In conversation, a Master Yogi (MY) and his Student (S)
S: Master, I have come to you today in query of an Enlightenment Pathology.
MY: You are troubled, Student? Perhaps it is that you cannot cessate your Mind?
S: I have to admit, I have no control whatsoever over my Mind. Do I attribute that you my Teacher?
MY: The Students who come to me as Sheep. Do I ever enquire after the Great Zen why it is that my Students are all Sheep and what unfortunate luck I have? What is your pathology query?
I was seated in a tutorial session of a module in Philosophy 101. I had not a clue what the tutor was trying to explain about the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, where it came to that one should practice not thinking anything as part of the ten grounds towards Enlightenment. I remember asking, how it is that one could think nothing? At age 9, I asked my parents what Time was. At age 10, they branded me “little Margaret Thatcher”. Would the very act of thinking not nullify nothingness? And according to what was discussed in tutorial, it is through thinking nothing that one comes into the essence of knowing. Every evening for the entire module on Buddhism, I went home and tried to practice not thinking anything. Every evening, I failed.
Most forms of meaning-making grounded in empirical endeavors have yet to place postmodernism in their perspective. Truths based on empiricism in whatever of its hundred guises remain not only context-dependent, but intersubjective, constructive and aperspectival . With this comes the grounding realisation that what is seen remains, what was seen.
With chin resting on his open palm, and elbow resting on the dining table, he sat and contemplated his options. Suddenly, he bounced right off his chair, and headed straight for the household refrigerator. He tip-toed to reach the freezer handle, grabbed it, gave it a decided pull and brought out a tray of ice-cubes. Freeing one ice-cube, he then placed it carefully on top of the buttered toast served warm to him for breakfast just a few minutes before.
To the child that was born to least suspect
For everything promised it and all itself expects
The unfunnification of life begins with a tint of misgiving
A twinge of a tint of a misplaced shilling
To be shown all candy to be told they are there
Confirmed for its having without any care
The unfunnification of life begins with the realization
That these are just things in phantomisation
And when the child steps into this phantom world seeing
That everything it once thought it knew believing
Was not to be seen nor touched nor found askew
It will know. The unfunnification of life is just so.
A phantom of expectations that come and go.
To the child that was born that now suspects
The unfunnification of life was its founding aspect
Clarissa sat at the table with five other persons, to a Japanese lunch. She noted the interest of a friend to the family, a suitor, in the family daughter. The suitor had for some years ago, gone on a parent approved date (in Asian tradition of chaperoning) with the daughter. It had been some years in-between, but the suitor felt as if nothing had changed between he and the daughter of the family. So time was of no barrier. He felt they could carry on the conversation from where they had left off some more than a decade ago. He was about to leave the bright city lights of his home country for a new one. The new country being nothing short of a paradise island located in the crystal blue oceans of the Caribbean. He was to be there for at least a year, and most everything of his essentials were contracted to be looked after by the company that was sending him on this expatriate assignment.
It was a wedding. A cousin’s. It happened that Ava had clean forgotten to turn off the gas stove. Ava and her husband were both already in the car on their way to church, but realising this, she turned to her husband to ask him to turn the car around. It would take just a few minutes to get the task done. But Ava’s husband was not in the mood. She could register his rising irritation by the second, “How could you be so careless?” he bellowed, “It’s just like you isn’t it, Ava! Careless and forgetful!”
They walked as a pair in complete synchrony in rhythm and sway. Finding a seat in the train, they sat comfortably, next to each other. After contemplating the signs hovering above the bright coloured plastic seats of the train for all of three seconds, the older of the two decided to take the seat marked for the disabled. She was after all in the elderly range in the context where she now found herself. The pair gestured animatedly as they talked while they sat for their journey. The younger of the two had at all times in hand a mobile phone where utmost attention was paid. If there was any sort of hierarchy between the pair, it was not much noticeable except that the older seemed to speak much more than the younger. And when the younger was too engrossed with the phone, the older of the two would peer over the younger’s shoulder, inquiring in expression of what it was that made the small screen so interesting to the younger. The younger did not seem to mind this intrusion of space, a normalized behaviour that had by now become an expectation.
The granddaughter, now in her early twenties, watched her grandmother prepare the batter of a mixture of white glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour, a pinch of salt and a pinch of yeast etcetera, for a sweet and sticky Asian cupcake. It was humid outdoors and this was something to look forward to with light tea, in the cool of the patio on the rattan settee outdoors, overlooking the small but tidy garden.
Life is a weird fleeting moment of a very long now. You’re in a trajectory and there’s much less room for you to move than you have been led to believe. Still you’re able to influence things and some people manage to change the world in their trajectory, to get everyone onboard with them, because reality is a conjoint decision. This perspective of reality bars the perspective that Everett’s multiverse is a theoretical infinite alternative of parallel realities where everything is possible in the same instant. In this perspective (of conjoint decision reality), Everett’s multiverse is manifest as a web of infinite possibilities mapped simultaneously unto what is perceived as current reality, resulting in a highly restricted movement of any one individual in the system. Such is the quantum multiverse at work in a material world.
“The conception of nature as fundamentally semiotic is certainly not new; what is new, rather, is the nearly unanimous repression of this conception by learned society.” 
Language fills in when semethic interaction fails. But here, I would say that language tries to fill in what human cognition fails to connect and decode in nature. Because language is more often metaphor for living than living in itself, what is described is at best, approximate.
It was a long, quiet walk up from among the large barns and horse carriage sheds where the guests parking lot was located, up the gravelled carriage way. With the rain and winds of Swedish west coast autumn, the weather felt as much Tudor as what greeted us up ahead the road, the Tjolöholm Slott. Except now, the short bushes around the garden were decked in the prettiest of Christmas lights, casting a dancing play of gold shadows on the building’s facade.
Up at the manor were two entrances. A front garden entrance, and a back garden / seafront facing entrance. Guests this evening were to enter through the doors facing the seafront, and for that, you needed to go around the manor. As we rounded the left corner to make a soon right, we were greeted with the view of the back garden, and framed as backdrop, the dark hues of a dramatic silvery sea.
It’s the first week of Swedish Christmas table seatings at restaurants across the country. In Gothenburg, treating yourself to a julbord is a bit like getting to open your Christmas presents a little early. Even if the point with Christmas tables in Sweden is to offer traditional Swedish fare found year round at different junctures, it is still the manner in which the food is presented, plus the Chef de cuisine’s personality that comes through with each dish presented that provides all the fun in the dining experience.
This year marked the seventh consecutive open harvest festival held at Tjolöholm Castle, along the coast just south of Gothenburg.
Tjolöholm was the last private mansion to be built in Sweden large enough to be denominated a castle. The area around the main house that has been tilled and farmed from medieval times, continues to remain prosperous as farmland today.
In Sweden nature offers an unexpected luxury – winter apples. These are apples that are not ripe enough to be picked before the the cold winter season has come and night temperatures are down to just above freezing.
Since this is a natural produce where we can’t do anything to hurry up the process of growing or ripenig, what’s to do is to just wait and see.
In this case, ripe enough for picking is not the same as ripe enough to eat. On the contrary, these apples need to be treated carefully like eggs, and to be cold stored and individually wrapped in paper. Treated in this way they can keep the entire winter and at some point in time ripen to an unrivaled sweetness and flavour.
Stepping out of the car where I was dropped off, a few steps in through the surrounding pavement and I found myself in old Telok Ayer Market. It being early in the morning, I found it rather like an empty school canteen just after the morning school bell had rung and all students had filed neatly into their classrooms. Not one table filled with anyone at all, except me.
Thanks to generous neighbours, we once again had an abundance of apples to enjoy. Of the many recipes to choose from, cinnamon flavoured apple sauce to last throughout the winter, is a given.
Then thinking about the meal just enjoyed during my recent visit to Singapore, in the hands of the Valtulina family of Ristorante Da Valentino, where Perla Valtulina of Perla’s Pastry Boutique served up a most delicious apple tart as dolci, I decided to try my own hands at making an apple cake. Not that I can ever dream of matching hers, but lacking the possibility of having her gorgeous desserts in Singapore, this will have to do when back in Sweden.
From saving Middle Ages monks from starving too much during the long period of Easter Lent, and in 1522, being prescribed as a remedy for cholera, to later being seen as disgusting to eat because they were thought to be scavenger creatures that fed particularly on human corpses, the humble crayfish has seen its ups and downs in terms of reputation:
So autonomous are the archipelago islanders that closest neighbours, living in the same summer house, agreed to visit the harbour festival each at their own time and convenience, coming back to discuss, “So, what did you think about the harbour festival? Did you like it?”
Most noticeable this year was the lack of an urgent and pushy crowd, witnessed only a few years ago at this annual hamnfest. The change in general behaviour could perhaps be attributed to several factors, though two that come across as most likely are, that the festival this year seemed catered much more to children’s summer activities with a mini-Libseberg of sorts going on, and the other being the establishing of online communities of trade that the islanders had initiated, rendering trading in goods and services between themselves an everyday affair where the harbour festival provided a bolstering physical meeting point.
“Wow, this is fantastic! What was it you said that goes into making this blueberry sauce?”
“Pieces of chess – chessmen – as how you lay them on a chessboard. It is not one ingredient or another, but a combination of factors that includes time, over two decades.”
It was blueberry cheesecake topped with a luscious, syrupy blueberry filling, softly oozing down the sides of the cake as it was placed in front of me at a café in Singapore, that had me at hello darling – what are you, and where have you been my entire life? I was fourteen. It was the first time I was having a baked cheesecake topped with blueberry filling. It looked good.
But even then I realised that I needed to take that blueberry filling home with me somehow. By ‘home’ it was meant, anywhere in the world that I was. If there were blueberries to be found, then there was this to become swiftly of them. I knew at first sight, I needed the recipe to this mouthful of creamy deep blue-purple heaven that wasn’t one bit infused with any sort of chocolate. Yes, what insight into my own culinary visions.
“It seems like the more I read, the less I understand of things and how they work.” was the exasperated comment.
He looked up from the daily broadsheet, his expression curious and silent.
“For example, if people knew about Gravesian theory, would they then choose to not intervene without first understanding the larger circumstance of society, how it worked in that context, and with that, the consequences to follow, following certain actions? Would they not know? They should know, no?”
He smiled then and nodded, “Things, go in waves. So I’m a little more optimistic than you are in that sense.”
The landscape of the Swedish west coast noticeably lacks sandy beaches. In place of sandy beaches are granite rocks, shaped by thousands of years of mostly cold winds and rains. These rocks have been around for quite awhile and have been smoothened round by the moving glacial ice sheets of the last ice age to render soft looking mounds, set against the horizon of the North sea. But appearances can be deceiving as the granite composites are anything but soft; comfortable only in as much as you can make on them yourself with brought cushions and fluffy beach towels.
For the first time in more than a decade, I stayed home during the summer, as in, remaining in Sweden during the warmest part of the year.
These evenings, we are often greeted by the monotonous rumble of high powered pleasure crafts going up and down the western archipelago, of people seeking yet another hip place to spend the night (where there seems to be as many rock festivals lined up along the Swedish west coast as you can anchor), alternatively, an absolutely silent and secluded natural harbour, where you will be lulled to sleep by the soft evening breeze to wake up to the curious pecking of some sea fowls finishing off your evening meal carelessly forgotten out in the open.
Sweden is a large and not very densely populated country. Summers are as made for long drives and long conversations following the sun to see it touch the horizon before rising again.
Where increasingly, time is considered a personal luxury, Swedish summer months seemingly uninterrupted by nights are when you can truly feel the endless stretch of time ahead of you. Today we decided that we’d go barrel hunting. And for that, we headed towards the northern west coast archipelago of Tjörn and Orust, driving across Tjörnbron.
The modern bridge replaces the original Almöbron, built in 1960. In 1980, the bulk carrier MS Star Clipper hampered by heavy fog during the night, collided with the span of Almöbron. That night, several vehicles plunged into the sea before they were able to close the bridge. The foundations of Almöbron, can still be seen sitting directly under Tjörnbron. These foundations now seem to provide the perfect angling spot and in the nearby park, an Erik Nordström’s memorial was built to acknowledge his initiative for building Almöbron.
I love marketing. And what better way to market than to chance upon these tented food stalls at Järntorget in Gothenburg during lunch hour?
Despite the overcast sky that threatened a tropical rainstorm, it was a decision to head towards Järntorget for lunch that landed this serendipitous find of a food market, courtesy of Tentazioni of London.
It was the search for that perfect xocolata calenta in Barcelona 2011 on a weekday morning that found me wandering the streets of El Raval in the neighbourhood of Ciutat Vella, also known as Barrio Xinès or Barrio Chino, close to the quarters of Barri Gòtic, that landed me tasting the most wonderful variation of the Eurasian semolina almond cake, infused with orange.
Working on the batter of this cake, I can’t help but return to the words of the protagonist in Proust’s Swann’s Way, the first of seven volumes to À la recherche du temps perdu (published between 1913-1927), on when the petite madeleine, crumb soaked in tea, touched his lips:
Summer is here and I don’t think any form of soft or coercive persuasion would keep Swedes on office grounds unless absolutely necessary. My years working in executive education also taught me that holding organisational seminars outside of office grounds could prove more productive for project work. The change of environment provides a welcome break in everyday routine that encourages the workings of the creative. It was for this reason that I found myself standing in the lobby of Quality Hotel 11 at Eriksbergshallen this morning, looking to congregate with the rest of my colleagues whose main focus is research in the European context.
It’s been clear blue skies and intense sunshine for some days now along the west coast of Sweden.
“Ah no! It’s not supposed to be like this now. It’s too early! You know, it’s like this now, then later in the summer, you know it’s going to be miserable. It should be bad weather all the way to Midsummer, then after that, you have good weather. Now that’s a good summer!” ~ A neighbour.
Of all collaborations Marc Jacobs had done in the past decade till 2013 for Louis Vuitton with Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami , Richard Prince and Yayoi Kusama, the Murakami range remains one of my favourites in terms of the execution of precision chaos in art if there ever was such a thing.
Not particularly attracted by poparstic works per se, what draws me to the Murakami Vuitton range is the result of the unusual synergies between traditional handcrafted work grounded in rich European travel history with all its roundness of sensory experience, and the contrasting surreal ‘flatness’ of animations of a completely different era in pop culture, from Japan. If these two worlds can come together in any sense of classical physics and philosophy, then almost anything else can come to be of other areas of unlikely synergies. And the results are a certain finesse of execution in design that is not symbolically regressive Mad Max grunge that comes across in Sprouse-Vuitton collaborations or Gaudí organic progressive reminiscent that comes across in Kusama.
The first thing you’d notice about this bag is how weighty the canvas and sturdy the construct of the bag is for its satchel size, where even in GM, it was clearly meant as something more fashionable heritage narrative than a luggage carry-on.
The Trianon Sac De Nuit was created and produced in limited edition in conjunction with the celebration of Louis Vuitton’s 150th anniversary, paying tribute to Vuitton’s early days of 1854 – 1892, when Vuitton began selling light weight flat-topped trunks covered with their signature grey Trianon canvas. Prior to Vuitton’s flat-topped trunks, most trunks for travelling had rounded tops so that water would run off, the disadvantage being that they could not be stacked. It was Vuitton’s Trianon canvas, airtight flat trunks that allowed stacking with ease, for voyages.
The symbolic flower for the month of May is the Rosa Chinensis or the China Rose, which shares the same name / title to one of my paternal grandfather’s favourite songs, “Rose Rose I Love You”.
That song was first recorded in 1940 by Yao Lee and then by Frankie Laine in 1951 with the lyrics of the latter unrelated to the original.
What I found interesting in Laine’s version is that the song references a girl, possibly named Rose, as a “flower of Malaya”. This reference brought me back to the origins of Clifford Pier in Singapore, built between 1927 and 1933 and named after Sir Hugh Clifford, Governor of the Straits Settlements at the time. The pier was one of the busiest embarkation and disembarkation points in Singapore that belonged to the Straits Settlements Crown Colony during the early 1900s, from immigrants to the trading of goods. That Customs House at Collyer Quay stands in close proximity to what was once Clifford Pier today is testament to its history.
I generally dislike totes. Personally, the very purpose of carrying a bag at all is to be able to go hands-free of carrying the goods, either by slinging it over the shoulder or in rucksack fashion, carrying the goods weighted on your back square between the shoulder blades.
But there are always exceptions.
The Louis Vuitton Monogram Manhattan PM is one such exception.
In 2007 the rules of the game were changed when it came to importing and selling wine in Sweden. That year EU ruled in favour of the individual’s right to trade freely between Member States , and suddenly anyone could import their own wine without the Swedish governmental monopoly ‘Systembolaget’ having any say in what or from whom.
The Xwine company was founded almost immediately upon that. The idea is a simple one. Find unique vineyards in Italy and France, and offer their wines to friends and customers in Sweden.
Rediscovering the obvious
A few years ago we were traveling in rural China well outside of the tourist trails. Here we were invited for lunch with some locals. The omelette served was so rich and tasteful it stunned me, I had never had such a good omelette at any more urban hotel or restaurant. I realized I just needed to know the secret and asked our host, thinking there must be a secret ingredient, how this fantastic omelette had been prepared. As a reply, I got back, a blank stare. – You do like this, she said. You take two eggs and your chopsticks, and then you stir, like this … (whip, whip, whip … )
It was not before we came back out on the land outside the house that I noticed a whole bunch of free roaming hens, picking and eating whatever they found on the ground and doing what hens do. I realized that was the entire secret, happy hens, left alone living together with humans, not as an industrial production unit.
So when it comes to food production and consumption, something that fundamentally affects our lives and eco-systems, while it seems that some parts of the world have seen its third global shift, there remains a constant struggle today, to reconcile the different perspectives of how humans should and can manage their environment in an integrated, ecological manner that puts them not at the top of the food chain because that perspective is myopic and eventually self-destructive, but alongside in collaboration with all other food chains and eco-systems .
Some things in life, are unexplainably uncanny. Like my first time landing at the airport in Shanghai. As I stepped into the arrival hall, I saw two formally dressed individuals, one of whom held a name card that read, “Cheryl CAMPBELL”. Without pause, I found myself walking right up to them:
“Are you looking for me?” I asked curiously, careful not to mention my last name.
“You from Gothenburg?”
“Yes, from Gothenburg.”
“You, Cheryl Campbell?”
I hesitated a heartbeat, then answered, “Yes, that’s me, Cheryl, from Gothenburg.”
“Ah! Cheryl CAMPBELL! It’s a pleasure meeting you!”
I smiled, returned the warm greeting and said very little thereafter.
Then there were my days in Barcelona in 2011, where depending on which route I took to the IESE Business School, I would find myself every morning, walking past two different monasteries, one was a Carmelite Order, an order devoted to silence, contemplation and reflection, and the other with a heritage in the Order of Saint Clare / the Second Order of St. Francis of Assisi.
At the most superficial of coincidences of my days in Barcelona, my parents had wanted me to become a nun of the Carmelite Order. I also grew up in a convent founded by a Minim Friar, St. Francis of Paola (1416-1507), named in honour after St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
During these days, was that visit to Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat, about forty-eight kilometres from Barcelona, where I found the most delightful of cheeses crafted by the monks themselves.
So I couldn’t help but muse when for several years in a row at Passion för Mat, whenever I meet with Jacques and Maria Six of France Fromage who specialise in fine cheeses, they seem to place in front of me, specific types of cheeses related to my life’s travels somehow. This year, when Jacques pulled us aside to relate the story of Reblochon, fromage de dévotion, I almost stared at him in disbelief.
Every year at Passion för Mat, you’d find me loitering back and forth, around the egg stand. In the first few years, I was curious about the eggs themselves. What was so different with these eggs here? Are eggs, not eggs? What was there to explain for visitors?
I observed that, for the most part, the eggs were just eggs. It’s versatility, being just as useful in cakes as they are in batters and the myriad of ways they could be cooked just on their own, meant that the egg stand emptied out before closing hours on the last day of the fair.
But in the last few years, I’ve managed to catch snippets of conversation over the egg counter, where they were horrified to see how some visitors, in their rush to market at the fair, so carelessly tossed their newly acquired, fresh eggs into their shopping bags. “The eggs don’t fare well being treated roughly like that! Its texture and taste will alter! Be careful!”, they insisted.
Beautifully crafted jars piled in pyramid form, lit from their feet by several spotlights made for Fredrikssons annual display at Passion för Mat 2014. It was wonderful seeing their marmalade stall teeming over with visitors, each curiously sampling the sweet concoctions with hardbread or crisps, trying to decide which of the dozen offerings of flavours they liked best.
When I met with her last year , she told of how she had always dreamed of producing her own olive oil from the island of Lesvos in Greece. Personally, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful island to produce this golden liquid, a place as mystical as it is real.
As passionate as ever about making olive oil from her own garden in the Emerald Isle of the Aegean sea, this year, Lambrini Theodossiou told that she included olives from wild olive trees.
When asked how much olive oil the olives from a wild tree could produce, she beamed brightly and said, “They are so rare and so few. You know, one tree might only contain one branch and from that one branch, only a few olives are good for pressing. But they are so full of flavour, and pack so much punch to the overall taste – it’s worth the effort!”
I looked at her and smiled. I couldn’t agree more.
Ongoing, a part bantering of ideas, part negotiation, of a large block of crystallised Porcelana cocoa bean chocolate dating almost thirty years back, that after tempering, would render the silkiest textured chocolate. Not being able to overcome the initial realisation that I have been eating decades old chocolate, I finally got around to the main thread of talk at the table. The idea was how to keep a consistent standard of quality that at the same time, made the signature of your culinary work. Service was a given, they were all artists and experts in their own culinary field of choice, there could be no other way in this business otherwise. But in the ever increasing modularisation of the individual’s niche knowledge and skills, there came the question of the paraph that made it just that notch more exclusive for the customer:
“How would you propose I do that?”
“I told you, get this block of chocolate!”
And so it is, all part of this year’s Passion för Mat 2014 theme, Ärlig mat or True food. Food that leaves a lesser carbon footprint, a non-kitsch understanding of sustainable living and a redefining of what is luxury and exclusivity, without a mention of those words. It’s all very practical and all very Swedish.
When I was young my mother worked in the advertising industry. Between the ages of five till about twelve and then again at around sixteen I got to model in several Singapore print adverts that included Metro, McDonald’s and Nintendo.
In one photoshoot, several girls were lined up neatly in a row, the purpose of which was to get us to take a hop forward and land on one foot, looking excited and into the camera. Out of twenty odd takes I looked up only once, much to the exasperation of the photographer, “Why can’t you look forward? There’s nothing on the ground! Look forward! Look forward!”
Even at the age of six, I found myself curious as to why it was that I just could not look up when I jumped. I simply had to see (and thus know) where I was going! I concluded that it was due to the rules of hop-scotch, a game that I played almost everyday when growing up at the Convent that I could only look down whilst hopping. You always watched where you hopped because stepping on a line would get your turn forfeited in the game, plus, that you had to re-draw the rubbed off area of the squares in the sand once you had stepped on the lines and recess time was only that brief.
For one photo shoot a large number of fluffy small yellow chickens was brought in. Featured in the picture above is just about a third of the feathered little things. My mother brought home two little darlings from this shoot, one each for my brother and I to care for.