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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cave art, tracing your ancestors & Pistou soup

Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Ancestors” is a must see.  Cave paintings created 32,000 years ago in the South of France were discovered only in 1994 by 3 cave explorers led by Jean-Marie Chauvet. 


I was interested in seeing this documentary because in the summer of 1983, as an archaeology student, I visited many caves in the South of France including Lascaux.  


The documentary is historic for a number of reasons, including, inter alia, access was unprecedented as only a few scientists are permitted to enter the cave and after herculean efforts Herzog was permitted a mere 4 hours a day for 1 week. The shooting in 3D conveys, as flat photographs cannot, how the artists used the bulges & ripples in the rock formations to show the muscles and movement of the animals.  Finally, Herzog's interviews with the scientists explain the magnitude & importance of the discovery.  I highly recommend listening to Terry Gross’ interview with Herzog about the making of the film.  If you do nothing else, watch this trailer for the film.
Speaking of ancestors, I’ve been tracing my own after reading a New York Times article about the available Internet tools and encouraged by the success of my friend Rebecca.  She traced her ancestors back to the Revolutionary War, plowing through hundreds of records online, patiently reviewing town hall records in print and corresponding with groups who have created indices of early gravestones. There are a number of books about her patriotic ancestor, Seth Warner.   You can read about Warner & his ancestors in this article, which includes photos of Rebecca and her son Zeb.   Rebecca has been wonderfully patient in guiding me through the maze of finding ancestors & creating a family tree. Below is a photo of Rebecca at a ceremony for Israel Putnam Warner, Col. Seth's son, who bravely served at age 9 (yes, at age 9!), a courier at the battle of Bennington and died at age 93.  

So what does all this have to do with gardening?  Nada.  However, in honor of my recent discovery of French ancestors and the French cave artists of southern France, tonight I am using the chard, escarole, spinach and spring garlic from my garden to create Provencal Pistou soup with a recipe adapted from Laura Calder’s recipe:  

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
            3 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup each of shredded escarole, spinach & chard 
     1 potato, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, diced
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 cup cooked white kidney beans
1 cup zucchini, diced small
2 tomatoes, seeded, and diced
            4 cups of stock
Pesto, for garnish (See recipe below in the 4/23/11 post)
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and gently cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic.  Add the greens, potato and carrot dice. Pour over 4 cups stock. Season with salt and pepper, add the bay leaf and the thyme. Bring to a boil, and simmer 10 minutes.
2. Add the kidney beans and the zucchini and continue cooking until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes longer. Stir through the tomato. Ladle the soup into bowls. (Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs). Add a spoonful of pesto to each bowl, and grate over Parmesan cheese.

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