Sunday, June 29, 2014

Street Philosophers

 I know I have lapsed in posting something for a touch, but familiarity does breed contempt, or so it's said.  One has to step away in order to be missed.  I have to say that I have enjoyed actually experiencing life again, away from social media and being completely invisible again.  My own observations, are my own and it's really not that important to be heard.  Often, the first jaded impressions are miles away from the truth and are contaminated by opinions that have influenced others.  So how does one have an uncontaminated view of the world?

Today I had a random conversation with an anonymous stranger who said, "I left Facebook for 6 months and I felt so much freedom.  It was like I got my life back."  I didn't ask why she went back on, but considered a key remark, "I was so happy."  We are in an age of self promotion, tweeting, texting, posting and to a lesser extent, even blogging all about the me, myself, and I...the importance of self and obsess over
what seems to be 'important'.  Eleanor Roosevelt is often cited for this quote,   "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people."   Lately, I have been wondering about our world getting so focused on the 'self'.  This 'self-importance' that seems to be all about what we can get, what we can do and who we can have in our lives.   So lately, I have just tuned out the drama of social media of all types and put my ear to the ground.

Sitting out on the street, drinking a libation or two and minding my own business, sort of, with intrusions of conversations that would wander past.  Was Eleanor Roosevelt right or would I hear street philosophers cut through the white noise or garbled thought?

Uptown Minneapolis is a road show of avatars.  You see the flash of fashion plates, the indie goth, the 1980 Yuppies, Sid and Nancy punkers, Illustrated men and women, your transitional people, trangenders, fettish people, bikers, desperate housewives, afraid of dying mid-life crisis guy with daughter/girlfriend, visiting UK tourists and then there's me.  The native who returns home to see that Uptown Minneapolis is still the same, stuck in the 1980s and somehow is viewed as 'cutting edge'.   This is why we are the inspiration for "Portlandia'.

Uptown is uptight when it comes to being Politically Correct and incredibly sensitive about offending anyone.  You can find the uptight conservative Harley guy with leather and chains that hugs his M-16 at night sitting next to a guy named "Sue" who used to be a gal with black light tattoos and gages and piercings to ward off personal contact from anyone.  The strange and bizarre is glorified with a latte and a vegan lettuce wrap from a sustainable farm to table food truck that is powered by solar energy.

Politics are discussed in hush tones, though it's really no secret that the city is Democratic and the state is Republican.  It's kind of dysfunctional, because there is a kind of 'us vs. them' mentality though no one really knows who is 'us' and who is 'them'.  Like I said, I am invisible here.  I wasn't abroad, or at least when I was in Asia, I tried to be invisible, but was forced to accept the fact that I was going to stick out no matter where I went.  It was a good exercise in self acceptance.  Here, it's too easy to get comfortable with not being 'anything special'.

So as I sat back I listened to the ramblings of others.  A lot of people talked about people in a very, "I'm better than..." sort of way.  It's quite possible that's why reality television has dominated our lives.  We can't believe they are famous and we can't believe we are talking about them and aren't we so much better than them.  We turn our noses up at them and they cash their checks for being our freak show.

When I went abroad, one thing that amazed me was that due to our television industry, I became aware that I shattered the minds of many because of the image of America that is blasted all over the world.  "You're not fat, lazy, uneducated, chasing money or (insert favorite stereo-type here of a white middle-aged former military woman,  who is divorced with hispanic last name and graying hair)."  When we bust up an image that is assigned due to our lack of time (we aren't going to know everyone in the world).  We profile people each and every day and we often rely on the views of others to give us a snapshot of how it is.

We only get the backside of the world, the Cliff notes version of our existence is not about knowing the world at all, but trying to survive in this world by playing a game to collect as much monopoly money to pay for our place at the table.  Kind of crazy, isn't it?

So, in my small minded way, I have discussed people, events, ideas and myself, because the world is composed of all of it.  I am not justifying anything.   I am not defending our condition.  I am not even saying that Eleanor Roosevelt is wrong or right.  We are human and we discuss what we see, what we don't see and what we would like to see.  We are still little children that are learning the difference between our wants and needs.  We die and a new generation goes through it all again and so on it continues until one day we get it.  Hopefully the stuff we don't need doesn't get passed on to future generations and the ideas we do need makes it into the future.  Perhaps that is what Eleanor Roosevelt meant for us to glean from this remark, however, she never said this quote.  It's one of our great myths.  The earliest citation is quoted as an unknown sage.  Whenever there is an 'unknown sage' or street philosopher, it's a reminder that wisdom or common sense doesn't need an author, it just needs to be practiced.

So whatever is written about, places, ideas, people, good food or's all related.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Does Life Imitate Art or Does Art Imitate Life?

"I Don't Love You"
My mother hated flowers
Garden Flowers
 Too often we ignore what surrounds us, perhaps because when you see something everyday, it becomes the ordinary and we edit it out.  We grow blind to the flowers that somehow power through the asphalt of life.  Or maybe I am jaded and cynical.  I don't think so and then there are moments when I see something, like a commuter going ballistic, as though something pushed them over a fragile edge that the rest of us didn't see.  I witnessed a woman scream at a bus driver over disabled seats and even though another passenger offered her a seat, she went on a tirade that seemed totally out of context.  "I am going to sue you if I fall down. I am going to complain.  I am going to write every paper in this country, because that's what I do."  And that folks is how we alienate every single person in the world, with a flash of all consuming anger.  What if she for a moment stopped and listened?  She kept trying to get a single person to consent to her opinion.  She kept trying to hear someone say she was right,  "This is going to be fun," she hissed like a snake, waiting to strike.  No one played her game.  This self-important woman, with her luggage, probably fresh from the airport was expecting the world to cater to her.  Immediately the headphones came out and people started either tuning her out or engaging themselves with private conversations.  No one fed the troll on the bus.  Seeing that no one was paying attention to her anymore, she melted into the seat that was offered to her.  Her stand lasted a better part of 3 minutes.  She sniped periodically, but she didn't even receive eye contact from fellow passengers.  It's important to know what are real battles and which ones are solely ego-driven.  So if by chance, the newspapers receives a letter of complaint about a bus with disengaged seats, I would simply reply to her, "Jesus loves you" or "Have a Nice Day".  We have bigger issues in the world to change, rather than to be disgruntled with seats that were disabled by a manufacturer for safety reasons.  All the bus driver wants to do is to drive the route.
Abandoned Books

True Gemini - Herschael DeJong

I don't write book reviews.  I don't write press releases and I am not doing either one of those on this temperate Saturday, where instead of a sunny day, the clouds shine overhead.  The skies have all of the appeal of a lead balloon.  In other words, the perfect day to read a book.  I finally opened the book that my long lost brother sent to me.  I haven't seen him since he was seven-years-old and I honestly don't know that I want or need to see him again.  Forgive me, but that sounds cold and unfeeling.  It's not cold and unfeeling, but rather because I feel way too much and I have no desire for either one of us to awaken memories that are best forgiven and forgotten.  I don't want to remember our childhood, and though I have faced it to the best of my ability and dealt with the adults that were in charge at that time, the person I cannot see is the one who was victimized the most.

For those of you who have been through war, it's kind of a form of survivor's guilt.  It's hard to explain, but, the reality is, it's like reliving a living hell all over again.  After I wrote, "An Appearance of Glass", I had self published it because I had no desire to promote it and I wanted to use my pain in a positive way.   It was a release.  I shared it with my brother and  he wrote the introduction and with his permission, I included it in the work.  From a safe distance, we view each other and really only know only the faintest outline of each other's lives.   My brother has come out with his own book and had hoped that our sister would write the third part, which she has no desire to complete that work, quite possibly for the same reason I can't see my brother again.  Our pain thresholds are all different.  I don't hate him, but my wounds are very deep and it would be inappropriate to open them again.

Regarding his work, I am not going to say that this is a work of art.  I am not also going to say it's horrible.  It's a rendering, that reminds me of medicine.  The kind of medicine that is part of an individual's healing process to let others know that it's possible to go forward.  It's a survivor's account that gave a person permission to go forward with his life, but I have to be honest, it angers me.  I cannot say why.  I feel there has been no resolution and parts that lack personal ownership until much later on.  I do hope, sincerely hope, that this man does take ownership for his life at long last,  and begins to thrive in ways that he only dreamed of.

This may appear to be too personal to post.  The response is a mirror reflection of the work rendered. The work was very personal.  The response, proportional in manner since my name was cited.  My recommendation for the public to read it or not carries no weight.  People will do as they will and wonder what the hell this was all about for a micro-second of their lives and move on.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Asian Culinary Dreams

Walk with me...

Shrimp Wontons 3-ways

This week we explored a region of the world where the bulk of the world population resides. The ancient world were the Peking Man was said to originate 300,000 B.C.E.  In my humble opinion, we will never really know until we figure out a more precise way to measure time, but after living in China for a year out of my life, it has a feel that is far older than many places I have been on earth and are a very diverse nation.  Our Western problem is too much television and not enough exploring the world with the right mindset.  That also can be said for our lack of food experimentation.   So it was a pleasure to learn to make a variety of foods in countries I have been to in the past.  In some ways, I see other touches that have been elevated, in other ways it made me feel an incredible urge to pack my suitcases and go back to the cooks abroad where I would eat at their food stands and watch them work with incredible speed and care.  

Pork Egg Rolls with scallions and cilantro
 These are a couple of dishes we made this week.
A Taste of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia 

Sushi Sampler
 Just a note on sushi.  The first ingredient a westerner thinks about when the word 'sushi' is said, most probably is fish.  Sushi, is not sushi without proper vinegared  (to be seasoned with) rice.  The rinsing and drying process is crucial to rice preparation so that the right amount of starch is in your rice.  The same mixture of water used to season the finished rice is used for forming your sushi.  We learned a lot about the apprenticeship process in Japan.  7 years for rice, 10 years for filleting various saltwater fishes.  It takes a lifetime to master sushi, so I do not expect that I will master it after 1 class.  It's a high art and after working with various techniques, styles and my sushi knives, I have an idea what those sushi practitioners must go through, a lot of rejection until one day their head chef approves.  The persistence in never quitting their practice is a prerequisite if anyone desires to create some stunning dishes.  I have mastered nothing, but I think I have the rice down.  That is a great start.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bison Lettuce Wraps

Bison is becoming more accessible in the marketplace.  Bison is a very lean meat with no polyunsaturated fats,  bison contains just 122 calories in a 3 ounce serving and 70 mg of cholesterol.

As far as taste is concerned, Bison was very surprising to me.  I was worried about a gamey taste, but there was none.  It had a rich taste, as though I was eating a prime cut of beef.  Consider this, bison is not corn fed and a lot of bison that is sold in the market actually not 100 percent wild bison.  The bison is genetically testing, those that are not some sort of bovine hybrid, are released to the herd.  The others, are auctioned and become what is known as 'bison'.

It's important to understand where our food comes from and not just to mindlessly eat.
I created a very healthy alternative to beef tacos, simply called a Bison lettuce wrap.

Total calories for this dish is only 201 calories.

The lettuce greens were from my garden.

Here's what you will need.

1 lb of ground bison
15.5 oz of black beans (if canned, rinse thoroughly)
15.5 oz of chickpeas (if canned, rinse thoroughly)
4 oz of corn
15.5 oz of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon of chipotle pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 roasted Jalapeño, diced and deseeded
1 carrot, small dice
1 stalk of celery, small dice
1 clove of garlic, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1 head of Lettuce of your choice, washed gently and separate the leaves
1/2 cup of Asiago Cheese, finely grated

 Here's what to do:

In a medium saucepan, simmer the beans, chickpeas and spices together for about 20 - 30 minutes and add tomatoes, jalapeño and corn to the beans for an additional 5-10 minutes.  Do not add any salt until the end.

While the beans are simmering, in a large skillet, use a small amount of olive oil or canola oil, add the garlic and the celery and carrots.  Crumble in the bison and add dry seasoning of your choice that will mirror the spices that are used in the beans.  When the bison has been browned, make a space on the bottom of the frying pan and add the tomato paste, the color with change to a rust color and incorporate with the bison.   There should be very little fat, drain off any excess.

Add the bison  to the beans, fully incorporate them together.  Season lightly with salt (if desired).
Spoon the mixture into lettuce leaves, sprinkle finely grated Asiago cheese.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Open Streets Minneapolis: A Day Without Cars on Lyndale Avenue

Would your city do this, shut down one of you most travelled streets?  What would happen?  What would people do?  In Uptown Minneapolis, the cars were all pulled off the streets and the party started.  I thought I would share a few pictures of the day, because as we hear more and more about our growing dependency on oil, the residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota decided to come together to bike, walk, skateboard and draw in the streets for an annual event called "Open Streets Minneapolis".
Right next to Lyndale Avenue, the Harleys were parked, the street was closed off to any motorized traffic and slowly, on Sunday morning the people began to emerge from the neighborhood.  A group set up their ping pong table.  The tables and chair came out for all of the small eateries in the neighborhood.  There was an air of enjoyment of the warm weather that we crave.  After a long hard winter, these are the days we live for.  The only ones who stay inside are either sick or dying.  No one is watching TV or on a computer.  It's time to get out there and just explore.

 Parents took their children out to play, and it almost seemed like a memory of simpler days.  The kids were doing what they do best, play.
A whole 8 hours of no traffic jams, no cars, no trucks, no deliveries and no emissions.  There was nothing competing with the song birds.  For about a mile there wasn't a single car on the road and the people came.  Sounds odd, doesn't it?  All of this just so that people could ride their bikes up and down the street, enjoy the sunshine and look at how peaceful it could be.  But there was a purpose for this.  One of the reasons Open Streets exists is to promote our bike trails.  Minneapolis has an incredible amount of bike paths, trails and bike lanes, ranking within the top 5 in the nation.  As far as commuting to work, we're also near the top, and that's saying something, because our winters can be incredibly vicious.
So on this day of chalk drawings on the asphalt, instead of cars, the residents came to show we care (and also like to have a good time).   The kind smiles, the friendly hand shakes, the good natured feeling as people just exhaled, made me feel glad to be home.
To be able to see scenes that seem to go by the wayside in other places and see them here, reminded me why I call this city home.  A lemonade stand set up by an industrious little boy who bellowed out, "ALL NATURAL LEMONADE, 100 PERCENT REAL" made me realize our kids are paying attention and also know how to take advantage of a hot day outside.
 I also saw that we are putting into practice what we need to do to change.  If Germany, with a similar climate to ours can change to more solar energy usage, so can we.  This new solar program gives a person credit for allowing solar panels to be installed.  I gladly shared their information with a few friends that were wanting to reduce their energy bills.
 All in all it was a very beneficial day.
 And the gas stations were idle.
 And the kids...
well, they were having fun too.

The garage bands moved their shows to their front lawns.
And the dancers showed off their moves.

It's good to be home.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reinvesting Myself Here, Facebook is Dead to Me

In my love/hate relationship with social media, I find that for me it's time to cut out Facebook.  I found that line in the sand, which very simply relates to privacy.  I know that when I was in the Air Force I had no privacy and I expected no privacy.  Everything within my life would be reviewed and I understood why.  However, as a private citizen, FB unleashed a new feature with the phone application called, "listen".  I don't want anyone to listen unless I am talking to them and not everything you or I say needs to be heard by everyone.  I don't want to hear a story of why this is useful and I am simply not going to be 'sold' on it.    This is MY decision.  Everyone may have their own views about whether or not they want to stay on FB.  I think a lot about what freedom means.  It's a privilege.  People die protecting what we have.  People fight to not live in an oppressive regime and so many good changes have been made with regard to civil liberties, equal rights, gender and race equality.  Why on earth do we need to live in a cold war era type of mentality?  Those are the kinds of questions I asked myself.  Life is about living with risk, to have a free and open society is WORTH it.  

So, I guess, that means I am going to delete my FB account and actually start to use my blog again.   This page is NOT monetized and I post links to other non-profits that I found around the world that are doing some pretty amazing things.  So, this actually might be a good thing, since I have been thinking about wanting to create again.  

What will I be writing about?  
Life, food, appetites and whatever happens along the way.  

I have been enjoying the stress of being a student again.  I have been a great student of not knowing it all and I have been learning from a lot of very gifted people that have kind of given me that za zen notion of what it really takes to become a great chef.  A chef offends everyone and pleases no one at the same time.  Think about what that really means.  Everyone is so different when it comes to taste and what they are able to digest.  There are people who can eat absolutely everything and others that have to restrict their diets for a whole host of reasons.  

So view this blog as a menu, with a lot of options.  It's just a journey, a story, a perspective and at times it might be an ego-driven nightmare where there are a few crash and burns along the way. Maybe I vent.  Maybe I don't.  Maybe I just spontaneously explore an idea and beat it to death.  We're all friends here and for whatever reason, people still do read my blog, finding me through a random act of a key word search.  It's all good.  On this web plain, we are all citizens of the world.

Hello world!