Reading Day

today; 8th june

Savouring the way my desk looks today, and the comfortable afternoon pace. Aren’t reading days the best? It started with a tiny lie-in this morning, a pedicure refresher, and a Zam Zam briyani lunch. The playlist for today is a happy-strange mix of Passion Pit, The Darjeeling Limited OST, and Flight of the Conchords, and I’ve got a glorious stockpile of reads to break through — Saveur BBQ edition, Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and Ceriph. Later on, I’ll get down to printing the entire contents of my Honours Thesis folder (pdf count: 22) and the desk landscape will change considerably. Secretly excited to break out my black pens and yellow highlighters since I haven’t been in a classroom since mid-March!

Saveur is my new favourite thing to read. I picked up the April issue while visiting Cheryl in Oregon because it had tiny features on Galco’s Pop Stop (via this amazing profile piece) and Singapore’s $1 ice cream sandwiches. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the rest of the issue and I promptly signed up for a year’s subscription! The editorial content is amazing, and I love how they explore the beauty, technique, histories and personal stories related to the theme of every issue. Food with heart, soul and intellect! Instead of strewing recipes throughout the magazine, they are all neatly compiled at the end of the issue. Convenient, and the perfect way to let the food do all the talking upfront. A must-read for any foodie.

Pictured: the june/july issue of saveur, the good old kindle, my favourite nail colour for toes (OPI hot and spicy, a perfect match for tanned feet and gold sandals), bracelets piled on a cupcake plate from the UC Davis co-op, my new cat eye glasses we ran all around Shenzhen for.


“a sunbeam lent to us too briefly”

The news reported that he died on his knees, palms and forehead to the floor, praying and flash-frozen by fire. Amidst images of dust and destruction, they proclaimed him a hero for his devotion to duty, remembered him ambling in clouds of incense-perfumed air. In my memories of him from childhood, he is always feeling the earth with his fingertips, whispering into the mountain, barefoot. As with all tales of glory though, they left out two things: first, that the town wanted to go back for him, and second, that he was just an old man set in his ways, who knew nothing else but the job he was born to do. This stubbornness took the thirteen of us too. When the shelter of the refugee camp no longer protected, but smothered us with guilt, we went back for him, leaving our wives within campsite walls. We cried and attempted to pull him off his knees and away from the crumbling town, but then, the mountain coughed — an explosion, a black cloud, and a river of fire that engulfed us all.

If you’d asked her a year ago, she would have told you that a person’s most precious possession was her pride. “You can’t please everyone”, she’d say. “So there isn’t really any point in seeking any validation but your own.” Falling in love made her crave the approval of another, made her long to be trampled on and dominated by the person strong enough to become the great exception to her rule. Pride abandoned, she was hurt, and then healed by the hands that broke her. Now she says, lovers are users, but are fighters too. Our greatest war is with ourselves, learning how to both hoard and surrender our vulnerability before God and anyone else who matters.

“Kitchen she devil”, The Observer 12 June 2005

From an interview with Nigella Lawson:

‘I don’t get as down as I did when I was younger,’ she says. ‘Depression is at its worst when you are a teenager I think, or mine was. I also think that if you are a person that can get a great deal of pleasure out of very small things, as I can, you also have to accept that your darker side will be disproportionate too.’

Partly because of her history – her mother , the Lyons Corner House heiress Vanessa Salmon died at 47, then she lost her younger sister, Thomasina, and her husband John Diamond, also to cancer, in quick succession – it is easy to form the impression that cooking has been Nigella’s great escape, one way in which she has made up for the shortcomings of real life. She agrees up to a point. ‘Cooking is like having nostalgia for a golden time that you did not really have,’ she says. ‘You can’t really make everything all right with the perfect roast chicken, of course, but it can make it seem that way for a while.’

Somewhere in this belief also lies the difference she identifies between celebrity chefs and television cooks, placing herself firmly in the latter camp. ‘Real chefs get energy from conflict. Home cooks are naturally lovers of harmony. They want to make things better for people.’ Nigella often likes to think of herself as a peacemaker. She could not, for this reason, ever set foot in a professional kitchen. She loves Gordon Ramsay, but she remembers watching Hell’s Kitchen and him yelling at people that all their risottos tasted different. ‘A chef wants everything the same. I like the fact that every time I cook something, or someone else cooks one of my recipes, it might come out a little bit different.’

She gets so much flak for being a celebrity without actually being a ‘real’ chef, but I’m drawn to her books and shows repeatedly because she has such a clear food/life philosophy, with both tenets echoing the other. If food is the source of life, then we should be allowed to revel in its magic at any pace we like, without apology and no-shortcuts-allowed pretension. All she claims to be is an “eater”, not a chef, and I like how there is no shame in her honesty. This interview was a good read as you get a greater sense of darkness and worldliness from her, as compared to her shows — life isn’t always all perfect pasta, luscious eyelashes, sexuality in a pot roast.