Cooking in Ubud – Lobong Culinary Experience

5 Sep

I am not a chef. I’m not even an aspiring chef. In fact, since I met my loving boyfriend just over three years ago, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually constructed a meal on my own and served it. It’s not that I can’t cook, (despite what my partner may sometimes think), quite the contrary. My divorce from the kitchen was very amicable. My partner was (and thankfully, still is) a self-processed foodie with a cookbook collection that rivals my ever-expanding shoe collection. I love to eat, he loves to cook, it’s the formula for a happy partnership. And though the idea of cooking doesn’t excite me, I can appreciate the art of a recipe, and the craftsmanship that is often passed down through ancestral roots. I am fascinated by the history of food, and the power a meal can wield in the family dynamic. I am an anthropology student after all. The past fascinates me, because it has everything to do with the present, and future.

When the opportunity to take a cooking class in Ubud presented itself, I was in. Lobong Culinary Experience offered the perfect marriage between the history of Balinese culture and the importance of food within Balinese life.

A Day in The Market

Our day began with a tour through the real food market. There are two main markets in Ubud. The most popular market is adjacent to the Royal Palace. This is often teeming with countless tourists, bartering and shuffling about with their newly purchased treasures. The other market is further outside of the main centre, devoid of tourists and is more frequented by Balinese locals from nearby family compounds, warungs, restaurants and hotels. We met with our guide for the day, Sang Made, or Sunday as he preferred to be known. He picked us up from our hotel, and we were fortunate to have him to ourselves for nearly half an hour before the rest of the group arrived. We stood in the market and chatted about his family, the banjar that his family belonged to and the basic politics of how village life worked. I don’t want to divulge too much, as the history lesson is as much a part of the cooking experience itself. After this brief post, hopefully you’ll be encouraged to spend the day with Sunday and his beautiful family. Let me assure you, you’ll learn more from Sunday than you could possibly learn from any book you buy off a shelf.

Organically Grown Long Beans

Our market tour was fascinating. Vendors travel from outlying areas to sell their  vegetables, fruits, ducks, chickens,crafts and anything else that is part of the fabric of Balinese life. Camera in hand, I immersed myself in its delicious chaos. Myriads of fruit I could barely pronounce, shades of reds, greens and yellows I had never seen. Smiling women, giggling elders, laughing children, squabbling farm animals, you’ll never feel more alive than walking through this market. It represents the foundation of Balinese life; The earth, and the bounty it provides.

After the market tour ended, we all drove a brief distance to Sunday’s family compound. We were warmly greeted with Piseng Goreng (banana fritters) and Balinese tea. Fed and intrigued, we curled up in the afternoon warmth and listened to Sunday tell us more about Balinese life. Marriage, death, love, the function of the family unit, the significance of their deities and the symbolism behind the Balinese offering.

Cooking With Chef Dewa

After our history lesson, we enthusiastically hit the pans. Nine dishes in total, it sounds exhaustive, but it’s a menu full of flavour, texture and meaning. Marinated pork, sweet potato rice and traditional Balinese tomato sambal are just a few of the dishes served up in one of the best afternoons I spent in Bali! Did you know it takes an hour to make traditional Balinese rice, and the average household makes it once a day? Like most South East Asian Cultures, it is the absolute staple and is incorporated into many of their dishes. It’s a good thing I love rice!

However, the flavour behind Balinese cuisine is driven by the all important Base Gede, or Spice Base. A delectable mixture of ginger, turmeric, candle nuts, coriander, garlic and a few others accompany several chicken, pork and vegetable dishes in the diet. If you’re lucky, I may post a recipe or two!

Balinese Spice Base

Lobong may not have convinced me to quit my day job, but it certainly inspired me  to be a more confident sous chef. It also encouraged me to further appreciate my partners passion for the art of cooking. Most importantly, it encouraged me to embrace the importance of food as a symbol of celebration, love, loss, passion and the family unit. Now, let’s eat!

A Chat over Sate

Advertisements

Trash Can Bandit

27 Jun

A Visit to Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a sprawling green space of over a thousand acres nestled between the ocean and the emerald green mountains of the North Shore. Being a native Vancouverite, Stanley Park was a major part of my childhood. Wandering amongst the giant cedar and spruce trees, feeding the swans and plucky ducks at Lost Lagoon, and meandering the seawall on balmy summer eves are just a few memories that come to mind when I visit the parks’ countless treasures.

Today, while enjoying some long overdue summer weather, we stopped at a shady bench near the Vancouver Aquarium to cool down and quench our thirst. This mischievous masked bandit was scurrying between trash cans in search of goodies left behind by the crowds on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

What the heck is “Culture”?

14 Sep

There are about 20-30 different academic definitions of the word “culture”. But it’s really more than just a word. It’s a word that conjures up all sorts of images, emotions, opinions and beliefs. From the 15th century until as recently as the late 1900’s, it was widely accepted by the conquering West, that “natives” (indigenous people’s) were savage and simple, to be treated more like unruly animals than human beings. Western Europeans believed lover’s of philosophy, art and music were closer to nature, and therefore “cultured”. Ironically, indigenous people’s or First Nation’s as they are called here in Canada, had (and still have) cultures that were (are) defined by nature. Their housing, their subsistence, their beliefs, every fabric of life is intricately woven with nature’s offerings. It was some time, the mid 1800’s, before Ethnographers and Anthropologists who conducted extensive fieldwork, began to redefine what culture was, and re-educate the West about cultural diversity, it’s relevance, and importance.

So, what is culture exactly? How do we define it? Is it a state of mind? Perhaps it’s a set of beliefs? Or is it more than that. Is it possible for one individual to be more “cultured” than the next? So much has the potential to fall beneath the umbrella of culture. If culture is learned behavior from our parents, peers, kin and community, can culture be bad? If “culture” is our survival mechanism, a tool we wield to gain a sense of identity, can we ever be judged? Being a Canadian and of mixed ethnicity, I often grapple with what defines “my” culture. If I were an Anthropologist from an entirely different culture from my own, perhaps, the Yanomamo of the Amazon, or the Bembe of Namibia and I came to live amongst contemporary Canadians, how would I describe “Canadian” culture. What defines it? What makes it unique, if anything?

What do you think?

Lance and I….

5 Sep

An Afternoon With Lance

One of my favourite things to do on holiday, like many, is catch up on my reading. This was an unlikely title for me. However, Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike was an inspiring and interesting read. I’d always wondered why this red-blooded American was so damn arrogant. So he won the Tour a few times. Okay, he also survived a vicious battle with cancer. For me, this book brought him from super hero status back down to a lowly fleshling. It was one of the most honest reads I’ve had in a while. Thanks Lance, you’re a stand up guy.

Navigating the Okavango Delta

30 Jun

The Wilds of the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana. Just typing it stirs an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in my soul. If I close my eyes, I can smell the myriad of sun burnt grasses of the Savannah, the sweet muskiness of elephant dung and unmistakable waft of not-so-freshly picked bones of a nearby carcass. Traveling through Southern Africa was marked by endless moments of wonderment, marvel and since my return to Canada, I’ve been left aching for the soils of Africa. My journey took me from Capetown to Livingstone, where I spent a spell volunteering with lions. Yes, lions.  We’ll save that story for another time. Let me, if only for a brief moment, take you on a wander into the wilds of the Okavango Delta.

Nearly three quarters of Botswana is surrounded by the expansive and semi-arid Kalahari Desert, a desert stretching into neighboring Namibia and South Africa. It’s rich, red sands have been home to the African bushmen for 20,000 plus years and a plethora of species migrate throughout the Kalahari. October in Botswana is often referred to as suicide month. Temperatures can soar well over 40 degrees Celsius, and I can assure you, it certainly does. In fact, it was a searing 45 degrees plus while I there. The air so dry, a dip in the delta was like sitting in a hot bath and there was little relief until the sun went down.

My venture into the delta began at it’s mouth, with a fury of porters, equipment, and supplies. Within an hour and a half of arriving at our launch point, we were all directed to hop into our prospective Mokoros (a long, thin canoe carved out of  either Ebony, Kigelia or fiberglass). And we’re off.

On the Lookout for Hippos

Gliding through the reeds, it astounds me that the delta is nearly void of all sound but for the melodic hum of our Punter, Nicki. Her voice like a familiar lullaby, gentle and no louder than a whisper. Rocking rhythmically, the mokoro slid effortlessly through brush so thick, it would have been nearly impossible to anticipate an unwelcome visit from a three tonne hippopotamus. It is a well known statistic  that hippos kill more humans in Africa than any other animal (other than the mosquito). Though we did briefly encounter a diving male bull, he didn’t seem to take notice of our small party and we were left in peace (whew!). Though he spared us from potential wrath, the thought of being chomped in half was not far from my mind. Yikes.

Despite being the driest time of year, the delta was still bursting with rich shades of green I didn’t even know existed. And the Birds. I couldn’t have dreamed up in the most imaginative corner of my mind, the abundance and variety of bird life swooping in and out of the Papyrus. Reds, pinks, blues, yellows, all the shades of white, it was quite possibly one of the most spectacular displays of nature that I had the privilege of holding a front row ticket to. It took a little under three hours to navigate our way to our camp in the heart of the Delta, a few strides from the waters edge. Moments after we had arrived, rumblings echoed throughout camp, a pride of lions had been here the night previous.  The hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I felt a surge of adrenaline. We were in one of the wildest places on earth, amongst the earth’s giants, and at the very bottom of the food chain. It was frightening and invigorating all at the same time. I embraced it.

We set up camp, and did the only thing you can do when it’s 40 plus degrees. We spent the afternoon wading into the swampy waters of the Delta, and laughing about adventures past. Like the skies, the water was teeming with life, and we all marvelled at the concentrated diversity of flora and fauna in this corner of the world. The days and nights seemed equally short in Africa. Sunset on the delta is incapable of being anything but spectacular. Bursting with drama and fire, African sunsets are anything but drawn out affairs, especially in the Delta. If you’re not quick, you are sure to miss the show.

The Symphony of Birds

The day after arriving at camp, we are up before dawn on a walking safari. Yes, a walking safari. No guns. No vehicle. No protection. Just an insignificant group of humans with sticks, walking in the midst of massive herds of elephant, lion prides, hippos and as we soon come to find out, far greater threats. After several hours of learning about honey-seeking birds, African bees, acacia trees and other fauna, our fearless leader hears the snap of a branch. We were curtly ordered to halt and I swear, I could hear every heart beat right out of every chest. Within seconds, thunder roars, but it’s not from the sky, it’s from beneath our trembling legs. STAMPEDE! We stood by helplessly as a large herd of water buffalo, spooked by our voices, raced across the plain, thankfully, in the opposite direction. Just another day in the Delta!

After another balmy evening at camp filled with songs, games and more stories, our time in the Delta draws to a close. The next day is spent packing down, and erasing any evidence of the human footprint. While the others buzz about, I survey the Savannah behind our camp one last time, and bid the zebra and impala herds adieu.Our mokoro meanders lazily back through thick brush, reeds and Papyrus and eventually takes us back to our awaiting truck.

In my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would ever bring my National Geographic magazines to life. My short time in the Okavango Delta is impossible to appreciate in photos, though I hope my sharing this experience with you evokes memories of your own Delta experience, or inspires you to make Botswana a part of your next African adventure!

Another Day in the Delta

Cat Chat

23 Jun

The Mistress Havana

Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, animals and I have been inseparable. I can remember the name of every pet I’ve ever owned since I was three years old. My current menagerie is at a very manageable two cats. Okay, perhaps the term ‘manageable’ is debatable. Endearing, manipulative, endlessly affectionate, maniacal, courageous, intelligent, calculating and comical are all characteristics my two girls can display in any one moment. I have long admired their split personalities, and celebrated their moments of fierce independence. Without their  nonsensical chaos, my quiet moments at home would be so empty.

Taking it to the ‘Maxi’ and Beyond…

20 Jun

Long, sensual and elegant, a Maxi Dress with the right print and design can be a woman’s secret weapon in a pinch. Dress it up with chic baubles, an up-do, some strappy stilettos and your favourite clutch, and the Maxi becomes the perfect ‘occasion’ dress for any summer soiree. Going for something a little more casual? Throw on some sandals, a fabulous floppy hat, your coveted summer beach bag, and meet the girls for a gab session at your favourite lunch spot. It truly is, the ‘everything’ dress.

The Maxi actually dates back to the 1960’s. Oscar Del La Renta was a pioneer of the Maxi design, and fashion houses such as Dior, Halston and Yves St. Laurent quickly capitalized on its popularity, and paved the way for designers to bring it to the main stream.  From its humble bohemian roots, the Maxi has come roaring back to gain unrivalled admiration on runways around the world. Straps, strapless, empire waisted, halter, tiers and one-shouldered, anything goes and the versatility of this dress is absolutely endless.

While solid coloured Maxi’s have long been a wardrobe staple, it’s vintage, ethnic, floral and art deco style prints that are being donned today in magazines, runways and on the streets of fashion hubs like London, New York and LA. Blues, pinks, purples, yellows and just about any other colour you can dream up, are being utilized into a plethora of collections this season. My love affair with the Maxi has been long and unwavering, and when I opened my online shop in time for the Spring/Summer season, I decided that I would be crazy not to stock one of my favourite summer styles.

I’ve brought in seven different prints for my ladies to covet this season. The ‘Peacock’, the ‘Purple Drama’, the ‘Midnight Maxi’, the ‘Blue Glamour’, the ‘Art Deco’, the ‘Vintage’ and my personal favourite, the ‘Caribbean Goddess’ (as pictured in my first post). London is undoubtedly a mega fashion capital (and one of my most favourite cities on the planet) and with this in mind, I went on the hunt for a versatile design, unique patterns and drapey fabric. Voila, we have the London Maxi Collection! These dresses are full length, made from a luxuriously soft stretch jersey, and feature a fully-lined bust. I will be featuring these designs in a YouTube video shortly to demonstrate their fit and flow. Designed and Manufactured in the UK, for my customers, they have been a well-loved favourite.

While Anthropologie, Guess, and Roberto Cavalli have all incorporated Maxi’s into their Summer collections, $290 – $500 may be a bit steep for that ever-dwindling summer fund. My dresses run from $68 – $90 plus tax. It’s all about putting together those fashion essentials without breaking the bank. If you’re a bohemian princess circa 1970, dust off that ‘ol Maxi and give it some love this year, because it’s the new star of the summer season. And if you’re in the market for something new and fresh, come visit my site and give yourself a little ‘Blue Glamour’ or some ‘Purple Drama’ (www.jordanasboutique.com).

Not another fashion blog, but a journey through this deconstructed life

14 Jun

Beneath the Bridge to Anywhere - Find this dress at http://www.jordanasboutique.com

There must be hundreds of thousands, more likely, millions of fashion blogs online today. And with the countless fashion magazines, style columns, fashion TV, talk shows, books, style personalities and the endless media available to us at every waking hour of everyday, the last thing women need is someone else giving them fashion advice. This, I will leave to all the aspiring fashionistas, and all the fashion moguls at Elle, Vogue and various other couture bibles. Fashion, more importantly the concept of style, has evolved over several millennia, with the last five hundred years, arguably, being the most influential. Trudging through the centuries at a fever pitch, the concept of individualized style has come a long way baby. Through its evolution, fashion has consistently recycled past trends, and designers have managed to reinvent their designs each decade. Which just makes for a bursting closet, since those beloved pieces from the last hundred years are back with a vengeance. Vintage, retro, antique, anything goes.

I dabbled in the fashion industry for mere moments. Learning the lingo was sometimes as confusing as learning to decipher morse code. It was a foreign language. Fit, cut, rise, wash, sweep, twill, skying, oxidation, calendering, and carding.  All mutually exclusive terms and all absolutely essential to speaking the language of denim. All I was certain of, was that these terms could be instrumental in creating the perfect silhouette on a woman’s body. And when combined appropriately, with the utmost care, the perfect jean could make a woman squeal with delight. Clothes, if for a fleeting moment, make women happy. Interesting. Not interesting that clothes make women happy, but interesting that I had never fully appreciated this in others, or myself.

Jordanasboutique.com was a concept born out of a need to overcome my own indignation. As of March this year, I became an employment statistic after losing my position at a ladies fashion boutique because my employer had not been paying their bills. After a period of feeling sorry for myself, thankfully, I gained some much needed perspective. I decided to voraciously grip my future by the horns, and create employment for myself. Like the hundreds of millions of small business owners who’ve carved out the path before me, I wanted to determine my own worth, and not depend on someone to determine what I was worth based on a dismal market-tempered wage. It was a venture with a seamless collaboration of three forces. My wonderful and loving partner, my very patient and talented friend and myself! I wanted to create a site that was simple yet sophisticated, with clothing that women would feel good wearing. Very simple. I wanted to sell pieces that I had sourced out and that I thought women would wear, share, and look and feel beautiful in doing so. My plans for this little venture are limitless, and I am overflowing with ideas. So I do hope for those of you who share the love of fashion will enjoy this little journey we are about to embark on.

This blog will certainly have fashion pieces from time to time. And yes, I will shamelessly advertise my eBoutique for those who are interested in whats new (www.jordanasboutique.com).  My ebusiness is a means to communicate with women through the language of fashion. It’s not haute couture, it’s not full of labels you need an accent to pronounce. They’re just clothes, chosen by me, to share with women who love to wear a little something different. However, this blog will also have several pieces on travel, love, life, books, politics, memories and anything else that inspires me to open up to share with you in this deconstructed life.