>To get with the spirit of the new year, I wanted to make something special to munch on. I mean, eating is the way we celebrate Chinese New Year, right? Well, no fish up here, and we are rained in again. I didn’t much like the idea of killing the rooster for a special meal, but we always have plenty of beans, and I even had some adzuki beans left from a past trip to NY. I decided to make red bean buns. The bao dough recipe I got from Chinese Gastronomy, and I used a bean paste recipe from that old family favorite, 1,000 Chinese Recipes. It turns out that making red bean paste is easy — just like making refried beans, except with sugar. Of course, the magic ingredient is lard, which I don’t have, but the paste turned out okay. I will post a photo tomorrow if I can — there is nothing more inviting than the sight of a round little bao!
It was fun to make them — the smell of the yeast dough steaming was so cozy. I can’t remember the last time I made a loaf of white bread (10 years ago?), but I make bao two or three times a year and the novelty of white dough never wears off. No firecrackers or lion dances up here on our windy, rainy hillside, but the bao brought the spirit of the new year just a little closer.

>Adventures in pie

>So I got this email from Uncle Wei about my mom’s trip to L.A. and it had all these great pictures in it. One of them was of this outrageous lemon meringue pie that my mom and Martha made. Well, I can’t really look at a photo like that without wanting pie, and since today was a baking day and we had all of these lemons from our friend’s orchard, i thought i would make a pie too. I found a recipe that I have always wanted to try for lemon pie. It had the advantage of being a double crusted pie, which I have always wanted to try because hey, why stop at 8T of butter when you can use 16? Then you take two lemons and zest them, then slice the whole lemons, pith and all really really thin. Then you throw all that in a mess of sugar (2 cups!) and then let it sit for as long as you can stand (I gave it three hours because it had to synch with the bread). Then you beat 4 eggs nice and frothy and add 3T of flour and 4T of melted butter (whoa! 20T!), put it in the shell, cover it in its butter blanket, and blast off! Well, it turned out pretty great — nice and tart and a little bitter, sort of the marmalade of lemon pies. But boy is it ever rich. We had a coffee break this afternoon and both had a pretty nice slice and it was kind of heavy going. I hate to think what would happen to someone who tried to eat two slices. Anyway, since I love to share, here is a photo of the pie so that you will want to go and make or have a pie, too!

this is Baki: aqwszxcvbg7 vr43266`q1 cdewqASDFGHJKL;’
According to him, that is his name, my name, and Ali’s name.

>indoors, outdoors

>When the weather is cold, we light the wood-powered water furnace to heat the house (and the water!) and shut the door tight against the chill. This was the way we lived for the first few days back home, while it was rainy and cold. Then, on day four or so, the sun banished the clouds, and the weather was mild. We threw the door open, and the garden became part of our home. In this way, the lines between inside and outside blur around here. A recent breakthrough has bridged the outside facilities, such as the outdoor kitchen and oven, with the house. We got some log slices, about 4 inches thick and a foot or so across, and have made pathways to the house and between the house and important places. Now, I can go from the house to the outdoor kitchen… in my slippers! Such a small change has really transformed the relationship of these things — the kitchen and the house, for example — to one another.

Baki has adopted the outdoor kitchen as a play area, and it is working out well because his figure-8 train track fits nicely on to the table out there. It also has the distinct advantage of being clearly visible from the (indoor) kitchen sink, so I can keep an eye on him.

We went to see a friend and his wife down in Cirali, about 20 minutes away by car. They live in a citrus orchard, and the trees were heavy with fruit, and surrounded by fallen, soft, fruits. There was a slight smell of decaying oranges in the air. Ali and Baki went out with our friend to pick some fruit while I taught the wife how to knit socks, and loaded the back of the truck. When Ali came in with a few oranges, we ate them greedily — when we left, tangerines were just coming into season, but these were the first oranges I had seen for a while. We looked up from our feasting and held some out to our friend. He looked at us as if the very thought of an orange exhausted him. We resumed our eating. Citrus fatigue is sure to set in, but until it does, I will pig out on oranges. I’d better — we brought back around 100 pounds of oranges, tangerines and lemons!


>We are back from a month in Istanbul and New York. I realize now that we timed our return very well; for three days following our return, we were showered with, alternately, drizzle, rain and apocalyptic hail (small stones, but lots of them). The result? The dip in our road is now a raging torrent of water (see visual aid — this was taken today, after the water died down by at least 30%).
This means that for the moment at least, we are more or less stranded. We spent a while tossing rocks into the water to try and make a path for ourselves to get through that will not end up mired in mud, and the weather has cleared up today, so if it continues this way, we should be able to make it down the mountain by Friday for market day in Kumluca. It’s a good thing that we made a quick stop at the supermarket on our way up — I was barely conscious, since I basically went into a coma-like sleep the entire drive down (I think I may have tired myself out a little in NY), but I managed to grab a few essentials, and a good thing too! Also in our favor was that we were showered with enormous butternut squash right before we left (which sounds painful, come to think of it!) and they kept nicely in our outdoor cupboard. We have been eating a lot of squash — I am cooking some in the lentil stew we’re having for lunch. Other than a few greens in the garden, it’s the only vegetable we have right now!
Anwyay, we all had a nice time throwing rocks, and Baki played in the water and on the rocks.
As we worked, I realized that this is what was missing from my life before we came down here, and it is one of the things that makes this life good for me. I need physical work to stay level-headed. I don’t know what it is, maybe everyone is the same. I have always felt better, happier, more in control after I work hard, whether by digging in the garden, or going for a run. Being a lazy person, I tend to avoid physical work, so it is good that I have found a life for myself where hard physical labor is not a choice, but a necessity.
In the end, we seemed to have made a dent in our work and marched home so I could start lunch and Ali could do work in the greenhouse. Did I mention that it is good to be home?