We are not open this week (and this is the main message of today’s check-in), but the cats still need feeding. One of them is a lover of fresh food, anything cooked by Yeshi’s hand – and especially out of his hand. This week Yeshi is away in India, and so the job is mine. I hope I’m up to it.
I should be. I’ve had these cats three years longer than I’ve known Yeshi, which tells you something about how old they are. They are Beijing street cats, and when I met Yeshi and we decided to try and make a life for ourselves here in the UK, I flew them over from China as they are my first-born babies.
This was not a straightforward exercise. At the time, the UK had quarantine laws much stricter than the rest of the EU. If they had come directly, the cats would have had to spend six months in a quarantine facility, but a way around this was to make them European cats, by taking a stop elsewhere in the EU first. Before this, their blood had to be tested in an EU-approved laboratory – samples were sent from Beijing to Milan. Then I flew them to Paris, where they enjoyed a short stay at a friend’s place by the Eiffel Tower, while I found us a home in Oxford.
The cats spent ten weeks in Paris, got themselves a couple of French passports, and then I brought them to the UK by metro, train and finally ferry (the Eurostar doesn’t permit pets). They have been here ever since.
Sometimes I think about moving the cats from Beijing to Oxford (I should add that I was pregnant at the time) as my first extreme logistics win. Today, operations such as this characterise my daily working life. The cats were, in a sense, a testing ground.
Their names are Hipi and XiaoXiao. XiaoXiao is named after the Chinese yuan xiao, a sweet dumpling enjoyed on the last night of the lunar new year. Yuan xiao are white with black bean paste peeping out. These are XiaoXiao’s markings (the black smudge on her head, once prominent, has faded with age). Dumplings have been meaningful in my life for a long time.
Happy New Year of the water rabbit! Yesterday was the start of the Tibetan lunar new year. Yeshi is away so we haven’t had the usual Losar spread this time, but with the cookbook in our hands me and the kids are having a go at some of the sweet New Year’s snacks at least. We encourage you to do the same – Honey Nut Granola Bars (see recipe here) and Tibetan Sesame Snaps are great crowd pleasers and they are incredibly easy to make.
We’ll be back next week with content that is more on topic, and of course all the food – Taste Tibet reopens on Wednesday March 1st and we want to see you!
Julie, Hipi and XiaoXiao
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