Tuesday, September 6, 2011


As we shift into the cooler days of September, the students are arriving at the University of Toronto (just up the street) and streaming around in flotillas, some bewildered-looking, others trying to be cool... There are cars pulled up to the curb by the various residences, harried or puzzled-looking parents and spacey-looking kids unloading crates and bundles of possessions, while frosh leaders in coloured T-shirts call out info and try to direct traffic.

This annual renewal of optimism and fresh-start enthusiasm is a wonderful sight to see. I feel so lucky to live near the university, so that I am immersed in it every time I step outside. The buzz will continue for three weeks, as the new students get their feet wet so to speak. Soon they'll become accustomed to it all, cool, maybe even jaded!

I've had a great transition this week, from working on last recipe tests and retests, to actually sending the re-dos in to Judith the copy editor. Now to fill the last holes in the Glossary. There's Buddhism for example, a large topic, you'll agree. I want to give a sense of what it's about, and make a place for it in the Burma context, all while trying not to sound trite or glib. hmm And then there are the technique questions: how much to put in about deep-frying? or cooking in a double-boiler? for example.

As this stage relinquishes its grip, I am trying to get ready for the next, which is the check-the-copy-edited ms crunch. It will start in about a week. I'll have three weeks or so to get it done. In the middle of that I'm heading to Glen's Fall's New York to give a talk (on September 29, at the Crandall Public Library, if any of you live nearish-by and are interested). I need to pull my talk together, as well as images, slides they'll be, and mostly about rice, that great staple and social organiser. To grow rice with irrigation requires, when there is little or no mechanisation, a strong social organisation. People have to maintain ditches and terraces and work co-operatively. Bali is a great example of rice landscape, both physical landscapes and the social landscapes that underpin it all.

I had supper with three remarkable women on Saturday night, a last-minute assembling of a visitor, a returning friend, and two of us who've been here the whole time. We sat out in the warm night air and ate and drank and talked and laughed...losing complete track of the time. And then, amazingly, another version of the same scenario happened the next afternoon. I was at lunch at a friend's place, four women again, all of us in food in some way, with long knowledge of each other but not necessarily close friendship. And again, in the humid warm air, we ate well and drank wine and were present to each other.

I love those sorts of meals that become ships or train compartments, worlds unto themselves. And now I go back to each of them in my mind's eye and do what I like to do with old perfume bottles: lift out the stopper and have a transporting sniff, or equivalent, that takes me right back.

Labour Day is for not-work, but I spent it retesting recipes; this time my success rate was 100%, a nice change! I am particularly pleased with the steamed savory rice crepes, and a tapioca pudding with coconut cream custard on top; both of them took many tries. Tashi was great about eating sample, but it was a little gruelling, even with a guinea pig taster! Neither of them is difficult to make. The problem for me is figuring out proportions and technique, and now it's done.

I kept the computer turned off all Labour Day, for a total of thirty-six hours, until this morning in fact. It was interesting to realise how much time I put in here at the screen, looking at messages and responding, looking at Tweets and clicking on the links they throw up, etc etc. It's all part of the environment these days that is so distracting; I wrote at length about it last week.

The result of my lovely long encounters with friends together with my thirty-six hours without email or other computer connection, is that I now know I want to take a computer and internet holiday once a week, at a minimum. It will help keep my head clear I think, able to work steadily at one idea. Today my Glossary task was Buddhism and also a scattering of new entries I am discovering I need in the Glossary. I love the feeling of productivity when I can sit and engage with a task unstintingly. But then that's what life is all about, that's when we feel at our most alive: when we're deeply engaged and committed.

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