26 September, 2011

Rutabagas, potatoes and greens

Remember the orange cauliflower soup at the beginning of the month?

The latest cauliflower at the organic coop shop is green!

This is starting to become ridiculous... I'm running out of assorted table cloths and table sets.

Bets are open for the next cauliflower colour I come accross...

Blake Shelton, Startin fires, Warner Bros/Wea

11 September, 2011

We're just country boys and girls

Last week I was invited by FAO to help conduct a subregional policy workshop for Southeast Asia and China on supporting farmers' organizations in their market linkage activities.

This was the first time I really got to experience the life of a short-term consultant in international agricultural development. After ten days' reviewing case studies of how farmers' organizations were involved in market linkages I flew to Bangkok on a Friday night and arrived there Saturday noon. Sunday I went to work with Betty del Rosario, the project coordinator and organizer of the workshop. I had to finish my presentations and we discussed how we would conduct the workshop on the next day. Monday and Tuesday saw two days' of intense workshoping with representatives from farmers' organizations from the subregion and a few resources persons from NGOs, the private sector and government. (A delicious welcome dinner of Thai food where we witnessed how the height of a farmers' representative is not correlated with his appetite.) In the evenings I was writing up my report.

On Tuesday noon the workshop programme gave me one hour to prepare a presentation synthesizing the results of our work from the various materials discussed during the two days: frantic copying-and-pasting. The output of the workshop was finalized at the end of the workshop and cleared by the participants. On Wednesday I continued writing my report and flew back to Paris. I sent my report for clearance yesterday Friday evening. 15 days of work more or less non-stop with 24 hours of flight and jet lag at both ends...

The first lesson I have learned from this experience: the life of an international development consultant is not for me. I can do it from time to time but I think I would not be able to lead this kind of life on a regular basis: it is exhausting!

The second lesson I have learned from this mission: it looks like the workshop method of knowledge sharing is becoming so commonly used that even farmers' representatives get into the activity without asking what they should be doing. Facilitators of the working groups emerged naturally from among the participants; rapporteurs likewise. These workshops were a great way to get the participants to discuss and forge a common understanding of issues without resorting to tedious plenary declarations on the microphone. Participants even seemed to enjoy it judging from the way some of the groups were eager to start the second group exercise.

The third lesson I have learned from this workshop: the counting method to assign group membership becomes complicated when some participants cannot speak the common working language and need a colleague-interpreter with them. For the first groupwork I assigned groups by counting pairs of participants so that all delegates had a colleague who could translate for them. However, when I tried to count different group compositions for the second group session by counting one pair out of each two, participants and I all got mixed up. I will have to think of another way of assigning groups for next time.

Photos: Betty del Rosario

Down on the farm
Tim Mcgraw, Greatest hits, Curb records

09 September, 2011

Just a spoonful

Question: What do you get when a boy who lives to cook meets a girl who only cooks because she has to eat...
but is also passionately interested in ethical businesses and developing sustainable livelihoods of local communities in developing countries?

I have been travelling to Bangkok for work last week but I also took the opportunity to see friends and former colleagues. Nanae Yabuki, Pearl Daophises and I went to try the food at the restaurant just opened by our common friend and former colleague Regan Suzuki. It is called Seven spoons.

Regan's Thai partner was alone in the kitchen probably enjoying doing all the cooking while Regan sat with us in the wood-decorated dining room where we sipped cocktails and enjoyed the Mediterranean-inspired food. All the ingredients are organic whenever possible and Regan insists on this being a sustainable business venture for her, her partner, their suppliers and the environment.

The signature cocktail Silver spoon was light and refreshingly spicy. Regan said this was the place to come to if you could not stand Bangkok's version of the mojito: full of brown sugar and lime. Seven spoons serves the transparent original recipe.

The starters were light and made us expect more. The dishes were generous. We all shared the food so as to try as many different things as possible. The risotto ball in squid tomato gravy was enjoyed by all of us. The spinach and pumpkin ravioli were so natural all the flavours came out one after the other linked by the melted butter that topped them. The skin of the white snapper was perfectly fried to a delicious crisp on top of the filet.

The dessert selection still has to grow (there were only two items when we went) but the lemon-flavoured crème brulée served its purpose very well. None of us left any although we had all eaten a lot.

By the way, Seven spoons delivers lunch and dinner boxes in the Ratanakosin area. I have heard the meals are nutritious and exquisitely presented in biodegradable material. How greener could one get?

A spoonful of sugar
From the original soundtrack of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney

Out of an orange-coloured sky

Remember last year's purple cauliflower soup?

This month the organic cooperative supermarket has an orange cauliflower variety. This shop guarantees its food does not contain genetically modified organisms so I guess this orange cauliflower is a resurrected old variety. It is quite incredible how we could enliven our food with natural colour rather than always going for the usual green, red and white.

Orange-coloured sky
Nat King Cole, The Nat King Cole story, Capital catalog