Archive for the ‘Microblog Mondays’ Category

You might recall that back in May, I learned the Maori (Te Reo) word for – manu – and I wrote about it here. I’ve recently learned a few new words in Te Reo that I didn’t know previously, purely by listening to the news, or to Dr Bloomfield, giving a daily COVID briefing. Regularly, he talks about needing rules in place or vaccination “across the motu” or islands. Today, he was being more specific about a particular area, and so I learned rohe, which means region. And in the last week or two, the news reported that a new appointment had significant experience working with rangatahi – the younger generation or youth aged around 15-24 – and Dr Bloomfield has since referred to reaching out to the rangatahi to ensure they are vaccinated. Since then I’ve heard it in a number of contexts, and realise it has clearly entered our lexicon.

Most of the time I can figure out the meaning of these words by context, but I usually Google just to check. This helps lock in the word too, so I can use it in the future myself. It is a subtle but effective way for the population – like myself – who don’t speak Te Reo fluently, to gradually find it a place in our spoken language. And I very much appreciate learning it this way.

There seems to have been an explosion in the use of Maori in the community and media in the last year or two. Journalists and broadcasters lead the way in this, introducing themselves in Maori, making greetings in Maori, and peppering their language with Maori words. In the last year it has become common to hear them thanking others for their mahi, which means work or effort. A year or two ago, I never heard it. The introduction of new words is happening regularly. Even the weather reports on Radio NZ or on two main media channels now refer to our major urban centres, most of which have official names of English or Scottish origin (such as Auckland, Wellington), by their Maori names, and by sheer repetition, I know that Wellington is Te Whanganui-a-Tara, along with all the other names. The Maori names are much more fun to say – compare Kirikiriroa with Hamilton, for example. Which reminds me of the old practice of New Zealanders travelling overseas claiming that they speak fluent Maori, listing off a lot of place names, yet claiming that they mean something else entirely!

A right-wing politician has complained that there is a stealthy plan to gradually replace the name of our country – New Zealand – with the Maori name, Aotearoa. And there are many who agree with her. But Aotearoa is such a beautiful word, and it is connected to this beautiful land where we all live. New Zealand was the name given by a Dutch explorer who didn’t even land on our islands, for goodness sake! So I’d be perfectly happy to change our country name (just as I was supportive of changing our flag, although the general populace was not).

I am extremely happy to continue to learn Maori by stealth in this way. I’d like to learn it more formally. I have plans. But I want to learn so many other languages to assist with travel, if I can ever travel again, so for the moment the plans are on hold. But in the meantime, I’m happy learning a few new words of Maori a week. Maori was called a “dead” language back in the 1960s and 70s. It is far from that now.

At the same time, New Zealand has a large Pacific Island population, and we are all familiar with Samoan names, the stop between vowels etc (eg in the name of the Samoan PM Mata’afa), as well as Tongan, Niuean, Cook Island Maori, etc. For a country that has been disturbingly monolingual, rarely learning second languages even at school or university, we are becoming so much better at recognising these other languages, pronouncing them, and – in the case of Maori at least – incorporating them into our everyday conversation. I will say though, that I was particularly impressed to hear a newsreader perfectly pronouncing and quickly enunciating the former Samoan Prime Minister’s name – Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. I’m still working on this one. Try it – you’ll see why!

Aroha nui!

(with deep affection)

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(Unashamedly copying the idea from Mel’s post here, with a slight tweak in title.)

Note before I start: There are many extremely memorable meals I have eaten, but often these are less about the food, and more about the people I was with, or the location, or maybe even the format (eg my first ever wine-matched degustation menu). Whereas these are probably my favourite things to eat. Not always the most memorable, or the fanciest, or even necessarily the most delicious. But they stay with me, and I could eat them over and over again.

  1. Thai Massaman curry at Cabbages and Condoms in Bangkok. I’ve written about this curry before, in my Food Biography series here. I’m still searching for the perfect recipe, the right mix of curry paste and other ingredients. I make it regularly, and it is enjoyable but never the same. I’d be in heaven if I could recreate C and C’s massaman curry, and would eat it ALL THE TIME.
  2. La Dolce Vita’s La Dolce Vita pizza. It’s a simple variation on a margherita – with tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and a drizzle of pesto. The crust was to die for, and it was my favourite pizza in our entire three months in Italy. Now that I’m into making my own pizza dough, I might start trying to recreate their crust. It was perfect. Though, as they’ve said recently on Billions, “it’s all about the ovens.” So I’m doomed to fail, but determined to try.
  3. Homemade tomato sandwiches. Again, my love of tomatoes is probably nothing new to my regular readers. But there’s nothing quite like the joy brought by a very humble tomato sandwich –fresh fresh fresh bread (slices or a baguette), with maybe (but not compulsory) a smear of a vinegary kiwi-style salad dressing, and lots of salt and pepper. I’ve been eating seasonally over winter, and so haven’t bought fresh tomatoes for months. But it’s spring, and I’m starting to hanker after them again.
  4. The pumpkin gnocchi at the Trattoria alla Cerva in northern Italy. Yes, the location was spectacular, sitting outside in a medieval square. But the taste was what made it so memorable. I could eat this again and again. And in fact, I do. Just last week I recreated it (or close enough) for lunch. I now make pumpkin gnocchi once or twice every year, and freeze meal-size batches for quick and easy first courses or lunches.
  5. Ice-cream and gelato in a cone. No, this isn’t one specific meal, or even a meal in itself, despite the fact that my mother used to tease us by suggesting the ice-cream we just ate was, in fact, our dinner. It’s a life-time of eating and enjoying ice-cream. It’s knowing that I can’t have it in my freezer on a regular basis, because it will not last for long. It’s the pleasure of an ice-cream as a special treat, winter or summer. Hokey-pokey (a local flavour – vanilla with honeycomb chunks) ice-cream is almost every Kiwi’s first ice-cream love, and was also mine, but I find it hard to go past boysenberry too. Then in Thailand I discovered caramel flavours, and in my 30s, I went to Rome, and fell for gelato. It’s not a meal. But it could be. It should be.

There are so many delicious meals I would love to eat again, but I suspect much of my joy in these dishes was where, when and with whom they were enjoyed. And so many of my favourite meals have been overseas, because food is, of course, one of the best parts of international travel! I think, for example, of the food we loved in our time in Italy, unbelievably eight years ago, and I’m taken back to the delicious seafood ravioli in a restaurant at the top of a cable car overlooking Lake Maggiore, the pucce (sandwiches) in a square in Puglia, and the seafood pasta at a Sardinian restaurant in Rome! I think further back to a pizza in San Francisco in the 1990s with shrimp and pesto, or chicken fricassee in a square in Avignon, a chilli crab eaten with family in Singapore, a tagine in a riad in Marrakech, and patatas bravas in Cordoba, Spain, beer-battered fish and chips in Queensland, or one of my first (non-Thai) international food experiences, eating lobster in Vanuatu beside a lagoon with my feet in the sand.

There’s so much I’ve missed out, though I covered a lot in my Food Biography series. I haven’t touched on childhood food favourites (except for tomato sandwiches) because they are mixed up with family and love and outings and long summers or cosy winters, or my regular dishes. In fact, maybe I should never have attempted this topic because a) how could I ever narrow it down to five meals? and b) it has made me really really hungry, and it is only 5 pm! Bon appétit!

La Dolce Vita’s pizza

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Reading: I’m reading a wee bit more lately, and have been lucky to find several really excellent books, each one quite different from the other. I love reading a variety of books, and could never stick to just one genre.

Just this morning I finished the fabulous Elizabeth Knox’s Wake. I note that some of my book club friends read it about seven years ago, but it’s taken me a while to get to it. It was funny though – when I downloaded the book onto my e-reader, it asked me if I would like to go to the page last read. I said yes, curious to see how far I had read, because I had no memory of it! It was only a few pages in, so I reread those, then gobbled up the rest of the book in just a day or two, which is pretty remarkable given my lack of reading much of this year. I haven’t always loved the mystical nature of some of Elizabeth Knox’s books (The Black Oxen took a couple of attempts), but this one was pitched exactly right for me, and gets five stars on Goodreads.

I’ve also finished Kindred, by Octavia Butler, a time-travel history into the early 1800s in the US which was fascinating, as I always like anything historical. And listened to Kamala Harris’ memoir, The Truths We Hold. I like listening to memoirs as audiobooks, especially when they are read by the author themselves. It seems more authentic. This was fascinating for a few chapters when it delved into her childhood and family background, but much of it was a political manifesto, written before she ran for President. Still, I learned a lot about her, her history, her qualifications, and principles, even if it was – as I expected – somewhat sanitised.

Kazuo Ishiguro has long been a favourite of mine, so I was thrilled to find a new book from him. Klara and the Sun was very enjoyable, and an easy read. But it didn’t really deliver too much that was new for me, though I know others (including one of my former book club friends) who loved it.

The Quiet Girl by S F Kosa was a mystery that kept me gripped too, and although I thought I had figured out some of it in advance, I wasn’t 100% sure, which is the mark of a good mystery!

Finally, I read Grace Dent’s Hungry, a funny and honest memoir of The Guardian’s restaurant critic. (Thanks to Loribeth who reviewed it here). I read the memoir of Ruth Reichl (former NYT critic) years ago (Garlic and Sapphires) and loved it, so was delighted to find a UK story too. I could relate to the discovery of new food and flavours, after growing up with a very traditional NZ diet (though not nearly as “beige” as Dent’s childhood died) until I landed in Thailand as a 17-year-old.

I gave all of these books three stars and above on Goodreads, which means it was a great month or two of reading. I use their star standards – eg three stars means I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it, four stars means I thought it was really good, and five stars is a book I loved.

Watching: Wimbledon, of course, and the Olympics, of course (as I wrote here), and more recently I’ve been keeping a check on the Paralympics. I’ve been delighted and fascinated by the sports I didn’t know existed, the categories that have allowed so many different people to compete, and I have been beyond moved by the efforts of people who have faced such obstacles in life.

In between the two Olympics, I binge-rewatched some comfort series, namely Downton Abbey. The Husband and I have watched a few different series, the names of which now largely escape me (Money Heist over two days in the weekend), and we’ve just started The Departure, which looks promising.

Daily viewing for the last few weeks in lockdown has been the press conference by the DG of Health and the Prime Minister or Minister for COVID Response, when they announce case numbers and progress. We seem to have stopped the spread, with the R rate currently under 1, but new cases are still popping up in our biggest city, Auckland. We’ve just watched the announcement that the rest of the country will move to a lifting of many restrictions, going back to a more normal life on Wednesday, though with increased mask requirements. I know the rest of you are already very accustomed to this, but it is new for us.

Listening: Radio NZ, of course, which is on at the moment as I write this, and just a few things on Spotify. And when I walk, I have been listening to my audiobooks. I’ve just downloaded Shuggie Bain, so I need to go on a few walks to get through that one!

Following: The usual. Progress (or lack of progress) with COVID-19 and vaccinations across the globe. News. Photographers I envy. Yes, exactly the same as three months ago.

Drinking: Today for the first time in three weeks I had a flat white (coffee)! My husband came back from the supermarket with a coffee. We’re currently in a lighter lockdown than the first two weeks, which enables food and drink to be purchased to take away. I’m not a coffee addict, but I did enjoy that one this morning! Otherwise, alcohol-wise, we’ve been drinking a little more in lockdown than we would usually, though we still have several days a week when we don’t drink. Mondays would normally be a no-alcohol day, but I have a half-full bottle of chardonnay in the fridge that I opened for a Zoom chat with some friends on Saturday night. So in a few hours, it will be a case of “Cheers!”

Cooking: To keep supermarket visits to once or twice a week during lockdown, I’ve been trying to empty the freezer of meat and bagels, etc. A good excuse to spring clean the freezer and pantry! Not to mention that I quite enjoy planning out the week’s menu in advance. I experimented with burgers (not something my husband has ever particularly liked) including a brioche-like bun, because we missed out on the food festival Burger Wellington this year. I’ve made homemade pizza too, for a Saturday night meal. I have vegetable soup and pumpkin gnocchi in the freezer, and have generally been eating pretty healthy. Well, except for the sticky date pudding I made for the first time last week. Oops. Tonight on the menu we have pumpkin, feta and bacon pasta.

Eating: See above. I don’t mind eating home-cooked food. I sometimes complain that I’m in a recipe rut, but the truth is I really like eating my favourite dishes (curries, fried rice, lamb shanks, tagines etc), and they work so well as winter comfort food too, so not being able to go out, or buy takeaways, doesn’t bother me. Prior to lockdown we got out with some friends for a fun evening at the beginning of the August food festival, and we’re all grateful that we managed to do that.

Wearing: A more casual version of my winter uniform, which includes black thermal tops (I have several) and black yoga pants. The only time I dress up – or at least, put on a bit of makeup – is when I zoom. Even though I discovered the other day I can put on lipstick and eyebrows through the Advanced Video Settings, and so barely need to do that!

Appreciating: Our government. I look at the delta variant raging around the world, and am grateful that we have had so long living COVID-free thanks to their policies, and hopefully will be free again soon. Our vaccination programme has been slow, largely because the vaccinations needed to get to us after first going to countries that were much more needy. (I had my first dose in mid-August, and my second is scheduled for the end of this month.) It’s ramping up now, and I’m very appreciative too of my fellow citizens who have been rushing to get vaccinated the last few weeks. Of course, I don’t yet know what levels we’ll ultimately reach, so I really hope I’m not speaking prematurely!

Anticipating: Catching up with friends. I know we’ve only been in lockdown for a few weeks, but it will be lovely to see people face to face. It reminds me how tough it has been for so many of you for so long. And The Husband and I have a few travel plans for the next six months, figuring out where we can go in NZ and what we can do that would be fun, or new. NZ is pretty small, so we’re going to start running out of options!

Loving: My hair! (Well, almost!) Finally it has passed that really awkward stage I was at a few months ago, and I’m pleased that it’s looking closer to how I wanted it to look. I have very wavy hair, so as it gets a little longer, I’m keen to experiment with some “curly-girl” techniques. I’m not sure it will work, but it might be fun to try. And if it is a disaster, I still have my trusty straightener, because leaving it to wave naturally at the moment isn’t an option!

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months here on A Separate Life.

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