Most people everywhere are anonymous these days--I’m not. It’s probably smarter to be, from a safety standpoint, but I haven’t lived any of my life from a safety standpoint, so why start now?
This isn’t a diary and it’s not meant to be a professional mouthpiece nor am I a chemist, botanist, or scientist. I just do what I do, thank you very much. That involves distilling frankincense, playing in jasmine flowers, making some very interesting and wicked cool sweet things, like gelato and candy, and traveling a lot. It also involves living in The Sultanate of Oman, my adopted home. Yes, I live in the Middle East, in case you are reading this for the first time. I live in a country routinely described as “The Sleepy Sultanate” and which I can describe as one of the most peaceful countries I know. I try not to write too much about politics because there is no point. All I know is that almost everything I thought long ago was mistaken. Not really. Kind of. I can’t describe my political views in a glib sentence or two. Or a paragraph or two. I come from Southern California, which was very liberal when I was growing up, lived mostly in New York City, where annoyance, impatience and complaining is the national sport, and have traveled extensively, mostly of the long rambling hitchhiking trips in the era before the internet. And I am very grateful for that. I also lived a few years in Vancouver Canada, which was very kind to put up with me, an over-everything punk rock enthusiast. Now I have been living for about 5 years in Salalah, which is basically an Arabic Tea Party state, but with tribes. And am now spending most of my time in a particularly fine and elegant part of Muscat, the capital, and it’s all flowers birds, the sea and beautiful architecture.
I am still alive and well, as of October 13, 2014, as I sit writing this in the Oman Air lounge at Muscat Airport. I have been living in Salalah for many years now, and my distillery is slowly but surely growing and morphing into an elegant and professional artisanal factory.....
Our essential oil production has grown and we now make enough for me to finally visit the IFEAT show, in Rome this year. That’s the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades. It’s an event I wanted to go to for about 15 years but until now there was really no reason. It was a spectacular event, and even though they pulled out every stop, as they say, to put on a great show, it was primarily because I was simply bowled over by how nice people were. It was a big shock. Anyway, it was grand, and now over, and I’m in Muscat, in delightful circumstances and on my way down to see about a few things in the south.
We did a few crazy distillations the past few months too. Tom was here a couple of weeks ago and he goaded me into doing some of the resins I always threatened to do--green. And white. The oils are beyond spectacular. We’ll be doing more of them!
I’ve also done the occasional myrrh distillation, but myrrh is very unpredictable and obstreperous. It’s the original hell distillation, although I guess you could argue that other oils are more hellish for different reasons, like garlic, or nasturtium. But if you’re thinking of a career as a myrrh distiller, stock up on those antacids cause you’re gonna be a continual basket of stress bubbles.
We also did lemongrass! That was fun; I didn’t expect it would be. Lemongrass is just so....plentiful and ordinary, like grass I suppose! I just did my small experimental 25 litre litre still so I can’t make too many statements about any of these aromatics, but still, it was fun. And the Dhofari lemongrass was about as dark and virulent and complicated as you could imagine. It doesn’t have much in common with that ordinary little standby bottle everyone keeps in stock and uses regularly and without enthusiasm. Lemongrass is usually an oil people talk about the properties of. Like saying she has “a great personality” or he’s “a lot of fun.” No need to go that route here. The Dhofari lemongrass rocks very hard, and very individualistically. I should seriously shut up about it now, because I don’t have any for sale.
I finished my gelato studies this past May in Bologna and am now a certified Gelatiere. I had a completely fabulous time and am happy to report that the kind of people who are serious enough about Gelato to spend an entire month in Italy learning how to make it properly, are really fun people to hang out with and also really nice as well. So this year has been a lot of shockingly nice people and I know that’s kind of an annoying adjective and very trite and meaningless but it gets the point across and that’s enough for me.
There’s all kinds of crazy wild stuff bubbling in my various pots and I’ll write about them as they happen not before, because I did learn quite a harsh lesson before.
We did a CNN interview last month and it’s broadcast this (October 2014) month on CNN International’s Inside the Middle East. You can watch it online! I’m only a tiny part of it; you can get a great idea of Dhofar’s wildlife, monsoon, language, food and people.