Warning! Gratuitous family and friends and me eating shots ahead! If you’re not into that sort of thing, I’ll be back to normal programming next week – thanks for your patience.
I’ll confess that I arrived in Austria a week ago now. I’m all unpacked. The house has been cleaned, twice. I’ve even cooked a few things, though nothing too challenging. Comfort food, mostly. Soup. Things that make me feel better about missing pohutukawas and my sleeping friends.
I’ve had lots of sweet Twitter and Facebook messages and emails asking me what I’ve been up to and when (if!) I’ll be back.
I’ve looked through all the photos, mostly not taken by me (but I bought my first DSLR!).
It’s taken me this long though to even approach the point where I’ve processed my trip and am ready to regurgitate it all though; it was a big ‘un.
Though I’d like to have been home more often in the nearly 10 years I’ve been away, I’ve only made it back 3 times, mostly because from pretty much everywhere in the world, New Zealand is a damnably expensive place to travel to. It’s not for lack of wanting to though; I swear I even enjoy being in the line to get through immigration. Happy tears come unbidden when I step foot at Kare Kare beach, my spiritual home.
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than eating yum cha, or eating anything really, with my oldest and dearest friends. Which, incidentally, happened often. Really often. I gained several kilos often. Worth every bite.
Like any smart person, I milked my birthday for all it was worth. Birthday week? Birthday month, I tell you. I was feasting on a three course lunch lovingly prepared by my brother and Phoebe, 3 weeks after the fact. There was Smitten’s creamy cauliflower soup (make it, now). There was champagne. The menu was hand-written and illustrated, adorably. There were tarts with homemade custard. Yes.
My mum, as is her wont, made Christmas beautiful. She managed to send Christmas cheer through the ether all the years I couldn’t be there with the most amazing Christmas boxes you can imagine but this year she outdid herself; amazing food, company and a table that might have been laid by angels. My nana passed the engagement ring poppa gave her 60 years ago, on to me and I’ve worn it ever since. More of my favourite people were there.
We went sailing on Boxing Day and ate sausages off the gas barbeque and swam in little shoals around the boat.
Then there was the hike that proved that you can eat delicious food even if you have to carry it all in with you. Thanks to the foresight and genius of Sam, we were eating things like soba with tofu and black sesame, salmon chazuke with nori and udon with koya-dofu. Thanks to the genius of me, we carried more than 100 grams of chocolate per person, per day. I fell down a ravine into a stream and scrabbled on my back like an upturned beetle until Zizi and Bops leapt down to unclip my pack and rescue me. We traversed bush, bogs and beaches. In that 3 days, we watched love and mosquito bites of uncommon ferocity blossom.
Joe swooped in with beer and steak and we regaled him with tales of survival (it rained, the first day, interminably and much to F.’s surprise we did not melt) and bravery (we fought the good fight against multitudes of critters intent on draining us of our lifeblood).
There was dancing and swimming and more eating. This time: taco rice, spatchcocked chicken and rissoles on the barbeque and later, doughnuts fried on a camp stove with a hangover and a view of the roaring sea. I saw that favourite girl find find one more reason to smile.
There was a surfeit of rather hilarious miming games (try miming “vajazzling”) and even a small Bach-lympics involving frisbees.
And though I steadfastly refuse to engage in team sports, I joined several teams: notably team karaoke which convened twice once we were back in town…I have a theory about karaoke. If you go in a group where 70% of participants are karaoke lovers, then the remaining 30% will be converted forever. I’ve seen it happen time and again. Believe. This theory has been proven true in 99% of clinical trials.
Do you like karaoke?
Thank you to Sam, Leon, Joe, F. and Colette for the photos, I know I’m useless but hey, why bother when y’all are so obliging? I’ve put credits in the photo tags, so if you hover your mouse over each shot, you will see who took it.
Toshikoshi Soba Camping Style
Toshikoshi literally means “crossing over the year” and toshikoshi soba in Japan is eaten warm – the long noodles symbolise long life. Since we were in New Zealand summer, we had them cold. Usually soba is boiled in plenty of water like pasta but we’re camping here, people.
For nine hungry campers as a tide-us-over until dinner snack.
You will need 2 gas burners and 2 large billies.
3 teaspoons dashi powder or granules
2 teaspoons sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) shoyu
600 grams dry soba noodles
1 tetrapak tofu
nori in small bits
ten-kasu (deep fried bits from tempura, light and you can buy them in a pack)
dried spring onions (green onions)
black sesame seeds
In one of the billies, heat 250 ml (a cup) of water until it reaches the boil, just, and remove from the heat. Add the dashi, sugar and shoyu and stir to dissolve. Add another 2 cups of cold water and divide the sauce amongst the bowls.
Fill the billies two thirds full and bring to the boil. Add half of the noodles to each pot and boil 3 minutes or until al dente.
Meanwhile, cube the tofu.
Drain and rinse the noodles in cold water, drain again and divide between the bowls.
Top with the tofu, and ten-kasu, nori, sesame and spring onions, if using and serve.