Posts Tagged culture

Helping the Greek Economy

25 July 2012

While I’m here, I’ve decided to make an effort to support the Greek economy … primarily by supporting the food industry. 🙂

My first attempt is seen below:

Clockwise from left: black olives (wrinkly kind), Greek yogurt, stuffed grape leaves, and green olives in brine.

These products were all purchased from the local store in the closest village, Agii Apostoli. The descriptions were all in Greek so I relied entirely on the label photos. They all had a Greek flag on their packaging, which I’m assuming means “Made in Greece.” Yum! Everything tastes so good!


4th of July in England

4 July 2012

Happy 4th of July!

We would soon be heading out to the Boathouse where our Oxford RAs are preparing for us a dinner to remember. Who would have thought that 236 years after our little revolution, the Brits would be hosting us in a little barbecue to celebrate our Independence Day? Just a little twist of irony.

But not the strangest thing that’s every happened here. I think that award goes to last year’s Oxford program students Trey Ramsey and Alycia Graves teaching the Chinese students how to do the electric slide, after they’d helped us celebrate the 4th of July — a holiday they’d never heard of before.

I love these multicultural interactions. 🙂

Will have photos later!


An English Breakfast: The Stuff of Dreams

24 June 2012

Ahhhhh! A traditional English breakfast. The smell wafted up to me on the top floor of Abingdon House as I woke up this morning, my stomach rumbling in anticipation. The fare did not disappoint.

An English Breakfast

Eggs, “bacon,” mushroom, tomato, hash browns, sausage plus toast, croissants, fresh fruit and berries and several options of cereal, juices, milk and coffee. It’s the breakfast of kings. What a great way to start a Sunday morning!

This Holiday Season, Eat the European Way

22 November 2011

When it comes to overeating, holiday potlucks and buffets are the ultimate danger zone. The temptation of a buffet, of course, is to taste everything. Keeping in mind these two steps (practiced for centuries by Europeans and gourmets) can help you navigate the buffet minefield and come away from parties satisfied, yet without the customary side dish of guilt.


1.      Enjoy with your eyes first. Appreciating the presentation of a dish (actually looking at your food and admiring it) enhances the taste of the food.

2.      Savor each bite. Savor first with your nose by noticing the smell of the food, then with your palate. Vocalizing your appreciation of the food’s qualities will guide your taste buds into noticing each subtle flavor and texture.

3.      Take your time. Don’t rush! Pause when you are intent in conversation to avoid mindless eating. Enjoy the atmosphere around you and breathe deeply as you dine.



If the event is casual enough, get up frequently from the table and return to the buffet for each “course.” For example:

1. Salad and Soup. By beginning with a soup and salad, your stomach starts filling up so the “I’m full” signal gets relayed sooner to your brain. Some tips to remember at the salad bar:

  • Start with a solid base of leafy greens
  • Add real veggies on top
  • Go for a rainbow of dark, bright colors
  • Avoid croutons and bacon bits
  • Clear dressings (simple vinaigrettes, for example) generally have fewer calories than creamy dressings (like ranch and thousand island)
  • Clear soups generally have fewer calories than creamy soups

2. Main Dish. Help yourself to a small portion of one entrée (beef, fish, chicken, pork) and two small sides – you can even have one small portion of bread. Or sample small portions (silver dollar size) of several entrees and sides, but only enough to fill a small plate, not a dinner plate. The key emphasis should be on moderation and the key word should be “small.”

3. Cheese and Fruit. Indulge in a few bites of cheese with crackers, and have as much fruit as you desire. The goal is for you to start feeling full around this point to avoid the grandfather of all pitfalls: dessert!

4. Dessert. By the time you get to this course, if you’ve focused on the presentation, smell and taste of your food and gotten up between courses to walk around, you should be filling up. Do a dessert sampler (1 ½ bites of anything that looks good to you or 1 small slice/portion of your favorite dessert; no ice cream unless that’s your whole dessert). Enjoy with coffee or other hot drink.

If you follow these steps, you’ll leave the buffet full but not stuffed. You’ll have exercised self-control but not lost any dining pleasure. You’ll be constantly amazed by the Lord’s creativity when it comes to food, with such a variety of colors, textures, flavors and smells. As the Psalmist wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Jefferson & Coffee

14 November 2011

Jefferson's Monticello

On a mountaintop near Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson built the architectural wonder he called Monticello, or “little mountain.” It is the only house in America listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site. But did you know that besides being President, architect, inventor, world traveler, and all his other attributes, Jefferson was also a coffee afficianado? Not long ago, I was given a beautiful souvenir coffee mug from Monticello and with it an interesting little pamphlet I’ve reproduced below.

Grounds and Gardens

In 1824 Thomas Jefferson deemed coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.” Jefferson enjoyed the coffee houses of Williamsburg and Paris, and served coffee at the President’s House, Poplar Forest, and Monticello. He preferred beans imported from the East and West Indies, and abhorred the “green” or unripe beans that were popular in America at the time.

Jefferson estimated that a pound of coffee a day was consumed at Monticello during his retirement. His cellar was stocked with unroasted beans in barrels weighing as much as 60 pounds. Small quantities of beans were roasted and ground in the Monticello kitchen, and then prepared according to the recipe of Adrien Petit, Jefferson’s French maitre d’hotel: “On one measure of the coffee ground into meal pour three measures of boiling water. Boil it on hot ashes mixed with coal till the meal disappears from the top, when it will be precipitated. Pour it three times through a flannel strainer. It will yield 2 1/3 measures of clear coffee.” Coffee was served at breakfast, and likely after dinner, in a silver coffee urn made to Jefferson’s design.

For information on visiting Monticello, click here.

Give Grace a Chance

2 November 2011

This Halloween, Give Grace a Chance

By Nathalie Jeter

(Published on

With a hammer in one hand and a large scroll under his arm, Martin Luther approached the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He paused to take a couple of nails from a pouch hidden in the folds of his dark woolen habit then began pounding his 95 theses to the church’s heavy wooden doors.

The date was October 31, 1517 and the event changed the course of human history.

Today many Christians debate the proper stance to take toward Halloween. Some believe that the holiday glorifies witchcraft and evil, while others see it simply as innocent fun. One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to incite Christians to fight each other on matters of doctrine. Perhaps we would do better this October 31 to focus on what is most important to God, just like Martin Luther did on that fateful day in history.

Luther’s protest was not against ghosts and goblins or children dressing up to trick-or-treat. He chose All Hallow’s Eve because it was the night before All Saints’ Day, a day when most of Wittenberg’s inhabitants would be in church. It was good advertising.

Click here to read more.

The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea

23 April 2011

Whether taking tea with the Queen or just a friend, here are 10 helpful things to remember: 


After taking a seat, unfold your napkin and place it immediately on your lap.


Ladies, do not cross your legs at the knees or sit far back in your chair;

Instead, sit towards the edge of the seat and cross your legs at the ankles.


If you are an invited guest, wait to be served. Do not eat until your host/ess has invited you to do so.


If you are the one serving, pour from the teapot with one hand while securing the lid with the other.


Traditionally, if you have milk in your tea you would not take lemon, and vice-versa.


Do not leave your spoon in the tea cup; when not in use, place it quietly on the saucer.


The proper way to hold a tea cup is the way that feels most comfortable and secure to you;

Don’t put out your pinky if that does not seem natural to you, though you may find it useful for balance.


Scones should be split horizontally with a knife then slathered with clotted cream or butter before adding jam or curd.


Eating with your fingers is perfectly acceptable when taking afternoon tea.


If you must rise before the end of the meal, place your napkin in your chair;

Once the meal is finished, place the gently crumpled (not folded) napkin on the table.


Preview of PrayerWalk London

20 April 2011

Church & State: Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament

Summary of Area

Palace of Westminster & Big Ben

Let your imagination run back in time a thousand years as you stroll through Westminster, the religious and political heart of London. Rich in history, culture, and iconic landmarks, this walk takes you through Westminster Abbey, where William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, past the Palace of Westminster, home to the House of Lords, House of Commons, and Big Ben, to the residence of the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing Street, and finally to the underground headquarters of Churchill’s wartime government.

Key Facts       

  • Starting Point: Parliament Square (Underground station: Westminster)
  • Finishing Point: Churchill Museum & War Rooms (Underground station: St. James’s Park; Westminster)
  • Days to Avoid: Sunday (Westminster Abbey open for worship only)
  • Best Day: Any week day
  • Length of Walk: 1 ½ miles
  • Time Needed: 3 hours

Walk Highlights

1. Parliament Square

Each side of this centrally located square represents a different branch of the state: legislature to the east (Houses of Parliament), executive to the north (Whitehall), judiciary to the west (Supreme Court), and the Church to the south (Westminster Abbey). In recent years, the square has been taken over by protesters who have renamed it “Democracy Village.”


Westminster Abbey

2. Westminster Abbey

This magnificent church has witnessed a thousand years of history and the coronation of nearly every king and queen of this country. Its “Poet’s Corner” is the burial place of the famous – not just poets, but also authors, painters, musicians, and even well-known actors. Most recently, it has become known as the location where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will take place.

3. St. Margaret’s Church

Though lesser-known than its adjoining sister church, St. Margaret’s has joined Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It, too, has seen its share of historical weddings, funerals, and burials, among which was Winston Churchill’s wedding to Clementine Hozier in 1908.

4. Houses of Parliament

In this impressive Gothic structure on the banks of the Thames, the most powerful branches of the British government – the House of Lords and the House of Commons – gather to debate the nation’s important issues. The most recognizable feature of the Houses of Parliament, aka the Palace of Westminster, is the clock tower of Big Ben.

5. Big Ben

The world’s most famous clock bell chimes every quarter hour and has been an iconic symbol of London since its completion in 1859.

6. Cenotaph

The cenotaph is a war memorial in the middle of Whitehall, designed to honor the dead of WWI. The Queen lays a memorial wreath at the cenotaph every year on November 11, Remembrance Day.

7. No. 10 Downing Street

“Number 10,” as it is known in the UK, is the headquarters of the Queen’s Government and the home of the Prime Minister. It is one of the most famous addresses in the world (perhaps second to 221b Baker Street, home of the famous Sherlock Holmes!).

8. Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms

This museum provides a rare chance to glimpse the makeshift wartime seat of the British government during the German Blitz of WWII. Once the war was over, inhabitants of this underground world were only too glad to leave, and the bunkers were left untouched for decades before they were reopened as a museum.

Bubble & Squeak Recipe

18 April 2011

Bubble & Squeak

Wait ’til you see the looks on your family’s face when you tell them you are making “Bubble & Squeak” for dinner!

This British classic is typically served for Monday lunch or dinner using leftovers from Sunday’s roast. Leave it to the Brits to come up with this ingeniously thrifty concept and a clever name to go with it. In the States, we would probably just call this “hash.”


4 TBS butter

1/4-1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 cups potatoes, mashed or roasted 

Leftover cooked vegetables (cabbage, carrots, peas, kale, etc)

Fried bacon pieces (optional)


Melt butter in a large frying pan. Over medium low heat, fry uncooked veggies like carrots, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add onions and fry until softened, another 2-3 minutes. Turn heat to medium or slightly higher and add mashed potatoes and other cooked vegetables, and bacon if using.

Fry about 7-10 minutes, flipping/stirring two to three times to keep the mixture pleasantly browning but not burning. Press potato mixture to the bottom of the pan with a spatula, let cook one minute or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Nat’s Notes:

* There’s no “perfect” recipe for this dish, which makes it ideal for improvisation. The one essential ingredient is mashed potatoes, as the “glue” that holds everything together.

* “Bubble & Squeak” comes from the sound that the dish makes as it cooks.

* If using raw vegetables, cook them first and make sure they are soft before adding other ingredients.

* Consider making these into small patties instead of frying everything together.

* This dish is often served with a side of fried egg, bacon, or meat leftovers.

Royal Wedding: Blog Coverage

17 April 2011

As someone writing a serious book about London and the British, I lament the fact that the media has turned the upcoming royal wedding into a veritable circus. I’m one of the millions who couldn’t care less what shade of eyeshadow Catherine Middleton will be wearing on her wedding day or what Prince William did for his bachelor party, but I am interested in the centuries’ old pageantry that surrounds royal weddings, and hearing about the traditions and stories of bygone days.

So that’s my caveat for what I’m about to announce.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m somewhat of an Anglophile. Starting this week, and using the upcoming royal wedding as a good excuse, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite British things, including:

  • three of my favorite British recipes
  • a celebration and tutorial of the Art of Tea
  • manuscript previews of two chapters in PrayerWalk London: Walk 1 — Church & State (Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament) and Walk 2 — Crown & Glory (Buckingham Palace and St. James’s)
  • Reviews and photos of my 3 favorite places to have tea in England: the Pump Room in Bath, The Randolph in Oxford, and Fortnum & Mason in London
  • An overview of the timing and places on the Royal Wedding itinerary
  • A Peek at the Royal Mews. Part stables, part garage, the Royal Mews contains all the royal vehicles, whether horse-drawn carriages or rolls royces, that convey their royal highnesses to all State occasions.
  • A “Royal Day Out” — Limited on time in London but want to see what’s best? I’ll suggest an itinerary for a luxurious day in London that hits all the royal hot spots and allows time for some serious pampering.  

Gas prices are sky-high, travel costs are prohibitive, but I invite you to join me for the armchair vacation of a lifetime over the next couple of weeks — no passport needed!

Next Page »