The Corona Chronicles – Bagpipes and Banana Bread

In my previous post, if you remember, I wrote about the changing partners within the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party (aka the National Religious Party), and expressed the opinion that it was, as the airlines put it, “not final”.
How right I was! The Ichud Le’umi (National Union) party has since entered into a joint list with the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former Kahanist, and with Noam (Pleasantness). The latter has a very conservative policy against non-Orthodox Judaism, especially Reform Judaism, and an extremely anti-LGBTQ platform. The former (to get back to the Cotillion theme of my previous post) was founded in 2012 by breakaway members of the Ichud Leumi party.
And what, meanwhile of the erstwhile National Religious Party, now known as Habayit Hayehudi?
What, indeed?
On February 4th 2021, the last day for the filing of party lists for the elections to be held next month, after all efforts to bring about a merger between her own party, the Ichud Le’umi and Otzma Yehudit failed (for reasons I will not go into here) and in the face of polls which indicated the probable complete disappearance of the party, the new leader of Habayit Hayehudi, Hagit Moshe, announced that The Jewish Home would not contest the elections this time, but would, instead, endorse Naftali Bennett’s Yemina party – in return for a written promise that if Bennett’s party joins the next government, she will receive a government ministry.
That’s a big “if”.

If you think I have devoted an inordinate amount of time to the religious parties, be aware that the same sort of dance has taken place right across the board. I merely took the former National Religious Party as an example.

I will say one more thing about the forthcoming elections. For weeks now, I have been bombarded by SMS messages purporting to come from pollsters, wanting to know my electoral intentions. Many, if not most, are thinly disguised propaganda from one or other of the 39 (!) parties vying for a seat in the 24th Knesset. I refuse to participate in pre-election polls. I believe in the principle of the Secret Ballot and who I vote for is a matter between me and the Ballot Box. Most, if not all, of the so-called “polls” ask you to reply “0” or “Remove” if you want to be removed from the list of “the surveyed”. On every occasion when I attempted to do so, I received a message informing me that the number was “invalid”.
I – am – very – angry!!!

Next, to the Pandemic. The vaccine is now available here for anyone over 16. With some 4 million Israelis having already received at least their first dose of the vaccine, and approximately 2 and a half million having completed both doses, the country is slowly opening up again – too slowly for some, too fast for others. Children are going back to school – but not all age groups. On the subject of schoolchildren, as is the case all over the world, the vaccine has not been authorised for use on under-16s. On the news earlier this week, it was reported that thirty children and infants are seriously ill in hospital with the disease, including a 14-year-old boy with no background illnesses who is in critical condition. It was also reported that a pregnant woman with COVID had apparently passed the virus to the foetus, which was stillborn.
I hope all those who are still claiming that COVID is no worse than flu or a bad cold and is only dangerous to old people and those with background illnesses hear about this. Remember the early claims made about AIDS? That it only affected homosexuals, or drug addicts who shared needles?
Some people will never learn!

And now for the bagpipes. 🙂
I have mentioned, in previous posts, that my choir has been holding meetings twice a week via Zoom. On Sundays, we rehearse – as well as we can considering the limitations of the medium. On Wednesdays, we have a talk/lecture on a subject connected with music. For example, our Musical Director gave a talk a couple of weeks ago on the composer Gesualdo. Before that, we had lectures on the sonatas and partitas for solo violin by J.S. Bach and on the composer, Sir Edward Elgar. I suggested that maybe members of the choir would also like to give talks about musical subjects. Sure enough, a few days later, the Musical Director called for volunteers. As it had been my idea at the outset, a sense of noblesse oblige prompted me to pick up the gauntlet.
I chose, as my subject, the music of the bagpipes. Not surprisingly, I soon discovered that the subject was much more complex than I had imagined. I already knew, of course, that besides the Great Highland Bagpipe, which everyone immediately thinks of, there are also Uillean pipes (from Ireland) and that there is also a bagpipe tradition in regions where the population is descended from Celtic tribes – such as northern Spain (Galicia and Asturias) and northern France (Brittany). But, in researching the history of the bagpipes, and the bitter controversy over their place of origin, I discovered the rich fount of bagpipe music in such places as diverse as Azerbaijan, Libya, Malta, Sweden, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Iran…in short, all over the world, from the Caucasus to the Baltic, from the Balkans to Africa. I learned of the different kinds of bagpipes – those that are played by blowing through a mouthpiece into the airbag, and those whose air supply is replenished by a small bellows held under, and operated by, the player’s elbow. I learned of bagpipes with one drone, bagpipes with two or three drones, and bagpipes with no drones at all. I learned of attempts to recreate bagpipes pictured in medieval manuscripts, such as the Cantigas de Santa Maria, as well as the askaulos of ancient Greece.

As a musician, and as a person interested in history, it was a pleasure to learn so much myself, as well as to be able to pass on what I had learned to my fellow choristers.
I even picked up a few words of Gaelic while I was about it, since I kept coming back to the Great Highland Bagpipe – not just terms connected with bagpipe music, but everyday terms. That’s what I like about doing these research projects and what makes it such fun – but also time-consuming. One is so often led off at a tangent.
Anyway, here is an example of the classic music of the pipes – a pibroch (piobaireachd):

Speaking of Scotland, and Highland landscapes as compared to our Israeli landscapes – it snowed last night. For days now, the meteorologists had been warning us that a monumental storm was headed our way, with extremely strong winds, followed by torrential rains and, eventually, snow. But they warned that the snow probably would not last overnight and that by morning, would be mostly gone. That’s exactly what happened – in Jerusalem, at least. I understand that in other parts of the country, the storm damage was more severe, but in Jerusalem, apart from a few hours during which the Light Rail was unable to operate because of snow on the tracks, public transport seems to have been affected hardly at all. I have noticed damp patches on the ceiling of my study, due, according to my neighbour, who was kind enough to climb up on the roof and take a look, to cracks in the cladding (which can’t be fixed, obviously, until the weather calms down and dries out somewhat). But the snow was nothing much to write home about, as they say – at least in my own neighbourhood:

I was obliged to postpone my long-awaited and much-needed haircut to next week. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. The masses of hair at least keep my head and neck warm (LOL). I find myself looking back longingly to Monday. It was about 15 or 16 degrees C and we sat in the garden, soaking up the sunshine. Was that really only three days ago?

I can’t wait for the Spring to arrive! On a day like today, the best thing to do is to ensconce myself comfortably in front of the television, with a cup of hot cocoa and a slice or two (or three) of my homemade Peanut Butter and Banana Bread.
This was yet another one of my culinary experiments, prompted by the fact that I had an almost full tub of peanut butter that was on the verge of its “use by” date, as well as a bunch of very over-ripe, mushy bananas. I had never made banana bread before, not had I ever cooked with peanut butter. I hadn’t originally intended to use the two ingredients in the same recipe but I didn’t want to waste either of them. My sister, to whom I usually go for recipes, was unavailable, so I consulted Dr. Google. 😉
Having found a recipe that included both items, I proceeded to adapt it to my needs (in other words – to ignore the instructions).

It didn’t turn out too badly for a first attempt, although I found it tasted even better when I treated it as bread, rather than as a cake, and spread the slices with jam – or with even more peanut butter!

So here is the recipe (mine, not Dr. Google’s):



1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 or 4 mashed brown, over-ripe bananas
3 or 4 dollops (ie.tbsp) of creamy peanut butter
75 grams margarine (the original recipe called for butter, but I wanted the cake to be parve)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract.
A handful of walnuts, raisins, sultanas, dried cranberries (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin.
3. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the peanut butter and melted margarine and stir till all is combined.
4. Stir in the sugar, egg and vanilla extract.
Stir until smooth.
5. Add the flour and baking powder.
6. Add the nuts and dried fruits (optional).
7. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the centre comes out clean. (Since every oven is slightly different, I would check after 40 minutes already.)
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the baking tin.

And that’s it. Bete’avon (Bon appetit)!

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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6 Responses to The Corona Chronicles – Bagpipes and Banana Bread

  1. Carole Schulman says:

    That looks GOOD! About has to be as the ingredients are all delicuys!

  2. CATachresis says:

    Wow! A lot to comment on here, but I shall just say that Lockdown hair is making me look like a mad woman! At least first thing in the morning! 🙂 BTW Israel has been held up as a beacon on the BBC for the efficient vaccination programme. Makes a change to hear good things! Now the bag pipes have finished I am suddenly speechless! lol

  3. thanx for the recipe; this sounds great !!!
    I honestly never knew there were that many regions; or types, of bagpipes. With an Irish ancestry, I knew of their bag pipes; and with a dad who was a firefighter all his life I knew they would be played for him, but never realized how far and wide this musical instrument reached !!
    and no joke, snow here past the knee; want some ?? free shipping 🙂 ♥♥

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