Our friend Amy came over last night and we constructed — “made” seems too tame a verb — a Vegetable Explosion. It was very good, though we would add more goat cheese next time and lose the citrus salsa, which tended to overpower the subtle flavors of the vegetables. It is a fairly process intensive dish, with a lot of bowls to wash afterward, but worth the trouble for a special occasion. It was good to see Amy, who has been spending all her time working on her tenure file. Seeing Amy and her pug Penny is always a special occasion.
I had lunch yesterday with my friends Giang and Long at the publishing house where I worked when I was here on a Fulbright in 2000 – 2001. We ate in the rooftop cafeteria at their office, where the food is wonderful, though quite unlike what you would find in a restaurant. More like home cooking. The greens at the top are water morning glory, or convolvulus, which tastes like a more bitter version of spinach; then there is a little ommelet, and another bit of egg cooked as a kind of pancake with herbs, then some chicken in a savory sauce at the bottom, and as condiments some peanust and pickled cucumber.
I’ve been very calm up to now, but leaving tomorrow for VN after eight years away has me in what a nineteenth century novel might call “a state ofnervous excietment.” I can’t say I’m looking forward to the flight, which involves around 18 hours in the air, with a couple of longish layovers that stretch the trip out past 24 hours. I will be able to avail myself of the restorative effects of an excellent dim sum restaurant in the Hong Kong airport — I hope it hasn’t changed — which I will definately need at that point, just before I make the jump over to Hanoi, where I will arrive in the late afternoon. It’s a fairly long drive in from the airport, so my plan will be to drop my bags at the hotel, take a walk, have a light dinner and see if I am able to go to sleep. The next morning I’m going to go make some reservations at a cooking school and arrange for a language tutor — poetry will have to wait until Monday!
Writing from my secret internet connection at the Blue Mtn. Center — which I have because I’m teaching the last weeks of an online course. It is a fantastically quiet & beautiful place. I’ve been sleeping well — did I mention it was quiet? — and have begun getting my work organized: an essay and a book-length poem. I’ve taken these first two days to ease into a quiet frame of mind, but tomorrow is the first day of the work-week & I intend to start spending long stretches at my desk.
The food is wonderful at BMC & my fellow campers are lovely, an amazingly diverse & friendly & talented group. Sunday is the cooks’ day off, so we are responsible for getting our own meals together. Everyone improvises for breakfast & lunch, but dinner is a group effort. Tonight we grilled burgers — I volunteered to be the burger maker. Others made salads, cut condiments, toted trays of food down to the lean-to. Q. was the grill master & the whole thing came together without a hitch. Clean-up was just as easy: the food was put away & the kitchen spotless in twenty minutes. Just a remarkably sweet, cooperative attitude from everyone. Helping with dinner made me realize how much I love kitchens. Deeply human spaces. Maybe I can get a job cooking here when I retire from teaching.
I wanted to mention our new cutting board, custom-made by Matt Christie. Matt has his own blog, Pas Au-DelĂ & is also a contributor to Long Sunday. I found out about his woodworking skills because Scott McLemee, my favorite cultural critic, mentioned Matt on his blog, Quick Study. Confused? Doesn’t matter, just look at this beauty. You can contact Matt through his blog, linked above. The board, even with shipping & a bottle of oil to treat the surface, cost about half as much as would something similar in a retail kitchen shop. A rather woody picture, now that I look at it — oak cutting board on a cherry table in front of a pine chair.