Children of Mother Earth (Kinderen van Moeder Aarde)
I love this book (actually I love all of Thea Beckman’s books). It’s such a shame it’s not been translated into English. I read this soon after I’d moved to the Netherlands at about the same time as I started reading Astrid Lindgren’s books. I sort of lumped the two writers together: women with incredible insights into how the world could be, usually from a child’s point of view. The Children of Mother Earth trilogy paints such a fantastic world. It’s a “you know it could work” for feminists, pacifists, socialists and environmentalists alike.
Children of Mother Earth is set in Thule, hundreds of years after World War III. Nuclear bombing during the war knocked the earth’s axis so what was Greenland is now an island with a wonderful climate, and it’s known as Thule.
Even if something is really ‘in’, ask yourself if it’s actually necessary for your purpose; whether it’s a word in a text, a piece of information or a form of communication.
Love and war
The story centres around Christian, the only son of Thule’s Konega (Queen), Armina-Dottier (there’s obviously Danish blood in the Thuleans). Inevitable as it is in a recovering world, explorers are afoot and Thule is visited by Badeners – and they have quite a different view on life to the Thuleans. Around the same time, Christian meets Thura. So we have a love story and an attempted invasion rolled into one. And all the while we’re learning about how nature can work, how people think, how they can pull together, how we can set up punishment and reward systems, and what it means when every single action is weighed up against the effects it has on Mother Nature. It’s a lifetime of education in a single book. I thought it was quite simply inspiring.
At various points in the book we read that the Badeners admire the Thuleans teeth; strong and white, and obviously a result of their healthy diet. One food that is regularly mentioned is the barley biscuit. Generally described as dry and chewy, I wasn’t sure about trying out a recipe for them. But replace barley flour in an oat biscuit recipe and the results aren’t so bad. They’re not really chewy unless you consider sucking all the bits of oats from between your teeth as chewing. And eaten on their own, they can be a bit dry, but hey, they’re a biscuit! Try them with sweet and savoury toppings – then they work a treat.
Set the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.
Make your own oatmeal by grinding oats in a kitchen mixer grinder. I simply used the mini chopper that comes with my hand blender. 225g oats will produce 225g oatmeal, but don’t forget to do a little extra for dusting the rolling pin and surface.
Place the oatmeal, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using the thumb and first two fingers of each hand. Bring your hands up a little in the bowl so you create a light, breadcrumby mixture. If you’re heavy handed, the oat cakes will be tough instead of crumbly
Shape & bake
Using a blunt, rounded knife to stir (like a butter knife), add cold water a little at a time to mix to a firm dough then knead lightly on a surface dusted with oatmeal until the dough is smooth. Roll thinly and cut into round biscuits with a plain cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook in the oven for 1 hour until crisp.
Place on a wire rack to cool. Serve cold with butter and cheese – Wensleydale is perfect! Or cheese and apple chutney, or sweet toppings like cream cheese and lingonberry jam, or a good blob of lemon curd.
Holding a mug of tea in her right hand and the barley biscuit in her left, she watched [the mountain goats] with shining eyes. Christian heard her mumble: “Oh, great Mother Earth, isn’t the world lovely?”