chronicles of a bespoke, simple, adventurous life
chronicles of a bespoke, simple, adventurous life
Today is the first day of Autumn.
Well officially officially it lands on March 21 with the solstice, but is noted by the majority on this day.
I love any opportunity to herald in a new season (I said hello to Spring here and Summer here ) so today causes much excitement in my wee world, with double happiness the next 21 days are are dry run to the real thing. Oh the glistening glorious start of a new season and all the potential magic loaded and ready to be fired. A looming twelve months just feels a bit amorphous and loooong and fat, and I never feel an ease in placing myself in it. Give me three months vignettes that have a powerful undercurrent of energy and meaning to play in and I’m good to go. Hence my love of the seasons.
Autumn’s energy is very different from the others. This season is about coming out of the high activity of summer and preparing for the winter ahead. Its about gathering, focusing, turning inward and letting go. Letting go of what you don’t need anymore, and focussing on what you do.
I like this excerpt from a book I love which outlines living by the seasons – The Way of the Happy Woman – Living the Best Year of Your Life, Sara Avant Stover goes onto say…..“This season we go onto become the alchemists of our own change. Like metal, we evolve through reduction. What needs to be removed and stripped away so that the glistening essence of who we are can shine like a diamond? This pairing down comes through discernment and faith. Take an honest look at yourself and your life. Whats working? Whats not? What can you let go of on your own, and with what do you need guidance? Traditional Chinese medicine acknowledges that grief and sadness are the primary emotions of the autumn season, which, when tended to are transmuted into courage. The lung and the large intestine are the activated organs that work together, receiving and releasing – carbon dioxide in the lungs, and water, nutrients, and waste in the large intestine. Both provide crucial life-giving energy through this powerful interchange. The two are alchemists, taking in what is needed to shine and letting go of whatever might hold us back. When this pair is weakened through stress, unexpressed emotions, poor breathing, pollution, smoking, or toxic diets, things get stuck. And feelings of immobilisation, depression, and suppressed grief can intensify and rock you off your centre”.
She goes onto to talk about the process of letting go……..about staying grounded, Autumn rituals and ‘The One Day Autumn Letting Go Retreat’ that you create and do yourself, all juicy stuff.
And I love her suggestion to write a letter to something or someone your ready to let go of (not with the intention of sending it). And on completion burning it on the new moon. What a delicious idea!
Whatever meaning a new season holds for you and in whatever way you recognise it (or not) I wanted to share the bountiful opportunities Autumn holds if your curious enough to have an inner peek. Oh and for the ladies out there, Sara’s books a gem for getting back into harmony and your own rhythm and life cycle.
Last night I got to eat and enjoy food made with love.
Food from the heart is unbeatable, it just tastes better. I have no science to back this up, but years of eating tell me that when food is made with care you can taste it. Last nights feast was a beautiful message of love to my mother in celebration of her 60th, from her brother (the cook, Anton).
I wanted to share this story because I think sometimes we forget the importance food can play in our relationships (with others and self) and the power of a shared meal. It brings us together and creates a gastronomic pile of memories filled with friends, family, tastes……….and is the witness and caretaker of important milestones, celebrations, travels, transitions, farewells, joys and hardship. It is a constant in our lives. It has the power to nourish and heal and it is our fuel………and for me one of the ultimate joys in life*.
I wrote this because I wanted to share Anton’s beautiful feast, but I also wanted to remind myself (more than anything) of the power of sharing food – great or small, lavish or quick…..from scrambled eggs to a feast…….it speaks volumes without any words.
When: February 14, 2012
What: Valentines Dinner Party in Celebration of my Mum’s 60th Birthday
Where: North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand
Cook: All food created and prepared by Anton Boyle (I previously wrote about him here)
Canapes: Fig and Brie, Capsicum and Kikorangi Blue and Chicken pieces in Sumac and Zaatar spices
Entre: Egyptian Eggs
Soup: Fresh Tomato, Basil and Garlic Soup
Main: Terakihi fillets and Prawns dusted in Cajun spices served with slices of Banana, Cucumber ribbons and dressed with Passionfruit pulp
Salad: Watermelon and Avocado
Dessert: Lemon Tart served fresh cream and Raspberries
* It is not lost on me that I write this post from my comfortable first world life. I am truly grateful for the abundance of food I experience, I never go without. And in this footnote I just wanted to acknowledge my privilege given the vast vast tracts of the global community who do go without. Sometimes it feels a little closed eyed and lily guilding for foodies to wax lyrical about gastronomic pleasures……..when we haven’t resolved the disproportionate distribution of food to all corners of the planet. I have no answer, I just wanted to acknowledge that it is not lost on me that I have so much food in my life that I get to enjoy, when many many others do not.
Have you ever fallen out and then back in love with something? With somebody?
I thought it auspicious on this Valentines day to share my refall back into love……back into love with my hometown – the North Shore. I haven’t lived in New Zealand for ten whole years, I’ve visited a fair few times but not lived on the old home soil. It’s undoubtedly one of my favourite places in the world and it definitely feels like home, though I can’t say I have found it inspiring……and there hasn’t been any pull to return to live.
Last night Ma and went for a spot of dinner and along the way we came across all these gems in our backyard.
I hadn’t been to Northcote shops in an age. It was great to see it so full of life and crammed with every Asian cuisine you can imagine. The food at Love a Duck was exceptional and true Hong Kong style. A treat I wasn’t expecting to come across.
Driving around my old stomping ground of Devonport I was reminded of why I love it so. It’s a beautiful part of the world, great little beaches, views across to the City and it’s crammed fill of old Villa’s and wide roads. It is my favourite suburb in the North Shore and Auckland. And I could live there again, no problems.
And I couldn’t believe my eyes while driving through Birkenhead (another old stomping ground)……the new Library was finally up and running (it took an absolute age to be designed and built). What a lovely architectural find……a beautiful wee space. I wasn’t expecting something so progressive from the council initiative – surprised was I.
It’s official, I have fallen back into love with my hometown. It’s got layers and colour and diversity and stories and beautiful beaches and unique landscape and a myriad of cultures. And on this trip I was inspired.
On this trip I realised I hadn’t been looking previously, so I hadn’t seen all the colour, joy and beauty of this place that was right under my nose. I saw new hidden gems that I didn’t realise existed……because I hadn’t been looking.
And there it is, I’ve fallen back in love because I lifted my head up and looked with open eyes and I was pleasantly surprised.
On Sunday, back in NZ for Ma’s 60th birthday I found myself at the Clevedon Farmers Markets enjoying one of life’s pleasurable combinations – the stroll, gaze and graze.
My second visit to these markets situated only 45 minutes South East of Auckland City didn’t dissapoint. They provided a lovely little treat – enjoying New Zealand produce at its best right from the hand of the maker, grower, cook.
Wandering around I was reminded of how much I love Farmers Markets, seeing new things, tasting, trying……and the subsequent buy. I made a mental note to self to visit them more often in my local digs of Sydney. If you live in Sydney this is a wee guide to a few you can check out.
There’s something about food makers, growers, artisans, artists and creatives which really resonates with me and has me eager to explore creating a sustainable working life slightly outside of the slipstream / mainstream. These markets inspired me.
If you live in Auckland or find yourself a visitor I recommend a wee visit. It’s the real deal, set in the lovely Clevedon country side renowned for agriculture, Polo, a slice of old school lifestyle and fabulous Oysters.
Have you ever thought about why it is you love the things you do, and where it is they come from?
Why is it that your passionate about music, food, cooking, craft, travel, movies?……..whatever it is your into. Awhile back I got a little curious about why I was creative, and wrote about it here. In closing that post I wrote “I know exactly where my love and education for food comes from – my uncle Anton. And thats another story”. Well this is that other story.
I rank great food up there with the best experiences life has to offer, food is a total utter joy.
A food memory that STANDS OUT is from Anton’s kitchen (cooked somewhere between 11 – 15 years ago). What I love about this memory is not only the extroadinary taste, it was how the dish converted me from “Ewww I don’t want to eat that” to “Oh my god I think I am in love, is there any more?”
The dish was fillets of fish coated in cajun spices served with a salad of – soft leafed lettuce, sliced banana and passionfruit dressing (pure fruit pulp). I cannot tell you how incredible it was, my writing could not do it justice. It was sublime.
This dish introduced me to two fundamentals of cooking which I have followed ever since; 1. the art of simple food done extremely well, and 2. certain foods are meant to be together, there union is alchemical, magical (and there not always foods you think would make good bed fellows).
Anton led me into many food related firsts – My first restaurant dinner when I was a teenager (he introduced me to restaurants and how to ‘be’ and eat in them). My first taste of olives (I can still remember the restaurant, the table linen and the vibe of that lunch and it was 19 years ago). My first introduction to good wine and to oysters. He got me my first job in restaurants where he was the Maitre’d and where I learnt the trade and the business of food. An industry through which I made great friends.
I’ve attended countless dinner parties at his table where his food and settings are legendary. He is seriously gifted, one of those people that were born to cook and entertain.
I’m sure I grew up with taste bud’s that were ready to love food. Though undoubtedly Anton’s influence and my exposure to his passion and his incredible food, has deepened and educated my passion and love.
And his bold flavour combinations remind me to try something different every now and again. To take a taste risk which may have you falling in love all over again just from the chew off a once loaded fork.
Of late I’ve been hankering to get in touch with my culture, my Maori roots.
I want to colour in the other half of my picture, join a few dots and finish a few sentences about the why the who and the how of me. My da was Maori, and his early departure meant I grew up Anglo (my other culture). And if you didn’t know my lineage you wouldn’t know by looking, my physicality gives nothing away. I have the whitest of white skin that burns after just looking at the sun, oh and Auburn hair.
I find identity such an interesting possession, part purchased for you and part created by your own will. On the pre-purchased culture I was handed, though not shown I am curious to see and learn more.
And today I had a wee taste……literally! Today I tried my first Hangi; food cooked in the traditional Maori method - in an earth oven with hot stones. Pork, chicken, stuffing, potato, onion, cabbage, pumpkin and sweet potato cooked by steam, fuelled by the hot stones under the earth. Beautifully flavoured and melt in your mouth delicious.
My 39 year old Auburn haired, white skinned part Maori self tried her first Hangi in the suburb of Redfern, Sydney, Australia. Oh how my friend and I laughed at that, we laughed hard. Though better late than never.
In celebration of Waitangi Day (celebrated in NZ on 6 February) Sydney’s Maori communities held their own celebrations around town. I found myself outside a Maori church ‘Te Wairua Tapu’ in Redfern (which I had no idea existed) listening to the beautiful singing of the congregation. A friend Mel, her two kids and I waited as the food was dished out and we paid our ten dollars for a pocket of goodness.
And just like that I had joined in and tasted something new. My foodie self just loves the way that food, community, culture and family are SO inextricably connected. Using my taste buds was a great way to dip my toes in the water.
Last night I danced in the dark for an hour and a half. With alot of other people.
I danced like nobody was watching, because they weren’t. I lost myself in the dark with the beats and accompanying rivulets of sweat coating my limbs (think Niagra). I went all animalistic, booty wiggling, pogo dancing, head swaying, hand clapping crazy . And I absolutely loved it.
I love to dance, always have……the beat starts* and a pair of possessed shoes take over my feet and I go all James Brown**. I seriously do. It’s like, “hello meet my other self – the repressed child who grew up in a commune with no tv or radio whose at her first disco”. And last night I remembered how good I feel wiggling and bouncing and shaking, and letting that crazy child out. I slammed the dance floor with ridiculous moves and zero concern for how it looked (Will Smiths’ Wild Wild West a particular triumph). I didn’t have to awkwardly smile to friends maintaining eye contact while flinging myself around (which I have always found a tad awkward in usual dance scenarios).
Now where did all this take place?……a mate and I went along to No Lights No Lycra. The official blurb – ‘A monthly dance jam in the dark, for those who love to dance while no one’s watching.There is no light, no lycra, no teacher, no steps to learn, no technique, just free movement. NLNL is a space where you can completely let go, shake out the stress of the week, and lose yourself in the music and the physicality of your body. NLNL is a daggy, non-pretentious place to completely be yourself.’
Pitch black when you enter the room, the eyes quickly acclimatise. And yeah, you can see peoples shapes and their movement (so theres no flinging into each other) but not enough to care. There were a few Blue Light Disco moments with paffy tunes which sent my limbs into a static revolt, and a few fellow dancers who inflicted flash from taking a hundred photos of themselves. These are small irks in an otherwise triumphant sweaty, joyous haze of dare I say it boogying*** madness. And all for $5.00!
My ultimate love is being in a mosh pit getting lost in the music, buzzing off the energy of the crowd. It is the most europhic high I’ve ever had. And no, this wasn’t exactly the same…..but it was a bloody close cousin and alot easier to get in and out of.
My current thang is to get back in touch with my body and prise back my mojo from who or what ever stole it, lights or no lights. My body and brain loved letting go. Highly recommended way to spend an hour and a half.
I shall be going again.
* not any beat, my feet have particularly strong taste buds when it comes to tunes that make me want to get up off my thing
** I am not comparing my dancing prowess to the master of movement, think metaphor.
*** I cringe at its use, but it feels appropriate