In My Kitchen, July 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my kitchen is an Australian colonial kauri pine dresser and in the top drawer is my collection of antique cutlery.

This drawer full of treasure threatens to disgorge its heavy contents whenever I yank it open.  Despite the disorder, this drawer makes me feel simultaneously happy and nostalgic. I think of my grandmothers, old fashioned soups, puddings and Sunday family gatherings. My modern cutlery, by contrast, is simply functional, quotidian and dishwasherable. It evokes little!

Although still on the road in Asia, I couldn’t miss the chance for a simple little post on Celia’s monthly round of IMK. See Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for more world kitchens, cookbook recomendations and gadgets.

 

 

Travel theme: World Cups

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After an enforced absence from posting due to internet censorship in China, with no access to Google, Gmail or WordPress, I re-visit my blog tentatively, my brain now wonderfully word slow but over stimulated with image and colour.

This week, Ailsa, from Where’s My Backpack, has chosen World Cups as the travel theme. With all the tea in China, beautiful cups are never far from sight.

The cups above graciously decorate a Tea House in Chengdu, Szechuan Province, China. The cups below wait for the return of Mao in a well preserved Tang dynsasty courtyard house in Langzhong, an ancient city in the north of Szechuan. Mao visited this particular courtyard house on the Long March. Mao memorabilia is now quite scarce in capitalistic China.

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Bangkok Coup and You

I keep meaning to learn more Thai language but my repertoire is still quite basic, extending to ” good morning, thank you, excuse me, the bill please”. In my defence, I try to say these phrases as often as I can over a day, and with a few polite bows, seem to get by well enough.

Mr T has begun to cart around a Thai phrase book in the hope that we might extend our vocab. We ponder some ridiculous phrases over dinner. I fancied ” This dog is a ridgeback”,  but then we found ” You’re only using me for sex”, listed under the romance section, and later we found a really useful phrase, ” I’m a soldier” (ผมเป็นทหาร ), so handy in a coup, since everyone on the street last Sunday seemed to be a soldier!

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The street closures were announced in the newspapers early on Sunday morning, giving citizens plenty of opportunity to re-plan their Sunday travel and driving route.  The military had prior knowledge of planned demonstrations thanks to social media, such as Facebook, and informers within the world of texting. Nearby, in our quiet precinct, soldiers blocked the main routes to Victory Square and the Democracy Monument, making the inner city traffic absolutely horrendous. It turns out that some of these protests were poorly attended, with more soldiers on the scene than citizens. Image

Observations from a farang’s ( foreigner)  point of view.

  •  what role does social media play in social unrest?
  • under a ‘silencing’ military coup, are opponents able to express their opposition in any form, including Facebook?
  • would you really like to have a ‘selfie’ taken with a soldier toting a huge gun?
  • a coup is not a benign thing, unless you happen to be on the side that benefits from such a move (yellow shirts) in which case it might be.
  • life continues as usual for most folk: shooting and violence have been eliminated from the streets. (for the time being).
  • will an election in one to two year’s time solve this nine year old problem? ( doubtful )
  • foreign interference is not appreciated. American and Australian political intrusion is unwelcome and is seen as naive, arrogant and misinformed. Certainly, simple slogans or principles like ‘restore democracy’ fail to properly appreciate many complexities and subtleties.  Sophisicated Thais are aware of the defects, inequalities and contradictions found in most western democracies, particularly in the USA.
  • foreign media is prone to sensationalism. The Bangkok press seems to offer a balanced view, at least in the Bangkok PostRead it on line here.  The journalism in this newspaper is remarkably sophisticated and engaging, making me wonder about what ever happened to intelligent reporting at home in Australia  and to what depths our newspapers have plummeted.Image

 

Bangkok Cheap Eats. 2014

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There are over 7,000 restaurants in Bangkok listed on Trip Adviser and there are probably another 10,000 or more that aren’t, not counting all the street food stalls. Temptation is everywhere in this glorious city of food. I am always plotting my next meal adventure, which can involve great hikes in the heat or elaborite map making exercises to explain the directions to a taxi driver.

We also have a few little eating rituals. Lunches come in cheaply at a dollar or two per head and then we lash out at dinnertime. We rarely go into the big business centre, home to some glorious ( and expensive) restaurants, preferring to support those in our own neck of the woods. Image

An early lunch at my favourite little Chinese place is essential, especially if it’s teeming with rain outside. Located opposite the Fort in Banglamphu, it is not listed anywhere and doesn’t have an English name. It is spotlessly clean and reminds me of Old China town shops in Penang and KL before they all disappeared. A bowl of prawn wonton soup with or without noodles is 60 Bhat ( $2.00) and with a big glass pot of iced tea with lemon, 30 Bhat ( $1.00), this will keep you going until you are tempted by a second lunch. There is something about wontons, tropical rain and tea, or am I strange?

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Another little place nearby, but in the backpacker area of Rambuttri, the Gecko Bar, an old timer, whips up a a generous plate of vegetarian Pad Thai, studded with egg, tofu, greens, nuts and lime, which will set you back 35 Bhat- $1.00. Just perfect with a pot of Chang beer on a hot day ( which is every day here). Chang beer- large bottle for two people- 80 Bhat.Image

And something sweet to share? These caramel peanut biscuits are cooked on the street in a big oil filled wok. They are irresistable. Six big nut filled bickies for 20 Bhat or 70 cents. Are they healthy? probably not. Do I care?

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Next instalments- the Coup d’etat, up market Bangkok restaurants, street food and Indigo shopping.

 

 

In My Kitchen. June 2014

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I am attempting to clean up my Kitchen Chaos so that semi- resident family members and friends may find a user friendly kitchen while I am away.  Unfortunately, this does not extend to the pantry, which is far too small and has a secret life of its own.  I am attempting to use up all perishables, but the following items are always present in my kitchen:

  • good olive oil. I only use Australian extra virgin cold pressed oil, and for everyday use, I buy Cobram. It wins many prizes internationally, it isn’t doctored with crap – (imported Italian products are generally guilty of this and often have imprecise labelling).  Cobram oil is fruity, young and delicious. The date of harvest is mentioned on the bottle or large can. It is what it claims to be. I buy this in 3 litre containers and decant it  as needed.
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  • good parmesan cheese. Unlike my approach to olive oil, I only buy imported Parmigiano. Grana Padano or Reggiano Parmigiano is an essential pantry/fridge item and one that my offspring/grand offspring expect to find. I usually find a good ‘stagionato’ parmesan at the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.
  • Pasta varieties. Here again I feel compelled to buy the imported product as I love De Cecco pasta and keep lots of pasta shapes on hand.

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  • Cans of tuna ( check labels for ethical fishing methods), cans of tomatoes, large cans of anchovies, cans of ceci, borlotti beans and so on for whipping up some minestrone.
  • bread making flour and yeast. All my kids make Pizza. Renato, who will also visit, doesn’t use any of these products, earning himself the title of “Plastic Luigi”.
  • Plenty of home grown garlic.

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With these basic supplies,and abundant herbs, lettuces and veggies from the garden,  plus the eggs that my girls lay, my family can make lots of good things. All they need to bring along is a hunk of cheese or some good bread. But hands off my good wine!!

You can find other inspiring kitchens at Celia’s ‘Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’ this month.

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