I like what you have made.

IMG_4747.JPG

I love to cook for big groups of people. It’s something I just love, what can I say?

Maybe it’s because cooking is one of the most sensory of the tasks of our lives: cut tomatoes. Cut six kilos of them. Keep your fingers out of the way. Cut onions. Cry at the doorway. Come back and cut some more.

Cooking on Sundays is smell, taste, organized work. I line the vegetables up in the order they need to be cut. I set a timer and go as quickly as I can. Later I slow down and go carefully. Seeds in hot oil: Fennel, coriander, cumin, mustard. I add turmeric and a spice with the magical name of Kitchen King. Suddenly, the kitchen is alive with fragrance, with memories of jungle days.

Abundance. We have enough and plenty to share.

Holy work. I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t art. But every color, every texture, truly is beautiful. It’s holy work to cook for others. Before anything, God is Creator. Whenever I respond to what God has made, I feel as though we are in an act of making something together. I appreciate this, I whisper. I like what you have made. Especially purple cabbage. Especially the glorious tomato.

Holy work is always messy. True holy work, that is.

So there are stacks of dishes. There’s a chunk of dhal that has spilled on the stove and is blackening at an alarming rate. And there are friends; here they are helping, here they are chopping, creating, we are making things together. We are saving the sambar from burning in the pot by ever more ridiculous and ingenious methods. I am asking Sonal to make the chutney because hers is the best. Keren is cutting a mound of cabbage that nearly engulfs her.

And then somehow, it all disappears. The two rice cookers are empty, the giant pot is being scraped, the salad is long gone. People are walking around with the food we made in their bellies. Fed. I love it. What can I say?

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Grazing the street stalls of Thailand: three great meals.

We're in Varanasi! And Varanasi is a very, very big place, a place that swallows everything else up. Before I lose everything that isn't India, I have two more Thailand posts for you.

This is the first. I am really into food, as you may know, and Thailand is heaven for a girl who is really into food. I love trying new things, and this year I was introduced to two new street food beauties, as well as digging into an old favorite.

It seems that the Thai philosophy about food is that you should never, ever be forced to be without it. Thai people don't eat a lot; the portions are small, and much is very healthy, but there are snacks and meals literally everywhere you look. And the street food cooked by vendors in small kiosks is some of the best food around. I would venture to say that in Thailand you could eat really well without EVER leaving the street.

One dish that I indulged in for many, many lunches, is Som Tam.  Spicy green papaya salad.

It's SO good, and what is almost as good as eating it is watching a Thai lady make it.

 Thai people often put three or more chillies into one serving of salad. I can only handle one. And even then my lips are on fire.

But oh, such sweet pain. The magic of Som Tam is the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy.

A more dangerous new favorite was street-fried roti, or rotee.

Again, it's really fun to watch as the dough is pulled and stretched.

Then fried and filled with bananas.

And finally drizzled with condensed milk. Do you see why I call it dangerous?

But such a nice little dessert to pick up for after dinner.

And rice salad. This is one that I truly would never have known about if not for my friend Leaf. She brought it over one night, without any pork. (Thank goodness, she knows us.) The stacked up balls are little balls of deep fried rice, which are cooled and mixed up with many delightful things.

Onions, peanuts, tomatoes, basil and lots of lime. I'm not sure what else went into this beautiful little salad, but it was delicious.

There are many more, and I didn't get a chance either to photograph or even eat them all. There must be more time in life for eating food on Thai streets. Maybe one day.

Veggies and another book review

Last night our friends came over and we cooked pasta in the kitchen while it rained outside. Sauteéd onions on a low simmer in a lot of olive oil, added tomatoes and eggplant. It was so nice to cook together, to sit and drink wine and talk.

After the rain passed and the sky cleared a bit, we had glimpses of Machapuchre, the beautiful mountain that looms over Pokhara with her sisters.

My friend, who is from Italy, told me that I would love Tuscany. The seasons, the food, the love that goes into the food. I am certain of it.

And I thought about it again. We have to eat, we have to cook. With four little ones I have to cook a LOT (except in those moments when Jaya is in my life- though even then I have to shop) and I realized a long time ago that I would enjoy it more if I got a bit geeky about it, if I obsessed over seasons and vegetables and colors.

So that is why I nearly fainted with delight when I found this vegetable market in Mahindra Pul, the big shopping district of Pokhara. The Farmer's Cooperative market. Here I found the freshest vegetables, I found mushrooms, I found tofu.

After laughing at me for a while, for taking pictures, the vegetable seller struck this wonderful pose.

***

Book news:

Melissa Westemeier of Green Girl in Wisconsin has written a great review of The Eve Tree on the Eco Women Site.

You can read the review here: If you like Barbara Kingsolver's books, you'll LOVE the Eve Tree.

Thanks so much Melissa, for a thoughtful and thorough review!

I don't even know what to call this post, I shall name it BOOK LAUNCH! *Updated

Sorry for shouting.

I am proud to be able to announce that my book, The Eve Tree, is available at the following online stores.

You can buy it in print at Amazon.com: here.

As a NookBook on Barnes and Noble: here.

As various kinds of e-book formats on Smashwords: here.

Be sure to take advantage of the $4.99 introductory e-book price.

The Eve Tree is distributed in Canada, the UK, and Australia as well, so check your country's Amazon page. Your search will go better at this point if you search for "Rachel Devenish Ford."

It should be available for Kindle in a matter of hours. I'll update when I find out. It will also be available as an ibook and a Kobo book shortly. And as a print book on the Barnes and Noble bookstore.

Also, very soon you will be able to order it from your local bookstore.

*

A side note: You may notice that on some sites it is listed as out of stock. Go ahead and order, the books will be in soon. We had a little last minute crisis when a Pre-release reviewer asked about a certain donkey in the story. When I checked in the pages, it turned out he was AWOL. With a few changes, he is back where he belongs. Whew! The distributor will have the book back in stock very soon.

Hooray!

*

I will be hanging out on Twitter and here in the comments at around 6:00 onwards PST, if anyone wants to chat about writing, the book, or anything else. 

 

All love,

I'm so happy!

 

*Update: It wouldn't be a launch without the baby bird bumping his face on the ground, right? (Just humor me.)

It MAY be that there is a small delay in getting the books restocked at Amazon, once the ones they have are gone. Should be fixed soon. Again, blame it on the donkey. However, there are some enterprising souls who are selling the book for more than I personally charged for it-- just to make you aware. The books should be back in stock soon.

Soup night

To be perfectly honest, on any given day I go through about a hundred different emotions. I'm like some five-year-old girl with outfits. Now the pink dress! Now the leggings with the tinselly t-shirt! Now the overalls!

Except for me it's Melancholy! Melancholy with a slice of nostalgia! Anger! Self-pity! Overwhelming joy!

It's exhausting. And, in exhaustion, it's wise to turn to Matzo Ball Farmer's Market soup. I once blogged about clean out your fridge soup. Tonight I'm going to tell you what was on our table this evening.

Matzo Ball Soup-1.jpg

I'm not going to lie. The Farmer's Market can be expensive for us. But to sum up what I feel about food these days, I'm going to quote Alice Waters in the introduction to her book, The Art of Simple Food. (I've just started reading it and I love it.)
"Good food can only come from good ingredients. Its proper price includes the cost of preserving the environment and paying fairly for the labor of the people who produce it. Food should never be taken for granted."

We have a lot of poorly produced food available to us at very low prices. And that is a tempting thing. But one small thing I've learned while in India is that self-denial can be a huge key to appreciation. So if we eat less meat and ice cream and more beans and so are able to afford locally grown vegetables, that little bit of self-denial allows us to support small farmers. And take care of our waistlines, which will thank us for less meat and ice cream. And we then appreciate meat day when it comes around, that much more.

Anyhow. One lesson I've learned about Farmer's Market is that there are a wide variety of costs presented. There are exquisite chocolates and divine honey. Those are treats... oh my word, the honey is good. But if you're going on a budget, well 80 cents a bunch for kale is not a bad price at all. Kale, summer squash, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes... you can find really good prices from excellent farms.

Tonight I made Matzo ball soup with leftover chicken bones and an armful of farmer's market summer vegetables. It was divine. I didn't measure anything or take photos of the process, but here is the general idea:

I started off by simmering the chicken bones in water for a long time. A few hours, and then straining the bones out of the broth.

My players for simple food (food that is perhaps influenced by European cooking but doesn't necessarily ascribe to any particular country) are:

Onions
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Fresh Herbs

No surprises there. What makes soup fantastic, in my mind, is sautéing everything first. Onions, garlic, vegetables, spices. Tonight I started with the onions and sautéed them until they were soft, added the garlic and cooked it for a  minute or so more.  I then added the following vegetables, one by one, stirring and cooking in between:

3 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 yellow zucchini
1 large fresh tomato
1 stalk of broccoli

and added salt and pepper. When the vegetables were firm but cooked, I added them to the broth and undertook the task of getting the tiny bits of chicken that were still left off of the bones and into the pot. This is really annoying. I hate that part.

I opened the pack of Matzo ball mix and thanked God once again for his People and the gift of Matzo balls. Putting together the mix was super easy, just eggs and oil and the mix, left to stand for fifteen minutes. While it was standing, I chopped a bunch of kale and added it to the soup, as well as making a chiffonade of a few basil leaves (the herb of the day) from my plant. I turned the soup up and let it really boil for dropping the matzo balls in.

Done! Beautiful, delicious, affordable, delicious, and delicious! But these players can be used with any vegetables you find to make a really good soup. Maybe you use green zucchini, maybe you throw purple cabbage in, maybe you use fresh thyme instead of basil.

I can't wait to make it again.

Matzo Ball Soup-2.jpg

P.S. Here's a post that I wrote at around this time last year.