Friday, April 20, 2012

Take Back The Rainbow!

The mayor of Sodom, Ontario shocked the gay rights lobby last summer by failing to show up at the inauguration of that year's Pride festivities. It is unheard of for the Mayor not to attend this event which brings huge annual tourist revenues to Toronto. Predictably, those who support the Mayor's right to spend the summer holidays as he sees fit, were called "bigots" and worse by political opponents.

The National Post states the matter of why Mr Ford might not want to go there, quite plainly - there are buck naked men in the streets and the event is not suited to the dignity of city dignitaries any more than it is appropriate for one's kids to see.

Speculation is rife as to the reasons why the mayor apparently prefers the peace and quiet of the family cottage to the biggest street party of the year in what is arguably the gayest city on the planet. Gomorrah, New York is not a patch on Sodom, Ontario: a johnny-come-lately in matters of "marriage equality," Gomorrah must needs look to Sodom for guidance on how to go about this business of breaking God's laws with - why do I have to apologize for this? - gay abandon.

Councillor Frances Nunziata, a Catholic city councillor, took Mayor Ford's place at the event. It is not inconsistent with the goals and aims of the gay rights movement that someone in a dress should utter the words "I, Rob Ford ..." but, Ms Nunziata's efforts to channel a sort of mayor-in-drag sensibility were not quite successful. She was heckled, and some burly gay men shouted "forget it, Frances! Where's the mayor?" She was then supported by a friendly, protective lesbian who put her arm around Ms Nunziata's shoulders and told those nasty gay boys to stop it. All this was front page news in the Toronto Star. The mayor not showing up and going to his cottage instead, is a matter of boldly going where no mayor has gone before in the history of this well-publicized event.

Mayor Mel Lastman was known to be profoundly uncomfortable with this particular mayoral duty but he did not have the courage to abstain from it as Rob Ford, who has always been known to be somewhat of a street fighter, clearly does. Lastman now claims something to the effect that even if he were the last man on the planet he still would insist he had a grand old time at the pride parades of yore and he is urging Rob Ford to go to the parade and be "proud" of this madness as well. Just for fun and good measure I will remind Mr Lastman that we have not forgotten that remark about getting boiled in a pot of hot water with reference to visiting my continent of origin. African leaders as a rule have no fear of being called homophobic. What a tasty chicken Mr Lastman would make, with or without wings!

The mayor should not be forced to attend a party he is uncomfortable with. Several mayors who might not have been comfortable with it, put up with it, and I say bravo to Mr Ford for drawing the line and showing that he will not follow suit. The mayor is obviously a straight man who is not comfortable with the idea of pretending to be "gay for a day" just to humour an increasingly obnoxious and self-righteous political pressure group.

What really bothers me about this whole Pride thing is the fact that Pride is marketed as a "kid-friendly" event which it is not. Every year the Toronto District School Board calls upon its parents to attend the event with their families. They not only have a float in the event but also a school bus taking people to the event.

Ever since gay marriage became legal in this country, the Toronto District School Board has led the charge to introduce a particularly pernicious form of social engineering to our public schools. As we know, non-Catholic public schools are not allowed to teach religion - yet there are written policy documents instructing teachers to discuss religion, and telling them how to discuss it, in cases where a child's religion conflicts with the school board's homosexist propaganda.

Every informed parent knows that TDSB is dominated by a bunch of sourpuss feminazi dominatrixes, but no-one would dare to say it out loud. I bet you they have scary boots and whips in their bedrooms but the Lord knows this is not something anyone should see on an empty stomach first thing on a summer morning, least of all the kids. I just got queasy in the stomach even from writing about it.

Countless parents have told me they are horrified, nauseated, frightened and repelled by the homosexist propaganda their kids are subjected to in TDSB schools. Not only the Somali cab driver who visibly cringed as he said they are teaching his son in school that "man marries man," but many other Islamic parents and also Buddhist parents I spoke to, told me in no uncertain terms that these teachings are a total violation of their cultural and family values.

Being from Tibet, my Buddhist friends know an oppressive regime when they see one, and they told me they are too frightened to speak. Even the Toronto Star once wrote that TDSB has a "culture of fear" - the only people who challenge their PC doctrines successfully from within the system are Jehovah's Witnesses and they only succeed in that because they are an organized group. Witnesses have been successful in negotiating exemptions for their children from classes where family values are discussed in certain ways, but it is a continuing struggle.

Many Christian parents have said the same things to me and no, we have never yet seen such a thing as a gay Hindu flower ceremony either. I have never heard a Desi person - other than Golden Eagle in Episode 5 of Season 2 of Fresh Hell (he is not your standard issue Desi person!) - express approval of gay pride or marriage equality. Orthodox rabbis as well as every imam and every priest in town and every Protestant vicar - with the exception of the limp-wristed half of the Anglican church and of course the United Church - would agree or at least admit that their holy books have very specific instructions on this topic. Hebrew scripture as well as Quran have explanations as to the reason why this is not something one actively cultivates or promotes in oneself or in others, especially the young.

If homosexuality is to be viewed as a disorder, I would fight for a person's right to refuse "treatment" as vociferously as I would fight for the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to refuse blood transfusions. But, to go and indoctrinate people at a young and receptive age on topics most parents would not dream of discussing at junior kindergarten level which is actually where the concerted effort at indoctrination begins in terms of school board policy documents that are published by the Board - that is a form of psychological violence that has no place in our schools. The social engineering that goes on is absolutely out of control and it is time for parents to stand up and fight this despicable trend in our society.

We are fortunate enough to have Catholic school boards in Ontario as well, where none of this indoctrination occurs.  We are allowed to talk about God and Christ at school only because we are fortunate enough to be Catholic. The Toronto Catholic District School Board has opened its doors to people of other faiths who would prefer not to endure the godless assault of TDSB upon their cultural and spiritual values. Our Catholic board allows gay-positive clubs at high school level where students reach out to those who may be bullied or discriminated against on account of sexual orientation, but it certainly stops short of actively promoting that orientation.

In the meantime, TDSB continues carrying bus loads of innocent students to the Gay Pride festivities every year. If I were the mayor, I would boycott Gay Pride for that reason alone. And I would bluntly state that that is the reason why I am boycotting it. I would also not ask a Catholic councillor to stand in for me - I would offer the assignment to someone who is sympathetic to the lobby, a gay councillor perhaps. This habit of dragging (!) members of the straight community to the gay parade against their inclination and better judgement, also has to stop because that is a form of bullying too.

It started out as Gay Pride Day and no-one even thought of objecting to it, at least not in polite society - everyone has to have at least one day a year to be proud of their accomplishments, we all thought. Then it became Gay Pride Week and we said well, what the hey, what is a day or a week among friends?

Speaking of friends, I hosted a gay couple from Vancouver who came to Toronto for the said proud week some years ago. They stayed for free of course, according to the South African tradition of hospitality, because one of the partners in that (now former) couple happens to be one of my dearest friends from university who was like a brother to me in the days of struggle when we all belonged to the same protest movement - the one that replaced the apartheid government.

I have since been disowned by that friend for having certain opinions on certain issues - alas unfortunately freedom of speech was a one-way street in which he felt free to say whatever he wanted about my and everyone else's religious beliefs, but one could not say a word of criticism about the gay rights lobby, for then one would be called a "regse vullis" - this translates clumsily but rather entertainingly as "a right-wing filth." Being called this name was a very odd experience for someone who was accustomed to being called a left-wing vullis or something to that effect by other political opponents who opposed me for other reasons - this whole wing thing makes me feel like a female version of Icarus. For the record: DJ Gigi does not have wings. And yes, if we are to refer to Oprah's recent life lesson thing here in Toronto - this also means she ain't no chicken.

I have a habit of extending kindness to marginalized groups and people who are socially discriminated against, which resulted in my opening the door to some Jehovah's Witnesses one day, simply because I realized everyone else on the street probably slammed the doors in their faces. I found them to be interesting, thoughtful and very rigorous in their beliefs, and I listened to their thoughts on God and Jesus very carefully.

My gay friend expressed the opinion that the Witnesses should be banned from going door to door, and he had some other creative ideas too as to how to limit their freedom to spread their ideas. After that, we stopped hearing from each other. I tried to call many times but he did not seem to want to speak to me anymore. I am sad because I miss him. He was funny and entertaining. I allowed him to speak freely and never rejected him because of his ideas or orientation - but, I defended the right of the Witnesses to speak their truth in conversation with him. Many Witnesses (or Bible Students as they were previously known) were incarcerated along with God's people in the Nazi death camps by reason of their refusal to renounce their beliefs in the same God who made the laws the Jewish people adhere to, and I passionately defended their right to go door to door to teach others their faithful adherence to those laws, and their love of God.

It is my habit to defend the marginalized, it comes naturally to me - so, back in the days when CNN used to come to our campus for exciting footage of us waving our fists in the air and singing Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika while the riot police glared at us from behind their masks and shields before yelling "disperse" and letting loose the dogs of war and the teargas canisters, I in fact joined the Wits Gay Movement as a straight member to help protect the rights of a group we thought could face threats to their freedom. There was a particularly nasty right wing religious movement who were lobbying for forcible "treatment" to somehow recondition people who expressed their sexuality in this way, in South Africa at the time. Fortunately that proposal went nowhere, and I was accordingly a very lackadaisical member of that particular student movement (I never showed up for any of the meetings) but at least the thought counted, and my signature was there on the petition against that nasty right wing religious movement.

An early indicator of future political differences with my gay student friends was a debate in Senate House Concourse at Wits U where I expressed my horror at the thought that there was some scientific research by which the male physical body could be altered to become pregnant. (The research was subsequently abandoned when it was proven that such pregnancies would be too high risk to the host.) Some gay students said they thought it was a great idea and I and some others said we thought it an extremely irresponsible experiment, especially in light of the fact that basic medical services were not being delivered to people across Africa. To spend any kind of research or medical service budget on messing with nature in this way while simple delivery of a saline solution could save a person from starvation in extreme cases in Africa, not to mention the challenges posed by AIDS and other epidemics - we just could not see eye to eye on these priorities. The gay students in the group became extremely angry with us for wanting to "deny" them this hypothetical "right" to have their lovers' babies! We felt very embarrassed and intimidated by the amount of anger we seemed to draw with our simple-minded views on medical research.

Freedom is a sacred principle and must not be violated on account of any particular interest group's beliefs as opposed to another. Should people be free though to do things that are so far out that it isn't worth the drive to the gamma quadrant, even if such excursions occur at the expense of taxpayers who could pay for the immediate needs of those closer to our doorstep? Should researchers be allowed to spend tax dollars or university research budgets on things like that? Should Ontario finance 'gender reassignment surgery' while it refuses to finance non-emergency dental procedures affecting the health of people of all orientations? It depends on your guiding principles, and this is something our self-centered society with the me-me-me culture will not accept: in our Western culture there seems to be no such thing to our minds as a greater common good than that which seems to be dictated by our own desires, however twisted they may be.

The idea of infringing on anyone's individual freedom is profoundly repulsive to me - I regularly went to campus in running shoes in my old country during apartheid, and had no fear of Alsatians, tear gas or bullies with rifles or steel-toed boots. It was easy in that context to know the difference between right and wrong - however, in the free world, whose freedom are we talking about, and on whose terms? There is no such thing as absolute freedom in a material, physical world. Everything is relative to everything else.

Right-wingers in the United States freely use the term "freedom" to denote all kinds of invasive military actions that they would endorse in other countries and other cultures; they say that these things ought to be done in the name of freedom. One person's "freedom" is another one's horror - illustrated clearly by the example of the students who wanted to be "free" to become pregnant as men, as opposed to our visceral reaction of revulsion at such an unnatural thought. Does our certainty of our understanding of the meaning of the term 'freedom' entitle us to invade other countries with religious beliefs that may contradict our notions of freedom? Ironically enough, these very same right wingers may find in those invaded countries folks who share their family values ...

Who is right in these debates? We can only agree on them if we all adhere to the same higher principle which would guide our sense of aesthetics, our taste, our sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate - in short, if we shared the same spiritual values. There are things that militate against godliness and if we actively cultivate sensibilities that do so, we will find ourselves with a confusing moral relativism and no clear guidelines as to right and wrong, which is exactly what we have at the moment. This gives rise to disagreements among cultures and ultimately to armed conflict which we fail to mediate appropriately for lack of understanding of the guiding principles involved.

While we feared for the rights of a marginal group in the African context (witness the plight of gays in Zimbabwe and other African countries even today) here in Canada the steel-toed boot at present seems to be on the other foot.

To say that this issue is not simple, is the understatement of the year. I am reminded of Brent Spiner's adage for Star Trek fans (whom he regards, on the whole, as a particularly intelligent group of people): "seek simplicity, but mistrust it." The Lord knows, I seek simplicity with all my heart - but, do I trust what passes for simplicity in this world? Hell no, of course not! So, he is right. None of these issues are simple, clear-cut or easy to define.

I am prepared to say that I would vociferously defend the right of a gay person to identify as gay and to be left in peace to do whatever it is gay people do to other gay people, and not to be bullied because of it. You know how Voltaire said that thing about how he may disagree with someone but would defend their right to say whatever it is they are saying ... likewise, people have the right to be whatever they want to be if they believe that it makes them happy. However, if I were to trust the simplistic oversimplication of the gay rights issue in its current form as espoused especially by our public school boards and various feminazi pressure groups, I should have to consider myself a simpleton.

At the moment the gay pride event in Toronto is ten days of non-stop in-your-face as-gay-as-it-gets action in the streets, and I started wondering if it is going to be a fortnight soon. After that, a month and before you know it, it will be gay pride year from January to December and there will not be a single day left for straight folks to be proud of themselves. I mean, we already don't have any particular day to be proud of ourselves - should we start considering one? Most straight girls would not go for that, because if we danced buck naked in the streets and started engaging in outrageous heterosexual behaviour such as threatening to go down on our boyfriends and husbands or doing the reverse cowgirl and other things such as the ones Dakota taught us in Fresh Hell - things that we never even heard of before - if we did all those things on Straight Pride Day in the streets, we think we might get in big trouble. We might even get accused of reverse sexual harassment!

As for the men, we would not want to see our husbands and boyfriends spend any particular night in the slammer when they could be spending it with us instead. We fear that Straight Pride Day may have disastrous consequences if we should organize such a day, and so none of us feel entitled to do so. I would not even dream of it if I were a man. In the Toronto Star we have seen an article where a man is accused of having taken a "swipe" at a woman's breast. She of course takes the matter to human rights and anybody who will listen, and the Toronto Star always listens with pointy ears at these appalling injustices. This was not a matter of accidentally brushing against her breast, you understand: "it was a swipe!" she exclaims to the paper and I can just see her at the human rights board and in Court too, tearfully: "it was a swipe, your honour" (*strategic sniffle*) ...

Swipes are not the only Incidents that can get you in trouble if you are a straight man who should accidentally commit the Fatal Error of being attracted to an attractive woman who might even feel the same about you. Even looks can do it. I distinctly remember my first year in this city, about a quarter century ago, fresh from my four-year immersion course in student radicalism and steeped in Marxist-Feminist analysis (just so y'all know I have in fact been taught how to analyze things and it is not for lack of education that I flirt with being called "bigoted") when there was the case of The Professor Who Looked.

A respected U of T professor was disgraced by a female student who had brought charges against him for "looking" at her in the university swimming pool. The fact that she was wearing next to nothing in the swimming pool counted for nothing. The professor was forever to be known for the fact that he had committed a Fatal Error: he looked.

I realized right away that there was something profoundly wrong with this new society I found myself in, but I was not sure exactly what the cause of it was. I wanted to live in Pierre Trudeau's "Just Society" but there was nothing just about the hostility towards the male of the species that manifested in so many areas of life. Others feel it too - particularly men. In fact, some men from my old country eventually went back to the old country where men are still men and sheep are ... real sheep, not cloned ones as far as we know. They said some eloquent things. One of the things involves the hostility of many women here and a saying about a bucket full of rusty nails that I will not repeat here again ... ask the people of Cape Town about that ... Oh allright, I'll repeat it for those who have not seen it before: it's that the men of certain parts of the Cape would rather immerse a certain part of their anatomy in a bucket of rusty nails than (circum)venturing in the immersion of that same part of the anatomy in certain females who share certain characteristics with the vast majority of our grrl-powered women here ... let's just say Mean Girls do not do as well in my country of origin as they seem to do here.

Many men, both locally raised and imported ones, do not find much empathy in the local females; yet the more we espouse 'Girl Power' at the expense of, and to the detriment of men, the more single women complain of being unable to find a partner anywhere in the GTA, let alone the City of Toronto itself. I now know that the thing that creeped me out in my first year here and still does, is a matter of PC Gone Haywire ... no, not your Personal Computer but the other PC that is much more dangerous if it goes haywire: Political Correctness.

There is a definite connection in my view between the effects of dogmatic radical feminism and the apparent prevalence of homosexuality in this culture. A NOW magazine survey on sexuality in the City of Toronto a few years ago already showed a disproportionate and apparently inexplicable increase in the numbers of men who identify as gay. Coincidence? I think not.

In the immediate wake of 9/11, several prominent female journalists in Toronto, notably without boyfriends, salivated publicly in their columns at the thought of firefighters because they were suddenly imbued with a new aura of coolness.  Real men. The kind who would clean up Ground Zero, buy us roses, and not be a cotton' pickin' little bit proud of anything in particular on Gay Pride Day ... or week, or fortnight ... Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

upon arrival

and always she feared
her God would
be cruel, but
when she got to heaven
she saw Him
in full glory,
not growling at her
after all

'Annemie, here you are now'
He smiles at her
'yes, I am the Lord
your God
the One whom you hunted
down with a vexed heart
of whom you have read
in the sacred text

'please get yourself
a cup of tea
and have some cake
and eat it too'

she could not believe her eyes
but it was Him, and it was true

'Yes, I am still who I am
and you are still you, too'

in tears transcendent
she went to embrace him
and He took her hand,
gently suggesting that
'we still have a whole eternity
in which to chat'

- Annesu de Vos
12 April 2012
Occasional poem for my mother's funeral

Poem for my mother's funeral (Afrikaans version)

met die intrapslag

en altyd was sy bang
haar God sou wreed
wees, maar
toe sy in die hemel kom
sien sy vir Hom
in al sy glorie,
grom Hy toe
hoegenaamd nie vir haar nie

'Annemie, hier is jy nou'
glimlag Hy vir haar
'ja, Ek is die Here
jou God
die Een wie jy so gesoek het
met 'n seer siel
en van wie jy gelees het
in die heilige boek

'kry gerus vir jou
'n koppie tee
en eet daarmee saam
'n stukkie koek'

sy kon haar oē nie glo nie
maar dit was wel waaragtig Hy

'ja, Ek is nog Ek
en jy is nog jy'

met trane van blydskap
wou sy vir Hom omhels
en Hy het haar hand gevat,
sagkens vir haar beduie
'ons het nog 'n hele ewigheid
om te kan gesels'

- Annesu de Vos
12 April 2012
Geleentheidsgedig by haar ma se begrafnis

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beach Jazz Festival This Weekend!

The annual Beach Jazz Festival is considered the best street party in Toronto, and it is one of the top 10 jazz festivals in the world. The street party is this weekend, starting tonight - July 21 through Sunday July 24. Queen Street is cordoned off for this event and the bands play at various venues down the road. This festival is a great Beach tradition which residents of the area are very proud of. I lived in the Beach for years, and like many who have lived in this beautiful part of Toronto, still consider it my favourite area of the city. Viva will be experiencing this exciting event this year with renewed joie de vivre ... and we hope that everybody enjoys it as much as we will.

- DJ Gigi

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Live Green Toronto!

Every year, the City of Toronto has environment days on Saturdays hosted by Toronto City Councillors taking turns to invite the entire neighbourhood to an environment-themed party. This is an annual tradition that continues for the entire summer. Having a green street festival is a logical development for the city that prides itself on being the greenest in North America.

Mayor Miller, who was very supportive of green initiatives for the duration of his term leading the City, started a friendly competition with Chicago to see which city could be the most environment-friendly. Gigi has never been to Chicago, but I can certainly vouch for Toronto as far as environmental track record is concerned. There is always room for improvement, but Toronto tries really hard to make sure we live as responsibly as possible.

Today we are visitng the Live Green Toronto street party showcasing more than 100 environment-friendly vendors and also some of Canada's great bands - see the Crash Test Dummies and other performers on the Canadian Tire main stage, free of charge! Yonge Street will be cordoned off between Queen and Dundas for the festival, directly next to the Eaton Centre. Come along and join the fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Welcoming Annarosa Berman - New Addition to Viva Staff!

Viva Community Voice is delighted to announce the addition of Annarosa Berman as content contributor. Her area of specialization is art music and she is also a committed animal rights activist and vegetarian, currently working on her third book which is due to appear in about six months. Annarosa will bring fresh content to our site in the areas of music, food, animal rights and other topics of interest. We greatly look forward to what she has in store for us.

Publishing History

Annarosa Berman is a writer and music journalist. After a career as features editor on newspapers in South Africa and New Zealand, she was appointed editor of Fine Music, Sydney’s classical music magazine and guide to radio station 2MBS-FM. After leaving Fine Music she undertook a career as writer and freelance journalist. Annarosa has written on classical music for a wide range of publications and has interviewed local and international musical luminaries across the classical spectrum. She collaborated with Bridget Elliot on The Company We Keep, a behind-the-scenes look at Opera Australia, which was published by Currency Press in 2006. In the same year, her memoir, Sex at 6pm: A personal journey through IVF, was published by New Holland.

Annarosa currently works as writer for Opera Australia.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Aubergine Parmigiana

I promised my wonderful husband this recipe for our July 4 celebration dinner, and I really have to commend him for staying up all night with me and listening to my chatter as I cooked. We listened to music too - click the music tab on our new web site and let me know if you like it! - and we had a great time together while preparing this meal to share with you.

Here is my other signature dish - aubergines of course are also known as eggplants or brinjals; now we all may know what to do with those odd purple things. I have been serving it for more than a quarter century ever since I found it, and you will be amazed at how it was found ... it was declared ultra yummy even by a guest who had told me that he was not fond of aubergines - that was before he ate this.

Eggplant Parmigiana is an Italian classic, and the Mediterranean flavours in this dish are truly stunning - this version is a little bit decadent because the eggplant slices are fried rather than grilled before they are baked, but since we do not eat much saturated fat as vegetarians and extra virgin olive oil is extraordinarily good for you, the extra calories can be happily forgiven on a festive occasion such as this.

2 large firm aubergines (or 4 small to medium ones)
extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 medium sized can of tomato puree (1 - 2 small cans of tomato paste can be substituted since tomato puree is harder to find; adjust the quantities by adding more wine to the sauce if you use the more concentrated form)
salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
.5 - 1 cup red wine
3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1.5 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 organic free-range eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp organic milk
250g grated rennet-free organic mozzarella cheese

Note: soy parmesan works just as well if you are vegan, but make sure it is organic soy if you opt for the vegan version (same goes for your mozzarella) because you do not want GMOs; now we see how hard it is to be truly vegetarian and GMO-free all at the same time.

Soy is a wonderfully versatile commodity but the crop is at present somewhat exploited by global overproduction and it actually can be harmful if eaten in excessive quantities, for reasons too complex to elucidate here. I will admit that rennet-free parmesan is a tall order but if we eat cheese with rennet in it, we might as well eat milk-fed veal; it defeats the point of going vegetarian. One has to become a bit of a "foodie" and learn to hunt down trustworthy and educated suppliers who can provide quality products. Yes they are expensive; we pay for our principles in this life, sometimes dearly. (Have you hugged a local organic farmer today?)

1. Slice the aubergines into 5 mm thin slices.
2. Beat the eggs with the milk to a smooth mixture.
3. Coat the aubergine slices with flour.
4. Dip the slices in the egg mixture; coat them evenly, you do not want any dry patches of flour on them.
5. Coat the slices evenly in bread crumbs - avoid clumps; this is tricky. At the end of the coating process you will have a huge sticky mess everywhere, but it is fun to do if you have someone adorable to help you. This dish takes a while to do and it is nice if you can talk and drink wine and listen to music while you do the prep work together.
6. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the slices on both sides to an even golden brown consistency.
7. Layer the slices in a casserole dish.
8. Mix the tomato puree, the garlic, dried basil and oregano, salt, pepper and wine in a bowl until it is evenly blended to form a smooth sauce, not too runny.
9. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the eggplant slices.
10. Drizzle the sauce over the mozzarella cheese evenly on all sides.
11. Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese over the top of the sauce.
12. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5 and bake for 30 - 45 mins.

Serve with Bocconcini Sidekick salad - a simple Italian salad consisting of mixed greens, sliced tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes, black olives and sliced bocconcini cheese. Toss with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe was adapted from an ancient treasure found on the label of an All Gold tomato puree can in South Africa more than a quarter century ago. Like the chowder, it has been with me ever since and it tastes slightly different every time, depending on the exact balance of the ingredients used. It is always delicious and satisfying - I told my husband it is better than pizza. I once served sizeable quantities of it to a huge party of wonderful people during my student radical days in which I was, as I am now, a committed vegetarian.

My philosophy teacher from Wits U, Vincent Maphai, who later became the head of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation, the state television service) was at that party - he taught philosophical logic, a subject I love and which has helped me more in life than any other subject I can think of - and so was my favourite theologian, Jeff Zerbst who wrote the horseracing column in the Weekly Mail as Thomas Equinus. Jeff described himself as agnostic and taught all the coffee and cigarette addicts in Senate House Concourse about the difference between atheism and consistent scientific agnosticism: a lesson I would never forget.

Atheism, he explained, is a form of religion in that it is based on an article of faith: the statement that God does not exist. Atheists believe themselves to know this for sure without any actual evidence to prove the non-existence of God; therefore atheism conforms to the definition of a religion - unlike, for example, existentialism or Buddhism (in translation Buddh means "good" so it can be translated simply as "goodism") which are philosophies rather than religions.

I was agnostic myself at the time, simply because I thought that if God had anything to do with apartheid He either could not exist or something else was wrong with what I had been taught. I strongly suspected it was the latter rather than the former, so I could describe my student self as a somewhat reverent agnostic, although we all routinely, and rather irreverently indulged in the habit of mocking all the religions on the face of the planet. We used to sing "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama Rama Soft" in the Concourse - a brand of margarine in SA was called Rama Soft and for some reason this gave infinite rise to hilarity. You had to have been there. We were never above accepting free vegetarian food from orange-clad visitors to campus though, and I was fascinated by the free copy of Bhagavad-Gita that was handed to me in the process ...

The Dutch Reformed church (the institution bearing responsibility in my book for my childish confusion) subsequently discovered to its apparent collective amazement that God never did "vote Nat" as they said. The things that are ascribed to God by human beings are sometimes so outrageous that if I were God, I definitely would pretend not to exist just so I can have a good laugh at their expense instead of having them laugh at me all the time in my apparent absence from their poorly defined excuse for an existence.

I believe that we humans owe God a massive apology for all the garbage in our history and in our oceans and lakes, and that when we eat, the best way to say grace is to think about the wonder of the biodiversity that is still on this planet despite the destructive impact of humans upon it, and to thank God for the versatile soybean, the powerhouse tomato, the awesome aubergine and everything else created for our benefit and enjoyment.

Let's face it: despite the efforts of the Monsanto madmen to "patent" the genetic sequences of our food after messing with the natural patterns in dangerous ways, we humans did not create our food and we have no copyrights to its building blocks; we found it here - it was conveniently here for our consumption before we understood any part of its DNA, almost as if a thoughtful parent had left it here for us to eat.

Halaal food is blessed by saying "Allah uAkbar" (God is gracious) and kosher food is defined by a set of intricate dietary laws that are remarkably scientific in their foundations when we consider that the ancients supposedly did not know any of the things we know about food today, for example the fact that pork carries a very dangerous parasite that is capable of destroying the human brain. Pigs are genetically so close to humans that pork is dangerous for similar reasons as to why we do not eat our colleagues and friends - brain damage is a well-known consequence of that habit. Islamic law forbids pork for the same reason; how did both religious traditions become informed about these things in the absence of the scientific knowledge that is at our disposal today, and what is the source of their information? Of course all meat is dangerous and likely to cause degenerative brain conditions (what passes for "Alzheimer's" in today's medical language is very often the human version of mad cow disease, but big agribusiness does not want you to know that, and for some reason the medical establishment cooperates with other powerful establishments - Gigi does not know why!) ... and so how can a merciful God "allow" such conditions to plague the human race? Why, because it is a lawless race: the consumption of meat causes us to break a fundamental universal spiritual law - "thou shalt not kill." The Bible teaches that the consequence of such lawlessness is physical mortality - but, for those who do not understand or respect spiritual laws it is all a big mystery.

I used to say during my student days that I was vegetarian strictly for compassionate reasons - nothing in particular to do with health. However, health and compassion go hand in hand, and compassion includes passion rather than excluding it as falsely taught by many ascetics who believe in self-denial as a path to understanding.

Gigi does not believe in self-denial or in the virtue of suffering; I believe in embracing the gifts God gave us and achieving understanding by seeking pleasure in a gracious way. Our enjoyment of the things that are given to us by a loving Creator is in fact key to the Creator's own happiness. And there you have it: the meaning of life! (Did I hear someone say like Monsieur Creosote in that meaningful movie ... f* off, I'm full? Gigi giggles ...)

- DJ Gigi