more than a year gone by

May 6, 2015 § 10 Comments

French country side

Southern France

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 uncle in his garden

My uncle in his garden

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!

Toulouse and the Garonne

Toulouse and the Garonne

Toulouse and the Garrone 2

Toulouse and the Garrone 2

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Toulouse street scene

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Belgian Memories

February 7, 2011 § 6 Comments

Belgium, full of the smells of my Oma; mashed potatoes with nutmeg, that particular washing detergent, that special smell of cold icy weather, cigars, sausages and green shrubs. Not that my Oma smoked cigars but that is the smell of Belgium that is so intertwined with the memory of her in my mind. And it is bitterly cold. I have been sleeping in a jumper, woollen pants, socks three blankets and two quilts.

Here on the outskirts of Brussels in the brown fields mixed with old houses and ever multiplying industries and shopping complexes, I stay with my uncle in the old family home. This is the house that my great grandparents built alongside their fields that they passed on to my grandparents and they to my uncle. The narrow street leads from the canal to their shrub-lined driveway with that very particular smell. The church on the other side rings memories of being a child. The graveyard where they are all buried lies across the field of what was the old rose nursery that is now lying bare and empty.

I have a week here of wandering the streets of Brussels, peering in the shops filled with chocolate and tempting pretty things and watching people in the warm lit old wooden decorated cafes. I have been practicing pretending I know French and am oh so bourgeois. Mainly by not saying anything other than the simplest phrases and guessing what other people are saying when they speak to me. It’s always fun when I get away with it.

Stupidly in my mad rush to leave Australia in five hours which you can read more about here, I decided not to bring my camera which was fine in Salone as I could use D’s but much regretted now that he is not here. I have been taking these photos with the web cam on my laptop. I have been too embarrassed to do it anywhere too public so these are all just taken from around my uncles place. It is impossible to frame a picture without my head getting in the way so they end up being random and wonky most of the time but in their own way they have a certain charm.

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