Week of Joy, Day 3: Cooking

There’s just something about the creative yet often methodical process of making good food that calms my heart and gives me joy.

First, creativity.  I am emphatically NOT a recipe follower.  With the exception of baked goods and bread (though I’m even starting to stray from the Holden Village and 5 Minutes a Day bread recipes on occasion, now that I have a feel for both) I rarely if ever even consult a recipe.  Sometimes I’ll look at a blog post from Not Eating Out in New York or The Heavy Table for inspiration, or to figure out what to do with a random left over ingredient I have lying around.  Generally though I’ll hem and haw for a moment, pick some kind of carbohydrate to start from, and go where the wind and spices take me.  It also helps that I grocery shop every week and try to have some idea of a couple of meals I want to create for the following week.  Which brings me to the joy that comes from being methodical in cooking.

Whether it is shopping or chopping, cooking has a rhythm, a pace, and a heartbeat.  Various elements combine in my cart or in my pan to make something [usually] delicious.  I know this will happen, and I often surrender to my intuition, both in purchasing where other than trying to get as many P6 items and as few packaged items as possible, and to always have enough coffee I just go with whatever looks good, and in cooking where I taste and add, smell and sprinkle.  At least for me, cooking often takes care of itself and releases often previously unnoticed tension in the bargain.


Unfortunately I’m running astoundingly short on time today, but fortunately I have several posts about past joyful cooking adventures.  So rather than put together a new story, I direct you, joy-seeking blog readers, to:
My Tastebuds are Loving Winter
Scrumptious Simple Salad
(I should note with the above story that I have since heartily enjoyed asparagus, often with balsamic reduction)


More joy in cooking is in more doing, and summer is certainly the season for it.  I hope to experiment with new spices, and particularly learn how to make spicy Asian food of various varieties that has the right balance of flavor.  And maybe some new kinds of greens as well?

I also eagerly await the cooking class at The Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater that was promised via homemade gift certificate as a wedding present from Ben’s brother and his fiance.

Lastly, I am enormously excited for the next Thursday and the first pickup of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share that I am splitting with my dear Benjamin and my housemates.  If you don’t know about CSAs or have considered joining one but haven’t yet taken the plunge, I have two bits of advice:
1. Learn more and find an extremely extensive list of CSA’s at the Local Harvest website
2. Find a friend or two and DO IT!  You will absolutely not regret the super fresh vegetables, new friends, and [more likely than not] great volunteer opportunities.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
~Harriet Van Horne


EXCO and Herbalism: how learning should be.

EXCO and Herbalism: how learning should be.

It has taken me this long to finally get to an EXperimental COmmunity education class, despite months of good intentions.  But in a way I’m glad I waited, because I think ‘Some Herbalism‘ will prove to be an excellent example of what grassroots, community driven, and free education can be.

I arrived fifteen minutes late to the first class today due to the silly mistake of thinking the address was ten blocks north of where it actually was.  The living room of the class facilitator was entirely PACKED with well over twenty people, mostly young, lots of crusty punk/hipster type kids, everyone enthusiastic and ready to listen and learn.  In spite of my developing cynicism for the fate of humanity as a whole (more on this later, it’s unavoidable really), I can’t help but think that we must be in for some sort of positive sea change when you can get a couple of dozen people together on a Thursday afternoon to talk and learn about an essential aspect of alternative and local health care.

The topic of this first class was White Oak Bark tincture, and the facilitator not only harvested twigs and purchased enough vodka for us all to make our tinctures, but created a handout describing proper harvesting, uses of the tincture, and a general step by step explanation of creating any sort of bark tincture.  After a relatively brief introduction on the class in general and the tincture preparation specifically, we all got to shaving our bark off our branches and chatting about this, that, and the other.  I’m already expecting to make some wonderful acquaintances at the very least as a result of this class.

This class, like all others in the EXCO ‘curriculum’, is free.  I don’t think I can say that enough, because while I have the utmost respect for most professors and can potentially see myself becoming one someday, I think true skills sharing in a community cannot have a price.  Instead it is rooted in passion and compassion, an authentic desire to share what one loves and knows with others.  Though it’s still at least a year away, I am delighted by the prospect of creating a space for this sort of priceless skill sharing and idea generation in the future house that Ben and I will have.  Education comes in many forms, all of them valuable.

What kinds of classes would you like to facilitate?  What free community classes would you take if they were available?

And now, for a gratuitous picture of an artsy accident:
Thanks to Benjamin for having a camera handy to document the serendipitous uniting of scissors and coffee grounds splash-over.


The decadence of mornings.

I am a lover of mornings.  Don’t get me wrong- each hour of each day has it’s charms, with the possible exception of the 2:30pm slump while at work- but mornings are special.  On days when I work I always get up at least an hour before I have to leave the house so that I can start my day with leisure.  After turning on the stove to begin the ritual coffee/tea preparation, I return to my room for sun salutations and whatever other yoga poses speak to me that day.  Breakfast is either eggs or yogurt and granola, and always fruit unless it’s the end of my shopping week and I’ve run out.  Lately I’ve been alternating between oranges and pears.  A bit of reading, and then before I know it 8:30 has come and it’s time to head out.

On non-work days, the entire above process might be stretched out to two, three, or more hours: the entire morning takes on a delicious decadence.  One cup of tea becomes two, or a cup of tea followed by a pot of french press, as I write a blog entry, read the poem of the day, work on various craft projects, or just gaze out the front window.  If I am very lucky, the morning becomes the entire day, a full span of contented waking hours.  These splendid mornings are not always spent making slow progress on books and writing over various hot drinks; frequently I end a non-work day feeling more productive than I have in weeks because I have made bread/started sprouts/patched pants/done my laundry/grocery shopped/any of the myriad of other things that must be done on occasion.  The essential difference is, all of the latter are done in morning mode, that is, without hurry or worry or stress.  I am productive while remaining relaxed, contemplative even.

I know not everyone has the luxury of relaxed mornings, or of a work schedule that allows for three days off rather than the traditional two (though I would highly suggest it if it’s manageable).  Nor is everyone a morning person (though I would argue many are that perceive themselves otherwise, for they have never had the opportunity to cultivate pleasant mornings).  However, everyone can find a time of day for the decadence of time contentedly spent.  A few moments upon returning home from work, the last minutes before sleep, or an afternoon snack and walk, all are an opportunity to be present, mindful, and released.

Namaste, friends.

Beautiful things: November.

BIRDS!  The chickadees have been out in full force, joyously announcing the final days of autumn, and I was lucky enough to discover a pileated woodpecker on an oak snag in the golf course on Larpenteur yesterday.
You can’t really tell from the picture, but the pileated woodpecker is over a foot long, in comparison to the 6-9 inch woodpeckers of other sorts.  Grand indeed.

The new drivetrain on my Bridgestone bicycle.  It is so much more efficient and the gear sizing suits my travels.  With a single cog in the front (and, as a result, no front derailleur to get shifted out of wack and generally be a pain) and seven in the back, I can make good time in the flat bike lane of Minnehaha, and summit the Pelham hill on the way to work with relative ease.

Sour cream raisin pie.  I have promised to make it for Thanksgiving, though I am still intimidated by the prospect of whipping up good meringue.  Stories will certainly ensue, post haste.

Old factories and warehouses that are now artist spaces.  I went to a fantastic Halloween party at the Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, which is housed in an old cookie factory.  They blew glass in the dark, and for $15 one received a handmade glass and unlimited refills of beer.

NaNoWriMo.  I haven’t started writing yet, and it might be a late night in order for me to get my 1,667 words out for the day.  But I’ve committed, and have gone a step further and set up a Tuesday afternoon write-in at the Fireroast Mountain Cafe.  Come join me in writing from 12-3 every Tuesday in November, or just stop by and say hello!

Be well, and enjoy the final vestiges of autumn!


Places I Love: Fireroast Mountain Cafe

I have found quite the plethora of wonderful moments and places since my move into the Longfellow neighborhood in South Minneapolis.  From quiet biking routes lined with trees blissfully bursting into the fire-inspired hues of autumn, to the pizza place down the block with 2 for 1s local beers every day after 8pm, to walking four blocks to the grandiose Minnehaha Falls, I believe I am quite the lucky lady.  But discovering new neighborhood coffeeshops for reading, working and people watching provides a particularly unique joy, and Fireroast Mountain Cafe has quickly emerged as my favorite in the bunch.

Located just a few blocks West and North of my home, traveling to Fireroast is either a bike ride so rapid I almost don’t need to wear my helmet (but don’t worry, dear friends, I do nonetheless), or a walk just long enough to leave behind the cares of the day and just breathe for a bit.
One can gather from the exterior of the shop that quirkiness is immanent at Fireroast, and their eclectic menu does not fail todelight.  I usually limit myself to a cup of coffee or tea (presently I’m enjoying the Ginger Green, and will likely be going back for a refill) and a pastry- the fudgy oatmeal bars are reminiscent of my mother’s. However they also feature a tasty mexican inspired breakfast/dinner menu if one is more meal-inclined.

With rotating works of local art covering the walls, jewelry and other artistic odds and ends on the shelves accompanied by a ‘take one, leave one’ bookshelf and a bulletin board in constant disarray, Fireroast successfully fills every niche that one would expect from a local coffeeshop.  But it’s not the food or the artwork that leads me to love it so.  It’s the ambiance, a certain comfy-ness that comes from silly signs behind the counter, scattered newspapers, christmas lights in the windows year round, and feeling as if I could settle in all day and not one person would look at me sideways.  Some coffeeshops have a carefully cultivated aesthetic of formality, a business-like decor that subtly indicates to clientel that they too should be busily on their way or they must be missing something important.  Fireroast is just the opposite, a colorful and cozy neighborhood corner shop that I find myself visiting nearly every Tuesday.  Perfect for catching up with an old friend or putting together a presentation, I’m certain all Twin Cities residents would find Fireroast a lovely local haunt.