Month: May 2018

Cooking Class!

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I love cooking. I almost always cook everything from scratch and love trying new recipes. I especially love using ingredients I have difficulty pronouncing in all sorts of countries, and my favorite part is serving it to my family and watching their reactions. I really can’t impress Danny much because he eats fancy gourmet meals while flying private jets for a living, but usually Jude will close her eyes after placing food in her mouth and say, ‘I’m so happy right now…’. Emma loves to cook too, and will ask questions about the recipe and ingredients, Mycah is usually complimentary then speechless as she eats and Aidan keeps making comments about how I’m a food Goddess. I love watching them feast and enjoy their meal. It thrills me.I signed up for a Thai Cooking Class with a local company called The Brass Wok, and had the time my life. Pui was the chef/instructor, and Pascal and Nicole, originally from Belgium, were the other students.

We began by purchasing fresh ingredients at a farmers market down the road, where I learned so much about the mystery produce I’ve been wondering about the past few weeks.

Since traditional Thai food is quite spicy, meals are served with several fresh vegetables which can be enjoyed between bites of the spicier dishes, to cool the mouth down.

Nuts, pods and leaves that most would pass by outside, suspecting them to be weeds or poisonous, are eaten here regardless of their taste. One of their favorites, is called stinky bean, and not only does it stink, but the aftertaste is especially disgusting.

Nothing is left to go to waste…once bananas are harvested, the tree trunks are chopped and prepared for stir fry.

Bamboo shoots are harvested and chopped up.

Skin is peeled off pig heads and cooked.

I learned about so many different kinds of eggplant. Two new kinds I hadn’t known about, are the purple 2 inch variety,

and the marble sized green variety.

I learned about a different kind of ginger,

and a different kind of cilantro that looks completely different but tastes very much like the kind we are used to seeing in most stores.

Century Eggs, or Pidan, was also something new to me. Duck eggs stained pink on the outside to mark them as century eggs, are covered in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for several weeks to months. The yolk turns dark green/grey/black in color, with a creamy consistency, while the white becomes a dark brown translucent jelly.

When she cut it open I immediately decided that there was no way I was putting that in my mouth, but when I saw Pascal and Nicole reach for it, I had a strange experience….to my horror, I watched my hand reach forward and take a piece and place it in my mouth, at which point I instantly swallowed! The flavor that remained on my tongue was a mixture of salt and a geyser in Yellowstone.

The smell of curry spices at market was overwhelming,

as was the pungent fishy aroma of squid,

live hermits,

and dead crabs.

Rows and rows of mushrooms,

chillies,

and fresh meat.

I loved the energy there, the pride and excitement of selling that which people have grown and harvested, and the conversation between friends who frequent each others stalls.

We watched people make rice noodles,

while others roasted peanuts.

On our way from market to the cooking studio, Pui showed us where the best fried bananas are sold,

where the best chili dip can be found,

and what Thai fast food looks like.

At the studio we made green curry paste from scratch, cooked green curry with chicken and rice noodles,

As well as laam,

and mango sticky rice.

Our day was full of laughter and learning, and when it all ended we sat with full bellies, loaded bags of food to take home, recipes in hand to reproduce to impress our families.

I loved every second of it, and I can’t wait for everyone to come home so I can once again see their smiles as they taste the fresh flavors of garlic, lime and curry spice.

Old Phuket Town

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Dating back to the 16th century, Phuket has a fascinating history in tin mining, mined by Sea Gypsies, Indians, Malays, Eurasians, Chinese and Siamese. By the 18th century, most of the mining was done by Hokkien Chinese, who were mainly responsible in building the old part of Phuket City.

Two different styles of building stand out: the Sino-Portuguese style shop-house,

And the Sino Colonial style, mansion buildings.

I strolled through tiny shops filled with coins, old post cards, photos, rocks and crafts,

as well as herb and spice stores, overflowing with the thick aroma of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. I watched the owner carefully measure out herbs to help a customers stomach troubles.

Walls were lined with well worn drawers, a bounty of treasures and potions to cure what ails you – each neatly label with red ink.

I could spend hours sorting and smelling and admiring all that surrounded.

Kewpie Dolls became popular in Germany in 1912, and when I was a little girl in South Africa I had one of my own. I preferred playing in the dirt with cars or climbing trees and building forts, but I did love my Kewpie doll. I found a store with several, as well as old tin wind up toys and hundreds of comic books and match box cars.

As I meandered past collections of belts for sale,

beautiful soaps, dried flowers and lotions,

and ancient brass work decorating stores with hand woven textiles,

the delicious smell of freshly baked bread, caramelized banana and breakfast roti filled the air.

I turned a corner and came across a small packed cafe where the smell was coming from.

Bowls of roti dough sat ready to be rolled and cooked, and hot roti’s were quickly prepared for customers to devour. Sold filled with egg, sausage, bananas and cinnamon sugar, with a slight drizzle of condensed milk over the top. On that same street, walls of alley ways were brightly painted with art work.

Colors carefully picked as creative ideas became reality on walls.

Some buildings with cracked paint and exposed brick were decorated in artists expressions.

I wondered who held the cans and paint brushes, and what their stories are…

when their artistic journeys began, and how far they’d come in reaching their goals.

I love graffiti. Perhaps one day I will take color to a wall or a car on a train track…

I love finding the quiet spaces – places unfrequented.

My mind wanders, creative thought flows through me and my wild imagination takes over.

I tell myself to write it all down, but soon something else catches my eye and I am taken away to another fascinating place.

I am completely drawn in by patterns,

texture and color.

And all I want to do is make a quilt, knit a sweater, draw a picture and take photographs.

I love this place. I love the simplicity, the history and the present. I love the traditions and the smiles.