I used to treat myself to something nice to eat as a reward. And when I am anxious I restrict myself if it comes to food. I think for a lot of us to eat nice food is a present we give ourselves. And life on a daily bases is just not about receiving presents. The food we take in often is more about convenience, price, habit or because we have to feed ourselves ‘anyway’.
I just had a fabulous massage. At the end her two hands rested on my back, silent, nothing happened. It seemed. A wave of relaxation stirred my body. As if she uncorked my body and gently poured the content into a nice wine glass. That was Reiki she explained later. Her name is Geri. She’s a massage therapist at the Amchara Health Resort in Gozo, Malta. I am blaming myself. While lying in the fuchsia pink room, candle lit with the sound of relaxing music and rain pouring down outside the sheltered cocoon; I blame myself for not loving myself. Did I ever really love myself? You should take better care of yourself, I say to myself. Life won’t treat you well if you don’t set the example.
We make love over the phone. Often emotions and hormones get caught up in laughter, arousal, arguments or even silence: ‘I want to listen to your sounds’. And then that’s what we do. Listening to each other’s sounds. But Geri’s massage reminds me of the power of touch. Tears rising up behind my eyeballs. I wish to be able to release them. Together with the worries that tighten the muscles between my shoulder blades and those securely fastened in my neck. Someone touching my skin feels divine. A short break in the endless and relentless repetition of what seems to be a soothing mantra of three words ‘I miss you’ fighting for priority over the other hallucinating three I-Love-You words. I miss his physical presence. We’ve almost got it all. It’s a hazardous place to be. That what follows beyond the ‘almost’ and presumably completes the picture, grows bigger and bigger until the absence of it overtakes everything else.
I need to distract myself. I dedicate my attention to the preparations for a raw Thai salad, attaching lost feelings of love to it. Quickly pickling pungent tastes of cabbage and onion, softening them to digest more smoothly his absence and my longing alike. Is it possible to justify the present? The salad is bright. The colors are as distinctly separate as it’s different tastes. It is tossed as lightly as it is seasoned. The ingredients are as raw as my emotions.
1/2 small red/white/brown or shallot onion – finely sliced – drown in apple cider vinegar – macerate 1 hour
1/8 red/green/ Savoy or white Cabbage – finely sliced – drown in apple cider vinegar – macerate 1 hour
1/4 Fennel bulb – finely sliced – juice of 1/2 lemon adding water until the fennel is covered
6 Mushrooms – finely sliced – juice of 1/2 lemon adding water until the fennel is covered
6 Cherry tomatoes – quartered (yes quartered)
1 Carrot – with a peeler, peel off carrot ribbon
1/2 Bell pepper – nicely sliced
1 Spring onion – chopped diagonally
Handful of each mint, coriander and basil – leaves only – chopped finely
5 cm of Courgette – sliced finely
1/2 Peach or nectarine – pit the fruit and slice finely – add juice of 1/2 a lemon to a bowl, put the fragile fruit carefully, make sure all the flesh has been in touch with the lemon juice by tossing very gently
10 Red currents
1/2 Grapefruit, lime or clementine – cut of the skin thickly, cut out individual citrus particles without hull
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sweetener (agave, rice sirup, maple sirup, coconut nectar, honey)
A thumb of ginger pressed through garlic press
Right before serving the different ingredients are assembled in a bowl, tossed lightly; just with 1 or 2 swirls with your bare hands while adding the dressing
Poor a shot of coconut oil over it and decorate with dulce and grated grapefruit/lime or clementine zest
‘Is that all?’the woman who came down for her lunch asked and I said: ‘Yes, that’s all’ feeling my tears rising again.
Soupe à la Reine is white and velvety and very soothing. It’s classic French cooking at it’s best. The original Dutch Soupe à la Reine is a thin roux based bechamel, enriched with cream and garnished with a handful of garden peas, little cubes of carrot and celeriac. It’s minimalistic, rich and simple. And it’s all in the broth.
1 celeriac, peeled and cut in large trunks
2 liter vegetable broth
1/2 nutmeg freshly grated
1/2 vanilla pod
pepper and salt
Put all ingredients together in a pot. Then bring broth to a boil. Close the pan with a lid. Let simmer as long as possible. If possible 2 hours. The water will partly evaporate. As long as the celeriac remains under the broth surface, you don’t fill up with water/broth. After you’ve consumed all your cooking time, take out the vanilla pod. Place it on a cutting board and cautiously with a sharp knife cut it open length-wise. With a teaspoon or knife, scrape out the seeds and put these back in the soup. Then blender the content of the pan, not adding all the liquid at once. Slowly add more broth until the soup reaches your preferred consistency, rather thicker then thin.
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.
I love him. I am full of him. What does it mean that I feel good, secure, protected and the best version of myself when I am with him? I read about suffocating emotional ties, parents helicoptering their off spring, over protecting and I think about intolerant children created by anxious parents. I was brought up with the freedom to get bored, lost, hurt and scared. I was brought up to show just my positive stuff so that my parents didn’t have to worry (read bother) about me and could attend to their own affairs. All worrisome stuff imperatively went unnoticed, to not smash the crystal ball beholding my bright future.
Beetroot and broad beans didn’t enter our home. My dad didn’t like them. He detested them so much that at one time while we were having dinner in a restaurant and they served broad beans as a side dish, my dad politely asked us (three children sitting across from him) to put the little serving bowl containing the broad beans at another table. Considered rude? The smell of broad beans made him nauseous.
The first time I dared to eat beetroot was after having a collegue chef stipulating into fine detail how he liked me to assist him preparing beetroot, shallot, balsamic vinegar and generous amounts of olive oil for roasting. The result is wonderful and I have seduced many people with it since, including myself. Thank you Joe Devine, you self proclaimed Misplaced Chef http://www.misplacedchef.com/
The path leading to a blissful recipe this Sunday morning is not very straight and rather steep. Don’t give up. Bare with me while we tackle another road block called hummus. Several years ago hummus got in the spotlights. Restaurant menus being overwhelmed by entries that had chick peas as a main ingredient mixed and seasoned with all kinds of stuff. Places that served only hummus in different variations opened it’s doors. You remember mr Hummus? I experimented with raw hummus based on uncooked sprouted chick peas. Slightly bitter but sweet enough. Meanwhile hummus has gotten back onto a more original track with now and then a side step to replacing chickpeas with white beans or adding chillie pepper to spice things up a bit.
It brings me to the final chapter of this early Sunday morning blog.
We call it Beetroot Hummus
(although it doesn’t even come close)
1 fist size beetroot, peeled, quartered and cooked in water seasoned with generous salt and a few pepper corns
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons hazelnut butter
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil and chopped parsley to garnish
Put it all together in a food processor blending it magically into a beautiful mellow purple consistency. Serve with anything. Raw spinach, sliced yellow capsicum (bell pepper) macerated in lemon juice, a secret poached egg (I am vegan since years) and dehydrated flaxseed crackers.
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