Tuesday 28 February 2023

A 6th Year's Advice to a Young Reader

It's another World Book Day and I am sure many of you have read several books such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or even Sherlock Holmes.  You know who you are as a reader and you know your tastes.  If you are anything like me, you will not read a book that you cannot relate to in some way. so I am going to explain the impact that books have had in my life.  

Perhaps you are at a stage in life where you want to be different from everyone else, where some of you will go as far as listening to “Most girls” by Haillee Steinfeld.  But even you will look at some form of media to find someone like you.  

When I first realized that books serve a purpose as a door into a magical and different world, I never thought of it as a mirror.  But the more I found myself relating to the characters, the more I saw it as one.  I remember the first time I read a book about an immigrant in a different country who was as confused about her identity as I was.  I was utterly shocked; it was whiplash from all the basic characters with similar backgrounds.  I read the entire book in one day, feeling happier than ever that I was not alone in my experience.  

After that, I scoured every library for books about people of color with different identities or anyone with similar experiences.  I would encourage you to do much the same.  The W B Yeats Library at The High School has a wide variety of books, ranging from sports stars to spy novels and LGBT+ titles.  The impact that reading had throughout my teenage years is one I would not be the same without.  

A strong reading culture depends on a strong writing culture.  As I stated before, inclusivity is as essential as escape.  Many of you will want to write to escape your reality, some of you may never write at all as you would not want an escape, but the rare few of you might see a hole in the art that already exists.  You are not alone if you wish to bridge that gap.  

Many talented artists have had humble beginnings. For example, the Oscar nominated director of Eternals and Nomadland stated how she began and continues to write fan fiction.  Whole sections of the internet exist for the purpose of bridging gaps between popular media and their audience.  Though I should warn you to stay away from certain sections.  

I implore you to explore all that books have to offer; leave no stone unturned on your journey to find your own creative identity.  If on your journey through life, you see gaps, do not think twice about filling them.  I implore you to be the artist that you would look up to.  I implore you to embrace your creativity despite some people and aspire to inspire others.  

Lastly, I will keep this short as I can see some eyes glazing over, I encourage you to reflect on the influence of books on the wider world.  While looking into a mirror is enjoyable nad fulfilling, it is important to keep other cultures and parts of the world in mind.  Over 95% of the world's population live in countries where English is not the first language.  Yet books from these places only make up about 5% of sales.  

Do not worry, I am not encouraging you to learn a new language to read these books, rather encouraging you to explore.  Books about other cultures allow us to experience different lifestyles, give us insights into people that are different from us, letting us reflect on our own way of living.  

Discovering the world of literature can profoundly change someone’s life, just as it did mine.  I am going to leave you with a simple message: by discovering what is out there through literature and getting lost in a new world, it may just help you find yourself.  
Aadya Vig

Thursday 9 February 2023

TY Culture Module - Foods From Around the World

 One of the main elements of study in Form 4 is that subjects rotate every six weeks. This means a new teacher teaching a new aspect of the subject.  For my Form’s third Geography rotation, we were with Ms Gray studying different cultures, specifically India.  Last Monday was a highlight for me because we were to bring in various foods from around India, working either in groups or solo.  Some of the foods people brought in were coconut burfi, a sweet consisting of coconut, milk powder, and spices; chocolate barfi, a dessert of dark chocolate and a spiced white chocolate filling, and tarka dahl, a type of chickpea-based curry.  I brought in onion bhajis which are a type of spiced onion fritter served with a sweet tamarind chutney from east India.  Tamarind is a treacle-like substance found in seed pods on trees that has a very sour, zingy flavour not unlike a lemon. In the pre-colonial era, Indians would not have had access to lemons and limes so they used tamarind instead.  I will list the recipes for both the bhajis and the tamarind chutney below.  Overall the day was great fun and it was so interesting to explore the various flavours of India. 


2 onions, finely sliced 

100g gram flour 

½ tsp gluten-free baking powder (we don’t use baking powder in ours) 

½ tsp chilli powder 

½ tsp turmeric 

1 green chilli, deseeded, and very finely chopped 

vegetable oil for frying 


Soak the onion in cold water while you make the base mix.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the chilli powder, turmeric, chopped chilli and a good sprinkling of salt.  Mix in about 100ml of cold water to make a thick batter – add a splash more if it feels too stiff. 

Lower heaped tablespoons of the bhaji mixture into the pan, a few at a time, and cook for a few mins, turning once, until they are evenly browned and crisp, so about 3-4 mins. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, and keep warm while you cook the rest.  

(NB: In the original recipe they make a raita to go with. We use the tamarind chutney instead) 

Sweet Tamarind Chutney- From Simple Indian by Atul Kochhar 

Ingredients (makes 400g) 

150g dried tamarind pulp 

150g grated jaggery (a type of cane sugar) or palm sugar 

1 tsp chilli powder 

1 tsp toasted coriander seeds 

1 tsp toasted aniseed (or star anise) 

1 tsp toasted cumin seed (for the toasting we pan toasted all 3 then ground them up together) 

1 ½ tsp salt 

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (this is a garnish so optional) 


Soak the tamarind pulp in 250ml hot water for 20 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard the residue. Add the grated jaggery, chilli powder, toasted spices, and salt to the tamarind extract. If the chutney is too thick stir in a little water. Cool before serving garnished with coriander leaves. Eat the chutney on the day it is made (within 24 hours).  This isn’t in the recipe but taste after making and add more sugar or salt to balance.
Michael Binchy