Cooking with Leonardo Da Vinci

By Nora Vasconcelos

Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me what I wanted for a Christmas present. The answer took less than a second: The collection of notes about food by Leonardo Da Vinci.

My friend gave me a strange look, but said nothing. Later on, when we met again, he came with the book all wrapped up, and then he told me: “Only because you said the book existed, but I went to the bookstore fearing the clerk would laugh at me. Anyways, I asked for the book, and I got all surpised when he actually put it on my hands”.

The book, printed in Madrid under the title of Notas de Cocina de Leonardo Da Vinci, is a collection of the notes that the Italian painter made during the time he lived in Milan, working for Ludivico Sforza, duke of that city by the end of the 15th century.

Thanks to this experience, Leonardo started to write down the things he saw regarding the meals that were served for the upper class and the manners that were kept while taking those meals.

But the painter also jotted down all sort of notes about the eating habits of the people with less money. The collection refers as well to some plates created by Leonardo himself, mixing the ingredients the same as he used to mix the colors on his palet.

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Books that changed my life

By Nora Vasconcelos

May peace arrive soon
Books that change lives
It’s hard to think on only one book that has influenced or changed my life, as my literary memories go back then when I was just a little girl. So, many titles come to my mind right now. The first one I recall is a children’s version of Thousand and one nights. I still remember picturing in my mind the fantastic scenes of this collection of Middle Eastern stories that talked about genies and merchants, and people discovering new places and travelers going to unimaginable lands! Oh! How much I loved those stories! They certainly cleared my path to writing.
Another fantastic book that marked my reading life is L’Avare (The Miser). I still recall that rainy afternoon when I first got this book in my hands. I went through the whole story while the storm was out there. It was absolutely fantastic! After that, I got the whole works by Moliere, and he’s still one of my favorite authors.
Along Moliere, Alejandro Casona took me to theatre books with his plays that touched really closed the humand condition by describing in a very detailed way his character’s fears, hopes and dreams.
The name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is also included in my “Top 10”. With this Italian author I first discovered what it was to exercise brain gym in order to handle in my mind all the facts and happenings of the story and still being able to keep going on. But I must say that I loved the story so much that I’ve became a huge fan of Eco’s novels.
Another book that changed my life was The unbearable lightness of the being, by Milan Kundera. This book took me into the Easter life, which culture I’ve always liked. Then it came more Czech works to my hands with books written by Jan Neruda and, of course, Franz Kafka.
One more book that comes to my mind that has had a deep effect on me, is Love in the time of Colera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Besides the love story, I got absolutely amazed by the way the Colombian author works with works, creating with them a unique place where the reader’s mind can travel and stay there regardless of the outside world.
The list of changing lives books could go on and on, but I think the last ones I’ll talk about it’s a group of books I recently bought about Eastern philosophies. I like them so much because they gave me peace in the time when the world around me was upside down.

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I'm part of Post A Week 2014

Charming animal stories

Animal stories (drawing by POV)
When I was a little child I was given as a present a book about typical Mexican stories. The book wasn’t famous and the author wasn’t known worldwide, but it talked about animals. I’ve always liked them, so I remember myself getting all fascinated while reading the story by Martin Cortina about a wild horse that used to go around the prairies and the valleys. However the story that really took my breath away (because all the laughs I had from it) was the one about a possum that liked to go around the forest of Veracruz (Mexico) chasing the good and easy life, getting all the free food he could get. In the story the animal is called Little uncle possum, and even though he’s funny and charming, he’s often chased and cursed by the people he has taken food away, but in the end, he gets all sort out and manages to live a happy life!
When I was little I also used to love (I still do) all sort of stories about bunnies. My very first favorite bunny tale was Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. Back then I got amazed by how beautiful the bunnies were and how alived they looked. I totally loved them, and I still do it. Later on I discovered the Velveteen Rabbit, a story by Margaret Williams, with drawings by William Nicholson. What got my heart from this story was the idea of Williams about the rabbit wishing to stop being a toy and become a living rabbit, only by the love of its owner. According to the story, the more kids play with their toys, the more alive they become! I quite like it!

Another day, another book

Another day, another book
Yes!, I’ve just finished the Rule of Four that I started a while ago, and I have to say that I’ve kept the same comforting and happy feeling that I had back then when I posted that I was surprised to see how much I was enjoying the book this time, after the dissapoinment I got years ago when I read the story for the first time. I’ve found the book really interesting and absorbing. So I’m really glad I gave the book a second chance!
And now that the story is over, and the month is brand new, I have lots of titles to choose from. Of course I’ll continue with The last Dickens. The story’s great, so I really want to spend more time reading it. I’m also the proud reader-to-be of The cementery of Prague by Umberto Eco, and the other day I got all courious about the original story of Little House on the Praire written by Laura Ingalls, so I got the whole collection of the nine books and I can’t wait to start with them. So… lots of happy readings are waiting for me!

Is Kafka’s own life reflected in his work?

While reading The Metamorphosis many passages of my visit to Prague came back to my mind. Specially those ones related to the places where Kafka used to live and work. I remember that the tourist guide told us about Kafka’s sister taking care of him while he was sick and also how unhappy he was with his job as an office worker. That made me think that Kafka was reflecting himself in his novel, showing pieces of his family life. That made me feel a bit concerned about this reflection of his life is that he must have felt terribly sophocated and stressed out as for him to depict himself as a giagiant insect.
If my appreciation is correct I also wonder, what would he think if he had the chance to see how much his work has influenced literature throughout the years…? Would he be happy?

A foreigner within his own body

A foreigner within his own bodyI recently read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and ever since I finished it I have been thinking about it over and over. The story begins when Gregor wakes up and discovers that he’s being transformed into an insect, which I’ve pictured in my head as a huge cockroach. While he’s still trying to understand what has happened to him and is trying to see how he can move around with his new body, his family come along to see why he hasn’t gone to work. After a little while he manages to open the door and they can’t believe what has happened to him.
As time passed by, the family go from repulsion to apparent acceptance. But as Gregor starts getting used to his new reality he tries to bother his familly as little as possible, because he realizes that for them it’s a disgusting situation.
The most amazing thing is that during all this time, despite his instect-body, Gregor keeps his own personality and his human mind. That made me think that he must have felt himself as a foreigner within his own body. That’s really sad!

Books in the times of love

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Books in the time of love
Saint Valentine’s day is around the corner and the mood is set for romantic stories. When I’m feeling like reading something really sweet, my favorites books are P.S. I love you by Cecilia Ahern, The Choice and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and the Blossom street series by Debbie Macomber. All of them have taken my breath away, because they talk about that kind of love that goes beyond sickness and dead, showing how life may go on without the love ones, but the feeling toward them always remain deep inside us.
In the same romantic path, but much more oriented to everyday life, Love in the times of colera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez talks about the love of a man for a woman that remains alive through the years depite the distance between the two of them and new people coming along to their lives.
Another two romantic novels I like a lot are Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because both of them have a good mix of suffering, reflection and happy endings.
Happy reading!