Saturday, 9 May 2015

Seaweed and dessert

Seaweed spread.
Picture by Celia Spoucer
This year has been really fun learning wise. I have been doing Lots and Lots of stuff lately by way of taster courses. Sour dough, wood turning, now foraging and cooking with seaweed. My seaweed thing actually stems from my close connection with the sea. My very first habitat of choice is not the forest - it is really the sea. But not the cold sea which is a distant cousin of the warm seas which surround Singapore. Which i took completely forgranted and to me is still the most beautiful place on Earth. The beaches of Malaysia and Thailand and Indonesia. These wonderful salty baths which i spent so much of my childhood, when we could spend time in them. They are of course all gone now. They have been completely destroyed by overdevelopment. I think that my love for nature came from these seas. It came from spending a lot of time lying in the sands, getting thoroughly sunburnt and playing with the seaweed. Even now if i had to choose i would be a mermaid. For the longest time i believed i was a mermaid, only because i felt more at home by the beach and the sea than on land. And i never felt afraid of the sea. Never. Not even when Jaws came out. This was irrational i thought, when people would say the sea is dangerous. The sea would never ever harm me. The sea was my mother, my sister, my lover, my husband, my friend.

I never go swimming here because it is too cold. It is like a betrayal of everything i have known of the sea by the sea. The sea here is freezing, it is hostile, it is unpleasant, it is like the wicked stepmother or father. A friend turned against me. The only contact i have with it is when i walk along the shores and then i see the seaweed. So many kinds of seaweed. I want to know them. Know everything about them. But i do not know where to start. So this weekend i am starting.

Someone said to me, when they heard of the course - so it will be dulce for you then. No, i said, there is all kinds of edible seaweed. Carageen Moss, and bladderwrack and kelp... and other stuff as well. We have so much seaweed and seaweed is also healing and fertile. We need to know how the plant world helps us and this is a plant world i know nothing about and it is it on my doorstep. So i should get to know it better.

Of course i have eaten seaweed all my life, so this is not new for me. My favourite seaweed was agar agar which was gathered from the shores of Singapore and turned into a jelly for Chinese New Year. It was a revelation to me that Western jellies used bones. Why would you do that? I wondered when you could use seaweed. This was when i was a child. I think i was 10 when i found out that my Muslim and Hindu friends would not eat Western jellies because of origin unknown. A lot of our soups have seaweed in them. I think they have dulce. Japanese food has lots of seaweed, pickled and dried and flavoured. The best seaweed dish i have had here was made from carageen moss pudding in Kilcar. In fact it was the best dessert i had ever had here. It felt as if i was biting into a cloud of the sea and the mist. Really, if mermaids could cook they would make this dessert for their supper.

Right the sun has come out and there is no rain and no wind. Time to sort the garden out for a couple of hours before i head for Strangford.

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