This year has been punctuated by a relentless onslaught of tumultuous events that has undoubtedly pushed many of us towards the brink of our breaking point. We’ve collectively experienced immeasurable losses in many facets of our lives – loss of members of our communities, loss of the ability to warmly embrace our loved ones, loss of the comforts of former routines, loss of certitude in realizing future plans. Though life in France gradually resumed some degree of normalcy after the government lifted the strict lockdown orders in May, most of my plans for the year have been derailed and remain on hold. It feels as though we’ve been living in a moment of perpetually suspended limbo, impatiently waiting for a sign that life will return to what we once knew. The passage of time seems increasingly like an intangible notion, yet here we are, already nearing the end of October.
Keeping folks confined to their homes quelled rona infections in France for a few months, but the freedom to circulate and go about our business as before has inevitably led to an unbridled upsurge in new cases that surpasses what we observed during the peak of the first wave. The government is once again curbing our movements by imposing an evening curfew, but I’m certain that we’re bound to go back into lockdown in the next few weeks. Although our evening social activities have been restricted, daytime in Paris is still densely packed with throngs of people circulating throughout the city as though the public health crisis ended when lockdown ended.
Given the trajectory of the present wave of the pandemic, the world will likely continue to grapple with stemming the spread of infections well into next year. This unyielding virus and the unrelenting tumult back in my native country and around the world have manifestly imbued this year with grim tragedy and gloom. The current state of the world weighs heavily on me, as I’m sure it does everyone else who is experiencing this devil of a year. There have been moments when the grief and frustration have felt unsurmountable, and I find myself often wavering between the dark and light. To help soothe the disquietude stirring in me, I seek to fold little pockets of joy into my day-to-day. I’ve, however, struggled with the appropriateness of feeling any sense of delight while being acutely aware of the distress and suffering that many are enduring around the world.
In spite of the heaviness that many of us carry today, I don’t think that we should avoid what brings light to our days. We can be attuned to the anguish and hardship of others while also holding space for ourselves. In times like these, it’s more important than ever to tend to our well-being by seeking comfort in the things that buoy our spirit and hanging onto the things that anchor us. Do allow yourself to linger in those little moments of joy when they come by, as it is those moments that will help us shore up the emotional stamina needed to bear what this year has hurled at us.
For me, joy comes from walks in the city’s many lush parks, sprucing up my nest to make it cozier, savoring my morning espressos, preparing a decadent meal for myself, losing myself in the words of a captivating book, and writing. After not writing poetry for years, I turned to it again when we initially went into lockdown earlier this year. I had started writing this poem in April but didn’t finish it until early this summer.
An invisible menace hailing from the East surreptitiously hitched a ride within unwitting travellers. Making landfall on every territory, it stealthily spread its seeds and proliferated. Once we noticed its unmistakable presence, it had already gone from one to a ruthless legion. Armed with a massive arsenal of weapons, even the most powerful were powerless against this microscopic killer. With no recourse at hand to stem the rising tide, the world fell to its knees and came to an abrupt standstill. Stealing the comforts of our yesterday and altering our tomorrow What will it leave in its wake once it has left us?
Thanks for reading,
Stuffed Tofu in Tomato Sauce
- 300 g ground pork
- 1 onion diced
- 1 tbsp dried wood ear mushrooms
- 1/4 cup bean thread noodles
- 1/2 tsp salt +/- to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 6-7 tomatoes, quartered
- 200 g fried tofu
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 shallot diced
- 1/4 tsp salt +/- to taste
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce
- 4 green onions sliced
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Soak the bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms in warm water for about 15 minutes. Thoroughly drain and chop.
- Mix ground pork with diced onion, wood ear mushrooms, bean thread noodles, salt, sugar, and black pepper until mixture is homogenous. Fry or microwave a teaspoon or so of the filling to see if it's been adequately seasoned.
- Slit one side of fried tofu cubes and fill with about a tablespoon of the ground pork filling. Set aside.
- Heat cooking oil over medium high heat in a pot. Add shallots and garlic, cooking until fragrant but not browned. Then, add the quartered tomatoes. Lower heat to medium low and simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes.
- Once the tomatoes have cooked down, season with salt to taste. Place the stuffed tofu within the tomato sauce and continue to cook covered for another 20-25 minutes. Once the filling has thoroughly cooked through, season with fish sauce and turn off heat. To serve, garnish with chopped green onions and black pepper.