Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shattered Belief.

I have just had my whole world shaken. The watermelon, that staple of summer feasts and gatherings, that pillar of the season itself, that emblem of eager do-nothingness, is a vegetable. A vegetable!? It's next of kin? The cucumber and gourd. This makes sense. I can see this. It isn't as if I were just told that it's nearest relative was a turnip or anything (no offence meant towards turnips, of course). Cucumbers and gourds have the rind 'round indsides seeded with juice. Still...a vegetable? huh.

Gourds are traditional water carrying vessels. The first hydration packs, you might say. Sorry Camelbak, you are not original. Thus, the high water content of the watermelon, and this hydrophilic genus makes sense.

I remember reading, upon my mother's recommendation, "The Cry of the Kalahari." At the age of 13, rurally tucked in on an Iowa Farm, I was sure I was being called to the life of a biologist in the African Desert. I am also sure that this was not my mother's intent, these notions. However, she always encouraged them, the notions. Perhaps that was her goal after all, to get into me and my sister's heads, Notions. Notions that we could Be and Do things. The book was on dark basement shelves, dusty with dreams, and illuminated by the circling beams of a lone pull-string light bulb. It was on a shelf of her old books, many, about natural childbirth. These, I left in place after curiously flipping through pictures which left me no desire for motherhood. I wondered, did my friends who aimed to fulfill their life through marriage and mothering know about these? I am sure their dreams would be altered.

"The Cry of the Kalahari" was left from my mom's own "I want to be a biologist" days. I was sure of this veterinatian/biologist career for awhile. That is, until I saw the larger members of our barnyard menagerie have trouble birthing, and the vet's hand, elbow, and then shoulder, disappear up the apparently never-ending birth canal. Then came the warning of the powerful contractions, known to sometimes break helping-human arms (how the calf or foal escaped unscathed, still baffles me). This, along with my inability to deal with blood and prolapsed cow uteruses (this, I left with my sister and the cow in the field. Still, I feel guilt!), led me to acknowledge that large animal medicine was not my career to be. For awhile, it was a lovely notion though, fed and watered with hours of reading James Herriot; and, the influence of our own local country veterinarian, The Gentle Giant, we all called him, Dr. Rishel.

This, dear reader, I promise does have relevance to watermelons. Here, I read, that the watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari. I can just picture the Owens's being sustained, those many many months, by this native growing gourd.

And here in a late summer continents away, I continue to partake in the drinking gourd, reminded that there is an Old Man "a-waitin' for to carry me to freedom."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Red for the Journey.

This summer, I am eating tomatoes. Vines upon vines of tomatoes. If they were carrots, I'd be hueing orange right about now, in an overdosed stupor of beta carotene. But, they aren't carrots; they are tomatoes, and I am not sure about the skin matching properties of lycopene. Thus, I remain my usual fair-faced self.

Before this spring, I hadn't eaten a tomato in years. Yes, really, years. In my search for answers to discovering my Mystery Internal, I was advised not to partake of the nightshade family. I abstained, monkish in my devotion. Until, their flesh lured me lustily to desire, to taste, to enjoy.

I reasoned that it was no Sin. After all, my mother was doing it too. If there was a drastic change in health, I would return to the Abstinence Abbey.

There wasn't.

I continue on in the lust of this flesh. Tomato flesh, that is.

Strangely, the acidity seems to calm my troubled insides. I ate a pint of cherry tomatoes for breakfast last week and my visiting mother gagged, watching this early feast. I imagine it is very near my reaction to watching someone eat pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The heaviness weighs even my eyes.

And, tomatoes are red. I am encouraged by red. This, depending on theories, is perhaps a troublesome look into my psyhe. There are those who posit that people who drive red cars are more aggressive drivers, they wreck more frequently, they pay more for their insurance, etc.

Red coloration has been linked to intimidation and dominance in the animal kingdom. For a period in high school, my sister modeled her wardrobe after this proven-plummage. What her theory was about who or what she was dominating, I didn't ask. Probably me.

Red though, is for my journey...

My mom sent me that blog post, when I was at a point of confused darkness, emphasizing that for "healing auto-immune disease: wear good red socks for this long journey." She started sending me socks. I was journeying, and it was getting long. She is on this journey too, this journey of healing. And, in state-crossed solidarity, across many miles, we stand red-footed, ready to walk.

These mental games may sound trite. They, in fact, may be so. And yet, in the morning, when I pull on red socks, why is it that I feel more prepared, more able to embark on that most dangerous business, walking out the front door. . .

While my feet may lead off alone, red reminds that there are others journeying with me.

There is a Fest going on online. It is amazing, really, what happens over these Interwebs. This past week, people have been eating tomatoes purposefully, with thought and consideration, and care --- in preparation for the last week of Summer Fest.

Tonight, I thoughtfully chewed on this...

~ Rice "Polenta" with tomato salad ~

Arborio rice porridge loaf (adapted from a recipe in Living Without magazine).
1. The night before, cook rice into a thick porridge. I added twice the amount of water.
2. Spread the pudding in a dish and cover, refrigerating overnight.
3. Cook. Imitating polenta, fry slices of the porridge in olive oil until crispy and browned on the outside.

~ Salad Bed of Red ~

Grape tomatoes
Flat-leaf Italian Parsley
Romaine lettuce
Salt & pepper

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lemon Basil Risotto

I over-zested. I did. I admit it. This sour bite of this sin, this overindulgence in a taste enjoyed, proved that what more is not always better. That, what is wanted, is not always needed nor best, fruitful nor good.
Remember as a child, wanting something really badly? Feeling an actual physical ache for a Something not in your possession, that you really just must have. You needed it. Now. This something was surely laughed over and laughed at by your parents, as being small potatoes.

Or, it's like that feeling of eating too much. When your tongue pants for another tingling taste of that one ingredient. That one ingredient that brings you to a place of remembered comfort. You can't quite recall where or when, but your senses tell you that you have tasted this before. It is good. It is safe. And now memories, heated into opaque reminiscence, want that feeling, those sensations, again. It is like finding love again, only this time, Unveiled.

I have a deep love of lemons. They make me think of warmth and home and love. This evening, I needed those things. I needed to feel close to those things.

My mother is always telling me to eat more rice. The starch, she says, is good for my troubled tummy. It rumbles with the lonely voices of too many fruits and vegetables. Their ached companion? Rice. "Something," says motherly advice "needs to be there to bind." The obvious solution? Rice.

I have a basil plant in my window sill. It was bought, at the Boulder Farmer's Market from Pachamama Organic Farms. My friend asked, How do you grow this basil? "Lots of sun. Moisture. And, always pick from the top," came the instructions.

Both he and I have, as true Kindred Spirits, independently killed every basil plant we've ever tried growing. But this one, has survived. So tonight, I made rice -- a risotto. And, in my emotional conjuring of Home, I zested too much. Indeed, the long chubby grains welled up with reminding love. But, when tasted, they had an after-bite unlike any love I have known...any true love, that is.

The risotto soothed, and oddly, sometimes an extra kick is what is needed...what Love needs to do...

1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add chives and arborio rice (1/4 cup). Saute until rice is translucent.
2. Add water (about 1 cup or so, depending upon desired consistency) slowly, stirring with each addition. Simmer
for about 20 minutes.
3. Add basil and lemon zest (about 1/4 tsp. - don't over zest!) about 5 minutes from end.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


A wooden crate filled with baby turnips pulled me into a farmer's market stall. A friend and I had been wandering the market aisles, swimming in the current of late-comers who were scrambling for what was left of the week's apricot crop and new potatoes, and amid people sauntering with freshly made falafel sandwhiches and pupusas, with dogs scrambling for Dropped Things underfoot.

Against the flow, on the wrong side surely, I was on the hunt, wandering back and forth and side to side; this was not a planned pursuit in any form or manner. One farmer's stand had a man out front offering samples of his harvested fare, and my hunted game -- beets.

He was shouting that his beets tasted "just like chicken." I took a sample. Strangely, It tasted like a beet. For good measure, I took another sampling -- a golden beet this time. Still, it was a beet. No taste of chicken. No subtle hint, undertone, aftertaste, or nuance even. It was a beet. Thank God.

Somehow, this reminded me of Willy-Wonka's complete three-course-meal gum. Would a little nibble of this quite normal looking beet, turn into a chicken cacciatore or masala? A breast roasted with rosemary and garlic perhaps?

The first year I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I felt socially awkward. I still do, but the initial plunge was a jostling awakening to the fact that life was never going be the same. There was no cure. Family and friends were told and were understanding. Yet, social gatherings always put me ill at ease. Explaining about my gastrointestinal workings or rather lack thereof, seemed uncouth party talk.

As much as I believe in talking about celiac and as passionate as I am about creating awareness, sometimes I get tired. I get tired of explaining why I am borderline paranoid, and what happens when I'm not...when lackadaisical eyes miss a crumb. It isn't comfortable physically nor emotionally.

And so, on occasion, I pass for a gluten-eater. Like a shadow puppet, I mimic the surrounding hands. I push things around on a sparsely populated plate. I fork over my portions to a trusted friend when no one is looking. My sense of smell has heightened immeasurably through noticing nuances from which I must abstain. I ask to smell portions of which I do not partake, and family and friends have grown accustomed to my hovering nose above their plate. Olfactory explorations lead me to a deeper knowledge of the world, even in realms no longer tasted.

During just such a social gathering mimicry, there was a shredded beet salad offered. Not desiring to stage a public inquisition of the cook and her ingredients, I took note. This looked interesting.

That night, at home, I safely recreated what I had seen. I let my hand lead lead to my mouth, and I experienced more than smell...I tasted...

Shredded turnips
Romaine lettuce
Lemon juice
Dill seeds

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Second Chance.

There is just something about a rainy day that makes me crave curry. Hunger rumbles for warmth. Soothing warmth, not the kindled discontent which ignites and sustains itself, despite tinctured douses of herbs, medications and plain old wild guesses and shots in the dark. The antidotes extinguished, their ashes add height to the growing the pyre of hopes.

Fill of grey leaves etchings of royal pines, harboring rest and sleep, and movement and dreams of their own.

I found a woolly bear caterpillar on my basement floor this evening. He was thick with preparation, reminding me that I too should be storing provisions for colder times. The lines of summer have yet some writing to be taken down, but the next chapter's characters breathe presence into hesitant pauses.

My gas stove reminded me, putting this cook in her place, that it is much more eager than was my previous place's electric range. It jumped right into a sauté of green onions that I was not ready for. I was preoccupied with many jars of opened spices, their lids getting mixed and switched in the putting away (I will have turmeric laced cumin for sure), and decisions. Decisiveness is not one of my strengths. And, I wanted too many of these smells for dinner -- how was I to pick among what was all good, for what was right?

Throwing generous pinches of my mixed-up masala into the sautéing base, I turned my back to find tomatoes in the fridge, only to have my nose led burntly back. Those green onions? Anything but green now. In fact, they were well past caramelization.

But, things can be started fresh; and, a clean slate can yet be found, even through a burnt sauté pan's second chance at a curry.

~ Late Summer's Second Chance Curry ~

Cauliflower, lightly steamed
Olive oil
Green onions
Curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, fennel seeds

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Christmas in July.

Well, at least yesterday was July!

I remember Christmas in July sales, and I always wondered why they were called such. "Shouldn't someone go correct these confused store owners?," I thought as a child. I have just realized that I rarely, and rarely is being oh-so generous, go to stores. Well, stores other than a Grocer's, that is. The last time I was in a mall was more than one year ago now. Loud echoes of children's' screams, pumped pop music, overly made-up and matched women, and smells of Fastly-Created-Food-Grease nauseated me. I left feeling the need to shower the world off.

I will admit, Christmas is my favorite part of the year. The itch to hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas is scratched as soon as November's All Saints arrive. Sometimes, even earlier. I have always loved Christmastime, but instead of growing out of this child-like fetish, I have only grown into it all the more. Perhaps, I associate it with Home. In my college years, this was often the one time I would see my family.

My college house-mate turned best-friend, made me worse. We fed off each other's freakish love of this season, secretly savoring finding someone with whom we didn't have to hide the fact that, Yes, we listened to Christmas Music early...sometimes in October. Sometimes, September. It hasn't snuck its way up to July. Not yet at least.

Yesterday, I found a little bit of Christmas, in July, at the Golden Farmer's Market. Beets. Again with the beets! I wrote a post just last week on Beets for Edible Front Range. Am I becoming obsessed with these vegetables? Now that I have made their acquaintance, I fear I might over-stay my welcome and exhaust their genuine hospitality.

A while back, I lived for a year as a Raw Foodist. I drank spinach smoothies for breakfast and ate my fill of bananas. I even gave up tea. It, after all, is heated. I was crazy and took it too far. But, I am like that. If I do something, I do something. If I was going to be a Raw Foodist, dammit, I wasn't going to be a half-hearted one. However, that year turned me into a Half-Person, even with a Whole-Heart. I lost 20 lbs. off of my already too thin at 100 lbs. frame. My mom thought I was dying. Maybe I was.

My relationship was failing, as was my body. Both my significant other and my digestion didn't want me anymore...didn't want to try for me anymore. Every effort, for both, failed. And, I couldn't even console myself with comfort food.

During this time, the Boulder Farmer's Market was a sanctuary and I worshiped weekly at its altar, fellowshipping with other foodies. I could walk up and down, and then down and up through the stands and see things I could eat. Interesting things. New things. One of these new things were bright bunches of beets. Being, of course, that I was a raw foodist right then, I asked a farmer, "Can I eat those beets raw?" He gave me an "only if you dare" look. "Well, I tried it once, you see," he said, "and got these horrible sores 'round the corners of my mouth. But yeah, I suppose you could eat them raw if ya wanted to." Oh, what a good salesman!

But, I bought a bunch anyway because I had heard they would turn my pee beet-red, and I thought this was interesting. I would worry about how to eat them raw and sores in my mouth later. In the end, they were juiced. And, there were no mouth-sores afterwards. But, there were several, err, "changes" ...

I was mesmerized. Beets were powerful things. Victorious things ...

Ah, how I ramble. Now, back to Christmas. As I said, it was found yesterday. Christmas, that is. In July. A stand had three boxes of beets: golden, red, and candy-cane. The latter two looked the same -- exactly the same from the outside. But, outsides don't tell everything. In fact, sometimes they lie. They play the part of expectations and convention's constraints. Some, don't embrace their inner stripes. Some, you have to break, to cut open, to really see what's inside -- to see what they're made of.

A Candy-Cane Beet is one of these. It tries so hard to be normal. Can a beet ever really be "normal," though? Cut open, it reveals its unique traits, its character; and, these candy-cane beets reminded me to stay true, to be honest, about who I am and what I'm made of. Even, at times, showing some red stripes on the outside...

~ Christmastime Summer Salad ~

~ Candy cane beets & their greens, green-leaf lettuce. Dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, dill, sea salt, freshly cracked pepper. ~