Monday, December 29, 2008

Calendars, crossings & kofta

Suspension bridges are a feature of West Coast walks: what wonderful, precarious, free-spirited things they are, too - the structures and the metaphors. Even the name suspension bridge is taut with stories.  

We're a day or two away from another big crossing - by the time I post this, 2008 will be about to become 2009. One of my adult offspring commented that it's quite something to realize that we're already almost a decade past the Millennium. It is. We are. Doesn't it strike you, though, that calendars tick over from one day to the next, regardless of whether or not we take any notice? Unless there's something distinctive or significant that sets one apart, days and dates come and go, requiring neither our approval nor our acknowledgement nor even (on some level) our active participation. And yet, who of us doesn't carry a dairy (even on holiday), wear a watch (I don't) or have a calendar-come-year-planner pinned up on the fridge/kitchen cupboard/office or studio wall?

A friend suggested to me a while back that the word time is right up there as one of the most frequently-used words in the English dictionary. This doesn't surprise me. Clocks are important, of course,  but I confess I'm suspicious of them, would even go so far as to say I consider our propensity for clock-watching (with it's multiple associations) to be a large contributer to our world's stress levels these days. Just about everything we do is defined/demarcated/recorded/underpinned/determined or measured in some way or other according to the clock or calendar. It occurs to me that I/we/our global society would benefit greatly from listening more to the pulls of Kairos time. It's certainly a challenge to try and find ways to live responsively in the present whilst at the same time being mindful of - and responsible about - planning and the future. 

Time does weird things when you're away from home - not that it can't behave strangely when you're in amongst your usual routines, too! If you haven't already read Alan Lightman's book, Einstein's Dreams, I recommend it: the writer engages Marco Polo, Albert Einstein and the reader in a series of satisfying dialogues about time: its distortions, its trickery, its governance, flexibility, ruthlessness and style... In one chapter, time is a sense; in another, a religion; in another, a commodity members of the community must bargain over and for. In one conversation, time moves backwards: '... Imagine time is a circle, bending back on itself...' This is another of those books that I find myself picking up to read again every so often (not quite as often as Michel Tournier's The Four Wise Men, but close.)  

Of course, Antarctic time is another notion/abstraction altogether.

Here, in this friendly lap-of-a-bach, a stone's throw away from a splendidly boisterous sea, I've been blissfully unaware of clocks, days of the week and dates, more in tune with rhythms and cycles and the body's simplest wants and needs: eat, sleep, walk, drink, skim a stone, speak, don't... The whole family's slowed right down. And it's been good - very good.

This time tomorrow, my dear daughter and I will be walking the track to Franz Josef Glacier: this will be our first encounter with this almost-on-our-doorstep giant. Fellow artist Peter Charuk refers to glaciers as archives - a striking image - and he's right. I will take my field recorder along and hope to capture glacial sounds I might not have heard in Antarctica. I'm looking forward +++ to being in the company of ice again, know I will want to lean both ear and cheek up against it, exchange a story or two about the Herbertson, Ferrar and Wilson Piedmont Glaciers (not that far) South from here.

Chicken Koftas
(These kebabs are great on a barbeque)

8 thick green asparagus spears
8 wooden kebab skewers (soak these in water for an hour or so beforehand)

I kg chicken mince (or lamb or beef)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 coup pitted black olives, finely chopped
2 tspns finely grated lemon rind
plenty of fresh chopped coriander
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Salt & black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Pop asparagus into a pot of boiling water for 2 mins. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Thread lengthways onto skewers.

To make the koftas, combine all ingredients and mix together well. Divide into 8 portions then mould each portion around an asparagus spear, leaving the tips exposed. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before cooking. (Best on a barbeque, but you can also grill them in an oven or cook them on the stove top in a cast-iron skillet.)


I use this same mixture - minus the asparagus - to make bite-sized chicken balls when there's a call for finger food (stay-at-home movie nights, potluck suppers, book launches, openings... they're really good hot or cold with a yoghurt, lemon and mint dip). Or, make a batch then toss them into a big leafy salad with lots of organic spinach, rocket, avocado... This is especially yummy (besides being visually pretty!) with crusty bread and orange-roasted baby carrots and beetroot - all the healthy flavours and intense colours our stomachs are happiest with.

I hadn't anticipated putting recipes onto this blog, but... well, yes, I do really enjoy food and cooking: gathering around a table with family and friends is undoubtedly one of life's richest pleasures. 

Wishing you a year that's fresh, focused and full of flavour.


PS. It might just be me, but would you agree there's a curious - if obscure - connection between the bowl of chicken kofta and this foram, Astrammina rara? 

Watercolour painting by Sam Bowser 

And even more so, when we add these miniature ingredients to the mix... Watch this space!


  1. Ah, bridges. They're up there with penguins. I had a stopover in San Fran last time I travelled, just so I could walk across Golden Gate. Got any photos?

    Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Laurice - no pics of W.Coast bridges, unfort. I agree, they're right up there with penguins! I can identify with a woman who plans a stopover in a city just so she can walk across the bridge! Happy New Year to you, too. Looking forward to blog exchanges with you during 2009 - great to read you've been writing poems in amongst all the other busyness. Life does not want to sit down quietly in a corner, does it? Tis good so. Take care - C