Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Trials of Cooking

I haven’t been cooking Julia Child-Style much lately.  Ben and I were experiencing rapidly expanding waistlines no matter how much we exercised.

I associate my mother’s diabetes with her being overweight for so much of her life. Before I went to Wyoming to take care of my folks, I discovered on the web that Alzheimer’s can be a direct result of diabetes.

I don’t want to go that way.

But I do, as much as anyone, enjoy good food. I just have to limit the richest ones and the amounts I eat to much less than I used to be able to eat. And since I quit cooking so much Julia-food, our waistlines have ceased to expand.

I’m not going to quit learning to cook, though. And I’m certainly not going to give up good food. I have learned that I don’t need to use butter to make white or brown sauce; I can use canola oil. And I can still add the great flavor and texture of cheese by using mozzarella, which is lower in fat, and/or freshly grated stronger cheeses like parmesan, which takes much less cheese to get good flavor. But white sauce with onions and garlic – and without cheese at all – can be quite good as well.

Now I’m not really a very good boy when it comes to dieting. We celebrated Val’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and Ben and I were in charge of dessert. . . okay, so you see where this is going. I made crepes; Ben made peach sauce and rhubarb sauce with tapioca as the thickener, which were low in sugar and quite healthy by themselves, actually. But then I thoroughly corrupted the dessert by making a crepe mound with the fruit sauces layered between crepes and a layer of. . . (hee hee) chocolaty mocha mousse between each layer of fruit sauce, that rich, creamy and buttery version for which I posted the recipe last November; then I smeared mousse over the mound. I’m not sure you can truly imagine how utterly delicious that was. If you can afford the caloric splurge I highly recommend that you try it. (See, also, my posts on making crepes and crepe mounds from last November.) I added a single cup packet of Starbuck’s instant coffee to the chocolate mousse recipe, but the regular chocolate mousse would be equally exquisite as well, I’m sure, if you actually don’t like the flavor of fine coffee mixed with chocolate or cannot find good coffee in instant form. DO NOT, however, put regular off-the-shelf instant coffee in the mousse recipe unless you want to ruin it. (Coffee snob? Me?)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Writerly Life

I’ve been working – possibly overworking – my essay on trying  to take care of my father and mother. Tom a friend of mine, critiqued it for me, which was great, but he really wanted me to delve deeper into some of the issues. Excellent advice, really, for what I’m trying to accomplish through writing this essay, but my initial reaction (and my quick, reactionary carry-through) was to delete those parts altogether.

I had come to a resolved point of throwing off the heavy mental mantle I had been carrying around because of what I felt was failure in the endeavor. My father’s dementia and stubbornness for wanting to take care of himself and mom (of striving to drive me off the way he had done with everyone I had been able to watch them when I went shopping) had worn me down and vanquished the good intentions I’d taken to Wyoming with me. I eventually had to leave dad and mom in assisted living, but after a tough time getting beyond that perceived self-failure, I came to terms with it all and was able to shrug that mantle off.

I felt good about the article, because it had as good of an ending as the feelings I’ve been having of myself lately.

Tom pointed out that in rehashing the ordeal I was showing that I hadn’t really had any true catharsis; that I was apparently still harboring resentments. Well, the resolutions I had attained were actually just for the sense of failure I’d felt. I hadn’t been trying to convey that I’d had some sort of  epiphany, some grand shedding of the difficulty of my childhood and a granting of absolution to my parents. Apparently that was what I was giving the impression of with my poetic beginning and ending.

So I guess it’s back to the writing board.


I’m having trouble with this essay partly because I’m actually having trouble really wanting the things I want to want, want to do, or want to experience.Absurd as it sounds, this is the result of being so happy with my life that I’m not just content, I’m complacent. The life I’m living here on the creek is idyllic. I know that’s hard to believe in this era, but it’s true.

A couple of weeks ago Ben and I were shopping in town (one of my least favorite activities in life). I was grinding coffee; a young woman filled a bag and quietly waited for me to finish. I had a couple of bags to go, so I let her grind her single bag first. She asked why I was buying so much coffee and I explained we lived a long way from town and didn’t get there often. In response to a few other questions I told her about the pottery, the surrounding beauty, and the way we just loved to be at home. As she was leaving, she said it sounded idyllic. I laughed and said that, yes, it was. She teased me a bit for my delighted chuckle and said I was one of the lucky ones.

“I suppose I am,” I said.

But our conversation stranded itself in my mind for a couple of days. It seems silly, given the present world of trouble we’re living in, that I could have an idyllic life. But then it also seems silly, in this modern world of convenience and internet connection,  that Ben and I are living the rather antiquated lifestyle we live. Even my mother, when she was here for a visit several years ago, told me how surprised she was that I was a farmer. We do produce and preserve as much of our own food as we can, we gather and chop firewood to keep the place warm, and we avoid going to town as if we were having to take a several day journey horseback to get there. And we lived here for seven years before we got indoor plumbing.

That’s not exactly an ideal many people dream of, yet all this is a big part of why I love my life.

For years I  tried to convince myself that I couldn’t really be this happy. I listened to people telling me how happy I sounded and how idyllic a life I portrayed, then tried to convince them that it wasn’t so great; we were living in poverty after all.

My maternal grandmother, who was a powerful influence on me when I was growing up, had a saturnine opinion of the world. She responded to so much bad news by exclaiming that the world was a terrible, wicked place. I suppose, down deep inside, I felt I should believe her.

The downside of being so happy and complacent, as I mentioned a moment ago, is the lack of drive to make accomplishments. Since I don’t need accomplishments to be happy, I am not terribly enthusiastic to make changes to improve our circumstances. I really WANT to be a writer; the trouble is, unlike most writers and wannabe writers, I don’t have a deep yearning to be an author.

Let me explain. The business world these days, controlled by corporate mentality, doesn’t permit a writer to stay quietly at home and write. They want us all to be pounding the streets, doing interviews, promoting ourselves for having authored a book. That sort of stuff makes me slightly nauseated just thinking about it. I really love good writing and I did decide a while back that I really want to develop my writing, to learn to write to the best of my ability. And, really, the only way to do that is to be able to make at least part of my living at it so I can spend enough time to do it; that means I have to publish, which means I have to be an author. And that, of course, means I have to be public.

The main reason I started this blog was to help start me working, mentally, toward that process. So, I’ll just keep on going. I’ll keep on writing and perfecting, and I’ll soon start submitting. I know I’ll start collecting rejection slips and I know that might signify that I sent it to the wrong place, but it will also mean I need to keep working on my skills and overcoming my self-defeating, self-sabotaging habits.

There are things I want to tell the world, so I have to forget I’m so complacent in my lifestyle.  I will also have to quit deleting the passages I’ve written that need more introspection. I have to be more honest and more open in both non-fiction and fiction. I have benefited from the work of so many other writers that it’s time I show my gratitude and pass some of what I have experienced on.

I may be storming off like a turtle on beach sand and I may keep getting turned around as I try to see everything that is happening around me, but I will keep going.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter at last!

We finally got a good snow a couple of days ago. Much of it is gone already right around our farm, but we got up into the mountain to cross-country ski. Actually we had to break trail and we didn’t follow a roadway and we climbed a bit, so it was more like snowshoeing on skis, but it was a beautiful, sunny day.

The shining sun, undiluted by clouds, glinted brilliant off frost crystals sprinkled heavily over pristine snow. We, obviously, had a fantastic day on the mountain. The world never gets more beautiful than it was today.

We woke this morning to a heavy patches of frost from fog clouds that passed through late last night. Grand flakes of frost clung to bushes, trees and grasses until the sun rose high in the sky to warm the foliage and loosed the frost, which then glittered to the ground.


I’m reading a book on mythology which was printed at the end of the 19th century. It is a philological study (which is through literature and/or linguistics) of myths from across the globe. It’s very interesting that just that far back in history European and American scholars viewed the world from such an inane sense of superiority of their own belief systems. They viewed those who believed in the myths to be savage and barbaric; yet many of those people were very advanced in science, art, and architecture and many were very peaceful people.

Now I know there are many, albeit less astute, people today who adhere to that antiquated belief in superiorism. Unlike the “primitive savages” the true glory and beauty of the world eludes those kind of people and I am very deeply sad for them.







Tuesday, February 7, 2012

American Barbarianism

I’m feeling a bit twisted up inside this week. The weather is being a little pissy, but mostly I’ve been bothered by the state of the our nation. Fracking, fundamentalism and the religion of corporations being my primary concerns.

I’m reading a book written by journalist Joe Bageant about the working poor in the area where he grew up in the southern U.S. These people work their butts off and are still a paycheck away from losing everything they own because they earn such poor wages. One woman Bageant wrote about has diabetes and whenever she and her husband have as little as thirty dollars of extra bills in a given month, they cannot afford her medications. As a result she’s crippled and going blind. She had to give up working because she has become so disabled, but Social Security people say she is able to work and, therefore, not eligible for S.S. payments. She can barely walk with a cane and can barely see! This is one case of thousands. Imagine what that would do to a person’s psyche.

Anyway, that’s not the worst news Joe Bageant gives in his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus. He talks about the religious fundamentalism of those people. They are not just in favor of nuclear war with the middle east, they want to hurry it along to bring on the Apocalypse and, as a result of the Apocalypse, the Rapture. The basic makeup of these fundamentalists is a people descended from Scots who were called Borderers because they lived along the border wall put up across the north end of England by Hadrian to protect England from the barbarians of Scotland. These barbarians relocated to Ireland to be ‘free from persecution’ from the British. From Ireland they emigrated to America so that, basically, they wouldn’t be bothered by the religious beliefs of others.

The American government of the time was appalled by the brutality of these people, but they did not hesitate to make use of them in their wars. The Borderer offspring are, today, still a violent, virulent, ill-educated and ignorant people who want to shift the government of America into a theocracy to help bring about the Apocalypse. Under this theocracy there would be biblical law and biblical law only (i.e. punishments such as stoning for such indiscretions as simple as denying their own brand of fundamentalist interpretations of the bible).

Furthermore, pay attention here, they care nothing about polluting Earth beyond human habitation because, after the Rapture, they will no longer need this planet. These people made great political advancement during the W/Cheney reign, when many environmental laws were tossed into the rubbish heap and many of these fundamentalists were put into government positions.

Back when I read the book on Russian history, I was surprised that Europe considered the Russian ruling class barbarians long after they had become Christian, but they were, even in the eyes of Europeans, violently imperialistic, steeped in their own system of beliefs (the Russians were Orthodox Christians, but that wasn’t the problem for Europeans) about how the world should be, and about how they had the true way and the authority to rule the world. (Sound familiar? But Russian barbarianism was not nearly as subjective and covert as the current atmosphere of fundamentalism.)

Joe Bageant did put this all in perspective for me, though, when he pointed out that there were three previous “Awakenings” in our history with fundamentalists rising up in force to attempt rule over the religious atmosphere of the day. In none of those previous Awakenings, however, did the fundamentalists try to take over the government. This might be a logical next step, perhaps, but Bageant did clarify that all three earlier Awakenings died out in a few decades and this one, he said, began in 1973. Perhaps there’s hope and it will end soon, though I’m not sure that the corporate rulers {who are making use of the poor, ignorant fundamentalists to wage war against the rest of us} will let us off that easily.

What this all brought to mind for me was a quote I came upon awhile back by Rabindranath Tagore of India:

Do we still not know that the appearance of a seed is in direct contradiction to its true nature?

If you submit the seed to a chemical analysis, you would find in it perhaps some carbon, proteins, and many other things, but never the hint of the leaf of a tree.

The freedom of the seed resides in its fulfillment of its dharma, of its nature and its destiny, which is to become a tree; the failure to achieve this becomes for the seed a prison.

The sacrifice through which one thing reaches its fulfillment is not a sacrifice that leads to death; it is the casting off of chains and the attainment of freedom.

Now, the fundamentalists may claim that the fulfillment of their nature and destiny is to bring about the Apocalypse; but one thing is for sure: they would be denying anyone else a destiny of anything more than to be dictated by severe, inhumane, barbaric rule. How far they get, however, is up to the rest of us, since the fundamentalists (the Borderer descendants and the people they have influenced) constitute only a third of the population of our nation.

So don’t worry too much, but don’t sit on your assets (and I’m not being cutesy by using ‘assets’ to mean ‘asses’) and do plant and nurture that seed of your nature and destiny so it may grow, develop and prosper. Whatever develops your attainment of freedom will, undoubtedly, aid the rest of us in some way as well. And would you really be so barbaric that you would deny that  to the rest of us?