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eG Foodblog: Marlena - Life is Delicious Wherever I am


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i have no idea how i am going to get through the night without an artichoke..thanks!

i looooove them dipped in homemade mayo...i love a vast multitude of things in homemade mayo.

sadly i am not only artchoke-less but i seem to have misplaced the blade from my cusinart so i will be homemade mayo-less as well

damn!

Artichokes? Did someone mention artichokes?!!! That's my all-time favorite vegetable (as is eggplant)!!!  When I lived in California, I used to go to the local farms and pick artichokes.  All those big beautiful globes, the sweet baby artichokes.  The first time I saw an artichoke plant in person, I just about cracked up laughing!

Swisskaese, please please please may I come visit you too?  Olive oils, eggplants, all sorts of fresh produce and cheeses.... I'll bring my cat's weight in macadamias in trade!

Pineapples are something that I can still only eat raw and fresh picked.  Actually, I'm like that about most fruits.  Your talk of fruit salad is making my mouth water and I want some now!

Mochihead you are most welcome. Come any time.

I also adore artichokes. Last year was the first time I went to the artichoke festival and I all I wanted to do was get naked and roll around in the field, except it would have really hurt.

We could also eat them three times a day. They are so cheap here. At the height of the season I pay .80USD for a kilo. I went home to visit my parents and artichokes were selling for 1.98USD each! :shock:

The only thing I don't like that is made from artichokes is the Italian digestivo called Cynar. It is really disgusting.

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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Hi Marlena,

I'm a bit homesick for England--can you describe the scene out your windows for us?

About 6 kilometers away is the village/town Emmsworth which has recently garnered a reputation as a foodie village a la ludlow. Emmsworth has a michellin starred restaurant (which i haven't been to, but Pres Clinton has) and also a gastro pub-wine bar which i reviewed for the portsmouth newspaper (it was rather good; fabulous gazpacho and a weird burger, very marin county california decor, but dissappointing wine-by-the-glass list. i mean, what is the point of a wine bar if you don't have the wines?).

I spent 6 months in this general area about 6 years ago. And yes, the countryside and the walks are amazing. My husband was particularly taken with a pub (which I think was in Emsworth) that served wonderful real ales and an unbelievable selection of locally made sausages. Do you know it and is it still there?

And picking up on what you've been discussing, as he is American, he introduced me to the joy of bagels and the joy of Mexican food. The bagels clicked with me immediately, and I’ve enjoyed making them using Claudia Roden’s recipe. But I was a bit reticent on the Mexican thing as I had only tried it in Dublin where it’s nothing short of abominable. I now know that it can be wonderful and am a complete fan. When is your book coming out, or can you say?

Oh, and I’m so pleased to hear that we’re not the only ones who always return from a trip with loads of food. Once when my husband was returning from a business trip in the mid-west, he picked up a dozen ears of corn from a roadside stall, loaded them in his suitcase and brought them back. I know all about the sugar / starch thing, but if you don’t grow your own, these are the best you’re going to get… slathered in butter and crunchy salt and pepper.

And wonderful Umbria… that definitely grabbed a part of my culinary (and cultural) heart too. Did you try the lentils they have there? They are the best I have ever tasted, so small, firm and nutty. Apparently they are a traditional food for New Year celebrations.

Thanks for the very chatty blog.

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My husband was particularly taken with a pub (which I think was in Emsworth) that served wonderful real ales and an unbelievable selection of locally made sausages.  Do you know it and is it still there?

Yes, the pub is still there, The Sussex Arms, and your husband knows a good place when he finds it! its atmospheric, full of real ale, and also full of sausages! its really cozy, a traditional 18th century public house and famous for its over 50 varieties of sausages, most of which are delicious (i'm still eating my way through the menu.....). I went last new years day with my very best friends one of whom is 80 and the other 87, they more fun than anyone else i know in the area, possibly other areas as well. we ate sausages, we drank beer, man those ladies can eat and drink! they both lived in different parts of the world, last days of the raj and all, and are simply the sparkiest, up-for-it of any of my friends. forget wanting to be like them with i grow up, i want to be like them NOW!

Marlena

ps: the other person who i think is the sparkiest best energy and full of energy person i know, is also in this area: Marguerite Patten, who is a legendary food figure in the UK, and well, she is a gem of a person. being with her is a real tonic. she wrote to me at christmas that she 'thoroughly recommends being (age) ninety': is that a good attitude or what!

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Marguerite Patten just became my new hero. How cool. :cool:

Artichoke porn: I had this once in Florence. Melted gorgonzola dolce, bresola bits mixed around and you dipped the artichoke into them.

Or how about super fresh, sliced thin with some parmigano and lemon juice and a splash of olive oil.

Or....make me stop!!!!!

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I also adore artichokes. Last year was the first time I went to the artichoke festival and I all I wanted to do was get naked and roll around in the field, except it would have really hurt......

Should we do an egullet fund raiser a la the british movie Calendar Girls? we could each have a month and pose naked with artichokes in strategic places! and swisskaese, when you roll around, you can wear protection from the spiky thorny little chokes, and revel in the glory of your nakedness with artichokes! omigod what do that put in those things! i'm on an artichoke high. and i'm just thinking about them, imagine what it would be like if i was actually eating one!

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Marguerite Patten just became my new hero. How cool.  :cool:

Artichoke porn: I had this once in Florence. Melted gorgonzola dolce, bresola bits mixed around and you dipped the artichoke into them.

Or how about super fresh, sliced thin with some parmigano and lemon juice and a splash of olive oil.

Or....make me stop!!!!!

No, don't stop! Don't stop!

what about artichoke saganaki! enough to make me lick the whole inside of my own mouth and suck on my teeth , and don't even ask me how i did it when my tongue seemed to be busy with the eating part.

marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Artichokes with melted butter is enough for me.  Fresh butter.  Real butter. Mmmmm....

And I choose Marlena's father as my dining partner now!  Why doesn't he eat the artichoke hearts?!

he did the same thing when we were kids,he always ate his leaves and then cut the heart into two, one half for my brother and one half for me. sometimes my mother got the heart instead, it all depended on what else we were eating. my mother and i were keenest for the heart.

i had forgotten this until recently when after what is pretty much a lifetime, i was eating artichokes with my parents. my mother had been seriously ill and i thought that some artichoke would make her happy (it did). i couldn't believe it when my dad gave us the heart, cut into two halves. i wanted to cry, it was happy, it was sad, it was more artichoke!

x marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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not to remind anyone of the obvious but on artichokes one of the single greatest lines form a movie is Bette Davis in All About Eve drawliing...

"Remind me to tell you about the time I looked deep into the heart of an artichoke"

also milk tastes awesome after you eat an artichoke..I don't even like milk except with Oreos and for some inexplicable reason with Spagetti and Meatballs, but it tastes really really good after you eta an artichoke

Hmmm

Artichoke

Spaegtti and Meatballs

Oreos

Big glass of milk

What are foods I don't have in my house right now

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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not to remind anyone of the obvious but on artichokes one of the single greatest lines form a movie is Bette Davis in All About Eve drawliing...

"Remind me to tell you about the time I looked deep into the heart of an artichoke"

also milk tastes awesome after you eat an artichoke..I don't even like milk except with Oreos and for some inexplicable reason with Spagetti and Meatballs, but it tastes really really good after you eta an artichoke

i DIDN'T know that Bette Davis line!!!!! you have enriched my life enormously with it!

(and try chicken after artichokes, or at the same time. totally awesome! my standard indoors picnic with small children is this: spread a blanket or newspaper on the floor, plop down a storebought delicious room temperature roasted chicken, and a bowl of hot boiled artichokes. Add an empty bowl for the chewed on leaves and bones, and a jar of mayonaise. oh if you want to get fancy, i add capers, lemon juice and a little olive oil to mine. eat artichokes, chicken, artichokes, chicken, you gotta do it all with your hands, and chew on those bones and the meat is so sweet after the artichokes!). i guess you could do this as an outdoor picnic but 1. you have to take the stuff outside, and 2. if other people can see you, you can't act as wacky and wild. and kids get distracted by other things like nature. you want them in an artichoke frenzy, though i don't know exactly why. more fun i guess. i like being in an artichoke frenzy).

x marlena

ps seriously, it has a chemical that enhances the flavour of other foods, but tends to destroy the flavour of wine. ......tends to, but not always.

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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its a fab line to use when someone is telling a terrible dull story and yes you did just describe yet again another of my favorites things to eat...

not to remind anyone of the obvious but on artichokes one of the single greatest lines form a movie is Bette Davis in All About Eve drawliing...

"Remind me to tell you about the time I looked deep into the heart of an artichoke"

also milk tastes awesome after you eat an artichoke..I don't even like milk except with Oreos and for some inexplicable reason with Spagetti and Meatballs, but it tastes really really good after you eta an artichoke

i DIDN'T know that Bette Davis line!!!!! you have enriched my life enormously with it!

(and try chicken after artichokes, or at the same time. totally awesome! my standard indoors picnic with small children is this: spread a blanket or newspaper on the floor, plop down a storebought delicious room temperature roasted chicken, and a bowl of hot boiled artichokes. Add an empty bowl for the chewed on leaves and bones, and a jar of mayonaise. oh if you want to get fancy, i add capers, lemon juice and a little olive oil to mine. eat artichokes, chicken, artichokes, chicken, you gotta do it all with your hands, and chew on those bones and the meat is so sweet after the artichokes!). i guess you could do this as an outdoor picnic but 1. you have to take the stuff outside, and 2. if other people can see you, you can't act as wacky and wild. and kids get distracted by other things like nature. you want them in an artichoke frenzy, though i don't know exactly why. more fun i guess. i like being in an artichoke frenzy).

x marlena

ps seriously, it has a chemical that enhances the flavour of other foods, but tends to destroy the flavour of wine. ......tends to, but not always.

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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My book is  From Pantry to Table, Addison Wesley publishers. i'd like to say that the book was a james beard nominee. i wish i didn't have to say that it sold about ten copies.

I'm pleased to say that I was one of the ten people who bought the book back when it was first published. It has served me in good stead on days when I felt uninspired and too lazy to go to the grocery store. Very useful cookbook!

I just bought the book too, but I'm sad to tell you I only paid $1.15 for it.

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what about artichoke saganaki! enough to make me lick the whole inside of my own mouth and suck on my teeth , and don't even ask me how i did it when my tongue seemed to be busy with the eating part.

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh: I think that's my favorite line of this blog!

I could be wrong, but my own husband, born and raised in California, claims to have never eaten an artichoke until he met me in his mid-20's. :shock: It's always been one of my favorite vehicles for butter - er, vegetables.

What do you do at Bay Breads? Sounds like you're a baker. Tell us everything!

Sorry for the delayed reply on this. My own fault for not turning on the computer yesterday, and I feel a bit sheepish answering this two pages later, but I am a pastry cook at the original Bay Bread (Pine at Fillmore). Other outlets (bakery/cafés) in Cole Valley, Russian Hill, and Cow Hollow sell our breads and pastries, but they're mostly all made at Pine Street (there's a big bread shop down in South SF, but every pastry is made in my location). I love it. I love the smell wafting down the street in the wee hours when I am coming in to start my day. I love watching the deft fingers of the bread bakers shaping and forming dough into every manner of shape, kneading in extras like dried figs and walnuts, the confident slashes the oven baker makes in the baguettes to give them their traditional grignes, the peel with the 8-foot long handle to get to the way back of the bread oven, the quick flicks of the wrist of the head viennoiserie baker as he rolls croissants, the magic of turning common ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and eggs into any variety of magical creations...of course, that doesn't even tap into what I do, which is pastry, which I also love. It's a great environment with great camaraderie; Pascal (the owner) always seems to have a smile on his face.

Oh, and the pot de crème? A simple spoonful of it can make me weak in the knees. A warm croissant, crispy and impossibly flaky and buttery, gets me giddy.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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I adore this blog.

For about three minutes in the beginning, I mourned the lack of pictures, but by this time I realize I didn't miss them at all.

Well done, Marlena.

P.S. My favorite part was when you referred to the green sheep as "poor little poppets." :wub:

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you."

-Nigel Slater

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What about artichoke stems?? huh?? come one...you know you love'em!  :laugh:

Poached in chicken stock, with chopped tomatoes and garlic...lemon juice right before you devour...I mean serve....

I always consider the stems as part of the heart - the hefty meaty portion after you've nibble nibble nibbled all of the leaves. :)

Marlena, I'll have to try your goat cheese fried artichokes! Yum.... cheese and artichokes and fried. How could that NOT be just fantabulously delicious? I also used to cook artichokes and chicken together all the time when I was in California. Quartered the baby artichokes, sauted with garlic, capers, lemon, then tossed in some thyme roasted chicken and dumped the whole thing over risotto or some nice pasta.

Although I'm not sure I can be like aliwaks and drink milk after eating artichoke. Yikes.

Do you find yourself munching or snacking on things other than fruit & bagels throughout the day and night?

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What about artichoke stems?? huh?? come one...you know you love'em!  :laugh:

Poached in chicken stock, with chopped tomatoes and garlic...lemon juice right before you devour...I mean serve....

I LOVE em! I was scandalized a year or so ago when i was doing a cooking appearance at a famous place (starts with a C and is in napa) and my designated assistant (whose credentials were that she had assisted a big shot cooking teacher in france, initials a w) anyhow we're going over the organization and prep on the phone. one of the dishes was a braised artichoke dish, you pare the artichokes of their thorny leaves, cook the chokes in olive oil, lemon, white white, garlic, parsley. anyhow i was scandalized because when i said to put the trimmed stems into the pile of artichokes to use, she refused! and haughtily informed me that she had never eaten an artichoke stem, had no intention of doing so and we would not be doing so at C. she said that in her training at a w they didn't use the stems, she had never heard of anything like it! (what a great assistant, eh!).

so i had to sadly not use the stems, i would have packed them all off in a doggie bag for myself if they had kept them when they were doing prep but they chucked em in the bin before i arrived in the morning!

funnily, i was speaking to a friend who does cooking tours/classes in paris and she said: of course we do not eat the stems! so maybe its not such a scandalous thing, more a geographical thing. but i mean, you're assisting someone and they want the artichoke stems! please. give her the damned stems! i'm thinking that she felt it would reflect badly on her.

but they're as good as the heart, the dear little things.

Tell me, do you ever make artichoke soup? cook it with stock, thicken it with potato, and melt a pat of butter on it when you serve. and be sure you add garlic to the pot!

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Do you find yourself munching or snacking on things other than fruit & bagels throughout the day and night?

i'm not a creature of habits, except i do like the habit of a couple of meals (at least) during the day/night. what i snack on depends on the weather and on how physical i am and on whether i'm really hungry or just bored/tantalized/piggish. i'm not a big snacker, though there is the tasting that goes on when i'm testing recipes, which happens a lot, so could be considered a snack. that could be anything at all!

when the weather is hot, i love to snack on persian cucumbers: so small and crisp and flavourful! cherry tomatoes! all year long we like to pick up yellow and red peppers and eat them as if they are fruit, they are so sweet and juicy. sometimes i pack them for long plane rides as they are so refreshing and rehydrating and everything on these long flights is so yucky to eat. unless you get bumped up to business and even then its just not too appetizing except that cheese and fruit selection.

sometimes i like--avert your eyes all who have good taste and sensitive stomachs: a cold leftover boiled potato topped with raw onion, ketchup, mustard, and a chunk of sharp cheddar cheese. its very trashy and i have to be in the right mood, but it can hit any time of day or night. don't tell anyone.

we might munch on nuts, esp roasted peanuts. i might make a fruit/vegetable/herb smoothie in the summer, hot chocolate in the winter. but i'm more a little plate of food person than a snacker.

we had a wonderful snack/tidbits with drinks in zakynthose before we left: a fresh cheese that has no name, but would be something between a minouri and queso fresco/fresh pecorino. cut into bite sized pieces. with a pile of hiromeri, which is the island version of prosciutto, but heavily herbed and very salty, cut into paper thin wafers. you eat a little piece of that with the bland salt-free cheese and sooooo good. the cocktails was a mixture of tsipouro (an unsweet ouzo, and it was home-distilled) mixed with a mandarin orange liqueur and a squirt of lemon. ice cubes. now that was a SNACK!

if either of us is in the mood for snacking, no leftover is safe in the kitchen. but the truth is that we mostly like to snack on fruit.

but last nights midnight snack (after our abstemious and refreshing fruit salad dinner) was a grilled cheese sandwich! whole wheat bread, mature cheddar, plain for husband, and bransten pickle for me (the new, spicy kind, i even like it better than the original!).

for awhile last year husband and i both got a bad middle of the night snacking thing going on and we'd eat the leftovers we put aside so virtuously at dinnertime. but we've both gotten over it. it seemed so.....slatternly to me. and also, not very social (we never got up together). it was a solitary in the kitchen middle of the night thing, the food cold not reheated. and we were piling on quite a few calories this way too! now the only thing i really like cold and eaten in those circumstances is lasagne. but we won't go there, not right yet, anyhow.

oh, i could go on, but i've got to go rustle up some breakfast. i'm thinking that i just might fry one of those organic free range eggs--they're a week or so old now, we brought them back from maria's chickens in greece, but i'm sure they are wonderful. once our friends brought us about 3 dozen eggs from maria, and they lasted and lasted and lasted. we could only eat so many eggs at a time! anyhow, i think it will be eggs, fried in sotiris' olive oil, with tassia's last chunk of wholegrain levain bread.

the olive oil seeps in to the bread, i cut up all the egg on my plate, and eat it in bites of oil-dipped bread, runny yolk egg. yep. thats breakfast. and i wonder if there is any leftover fruit salad from last night.......oh, i forgot to mention: i like a couple of whole raw green onions to munch on alongside my olive oil-egg. perfection.

Edited by marlena spieler (log)

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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I love your blog, Marlena. I have a growing shopping list of what I am going to buy when I come back to the UK in a few weeks.

The French don't eat turnip tops either and I have to ask specially if I want to buy baby turnips with the tops still on. Anything associated with the war and hardship is not eaten - perhaps artichoke stems were used as fodder, along with swedes, parsnips and jerusalem artichokes.

Do you get the little bunches of baby artichokes (you eat everything, leaves n all) in the UK, or just the big bulbous ones?

I often give the kids artichokes for supper - with big bowls of melted garlic butter and baguettes to mop up all the juices. The little ones don't like the hearts, so I save them, slice them in oil and garlic and sauté them alongside slivers of steaks, then tossed in linguine for dinner the following night.

Please say hello to Waitrose for me please.... :smile:

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What about artichoke stems?? huh?? come one...you know you love'em!  :laugh:

Poached in chicken stock, with chopped tomatoes and garlic...lemon juice right before you devour...I mean serve....

I LOVE em! I was scandalized a year or so ago when i was doing a cooking appearance at a famous place (starts with a C and is in napa) and my designated assistant (whose credentials were that she had assisted a big shot cooking teacher in france, initials a w) anyhow we're going over the organization and prep on the phone. one of the dishes was a braised artichoke dish, you pare the artichokes of their thorny leaves, cook the chokes in olive oil, lemon, white white, garlic, parsley. anyhow i was scandalized because when i said to put the trimmed stems into the pile of artichokes to use, she refused! and haughtily informed me that she had never eaten an artichoke stem, had no intention of doing so and we would not be doing so at C. she said that in her training at a w they didn't use the stems, she had never heard of anything like it! (what a great assistant, eh!).

Marlena, I would be your assistant in a heartbeat! You are my kind of cook... Only, I have no experience outside of home cooking... :sad:

Christine

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    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
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