Thursday, September 17, 2015

Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem.

There is a Czech proverb I love, which can be translated as:

As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being.

Earlier this year, I decided to return to an enduring passion of mine - languages.  I grew up bilingual in English and Auslan, speak good French and decent Modern Standard Arabic.  I spent the first half of 2015 revising my French and Arabic, and on 3 June, hopped a plane to Paris!

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Yes, this is the reason I have been AWOL for the last few months. I stayed in wonderful places throughout France, from this houseboat on the Seine to a country home among the cherry orchards of Ardèche.

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From Marseille I flew to Morocco where I spent three weeks at a language school, studying the Moroccan dialect.

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I lived with a local family, shopped in the wonderful old city full of twisty-turny lanes and had numerous days where I spoke absolutely nothing but Arabic.

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On a linguistic note, it was a very fast switch to go from Modern Standard Arabic to Darija (North African dialect).  If you are studying MSA and despair that everyone thinks you sound like Chaucer - with the right tuition, you can move very fast to a dialect.

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From Morocco I flew to Spain, or more specifically Catalonia.  Catalonia is an autonomous region in northeastern Spain - Barcelona is the capital.  Catalan - not Spanish - is the native language, and what most people speak on a day-to-day level.  It was a fascinating experience to see such a strong and proud minority language at work.

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But what about the food, you say?!  Here are just a few tasty highlights.  This pissaladière was possibly the best thing I ate in France.  It's a sort of savoury tart, this one on gorgeous, burnished puff pastry, layered with anchovies, beautiful tomatoes, olives and cheese.

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I ate so, so much incredible food in Morocco - of which I have virtually no pictures.  Most of it was eaten as breaking of the fast meals in Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  So a., no pictures because there is a spiritual element, and b., I was honestly so starving by the time it rolled around I just shovelled it in!

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Here is "warqa" pastry being made - sort of like filo or spring roll pastry.  I never did not see the guy on the left working at this stall, no matter what time of day (or night) I went past.  This would be used to make wonderful little pies filled with chicken, green olives and preserved lemon.

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In the town I was living in, women would come down from the mountains and sit in the alleys of the walled city, selling bottles of homemade yoghurt, homegrown garlic, fruit or eggs.

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People generally shop daily and everything is just so fresh.  As in - this is the chicken shop!!!  As in, you choose a chicken, and they kill it for you!

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In three weeks in Morocco, I only ate couscous about three times!  It is not something people eat very much at home, or at least not in the region I was in.  On the contrary, there was lots of bread - one variety that was essentially roti, various yeasted loaves, and little breads that looked like English muffins which my host sister would fill with meatballs, cheese, olives and mayo to make delicious Moroccan sliders.

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Fresh sardines by the beach with my host family, served with bread, a thick split pea soup/dip, and a plate of chopped onion and tomato doused in vinegar.  About $1.50 and one of the best things I've ever tasted.  I ate a lot of fish - I loved one particular tiny variety that were battered and eaten whole, bones and all.  The weirdest thing I ate was snail soup - the snails, with brown and cream-striped shells, float in a dark, herbal broth.  You pull out their long bodies with safety pins.  They taste like mushrooms!

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Amazing paella in Cadaqués, Spain...

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...and also so amazing was fideuà, which is a Catalonian version of paella, made with short spaghetti.

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From Spain we travelled to the UK to see family and friends.

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I couldn't get into the warm, flat beer, but my traitorous tastebuds found this traditional English fish and chips so delicious and better than anything I've had in Oz for a long time.  When I got home, I smelled something acrid in my room, and opened my bag to find my Australian passport singed around the edges.

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That Czech proverb I mentioned before can actually be translated another way:

For every language you speak, you live a new life.

I have been reflecting a lot about this blog.  I have decided to put it on an indeterminate hiatus.  There is only so much time in both a day and a life, and after many years of happy blogging, I now want to use my time to do other things.

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I do have a sense as well that "my work here is done".  I feel that the western suburbs are now firmly on Melbourne's food and culture map.  Yes, there may be issues of balance, but I feel that wider Melbourne is switching on to the western suburbs' delights.

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Frankly, though, I never set out to be an unofficial PR agent for the west.  Even if I didn't realise it at the time, this blog started as a way for me to get over the deep feelings of isolation and confusion that I experienced as a new mother.  I felt isolated geographically, and as a younger mother who was still at university and had never had jobs beyond waitressing and office temping, I felt very confused about what had happened to - or what I was doing with - my life.

I used to read a blog occasionally about another younger woman's experience of motherhood.  It was called "Once Edible, Now Consumed".  I identified very much with the feeling of being consumed - both in the sense of being swamped by the demands of mothering, but also with the sense of lost potential, that my life had taken a turn that did not fit with "the plan".

This blog was a big part in turning that feeling around.  Some incredible experiences have blossomed from it, from becoming a writer for The Age, Time Out and Broadsheet despite having no writing qualifications; running really fun and well-researched food tours for the CAE and then as part of my own business; running delicious dumpling-making workshops; and coordinating the truly epic 2014 Rickshaw Run for the Food & Wine Festival.  The exhilarating afternoon after the Rickshaw Run finished and the morning my first cover story was published were truly some of the best moments of my life.

Thank you for coming with me on this wonderful journey.  Keep eating and loving the western suburbs.  And may the (pork) floss be with you!

36 comments:

  1. How did your passport get singed?!

    (Also, thanks for all the time you put into the blog over the years. Most appreciate the opportunities you provided for me to get to know other westies!)

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    1. Thanks Sian! Oh, the passport thing is just me being silly, that I committed a cardinal sin against Australia by liking English fish and chips more! Given that the only time I have ever surfed was also in the UK, I should pretty much give up my citizenship.

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  2. Hey Lauren - I've loved reading your work and even getting to meet you at a Rickshaw Run, and I will miss the occasional blog updates. Thanks so much for your enthusiastic promotion of our awesome backyard. All the best!

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    1. Thanks so much Temple, and it was also great to meet you on the Rickshaw Run!

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  3. All happiness to you! What you have done is amazing and brilliant!

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  4. Thank you Lauren. Your blog was the go-to resource for us when we found the time to explore the west's dining options between a new house and two young children. Enjoy the next stage in life!

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  5. What a life! You look very happy in that photo. Well done. :)

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  6. Wishing you all the very, very best! Although I have missed your reviews, I am glad you have been so busy living life! It sounds like you have been having an amazing time. I hope to catch up one day :-)

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    1. Hi there to one of my most staunch and stalwart blog readers (and commenters!) Thank you for your kind wishes xo

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  7. Thankyou for sharing and good luck with your new journey!

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  8. So sorry to hear you signing off as I loved reading your blog and had so much fun volunteering at the Rickshaw Run! Thanks for all the great tip offs in the area that have helped me discover some places I would never have found otherwise. All the best for your future and whatever great new things lay ahead xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much Sylvia and brilliant to have met you on the Rickshaw Run!

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  9. I feel a bit like a traitor too as we have moved to a neighboring suburb. My passport is still intact but a piece of my heart has been left in Footscray :)
    Thank you for the years of good reads Lauren, and mostly for opening my eyes to the gems sitting under my nose. I won't say I always tried the exotic delights you showcased (!) but you certainly helped me get a little more adventurous and appreciate the many cuisines and cultures of the west. I can't remember when you started your blog, but I moved to Footscray in January 2010 and I feel like I discovered your blog soon after. It helped me embrace and feel excited about our new 'burb. Thank you. And all the best with your next adventure.

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    1. Thank you so much Ellise - you were one of my first blog readers (and commenters)! I'm glad Footscray Food Blog helped you embrace your new 'hood. xo

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  10. Thanks for all your work. Always a great reference point. And good luck with the future. And PS - I like how after all that time away you say what you say with just a few pics and words - there's something good and happy about that.

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  11. Thankyou Lauren for so many wonderful reviews of eateries in the west. Thankyou also for your last post - that pissalidere !(did I get that spelling even vaguely right?). I'll miss your posts but I'm really glad that you no longer have the original reasons why you started it. What an adventure!

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    1. Thank you so much! How good was the pissaladiere?! (Don't worry, I had to look up how to spell it too.) It was one of those happy accidents - went to that place because they had a special local fish on the specials board, they ran out of it, I said "Oh, I'll have this unpronounceable thing then" - and it was amazing!

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  12. What a thoughtful, lovely way to conclude. I'm so glad we managed to cross paths during your time writing this food blog. I wish you many other fulfilling projects to come!

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    1. Thank you very much, Cindy! All the best to you too.

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  13. I have been dreading this day but I knew it would come eventually. I will miss your Culinary musings and I will certainly miss the opportunities of taking sly potshots at your "enthusiasm" in some instances. I hope this indeterminate hiatus does not extend towards the occasional catch up or it may be too much to bear!! Missing this blog already ...

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    1. It definitely does not extend towards the occasional catch-up! We need more family-style CBAs! xoxo

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  14. Oh Lauren, I knew this would eventually happen but I didn't want it to be yet. I will miss all of the tips and goss you had. Hope to still bump into you at Saigon or many other Westside events :)

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    1. Thank you very much, fellow Lozza! Please do say hi if you see me around. I'm blonde now ;)

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  15. That all sounds lovely! Kudos for language learning.

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  16. What a sad day for me! I have truly loved your blog for how it represented the west side of town. I always felt that people cringed when I told them where I lived, but I now come to realise that exposure of the west, through blogging, food and social media is changing the stereotypes...people seem interested.

    Your writing and sharing of your experiences will surely be missed. I wish you all the happiness for your future! I hope that you can follow up and check in with your readers maybe on a sometimes basis. I think most of us feel like we have gotten to know you through this blog and it feels like losing an old pal. So it is not only about missing your posts, but the person behind them.

    All the best and hope that life continues to give you amazing opportunities.

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    1. Thank you for your very kind words. You truly have gotten to know me through this blog. A good friend said to me a while ago, "I love reading your blog. It seriously sounds just like you are talking to me". The blog really is all me. I'll try to check in and let you know what I'm up to. 2016 is all about new and exciting experiences!

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  17. I'll miss your blog Lauren, it is definitely my go to place for the West. The photos from your trip look amazing! Very inspiring indeed and sometimes I forget that there is a world out there to explored. Thanks for taking the time to share your tips with us and hope to see you around in the (blog) world soon.

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    1. It is my absolute pleasure. It will be staying here pretty much forever as an archive of a certain time in the west, and also so one day my children can realise I was actually pretty interesting!

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