America, the ugly.

Why does everyone in America have to drive cars?

This in entire planet is totally fucked.  Modern urban planning has created “communities” who’s entire premise is based upon on people’s ownership of fossil-fuel consuming vehicles.  How is this sustainable?  It destroys the traditional concept of communities and makes people slaves to oil and car companies.  I wish the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be the wake up call that people need to realize they must give up their dependency on cars, and non-renewable resources.  Why are we destroying our planet so people can work 20 miles from where they live?  It’s just stupid.  Cities need to invest in public transit and people need to live where they work.  American suburbs are monstrosities.   Unfortunately, despite this “economic slowdown”, and the massive oil spill that is destroying our planet’s oceans, I expect we’ll keep going until every blade of grass is covered in concrete and strip malls.

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LDR’s

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Before I left Montreal, I remember speaking to some one about my intention to move to New Zealand.  The point was brought up that my sweetheart planned to remain in Montreal for the time being.  The person’s response was “Wow.  A long distance relationship.  I tried doing that once.  It’s really hard.”  In my mind, it was as if this person was saying “Yeah right!  You actually think that’s going to work out?”.

That was by far the most negative response I had received, whereas on the other hand, most of my friends said things along the lines of “Well, don’t worry!  Things will work out! You guys love each other!”; which was how I felt.

Since that initial negative response, I have encountered other equally negative comments, more than I would have expected.  However, in the time that has passed that I have been involved in the aforementioned long distance relationship (LDR), I am becoming aware of the simple fact that being in a LDR is indeed very hard.

I think we’ve probably all met people who have had significant others in a distant locale.  I remember when I was in the Peace Corps several of the volunteers had girlfriends or boyfriends back home that they were waiting for, despite a 2+ year service commitment.  Some of them had open-relationship agreements, others didn’t explicitly, but wound up seeing other people.   I’ve met tons of people who have had partners far away, some have seemed able to cope with it no problem, others have said how hard it was.

My entire concept of LDR’s, having never been in real long-term relationship in the first place, much less a long-distance one, really came from my knowledge of 2 of my male friend’s experiences, though I don’t know if either is typical.  My friend Harry – he had been dating a girl back home in Ohio, and they had promised to stay together, but be in an open relationship for the duration of his 2 year service in West Africa.  She even came to visit him, and declared her desire to be with him for the rest of her life.  About a year and half into his service however, she met another guy, and told him it was over. He was heart broken.  A different good friend of mine was in a long distance relationship for years and kept it a secret from everyone.  Once they moved in together, things didn’t work out and they eventually parted ways.  It seems like some relationships actually work better long-distance than in close proximity.  LDR’s seems to have the potential to make or break a relationship.

As for me, I’m struggling with being so far away from my beloved.  I miss him so much. It is really hard. Technology makes it easier, being able to chat on Skype for a couple of hours a day, e-mails when the time difference makes it impossible, etc.  I can barely imagine what it would have been like to try to send a letter, not even knowing if it would arrive to my darling, and waiting months for his response.  Oh, the agony!

There are a surprising number of long-distance relationship advice websites and whatnot.  One of which is http://www.missyourmate.com/, and this one: http://www.lovingfromadistance.com/ – written by a girl & her boyfriend separated by a measly 250 miles!!!  There are others, and Ticker has read me responses from the advice columnist in the Montreal Mirror regarding long distance relationships.  Long-distance romances have inspired literature, film, music, art, poetry, etc. etc. etc.  Pining for some one you love really gets your emotional and creative juices flowing.

Being away from one’s sweetie also has its surprising benefits.  You know how they say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder?”  It’s like I can’t even remember all those things about Ticker that used to drive me crazy.  I’ve even started romanticizing his t-shirts that I formerly despised.   Taking this big (15,000 km) step back from him has actually strengthened our relationship in some ways… and helped me realise just how much I’m madly in love with him, and need him in my life forever.    But yeah, it’s hard too.  However, I’m lucky I have the sweetest, cutest, awesomest boyfriend in the entire world.

sounds of silence

Well, it’s been about 1 month since I last posted here.  As I predicted, I don’t have much to write about except cooking, which I am now doing on the Holloway Road Food Blog (though not very often).  Basically my life here is not very exciting.  It’s quite alright – I’m sick of excitement!  My life has been far too exciting, full of ups and downs, twists and turns, a general roller coaster ride for the past few years.  I’m happy to settle into quiet little routine of domesticity and academic work.  I’ve actually been avoiding academic events and the entire University social scene, nearly avoiding all forms of socialisation in favour of knitting, sewing, reading, baking, etc.

I have however, been doing quite well in several new health related pledges; I have cut out all caffeine from my life, and started jogging 5 times a week.  So far I have been very successful in both these endeavors.  Though I do desperately miss my green tea, I’m finding herbal or decaffeinated replacements, and I figure that once I ween myself off the caffeine I can begin allowing myself small doses again.  I generally drink 2-3 liters of tea a day, and I was experiencing some insomnia. I realized this was obviously a result of too much caffeine ingestion, and haven’t had a drop since then, more than 2 weeks ago!  I have to say that I have been sleeping much more, and deeply since I gave up the stuff, though when I do inevitably get that post-lunch fatigue I do feel very tempted to help myself to a strong Earl Grey, I have thus far resisted.  As for jogging, I had taken the entire winter back in Montreal off from nearly every form of physical activity, so getting back into the sporting life took me a while.  Now that I’ve worked up to a quick 15 minutes jog every morning, I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to expand upon my routine which currently takes me from one end of Holloway road to the other and then back home again.

Sorry for my dilatory posting.  I do have some ideas for future posts based on things I have observed around town, and conversations with my flatmates, who are essentially my primary sources for information on all things kiwi.

What I learned today:

North America        New Zealand

Sweater                    Jersey or Jumper (Less frequently)

Cardigan                 Cardi

Sweatshirt              Sweater

Jersey                      Sport uniform

Tank top                 Singlet

Nothing tastes as good as thin feels

If you are wondering why we haven’t posted lately, it’s because our household is now on a strict size-zero diet.  Well, everyone except for Louis.  Inspired by icons such as Keira Knightley, Kate Moss, and Ghandi, we have virtually stopped eating.  So, this space may remain blank indefinitely.

The collective dream

Ok, all jokes aside, Lotte an I have been feeling a little under the weather, resulting in a lack of appetite.  Hence, little cooking has been taking place, though we did make some lentil burgers for Rata.

I know what you must be thinking – “Holloway Road not full of the good smells of gingers gems, banana cake, or roasting root vegetables? Has the apocalypse come!!???”

Don’t worry, we’ll get back in the kitchen soon.

Since I’m logged in and writing anyway, I might as well post a recipe for my newest herbal concoction- Coco’s Tummy Tamer Tea – works wonders for indigestion, or, God forbid, flatulence!  Have a cup or two after dinner, and before you get into bed with your sweetie.

1 tsp dried peppermint leaves or 1 peppermint herbal tea bag (T Leaf tea makes a lovely and potent pure Peppermint tea)

1 tsp dried chamomile flowers or 1 chamomile herbal tea bag (the chamomile we have is from Homestead Health, though you can get it all over)

2 tbs grated fresh ginger (freeze fresh ginger for easier grating and to keep it fresh longer!)

Fill a tea pot with boiling water, and top off with some milk (unless you happen to be lactose intolerant…) and some honey!

According to the internet:

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid in digestion.  Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food passes through the stomach more quickly.  Peppermint relaxes the muscles that allow painful digestive gas to pass.

Chamomile tea contains essential oils and flavanoids, which actually relax the smooth muscles in the digestive tract, to relieve pain and cramping and promote normal peristalsis (the contractions of your intestinal tract that help move food along). Another class of compounds called sesquiterpenes, have anti-inflammatory effects which helps soothe the irritated lining of the gastrointestinal tract and reduce the inflammation associated with poor digestion. This tea also acts as a relaxant, to help calm down nervousness and tension.

Ginger stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the upper small intestine.  (It’s also great for coughs, colds, and general good health.)

Drinking milk can neutralize the acid in your stomach.

So, there is the reasoning behind this tea.  If you have fennel seeds, bruise a tablespoon of them and put them in as well.  Fennel is another stomach soothing herb.  We don’t have any, but I’m guessing if you did put them in, your tea would be a bit anise-y flavoured, which could be a pro or a con, depending on your tastes.

Since I’m on the topic of herbal remedies, here’s what I call “The Miracle Elixir“.  If you can manage to drink it and not vomit, you’ll be cured of whatever ails you!

1 tbs grated ginger

1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

2 tbs fresh lemon juice

2 cloves raw garlic, diced

1 tsp honey

1 shot of rum (or whiskey)

I’m sure Lotte has some of her own herbal remedies she’d love to share with our readers, so I’ll get back to studying now.

if you can't stand the heat…

Get out of the kitchen!

I love Mexican food.  This past Friday I tried my hand at making squash enchiladas, my first attempt to make such a dish.

Enchiladas are essentially corn tortillas, stuffed with various fillings, and then rolled up, and baked with a kind of salsa over them.  Often they are served with Mole sauce, a thick spicy sauce made with cacao.  Initially I thought I might try my hand at some home-made mole sauce, until I looked at the recipe in the Joy of Cooking – and thought “No way.” It has just about everything you could possibly ever put in a sauce in it – tomatoes, garlic, onion, chilies, but also almonds, raisins, chocolate, and the list goes on.  If I ever do get the inspiration to make some Mole sauce, I will surely post about it here.  However, since I knew I would have to be making corn tortillas from scratch, I decided to save the mole for another time.

I haven’t found a place to buy corn tortillas in Wellington.  I stopped in one of the more authentic seeming Mexican joints in the left bank off Cuba street to ask if they made or sold corn tortillas, or find out where they got theirs.  They said they made them in the restaurant, and wouldn’t sell me any!  Corn tortillas are made from a special kind of corn meal, called Masa Harina.   Luckily you can buy Masa harina here – though it’s expensive !

I’m just going to copy and paste from Wikipedia now:

To make masa de harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime or ash and water, also called slaked lime. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract. The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough, called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa de harina.

It is used for making tortillas, tamales, pupusas, arepas and many other Latin American dishes.

(And it’s delicious!)
On a side note, Wellington’s selection of Mexican food is quite dismal.  In some kind of city poll Sweet Mother’s Kitchen was voted “Best Mexican Restaurant”.  Sweet Mother’s Kitchen claims to be a cajun inspired restaurant serving southern American food…. and while they do have good curly fries, they are not a mexican restaurant.

However, I was reflecting upon the days when I first moved to Montreal, in 2006.  You couldn’t buy corn tortillas or Goya sazon anywhere!  However, during this most recent stay in Montreal, I found corn tortillas for sale nearly everywhere, and sazon available in most of the super markets.  So, maybe 4 years from now Wellington will get with it and start importing more stuff from Mexico?  I can only hope.. though perhaps Ticker and I will have moved to Mexico by then !?  And we’ll be wondering where to get feijoas…

Anyway, I bought a package of masa harina at New World a few weeks ago.  So I mixed the dried flour with water, then pressed them into tortillas using a tortilla press and a rolling pin to further thin them out, then cooked them in a dry skillet.  A lot of work.

So, once my tortillas were ready, I got started on the filling and sauce.  I roasted some pumpkin, or squash, I’m not sure what it is exactly, cut in thin slices, with some the following sprinkled on top:

brown sugar

cayenne pepper

salt

ground cumin

black pepper

Then, I sliced up some tomatoes, a green pepper, a red pepper, and a jalapeno chili, and roasted them in the oven at a high heat until they were almost blackened.  I then pureeed that in the food processor, and added it to some onions & garlic I had browned.  I threw in some finely chopped spinach, a couple of cups of my home-made veggie stock that I make once a week or so, and some chopped cilantro (fresh coriander for you kiwis).  I seasoned it with more ground cumin, salt, and pepper.  I would have thrown in a lot more chili, had I been cooking for myself alone, but I try to be considerate of my flatmate’s heat-sensitivity.

So, I let that cook down a bit, and in the meantime, I mixed a container of (low-fat) cottage cheese with a couple of dollops of yogurt (or sour cream… if you’re not on a diet), and some grated colby cheese.

In each tortilla I placed a few slices of pumpkin, a couple of tablespoons full of the cheesey mixture, and then rolled it up, and placed it seam-down in a rectangular glass baking dish.  5 tortillas made one layer – then 1/2 the tomato sauce should be poured over them, before placing another 5 rolled up tortillas into the next layer, and covering with the rest of the sauce.

(I put all the tortillas in, then covered them with the sauce, thinking it would filter down…it didn’t.  Hence, the top enchiladas were very saucy, the bottom ones quite dry!  But still delicious… lesson learned.)

I topped this masterpiece off with some more grated colby on top, and threw it in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Resulting in pure amazingness.

I was partly inpired by with recipe:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Squash-Enchiladas-with-Tomatillo-Sauce-5604

I love Epicurious for it’s awesome foodie-recipes, and also the great comments people leave in the “reviews” area – always providing great feedback and ideas on how to tweak recipes for extra deliciousness or healthiness or what have you.

I’ve never seen tomatillos in New Zealand, so I just made the aforementioned roasted tomato & spinach sauce. But tomatillo anything is so delicious… if you do have access to them.

Sorry, I was too busy cooking and stuffing my face to take any pictures!  This stock photo will have to do: