Friday, July 1, 2011


There's a pop-pop-popping happening, sporadically close to and then farther away, as people all over Toronto set off fireworks. The annual July 1 Canada Day celebrations are almost over...and summer is just beginning. Many friends are already out of town. Half of them seem to be in Cape Breton or PEI, eastern Canada anyway.

I'm still here though, now done with my deadline and moving in the freer air of edits. Ann Bramson has, as she always does, some good ideas about how to present the Burma book, how to get people turned on and tuned in to Burma. And as always I need to find more interesting titles for the recipes (just plain "beef curry" doesn't cut it! for example). It's a treat to have the manuscript written and the chance to re-enter it and shape it further. I am amazed, as always, with how much greater my perspective is now that I've had a few weeks away from it (and the suggestions from Ann to help me take hold of it freshly).

The other work on the immediate horizon, and I wrote about this on my facebook fan page, is that I have started to try to take hold of LightRoom, the powerful and not-always-intuitively-understandable program that helps sort images and also work with them. Thanks to N, a friend of Tashi's I am feeling more confident and have a starting-to-grow understanding of how to use the program to sort and engage with my Burma images. They're all digital, most in RAW and some in JPEG. I need to pull about four hundred, so the designer has images to choose from for the book. They'll be portraits and markets and scenes of various kinds.

The first task is to find the strongest images, and then make sure there's a balanced group of picks to send. I feel a long way from slides and the physical and damage-able fragility of slides. It's always scary to send them out. But digital images are (once I get used to the basic idea of how ephemeral they are, how dependent on electricity and modern stuff like computers) less "fragile. I can send them and keep them at the same time. It would have been a hard concept for our forbears to grasp, for sure.

Good food this week, from the growing thriving herbs in the garden, and tender leaf lettuce, to garlic scapes (those curving elegant tips of young garlic, so delish lightly fried). Grilled some bavette this evening and poached asparagus, and had our first new potatoes of the year. Hurrah!

Yesterday a friend retested two different fish curries and a chutney,as well as a fish head soup, all recipes from Rivers of Flavor, the Burma book. A squeeze of lime at the end made a huge wonderful difference to the soup, pulling it all together. And the fish curries reminded Dawn to interrogate me about whether I was putting info about sustainable fish and those others we shouldn't be eating, into the Burma book.

(By the way, Jake Tilson has a fish book just out in the UK, and in the US in September, called "In at the Deep End: Cooking Fish Venice to Tokyo." It should be a wonderful resource, and beautiful, for Jake is a designer and has really made the book, not just the words and pictures. I can't wait to see it.)

In answer to Dawn's good reminder, I will put the URL of a couple of sites in the Burma book, sites that people can now consult to know whether a particular fish species is endangered, etc etc. More later, when I get the info.

Had a crisis this week, small but distracting. I had a guy named Eric come and connect the water to the garage out back, but then it turned out there was a leak somewhere. Lots of digging later (by Eric and also by me) and the solution turned out to be to replace one stretch of pipe. But meantime, apart from the blisters on my hands, I've lost leaf lettuce and mint (as dirt got piled on them, or dug up around them, or both) and also a huge amount of ivy, for we had to cut ivy roots as we dug. Most of the dirt pile is gone, and the hole/trench filled in. And now there's water and good pressure.

The digging and then refilling of the hole reminded me of how hard hard labour can be. It's really wearing. And often very low-paying. But why do we pay so much for brain work and so little for work that uses up your body? I know, it's about value, and demand etc. But it is a harsh unfair reality that guys who labour with their bodies often get worn out. And many who work in offices could not possibly do labouring work, (though many go to the gym to stay fit). The temptation to disdain what you cannot do is powerful in our culture, maybe in every culture. hmmm

Meantime I'm pleased that even though half the ivy has been stripped off the back building (I did that once it had wilted overnight after we cut the roots), the change or loss is not devastating. Instead it gives us all a chance to look freshly at how the garden is organised and how we might change things.

Once again the only "constant" is that everything is in flux and will change, so it's up to us to handle the shiftings and gains and losses on this roller-coaster of life with equilibrium, and to enjoy the ride!

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