Sunday, April 17, 2011


How many of these blogposts have I written while in transit or on the road? I wonder. This afternoon I'm in the Ottawa ariport, waiting for a Porter flight back to Toronto Island. Outside we've had wind and rain and hail for two days, in intermittent and overlapping cycles, not great weather for flying in a small plane, but oh well!

I was up here to speak to a meeting of the translators and Interpreters of Ontario. No, I wasn't talking about language, strictly speaking, not the way translators use it, with precision and under pressure. I was talking about the language of food, and food as an aspect of culture and a window into culture. I made them noodles with sesame sauce, and a little side salad of diced cucumber with ginger and chives and coriander leaves, a fresh little contrast to the chewy noodles and rich savoriness of the sesame dressing. Before they ate they engaged with the noodle dough, shaping it into long stretched strands and little orecchiette shapes, etc, just a few of the noodles described in Beyond the Great Wall. And then as a digestif I showed some images from that part of the world...a way of putting different ideas in people' minds for when they hear the word "China". It was a lot of fun.

I realised though that these kinds of talks with food and images are a whole lot easier when there's good backup and in this case I had great backup, from the organisers of the event, from the chef whose kitchen I was in at the Cordon Bleu (Yannick Anton, a lovely guy), and from my friend Cameron Stauch, a chef and traveller, who had worked a full shift at Government House before he came and helped with all the prep and plating and clean-up at my event. Thank-you Cameron!

We went out after, with a couple of translator friends Po and Ilse, to a restaurant called I think Navarre, on Murray Street. Nice place. Then I headed out to Dunrobin to stay with my old friend from high school, Lianne, who is also trying to getting a weekend immersethroughfood program going on Grand Manan Island (have a look at my website on the Grand Manan page).

The roads were sheets of water and sand, dirty and disconecerting... Lucky I am comfortable navigating in Ottawa, for everything looked creepy and kind of sinister in the rain and wind. Maybe it was just my tiredness, after a morning flight on Porter and a day of seeing my Alzheimers-afflicted aunt (in a very good mood, which was great) and good friends who live out on the farm that used to belong to my mother. It WAS a long day, now I recount all that, but full and satisfying too.

It made me realise again though that the over-anticipation that I wrote about recently is much better when it's kept under control. This time I tried to ride out the day,moving from thing to thing, and leaving a wide margin so I was never at risk of running late, but otherwise not worrying about the next thing while engaged with the previous one. It was GREAT. I just need more practice at it. And as always, it was a huge treat to see friends and loved ones...every time could be the last, and every time must be savored, right?

Of course without the good luck of having Cameron to help with prep, I would have been much more pushed for time at my event. So perhaps I should have been more worried ahead of time. But what good would worrying have done in any case? It achieves nothing, it just makes you tired.

Bring on this new era, I say. Let me start living more and more in the now. Yes, I have to plan what recipe I need to test tomorrow, and think ahead to buy the necessary ingredients, but I don't have to think and rethink it all, just make a plan, write out a note, and then do it.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make Burmese-style rotie (flatbreads) and on Tuesday a Rangoon-style pulau, with goat or chicken, not sure. Maybe there should also be a vegetarian one? These are the questions that come up!!

And after that it's back to text, the intro, the chapter openers, the stories...and the history at the back of the book. It's all going well, and it's exciting to be in the middle of it, thinking about Burma past and present and future, and stories and places and people. But I can't linger, I have to keep moving.

Send me clearheadedness for these next six weeks please, a some more luck too. I know I'm going into debt here in the luck department, but...!

POSTSCRIPT: My cousin Jen, always clearheaded, reminded me yesterday that NOT anticipating can leave me a little short sometimes. In this case she meant that I should have told the translators and interpreters about the immersethrough sessions I'm doing in Chiang Mai next winter. The translators are a group who know about cultural immersion and engaging with another culture. Of course I forgot to say anything about immerse and, another of course: I don't even have business cards for immersethrough. So, another to-do to add to my list. Thanks for the reminder, Jen.

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