Tag Archive | so simple so delicious

Queer Eye

One vestige of my darker days, the framed photo of James Van Der Zee’s Prohibition Era poster, top left. But see how she is surrounded by light?

I’m going to tell you a horrible story, about a young man who sings on the subway to supplement his income. I know it’s true because I heard it from the relative he told it to. He makes a meager wage at a day job, and he’s talented. So he’s been singing on the subway for a few years. He tested positive for Covid the other day, and he kept on singing on the train.

“On the platform?” I asked, “or on the train?” As if one were better. Which it might be.

On the train–in the cars!” she shrieked. My first thought was, You should turn him in! She went on to say that she told him, “That’s unconscionable! You should be arrested!”

And I went on to think, with snap judgment and barely a shred of equanimity (but notably, with some compassion): No wonder New York City cases have exploded. Because that one naive young man, pursuing his dreams oblivious to the stark reality of this ongoing pandemic, probably infected dozens if not hundreds of innocent subway riders, many of whom may have infected 3 or more others. Our busker was a super-spreader event all by himself. Like potentially thousands, or millions, of other people across the country, either oblivious to the truth or arrogantly “done with Covid,” as my cousin proclaimed he would be once ski season started.

Ski season started, and a week later he found himself symptomatic, awaiting results of a PCR test. Did he have it, or was it just a cold? (That’s another thorny existential worry these days, for another day.) I’ll probably never know; I doubt he’d admit it. And there’s fuckall I can do about any of this ignorance.

This came in a text just now, synchronistically articulating my perspective. See more satire from Brittlestar.

So that’s my rant for the day. Sleazeweasel wants me to give outrage and gratitude “equal consideration.” He worried when I seemed stuck in gratitude for a whole year. I don’t think he’s been paying attention! Brilliant though he is, he seems to have missed the essence of my personal gratitude challenge: I was mired in outrage and despair for most of my adult life. My personal gratitude epiphany saved me, gave me back the joy and meaning of my youth, when everything that happened was a new gift. Now I understand what Brother Steindl-Rast was talking about. Having practiced focusing on gratitude instead of humanity’s dark side, immersing myself in gratitude for an entire year, I brought some balance to my perceptions, gaining the capacity to hold light as well as dark, to see reality through a less distorted lens. Gratitude has helped me achieve the equanimity I’ve been seeking for decades.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful for SNOW! More than we’ve seen at one time in a couple of years, I think. I was grateful to wake up alive, and find deep snow at last; grateful to see sweet does bedded down under the junipers just beyond the patio. Grateful for good neighbors of any species, and greeting one gliding by on skis in the drifted driveway.

Grateful for cheesos, a simple, delicious hot lunch after arduous maintenance shoveling and brushing…

And finally, I’m grateful today for Queer Eye, a ‘season interrupted,’ now back on Netflix. The first episode was shot in March 2020, and lockdown prevented the final act, so that was filmed in May 2021. The featured mother’s father had died, as well as her daughter’s husband. (In a weird way, the pandemic has presented a global ‘Compassion Challenge’–let that take off on social media!)

The transformation of Terri was profound and complete. The Fab 5 had given the family tools to heal relationships and weather their own brutal challenges just in the nick of time. Yet another feel-good series from the loving heart of gay culture to lift everyone’s spirits. I’m grateful for satire, laughter, gay men, snow, compassion, equanimity, and seeing truth clearly, among many other things in this new year.

Hubris

Human hubris is not something I’m grateful for, let me be clear. But it seems to be a fact of life and a condition of our species’ nature. So I just want to name it. It’s time, as a friend said today, to call it ‘climate catastrophe’ instead of ‘climate change.’ It’s been time for awhile. Extraordinary drought, extraordinarily high sustained winds, and apparently a downed power line, today led to an extraordinary wildfire in the Boulder/Denver suburbs. By the time I turned off the TV an hour ago, more than 600 homes had been destroyed. No count yet on loss of life. Not to say this could have been avoided, given the human population of the area, and the trajectory we’ve been on sabotaging our planet’s climate for the past 150 years. Thinking, somehow, that we were in control!

As someone who lived in one of those decimated neighborhoods said to me twenty years ago, “They’ve got to put ’em somewhere.” I had picked up Girl Scout cookies at her house, and asked how she felt about the new subdivision under construction across the field behind her cul de sac. Hers was a neighborhood about twenty years old, small homes separated by quarter acre yards. The new subdivision was McMansions jammed together wall to wall, hundreds of them in the same area that dozens of homes occupied in her neighborhood. She smiled with generous equanimity and said, “They’ve got to put ’em somewhere.” A symptom of my privilege, I suppose, or my good fortune, that her answer surprised me.

In my neighborhood, where homes are separated by ten, twenty-five, or forty acres, and could also all be incinerated by a wildfire, I get grumpy that a new neighbor leaves on a glaring ‘security’ light overnight, shining right into one of my windows. If you can’t stand the dark, why move to an area like this? I wonder. We who’ve lived here awhile are grateful for our dark skies, and find these new spotlights a distressing intrusion. As, I imagine, do the wild animals whose land we share. Ah well. Worse things have happened, like the Marshall Fire. I live with the keen awareness that a single lightning strike, or careless cigarette, or rogue firework, can destroy my neighborhood. And still it feels, watching these planetary winds, these astonishing wildfires, these unprecedented floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, that I live in the safest neighborhood I possibly could. And for that, I am grateful.

I’m not grateful that the US Congressional representative for my neighborhood is psycho criminal insurrectionist Lauren Boebert, and I was super surprised to get a robocall from her–note that the transcription typo is Siri’s error, and the voice sounded right, and the message was on her point–from a number apparently registered to the Palestinian Territories. WTF? Did anyone else in this district get such a robocall? I could go on about that.

It might seem as though my three day break from the gratitude blog has soured my disposition! In truth, I’ve done a heroic job of staying positive over the past year, I’ve enjoyed a few days of going to bed early with a good book, and I’m still just as grateful for all the good things in my life, and in the world, as I have been. But I am experiencing a lack of patience today with stupidity. And I’m allowed a lapse, we all are. I spoke with one friend today who zoomed with a bunch of triple-vaxxed friends the other night, and a third of them had Covid. I spoke with another friend whose Trumpista family had gotten together for Christmas and half of them now have Covid, from her 4-year-old niece to her 70+ lung-cancer-missing-two-lobes sister. She is enraged at them all, and I can’t blame her. Equanimity, acceptance, compassion, and loving-kindness are not easy to practice. And yet, the alternative realm, in which I used to dwell, is just dark and pointless. I finally had to turn off coverage of the fires, and stream “Drag Race Italia” to reset my attitude.

There is so much beauty, grace, and kindness in this world, human and otherwise, that we can sense and experience if we choose to focus our attention on those things. There is so much that is out of our control, from the weather to the choices of others, that will only make us sick with despair if we choose to focus on that. Mindfulness is a balancing act: to be able to know the truth of all that is dark in human nature at the same time as knowing all that is good and bright. We maintain our sanity, our compassion, our humanity, by choosing to turn our attention to what we can influence, and letting go of all that we cannot. We can always affect those around us in a beneficial way by acts of generosity, kindness, compassion; by remaining calm in the shitstorms–or firestorms, or wind or snowstorms–around us; and by appreciating the most basic gifts our lives provide, from electricity and running water to enough food and the other species who share our world: cats, dogs, birds, deer, trees, bees, bunnies, wallabies (depending where you are!) and so many more, even spiders and snakes.

I’m grateful for eggs, mushrooms, onions, cheese, homemade hot sauce, and fresh parsley from a pot in the sunroom; grateful for a quick omelette for lunch today, and for all the friends and neighbors with whom I connected on this crazy busy day.

Christmas Cheer

I’m grateful for all the cookies, cards, thoughtful gifts, and Christmas cheer that have been floating around the neighborhood this past week or two; that though in solitude, I am among friends. It was lovely to wake this morning and have a little pile of presents under my miniature tree. I carried them into the sunroom to open in the warmth with coffee and a cinnamon bun, and felt a faint vestige of that childhood magic of Christmas morning. Later in the day, I roasted a tiny half leg of lamb with potatoes and carrots, and steam sautéed some green beans. There was a special gratification in gathering garden vegetables from pantry, fridge, and freezer to prepare Christmas dinner, and the lamb came from a local ethicarian ranch to my freezer last year. I hadn’t cooked lamb after learning that Stellar was allergic to it. It was a quiet, peaceful holiday at Mirador.

Oh, and some store-bought peppers… with fresh rosemary from the potted tree in the sunroom.

Cooking for one, again. After writing about it the other day, I feel even more motivated to explore and celebrate the practice. I’ve fallen into a nice rhythm in the kitchen: I’m able to cook three or four times and have all the meals I need for the whole week. So simple, so delicious. Wishing that everyone had good neighbors and friends, and enough to eat, this Christmas and always; knowing it isn’t so, and feeling compassion for those who suffer without.

Cooking for One

Little cat who walks like a dog on a morning perch along the Sunset Loop.

One of the things I miss most about Stellar is Last Bite. Those last tough bites of a burrito that are mostly tortilla? The last few bites of a too-full plate? The gristle and fat off a piece of meat? What do I do with them now? Nevertheless, I’m grateful that I’ve learned the skill and the pleasure of cooking for one.

I used to think (many years ago) that cooking and eating were a waste of time unless it was for a dinner party. Food was simply a necessity, and I’d eat whatever was quick, handy, and sometimes tasty. I survived sophomore year of college on peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I shudder to think how many meals on my travels consisted of Oreos and beer, how many lunches were a bowl of sugary cereal. I’m grateful that my evolution over the years has brought me a healthier diet and more joy in the simple act of preparing healthy food for myself. A silver lining of the pandemic has been time and space to get into better eating habits, finally giving my body the respect it deserves. For lunch today I made the NYT creamy baked macaroni and cheese recipe, adding some extra Penzey’s “Forward!” spice mix, paprika, and a pinch of nutmeg, and topping it with panko breadcrumbs before baking. I’ll get three or four more delicious meals out of that. Tonight I sliced up leftover BBQ tofu that I made the other day, and laid it on top of homemade coleslaw in some romaine leaves. So simple, so delicious!

A Simpler Life

Grateful for butternut squash gnocchi sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and a splash of sherry.

I had a brief conversation this morning with a friend who said she was glad she didn’t have to worry about me. It reminded me of one of the undersung benefits of mindfulness practice. When we are calm, ok with what happens, unattached to outcome, we become a resource for those we love, an example, an offering of calm no matter what happens. This is the aspiration; not that we accomplish that in the early days. But over time, inhabiting the values of equanimity and compassion, gradually recognizing that (as George Saunders said), “Kindness is the only non-delusional response to the human condition,” we begin to understand that remaining calm in a shitstorm is a generous gift to others.

The recipe called for frozen squash purée, but naturally, I used leftover garden squash I had roasted last week for soup. So simple, so delicious.

I’m grateful that I didn’t have a dog today, especially a dog on his last legs. Between snow and rain over the past few days, there was a quarter-inch thick ice sheet on my windshield, and the patios weren’t much better. It broke my heart a few times over the past few winters when Stellar or Raven would dash out the door, slip on ice, and slam down on the concrete. They were tough dogs, but it had to hurt, and the last few times Stellar slipped on ice or the smooth wood floor it took him down substantially for awhile. I covered the floors in rugs the best I could, which helped a lot inside, but even if I let him out slow and careful he still slipped on ice a couple of times and went down hard. Poor little old legs.

So I was grateful that I didn’t have to go out much today, and only had to take care of myself out there when I did go. I’m grateful to be slowly unwinding the physical and emotional trauma of the past few months with Stellar, the past two years, really, of his decline. I lost so much that I held dear in that time: Auntie, Diane, Michael, Ojo, Raven, a certain independence, trust, friendships, faith… and most recently, my best and truest companion. It was pretty grueling. I’m grateful for a simpler life right now, for as long as this lasts. Grateful that my body can finally unwind, my mind can let go, my heart slowly open. Life hurts. I’m learning to be okay with that.

And while I can list the losses, the blessings, beauties, and joys of these past two years are incalculable. I might paraphrase Saunders and say, “Gratitude is the only rational response to being alive.” But I won’t, because I know there are many for whom the suffering of the human condition is just too great in any given moment to survive. My heart recognizes and aches for those who live in intolerable conditions; yet, I can only be grateful for all the choices, decisions, encounters, near misses, and lucky chances that led me (through generations) to be right here, right now. I could complain about what’s missing, but choose to focus on the moments of tenuous calm, the fragile peace and uncertain ease of this precious day, one day at a time.

I’m grateful for one meal at a time, one day at a time.

Homemade Tortillas

While I am in general grateful for Mexican food, it would be pretentious to claim that’s what I make. I’m grateful for the hodgepodge meals I make that are inspired by Mexican cuisine. I’m grateful to finally be getting the hang of homemade tortillas. They’re a quick and easy base for almost any kind of toppings. Yesterday I had a hankering for something like huevos rancheros to try my homemade salsa verde on, but no tortillas; so I whipped up a batch with masa and warm water. But first I had to cook something like refried beans, so I mixed up an onion, garlic cloves and spices, a dried paprika pepper, and the last of the garden tomatoes with two cans of black beans, and cooked the mush down while I made corn tortillas.

Though I only had a supermarket egg and broke the yellow yolk trying the trendy method of cracking it flat on the counter instead of on the side of the pan, I approximated a semblance of classic huevos rancheros that satisfied my craving. The meal could have been improved only with a ripe avocado.

Philip delivered avocados, more sour cream, and a couple of other groceries this afternoon, and I enjoyed bean tacos for lunch. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful today for Philip’s kindness, the luxury of simple, hearty food, the treasure of avocados in winter, and homemade corn tortillas.

Leftovers

I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.

Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.

Wild Turkeys

Ocellated Turkey. Photo: Ray Wilson/Alamy, via Audubon

I’m grateful for wild turkeys. I now know of three kinds, after learning about this ocellated turkey endemic to only a few parts of Mexico and Central America. No wonder early Europeans who colonized North America thought our wild turkey was a type of peacock! They had probably seen this one first. I’m grateful that wild turkeys live here and I get to see them sometimes on the way to town, hens and chicks crossing the road, toms strutting their stuff down in the fields; grateful they’ve adapted well to human encroachment. I’m grateful that I once tested myself by bringing home a roadkill wild turkey that was hit by the car before me, and that I passed the test (that link is not for the faint of heart).

The third kind of wild turkey is the whiskey, of course, which I found in the back of my cupboard this morning while looking for bourbon to use in the Bourbon Pecan Pie I was baking for Thanksgiving dinner up the road. The pie was well-received, but it was a bit more trouble than it was worth, in the cook’s humble opinion. The crust included in the recipe, however, was so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful there are a few pieces left for breakfast this weekend; grateful for leftover domestic turkey for a sandwich, and for leftover mashed potatoes; and grateful for dinner with triple-vaxxed friends, my first indoor dinner party since winter 2020.

Fantastic Fungi

Stuffed mushrooms for dinner tonight: so simple, so delicious.

I’m grateful for delicious mushrooms, and for having broadened my taste for them over years of living here, and knowing mushroom gatherers, and having gathered my own a few times. I’m grateful for a magical, memorable experience one time up on Black Mesa with the Willetts when we gathered abundant chanterelles. These are basic white mushrooms stuffed with a simple blend of soft butter, chopped fresh parsley, shallots, garlic, and panko breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, and baked at 425ºF for about fifteen minutes. I ate the whole bowl.

I’m grateful not only for mushrooms to eat, but for Fantastic Fungi of all kinds, in many ways the glue that holds our world together; and grateful for this marvelous movie, and how it’s opened the eyes and minds of a lot more people to the importance of fungi.

Joy and Sorrow

I was awakened this morning by a soft kangaroo kick in my face, two little furry-toed feet practically in my mouth as Topaz stretched out on her back alongside me. I’m grateful for the little purrball snuggling in the morning. She’s still not quite right in the head, and we may go get her eyes and ears examined next week in Montrose, as none of those seem to be functioning the way they should. But she’s otherwise almost back to normal, and I’m grateful for that.

So simple, so delicious: a homemade roll toasted, slathered with mayo and Swiss cheese and broiled briefly, then topped with homemade bread&butter pickles. I’m grateful for lunch, and especially for ‘the cheese sandwich.’

I’m grateful for the delightful diversion provided by this charming puzzle full of exquisite detail both in the artwork and in the laser cut. I used to enjoy doing these puzzles with other people sometimes, before the pandemic. It’s an intimate act to sit heads bent close over a puzzle table, singing along to music or chatting amiably, passing each other pieces that fit with the different sections we’re working, cheering each other on. I also used to enjoy doing them alone, so I’m grateful that my pleasure hasn’t been diminished with my cautious solitude.

I learned recently of several more Covid infections in vaccinated friends, so I’m even more grateful for getting the booster. I watched with deep emotion the trailer for the new documentary “The First Wave.” As a culture, perhaps as a species, we are about to drop all precautions and pretend that this ongoing pandemic isn’t happening, despite the evidence of what we see and know. Why? Because we’re tired of it; we want to get back to normal. Like that’s ever gonna happen. This stunning film chronicles four early months in 2020, and filmmaker Matthew Heineman told The Guardian, “One of the greatest tragedies of Covid is that we as a general public were so shielded from the realities of what was happening…. If it was easier for journalists and film-makers to get inside hospitals and to show the public how this was all actually going down, how people were dying and the horror of what was happening, I think it would have changed the narrative…. It saddens me that this issue that could have brought our country together further divided us, that truth and science became politicised.”

And for a refreshing change of pace, because we must also experience joy as well as outrage, check out the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards from NPR, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. My favorite is the “Majestic and Graceful Bald Eagle.” Maybe. I’m grateful for Kathleen for many reasons, including finding this in my inbox this morning.