You know how people say “If you were going to die in a year, what would you do?” to gauge what it is you should be doing in life? It doesn’t work on me. At all. I get even more confused. I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that my horror of committing to one kind of work for the rest of my life was an embarrassing character flaw. On good days I put it down to being a Renaissance (wo)man and on the bad I despair (though this article on “scanners” made me feel a lot more normal) and feel envious of more focussed souls. It’s not that I’m disorganised or lazy – I work hard at whatever I happen to be doing – I just can’t imagine working in the same field, or country, forever and ever amen.
To wit: When I was seventeen, I was accepted into fashion design school and instead studied Sociology and Politics at university because I was scared of having to be a fashion designer for the rest of my life, after which I considered studying to become a curator and journalism school. To give myself time to think, I taught English in Japan and sang in an electro-pop band, then moved to Thailand where I rented a house with enough space for a small studio to dance in. When I realised none of that was what I wanted to do as a job, I went back to New Zealand where I worked in a delicatessen kitchen after which I moved to the U.K to work in catering, spent time in France as a private chef and taught again in Japan, following which I thought about setting up my own kitchen in Austria but got cold feet and instead went back to teaching with a little Japanese to English translation on the side, and started this blog. I’ve moved between countries eight times. I started to find it emotionally and financially draining at least a few years back but have found myself inexorably driven to pack up and move again and again.
When I look at my friends who have found their niche and have been honing their craft or skills for the last five or ten years it’s easy to see how far they have come. With me, not so much – I know what I’m good at and it’s not that I feel my experience isn’t worthwhile but I could never figure out a single job that I felt would allow me to use enough of my disparate skills to be satisfying and I was loath to commit to further education just for the sake of it. I realise these are pretty first world problems; I’m privileged to have so options available to me and that’s certainly not true for most of the people in the world. Nevertheless, sometimes icy fingers grip my heart and squeeze and I wonder why I am the way I am.
For the last while though, things have been coalescing in my head. I decided to imagine the kind of work life I want instead of what job I should do and what I want is this; to be able to dictate my own hours to a large degree, to combine food and working with people, to have variety, and the flexibility to work from a computer anywhere in the world.
So I’m packing up, again, in June. This time, to head home to New Zealand and study nutrition at Massey University. Sasasunakku the blog will go on as usual, but eventually, I’m going to offer nutritional counselling for clients through the website as well – for women who are or hope to become pregnant, for sportspeople, for older folks and allergy sufferers; anyone who needs dietary advice. I also hope to write articles on nutrition for various publications and teach cooking classes in person and on video. It will take me two years to become qualified so it’s a long-term plan but this blog – which I would have given up long ago without all of you – has helped me figure this out, so thank you and I hope when the time comes, you will trust me to help you or refer friends and family to me.
There are a few things I’m a bit apprehensive about. First, F. has studies of his own which will keep him here in Austria for another year and being apart from him is going to be hard. You’ll be hearing a little about that, no doubt, though I’ll try and keep the whining to a minimum. Another thing I’m concerned about is being in a different hemisphere from a lot of my readers – I’m working on a few ideas about how to deal with the opposite seasons thing. I hope you’ll stick around.
Are you a scanner or are you focussed?
Upside Down Pear, Gingerbread and Toffee Cake
I think this recipe is from Sweet Food by Murdoch Books – another one from my scrapbooks before I started writing down which book recipes came from. You can see what it looks like if you drop it, like I did, here and it’s sufficiently unctuous to make a lovely dessert if served with cream or ice cream too.
For the Topping
75 grams (1/3 cup or 7/10 stick) butter
125 grams (generous half cup) brown sugar
4 firm but ripe pears
For the Gingerbread
175 grams (scant 1 1/2 cups) plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
175 grams (scant 9/10 cup) brown sugar
125 grams (1/3 cup) golden syrup
150 ml (scant 3/4 cup) milk
120 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) and put a baking tray in the bottom of the oven in case the toffee bubbles over.
Butter and line a round 24 cm (9.5 inch) cake tin.
Melt the butter and sugar for the topping in a small pan until bubbly and pour evenly into the cake tin.
Peel, halve and core the pears and lay them, cut-side down, over the toffee with the bulbous end facing the edge of the cake tin.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves into a large bowl and make a well.
In another bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, syrup, milk and butter.
Pour the liquids into the well and stir until combined.
Pour the batter carefully and evenly over the pears so as not to move them and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and invert (without dropping!) onto a plate.