Slow discoveries

The slow arrow of beauty. The most noble kind of beauty is that which does not carry us away suddenly, whose attacks are not violent or intoxicating (this kind easily awakens disgust), but rather the kind of beauty which infiltrates slowly …
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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Today was the best kind of day, the kind one usually gets to enjoy on a relaxing vacation.

There was so much time. To do, to meander, to discover.

There was time to take in the fragrant beauty of a ripe rockmelon … to admire a stranger’s handsome dog … to enjoy the breeze outside a lovely café with my husband, a sweet slice (orange and pistachio), his laptop, my pen and paper.

There is a place I want to tell you about. Earlier this morning, I was on my way home, driving towards a roundabout, when I paused. Left to go towards home; or right to a place I hadn’t noticed before, but seemed to beckon to me today. I turned right and parked outside Nola’s Orchard, noting the sign that announced that it had been in business since 1935.

My eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness, but not before I saw the first thing that made my eyes light up – “handmade ciabatta rolls”, for a very decent price. I looked around for the baskets, saw a lady get one from a neat stack behind me, and followed suit. Inside there was a delightful selection of produce, all fresh, all priced more than fairly. Most of all, there was a welcome lack of marketing, big lights, big ‘price drops’, or perfect-looking fruit with no character or taste.

Here food looked real … something I begin to appreciate more and more in the times we live in. I could smell the fruit and see the uneven bumps on them. I could savour the sight of fresh, beautiful vegetables. I left with a good bounty in a box (bonus: customers can help themselves to boxes in the store for their buys free of charge) – cherry tomatoes, rockmelon, pineapple, garlic, carrots, sprouts, bread and more … I loved doing my shopping there today, and look forward to going back.

The day got better from there …

There was time to talk, to walk, to laugh, to clean, to eat, to write, to plan, to do …

And hours still remain.

:-)

Nola’s Orchard – 474 West Coast Road, Oratia, Auckland

A new January

We can’t control the sea but we can learn to ride the waves.
~ Said a few wise people

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Happy new year, everyone (or no one?) :-) I have no idea who still reads or subscribes to this blog, but I was told recently that treehousekitchen showed up as a hit in a Google search for Tessa Kiros’s ceviche (first page!). Somehow, that piece of news winked at me ;-) Thanks, Kath, what a fun email to receive.

I spent a bit of time clicking around on the internet yesterday. Peeking at blogs I used to enjoy reading. Some still brought a sense of delight; others were dull with marketing; many seemed to have hit Pause or Stop sometime around 2013.

The internet, along with the rest of the world, is going through such revolutionary times. I mean, life has never ever stood still, but is it just me, or is change just happening faster and faster, more and more (in real life, and 1000x more ridiculously on the internet)? Looking through some older blogs and noticing the amount of change we have been through in a short length of time – just with the average style and quality of photographs on websites over the last seven years for instance – is amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you might have been the only one in a circle of friends who kept a ‘blog’ and ‘blogged’ on Saturday nights while everyone else was out getting pizza … now heaps of people have operated some kind of blog before and have, in fact, moved on to more significant endeavours.

Sitting down intentionally now to write (or even blog) feels slow and unnecessary; like attempting to knit myself a scarf when I could just buy one from a store. Or like doing something ‘unimportant’ when I could be reading emails or 200 social media updates instead.

I keep glancing up at the time, seeing the minutes tick by as I pause between thoughts and words. I hear a whisper of panic in my heart as I wonder if I always took so long to compose posts in the past, or whether this is taking longer because I am out of practice? And as the fear grows, other questions sprout. Can I do this? Should I do this? Is it going to at least change the world or something, for it to be worthwhile?

And as I write this, I smile with the sincere silliness of these questions.

Can’t we just cook*, blog, publish just for the simple desire of doing so? I ask myself.

And I shall leave it here today.

* Or, in this case, assemble – bagel halves, a full spread of cream cheese, slices of avocado and a fine vine-ripened tomato, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper – served alongside a generous pinch of micro-greens. 

Hemingway’s words on oysters

As I ate the oysters, with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
~ Hemingway, as quoted in “French Women For All Seasons” by Mireille Guiliano

These are busy days, days in which minutes melt into a digital soup of Microsoft Outlook dings and social media distractions – days in which it becomes hard to recall what day it is, what happened five minutes ago, what’s happening tonight, what groceries need buying, what clothes need washing, what things need doing. And all of a sudden it is always night again, driving through roads teeming with road works and drivers with interesting behaviour, sinking gratefully into a chair at home and journaling in between dreams and real life.

At times all that is needed to bring it all into focus again, is a few good words on the magic of soul food and living; to – yes – eat, and be happy, and make plans!

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Hunger: for time, for journey, for love

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
~ African proverb

Sydney 2016

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Eggplant and pork vermicelli

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Ingredients:
Vermicelli – soaked for 1-2 hours
Minced pork
Chinese mushrooms – soaked for 1-2 hours, then sliced
Eggplants – sliced diagonally
Garlic, minced
Ginger, minced
Coriander – handful of leaves
Spring onion – thinly sliced
Fish sauce
Chilli sauce
Dark soy sauce
White pepper

Thanks, Dad!

:-)

Remarkable meals

These are hot sticky days we have here, days which remind me of the tropics – days for popsicles and peaches, ice-cold, s’il vous plaît.

I am sitting here typing, slightly dazed from the heat. The windows are shut to maintain the glad boundaries between bugs and men. There is no fan, and lazily ironically I am too hot to walk out to another room to drag the big standing fan into my room.

Earlier I wondered about blogging here tonight, thinking – to my surprise – of how few meals I have found remarkable of late. It sounds really rather ungrateful to say this, but I don’t mean it that way. I suppose … there has just been something missing. The crucial ingredient that makes food feed more than the body … but the person inside its skin.

Three meals come to mind –

A serving of coconut and soya poached chicken at lunch, cooked so exquisitely it made me exclaim and beg the chef for the recipe. A kindly, knowledgeable, even-tempered, quiet man – he wrote it down for me. (Chicken bone-in thighs: rub with a mix of paprika, dried herbs, garlic powder. Allow to rest for 2 hours. Bake for half an hour at 165°C. Bring onion, garlic, coconut cream, soy sauce and water to the boil – drizzle over chicken and bake for 20 minutes at 150°C). Tender, flavourful, inspiring. It’s on my list to try cooking at home soon.

More recently: roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, perfectly roasted potatoes, thick soft bread, big slabs of butter, salad with mango dressing. 10pm, cooked in a foreign oven while on holiday, after attending a wedding and going for a dip in the sea and walk into the sunset. Unbeatable.

Most recently: a picnic. Spiced chicken sandwiches, juicy stone fruit, some juice, etc … we ate on the grass by the sea before the ice cream man drove past with his musical truck. It reminded me of the children’s books I loved so much (you know, the ones with ample descriptions of the children’s lunches, suppers and adventures … sans iPad?) So easy. Pack your favourite things in a big bag, take it along to a spot you love (preferably with someone you love) – and enjoy. :-)

Just typing this I realise that I have more remarkable moments than I realise. How good it is to write and to realise how lucky we are.

Mmm …

It’s late and everything in me is saying it’s time to sleep. I hope that YOU have a remarkable meal today. x

P.S. A few memories from a recent weekend in Christchurch:

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Still

In the years in which I wrote most of Treehousekitchen I was searching for something – actually, a few things. Mostly, I think I was searching for a constant spark, that would ignite life around me – heck, that would ignite me … body, soul, spirit, as each day merged into the next. I was searching for a recognition, an activity or thing that was universal (meeting the need in me to connect) and yet, distinctly, my own.

And gratefully I say that food was the most wonderful, faithful channel open to me then (perhaps you too experience this in your soul!)

Memory adds distortion and objectivity both. Occasionally I read through my archives and am struck by how magical / ordinary the days were – how much internal struggle there was at times – how much both God and bad times continued to propel me forward through it all. There were times I just cringed reading some old lines, remembering the mood behind those words. Wanting, very much, to hit Delete.

But, perhaps there is no need to be ashamed.

Perhaps it was all – then, as it is now … exactly right.

I’m participating in an excellent career coaching program now (“Your Career Homecoming” led by the gifted and wise Laura Simms) and one thing she keeps reiterating is, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” She sent me a postcard with this message a few months ago, and at the time I had thought this:  yes, I was in the right place – on this journey … but what I got from the message was that the entire thing that made this journey worthwhile (or right at all!) was getting to the destination. 

But recently I received a second postcard from her and this time it clicked. The whole process … is right. In every moment, we are in the right place. Ah, what joy comes back when we can truly believe this in our hearts on both the sunniest and greyest of days!

When I look at the mirror now, I see a girl, a woman, still searching for The Spark – except I now understand a little more that the spark is not one final goal, but a series of movements constituting the dance of life. I have lost about 8kg since I penned the last post on this site – and I am happy with how I look and getting happier each time I am able to put together an outfit that I feel proud wearing. I was mostly fine with my appearance back then, but now with the benefit of new experiences and some very hard challenges, I truly marvel at how the body faithfully processes so many morsel of food every day, at how it bounces back from all the things we put it through (like 8 hours of computer work each day, alas!) … I marvel that I am here, writing this post, thinking less of getting this post perfect or of posting about some swell dish … rather, just being here ‘cos it’s fun to be, even if no one else happens to be hanging out here today.

For the inspiration to post here today, I thank a certain culinary student who contacted me through my blog; my friend Paul (ah! He will be sighing); and my loving man Jarred who has held my hands in my recent ‘creative restlessness’ with much grace and kindness.

Well then. Good morning :)

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