Monday, November 06, 2006

Silence is Golden

It is interesting how reality can be very far from hasty perceptions especially formed by those who are too ready to accuse. Like many fellow expat bloggers, my blog is my space to rant and vent so I could, in real life, remain a positive and calm person.

My observations on the practises
of members of La Familia may not have sat well with some Argentine readers; maybe I've pointed out something too close to home for comfort? However, contrary to casual assumptions, Guillermo and I had differences with his parents but no argument.

Differences can be discussed calmly and then resolved in civilised manners while arguments put people in an offence-defence situation which, regardless of outcome, is destructive. Interestingly, the word discusión in Spanish can mean argument (pelea/ fight) in English so no wonder I've found that most people here have to have the last word; they will probably never understand the true meaning behind the phrase "silence is golden".

This past Sunday, we visited the abuelos. It was a small gathering of Guillermo's parents, tio and his wife, and us. I brought a Gâteau au Yaourt (yoghurt cake) made with lavender scented sugar which Abuelo and my father-in-law each had more than a couple of slices. It was shaping up to be a really nice afternoon.

After our tio and tia departed, Abuela who had two strokes (infartos) this year led the conversation to her sufferings
again. Her main gripe is that she is simply too far from her youngest daughter (aged 39) and her two grandsons (aged 4 and 8) who live outside of Capital Federal. The daughter and her children come to visit her parents in Buenos Aires every month and if it is during school holidays, they stay for weeks; nonetheless, she burst into tears with more than a few "poor me".

Her eldest daughter (Guillermo's mother), my father in-law and Guillermo all tried to encourage her to look at the positives which are many: she has a large family all of whom she sees regularly, she lives in a very comfortable apartment in Belgrano and doesn't have any financial worry, her husband is still alive and keeping her company...Nothing could persuade her to stop this tirade of self-pity.

My own maternal grandmother (PoPo/婆婆) who lives in Sydney is exactly Abuela's age; upon her own insistence, PoPo lives alone. At 86, she still leads a busy social life, tends to the garden as her exercise and is very appreciative to be alive. All of this, I kept to myself at this gathering lest I risk taken as gloating. I kept my mouth firmly shut while the self-indulgent whining continued.

Finally Abuelo spoke; he turned to his wife like a parent to his obstinate child and asked her "Have you ever thought of other people less fortunate than you? How about this granddaughter here who hasn't seen her abuela for almost two years?"

Even with that cue, I didn't take the opportunity to impress on all of them my own circumstance; I just smiled and remained silent. I was grateful that the point was made for me by a true gentleman and that was enough. Abuela was put in her place instantly yet she was thankful that I didn't rub it in further. Abuelo and my in-laws were impressed by this display of maturity and consideration. My husband was proud. No words could have ever won me as much. Enough said.

Lavender Scented Yoghurt Cake

2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt*
1 cup scented sugar ( I used lavender)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon lavender, optional

Preheat the oven to 190C, line a loaf tin with parchment paper

In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, and oil.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together -- don't overwork the dough.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

* I make my own unsweetened yoghurt, so I infused the hot milk with 1 tbsp of lavender flowers this time.

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