So I’ve been reading these great articles from the Sewanee Review, and I decided to send them one, too.
I’m delighted to see it published, here.
Let me know what you think.
My sister keeps asking to see what I’ve been cooking and eating, and while this may be of interest to no-one but her, it’s something to do 🙂
Firstly, on Monday I made a second attempt to find a plant nursery that had eluded me last week – and I’m so glad I persevered. Here was my haul: two types of chard, the same of lettuce, sage, basil, Italian parsley, chives and thyme. The same day Nepal confirmed its second official Covid-19 case, and at 6 am yesterday, Tuesday March 24, the country went into lockdown. Borders are closed and all flights, domestic and international, cancelled.
Yesterday I mostly munched on baguette with rillettes (both from Vino Bistro) and went for something easy: spaghetti aglio, olio pepperoncino. There are few things to rival this for speed, ease and satisfaction, and it’s rare that I don’t have what I need to make it: the name of the dish is its ingredients list, after all. I let the garlic get a little too dark, but still delicious.
Today I made a riff on this quiche recipe here. With so much time at home, it was easy to make in stages, and I took advantage of my new plants — the chard can take it, but I may have been a little premature with the chives and basil; I hope they survive my bit of pruning. It’s the second tart I’ve made from David Lebovitz’s website, and when all this is over I may have to get myself a copy of his recent cookbook, as both have been excellent. And this will last me for a while! (Or it should)
In other news, last week I picked up a white azalea plant to keep my pink anniversary one company; the latter was all decked out just a few weeks ago, and yes, I know it needs a new pot.
Finally, kittehs. Take care and stay safe, everyone!
Delighted to have an article published at Unusual Efforts – it’s aptly titled (not by me, but a great title!) What’s an Italy fan in football-mad Nepal to do during the World Cup?
In an unusual bit of serendipity, the editor’s choice to put it up today coincides with the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death. While she was not a football fan as such, she was half Italian and it was my childhood spent in Italy with her that cultivated my love of all things Italian, which as you can see, continues to this day.
Today I was invited to attend the opening of Film South Asia 2015, a South Asian documentary Film Festival that is held every two years. As we all took our seats in the cozy theater, there was an announcement, “In the likely event of a tremor, there are two emergency exits there, and there.” This was greeted by a wave of laughter; I’m not sure if “in the unlikely event” was meant to be humorous or not, but this morning at 10 am there was a 5.3 tremor here in Kathmandu, the first one I’ve personally felt in a while, and I’m sure it was on everyone’s mind. While it wasn’t that strong, it seemed quite long. More about it here.
The documentary screened at the opening was Drawing the Tiger, directed by Ramyata Limbu, Amy Benson and Scott Squire, and filmed here in Nepal over a period of seven years. The film follows a young girl from Ramechhap District who comes to Kathmandu to pursue her education, and the ripple effect this action has on her entire family. I am glad I didn’t know much more than that when I sat down, as the film was a beautiful and moving experience, including an emotional sucker-punch I was not expecting, perhaps extra difficult for me as I also have the Humla girls I’m helping to educate so it hit really close to home. If you have a chance to see this film, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough: it’s a simple, honest piece and a great sample of ‘show, don’t tell.’ Even documentaries sometimes get carried away in trying to make a point via omnipresent narrator or other methods, but despite the subject matter, this film did nothing of the sort. The only people you heard from were each of the family members involved, and the result was touching, honest, and surprisingly revealing. More about the film at its website here, though be warned that it also tells quite a bit about the story that I was glad I didn’t know ahead of time.
The festival continues for three full days: tomorrow, Friday November 20th, Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22cond. It’s being held at Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, in Lalitpur, with between 8 to 15 documentaries of various lengths being screened on each of the three days. Each film costs just 50 rs. to attend, and are from all over the region–Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and of course, Nepal. The screenings begin around 10 am each day and continue to 5 or 6. For details of which films are shown on which days, you can check out their website, http://www.filmsouthasia.org; unfortunately I had a hard time accessing the site and if you do too, you can click on the high-res picture I took of my programme below to embiggen it and see what the choices and timings are. This is a really great chance to see some of the best recent documentaries from this part of the world and I recommend that if you’re in Kathmandu you take full advantage of it!
And with the fuel crisis and shortages unfortunately still in full swing, the organizers have added a special festival motto: “Walk, bike or take a public bus to the Doc Fest!”
I imagine that for many of you who read this, it’s hard to imagine living in a country that is almost completely dependent upon its neighbours for most basic necessities. But that’s Nepal — landlocked, we share borders with only India and China, and that northern border is pretty much the Himalayas, with only one narrow road in. So, much of what we need–and all fuel/petroleum products–come in through the Terai, from India. When the new constitution–years in the making–was finally ratified over a month ago now, it triggered protests in the south and a near complete border closure from India. We kept thinking that things had to get better, any minute now, but they haven’t; they’ve only gotten worse. Gas bottles, petrol, diesel, kerosene–none of this is available to buy, unless you are one of those who can afford to pay the black market prices, which friends tell me run at 5-10 times the normal rate. And of course, the people that suffer the most are the poor, particularly those who have been affected by the earthquake. Any appliances that can be used for electric cooking are flying off the shelves, and even here in Kathmandu I see people cooking on the sidewalk using firewood.
By comparison, I’ve been fortunate, so far just inconvenienced and not suffering, as so many are. I’m pretty used to short-term shortages, so I always keep a little bit of petrol saved for my scooter, but as I want to keep that for emergencies, I just bought a cheap bicycle (possibly too cheap, it already rattles 🙂 ) and, looking on the bright side, it’s helping me get some exercise. I’m not sure how much cooking gas is left in the my cylinder, and my spare is empty, as I changed it right when the shortage first began last month and have been unable to refill it since. But I do have an old but trusty little electric oven and a kettle, and I’m experimenting with how much I can do without having to turn on a gas burner. When I go out, if a restaurant is open, I eat there — the new logic of “eat out, save your gas” overriding the former logic of “eat at home, save money.” And besides, I figure they could use the business. But every day, more and more businesses of all sorts are staying closed when they can’t find the supplies to stay open. And now shops are starting to run out of certain things, too, because the vehicles that usually supply them don’t have petrol to move around, either.
Winter Is Coming, and that means the ubiquitous long power cuts that will rule out the oven and kettle, and no kerosene for heating. I haven’t wanted to write about this, because I feel like there’s been so much bad news out of Nepal lately that I hate to add to it.
As always, I am amazed by the cheerfulness and resilience of those around me. But they deserve better, and I can only hope the end is in sight.
And here’s a picture of a baby goat I saw the other day when visiting a friend, because it’s adorable and makes me smile.
Nepal has a crazy amazing variety of birds — nearly a tenth of the known birds in the world are represented in this diminutive strip of land. And while I’ve seen some beautiful birds in my years here, since moving to this house last September, I’ve begun to think I might have landed right in the middle of in a bird sanctuary!
I inherited my trusty guide, Birds of Nepal (Fleming, Fleming, & Bangdel: 2000), from a previous housemate, and it is wonderful. While some drawings occasionally don’t resemble the birds quite as much as they could, where it really shines is in the area of providing relevant detail that helps to identify the birds described. The Fleming father-son ornithological team have seen 97% of the birds in the book in the field themselves, and they fill their descriptions with specifics and pointers that make identification easier for a newb like me.
I’ve not been able to get many good pictures of the birds I’ve seen, but earlier this week I spotted a cluster of nests in the bamboo grove just down the road from me.
They turned out to be baya weavers. Common to Nepal, a first for me!
… that’s what’s on the cover of the first issue of Friday! to come out since the earthquake on April 25th. It’s normally a weekly, but it’ll take a while to get back into a regular publishing groove, so this one is still on newsstands. It’s got some great photos of historical sites as well as memories and post-earthquake thoughts from a wide variety of sources, so if you’re in Kathmandu it’s well worth picking up a copy. In the interests of full disclosure 🙂 I should tell you there’s an article of mine in there as well, found online here, about restaurants reopening after the quake. I was asked to write it about ten days after the first one, but the second quake pushed the printing later, so it didn’t come out until after that. It touches on a subject close to my heart–the power of food to nurture, comfort and heal, even in the aftermath of terrible tragedy.
I can’t say it any better than this – more about why I love the new year’s venture I posted about yesterday. It’s great to see Nepal’s youth taking such initiative. Go read this: