March 27, 2017 § 3 Comments
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem
How do I start. 1 year, 9 months and 3 continents have gone by since I was last here. After many false starts and false promises I find myself cross legged on the couch in my Melbourne suburb home and ready to share a story. The windows are open and autumn is rolling in across the busy streets right up to our front door. And by god does it feel good! Not only to be here again, but to feel a sense of coming home – settled.
It recently dawned on me that it is exactly 3 years ago to this day that I made the decision to leave Australia in search of a dream.
I was living in Darwin and had gone to Bali to do a yoga teacher training course. Some whimsical desire to get away from it all and move from my head and into my heart. I never had the intention of becoming a yoga teacher, I just wanted to go away for a month, do lots of yoga and explore my mind – that inner world – sweep it out, open the windows, give it a good air and take the duster to it.
One morning, in a little seaside village of Bali, I found myself in a cafe where you could sit on top of the rice fields, eat organic eggs and watch the golden light rise over the sound of the roosters. Dark clouds were brewing in the east and my heart was dancing. I realised what kind of a negative state of mind I had been in in Darwin. I was reeling from a recent break up and stressed and anxious in my job. The weight of it only seemed to dawn on my once I saw again how things could be good.
With the morning sun on my face, my mind drifted to the previous day when I had stopped to watch an old man painting the gate at the guest house where I was staying. It wasn’t a huge gate by any standards, but it had taken him two whole days to complete. He sat there in such concentration, with steady slow even brush strokes, totally absorbed in his task. The man who painted the gate became my inspiration, my guru, I decided I wanted to be more like him – to be more present, to be more absorbed and joyous in each task, to love each daily ritual.
Because it is my nature to up and leave when inspiration hits and this was no exception to the norm, I started dreaming of my escape. I would quit my job back in Darwin and become… well I didn’t know what… maybe a yoga teacher?
The idea I had planted must have taken hold. Within that very same week one of my fellow students approached me with an offer to teach yoga in her women’s surf school on the west coast of France!
It didn’t take me long to come back to her with a loud and resounding YES!
You see, I had always wanted to learn another language. Not just to get by with a few words but to really know another language. For about a year I had been taking evening French classes with the idea that I would one day move to France and make this dream a reality. How elegantly life seemed to weave itself into place.
I decided I would take a year off, move to France, teach Yoga in the surf school and enlist myself into French classes. I would devote a whole year to learning French!
Little did I know that no more than 6 months later, life would continue on its mysterious path and in some intertwined and serendipitous twist of fate, I would meet and fall in love with a French painter. His name was Jon. When Jon was young he had a map of the world on his desk. In the bottom right hand corner was Australia. For any reason he spent a great deal of time when he should have otherwise been doing his homework looking at it. His eyes would drift through Europe to Africa, South East Asia and come to rest on that island continent straddling the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. He would wonder what the seemingly empty country draped by sea was like. Ever since, he dreamed of visiting one day.
By the time we met I had forgotten about the old man in Bali but in those early days Jon would tell me how he loved the work he did. How painting was a kind of meditation for him where his mind was set free through the labour of his tasks. I respect him deeply for this. In his beautiful and broken English he would say. “I love doing hand jobs”. I would try to hide my smile. I never did want to correct him when his English was muddled, because as well as being sometimes hilarious and enormously cute, it offered a peek into the structure of the language I was trying to learn.
It wasn’t until recently that I remembered the old man who painted the gate and I realised the poetry of it all. Pay attention to your dreams. Dreaming after all is a form of planning.
June 1, 2015 § 2 Comments
The sun was shining with so much intensity when I left Toulouse. I am not sure if I was imaging it or not, but the tomatoes growing on our balcony seemed to be gaining an inch a day. Everything, including me was pushing up and reaching for the summer. On my last night, we sat there together, my feet in his lap, eating asparagus with French cheese and wine, looked out over the balcony to the canal. Nostalgia deep in my heart. I missed him before I even left.
Take a bunch of fresh asparagus and cut off the woody ends. Place 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan set on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add just enough asparagus to comfortably cover the bottom of the pan and gently sauté tossing every now and again so that all the sides become lightly browned. If you want you can place a lid on top of the pan to steam them a little as well. After 2 – 3 minutes add 2 cloves freshly crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the asparagus are just beginning to soften but still are bright green with a light crunch. Transfer to a plate and drizzle with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Repeat the process until all your asparagus are gone. Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy.
May 6, 2015 § 10 Comments
I have found myself wanting to apologise for my scarcity here this last year and a half. I don’t want to say it too early for fear any new feeling will just as suddenly disappear, but finally there seems to be a tentative impression that I am coming back – into the kitchen that is. I guess it says something about the type of year it has been. Before leaving Darwin, I was tired, stressed and overworked with new jobs, break ups, house moving, and of course that very solid North Australian heat. All in all it left me largely uninspired to do much in the kitchen. This surprised and saddened me, and I questioned the things that made me happy and how I identified myself with them. With some deep nostalgia, I began to miss what I felt was an essential part of the person I was. The person who took joy in the stained colour of a knife left after chopping vegetables, the smell of lemon and spice hitting a fry pan, the feeling of dough sticky and stuck on my fingers, or the scent of sourdough every time I opened the fridge. I missed time to be still, to gather thoughts, to listen and watch more closely, and to pull it all into something creative. There was however, somewhere in amongst it all, some small confidence that it was just a phase and when more time permitted, that willingness to potter with taste and smell, colour and texture would one day creep back.
So I quit my job and most of my life in Darwin, on a quest to slow down, come to Europe and learn French. I went from Darwin, to Paris and then to a small surfing village near Bordeaux where I taught yoga in a women’s surf school. After going briefly to the States for a friends wedding I came back to Europe to spend three weeks with my uncle on his little piece of land just on the outskirts of Brussels. Here I picked vegetables from his garden on the same land my great great grandfather farmed and I cooked them in the same kitchen my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great great grandmother all cooked in before me. And perhaps with the memory of all my ancestors behind me, I began to feel that old love creep back in. That old joy of rinsing the thick soil off carrots and beats, of breaking the florets off a broccoli. That old delight in allowing the ingredients to tell me what to do with them. And that old pleasure in plating it all up and sitting around the table in the autumn evening light. The joy in someone else enjoying what you cook. And finally some quietness and stillness started to sink below the surface. I never really thought it would take more than a year.
My next move was to Toulouse. A pink city in the south of France. And I have been here for roughly the last five months. For the first time since leaving Australia I have a little space to curl up in at the end of the day and call my own, an oven to cook in, a bath to sink in, and a lovely little french man to get to know. At the end of May, I move to Maine for the summer where I have some work managing a cafe for some friends at 44 north. Its a little late to pledge something for the new year, but I am hoping this one will hold more pens with words and more wooden spoons.
Bisous a tout le monde!
December 2, 2014 § 2 Comments
I spent the most part of September off the east coast of Maine on a small Island called Deer. The home of two very very dear friends who I had come to visit and celebrate with in their wedding. I slept in an old combi van parked in the little clearing made in the birch and cedar forest where the newly weds were building their house. I woke each morning to smoking white breath, a body just warm enough under a pile of thick blankets and my ears slowly attuning to the sounds of the morning; – the distant fog horn; the creep of the mist through the bays and forested islands; the sun unfurling the slender fern fronds. There my heart grew a certain happy glow from sipping on 44 north coffee, swimming in icy waters, eating my fair share of apricot pie, AND freshly picked homegrown delicatas baked with butter, maple syrup and crystallised ginger (thanks to new friends for teaching me just how good this could be!). This is the recipe I am sharing with you today, straight from the oven it shines gold like a piece of heaven itself – and it is all of that and more in your mouth.
Because I had never heard of delicatas before going to America and I am guessing you might not have either, I have substituted delicata for pumpkin which, without sounding as exotic, tastes almost as good. But if you can get your hands on some I suggest giving them a go. A note to those in the Norhtern Hemisphere – this is the time to look – that is – autumn to early winter.
Maple syrup and butter baked pumpkins with walnuts and crystallised ginger
Enough organic grown pumpkin (or delicatas) to cover a large backing tray (about ½ – 3/4 of a medium sized pumpkin)
2 – 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crystallised ginger pieces chopped to the size of your liking
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.
Chop your pumpkin/delicatas, skin and all, into big bite sized chunks (I always leave the skin on as it helps hold the flavour and the juices).
Spread on a lightly greased backing tray.
Gently heat the oil, butter and maple syrup in a saucepan until the butter is just melted. Drizzle over the pumpkin.
Sprinkle with the walnuts and ginger, season with salt and pepper and give a light toss.
Pop in the oven and roast, stirring once or twice, until tender and beginning to brown. About 30 minutes.
August 6, 2014 § 2 Comments
The anthropogenic nature of this city strikes me after the wildness of Darwin. Ever built, ever manmade, ever hard surfaced under foot. Even the flow of the Seine tamed between stone walls. But in Paris, its difficult not to embrace the human geography. There too is a deep and wild beauty embedded in history and culture. The churches the mountains of a rugged urban landscape. Green strolling parks made as if for falling in love. Ages built on ages, a close, closed intimate city, intimate within itself. Smells of flowers and fish, cheese and strawberries.
One evening I watch a string quintet playing the movements of Vivaldi in an old chapel with high reaching stained glass windows. Tall and majestic, the coloured walls reach up to create a cocoon for the music to bounce off. Intimacy again, its as if the music is coming from my very own body. The reflections of the colour and the sound so near to perfect, my love for the city is convinced.
And July is a beautiful time to be in Paris, especially late evening when the dusk starts creeping in, the light gentle and gold as it turns to the blue hour. The evening sky against the city is full of smell, of touch, of sight , of colour. All things possibly tangible. Another moment close to perfect, this precious dusk time. A quiet stillness above the hum of the city – above the gentle clatter of the dinner plates and the red wine voices that echo across terrace laden rooftops. And with these slow extended light summer evenings of Europe, these magic moments appear to last forever. They move so slowly, and you appear to be caught between them.
May 25, 2014 § 3 Comments
I have almost been living off this drink the last 6 months. Served ice cold and sipped on the verandah in the evenings, the colour matching the turmeric setting sky. Its gently spicy and refreshing in a heart warming kind of way. AND, its body pleasing too. Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is wonderful for settling an upset tummy. Interestingly, when served with black pepper the bioavailability of curcumin – its active ingredient – is enhanced 1000 times.
Iced Turmeric Tea
1 tsp powdered turmeric or 2 Tbsp fresh grated turmeric
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
A handful of freshly cut lemongrass (2 Tbsp of dry lemongrass tea would work too)
1 tsp peppercorns
2 Litres boiling water
Place all ingredients in a large bowl or glass jug. Pour over boiling water and allow to seep until cool. You will end up with a rich tonic that you can then store in the fridge. To serve, add around 2 shots of tonic to 1 cup cold water or mineral water and squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime.