The Changing Seasons: sweetcorn time


A dish for February: seared tuna with teriyaki glaze, char-grilled sweetcorn and pickled red onion and cabbage salad. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Food-wise, February in Auckland is the month for Golden Queen peaches, watermelon and sweetcorn.

The Big T has been away a lot this month, the boy-child is making the most of the long summer nights to hang out with friends, and for me that’s meant quite a few meals-for-one.

I know lots of people don’t like cooking just for themselves, but I see it as a chance to celebrate solitude — and to plan meals that only have to please my palate.

This dish turned out so well, I cooked it again for the Big T.

I cut about 150 grams of yellow fin tuna into strips about 3cm square, seared them on each side and brushed them with a teriyaki cum ponzu glaze I made by heating soy sauce, Mirin and lemon juice together until the mixture reduced to a syrup.

The sweetcorn was slow-poached them grilled over the gas hob until it started to char. I stripped the kernals off the cob (not particularly elegantly I admit) and heaped some on a plate. Some toasted sesame seeds and a salad/slaw of red onion and Savoy cabbage added a bit of extra crunch.

The Changing Seasons is a montly challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman. I’m opting for Version 2 (at least this month). Here are the rules:

Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Thanks to the Cardinal, and to Tish Farrell, at Writer on the Edge, whose post on Windmill Hill in Much Wenlock got me thinking it was time to get off my butt and take part in this challenge.

Driven to abstraction

Monochrome, macro shot of pohutukawa leaf, edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Pohutukawa leaf. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

In nature, it is normal for all parts of an organism –and indeed an entire eco-system — to work harmoniously to ensure survival.

The veins in a leaf transport water and nutrients (1); the health of the plant depends on that flow. All parts of the leaf need water and minerals so they can transport sap back to the rest of the plant. Neglect, decay or disease in any part of the system affects the well-being of the whole.


Pohutukawa leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

It’s a simple idea that we accept in nature, yet ignore when it comes to human lives and systems. We over-fish and pollute our oceans, dig up and burn fossil fuels, destroy rain forests and the thousands of species that live in them, build roads and cities over land that once produced food, contaminate our food and water supplies … the list seems endless.

We have forgotten the most elemental truth:

The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth. — Marlee Matlin

In these pohutukawa leaves we can see the connections and the journeys between every part of the structure. I can edit the images in many ways, but the relationship stays the same.  Survival of the whole depends on the health of all the parts.


Pohutukawa leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally, and Ailsa’s Travel Theme at Where’s my Backpack. The theme in both cases is abstract.

(1) Leaf, Wikipedia.





Wordy Wednesday: woo hoo, we bought a beach

Some days I’m really proud to be a New Zealander.

This morning I woke to learn that a crowd-funding campaign supported by 39,000 Kiwis (including the Big T and me) has succeeded in buying a beach (1).


Awaroa Inlet Beach, Abel Tasman, NZ. Image courtesy of Wilsons Abel Tasman.

Awaroa Inlet Beach, in the Abel Tasman area of Nelson, was put up for sale at the beginning of this year by the family which had owned it for a number of years. During their tenure, they had allowed public access to the beach, but with new ownership came the very real possibility that such access would be taken away.

A couple of guys from the South Island got pretty upset about this, and on January 22nd, launched a Givealittle campaign to raise money to buy the beach and put it into public ownership — so everyone could enjoy this beautiful, pristine area of coastline. The aim was to raise at least NZ$2,000,000. This was achieved, but as the sale was by tender, it was by no means certain the amount would be enough.

Duane Major and Lincoln Churchill set up the Givealittle campaign to buy Awaroa Inlet Beach for all New Zealand. Image courtesy of The Press, 16 February, 2016.

This morning we found out that it was. With a little extra help from an anonymous donor and the NZ Government, New Zealanders have asserted control over our land and added an extra beach to the Abel Tasman National Park.

It may seem frivolous and very “First World” to buy a beach. After all, just a few days ago our Fijian neighbours were struck by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which killed at least 29 people, left many thousands homeless and has wrecked untold damage on Fiji’s vital tourist industry.

But what we have done carries symbolic as well as practical significance. New Zealanders have traditionally been incredibly egalitarian people. Until it began to be dismantled in the 1990s, health, education and welfare systems genuinely worked, to everyone’s benefit, and the notion of the wealthy few excluding the many from our beautiful landscapes would have been unthinkable. It seems it still is.

The Awaroa Beach campaign has taken the abstract concepts of fairness, equality, even democracy; and given them form and power. It has shown how ordinary people are using new technologies (social media, online fundraising, etc) to bring about change.

It has shown that there is hope; something that is much-needed as our government prepares to ratify the TPPA agreement.


Anti-TPPA protests. New Zealanders have been less successful at preventing the sale of our sovereignty. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

And I’d be willing to bet that many of the people who pledged money towards buying Awaroa Beach are also digging deep to help the people of Fiji. That’s what Kiwis do.

(1) Abel Tasman beach: Campaigners’ bid to buy Awaroa Inlet for nation successful. NZ Herald online, 24 Feb, 2016

Sweet days of summer


The only escapes from Auckland’s humidity this summer have been my air-conditioned car, and the beach. A couple of weekends ago, the Big T and I had a mini road trip to the Awhitu Peninsula, on the south head of the Manukau Harbour. It was a perfect, sunny day, with enough ocean breeze to keep us cool.


Whatipu on the north head of the Manukau Harbour, from the Awhitu Peninsula. Image: Su Leslie, 2016


The Manukau Heads at Whatipu. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The lighthouse was first built in 1874 to guide mariners over the bar at the mouth of the Manukau Harbour. It seemed incredible, looking that the Heads on a beautiful day, that these waters could be treacherous to ships. On 7 February, 1863, the Manukau Heads was the scene of New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster, when the HMS Orpheus sank with the loss of 189 lives.


Wattle Bay, on the South Head of the Manukau Harbour. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

This post was written for the Daily Post Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is seasons.



The medium and the message


Aged b&w shot of portable typewriter. Photo credit: Su Leslie, 2016

Broken typewriter. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”

LP Hartley, The Go-Between

For the last twenty-odd years, in the little space on forms labelled Occupation, I’ve almost unthinkingly put the word “writer” .

But the truth is, while crafting words still forms a large part of my paying (and more often, non-paying) work, I’m no longer asked to deliver a defined volume of words (measured in column inches or recorded minutes) to be set in a visual (or aural) space by someone else.

These days I’m a more content creator than copy-writer. And while the well-paid agency gigs of the 1990s are a distant (and lovely) memory, I enjoy having control over how my words look as well as how they read.

Note the “as well as.”

For when words are no longer crafted as a separate entity, but become a “text as image” adjunct, they can become devalued. I’m noticing that as communication becomes more and more visual, a lot of writing — even that created by those paid to do so — is sloppy, confused, sometimes barely literate. Perhaps audiences have become sloppy readers.


B&W close-up shot of portable typewriter keys. Photo credit: Su Leslie, 2016

“I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” — P. G. Wodehouse. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

The typewriter is an apt symbol of this shift. The physical reality of the keys determined the shape of the letters, the words, the page. Emphasis came from CAPS, underlining, or   s  p  a  c  i  n  g   out the letters. There were no visual distractions;  no place to hide. If the words weren’t powerful enough to grab readers, you lost them.

I don’t miss typewriters, with their inability to forgive mistakes. Before I started putting “writer” on my forms, I was a student. Before that a secretary. In those roles, I typed and re-typed pages to produce error-free documents for my lecturers and bosses.

Or replacement documents. When the Health Inspector for whom I’d spent hours typing Notifiable Disease reports let them slip from his hand in a high wind, I was reloading the Remington with blank forms (in triplicate) even as my morning’s work fluttered wetly around the office car park.

I like working with visual media. I like learning to craft images the way I have learned to craft words; to attract attention,  shape moods and to tell stories. When I get it right, words and pictures are in harmony. Sometimes I feel I’ll never leave the rehearsal room; other times, I’m happy to busk.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.


Still life with Cheezels

Still-life composition of modern foodstuffs; instand noodles, energy drinks, sweets, doughnuts, processed cheese, etc. Image: Su Lesie, 2016

Still life composition of edible food-like substances.”  Image: Su Leslie, 2016

While still life art can encompass any set or collection of inanimate objects, I tend to associate the genre with 17th and 18th century paintings depicting tables or benches loaded with an abundance of foodstuffs. These paintings offer fascinating social history snapshots; being both literal depictions of the types of food available (if only to the rich), and loaded with symbolic allusions to gluttony, intemperance and the transience of luxury.


Still life composition of “edible food-like substances.”  Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Food production and consumption exists in a social and economic context. Scarcity,  quality, nutrition, price — these are all part of a food narrative that can be explored in art.

In New Zealand, as in much of the world, the prevailing narrative is one of over-abundance. Or at least an over-abundance of calories — mainly derived from highly processed, readily available “convenience” foods. In his highly influential book In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan calls these “edible food-like substances”.

The Daily Post Photo Challenge asked this week for life imitating art. So I give you a still life from 2016, with all the symbolism and allegory of the genre. I also give you this, again from Michael Pollan:

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. ”
Michael Pollan