Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Handle on Cooking

Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.
Julia Child

I grew up on meat and potatoes cooking. It wasn't until college and graduate school that I was introduced to the diversity of culinary arts. When I moved to the East Coast soon after graduate school, I found myself in Providence RI working in a mental health unit for a home care company. Many of my clients were elderly females and part of our job was to ensure that they were both mentally and physically recovering from illnesses. There was a mix of Italian, Sicilian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Portuguese and other cultures that I encountered. The one thing they had in common was they would cook a meal and have it ready for us when we came to visit as they felt better. At first being a young clinician I was reluctant to eat as I felt it would damage the "therapeutic relationship". A much more experienced psychiatric nurse who was quite blunt told me essentially to get my nose out of my studies and into real life. That I would have a better relationship for having a meal with them, not to mention it was an insult not to accept the hospitality. Better advise I have never been given. Not only did I learn more about them and was better able to help them, but they taught me about the food of their culture and how to prepare it. One of these days in memory to their teaching, I'm going to have to create a workshop entitled, "The Psychotherapy of Cooking".

As I mentioned last post the fires have created horrendous air and we were advised to stay inside, so I traveled through my cookbooks and got back to cooking (something that I let slide between the surgery and my healing). I produced as set of meals inspired through Italy, Thailand, Mexico and the American West, much to the delight of my roommate. I've decided to try and cook a group of meals now every weekend that I have available to me, as I find when I'm working my 32 hours in 3 days, I don't have as much energy to cook. Two cookbooks I've decided to revisit and cook out off for the next few weeks are "Potager" and "Firehouse Food". Both have the rustic "soul food" that I love to cook. And it definitely satisfies my creative urges.

A continued sharing of something from Jesse Cook's latest, "Frontiers" I was listening to it as I cooked. He had a fantastic cover of an classic of Bob Dylan's, It Ain't Me Babe.

Jesse Cook & Melissa McClelland, "It Ain't Me Babe":

Friday, June 27, 2008


I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.
Thomas Paine

An unusual week. The smoke continues to linger in the air and we go outside to a hazy, gray heavy world. The good thing is that I'm doing more things inside as a result. I've been listening to flamenco music and will be seeing two artists in this area I enjoy, Jesse Cook and Ottmar Liebert in concert in the next few weeks.

Ottmar Liebert records both on his own and with a group, Luna Negra. He is just releasing a new CD with them, "The Scent of Light". Another discovery is that he writes frequently and takes fantastic photographs. It's always enjoyable when you get to touch on another artist's mind and how they see the world around them.

I'm afraid that my photography has been going through an internal phase. I'm looking more closely at my relationship to it. I'm realizing I love to photograph real moments and people. My camera has made me a closer observer in the world I am living in. It creates a mediation every time I look through the viewfinder. I'm more at peace when I travel and photograph, then probably at any other time in my life.

I've also been renewing my relationship with cooking. I collect cookbooks, especially ones that reflect seasonal or farmers market cooking. Tonight I'm going to cook for a group of friends some Fig/Prosciutto crostini and Thai Coconut Chicken. Cooking is the other thing that offers me great meditation and peace. The taking of ingredients and making them into a meal and bringing people together to enjoy that meal, is one of the best things I know.

Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra, "Barcelona Nights":

Monday, June 23, 2008

Road Trip 5 or Cooling Down

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.
William Wordsworth

Being there are 800+ fires burning in California and we can see smell/see the results where I'm at, so I thought I'd move forward a bit to our stopping off at a small lake in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada's (I'll return to Bodie next entry) to get away from it for a moment. It was amazing to still see snow there in June. People were fishing along the lake for trout, and the water was freezing. The water had a brilliant green blue look in sections. The area where I was had a more reddish reflection due to the water lilies coming up. When I found the cove that I photographed above, it was like discovering a secret oasis. There were a few rugged cabins lining the shore and some camp areas. It created a feeling of another time. I hope to return to the lake and spend some time at when I get the chance.

It's just too bad we can't get some of the flood waters from Iowa to California somehow. It's incredible though how so many dig in and fight the fires/floods, they take it on, come what may.....

Jesse Cook, "Come What May":

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Road Trip 4 or Finding Bodie

Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie.
19th century young girl

Bodie is a ghost town in the Eastern Sierra Nevada's in a state of arrested decay. It has become a California State Park. It will either enthrall you or keep you to one trip. I'm one of the enthralled. This was my second trip and my camera still found only a few of the treasures I wanted to capture. Bodie was known for it's rise and decline over a period of 80 years or so. It stared as a gold rush town with a peak of 10,000, known for lawlessness/immorality and ended with buildings still standing that offer a small glimpse into a compelling time of history. The land is bleak and harsh with extreme winters and summers. One can only wonder at the people who tried to carve out their life there. I'm hoping to go back again in the early fall before the snows arrive to find out more about the lives that were lived there.

Emmy Lou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, "After the Goldrush":

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Road Trip 3 or Counting Sheep

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation it is a corpse.
Winston Churchill

One of the more interesting things we experienced was seeing sheep with shepherds throughout the high desert of the Eastern Sierra Nevada's. Each group seemed to be similar in that they were herded by a lone anonymous figure in blue with a white hat. We stopped to take pictures at one juncture and dogs came to the fence to investigate us. The shepherd just quietly walked amongst his sheep and didn't pay direct attention to us, his attention was with his flock. It's a way of life that is ancient and it was a bit of a surprise to see it in 2008 California.

The Lonely Shepherd:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Road Trip 2 or A Horse With No Name

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire
Sharon Ralls Lemon

On the first full morning of our trip we stopped off at Kennedy Meadows and was lucky to see a group of people including young boys getting ready to go off on a day ride. The crew didn't mind our taking pictures and interacting with them at all. It was dusty and the sun was peeking through the trees as it was fairly early. I found out from staff that they do day and pack trips into the Yosemite wilderness. Unfortunately you need several people to do the pack trips, but the day trips are easy to sign up for if you're a single rider (not many of my friends ride). I think I found the August birthday present I'm going to give myself. I try to ride whenever I get the chance, although I'm far from experienced. Enough to give an accounting of myself as I took four months of Western riding lessons when I lived in Rhode Island. I never did find out the names of the above two, but I introduced myself to the one with the pink nose and gave him a treat. He gave me a couple of head butts to the chest and we got along great. Maybe I'll get to ride him in August.

America, "A Horse With No Name":

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Road Trip

I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
Mark Twain

Went on a road trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevada's with friends photographing and we had a ball. Bodie, Lee Vining, Mono Lake and a few mountain passes may never be the same. We ate, laughed, rode around, took our pictures, ate some more and just had a ball. One of the friends insisted we eat at the Whoa Nellie Deli, just about the most unexpected place for fantastic food you'll ever visit. I'm sunburned (despite my best efforts), tired and trying to figure out how to get my laptop serviced as it decided to die just after I got home (it's service plan was transferred to me incorrectly). But I figure tomorrow will be an good day and I'll be ready to try it all again. Or as a friend likes to say, "Woo Hoo, what a ride!"

Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Road Trippin":

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Magnolias and the Blues

The magnolia blossom is the epitome of feminine sweetness and beauty
Chinese Proverb

It's been a hell of week folks. The good, the bad and the ugly. The Democratic presidential nominee made history, his opponent who might have done better as a steel magnolia went down. And I cannot get excited because I wasn't and am not thrilled with either of them. But I will support Obama as he is the best hope we have to shine some light at the end of the dark tunnel we seem to be in. Gas went above $4.00 a gallon, more friends lost jobs this week and so it goes. Everyone is blaming everyone else and we are mired in apathy as a country. What can I say, I can't be sweet feminine and gentle about how we are responding to all of this, I want to kick some apathetic butt and take action.

I believe it's going to get better, we just need to dig in, take care of each other and look for the silver lining in all of this.

Santo Pecora, "Magnolia Blues":

Monday, June 2, 2008

June Night

If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.
Bern Williams

A cafe, torch songs overhead, and romance all around. What more could one ask of a June night...

At Last, "Etta James":

Sunday, June 1, 2008


If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.
Frank A. Clark

The last few weeks have been surreal. An unexpected lay-off for my best friend in NJ, a maternal aunt in critical condition, gas prices surging past four dollars, a family divorce, fires all around, work issues and I could go on...It makes for many holes in the normal reality of life. One could focus on the negativity, but I'm seeing it that I have to do some creative thinking and planning. I thought I could see where my path was leading before the aforementioned few weeks ago. However, now I'm realizing there are obstacles in the path and I don't have a clear view where it's leading at this point in time, but once I get around the obstacles I have a feeling the path is going to lead to a very interesting set of opportunities in life. The trick is to stay alert and not let oneself be lulled into sleepwalking or in the words of The Damnwells, sleepsinging or you might miss the opportunities.

The Damnwells, "Sleepsinging":

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