Monday, September 23, 2013

Reading Notes: The Matsutake Mushroom Festival

My job keeps me tied down to Thimphu for large chunks of the year ( thought admittedly for now I get a lovely long winter break) so I am always grateful to be able to read about other people's travels. All year I have followed this blog by an Australian teacher living in Bumthang with her family. She recently wrote about traveling eastward to attend the Matsutake Mushroom Festival in Ura.  Bhutanese collect Matsutake or Sangay Shamu ( Buddha Mushroom) to sell on the lucrative Japanese market where this particular mushroom apparently heralds seasonal change.  Her post on the festival is delightfully rambling ( its a little like listening to a work friend talk about their weekend over Monday morning coffee) so not all of the post is focused on mushrooms but  its worth a look for the absolutely wonderful photos of the festival in general and the mushrooms in particular.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Low tech apple harvesting

It apple season in our garden and unfortunately the birds are getting to the applies faster then us. Below is a sample of the damage.

My father ( a bit of a bird watcher) has been known to  comment that he wouldn't mind sharing the apples if the birds actually finished  an apple instead of leaving half of them uneaten! 

Sadly we have no tree climbers living in the house at the moment so apple harvesting has not been as smooth a process. This year we low-tech-ing  it. 

Allow me to demonstrate: 

Brother on a ladder using a long stick to shake the branches ..... sister and father below holding a sheet to catch falling apples ....

 .....equal limited success. Far too many apples miss the sheet and land up bruised and smashed 

Still to have a couple of these tasty beauties ... it's worth it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Blessed Rainy Day

Today is Blessed Rainy Day in Bhutan or Thure, a nationally observed holiday that marks the end of the monsoon (or rainy season) and the beginning of the fall. For farmer ( which according to most statistic would describe most Bhutanese) it means the growing season is behind them and the harvest is not very far away.

On Thure all natural water  is considered holy and everyone is encouraged to take an outdoor bath in order to cleanse themselves of their accumulated bad karma. Some people will leave a bucket out to gather rain overnight and then bathe with it in the morning. 

Its also an important family holiday and when I taught in the east of Bhutan, where the holiday is considered particularly important, many of my students made a huge effort to travel home for the day.  As it is with many family holidays sharing a meal is an important part of the celebration. Many families will start the day with a bowl or two or three of rice porridge or Thup is particularly important 

My sister's inlaws ( who are easterns) invited us to join them for  breakfast which of course turned into a regular feast. 

As with many visits in Bhutan  the meal started off with sweet milk tea and biscuits  ....

 quickly followed by steaming bowls of thup...

I ate three bowl full of the rice porridge  before realizing that another rice dish, shamdey ( a mixture of rice, butter, meat, eggs and sometimes a little spring onion) was waiting to be served!

This time with a little suja or butter tea....

At the end of the meal my sister's father-in-law insisted that my brother, Sonny, join him in celebrating the day with a glass or ara or home brewed alcohol. 

Another reason to raise a glass? This post mark an anniversary for this blog! One year ago one of my very first posts was about Blessed Rain Day and the thub we ate!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reading Notes: Asian Beers

A former intern recently wrote to "blame" me for her fondness for South-east Asia. I encouraged her to apply for a scholarship to spend a summer in Laos and she has wanted to return to that part of the world ever since. She recently took up a teaching position in Vietnam and has been blogging about her adventure there including this recent post about all the different Asian beers she has tried since she arrived.  As a firm believer that context and atmosphere plays a huge part in how we enjoy food and drink  her final piece of advice is spot on, she writes " If you decide to try one of these beers back in the states and think its horrible, don't blame me. Book a flight to Southeast Asia and grab a Beerlao in Laos, I promise it will taste a whole lot better."  

As well as inspiring a little jealousy and wanderlust, the post definitely also encourages me to consider writing about Bhutanese beers in the near future!