Monday, June 17, 2013

Forbidden topics - dreams, orgasms and acid trips

i am having a surprisingly coherent dream that i am in South Korea, in about 1970. It is a society in rapid transition to shiny modernity. The dream fades in patches, as my morning progresses. As i wait for the bus, i try to hang on to bits of it.

Ancient labyrinthine alleyways are populated with washing and puddles and running children. They are wide enough for a bicycle. They vanish into darkness around corners, like the tube houses of Penang. Above and behind, are soaring apartment blocks, some still under construction. Women are photographed on foreshortened balconies. The smell of kimchi. The dogs here seem to have extra teeth.

i am in the house of a famous courtesan. She wears an elaborate gown patterned with flowers, herons and rivers. Something is strange about how the fabric moves. Then i notice - the gown is transparent and the pattern is on her skin. She is exquisitely tattooed from neck to foot. Her clients are enourmously wealthy and enourmously fat. They pose for paintings like those impossible Persian miniatures. Children run in and out, a chattering game of chase that pervades the whole dream.

In a packing case shack, a tiny girl is doing my hair. It is platinum blonde and she piles it onto my head and carefully curls some of it down the left side of my face. She clips butterflies into it. i look like a pageant contestant, or a Gypsy bride. There is no room for me to turn, in the frowsy chaos of family life blooming around me.

i wake up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cooking with Jamie (and Jackson)

Jamie has a TV programme where he cooks a fabulous meal in 15 minutes. We have been watching him do it. For some reason it is on TV during my cooking night, so we are eating my quotidian offerings while watching Jamie cook. It is instant karma really, for eating in front of the telly. It was never done in my day.

So we found ourselves intrigued and I actually bought the book about the 15 minute meals. Actually, I sort of approve of Jamie. He seems to like people. He tells me what he is doing in a way that makes me think I can do it too. And he was very good about the school lunches in the UK, getting kids to eat veges.

My findings are as follows: you can't in fact cook these meals in 15 minutes if you spend the first ten of them up a stepladder with your head in the spice cupboard. And if you spend the next five minutes fishing in a drawer that looks like this:

well, that's your fifteen minutes done for. Gosh, there is a spoon from KFC. And we NEVER go to KFC. And there's Wally! (or Waldo if you are American).

This is such a great photo. It shows my kitchen has been designed by Jackson Pollock.

There is a way of finding things in this drawer. I call it the Zen Algorithm. First there is the drawer, and then there is no drawer, and then there just is. This is the Zen of drawers. Truly, if you see the drawer as a task to be completed, or a mountain to be conquered, you will never succeed. The drawer will remain mysterious and frightening. It will cast the shadow of things untamed and unnamed over the whole cooking process. To understand the drawer is to know the drawer, to unlayer it and discover its essential simplicity. First, stand in front of the open drawer and drop your shoulders. Then unfocus your eyes. Swivel your head gently around, practising looking in an unfocused manner at other objects, just carelessly developing your beginner's mind. Then bring your gaze to the drawer in an oblique fashion, catching it quite casually out of the corner of your eye. The employ the same technique with the contents of the drawer. You are not looking for anything in particular, you are just employing the open gaze of the genuinely mindful. Relax your shoulders. Breathe out. Sweep your gaze across the contents of the drawer and.... voila! You have it. The garlic press.

Funny how this never works with the potato masher. Potato mashers clearly have their own algorithms.

Thanks to Jamie, we have now had acceptable and even slightly 'cheffie' vego meals in our household. Although my husband has been known to say 'What's that plant in there' when faced with coriander. And to ask if we could not have 'that Farex' again, meaning couscous. But we get there. Just not necessarily in 15 minutes.