Opium and the High Middle Ages

My life is one of effortless ease, with the soft lyrical music of songbirds lilting in the near distance as I educate my princely children and we all dance joyously towards their future mastery of the universe.

But, once in a while, or perhaps daily, something will occur at my house which delivers me to earth with a resounding thud.

As I have been giving oral quizzes over the whole year’s material in history, I asked the question “Why was this period in history called the High Middle Ages?”

The response I received:  “Because of all the Opium the Crusaders brought back to Europe.”


The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictionalized account of real events in Sarajevo during the war in that city in the 1990’s.  During that time, with buildings being bombed daily, and snipers shooting at civilians continually, a cellist with the Sarajevo string quartet  brought his cello into the streets every day for 22 days to play.  He played in memory of 22 individuals whose deaths he had witnessed when  a bomb struck them as they waited in a bread line.  The cellist was Vedran Smailovic.  He didn’t approve of this book or appreciate Galloway’s portrayal of him.  There was some disagreement within the group last night about whether or not the author should have interviewed Smailovic before writing a book in which he was featured.  I say he should have spoken to him, as the reputation of this man is involved.  But, Gallager did not.  Smailovic was not pleased.  Most of the group last night disagreed with me.  I wonder what other peoples’ opinions are on this question.

We generally agreed that we had known very little about Sarajevo and the war that was fought there from 1992 until 1996.  Jon mentioned that it is very thought provoking that this siege  occurred, and was allowed to continue unchecked, in the very city where WWI got started.  How interesting and sad that it was ignored by the rest of the world, and by media such as CNN (who had covered every bit of action in the first Gulf War in 1991, so why not go film Sarajevo?)  It would seem that the US and Europe were so much afraid that Russia’s support of the Serbs in this war might have brought  another world war, and so the conflict was ignored. It is  always difficult when outside forces intrude upon a civil war, and so often problems are made larger.

There was also a good bit of speculation about how things might go in Ontario during the next 25 to 50 years, as ethnic groups fill this area, some of whom hate one another.  Looking at the difficulties brought upon Sarajevo by the presence of ethnic groups who despised one another seems a bit worrying to some in our group as they see people moving to Canada and perhaps bringing with them prejudices from other countries.  It would be lovely to see these prejudices melt away.  Time will tell.

And then there was the meal.    It’s kind of an ironic thing, and very nearly an embarrassment to some of us, that this feast was inspired by our reading of the Cellist of Sarajevo , as the city of Sarajevo was starving to death in the book.
But we will rejoice in the bounty given to us, not forgetting that it is a gift and one to be taken with thanksgiving.
The basis for our menu can be found at  This website which Jon discovered , in case any of you want to have a Balto Croatian feast.  Here’s a little idea of what people made and brought to us.

Proja (or perhaps the one Judy made was Projara) which is a Balkan corn bread,

Ajvar, tasty roasted eggplant and peppers served on top of various kinds of bread,
Burek, super delicious filled filo pastry.
Duvek, a smoked sausage stew with peas potatoes parsley…this was a big hit!  And the biggest surprise in this was that it was made with vegetarian smoked sausage.  Nobody suspected!

We also had roast rabbit (cooked by neighbor David of Christmas goose cook-off fame), Jon did a grilled stuffed lamb with leeks and chestnuts and other nice things.

Also Balkan beer, Balkan wine, and mineral water with a pretentious French name.

There were those who had a bit of Serbian Plum Brandy with dessert, which was a fruit and nut cake, amazing!  Also yogurt with fruit and sweet chestnut sauce.  And the most delicious home-made Turkish delight I have ever tasted.

Long about that time, every one was

becoming uncomfortably stuffed….
Later there was much discussion at our house about how the descendants of the biblical Canaanites have moved all over the globe fulfulling biblical prophecies about them, all through recorded history and up to today.  But that is perhaps a whole different blog post for a whole different day.