Archive | January 2013

Role Reversal

When did it happen? As I left the rehab center the other day, I turned and waved to my mother from the walkway outside. She waved back to me from the window of her room. All I could think of is how it must have been for us when I was 5 years old, waving to her from the window of the bus on my way to kindergarten, as she waved back to me.

Plain Talk, Plainsong, Plain Chant

Returning to the root of communication. The intention of speaking our truth, our mind. Snappy catch phrases, the latest lingo, hip expressions, deep and soulful sounding supportive statements, or plain song. The purity of simple language and its poetic simplicity. Which do you prefer?

Dishes by Candlelight

We’ve talked about putting a dishwasher in our new old house. The kitchen’s quirky with old cupboards and other features we’d like to keep so we’re leaning to no dishwasher. Or should I say no electric powered, automatic dishwasher. Like my dad used to love to quip when people asked if my mother had a dishwasher, “she has four!” In our case, there will be two, Marty and me, and maybe an unsuspecting guest we might possibly recruit.

We have a window over the kitchen sink and I plan on creating artsy wild bits in our yard, so we’ll have a pleasant view when dish washing. I’m also going to try washing dishes by candlelight. Maybe listen to an audio book. Last spring during a power outage, my Baltimore sister-in-law washed dishes by candlelight for about a week, and found herself enjoying doing the dishes. Candlelight can transform an otherwise tedious or mundane experience into something more special — contemplative, meditative — and in the interests of slowing down and savoring more everyday moments, I am going to give it a go. Just don’t know about the audiobook if there’s a power outage. Might have to learn to use my iPod, or learn to enjoy the wondrous quiet of an evening.

MUST remember FLOUR

Once again, a Heidi recipe hits one outta the ballpark for me. Occasionally, there’s a recipe of hers I’ll try that I don’t like; but
not her sticky kissed teff loaves, another recipe out of her book Super Natural Cooking.

Sadly, while I already know they will be killer tasty, I may not be able to get them out of the pans. Just after putting them in the oven and after more recipe wrangling than I normally do, I realized that while I did butter the pans, I forgot to FLOUR them. I am not a martyr. I was not about to pour the batter back into a bowl, wash the pans and rebutter AND FLOUR them. So my Sticky Kissed Teff Loaves will be very sticky indeed.

Per usual, I tweaked Heidi’s recipe a bit. I didn’t have all of the molasses or any of the honey the recipe called for so I used what molasses I did have, some maple syrup and some brown rice syrup. I had some coconut oil I wanted to use up so I used that in place of half the butter. The sugar I used was grated from the cone I bought at my local Brazilian grocery store, not quite a cup but this recipe will be plenty sweet for me. Can’t wait for it to be out of the oven. I can wait to scrub the pans however. Hmmmpfh, maybe I can get Marty to do them.

Reading

My parents were readers and I am a reader. I love reading as much, if not more, than I love baking (and drinking tea). Reading becomes my Looking Glass, I can get lost for a very long time in a book. My first “real” job after babysitting was in a library and it continued off and on for many years. So, it only stands to reason that I love words and how they are strung together, playfully, seriously, nonsensically, poetically…some folks express themselves with canvas, clay, flowers, …others express themselves through farming perhaps or setting a beautiful table and so on…It’s all art to me. All of us tell a story when we do this although we ourselves and others may not be aware of it. Because one must pay close attention. The story isn’t always where we’re looking for it. And somewhere in all that work, the kernel of the story is rooted in love. In the latest book I’m reading, it is prefaced with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favorite storytellers. It’s from “The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What Is Enough.”

“Of all the gifts that people can give to one another, the most meaningful and long lasting are strong but simple love and the gift of story.”

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

If Alice validated my love of simple, Heidi encouraged me to experiment. To be adventurous with ingredients I have or don’t have. To seek a foundation for the ingredients I have on hand and adapt a recipe to them. And I’ve been successful! When I was much younger (although it doesn’t seem as much!), I used to think exotic spices, herbs and other ingredients created a great dish. I could not have been more wrong.
I have since learned that good old salt and pepper can be the best seasoning, maybe butter, garlic and olive oil, too.
Heidi does create recipes with ingredients that I would not necessarily consider combining though and her Sweet Potato Spoon Bread recipe is one of them. But, like I said, she taught me to take more risks in the kitchen. After all, if I’m going to live on the edge, the kitchen’s a fairly safe place to do it. So, I gave the spoon bread a try. And it was delish! So good that I have since repeated it and also discovered another blogger’s recipe that is a sweet potato soup with goat cheese biscuits. In the interest of simple and ease though, I use Heidi’s from her cookbook Super Natural Cooking, leaving out the shallots. So it’s basically just the mashed sweet potatoes with some whole wheat pastry flour and eggs stirred in, layered in a casserole with dollops of creamy goat cheese and baked. Even Marty likes it! Super Natural Cooking was the first cookbook I’d bought new in decades. I highly recommend it with the caveat that one way I’ve figured out I must buy a certain book is when I’ve checked it out from the library several times, keeping it on my shelf longer than the library’s probably had it on theirs!

Photos, or Why There Are None Here…Yet

There are so many blogs out there about personal growth, design, craft, food, tree hugging, homesteading, the list grows daily. My problem always comes down to too many choices and too many steps. And resisting what comes naturally to me.

I love being called a Renaissance Woman, and have been called that more than once. It’s who I am, part of my make-up. I am good at many things, but that can make focus hard for me. And I need focus to accomplish anything. Focus and simple, easily deconstructed steps to finish a job. I tend to look towards the finished product before recognizing all the steps it takes to get there. I’m learning. Not to add more steps before I’ve completed the initial step.

Right now I’m focussing on just getting my words on the page and into the world. Visuals may come sometime in the future but for now I just want to develop practice…writing practice in whatever form it takes. So no photos. Although there will be links! I serendipitously taught myself HTML code for links the other day! Woohoo! Blogging with an IPad is enough of a learning curve without throwing photos into the mix just yet.

The other focus for me is topic…and it’s easy for me to get off topic. So, in the interests of focus and topic for ArtFoodSoul blogging, I’m done with today’s public service announcement.

Ordinary

I’m happy to be blogging again but am aware of the risk of narcissism, self-indulgence, and ego creeping into my posts. I want to be careful of that but sometimes it’s hard. We all want our lives to count for something, to stand out from the crowd, to matter, to transcend our history (hopefully), and we’re here this go round for such a very short time.

We want to be special, not just ordinary like everybody else, and yet that is where I feel most connected to another, when I learn I am not alone in my feelings, that they are common and ordinary and shared. My life is beautiful in its everyday ordinariness, and I am happy to share it with others who are struggling with the ordinary too.

Simple Potato Gratin

Hmmm, what to make for dinner? Truth be told, I love to bake but am not crazy about cooking. Or perhaps I should clarify…involved cooking. I like simple food. Straightforward ingredients. Seasonal and as local as I can get is good, too. This makes me a huge fan of Alice Waters. If I ever needed someone to validate my need to cook (and bake) this way, it is Alice. Why validate? Because Alice elevates simple cooking to the sublime. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be divine. So thank you, Alice, for helping me realize that I am a great cook sometimes and an even better baker most times.
And here is one of Alice’s recipes from The Art of Simple Food: Potato Gratin. For the details, I encourage you to get her book…if you can’t buy it, borrow it from your local library system.

What I use: several potatoes, thinly sliced and layered in a buttered casserole pan. Salted and peppered on each layer. Overlap the layers and if you’d like, layer in some thinly sliced onions or other veggie you may love (even kale!). Marty, me matey, doesn’t like onions so I sprinkle a light layer of smoked Gouda or other cheese we like. When I’ve used up the potatoes, or filled my casserole, I pour a mixture of milk and heavy cream over it to cover the potatoes. Sprinkle on some paprika, maybe some bread crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about an hour. Serve with greens and/or whatever accompaniments feed your soul at that moment. Breathe deeply and enjoy!

Words, wise and otherwise

Trying to pay attention more. Remembering that I do not have most of the answers. Or that when I make a pronouncement, that is not the be all and end all. It’s only my piece of the story.

Remembering that it all turns out all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then it isn’t the end. (One of those pronouncements I wish I’d made, but alas, and probably not originally, it’s from “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”).