It’s cold in the plane and I am tired. Jasmin green tea with milk melts down my throat into my stomach, soothing me. Matcha latte comes to my mind, thinking:’they started it, the Japanese. It isn’t my own weird idea, adding milk to green tea’. Matcha is an exclusive finely ground almost fluorescent green powder of the tips of excellent quality green tea leaves. It’s use has evolved into a discipline which is called the Way of Tea, performed as the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha powder has also become a favorite ingredient for more experimental chefs in Japan, used in pastries and ice cream. Starbucks sells Matcha latte, matcha powder mixed with milk and sweetener. Sweetened because original matcha is slightly bitter, a bit more even then the green tea leaves it’s derived of.
I am drinking herbal tea with milk, green tea with milk and fruit tea with milk. ‘Could I have a peppermint tea please? With coconut milk on the side’. The combination is bizarre, I realize. But it tastes really good. Lemon-ginger with oatmilk, green tea with almond milk and in case plant based milks are not on offer, I add regular dairy milk to the tea brews as it tastes good too. It’s only that I prefer to keep to a vegan diet that is keeping me from indulging in tea served with cow milk.
Last winter I started making what I call Tea Lattes. Hot milk poured on regular or decaffeinated black tea. The plant based milks could be mixtures of rice and soy milk or oat and almond milk, they top up a tall glass for at least two thirds, filled one third with strong simple black tea. I liked it so much that I got tired of carrying the cartons of different plant based milks from the shops to my house and started to get into different tea flavors served with less milk. It got me down to herbal tea, green tea or fruit tea served with a generous cloud of rice, almond, soy or oat milk and when I can lay my hands on walnut or hazelnut milk, I feast.
Soon we’ll land in Vienna. Wiener mélange comes to mind. Coffee latte topped up with whipped cream basically. I finish the Jasmine green tea with four sachets of airplane milk telling myself I won’t go into the Vienna version of my Tea Lattes. Which would be topping them up with whipped cream. Although whipped aqua fava would be an excellent vegan topping. But already my Tea Lattes are at least as good as the commercialized Matcha latte, a Turmeric latte or a good old traditionally spiced Chai.
Christel asks me to join her Sunday late afternoon presentation about fermentation. She demonstrates kombucha making and she likes me to do another ferment or pickle. There’s a small Savoy cabbage in the large fridge of the industrial kitchen of the health resort where both she and I work, Christel as a naturopath, me as a chef. I resolve to prepare for a quick pickle of the more distinguished and tasty sister of the original white sauerkraut cabbage: Savoy Cabbage. This quick pickling asks for vinegar and lemon juice instead of only salt and pressing down.
My stomach hurts. Deep inside. It’s not about the food I eat. But maybe the pickled cabbage will help me digest my pickled emotions. How do I pickle butterflies that nest in my stomach? I am not talking about bacteria. Tears in my eyes roll down my cheek. They taste salty like pickled emotions, the liquid drains, the flavor intensifies. It isn’t about conservation. It’s about transforming the chemistry. I love him so much. My stomach hurts.
1/2 of a small Savoy Cabbage, the leaves pulled, stem and harder parts cut off
1 tbsp course mineral salt
1 tbsp natural sweetener like coconut nectar, agave, maple sirup or honey
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups filtered water
Sterilized glass jar
Something sterilized to press down the leaves (a tall glass)
1 tsp pepper corns or 1 tsp red chilly flakes or a piece of kombu (algae)
Neatly arrange the cabbage leaves in the glass jar, pressing down tightly. Heat the liquid ingredients with salt, sweetener and if you are using them either of the additional flavors. When the salt is dissolved, poor liquid over the cabbage topping the jar up all the way. Close the lid. Let cool until you can touch it without burning your hands. Shake it and leave it stand for 24 hours. It’s ready to consume. After you first open the jar, please keep it in the fridge until it’s empty.
It reminds me of places I have never been. Rich scents my nose encaptures but they don’t have a name. A whirl of sounds engulfing my ears but they can’t be distinguished. Overwhelming and bigger then me, this unknown place feels like it embraces me, making my ego and all of me dissolve like salt in luke warm water. It frees me. Because of it’s anonimity. There’s no known structure. There’s no familiar patterns and habits. Everything is hussling and bussling without me taking part. Without me doing anything. I can just be. Be still. Be me. Until I slowly evaporate, merging with the sounds and the scents and faraway freedom.
soft swirly avocado & aqua fava merenguada
With stick mixer blend an avocado, juice of half a lemon, a banana, turmeric and 50 ml almond milk. With handheld mixer mix liquid of one can of chick peas (keep the chick peas itself for another purpose) during 5 minutes. When stiffened like merengue, add maple or agave sirup until it’s comfortably sweet. Top avocado mixture with aqua fava merenguada and give it one swirl. Sprinkle with a hint of cinnamon. Serve with a long spoon
”I love you as the leaves of trees embrace the wind, as the grass soaks up the rain and as the sun peaks up over the land to cast its warmth”
and my kiss
in my bed
you caught her
U and I
Blend 1 banana, 3 pitted dates, 1 heaped table spoon peanut butter, 2 tablespoons broken linseed, teaspoon turmeric, teaspoon cinnamom, 100 ml almond milk (or rice milk, oat milk, orange juice whichever you’ve got)
Since years I drink tea, no coffee. In the same addictive amounts as I used to drink coffee, ate sugary treats and smoke cigarettes. The love for my body and my shame for not feeling healthy got me turnaround pretty much 360 degrees. Reminds me of the expensive make up industry with a well chosen name for a daily Clinique product: turnaround cream. Don’t we all want to make that total 360 degrees turn? Sometimes…
And then there’s the revival of Blondie and a movie I went to see with the greatest love of my life, thinking it was about Blondie. Atomic Blonde appeared to be a mysterious mixture of James Bond ingredients, David Bowie music, East Berlin when the wall comes down and passionate lesbian sex. No Blondie, not even a single song. I linger while admiring the Italian designed, made in Australia, fantastic espresso maker. We know about the high pressure percolators, nostalgic, reminiscent of Italian romance for unknown reasons, no logic, just feelings.
The high pressure espresso maker takes a while to heat up on top of the woodfire stove. We are off the grid and lovin’ it. Not a lot atomic about the nostalgic coffee. Like there was not a lot of Blondie about Atomic Blonde. The scent of freshly brewed coffee is irresistable notwithstanding many coffee-sober-tea-drinking-years, I will always love the scent of coffee. Like I will always love Blondie’s music. Be it atomic or not.
Lift her face gently with both your hands, moving your head close to hers, touching her lips with your lips, light as a feather, very careful as with the first little sip of your espresso. Let the sensation of the black liquid engulf your tastebuds; like the warm sensation of her soft lips runs through your veins. The shivering magic opens a door to another world, our atomic world within. Another sip, greedy this time. Another kiss, full and complete.
We had not been there for 2,5 months. The sun is bright. The apartment empty. As empty as we found it a long time ago. Before we started making memories there. Many memories. I said downstairs in the lobby while checking the mailbox: ‘it isn’t as bad as I feared it would be. The revisiting I mean’. Little did I know. We ascend to the first floor, entering a bare but trodden apartment. I am surprised to find some of my stuff left behind. I loose focus and I take his hand, leading him up the stairs, to our bedroom. We undress. Like we did a hundred times, a thousand times. Half close the blinds. Duvet on the floor. A rush of hormones is running through my veins. Before I know it I am all over him. And then, suddenly, I burst out in tears. Rolling from the deep, warm, unconsolable, uncontrolable. After quite some sobbing, the tide slowly alters. We make love like never before. We leave the apartment behind us, empty as is. I am fulfilled with the remnants of past hope, glory and boundless expectations that could only be countered by the chemistry of our bodies. Talking an universal language without words. Singing a song without a melody. Rocking it without rolling waves. Desperate longing without an horizon. Kept and preserved as if in hot desert sand. Not since long, just lightly pickled.
1 continental cucumber with skin, cut in half lengthwise and de-seeded, sliced in 1 cm thin half circles, preferably a bit diagonally cut, Japanese style
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tblspoon salt
1 tblspoon sugar
A piece of 3x3cm Kombu (thick seaweed) optional
Find a glass jar that fits the cucumber slices
Disolve sugar and salt in the vinegar, add cucumber slices, fill up with cold water all the way to the top
Put lid on it
Shake the jar slowly, turning it upside down
Place in fridge
Ready to eat after 24 hours
You know how we talk about love as the indispensable ingredient for the food we prepare and the things we teach our children. It makes me wonder if love lives somewhere in abundance accesible for us to enjoy and grab as much as we need to enrich our homemade nurturing. I thought of love as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A magical something like unicorns and sleeping beauties. Love, I thought, lives in fairy tales and young children’s hearts. Until one day I was asked to come and venture into the Heart of Darkness. I didn’t finish reading the novel of Joseph Conrad on my way. I started living the tale myself.
Taoïsm gives me a bit of a clue about pain and love. It’s the black and white of jin and yang, with a bit of each at the centre of the other. There is no absolute love when there isn’t a dot of pain in it. There’s no absolute pain when there isn’t a dot of love in it. The two go intrinsically together. Christianity is much more confusing if it comes to love and pain. Talking about absolute love (the divine) and the suffering of Christ (human love). Talking about pity -is pity love? – and mercy. Is mercy love? All covered under a blanket of luster and gold. Very complicated. And easy to get caught up in.
The recipe for love doesn’t seem to get any closer. I am really not sure what spiritualism and love have got to do with each other. They are both beautiful. To the extend that spiritualism – whether it’s listening to old Vedic mantra’s or taking in the beauty of a rose – leads to a peaceful mind. A peaceful mind is what it takes to feel and live in love. A full and active mind focuses on moving forward, solutions to obstacles and human survival. An empty mind means stagnation, nothing to do, nothing to want, no urge nor necessities. A full and active mind goes hand in hand with an empty mind. To foster both like jin and yang, to me seems perfect homeostasis. The CEO and Zen buddhisme. A man and a woman.
Dedication empties my mind, creating peace and space. For myself and others to be. So far for my recipe of Love. Now let me tell you about tea latte instead.
A tea bag – fresh tea leaves in a paper filter are the ultimate – but any kind of black tea bag will do perfectly fine. I use deteinated tea.
One or a mix of the following milks: almond, rice, oat, coconut, walnut. I avoid soy lately. For the taste soy works well. It’s the allergic potency of soy that keeps me from it for shorter or longer intervals.
Pour boiling hot water on top of teabag in a long drink glass, filling it only for 1/3. Put something on the glass as a lid. Let it soak 5 minutes until tea is very dark. Remove tea bag.
Heat milk(mixture) to boiling point. Fill up the long drink glass. I like 1/2 oat and 1/2 any other kind of grain or nut milk.
With flavored black teas like vanilla, goji berry or cinnamon the taste becomes more complicated. Either preference goes.
Much like Christianity and Taoïsm.
Three Swiss rolls, I threw one. The very fluffy cake resembling angel cake was too fragile for the nutella I used as a filling. The vanilla cake filled with orange marmelade and the slighty more sturdy cacao cake surviving the nutella filling, both made it. After seven years of trinity, 2019 will be the year of duality. I associate it with my two daughters of whom one has now left the nest. The dark cacao and cream white vanilla are like yin and yang. The filling representing the opposing dots. Glad I fucked that up. I hear my American hero speak when I say this to myself. White whipped cream looks better in the cacao cake. And a dark colored jam is better in the vanilla cake. However now a fine dusting of soft icing sugar delivers a nice contrast. During the process a Swiss client arrives at the B&B. I tell him about the Swiss rolls. He smiles. This is before we find out that the B&B is overbooked. The plentiness of the last day of the year versus he and his wife being relocated. They take it very calm. Although he made this NYE booking already in April. I feel bad for them. One Swiss roll down.
Why does the Christian church and in particular one located in a quaint Mediterranean town showcases so much gold, glitter and shine? I don’t get it. My refuge in Northern European Amsterdam was the warm but austere yoga studio of a very special Indian guru. His name signifies ‘nothing’. I remember him being angry with the world around him as he actively takes a stand for modesty, sincerity and self empowerment. If there’s one soul in the world as it is known to me, who taught me stuff, it’s him. Not because he is perfect. Quite the opposite, his flaws showed me more then his achievements. He cursed. He disclosed of not being intimate with his dear partner. He once fasted so exaggeratedly for many months in a row that he fell sick and ‘left’ us, his groupies, hanging. But he allowed me to cry. He allowed me in the shadows of his cellar, to assert myself again. Dedication grew slowly. Tears washing away emotions, creating space. Space for love, space for loving myself.
Meeting the love of my life is a direct consequence of those five years culminating in yoga every f#*ing day. Yoga to cope with daily life. Yoga to open up. Yoga to surrender. Yoga to regain completely forgotten strength. I owe it to this special Indian man who grew up in Kenia, lived in London and who played cricket professionally the better part of his life, that I crossed the globe to stand next to a man. Feeling strong and right and up to supporting this man in the things he needed. The mission was the biggest challenge I’d ever undertake. Yet it felt as the most natural thing I ever did, do and will ever do. Thank you Anil. For getting me to that point. What happened after is my responsability. I think there couldn’t have been more that I did wrong then everything I did for this man. My American hero in no time was to be the one saving me, instead of the other way around. And I even imagined that it was saving me what he needed, to gain the confidence to strive and perpetuate for his own sake. What a mess. And how grateful I am to have had the chance to experience all of it. It has embedded me In Love.
I’ve learned three things.
1. Happiness doesn’t come with struggle
2. Happiness is right in front of me
3. To be loved
Unlike the Swiss rolls at this last day of the year, I won’t discart any of the three lessons. Holy trinity or Taoist dualism? Leaves me to break my mind over all that gold, those glitters, the brilliant shine, a church, a place of worship and dedication…
I told my mum, because she’s the one who gets me to churches. It’s her houses. I talk to her in a church, silently, without words. Often it smells nice, I can kneel for her and close my eyes. Tonight the last night of the year I told her: ‘You see mum, I can’t do it without you’. I have to fail. To show you that I love you and miss you’. I was struck by the thought. And then I lingered a long while over her painful thoughts I assume she’s had. Her sense of failure. Her disconnection. Her blacker then black. The well known black holes in our personal universes, vacuums, out there to draw us in. To make us dissapear in realms the scientists can’t explain. I asked myself if for her and my soul it does really make a difference that she’s dead and I am alive. I thought not. Which means maybe that I identify with her. I want to join her in her suffering, to alleviate it. To feel the connection with her. Please explain to me the gold, the glitter and the shine.
Plenty of time for an intellectual board game while cooking salmon. That sounds weird. Preparing something to eat, especially something as delicate as fish, usually doesn’t leave much room or head space to focus on anything else. However serving saumon confit for breakfast does free body and mind to dedicate attention to something else. That could be sexy. I mean chess.
An entire filet of about one kilo takes one and a half hour to cook. Theoretically it isn’t cooking. It’s confire. Which literally means preserving. This eldest conservation technique according to some, is done by inserting fruit, vegetables or meat in fat, oil or sugar syrop for a long time on low temperature. Today we no longer practice this medieval culinairy technique just to conserve. Like we no longer solely make love to produce babies. We do it to pleasure our senses. To capture our taste buds, merging delightfully with soft and pink fish flesh. Becoming one and complete in our mouth with the desire to feed ourselves.
The salmon filet we confit at a temperature as low as 70 Celsius. Hence the time for a game of chess. It’s drown in olive oil. Not ‘covered’, ‘generally sprinkled’ or ‘rubbed in’ with oil; the fish meat is immersed into a shallow bath of olive oil, just deep enough to completely succomb the pink, soft and slippery flesh. Size of the tray, weight of the filet and performance of the oven influence the confit time. It’s simple to determine though when the salmon is done. When white dots of congualated protein form at the outside of the flesh, the salmon is to be taken from the oven. Gently poor the warm olive oil over in a container to free the fish and stop the cooking process. Let the flesh breath and cool down. Please don’t cut the filet. Gently tear it apart. Preferably just with your fingers. And eat it. The sensation in the mouth, because of the super soft texture, the mellow buttery fullness, the sudden burst of deep and heavy pink flavor, are an honorable homage to and hopefully reminscent of what you actually did in bed while waiting for the salmon to cook.