Sunday, August 21, 2005

Not Enlightened Any More

Dear Lord, perhaps one day
you'll remove the veils from my sight;
I'll dive into the river of light -
a thirsty fish, and all the ocean.

And then, perhaps,
jump back out
to the bank
amidst your hard rocks, muddy trees
like a silly child
at a border crossing:
"I'm in France! I'm in Germany!

Or like me, now,
on this corporeal rock
in this solid wet river,
dipping my foot
in and out
of the water.

It will be, perhaps, the biggest
joke of all:
"Enlightened! Not enlightened!
Not enlightened!"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My brother's recipe for baked cauliflower-cheese

Lots of butter
Blue cheese
Cheddar cheese
One pint heavy cream
One tbsp English mustard
Oh yes, and a cauliflower

1. Heat some butter in a deep frying pan, and, when it's melted, add some flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the flour has all been absorbed by the butter (you'll have a sort of thick paste in the frying pan). If you run out of flour and it still looks a bit wet, add more flour. If it looks a bit dry, add more butter. Continue until you get bored and/or you run out of butter.

2. Pour in a bit of milk and stir until it's absorbed. Quickly decide that milk is inadequate for your purposes, and switch to heavy cream. Stir into the butter/flour paste until you have a large quantity of thick, gloopy white paste.

3. Gloat for a while about how smooth and creamy the sauce is.

4. Still stirring maniacally, start adding pieces of blue cheese and cheddar cheese into the mix. The blue:cheddar proportion depends on how strong you want the sauce to be, so it's important to keep on dipping the spoon in to taste and check. Every time you taste, you must sigh, "Oh, this is so good! It's so rich!"

5. Keep on going until you've run out of cheese, and/or your deep frying pan is completely full of sauce. It should be even thicker and gloopier, with a deep yellow sheen of grease whenever you stir it.

6. Chop your cauliflower into florets and boil them for a minute or two until they're slightly cooked; drain.

7. Add a tablespoon of mustard to the sauce and stir it in. Taste again and practically faint with rapture. Take a picture of yourself posing as you stir the glorious sauce.

8. Put the cooked cauliflower florets into an oven safe baking dish and pour the creamy sauce on top of them. If you've done this right the dish should be like an ocean of sauce with a few lonely cauliflowers poking out here and there. Top with a few breadcrumbs (which will immediately soak with grease for that golden crispy effect).

9. Scrape the last little bits of sauce from the pan with a spoon and eat them.

10. Bake in a hot oven for half an hour or until golden brown and bubbling and your whole kitchen is full of a tantalizing caramelized cheese aroma.

11. Serve. If your guests are at all calorie-conscious, tell them that you used skim milk.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cow skull anyone?

From a letter to my friends:


Hi all,

So my mum's farm is full of these Galloway cows roaming around, and it seems that Australian cattlemen have invented their own version of aHindu sacred cow, because there is a Galloway Cattle Society and a Galloway Cattle Review Magazine and lots of glossy coffee table booksof the History of the Galloway Cattle Breed through the ages with endless archived black & white photos of cows at cattle shows (which all look the same to me but I suppose that's what white Americans used to say about Chinese people). These guys are obsessed!

But the point of this story is that the hills of her farm are beflowered with cow skulls and bones, all bleached white by the 100% Australian sun. If I was a priest perhaps I could commune with these skulls, and if I was Hamlet perhaps I would lament that alas I knew them well, but I am just Zoe and I reckon that they could be the next big thing in interior design.

Just imagine the possibilities! You could hang a skull on a string and make a punk rock mobile with danging safety pins and razor blades. You could paint it like an egg and save it for Easter. You could arrange it on a stylish wood table with a bowl of fruit and a musical instrument for a still life worthy of the old Dutch painters. You could arrange it next to a statue of Shiva for a little altar dedicated to the remembrance of mortality, the observance of which is certain to make breakfast taste extra good every day. Oh, the mind boggles...

In short, let me know if you'd like me to bring you a cow skull. They're plentifully strewn across the hills, and I've got a lot of room in my luggage, so come one, come all!

As an added bonus I promise to hose off all the little dried pieces of bullshit. Since we live in DC, we certainly don't need any more of that.



So far I've had five orders and I'm starting to get a bit worried about the possible scene in Customs. Ah well, last year I convinced them to wrap up my walking stick and check it specially, since it wouldn't fit in my bags.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The emu ate my baby

I went to the Tidbinbilla nature reserve in Canberra with my brother yesterday, where we had a chance to witness the phoenix-fast resurrection of the eucalypt forest there.

Australia's a natural tinderbox of a country: hot, and dry, and full of trees juicy with highly-flammable eucalyptus oil. Before white people came, Aboriginals used to practice natural forest management by setting small, controllable fires at appropriate times depending on the weather. But now that we've taken over the wilderness, our forests are primed to explode at any moment.

It happened in Canberra three years ago: massive bushfires scorched forested hillsides bald.
Entire neighborhoods in outlying suburbs were burned down. It was so fast and hot that wildlife were roasted alive; cooked koala carcasses fell from the trees and to lie with their limbs sticking up in the air.

There was only one known animal survivor of the bushfires: a koala now known as "Lucky", found huddled in the hollow of a tree, nearly comatose, dehydrated, with singed-off fur. It was a perfect Aussie rallying symbol and the Tidbinbilla park rangers whisked Lucky away to their animal hospital where they put her on an IV drip and treated her wounds. Lucky can now be seen rehabilitating in the Tidbinbilla reserve where she keeps to a koala's ideal schedule: lolling in a state of supreme relaxation in the fork of a tree munching eucalyptus leaves, with perhaps a midafternoon excursion to a neighboring tree branch, followed by another long rest to recover from the exertion. Her damaged tufted ears and swaths of pink healed scars where fur had been burned away makes her resemble an aging punk rocker, resting in the sun, beer-belly up.

Lucky noshes on gum leaves

Unlike animals and houses, however, eucalyptus trees thrive on fire - to restore the vitality of their soil and, in some cases, even to open their seed-pods - and their regrowth is marvellous to see. Trees that are entirely blackened, with dead scorched branches twisted in the air like witches' fingers, grow new branches directly from their trunks. You can see it here in this picture: the branches are dead, and the tree-trunk is covered with leaves.

It's hard to kill a eucalyptus tree

After we'd wandered around in the regrowing forest, we decided to take a walk in a field with a flock of emus. Here's a picture of the huge birds, peacefully at a distance:

Tranquil emus

When we got a bit closer, our dog, Fenris (an alarmingly militaristic-minded golden retriever), decided it would be a good idea to run, barking, at the emus - perhaps he got the idea from his fondness for chasing cows or kangaroos at my mum's farm. Unlike cows or kangaroos, however, the emus didn't flee. The leader of the emus - a huge, scruffy bird with demonic red eyes - puffed up his neck feathers and rushed at Fenris with the eerie speed of a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. Fenris turned and ran, tail between his legs, whereupon the emu made a few terrifying dashes at me and my brother, croaking and jabbing with its beak. My life flashed between my eyes when the emu circled around us and blocked our escape route at the top of the hill, and I started to wonder, "All this lead-up? All this travelling, wondering, and dreaming, just to go down in history as another emu fatality?"

Amazingly, my brother had the presence of mind to snap a picture, as he was running away backwards from the emu:

Evil attacking emu

I think the snap could be from a movie, you know, where they develop the film from the mysteriously dead man's camera, and the last shot is an out-of-focus monster, rushing up.

Eventually, however, the emu must have decided that we were sufficiently terrified and retreated to a safe distance, casting us a glowing red glare as we dashed back to the parking lot as fast as we could.

When we'd made it to safety, Fenris plopped down in a little pond where he floated on his belly for a while, taking some contemplative gulps of water. He had a tremendously satisfied expression on his doggy face and although I'd like to think the moral he gleaned from the episode was Never Piss Off an Attack-Emu, I suspect his real lesson was something like, Barking Loudly at Emus Yields Extremely Exciting Results.

Friday, August 05, 2005

One of my rare blog entries about work

I just danced an jig with Mary Robinson and Senator McCain in a huge ranch in the hills of Aspen. Mary Robinson has very nimble feet. I can see why she was so popular in Ireland. Diane Feinstein hired a country western band to play at the dinner and they had all the famous people singing drunkenly in a circle about the hills of Colorado. I took my shoes off and I was doing high kicks, at one point narrowly missing George Soros' head as he chatted with his gorgeous young Chinese girlfriend.

Madeleine Albright was wearing a gigantic suede shirt with huge shoulderpads and several layers of long, floppy fringed tassels, and a bright turquoise leather cowboy hat. She had a whole plate full of ribs.

Queen Noor was wearing an exquisite silk shirt with intricately hand embroidered tiny mirrors all over it. I thought she was flirting with Al Gore, but that's just my opinion. She gave us her email address so that we could keep in touch with her about global poverty. It was an AOL account; I don't know why I thought that was so strange.

The sunset from the ranch looked like an Ansel Adams photograph, if you stared at it while you were on acid and then fell asleep and dreamed about it. There was a double rainbow peeking through the violet clouds.

Gosh, I'm drunk. There was an open bar every ten meters and Diane Feinstein has good taste in Scotch.

Global Poverty Menu

We had a dinner at the Aspen Institute and Al Gore gave his slide show about global warming to the group. It was an extremely well done presentation, and Gore was clearly passionate - but I can see why he turned a lot of American voters off. His passion can seem a bit like self-righteous anger, like, "I'm right about this guys! You've got to listen to me or you'll get into trouble!" Which is totally true...but politically, it's off-putting. Anyway, I loved the presentation and I'm glad that he's putting so much effort into these issues - the man really does have remarkable vision about the important issues facing the world, from his work with the internet, to this. He's starting a new open source TV network and I'll be interested to follow what he does with it.

I stole the menu from dinner, and I think I'm going to take it home and frame it. I reproduce it here for you, although the irony is much better when you actually see the menu, with the heavy cardstock paper and the fancy printing.

Yep, global poverty. It's, like, so sad. All those poor people, I bet they've never even tasted a really good chevre! We've totally got to help them.


Thursday, Augsut 4th, 2005

European baby greens, chevre goat cheese and prickly pear vinaigrette

Buffalo ribeye, blueberry demi herb mashers and baby vegetables
Lemon baked Alaskan halibut with pineapple mango salsa, asparagus and tuxedo orze
Roasted red pepper polenta with grilled vegetables

Chocolate ecstasy cake and raspberry coulis


Al Gore is one of the guests at our star studded Aspen conference on global poverty and two nights ago he called Emily, our administrative assistant, at 11pm on her cell phone. "Hello, Emily? This is Al Gore. I've lost my laptop." So now she has Al Gore's number saved on her cell phone. We joked that she should get drunk one night and call him back. "Hello, Al Gore? This is Emily. I've lost my car keys."

By the way, Al did get his laptop back. He'd left it on his friend's private jet.

Aspen is a very beautiful town. But there are more women with plastic surgery here than I've ever seen in my life.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Back to Oz...

I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go to a conference in Aspen on global poverty. Yes, I know the irony is astounding. The main funder of the project I work for is a billionaire investment banker who's into Buddhism; he has a huge ranch on the hills of Aspen with sweeping views and gigantic tapestries of Buddhist mandalas. Uh huh.

And then I'll be going to Australia straight from Aspen, for two weeks to visit my brother. So I probably won't be posting very much for a while. But I'll let you guys know about any particularly fun things to do in Australia...