St Blaise, patron saint of sore throats

St Blaise is the patron saint of throat infections and for this reason alone, I thought it was worth attending his feast in Dubrovnik. I’ve suffered from a chronic cough most of my life and on bad days it sounds like I’ve smoked 1000 cigarettes a day.  Doctors don’t know why.

St Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik and on the 3rd of February, his festival day, there is a throat blessing ceremony at the Church of St Blaise. Several years ago, I got in that queue.

Dubrovnik weather in February is much like London, ie changeable – I think that’s the polite way to put it. The Mediterranean-influenced food and the red-tiled rooftops are a cheerful offset.  And the festival processions, which start the day before on Candle Mass, are a wonderful celebration of reds and golds.

Neighbouring villagers come in their traditional costumes, lining the main street with their banners while the church bells chime and the bands strike up. The parade files up to the church for a flag waving ceremony. Look out for the bishop and the men bearing Jesus’ loin cloth in a casket. And into the church for the throat-blessing.

Did my throat improve after that? It’s difficult to say. I had a horrendously tickly cough on that long weekend, which found little relief from drugs or the church blessing.  And since Dubrovnik, I’ve had a couple of extremely bad bouts which drove me to the verge of mind-altering medication. But the periods of calm are long and good and I feel like a normal non-afflicted human being.

~ Spotted Cow

Dubrovnik young women Dubrovnik women in traditional dressDubrovnik footwear detailJesus loin clothSt Blaise

Chinese New Year food

I was invited round to Chinese New Year Eve dinner at the house of Very Stylish Neighbour.  She is from Singapore and when it comes to food, she does it well and with bucket-loads of enthusiasm. We were going to have a typical Singaporean Chinese New Year meal. I wore my red dress for good luck and I had the requisite oranges to bequeath fortune and wealth to my hostess for the coming year.

We started off with yee sang, which is a new year salad. The salad ingredients have to be placed in a particular order, accompanied by a wish – sashimi, lime, pepper, oil, carrots, green radish, white radish, condiments, peanut crumbs, flour crisps.  The wish is specific to each ingredient and is broadly to do with abundance, health and good fortune. For instance, while pouring the oil, we chanted “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital.”

We tossed the salad collectively with our chopsticks, high as we could, the better to assure our good fortunes. I felt like I should’ve been clad in swashbuckling silks – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style – armed with a sword to deftly mix the veg in four swift strokes.  We shouted out our wishes so that the gods could hear. “Pay rise! New house in Hampstead! Good Health! Win the lottery!” You get the picture.

Salad done, we got to work on the main meal, which was a hotpot. In the centre of the table was a boiling pot of water surrounded by a hot grill plate. There were dishes of cut vegetables, sliced meats, and seafood, and we dipped our chosen morsels into the pot or onto the hot plate. Everything cooked quickly.  We ate ravenously. As each bit of food was dunked, the boiling water transformed progressively into a rich soup stock.

We ate until we were beached whales. When we could no longer fit another sliver into our bellies, we dropped in the noodles (long life) and broke two eggs (double happiness) and drank up the soup’s goodness. Ahhh …

What a heartwarming communal ritual.

We finished off with a rice dumpling called tang yuan and read our horoscopes for the coming Year of the Horse. Mine said I would meet my soulmate in the second half of the year (fab!), although it warned that I should not drink too much alcohol in case of stomach diseases (huh?).

Gong Xi Fa Cai. Kong Hee Fatt Choy.

~ Spotted Cow

yee sang

hotpot

tang yuan