A Community of Listeners

I came across something startling today. I was so surprised I did a double take.  A father didn’t have a phone in his hand as he took his two children  to school.  Had to check again: no, he really really didn’t.

I myself was doing my usual morning walk. Yes. Doing.  Not necessarily seeing or enjoying or appreciating, just doing.  Gotta get those steps recorded on the pedometer, don’t I?  I had just arrived at the place where great majestic chestnut trees line an ancient carriage path to a stately home (now a health farm), when the grey fugg of doing exploded into colourful reality.  Not only was the phoneless Dad a shock, but both children were aware – and talking about – their surroundings.  Dad entered in.  There were no condescending grunts, but real comments, substantiating or explaining the children’s observations.

the epic tree

“Oh Dad! Isn’t that tree epic!  Wouldn’t it make a great tree house!”

“Hmm. Perhaps.  But look at the branches.  They may not be the right shape. And would you like a tree house so high up?”

They carried on, the children skipping and jumping enthusiastically beside Dad’s long strides, their torso-sized school bags bouncing on their backs. Their delight and excitement burst into bloom by their own imaginings, with Dad taking part enthusiastically.


They say that everyone is a philosopher and a poet, if you only listen. Perhaps that Dad knew his children better than most.

But as for me, I woke up to my surroundings. Golly – a tree house in those amazing chestnuts:  why hadn’t I thought of that?  It would be epic!


To uncover the poets and philosophers of any chronological age, walking is the best medium. Walking and listening.  But if you have to be in a kitchen, here’s a recipe that others can “help” you with.  Prepare the dough,  then invite them to take part in rolling into flatbread shape, while you bake them in a dry frying pan (all the while listening, of course.)

Naturally, the lovingly misshapen flatbreads will probably taste better.

Onion Flatbreads from Uzbekistan.

taken from The Russian Cookbook by Barbara Norman, 1970 

[Good heavens my book is almost 50 years old!!!]

Fry two minced onions (I used one red, one white) slowly in 1 tablespoon butter until onion is transparent.  Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 6 ozs (3/4 cup) warm water.  Melt 5 tablespoons butter and stir into the water with the fried onions.  Cool to room temperature.  Stir enough plain flour into the water (up to 3 cupfuls) by sprinkling over the liquid and gradually incorporating it until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.  Form into a ball and let it rest, covered, for half an hour.

Roll two-inch balls of the dough and with a rolling pin, roll out to the size of your frying pan (about a hand span in diameter). Brown each flatbread on both sides in the ungreased frying pan.  (Mine took about a minute on each side).  Cool on a rack.  I like them soft and bendable, but apparently the Uzbekis like them crisp, in which case stand them on end in the slats of your cookie rack.

Use them as you would tortillas or other flatbreads. The onions make them especially good with cheese.  Let us all know how yours came out.  What you heard from your philosophers and poets, of course, is confidential to the kitchen’s walls.

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