If you think for the last four weeks I've just been chilling here in Fukuoka, you're mostly right.
But every morning from 8am - 12pm, I've been working. Catching up on photo editing, and designing marketing plans for a residential project. Dealing with house repair, away from home.
I'm like those digital nomads - the world is my hot desk.
Most of all, I've been baking bread, prepping pasta for 10, wrapping gyozas, fried rice, mapo tofu, miso soup for breakfast. The coffee hand grinder goes off at 7am, and 2pm daily.
In short, pretty similar to what I do in Melbourne.
10 years ago, workshops were hot.
Yoga workshop, photography workshop, cooking workshop, writing workshop, no phone 'detox' retreats… you pay a few grand to meet like-minded people to share your obsession.
The cool kids get followers, the poor kids get further in debt, the lonely kids get company, the beautiful kids get coitus, the organisers get a BMW X5.
But at the bottom of it, is validation.
Together, we are ok. We are normal.
We are the bundle of sticks you can’t break.
This reminds me of Diem's post last year, about how she went on a road trip to Tasmania to eat, cook and read books.
I remember thinking she could've done all of that in Adelaide.
But as I was kneading bread two mornings ago, it's apparent.
After you get married, kiss your wife in places she's never been kissed before.
An award-winning headline for a British Airway ad written in 230 BC.
But the real punch is the insight that love in a relationship needs rekindling.
Things we love to do needs rekindling.
When everything turns into a habit and reflex, and you're unsure of the meaning of it all, leave.
The same book in your living room, probably reads differently in the mountains, away from the distraction we call life.
If I never leave Melbourne, will I end up baking shokupan anyway?
Probably yes, but not with the bread tin mail ordered from Tokyo.
Will I find out a new way to knead bread since I was targeted by Japanese YouTube algorithm?
Will I be making coffee with the parents-in-law's machine using spring water from Hita and coffee beans from Yunnan, China?
If I never leave Melbourne?
The difference is, as we (Diem can I say we?) get older, the need for validation fades away.
Instead of workshops, retail therapy, approval, we’d spend the money on being able to do the same thing, undisturbed.
Diem and I have another thing in common.
This week, we are both contributors to Gourmet Traveler’s Lunar New Year issue.
She wrote about the relevance of Vietnamese Banh Chung during this festive season. And I a photo essay of reunion dinner / staff meals at different restaurants in Melbourne.
Did we expect this when we had our little chat last year?
I seem to have a knack for receiving good news when lying down.
Like how I was bedridden with COVID in Melbourne when Paula posted about my book.
This time, when Diem pinged me that the issue was live, I was in a massage chair recovering from a big dinner.
Last time, when Lee Tran contacted me to pitch for this issue of GT, I was on the floor, emotionally crippled by the news that our bedroom ceiling was leaking.
She wrote a pretty long and heartfelt message and I replied with an emoji.
The story behind the multiple shoots is a post in itself, so I’ll save those for later.
Thanks, Lee Tran for sorting out the backend.
She's the magician behind everything diversity-related in Australia's food writing landscape.
Anyway, life is a rollercoaster, like the little swirls in a shokupan.
Gotta figure out how much dough to use in order to fit the tin properly.
You sound like my mother – utterly incredulous that I flew across the sea to watch TV and lie on a couch in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. But I'm glad the feeling found you in a kitchen in Fukuoka, kneading shokupan.
1. Please let me know if you've come across a shokupan recipe/technique you enjoy
2. I have 10 mini shokupan cubes on the way (Aliexpress, don't do me wrong)
3. Yes, you can say 'we' feel, that as we get older, we no longer require validation to do what we feel is essential to feeling alive
4. I'm so glad you write, I'm so glad for your style of writing, and like those before me (in the comments), I am a fan of your writing
5. BEST FRIENDSNSNSNDNSNSNNSSSS
Just gonna reiterate what Luisa Brimble and say I also am a fan of how you write (and also photograph)!
Also, LOL, I didn't even realise that you just responded with an emoji?? I think you did respond with more elaborate sentences after that.
And that bedroom-leaking nightmare, argh! I'm glad I could offer a welcome distraction while you were dealing with that nightmare.
Anyway, I LOVED your photo essay, the impressive amount of effort you put into it (above and beyond truly) and I LOVE that Diem is also in the issue and that she also introduced me more thoroughly to your work and newsletter through that Q&A from around a year ago. Happy we all got to collaborate on this Lunar New Year issue and that there was an excellent chance to shine the spotlight on the ace work you both do.
And LOL, that is also MEGA MEGA kind of you to assign wizard-status to me, but I'm just one lowly freelancer searching out for a working wand that might add a little magic to people's careers if I get the chance! Thank you again for your great kindness and also for the excellent work you do – I'm a fan of your newsletter and photography and look forward to what you snap and scribble next. Let us know if you ever set up a mail-order shokupan store.