Tuesday, May 5, 2009


The large crabapple tree that shelters the front of the house from the street is coming into radiant white bloom, and underneath it the lilies of the valley are slowly starting into flower. Spring springs!

Last night had a lovely pair of phone calls:
The first was from Fern, a good friend from Thailand who lives in Chiang Mai and who was the lynchpin of our immersethrough week in February.  We couldn't have done it without her; and the out-of-town cooking took place at her very beautiful farm near Fang.  Fern was calling because her nineteen-year-old daughter Melissa is flying to Toronto this week to stay with us for the summer and Fern wanted to touch base about some last-minute things.  
Melissa is going to find it chilly here until summer heat arrives, but then she prefers cool to hot, even though she was raised in Thailand.  We are so looking forward to having her here, watching her get comfortable in this very different place and culture. 

The second call was from Tina Ujlaki, a good friend,  who gave me news and then passed the phone on to Jim Oseland, the wonderfully quirky editor of Saveur and fun guy to travel with.  They were with our editor Ann Bramson at the Beard Awards last night. It was Ann's phone, in fact.  They were all three happy to give us the news that Beyond the Great Wall had won best International book.  Delightful!  (Yes, one of us should have gone, but suddenly the trip seemed expensive and too much to squeeze in; lovely Ann Bramson was stuck with having to accept for us and stand up and speak.  Thanks Ann!)   

Later we learned that Jennifer McLagan's FAT! had won book of the year (as well as best SIngle Subject book).  Publishers were very unimaginative about the book, reluctant to consider it, until finally M&S, here in Toronto, and Ten-Speed joined forces to publish it.  As a result, Jennifer, Liv Blumer (her agent and ours), and all those of us who always thought Fat was a great subject, are feeling victorious and vindicated.  We all get to share in the win, in a small way.  

So today is very different from yesterday for Jennifer...

And for all of us, life changes every day in big ways and small.  Tashi had his last exam yesterday and became a free man.  How lovely!    

This talk of change reminds me of a conversation I had via email with a close friend, Lillian, a wise-woman.  She came up with the phrase "the dance of balance"  which is a wonderful way of expressing the dynamic moving-target essence of life (and of relationships too, such a big subset of life).  We try for equilibrum, but everything is changing around us, in happy ways and harsh ways, but always changing.  So it's a dance, a dance of balance.

In this springing early May time of year it's easier to feel light on my feet, as I dance this dance (or perhaps I should think of it as a dance composed of many smaller dances?).  And if ever I am feeling heavy-footed, it's up to me to lighten myself, energise upward, take on and work around the gravity of gravity.  

How about you?


tina tsui said...

Thank you for writing this wonderful book "Beyond the Great Wall" and bringing into light the often-neglected minorities in China by way of food writing. And the book is so rightly named. I'm impressed by you and Jeffrey's adventurous spirit to delve into these sensitive regions and yet not to exoticize them. You encourage a deeper understanding of the food and its context via thoughtful translation of recipes and careful choice of ingredients. So far I've only been to Xinjiang. Truth be told, I have not ventured anything beyond polo and "big-pan chicken" (or "Dapanji", which I'm not sure if it's local food or a dish adapted to palate of Han-Chinese). Congratulations to you and Jeffrey! And how nice it is you have a blog that I, a reader who just finished savouring every word of the book including the glossary last week, can thank you directly!

Tashi said...

Gravity is actually a pretty weak force on earth. It's just when things, and people, are really dense that we feel forces beyond our control.