27 February 2011

i've got strength and endurance, so i count my blessings

So. After Tuesday's horrific earthquake in Christchurch, from which the sad news continues to eclipse any good, I couldn't consider much of anything, let alone blogging. Which is fine.

Tim and I and my whole family are so lucky. Removed physically from the horror, although not emotionally. My cousin and his partner down in Christchurch were fine, despite being in the city centre at the time, and we were able to hear this news pretty quickly. Any other friends and family we had down there have been accounted for. But the number of fatalities climb with sorrowful speed. We had two people staying in our lounge last night, friends of our flatmate's who were in Christchurch when it happened. Their stories were a further reminder to be thankful for what I've got.

Thankful or not (and it's not proper gratitude, how can you be truly thankful that something awful happened to someone else and not you?) I've been changed by this earthquake. Wellington, where I live, is supposed to be earthquake central, not Christchurch. I used to be such a daydreamer, floating down the street in my own world. Now I dart from block to block, each shop front a potential missile that I pass like a small victory. I take my phone everywhere. I feel nervous when Tim and I go our separate ways for work in the morning. I lie awake, mentally assessing what might fall on me in the night, the useless-in-an-earthquake concrete walls staring back at me, every twitch of my muscles or distant slamming door feeling like the opening bars of an earthquake's crescendo. One good thing about staying up so late to listen to the news and refresh Twitter is that my eyes shut that much faster when I do get to bed.

Worth pointing out here that this specific fear of earthquakes and feeling like every creak of a building is nature getting angry isn't anything new. It's been this way ever since a well-intentioned but excessively heavy school assignment on disasters when I was about 10. Just now it's a lot more...near.

As with when I was 10, I try to comfort myself with the thought that my grandma Zelda, who died when she was about 75 (would've been so much longer if emphysema hadn't set in) once told me that she'd never once been in an earthquake. She might've been lying to an overly nervous kid (that said, she did live in Tuakau, not known for its tremors.) But then and still now, I tell myself like a mantra that if Grandma could be that age and never be in an earthquake, then maybe I could be that person too. Then there's practical things to help soothe the mind too: we refreshed our bottled water supply, located a torch, that kind of thing.

Of course there's food. On Tuesday night I came home and made us a risotto with extra butter and frozen peas, remembering Nigella's philosophy of the mindless stirring being good for the soul. It wasn't half bad, just focussing on that wooden spoon spiralling through the slowly expanding grains of rice. We ate it out of bowls on the couch and listened to Radio New Zealand till well after midnight.

With some renewed sense of purpose, I baked some stuff for the bring-and-buy sale happening at Grow From Here up the road. In a sort-of humorous twist, the friends from Christchurch who I mentioned earlier were asleep on our lounge floor while I was trying to quietly, quietly ice a cake and wrap up cookies without waking them. At Grow From Here we met up with another local food blogger, Mika of Millie Mirepoix. I'd made Chocolate Guinness Cake, gluten-free peanut butter cookies, and a couple of fruit tea loaves. Mika had made lemon-iced gingerbread (as in the dense sticky cake, not the biscuit), lemon shortbread, and mini cinnamon-raisin-walnut pinwheels. Other people had bought clothes, shoes, a stack of (mostly amusement-causing, MOR-tastic) vinyl thanks to Real Groovy, homemade candles, jigsaws, even a TV. I'm glad Tim and I were there - it felt extremely self-helpful to do something positive for others. There were so many nice people that came and bought things, often giving extremely generous donations, and it was so cool to hang with Mika and with Kaye who is one of the people who runs Grow From Here. FYI if you're near Wellington and longing for some plant-life, totally go see Kaye at Grow From Here, she's lovely and full of good advice and their range of fruit and vegetable plants is amazing. Massive respect to them for getting this organised.

With our powers combined, about $200 was raised by the afternoon. All going to Christchurch. I went back and visited again this afternoon and at that point $700 had been raised. Kaye said that about five minutes after Tim, myself and Mika left, someone turned up asking if they could volunteer. For all the the universe gets it really twisted sometimes, it also provides. I'm going to be dropping some more baking off tomorrow morning and while I can't hang around, please come to the top of Cuba Street if you can - just a donation of any kind and you can take what you like. And there's plenty of deliciousness for the taking.

Before Tuesday, this blog post was going to be a salute to vegetables, but not only do I not have the energy to talk about them in detail, I have even less energy to write recipes out. But in the interest of not being entirely lazy and self-pitying...

...if you roast a halved eggplant, a few good halved tomatoes, and a halved red onion and some garlic cloves with some salt and olive oil, then simmer them (as is) with stock or water, then peel the garlic cloves and puree everything (carefully...maybe fish out the vegetables and puree them then pour them back into the stock in the pan) with some chilli then you'll have yourself a delicious, thick and darkly savoury soup. Vegan too. I got this recipe from the latest issue of Cuisine magazine.

And if you slice a cucumber into sticks, mix it with some sliced red onion (sit the onion in water for a while to make it less tongue-harsh) mint leaves, finely chopped roast peanuts and some crisply fried garlic, and then pour over a dressing of white vinegar, fish sauce, a little sugar and sliced red chilli (I just used a spoon of sambal oelek as that's what I had) then you have Vatcharin Bhumichtr's gorgeously contradictorial Yoam Droksok, a Cambodian salad which heats and cools on impact and is strangely addictive.

So the baking has helped some. We went to see friends in Ngaio for book group on Wedneday night and played with/coveted deeply their kitten and ate their mini lemon meringue pies and laughed so much, which also helped. Every time I pause from any activity though, my mind goes immediately to Christchurch. Which I guess is just fine. It's not over for them just because a little time has passed. It's probably never going to be 'over' in fact, just...different.

I'm sure you've seen this information in a million other places but in the interest of being part of the solution:

  • Red Cross seems to be one of the most reputable ways to donate. Anything helps, but if you haven't got anything to give, then maybe pass the link on through your networks.

  • If you're on Vodafone (in New Zealand) you can txt Quake to 333 or 555 which will send $3 or $5 respectively to the Red Cross. Telecom users txt 4419 - a simple way of doing the above option.

  • MusicHype has an enormous 'mixtape' where you can download roughly a metric ton of music for a donation which goes to Red Cross. Very cool idea, and it's also awesome that they got it set up so quickly. Artists include Salmonella Dub, Mel Parsons, King Kapisi, 1995, DJ Sticky Fingas and literally quite a few more. Click here for more info.
Finally: as a blogger it has been so heart-swellingingly good to know that all the Christchurch people whose blogs I read and who I follow on Twitter are more or less okay.

Stay safe.

Title via: Nas and Damian Marley's Count Your Blessings from Distant Relatives. It feels like ages ago since anything, let alone when I saw them live earlier this month, but their lyrics feel as important now as they did then.

Music lately:

Well...I've spent a good long time listening to what I consider Mariah Carey's Early 90s Trifecta of Emphatic Reliability: Anytime You Need A Friend, I'll Be There, and Hero. In times of high stress comes both comfort food and comfort listening. And all those songs with the simple theme of "I'll be there", just listen to these songs enough and you do get some sense that yeah, you can get through this. Temporary it may be, but it does help. It might help more if you have songs of some kind of equivalence to this. Maybe listening to Mariah Carey really, really wouldn't help some of you right now.
Next time: Each day as it comes so... Who knows. Promise I'll write the recipes out proper though.


  1. What a dreadful situation Laura. But you seem to be helping in whatever way you can so good for you!!
    Sometimes baking and cooking can be a form of escape. I firmly believe that too.
    Oh and don't worry, one day soon you'll feel more inclined to blog about the veggies in greater detail!
    Good luck with everything. I hope the people affected get all the help they deserve.

  2. Nothing else to say,,,other than just that is a gorgeous post, beautifully written :) You put it all so well. Mairi X

  3. One day before my 18th birthday, a large-ish earthquake (6.5) woke us up early in the morning. Thankfully everyone was fine but we slept in the cars for about a week and our house was full of relatives and friends that stayed with us while their houses were being repaired for about a month. I remember one night, I woke up convinced there was going to be another earthquake, because I could hear dogs barking (apparently they can tell these things). I went to my parents' bedroom and sat at the end of the bed for about an hour, not wanting to wake them up but unable to sleep. Obviously, there was no earthquake.

    I'm still scared of them and last Christmas I went back home and some earth scientist was predicting a large one to happen in the area soon. But everyone else was so chilled out about it, I realised there is really nothing you can do about it, so you might as well sleep well at night and just hope for the best.

  4. If this were any other normal time I'd be going on about "oh hey I really want to eat that salad" (I do!) and Yay Roasted Eggplant and Tomato and all that other stuff that I get excited about at this time of year. But, as it is, I've reached that refreshed-Twitter-one-too-many-times/earthquake-overload heavy eyes stage so... all I can really say is, well said. Yesterday was great, both self-helpful and hundreds of dollars for Red Cross-helpful, and it was certainly nice to do that sort of thing in good company. Hooray for baking and random donated goods and awesome that Grow From Here have it all set up!

  5. This is a really well-written post, Laura, and I really hope that it helped for you to write some of your feelings/thoughts/experiences down. I've been thinking of you a lot this week, and have felt thankful that you were unaffected while absolutely horrified by the stories of those who have been. It's wonderful that you've found this way to help those in Christchurch and yourself. Many, many hugs, and I hope things start feeling better soon. xo

  6. I moved from Wellys to Methven, an hour south-west of Christhchurch, in January of this year. It's so fantastic to see not only what Methven is doing but what all the other towns, cities and individuals in New Zealand (and worldwide! An En Zed friend of mine is organising a sausage sizzle in Scotland to fundraise for quake victims) are doing to help out in whatever way they can. Not only will you have enjoyed baking but someone would have loved eating it AND you've raised money for people in dire need. Good work :)

  7. This is a really lovely post Laura. I made some cannelloni for tea last night because I thought the mindless stuffing might have a similar soothing quality like stirring. It helped a little bit. x

  8. Heh, you describe that quake-nervousness like it's my own.

    Very sweet of you to pitch in for the fundraising effort by the way. It really helps to know that people care, at a time of such HUGE uncertainty about the future. So THANK YOU, really, for both helping yourself and for putting out the word.

  9. Comfort food and comfort music are the metaphorical arms that hug the world. And sometimes that's all you can do - and all that is needed. Caring for people in Christchurch starts with caring for those nearest to you - geographically and genetically. It all gets passed on. Butter - the ingredient - is obviously the oil that greases the world!

  10. Hi, first time here, via Toast (saw your comment). Great fund rising effort for Chch!

    Good blog, I'll be back.


  11. Lovely words with a personal touch - it's often so hard to think of what to say without sounding cliched. I live out in the country not far from Tuakau (which you mentioned in your post) so let's hope it remains a tremor free zone. It was kind of chilling to hear of Wellington's tremor last night.

  12. Well done with all the baking and support. We have a cake bake and sale up here on Sat which I will be baking for and most certainly buying too, always good to other peoples cakes.

  13. Hi Laura,
    I think your cake fair idea was great so I mentioned it on my blog. I thought I should let you know.
    Oh, and I added you on my blogroll.