Monday, December 20, 2010

With the holidays Comes Delay, Procrastination and Family Drama

It has been a while since my last post and I am going to blame life getting in the way. I am sure everyone knows what that is like, especially around the holidays.

Recently, I have been asked to pack someone else's stuff- my husband's stuff to be exact, while he enjoys the comfort of his new apartment, new girlfriend and her two small children. This amazingly enough is not something I would consider able to put me in the holiday spirit, but that being said, it does add a perspective on “gift giving” and the new year.

The end of a year, the end of a friendship and the beginning of the end of a marriage; this, like the holidays, includes wrapping things, placing things in boxes and sending them off to an expectant and, possibly, cautiously appreciative recipient. Some things given may be a surprise, some expected and some a disappointment, but all received with a similar anticipation of a small child holding his/her breath waiting for Santa’s presents under the tree.

Separating households is very similar to joining them. It includes looking at things each of you (or both of you together) own and possibly cherish, then determining what to keep and what to give away. It also gives way to these items bringing forth their own memories which drown the diligent worker bee in thoughts of the past, reminders of what could have been and anticipation (and some fear) of the future. It also causes a delay in the task at hand, which can be a welcomed form of serial procrastination.

Pictures come down off the walls, photo albums lose some of their resident photos, books and trinkets of a previous life are removed from shelves leaving only their shadows behind. Each item finds its way into boxes headed to a never-never world that matters not to you, as long as you do not think of it too much. Items that you knew the other regarded with disdain are carefully included amongst some of the most cherished- for balance, of course. Some slight satisfaction is gained, but only slight. There is no need to damage anything, the damage to the nested life and household is more than enough; and, even though everything is in its place, neat and tidy, the storms that raged can still be felt as if the fires have yet to be snuffed.

This “gift-giving” or relocating of "stuff" that is from a different life with two different people includes, on the brighter side, the gift of a new life, new friends and new beginnings. I hope each brings its own surprises, more pleasant than not, much laughter, only tears of joy and the ability to breathe deeply in my newly opened spaces. I hope in the future when I review this holiday season it will be seen as a liberating, strengthening experience. Even if it is not, at least I have got a jump on my spring cleaning.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celebration (A poem)

You tear the darkness off me exposing my underside
The softness of your touch contradicts your glances
Hold your breath
Seas separating, leaving emptiness behind
Our waves of consciousness ebb and flow keeping me awake
Can you hear them?

Suffering in silence without uttering the safety word
Onlookers’ eyes wordlessly flicker bitter tasting happiness
Hold my hair and adjust the fallbeil to severe it fully
Rushing to the floor, the feeling goes
Numb and content, a job well done.

(J. Smith, 2010)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Little Throw Together Vegetarian Meal (Chicken, in a lemon, white wine, tarragon sauce)

As most of you know, I am not a cook. But as time passes, I am becoming more daring in the kitchen. Cooking is truly a learning experience. I've spent years watching a very good cook, but never doing much by way of assistance with the main meals. Rather, I came in for dessert duty. Slowly I am moving away from just baking and into actual cooking.

Last night I decided to throw together Quorn “chicken” (a meat alternative which is also soy free), in a lemon, white wine, tarragon sauce, sautéed spinach and garlic and roasted rosemary potatoes. I whipped up this little meal sans recipe.


Chicken, in a lemon, white wine, tarragon sauce

Package of Quorn cutlets (can substitute in actual chicken if you so choose)
5 cloves of garlic (sliced)
3 sprigs of tarragon (whole)
Bay leaf
“No Chicken” or vegetable broth (2 cups)
white wine (approx 1 cup or so)
1 whole lemon (cut in half. One half will be used to cut slices of lemon to place on top of cutlets)
Olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 tsp corn starch

Sauteed Spinach with garlic

1 package of spinach (fresh)
4 cloves of garlic
Olive oil

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

4 Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons dried rosemary (or 2 fresh sprigs)
1 tsp of dried garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Pulling the meal together:

Begin with the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 425°. Cut potatoes into cubes (leave skin). In a 9 inch baking dish drizzle oil and then toss in potatoes to coat with oil. Sprinkle garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss again to cover all pieces and place in the oven for about 45 minutes- making sure to turn them every 15 or so minutes to avoid burning.

While the potatoes are baking, heat deep skillet pan, place olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) and butter. Then sauté the garlic slices. Place the cutlets in pan next (carefully to avoid splatter). Once these are slightly browned, add the (about 1 cup) white wine, broth, tarragon, bay leaf, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Place lemon slices in the sauce. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes to release the flavors into the sauce. You can cover it to keep in the moisture. Within the last 5 minutes or so, mix in the corn starch to thicken the sauce a bit.

While the chicken and the potatoes are cooking, go ahead and start the spinach. Heat wok (the wok is easiest way to fit all the greens in while the leaves are still firm). Once heated, place about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in wok and sauté the garlic. Before the garlic turns brown add the spinach and sauté until the spinach is wilted, but still whole.

At this point you are ready to plate and serve. I would suggest a nice white wine to go with this meal- maybe Evolution (an Oregon wine). It is a heartier wine (e.g. it also can hold up to many meat dishes too). Or, you can always go with a good standby from Trader Joe's.

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Toronto Evening

I find I am easily seduced by each new city in which I find myself. I believe any city worth its salt can seduce even the most hardened traveler. And yes, all worth visiting cities are femme to the core, regardless of what phallic shaped towers and art man attempts to conquer them with.

Toronto was the same for me. Walking down the glistening evening streets in search of a meal as pleasant as the city, I realized that wherever I ended up would have to outweigh taking photographs of the city’s movement, her curves and shadowed corners. I am intoxicated by the people passing, the pipe steam filling the graffiti filled alleys, the colors, the sounds and lights.

Queens Street. She is a beauty with so much to offer- down each side of the street with tributaries flowing off of her leading the meanderer to hidden gems. High on sensory overload, I walk; pupils dilated trying to absorb each sight knowing I may miss something if I do not pay close attention (like the friendly exchange in the tattoo piercing parlor). Oh, the colors, the emotions exchanged and shared. Even in the downpour I am pleased to be walking these streets barely aware of my soaked jeans and hat.

My original mission was to walk to a restaurant called Full Moon. I arrived at the stated address, but found not the restaurant. This was not the first time something such as this has happened, but I did begin to question myself as to why I didn’t stop at one of the many other places along the way. Quick bite to eat- get in/get out. But no, I want to experience more than just the eating. I can get sustenance anywhere. The pizza vendor, the “to go” creperie- these were all available to me, but no- none of these would fulfill my desire to dine well.

As I began to retrace my steps I noticed a little restaurant, Fressen. The name sounded familiar. Was this one of the vegan restaurants on my list? Why yes, and the serve late!! Lucky since I lose time when walking. Time only stands still in my head, everywhere else it marches on in ordinary course. Stepping inside, with an hour to go before closing, I am relieved when Sarah beckons me in with a warm smile and menu. I am alone; because of this, there is no reason not to eat seated at the bar. The vantage point is better and I like any opportunity to chat with locals.

I started out with lovely crisp croquettes on a salsa with greens, moved on to a seared encrusted tempeh with wilted greens and root vegetables, to finally end with an amazing dark chocolate ganache stuffed with a date and nut puree surrounded by fresh fruits. If all vegan faire was this delightful there would definitely be a larger vegan following. I hinted that they should consider Chicago for their next location. In between courses, Sarah, the beautiful petite server who welcomed me in with her smile shared gossip and travel stories with me.

This is what it means to experience a place. Why go on the “fish tank” tours where you touch nothing and nothing touches you? Get in, get dirty, but experience! I like to travel this way. I want to know that when I get home I was somewhere else.

After my extended dinner, I said my goodbyes and shared my gratitude for a meal well prepared and headed back to the hotel in the continued downpour. Contented that, yet again, with the disappearing of the destination that I had originally set my sights on, another opportunity, originally overlooked, had a chance to be noticed and, with that, a pleasant surprise changing the course for the better.