I sustained a delightful couple of hours of mindlessness, yesterday, and had a bit of a play with paints and brushes.
The end result isn’t very profound or meaningful, but the process was pretty special.
It was one of those rare moments when I managed to turn off the endless chatter of thoughts in my head—the critic, the sycophant, the worrier, the unhappy rationalist, the self-conscious amateur, the eager-to-please child, the pretentious dilettante—and slip through the little magical door of Now, into simply Being…simply Doing, firmly occupying the present moment and having the present moment occupy me: focused on nothing but the dabbing of paint on canvas, the playful building-up of lines and shapes, the aroma of the coffee, the sounds of the wind and water around the boat.
I felt a deep peace and calm as I worked, not caring what the outcome would be, not caring if turned out well or not, or whether anybody liked it (myself, included), not letting myself grow attached to any part of it. Just accepting the moment for what it was.
“More moments like this, please,” I urge my soul…when there isn’t a single additional thing that’s missing, that I want or need, to feel my life and existence to be absolute joy, perfect in every way…perfect just as it is.
“For love is sufficient unto love.” —Kahlil Gibran
And the Self-sufficient Love Letter is sufficient unto the Post Office…
Finally finished this for my friend Kat Tan-Conte, graphic designer, artist, all-around superhuman and the voice behind the blog Zero The One.
I photographed the pieces of red stitching on paper, straightened them up a bit, and then cut and pasted them into place in Gimp. A little bit of cleaning up—I don’t know how to do it properly, it’s very, very rough!—and then had the file printed in color to see what it would look like.
Anyway, the idea is to write your letter of Love (or other Demons) on the blank side, and then fold the sheet along certain lines so that the letter becomes its own envelope. Affixing the postage stamp (none of your soulless postage meter impressions, go and buy an amazing stamp!) to the letter also seals it. Voila! A non-Post-Office approved aerogramme that saves on paper. Love, and nothing but love—red, curly, er, cloyingly ornate—in the mail. ;D
No idea when Kat will release the zine in which you can find the template for the SSLL, but as soon as it’s out I will be sure to let you know!
- Australia Is Releasing Scented Postage Stamps (bellasugar.com)
- Extracting DNA Information from Postage Stamps (eogn.com)
Lost this piece amongst my other projects for half a year…maybe more. But I found it last night, and added some stitching in rayon threads.
Enjoying the angled bars as they catch the sunlight like a mandarin’s silk robe, or the dull, furred fire of rough red gold.
No work for me today, so I’m curled up in an armchair on the boat with an orange cat for a cushion, pots of coffee, strains of music, and this embroidery.
Tomorrow it will be back to work…but Tomorrow—mangy grey wolf outside the door of the Present—can wait; this is the glorious Today.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
J. R. R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973)
Last night’s party aboard Sonofagun was quite a happening.
Everyone we invited turned up. The sight of 19 people (and one friendly rottweiler) jamming, laughing and chattering together on the back deck of the boat—as well as the flotilla of a dozen dinghies hitched to the back platform, and a full-sized sailboat, Outsider, rafted up alongside so that people could cross from one boat to the other—was pretty damn impressive. It was impossible not to feel the love from all these friends who made the effort to leave the land and join us on the water.
The menu was a success…Christophe declared the coq au vin “perfect” and “nearly as good as my mother’s” (*fistpump* Yes!), while the dips (the bagna cauda and borani esfanaaj, particularly) were pronounced “addictive” by several friends, who hovered around that end of the table nearly the entire night. A fondue of dark chocolate (served with strawberries, macadamias, and some ill-chosen marshmallows that nobody touched) and cups of strong coffee at the end rounded the dinner off with a sharp little perk-me-up that after-dinner joints and more booze worked into rowdy revelry, before leading everyone back to the ciabattas, olives, cheeses, nuts and dips…to quell those notorious munchies.
The last of the crowd went home by two a.m., though a couple of friends went to sleep on Outsider, just next to us, while Tobias the rottweiler and three other friends unrolled their swags and slept on deck.
On the whole, a party to be remembered…especially as I didn’t take any photographs! Flash bulbs and long exposures on a moving boat would only have produced blurry, dark, grainy and greyish photos of the evening, anyway, and captured none of the energy, the conversation, the merriment, the aromas of simmering wine or liquified chocolate and coffee that hung in the chilly air. Such moments blossom in a rapid geometry of sensations, emotions and ideas…and because I wanted to really be a part of that dynamic Now, as it was unfolding, I didn’t even think of getting my camera out, let alone entertain any concerns for finding a good angle or getting the lighting and exposure right. I’m trying not to let anything stand between myself and the Present; I want to be more than just a spectator of my life.
My only photograph of the day was taken in the morning, laved in refined sunlight, music flooding the boat, during the peaceful and relaxed enjoyment of my third cup of coffee, in-between having made the borani esfanaaj (heavenly) and getting ready to start the mashed potatoes (for which recipe I succumbed to food hubris and complicated processes by using Julia Child’s version, purée de pommes de terre à l’ail. It was sinfully buttery, fluffy, and infused with a gentle, creamy garlic flavour. Taking my hubris a notch higher, I would suggest improving this recipe, next time, by using oven-roasted garlic flowers…instead of boiling the garlic cloves in water. Presumptuous beyond belief.)
For the coq au vin, instead of using the pressure cooked recipe, I ended up slotting use of the pressure cooker into the full-on, multiple-process recipe from Julia Child’s first volume of French cooking. *sigh* I know I said I wanted it to be quick and easy, but in my heart I knew that the flavor of the sauce would suffer, and you can’t sacrifice flavour for the sake of convenience! May as well grab a bucket of fried chicken, in that case, no? So, really, Christophe’s cocotte-papin or autocuisier only saved me 15-20 minutes of cooking time whilst I was tenderising the chicken. Everything else happened in Julia-time…sort of like the culinary version of William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement: the dish took 5½ hours to prepare, from start to finish, not counting the time spent washing the various pots and skillets, along the way, but counting the final heating of the dish before serving.
- Defrost in translation… (smallestforest.net)
I was on deck with my sketchbook, supposedly drawing ideas for a group exhibit that I’ll be joining in September (but really I was distractedly doodling, as usual, and had made a few attempts to draw Kris, who was sitting on the other end of the deck) when sailor, friend, and all-around lovely French guy Christophe dropped in on the (reasonably) good ship Sonofagun this morning to lend me his 6 liter pressure cooker as well as a small recipe book that used to belong to his mother.
All of this came about because I told him, over some vodka at the Dinah Beach Yacht Pub, that I didn’t know what to make for Kris’ birthday dinner that would be easy for me to prepare on our very low-tech boat, yet still a respectable dish, and in quantities that would feed 15-20 adults, without shackling me to the kitchen stove all night.
He suggested I make coq au vin (rooster with wine) in a pressure cooker, and I thought Hmm, that’s really not a bad idea…throw everything into the autocuiseur, walk away and, an hour later, come back to reveal tender chicken pieces in a rich sauce of cognac and red wine.
Add to this dish some mashed potato and a hearty pumpkin or a lentil and garlic soup (don’t forget, it’s winter in Oz, and even tropical Darwin gets chilly when the sun goes down…especially on the open deck of a boat in the harbour!), preceded by little bowls of homemade hommus, bagna cauda, this award-winning recipe for borani esfanaaj (“yoghurt and spinach dip in the Persian manner”), vegetable crudites, a couple of decent cheeses, some salami and smoked salmon, and loads of fresh, crusty Turkish bread and baguettes…
I gazed into the middle distance and my eyes took on a faraway, concentrated look as the entire evening’s menu sort of just wrote itself, in my head, while I methodically imagined every taste and texture to see what a meal like that would be like. I even sipped an after-dinner glass of frosty eggnog for a moment, before discarding the imaginary drink and replacing it with a mug of hot homemade mocha chocolate, instead. I gave a contented sigh and beamed at him. Christophe probably thought to himself “Ah, she only drink two shots of this vodka, but already she is drunk!”
I have only ever made coq au vin using an old Cordon Bleu cookbook…if my memory serves me, it involved several cast iron pans, many hours of stirring and thickening, as well as handfuls of perfectly good carrots that you simmered for ages until very soft…only to squeeze them for their juices and throw away the rest. Also, there was blood, and a Dutch oven involved.
It hadn’t been an easy dish to cook in my mother’s modern, gadget-packed kitchen—and it left a small trail of dirty cookware—so there’s no way I would manage it on a solar powered boat with a single-burner camping stove and a Coleman cooler for refrigeration, but Christophe’s recipe looked promisingly short, so maybe it would be simple, too?
I wouldn’t know until I translated it from the French.
“Gild the cockerel pieces…halfway through the operation, add the onion roundels…. Add the cognac (the recipe gives you a choice of cognac or coffee grounds…can’t be right…) and quickly ignite. Cover with red wine…cut the sandy feet off the champignons and wash the latter…simmer for 30-40 minutes from the time the pressure cooker starts whispering, depending on the age of the cockerel (a fork will easily penetrate the thigh when it is the appropriate time)…”
It was pretty easy, after the literal translation, to go over the instructions with the logic of recipes in mind, and smooth it all out so it made sense…only that bit that my dictionary said meant “coffee grounds,” and a word that wasn’t in my dictionary: couenne, that I first mistook for cayenne pepper (but turned out to be pork rind, yuck, wouldn’t use it, anyway!)
There’s no point writing the recipe here until I’ve tried it myself. If everything goes well, I’ll be sure to let you know and share it! In the meantime, thought I’d share the doodle I made next to my rough translation of the recipe (which I wrote in my sketchbook, because it was the closest bit of blank paper)
Although a capon or chicken is usually used, the recipe was originally recommended as a way to tenderise tough old sinewy roosters, like this potty-mouthed old fella.
- Potetto something (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!) (gmbcooking.wordpress.com) A hilarious article about, among other things, how letting your pressure cooker get all scungy and disgusting can cause cancer… also, a recipe for “Potato something” about which the author writes: “Divine, heavenly, uplifting, subliminal, subtle are all words that I will NOT use to describe this dish. It was crap and I will never do it again.”
- National coq au vin day (eatocracy.cnn.com)
- Lock the Lid, Embrace the Green (miamiherald.com)