December 27, 2010
Who Said You Couldn't Get a Heart Attack From Vegetarian?
This year, I joined a friend's annual Christmas Day dinner in Montara, along the northern California coast. I offered to make a salad and little did I know what an excellent choice that was given that 99% of the crew of 20 or so were vegetarians.
Although I went vegetarian for a few years myself many moons ago and get all the merits of doing so from a health perspective (I may not have had more energy but my skin glowed and I felt a helluva lot lighter), I don't associate vegetarian with Christmas dinner.
I grew up with grandparents, great grandparents and tons of great aunts and uncles, all of whom spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and eating dishes with tons of butter, not to mention bacon, sausage, and beef lasagne. And as for the holidays? Split pea soup with bacon, shrimp cocktail, and turkey and ham (we often had both).
Given that I love vegetables and could be happy with an all veggie meal, I set myself up for the let down of NOT having a traditional turkey or ham on December 25, even though I very rarely eat either. After all, something had to compensate for being away from the snow, away from New England holiday spirit and away from all the conventions I grew up with, none of which seem to have transported its way to the west coast.
Appetizers started with some fabulous goat cheese from some fabulous Mediterranean country with the perfect amount of organic cranberries. There was also spinach pie aka Spanakopita(pronounced /ˌspænəˈkɒpɪtə/; Modern Greek σπανακόπιτα, from σπανάκι, spanáki, spinach, and πίττα, pítta, pie), a Greek savory pastry in the burek family with a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese (sometimes served with ricotta cheese, as it is less expensive, and adds creaminess), onions or green onions, egg, and seasoning.
The filling is wrapped or layered in phyllo (filo) pastry with butter and/or olive oil, either in a large pan from which individual servings are cut, or rolled into individual triangular servings (see burek). Spanakopita is golden in color when baked, the color often enhanced by butter and egg yolk. Other white, fresh, preferably salted cheeses may also mixed with, or substituted for, the feta cheese. Okay, can we just say it was all YUM and move onto the next one. I poured myself a glass of Cabernet from the southern valley and moved on.
The dishes started coming out. First there was my salad which was the least interesting of the lot but it was healthy and included almonds, flax seeds, raisins, and a tangerine olive oil dressing.
Heavy cheese dishes which I couldn't eat but looked and smelled incredible were the cauliflower leek tart and the tomato polenta that oozed with so much sauce and cheese that I had to stay away, or rather my arteries had to stay away. It's not as if there weren't at least ten other choices.
For one, my favorite was an incredible vegetarian stuffing that the host's mother made. As I was making my way through Round One and thinking, this tastes just like my great grandmother used to make, she confirmed that it did in fact have a grandmother's stamp on it and even if I had the recipe, there's no chance in hell I could repeat the same culinary experience. Seconds it was and this time with another homemade accompaniment - cranberries of course. One pound of cramberries mixed with two cups of sugar and one cup of red wine (like a merot). Scrumptious.
Corn and egg were whipped together for another delicacy that was served in a casserole-like dish and cut into squares. Did I mention the sauteed brussel sprouts, peas and bright orange squash that had so much better on it that you swore your great grandmother had returned just to drop off the dish?
Then to top it off, four boxes of chocolates and squares, two plates of homemade cookies (including those dangerous heavy white powdered dots), pumpkin pie, a caramel cream souffle and an apple tart followed on the main stage (aka kitchen counter).
On the table next to the couch? What else but organic gourmet dark and milk chocolate bars from an outfit called Vosges. And how could you not try them all?
Here we go: creole bar is New Orleans style chicory, Sao Thome Bittersweet and cocoa nibs, the Wooloomooloo Bar is roasted and salted macadamia nuts with Indonesia coconut, hemp seeds and deep milk chocolate, the Mo's Dark Bacon Bar (yes I did say Bacon, it's not a typo), is full of Applewood smoked bacon and alderwood smoked salt, the Gianduja Bar has almonds, carmelized hazelnuts and deep milk chocolate.
The Red Fire Bar which was everyone's favorite except for mine consisted of Mexican ancho y chipotle chillies and Ceylon cinnamon, whereas the Oaxaca Bar had guajillo and chillies with Tanzanaire bittersweet chocolate. Two milk chocolate options were the Barcelona Bar which included hickory smoked almonds with grey sea salt, and the Matcha Bar with Japanese matcha green tea and 45% cacao. Lastly, I tasted the Black Pearl Bar, which was 55% cacao and had ginger, wasabi, black sesame seeds and dark chocolate.
I had to take a double dose of extra strength Rolaids when I got home. Who said you couldn't get a heart attack from going vegetarian?
December 26, 2010
The History Behind Boxing Day
Not everyone knows or celebrates Boxing Day, but when I lived in the UK and Australia, it was celebrated with vigor. It is observed in the UK, Australia, Austria, Canada and New Zealand. In South Africa, the December 26 public holiday is called Day of Goodwill, in Ireland St. Stephen's Day or Lá an Dreoilín, and in continental European countries the "Second Christmas Day."
And how cool is this? In Canada, Boxing Day is listed in the Canada Labor Code as an optional holiday. I hate when Christmas and Boxing Day falls on a weekend since it means that you don't really get an extra time off just to sit, stare at Christmas lights and listen to old fashioned kitch holiday songs. I love this btw.
The holiday may date from as early as the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is not known. It may have begun with the Lords and Ladies of England, who gave Christmas boxes/gifts to their servants on December 26, or maybe by priests, who opened the church's alms (charity boxes), and distributed the contents to the poor and needy.
Below is a bit of history about the origins and myths of Boxing Day from Snopes.
December 25, 2010
Christmas is the Feast of Man Himself
Christmas is the feast, of not only man’s redemption, but of man himself. It is the feasting of humankind, because it releases – if only for a few days every year – emotions that a savage self-interest causes mankind, in the ordinary way, to repress.
At Christmas-tide, tyrants grow benevolent – even merciful, misers spend, not only freely, but willingly, the fierce flames of religious and political prejudice die for a short while to a cold cinder; selfish memories are stirred by the recollection – tardy, but intense – of the neglected and the outcast.
For a few days, once a year, the atrophied souls of adults are filled again with that spirit which inspires the wisdom of fools and children.
November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving Is ALL About Gratitude: Nothing More, Nothing Less
Whenever we find ourselves going back in time -- which for me, often happens at the holidays -- it's a great idea to reflect on the past as a gift rather that a burden or whatever other emotion first comes up for us.
Thanksgiving is really about gratitude - nothing more, nothing less. Gratitude is focusing on what we have and cherishing it however small, rather than what we don't.
A few great quotes worth sharing, sure to move you into the mood if you're not already there:
Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. ~G.B. Stern
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart
There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude. ~Robert Brault
Gratitude is the memory of the heart. ~Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French
Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture. ~Kak Sri
As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world. ~Terri Guillemets
I'll end with Emerson:
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
July 04, 2010
Declaration of Indepedence Twitter StyleThanks to Tristan Louis for a laugh from his ">recent posting of The Independence #140 Style - in other words, if our founding fathers had Twitter. I have re-published his amusing account below. Found in the Twitter archives from July 4, 1776.
* independence would be a good idea. #independencenow http://bit.ly/usdoi
* The government should not mess with our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. #abolishgov http://bit.ly/usdoi
* No one’s above the law #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* He’s neglecting us #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* He wants us to give up our rights in exchange for help #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Tweetup was too far #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Our friends were pushed out #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* No representation for us #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* The king’s stealing our money and not letting us run things #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Judicial representation now! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Stop gov corruption #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Stop gov abuse #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Why is there an army on my street? #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Why is the military not independent? #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* England armies out of colonies now! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* stop english army abuse now #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* let our markets be free #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Stop english taxes in the colonies #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* We want juries of our peers #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Don’t change jurisdictions on us #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* We are not Canada #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Give us our laws and charters back!!! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Give us our legislature back!!! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* You want war? Then we quit! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Say not to death and destruction #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Mercenaries out of the colonies now! #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Friends should not be forced to turn on friends #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* The king’s not fostering law and order #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* We’ve tried talking this out but he won’t listen #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* We called, we wrote and only received insults as replies #kinggeorge #fail http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Our friends in the UK also tried but no one listened so war it is http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Independence now #tweetup #gousa http://bit.ly/usdoi
* Let’s hope this works out #gousa http://bit.ly/usdoi
June 20, 2010
"Dad is Awesome" Talking PhotoBelow is an adorable and compelling use of Fotobabble's very simple and easy-to-use technology. For Father's Day, Mom and kids create a 'talking photo' for their dad using a poem to share how much they love him and what makes him so special. People can get set up in minutes. Also check out the Ballpark All Stars Moms Contest using Fotobabble.
May 31, 2010
Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk Gets Santa Cruz Moving
The Santa Cruz Blues Festival is one of the Bay Area's Memorial Day weekend traditions, and Saturday's opening-day concert was a perfect introduction to the season, with a warm sun, cloudless sky, and happy dancing people stripping off winter clothes and starting on summer tans.
There were five performers on Saturday, including a group from New Orleans called Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk.
With a name like that you think of George Clinton and that's in there, but it sounded more Sly and the Family Stone with an extra bass and a rock-n-roll drum kit, almost like a funk garage band. I even thought about Edgar Winter a couple of times.
Two of the members are descendants of the Neville Brothers, with Ivan singing and talking from the keyboard like he was preaching from the choir, and Ian on lead guitar moving comfortably from funky counterpoint for the bass lines to guitar hero solos.
Ivan Neville Raymond Weber and Ian Neville
Drummer Raymond Weber played like the guy you want in charge of your Neighborhood Watch - substantial and secure without drawing attention to himself except when necessary.
What makes their sound, though, is that they have two bass players, Nick Daniels (below left) and Tony Hall (below right), and you can spend the entire set completely absorbed in what they are doing. Sometimes Daniels would put out a traditional funk sound while Hall would provide a lower rock-n-roll thump, at other times one line would be a quasi-solo with some wa-wa while the other was an accompaniment.
They used four-string and five-string basses to give them more range. With the variety in texture and pitch they often found that place between the bass and lead guitar, almost like the way violas sit between the violins and cellos in a symphony. It was always interesting and sounded new.
You'd worry that all this low funk would mean nothing but bass would be coming off the stage but the swirly keyboards and the vocals and Ian Neville's guitar, sometimes filling, sometimes virtuoso, all shone through. The absence of brass is another thing that gives this band a flavor that goes beyond traditional funk. It's bottom-heavy but doesn't get stuck in its swamp.
For the last number Ivan came off the keyboard and picked up the
that Hall had played for some of the numbers. Ian played a solo that
wouldn't have been out of place in early Pearl Jam and the rest of them
met in that perfect place where only music can takes you and not often enough and with their playing confirmed the
Nietzsche quote about how life without music would be a mistake.
What I liked most about the band was that I felt like I got to know them a little bit. I could imagine them playing around in the studio or a local club. There was nothing about their playing that made me think about market research, or that they built their sound or personality based on what someone told them would sell.
Some bands all you hear is how they sound like someone else, but not these guys. It's also easy to imagine them fitting into the ecumenical New Orleans soundscape, where the primary requirements are that you get your music to move and that you not be boring in how you do it.
May 09, 2010
Where I'm From: A Dedication to MothersI haven't had a mother in so long that I have to remind myself every Mother's Day that so many people still do. Scanning the web early this morning, I accidentally came across a series of poems around the theme of "Where I'm From," which is in so many ways an indirect and wonderful dedication to your mother.
I miss her calm and incredibly insightful way she looked at the world. Below my 5 minute creation she stands in her very "Leave it to Beaver" era, entertaining, giving, caring, nurturing, organizing and leading all at the same time. Below her is another "Where I'm From" poem I particularly liked - thanks Amanda, it brought a smile to my face.
WHERE I'M FROM
I am from a world where tanneries dictated lifestyle
And turn-of-the century European tastes dictated design
After leaving the tanneries, people sat on bar stools,
and drank coffee on diner stools on weekend mornings
They caught trout in the summer and darted moose in the winter
I am from a town that thinks they understand Republicans
Barber shops, dime stores, ice cream stands & hot dogs
Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, Ham at Easter, hanging icicles at Xmas
High school football games, smoking in parking lots & climbing trees
Fishing in man-made canoes and shoveling snow off Aunt Betty's roof
Cigars, Van Halen, burgers, cows, county fairs & talent shows
A community buried in deprivation and alcoholism and hard work and soul
Long Sunday drives watching skaters & snowmobiles
Summer barbecues & mosquitoes that don't give up
Waterskiing on glass, snowboarding on ice
Lawn mowers, garage sales and lemonade stands
The lingering taste of French toast & blueberries
The lingering smell of Adirondack pine needles & acorns
The lingering view of lovers kissing across the bay
The lingering touch of the puppy we couldn't save
The lingering sound of purring motorboats that welcome the sunrise
And, of Mom's fingers playing Moon River on a turn-of-the-century Baldwin
The lingering feeling of my body surrendering to a swinging hammock that said.....
Surrender to silence my child, for the world in turn surrenders to a silent mind.
Gone but not Forgotten
I am from hairspray
From braces and rubberbands.
I am from lightning bugs
Fluttering in the summer night sky.
I am from Belle
The cute little puppy
We rescued from the pound
And Smoky the cat
Whose death still touches my heart.
I am from Papaw’s goulash
And Momma’s pumpkin pie
From Dad’s overbearing
Protectiveness of his little girl.
I am from outrageous.
Eleven foot Christmas trees.
And joyous Thanksgiving feasts.
I am from French immigrants.
From 1692 and New Paltz, New York.
I am from Louis Bevier and Marie Le Blanc.
I am from the American dream.
From broken despair and gained hope
I am the present, past, and future,
History in the making.
April 05, 2010
Turn Your Static Photos Into Living, Talking MasterpiecesTurn Your Static Photos into Living, Talking Pasterpieces, says Netted. Give Fotobabble a try.
December 25, 2009
Loss Always Provides An Opening SomehowToday, Christmas Day, I received sad news from an old childhood friend about the passing of another old childhood friend. After spending a chunk of time in Paris this month and knowing that I'm heading to Vegas soon for CES like I do ever year, the memories from an era and part of the world that seem so incredibly far away, are chilling but also bitter sweet.
You see, hearing about the loss of Jimmy Green (only 53) brings up countless vivid memories from a very simple life that would be hard to recapture in my life today unless I moved to a rural New Zealand village next to a lake, with no bandwidth or any hopes of getting it. And why go back? The future is the future and that's where we live our lives.
Yet, like a great old novel, there's nothing like an old childhood memory that brings up every taste, every sight, every sound, especially when it's so damn vivid that you can reach out and touch and feel its very core. You're so present with the moment that it becomes your current reality even if only for a flashing moment. Like being able to see and hear Jimmy Green's voice again (he had a great laugh), and saying "you were a great contribution to this planet."
But life moves on. In and around us, it moves, constantly surprising us with miracles and sad, shocking news, like this. Today, I also heard of another friend who just had a triple bypass, which came out of nowhere. Healthy, young, fit, but an awkward bout of heartburn suddenly had him in surgery. And then? Well, he's still with us, but other old friends are not so lucky, like Marc Orchant, who I continue to think of often.
What Jimmy's death did in addition to making me think of him and the best of childhood, was to reflect and sit still.
As I was making blueberry pancakes yesterday, this statement literally came out of mouth -- into the wide open space called air, with no one to hear it but my own ears. "I don't have time to be interesting anymore." I almost laughed out loud it sounded so absurd and yet......it felt more true than any other loud or quiet outburst of late.
It takes time to be present. It takes time to reflect. It takes time to sit. It takes time to hear. And only with presence, reflection, a voice, an ear and time, can you grow. When you're in a growth process, you ARE interesting.
It is in this place that you constantly ask questions, yearn for more, push boundaries and move beyond your comfort zone. Ahhhh, that comfort zone. It's a miracle every time you leave it, isn't it? Sometimes we just need reminding.
Christmas is intense for so many people because it brings up the best, the worst, the happiest moments in our lives and the saddest ones. The times we were closest to our families and the times we couldn't have been more misaligned. It brings up birth, rebirth and it brings up loss - all the people we may not see because they now live on the other side of the world or are no longer living.
Jimmy was part of my earliest memories. We lived on a lake in the Adirondacks, the other side of heaven as people who have visited may have to acknowledge if they spent enough time there.
Thanks for the memory Jimmy and to you for all that you brought to this world in your 53 years. Remember the old boat? I know you're seeing this wherever you are.
You will be missed.