Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yard Work???

"Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?

A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,

Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut

Who keeps the till.

Now that my ladder's gone,

I must lie down where all the ladders start

In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."

W.B. Yeats - The Circus Animals' Desertion

Amen to that Brother William: Unemployment, taxes ( sometimes a lot of taxes!), cancer, leaking bathroom drains, cars running out of gas, cancer again, sick relatives, elderly relatives, can't get money to your grandson in Guatemala (no comment on that one!), also employment, great friends, tax refunds ( yeah right! ), oh and frozen yogurt although I don't know how they keep it so smooth and pliable when mine is a solid rock after an hour in the freezer this is supposed to be about food after all hey wait a minute why aren't you using any periods who do you think you are F. Scott Fitzgerald or James Joyce? OK, there's a period and a simple sentence. Actually it was compound because of the conjunction.

Maybe it's because it's spring or maybe it's because this is the final week in lent before Easter but I'm finding myself caught between the strong sense of my own failings and shortcomings and the feeling of freedom, forgiveness and the overwhelming assurance that anything is possible. That last thing is certainly reinforced by Amy's continued recovery. Still, I find myself strangely conflicted and wondering how I should be feeling and if I've got it right or not.
I've found it helpful to get back to the garden this past week when I've been at home. As cliched and crazy as it may sound, working in the soil has way of making you feel grounded ( no pun intended) and connected to the earth in a very real way. This is the original work of humans after all: cultivating and tilling the ground and tending the crops you've planted. Here there is no status, no social class; you get out exactly what you put in. It's really one of those great equalizers that helps to put things back in perspective.

Yeah, yeah I know this is supposed to be about food and not feature extended runs of me philosophizing about random things and not doing a very good job of it at that!

Okay, so the other side benefit of getting back to the garden is the amazing bounty that will be ready summer: a caprese salad made with luscious, sun warmed and ripened tomatoes, fresh basil, resplendent in its licoricey (Licorishy??) sweetness, fresh creamy mozzarella, Maldon flaked Sea Salt and a peppery and perfumy Olive Oil. Or heirloom purple tomatillos...well I could go on but It's already getting boring and predictable so....

Ultimately though, as this week edges toward Good Friday, I find everything I need to get up in the morning when I look ahead to Easter. So back I go to lie down where all the ladders start: in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
I have a lot of stuff to do.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What do you like?

" Keep the blanket around you" the boy said "you'll not fish without eating while I'm alive"
"Then live a long time and take care of yourself", the old man said. " what are we eating?"
"Black beans and rice, fried bananas and some stew".

The boy had brought them in a two-decker metal container from the Terrace.
The two sets of knives and forks and spoons were in his pocket with a paper napkin wrapped around each set.

-The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway-

I'd really like to be there on the Havana beach with the old man Sanitago, and the boy Manolin, sharing that meal; maybe washed down with a beer and then sitting around a fire with tin cups of strong, steaming-hot Cuban coffee with sugar. That's my romanticized version of it anyway - the truth is that this was more like a subsistence meal for a fisherman just before he collapsed into his cot after God knows how many hours of backbreaking work fighting the Gulf current in a tiny skiff under a blistering sun trying to make your catch to bring to the market. And I'd probably be up all night with diarrhea or something - this wasn't the most sanitary environment after all. Still though, there's something about just hearing the description; black beans and rice, fried bananas and stew that triggers a primal, sub- conscious response: I WANT THAT NOW! I've had all of those things and really good versions of them all. That's what instantly comes to mind: tender-cooked black beans, lightly smoky, not too salty, a little brothy with the muted zing of vinegar the way Cuban black beans are supposed to be, aromatic and fluffy white rice (I've heard this dish called "Christianos y Morros"!) Also, the bananas: Platanos. nice and ripe so that most of the starch has turned to sugar, sliced diagonally about a half-inch thick and fried golden brown, the outside caramelized and crispy almost like the top of a creme brulee, the inside tender, not pulpy, kind of custardy, lava-hot so you have to wait for like a half hour before it won't scorch your tongue. Yeah right - Emeril was no where near this place and the stuff was probably bland, stale and greasy and stuck to your gut like glue! No matter, I will always conjure up this heavenly picnic in my mind whenever I read this story - I can't help it. Like later on in the story when the old man is fighting the giant marlin, he cuts some pieces of raw mackerel to eat and wishes he had brought salt and limes along on the trip - I can picture the freshest, most delectable ceviche I had one time in Rosarito Beach..........

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

-Luke 24:36-43-

Broiled fish? They gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish? Maybe a grilled Chilean Sea Bass fillet brushed with a ginger-soy-red pepper and honey glaze? The honey would be Lebanese or Aegean, of course.

What do you like?