. At this point, the custard is very sweet.

Use a whisk, hand beater or an electric beater to whip the cream until it’s quite thick.

Place both the custard and the cream in the fridge until the custard has cooled.

Once the custard is quite cold, add the whipped cream and gently fold the two together. Ta dah!

You can use this crème frangipane as a filling or for any recipe that calls for sweetened cream. It’s so good. Also, so fat….:/

Hope your Sunday is as nice as mine,

cheers

Meeks

* The original recipe comes from the Sunset French Cook Book, 1976. This is my favourite cook book of all time. It’s falling apart, literally, but it has never failed me. 🙂

 


Stealing when you’re hungry is not a crime

Sometimes the judicial system gives me hope.

An Italian court ruled that a man caught stealing some cheese and sausage – because he was hungry and penniless – did not commit a crime. This decision over-ruled a previous conviction for theft.

Included in the decision was this:

‘….the court’s judgment “reminds everyone that in a civilized country, not even the worst of men should starve”.

Amen.

My thanks to Quartz for this article and for making me feel better today. I caught the Offspring’s flu and I’m not a happy camper.

Meeks


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