this is my infrequent blog where I post bits of creative writing and recipesDecember 3, 2011
Sixteen, deaf and blind… teacher holding him, dancing to the music. Giving him the experience kinesthetically, because he cannot experience it any other way. They stood together in the center of the band for our entire set. The teacher communicating everything he could about the music through his hands. During a ballad, I saw the teacher holding him, swaying, both of their eyes closed. For our last song, the teacher brought him over to Chalo and placed his hands on the shell Chalo’s bass drum.
Gratitude in the witnessing. Gratitude in the witnessing of kindness, human connection, and the open messy experience we instigate with these sounds. The open, messy experience we are all there for.
Worthwhile.November 28, 2011
Night ride in the trailer behind Chalo’s bike, “Beer in a Box.” Me in two hats, gloves, a sweater, a hoodie and Chalo’s giant winter coat, squished-squatting in the trailer, looking backwards. Clear cold sky, the Pleiades, and Orion clear enough to see his smudgy galaxy knife and his red supergiant shoulder.November 12, 2011
Why I Love You
I said I was doing well, you were not convinced. I said there was a lot going on, you said you were sure there was. I did not tell you what or say more, we just walked together easily.November 2, 2011
Whoa dude, China!
I’m not really sure what just happened, but I had this REALLY WEIRD dream: I was in China, well, I guess it was China, everyone on the street looked Chinese, but it wasn’t really much like what I think China would be like… and it felt like I was there for a really long time. Like all dreams, some things were weird, but then some things were really normal.
The city was huge and clean yet smelly. There were bikes everywhere, but there were even more scooters. People rode them lazily weaving along the side walk while talking on their cell phones, threatening the wellbeing of old women with plastic shopping bags. The sidewalks were brail – they had a textured trail for blind people running down the middle of them – but the cross walks were just like real life Frogger. There were tiny, quiet parks where old men gathered to gamble, and women in small groups clapped their hands in unison. Some did Tai Chi.
I was with people I didn’t really know before the trip, and yet they felt familiar, like dear friends… We had noodles breakfast, lunch and dinner, with bok choy and chili sauce, but I kind of liked it. We were served soup with a chicken head floating in it… someone sang to me with said chicken head… there was much laughter… we drank giant bottles of thin beer… we were served a plate of duck’s feet… fried ants… and fish and worm soup…
Anyway, then things got weird: There was tap dancing almost all the time. Tap dancing in the theater, tap dancing at every bar we went to… tap dancing, everywhere. The tap dancing people and I had to do some big project, but I couldn’t quite figure out what we were supposed to be doing. Most of the people in the dream were good, but there were these bad Chinese people who kept fucking with us and making it nearly impossible for us to finish the project we were there to do. They kept changing the rules and lying to us.
When we weren’t busy fighting the bad Chinese people, we were walking and talking… through parks with trees but no birds, along a river with barges but no cargo. We were walking in alleys behind apartment buildings; someone’s skivvies hung right there on the street corner; small dogs in sweaters; old men brushing their teeth in outdoor utility sinks; glimpses of tiny crooked hallways leading to green, cramped apartments; folks chattering jubulantly and eating noodles at a temporary table in a quiet, sunny alley; sleepy Chinese men smoking cigarettes in their pajamas, meandering down treacherous arterial streets among cargo bikes piled high, scooters and busses…
…oh, I just remembered, or maybe this is part of another dream entirely, I’m not sure… we went to this holy Buddhist island. It was beautiful – monks wandering, tile-roofed temples, the smell of incense and verdancy and an ocean full of the moon. I was with two people… a man with wide, kind eyes that I knew I didn’t know from before, but who felt like an old friend, and a graceful Japanese woman who spoke only in poetry. She closed her eyes and took long breaths; she laughed at everything. She told us the abstract meanings of the Chinese writing characters. She named me “holding heart bird beautiful India.” The man grabbed light out of the air and used it to make pictures of whatever was in his mind. Light behaved almost like a sentient, excitable, fluid being when it was near him. The three of us sat by the ocean for hours, under the full moon. The ocean was very calm and we walked slowly, like monks, through the bamboo, listening to tree frogs. We climbed rocks, slept soundly, and felt healed.
And now, here I am, awake in the morning, in Austin. The air is clean, there are birds everywhere. My husband and cats are warm and welcoming. The date has changed, but I am pretty sure no time has passed… a single fitful sleep full of frustration and magic and sadness and laughter.December 3, 2011
um… did I mention that real Chinese food is awesome?
Several times in Shanghai, usually late at night, we stumbled upon street carts with vendors making fresh stir-fried noodles. The vendor would have a super hot, large wok surrounded by a squillion bowls of chopped vegetables, oils, cili paste, spices, and eggs. Usually, a bag of bok choy hung from the side of the cart. Small chaotic stacks of to-go containers filled with cooked rice noodles lined the edges of the cart.
This was one of my favorite foods in China, and since the vendor prepared the food before our eyes, it was pretty easy to learn how this is made. I was surprised by the order ingredients were added to the heat, but I paid close attention, and it was always this order. I should probably mention that I don’t measure anything when I cook, I eye it all… which leads me to write… um, folksy recipes…
And now, an extremely wordy recipe for a dish that takes 10 minutes to make:
This makes a single heaping bowl of noodles, dinner for one. If you want to make food for multiple people, I recommend making the batches one at a time. Each one only takes 5 minutes and it gets difficult to mix things properly if there is too much food in the wok, resulting in overcooked veggies and the wrong texture.
Boil a package of wide rice noodles as per directions on the package. (You can also use rice instead of noodles in this recipe, it is delicious). They should be rinsed with cold water immediately upon draining or they will stick together in a large block of glue… Then, because even if you rinse it, it will try to become a large block of glue, separate your noodles into 2 or 3 bowls- a serving size of about 2 cups of noodles per person.
pre-chop and have within reach:
- a small handful of sweet onion
- a small handful of mung sprouts
- one to two bunches of baby bok choy (washed, with all the leaves separated from each other, but not chopped)
- a pinch of fresh scallions
- a small handful of cilantro
you will also need:
- sesame oil
- Chinese chili-garlic paste
- soy sauce
(and if you want to be authentic… salt and MSG… but I skip this part)
Add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil to a hot wok (be careful, some kinds of sesame oil are really strong, in which case you should use just a few drops of sesame and fill the rest out with peanut oil… but I use a mild kind, so I can use it as the only oil in the pan. Taste a little before adding it if you aren’t sure).
From here forward, you are going to use one hand to continuously keep everything moving in and out of the oil at the bottom of the wok and the other hand to toss delicious things into the wok. There aren’t really any pauses between adding different ingredients, just keep moving. The entire frying process takes 3-5 minutes. Except the egg, nothing else gets truly cooked, just seared in the super hot oil.
Crack one egg into the wok and scramble it in the oil. As soon as it is more or less cooked, toss in the handful of sprouts and the onion. Almost immediately, toss in the bok choy. Add a small splash of soy sauce (I would say start with a teaspoon or less), a 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon (depending on your desire for spiciness) of chili-garlic paste (also from the Asian market), 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon of sugar.
At this point, I saw them add a 1/2 teaspoon of msg, and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt. While their version was super delicious I have done quite well without either of these additions.
Now toss in about 2 cups of the noodles or rice. Mix until evenly coated. Add scallions and cilantro, and empty the whole ensemble onto a plate. For a somewhat authentic experience, enjoy with chopsticks and weak beer while crouching on a tiny wooden bench placed on a chaotically busy sidewalk in a highly polluted but lovely city.August 25, 2011
Today went like this:
old Mexican Man in an unintentional hooptie blasting 70′s country music, zipping down hill on my bike with a floppy hat on, the chin strap holding on with all its might! mesquite trees, grotto with limestone, extended families hanging out in their yard listening to chunky chunky music on the car stereo, gathering mullien seed pods, bright red hair weave in black black hair, toddling stomping siblings backlit playing in the fountain, dragonflies, purple flowers surviving by a parking lot, old women caring for too many potted plants, a bike that works perfectly.July 4, 2011
There is a mud dauber wasp who is building a nest above our bathtub. Every couple days, she makes a new cell, then she goes and gets as many as two dozen tiny spiders, stuns them and stuffs them in the cell. Then she lays an egg. The larva will eat the spiders, then hatch as a wasp. While I don’t really like having a wasp around while I am bathing… mud daubers aren’t aggressive. I am fascinated by her tiny industriousness and the female in me is cheering for this hard working mama.
Homegrown Tomatilla Salsa
Greetings from Austin, Texas, where we have resisted the pull of our impotent air conditioning system, opting for fans and ventilation instead. It is 96 degrees and 100% humid. Tomatoes, basil, cucumbers and eggplants grow almost faster than we can eat them… evening swims have become part of the daily routine, and I can’t say I mind… fish are jumping and the cotton is high… Since my childhood, I have known that a homegrown tomato has ten times the flavor and tomato-y goodness of a store bought tomato. In fact, we often call the over-sized, flawless but flavorless vegetables from the grocery store gub’ment vegetables. As in, “Mmmm, that’s pretty good for gub’ment broccoli… not as good as from the garden, but pretty good, yes sir.” Not until a few weeks ago had I ever had a homegrown tomatillo. Mysterious, magical, intensely flavorful… Not even the same fruit as the gub’ment version. This recipe will work with gub’ment ingredients, but I recommend planning your garden around salsa next year. It is worth it. Plant the purple tomatillos, they are prolific and lovely. Put all of this in a glass bowl and stir: • 5-8 little homegrown tomatillos (1/3-1/2 cup), diced in small, 1/4 inch cubes • two handfuls (3/4 cup) of sungold or other flavorful tomatoes, diced in small, 1/4 inch cubes • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, de-seeded and chopped finely • 1/4 cup yellow onion, diced very finely • 1 clove garlic, crushed • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (fresh, always fresh!) • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, or a small pinch of dried oregano • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cumin • the juice of 3-5 key limes, or 2-3 regular limes, depending on your love of the tangy • Start with 1 teaspoon of salt. and gradually increase to taste. You will need to add more than you think is a good idea….it’s always surprising how much it takes… If you are making this with homegrown tomatillos, resist the urge to increase the garlic or to use really hot peppers. Too much of these things will run over the mysterious taste of the tomatillos.
Lately, we have been eating this over rice and eggs for breakfast. I dump the whole bowl of salsa on there and let the lime juice soak into the rice. mmm