Archive for February, 2011

Salsa – the four minute love affair -by Salsa Superwoman

February 28, 2011

Recently I was talking about my love for salsa dancing and I said that at its best, what you get is a four minute love affair with no strings attached and no inappropriate touching. My intrigued companion subsequently asked me to share this observation in a blog. I agreed at once and then the second thoughts crept in. Was I, a ‘respectable married woman’ going to admit, in public, that this is what I get up to?

Actually, I am a serious person, I tend to be analytical, I tend to worry, I tend to work too hard and party too little. I am sure this makes me like so many other ‘superwomen’. I need the outlet of exercise, fresh air and walking the dog, but none of this exceeds the joy I feel when I hear a salsa beat strike up. I put aside the worries of the day; that I have a career, children and step children, a house to run, blah, blah, blah. Before you ask, I don’t put aside my handsome and sweet natured husband who endlessly tolerates that I go out dancing with friends who years ago nicknamed me ‘snake-hips’. (I think he secretly likes having a wife who can put in some cheeky hip moves.)

I began to dance over ten years ago, when I was a single parent of two small children. I had a passionate desire to dance and two left feet, so the dance steps were hard for me to learn. The rhythm was always there however, so that helped. I battled through my embarrassment for months until I could hold my own on the dance floor. I never got to be brilliant, but I can improvise now and put in styling touches such as a toss of the head, an extra shimmy of the shoulders, an arm flourished that even Craig Revel-Horwood wouldn’t actually despise. The best thing however, is the conversation that is a good salsa dance. Eye contact is important, following a lead and really responding to another person, moving as if one person. Sometimes it’s the closest thing to bliss, very intimate and yet not inappropriate. Most dances are ordinary, but in some, in a strange way, I almost love my dance partner, but just for the short time that the track lasts. It is the only perfect love affair, in that there is no aftermath and no disappointment. You both knew before that it would only last four minutes, with no recriminations.

Friends have implied that we salsa dancers are all up to no good and it is true that I have known people who have crossed the line and had a love affair longer than four minutes. Some have even met their future life partner on the dance floor and some were not single when they did it. That can happen anywhere though, at work, in the gym, at the tennis club. As they say, dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire, but we all know that people who are up for it will always find someone to party with somewhere.

My dance girlfriends and I agree about the finest local dance partners. The ones who make you feel like a Cuban Ginger Rogers even though you know that you do not look like one! Of course it was famously said of her that ‘she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels’. Wikipedia says that whilst she was of course very talented, what lifted her from the crowd in her partnership with Fred Astaire was that she made it seem as if dancing with him was simply thrilling as she was such a good actress. Perhaps she wasn’t acting that part though. Dancing simply is thrilling. An ordinary man can be the most thrilling dance partner if he brings all of himself, his passion and his humour and his desire to please. I have often heard it said that a man’s part is to make the woman look good on the dance floor and that if the dance doesn’t go well, it’s his fault. If only the rest of life ran like that!

I will admit also, that as I get older, it gets harder. The doubts creep in. I ask myself if it’s appropriate to be out dancing in town without my husband, I watch the men asking the younger women to dance and realise that will happen more and more. So I find myself in Zumba classes and although they are bit like French conversation classes without ever going to France, I find they are tremendous fun and I still come out exhilarated. So somehow I know that I won’t give up my passion, but will just have to keep finding new ways to express it.

Superwoman by E J Catering

February 7, 2011

Last Thursday was Chinese New Year.  I decided to mark the occasion by eating a Thai glass noodle salad with sautéed scallops and king prawns followed by local belly pork with bok choi and bang bang sauce at a dinner I helped host.   It wasn’t directly in celebration but any excuse is a good excuse.
In January 1994 I travelled to Vietnam and arrived on the first day of the New Year celebrations, except I was not aware of it!  As I remember the celebrations lasted three days and it was basically open house.  Everyone invited me in, never had I been to such a friendly country and met such friendly people.  They gave me food, sweets, beer and flowers.   I went to a family house for supper of fresh white fish with a gorgeous sweet and sour red sauce, sticky rice and simple steamed greens.  I played with the children out on the street, pushing single bike wheels with a stick and running after them under candle lit lanterns and every now and then a string of fire crackers would be set off to everyone’s excitement.  If you’re not used to the noise it’s extremely alarming and you feel like you should run and duck for cover.

I have lots of amazing visual memories of Vietnam;  of markets, bus and train trips with stunning scenery streaming by,  gracefully dressed women and whole families of six or eight on one moped!  My favourite place was Ha Long Bay.  It is not surprisingly  a Unesco world heritage site and is in my personal seven wonders of the world.  The bay is filled with thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes, heights and sizes.  It is ethereal and dreamy, you could float and look for hours, days, weeks or maybe forever.

In a small bay I ate the following dish and the local host gave me this recipe.  It is fresh, quick and easy.

Seared king prawns with mint and yoghurt
Serves 4
16 large raw prawns, peeled
Olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
A large handful of fresh mint
1 green chill – deseeded
Teaspoon of roasted and ground cumin
Teaspoon of sugar or palm sugar
A good inch of fresh ginger
3 tablespoons plain yoghurt
A handful of mangetout
Half a cucumber
Lots of fresh coriander
Sea salt and black pepper

Marinade the raw prawns in half the lemon juice, sea salt and oil.
In a blender or good heavy pestle and mortar combine the mint, chilli, cumin, sugar, ginger and yoghurt to make a sauce or paste.  Season to taste.
Halve the cucumber and remove the seeds, cut into thick chunks, halve the mangetout and cut through the coriander
Heat a pan and quickly fry the prawns on both sides, add the mangetout for just a second, turn off the heat and add all the other ingredients to the sauce pan and combine.  Serve immediately over steamed white rice and add a view of Ha Long Bay ( Google it!)

Superwoman Suppers

February 1, 2011

Brand new for 2011,  Superwoman launched an additional type of networking event  –  Superwoman suppers.   The idea behind Superwoman Suppers is simple and far from new.    Here is how they work:

12 women attend each supper. The intention is that there is a good mix of different professions, business women and entrepreneurs. It follows that only one woman from any one organisation can attend any one supper and groups of friends can’t book together.

In advance of the supper those attending are asked to provide a biography and also a business topic or question that they would like the group to discuss during supper.  Three or four of the suggested topics/questions are selected and circulated in advance to those attending together with the biographies.

We gather together for a delicious three course meal. During the course of supper, we change seat twice so that there is a chance for everyone to meet and chat with everyone attending.  There is some degree of cutlery and napkin confusion as a result but we can handle it. Pre, during and post supper and coffee we discuss our chosen business topics.  Bethan attempts to chair the evening.

The first five Superwoman Suppers (Feb to June) are at the Cameo Club in Pontcanna Street, Cardiff and have all sold out.  Emma Jenkins of E J Catering, award winning chef and long time supporter of Superwoman,  is our chef for these five suppers.  The cost is £35 per head for a glass of bubbles on arrival, a three course meal and coffee. Wine or other drinks can be purchased on the night.    If you would be interested in attending other Superwoman Suppers  (we are looking to organise other suppers in Bridgend, Newport and London over the course of 2011) just email me on bdarwin@darwingray.com