Tuesday, March 6, 2012


The moon has fattened, but I wanted to check timing so I’ve just come from looking up the full moon calendar for 2012. There’s still another day plus to go: the moon is full in this (Toronto) time zone sometime after 4 in the morning on March 8. Now that date means International Women’s Day to me and to many. But the fact of its being a full moon day this year gives it extra heft and radiance. In Thailand it’s a special buddha day called Magha Puja in the original Pali, a day for honouring the Buddha. This year the holiday is on March 7; banks will be closed and there will be special candlelit processions at the wats/temples.

I started thinking about the timing of the full moon a couple of days ago when I went out in the early night and found the moon hanging high and bright in the sky and surrounded by a wide perfect pale circle of light. Yes, sometimes there’s a nimbus around a full-ish moon. But this was quite different, for the circle had a wide radius, and looked like a perfect line of white light bordering, encircling, the top of the sky’s dome.

All I could think of was that a slight mist in the air could have created enough water molecules to give a reflective surface for moon rays to bounce off. The steadiness of the circle was extra-strange because there was a strong north wind blowing little torn scattered cloud fragments south at a great rate. And so, though I (and Dom came up to look too, and was equally amazed, so I knew I wasn’t hallucinating) searched around for a practical explanation, I was left with just a lovely feeling of wonder and amazement.

That’s as it should be with these rare events, don’t you think? And in this modern era of scientific explanations, how lucky to stumble on the unknown and the seemingly miraculous. To be visited by a sense of wonder after childhood is one of the great blessings or treats that we can experience I think.

And speaking of light and light effects, I have just been going through the photos I made on my last trip to Burma, including some of the wild light effects at Shwedagon. I wrote here last time of the fairy lights around temple edges. Well seeing them on the screen was a reminder of just how fantastic the effects are, especially right after sunset.

I’m going to take another small (about a hundred images) batch of photos with me in JPEG format, on a stick, when I head to NYCity on Thursday. (Included in them, apart from Shwedagon and streetscenes etc, are shots from Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech in Myitkyina, with the excited crowd; so great.) I’ll be spending time at Artisan looking at the latest version of the book and trying to help with photo allocation.

There’s a tricky balancing act required: large photos are lovely, but with just those, the book can feel lumpy and stiff; on the other hand too many shots can make a book feel messy and jumbled. I’m hoping we can have photos that run large and also some smaller drop-ins to give rhythm and life at unexpected moments. Susan Baldaresini has done a brilliant job of designing the recipe pages: they are so elegant and clear, truly cook- and reader- friendly. They’ll be imitated for sure once the book comes out. I can’t wait to see all this.

And then the second galleys will come roaring to me in about three weeks, and will need to get dealt with and sent back within a week. That’s the scary part, the moment when there is no more chance to catch and correct errors or tweak things. It’s kind of like finally diving out of the plane on a sky-dive I imagine, nauseating, and then suddenly exhilarating because you’re floating free.

I want to talk about a delish quick supper improv from this evening. There are three things that Tashi loves, but his brother doesn’t: sweet potato, celeriac, and bacon. This evening, Dom being out, I chopped some bacon, heated it then poured off a lot of the fat, then added a pinch of turmeric and chopped celery root and chopped sweet potato. After a little frying, I added some cumin, and some powdered cloves, then water to just cover. With the lid on, it all simmered and cooked together for fifteen minutes. I added some leftover cooked rice. It absorbed the extra liquid and the whole thing was like a pulao. It needed a squeeze or more of lime juice to balance the sweet. And it was rich, for sure.

The bacon-root veg “pulao” was a good pairing with simple masur dal with cauliflower (added to the spices - nigella, fenugreek, mustard seed - and oil that tempered the dal, and then cooked to tender in the dal). A drizzle of chile oil on top of each serving, and more lime juice too, gave a last brightening kick.

It’s freezing cold outside, so there are no fresh herbs in the garden; it would have been extra-delish with some fresh coriander leaves or chopped mint on top.

Spring is only two weeks away – can’t wait.

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