Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sprouts - I finally got it!

I think sprouts are a misunderstood food. And I am a sucker for misfits, of course. I am talking about the bean ones. I never had sprouts growing up. They’re inexistent back home.
Since I moved to the States (the lessons never stop, even after 10 years), everyone I have ever met warns me how sprouts are to be stayed away from. They order the sandwiches “without sprouts” and oh, no, I have never seen a grocery list with sprouts on it.
So I never put them on my list either, but, the ever adventuresome eater that I am, I never take them off my sandwiches when they “come with them”. Nooo… I wanna keep them there, to try them at least once, or twice… or …. .
My first thought when I had them was: “oh, THIS if different, all right. I AM eating, well, SPROUTS . And nothing besides!”… but I kept having another bite. It was one of those feelings of “not-sure-I-like-it-like-it-but-I-don’t-hate-it-either”. So for years now, I have had sprouts… They’re not on my grocery list still, but they’re on all the sandwiches that come built that way.
A chronic sufferer of acid reflux and a champion burper, I figured out tonight what, exactly, is my relationship with sprouts. You know, I came to that point in the relationship where you either move in or move on! Well, they moved IN! The sprouts that is!
Oh, yeah, this is love! And one “healthy” burp (don’t talk to your GI doc, trust me, the adjective is right here) helped me figure that out: I love sprouts and now I know why: they’re earthy! They’re simple, and plain, with no claim to polish-ness and high-class. They’re dirty and earthy. They come from the ground and tell the soil story! And they bring into your mouth the aroma of their mother earth!
And that’s just so simple, and whole and uncomplicated, that I love it, and melt for it. It’s the same reason why I love trout and carp (yes, I said carp!!): because they taste like muddy waters. None of that fancy, garlic and whine sauces can take that aroma away. It’s un-fancy fish, it’s un-messed with, and elemental.
Man was born to be a hunter-gatherer… and when I can smell, and taste and chew on the simple elements, like the water, and the earth and the mud, and sometimes the air … yeah… that’s when food is turning me on! It’s when I taste the grape, or the pear, or the strawberry in the wine that I go ga-ga for it, not “when I taste the barrel or the steel”…It’s breaking the bread, instead of cutting it, and when I pull the chicken off the bone, and not cut it, when it “doesn’t come with a bone” that I love eating meat…
Mom tells everyone this story of me as a restless toddler, eating potting soil. One of my favorite things to do when I was 2 or so, was to walk up to a potted plant, stick my tiny fist in the moist soil , grab a handful and eat it, muddy cheeks and lips and all. No, I was not hungry, nor underfed, I was an “obese kind, so fat in fact my big fat tongue would not fit in my mouth and was always hanging out” (mom’s quotation and translation here), but I loved to eat soil for some reason…I loved the taste, I bet!
Maybe eating sprouts is the “OK” from the civilized world to be one with the elements again. To eat my potting soil again. And it’s a welcome reunion indeed! Not to mention, quite delicious!
But I do understand the fear people have for sprouts… Those same people who want “fish with no eyes and chicken with no bones”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asheville Trip: Thankful Trails

Life is just a lonely highway
I’m out here on the open road
I’m old enough to see behind me
But young enough to feel my soul
(Lenny Kravitz - "Can't Get You Off of My Mind")

They had to bribe me to get out of the house when we were little. My sister was up with the roosters, feeding the chicken and freeing the cows into the pastures, cleaning the pig stables and sties and soaking up the morning dew long before breakfast was ready and I’d finish my beauty sleep. I slept in, showered, bird-bath style, and then I’d spend my days lingering inside, reading books and doing nothing much but moving myself from one bed to another. I loved napping too!
Now, my sister watches several movies a day, has a husband to do house chores daily, cooks once a week and bundles up inside in the winter, while I spent maybe 4 days at home in the past 11 days! I’m always on the road, always on to the next trip, and on to the next thrill! Weather, tiredness, loneliness matter not when all I do is look forward to the next upcoming corner, to see what hides behind it.
No, I didn’t get hacked up in little pieces in Norfolk, although some said the hotel I picked was “at the project limit”; and no, I didn’t freeze to death while sleeping in 29 degree weather last weekend, while camping, although I’ve had a cold that would not budge ever since. And no, my friend didn’t strangle me after our weekend in Asheville, although we all know that I can be too much for even 24 hours, for the most patient person alive! Being cooped up with me for sightseeing and every meal fir several days is indeed a challenge, even for me at times!
I love peace. I do! And simple-ness and easy-ness. But somehow there are storms all around me, either in the lives of people I know, or just thrown my way, to interfere with my own life. Sometimes, literally, too! Just to keep things… interesting … I guess.
The Asheville trip was fun, as usual. A couple of snags could not put a damper in the overall success of the weekend: the big, loud parade we were not expecting on Saturday that kept us away from our hotel (and car) for hours, or the silly “no photography” rule at Biltmore! I hoped, maybe, that for the Holidays, they’ll allow photography inside, but no. Yes, I snapped a few indoors pics, before I was admonished by the older “Guest Relations” man and then I stopped! I really did: I was good!
The weekend was a success though: the art and woodworking at Biltmore, the attention to detail, the local art galleries, all over downtown, the general “laissez-faire” air of the Asheville inhabitant, the bras-less waitress at Tupelo Honey, with her confident smile, the delicious foods and impeccable service, the new beers we had to try, the crisp mountain air all added to unforgettable memories.
The last day (Monday) we saved for driving up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for visiting Grandfather Mountain (for its large vistas from the mile high swinging bridge) and for eating fresh trout sandwiches at the Speckled Trout, in Blowing Rock.
Well, that’s when the storm happened. Literally. The 72 degree forecast turned right after we left Asheville and it got progressively worse as we got lost a couple of times trying to find the Parkway Detour, as the Parkway had been closed for reasons unknown to us, for portions of the ride.
Once we reached Grandfather Mountain, despite the thick fog and blasting wind, and occasional rain, we drove to the top, as my friend had never been there and we figured we could get some close-up pictures of the wild landscape and natural life.
When we finally got to the top, we were driving through “pea soup” smoky fog and it was raining steadily. Once we got out of the car, the wind wanted to throw us off the peak! It was the very same feeling you have in a blizzard, only with rain instead of snow: cold, piercing wind, and sharp drops of cold rain! Trying to put on a coat, with my purse balancing on the back bumper and the trunk open proved to be a dumb idea! The wicked wind closed the trunk shut, with only the handles of my purse peeking from the trunk, as if in a hopeless cry for help. Everything else we had, keys included were now locked up!
It’s amazing how limit situations like these make each of us react differently and make us know each other better!
I was forcing the locks, while my friend was repeating that we might have to break the windows. I was trying to remain calm, although I wanted to scream to his face: “ ONLY as a last resort, pal! Only if the other option would be for us to die of frostbite here, on top of the mountain!”. Hell, no: I’d force those locks and I’d beg the people at the gift store for help, before I’d drive to Greensboro with a broken window, in the rain, the week of Thanksgiving, and with a cold! Plus: no garage at home, either!! Hell, no, we ain’t breaking any windows! And we didn’t.
Half and hour (longest one I have lived!) and three park rangers later, I found out that this wonderful world we live in has a whole kit of cables, complete with a manual, with directions for breaking into each car, each make, model, year, ever made. My comment was: “WOW! I can be a car breaker-inner, and make a ton of money”. It was amazing how documented and easy it was to break into a car. And thank God for manual locks, too!
And thankfulness is what this piece is all about. I was thankful, once more, for being in the South, and having such folks to offer to come to my rescue! They went way beyond their call of duty to unlock my car, with not as much as one scratch to the vehicle, in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of a wicked storm, wearing no gloves, no hats in 20 degree weather with a 70 mph wind, on a mile high peak!!!
Everyone at the top, was so nice, so calm, so helpful. The gift shop lady, feeling sorry for our wet and frozen selves, offered hot chocolate or coffee. We didn’t have any. We couldn’t pay- I would have felt bad! The guys who eventually unlocked the car said to me that the only reward they need is for me to promise I’ll have a good time. Well, I was having a blast (no pun intended) already, when my door was unlocked!
I am going to remember the Asheville trip always, and not just for the Early Girl Café which makes the best vegan sausage in the world, or for the Endless Summer beer, brewed in Black Mountain, which is probably the only microbrew that tastes absolutely heavenly to me!
I’ll always remember this trip for the thanks I have been woken to give to everything and everyone I’m blessed with: thanks to my health and the ability to work and travel, thanks for the friends who want to join me, no matter how difficult I become, thanks to great strangers with big hearts who help unconditionally, thanks to the peaceful world we live in, in NC and America, for the most part, the safe roads, and towns, and mountain tops, thanks to the honest people, the beauty of nature that keeps me drawn to the road. I give thanks to whole car windows and to alternatives out there to break into cars without damaging them. Thanks to my sister, who reminds me that staying home, catching up on movies, books and … naps is important, too! I give thanks to God, for all these and so much more, and for my innate willingness to keep at it, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
For pictures, click here:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Waking Up To Life, or Nature, again ...

It’s coming home smelling like a slab of bacon, forgotten in the smoke house for 2 weeks that I missed. It’s the burning of the cheeks either from wind and cold or sun, 4 hours after I finally got home that I missed, too … It’s the fire pit and the cool stories; stories about people and their weird diseases they would not admit to when they’re sober, and “proper” in a dining room; stories about their kids, and the imaginary monsters or friends they have. Did you know “elephants” or “monkeys” can be code names for bodily functions?! Well, you’ll find that out at camping sites …

I also missed using … whatever handy for a plate when eating around the communal table; like the top of a Tupperware dish for a plate, or using a mug for your soup bowl, or a paper cup. Missed the creativity and simplicity of living … Did you know you can boil an egg on the fire in a paper cup?!

I missed the way food tastes when it’s “improvised”, and half-way cooked! Because when you come back from a 10 mile hike you really don’t care what goes down the throat… Everything at that point tastes heavenly, and you learn, again, to be grateful for someone else handling the fire and feeding you, even if all they do is throw every meat and every veggie known to man in a huge cauldron full of Swanson broth. That beats any Iron Chef gourmet dish ever cooked, I swear!

I missed falling asleep listening to the wind, and realizing that there IS wind and a whole world of sounds out there. Have you noticed how oblivious we are to Nature when we’re trapped in between our homes’ walls? Out there, you have nothing else to put you to sleep at night, but the wind, and the swishy trees … Crickets are gone right about now…
I missed the dry skin that you get when you skip your lotion treatments twice a day. I missed the long, hot shower you take when you get back home. We only take short, insignificant and routine showers daily. None that “matter” on any kind of higher level.

I missed the numb, sore body that comes back with us from sleeping on the ground for a couple of days. I never knew I had muscles that can hurt, in so many places!

And I thank life, and chance, and good friends for bringing all that back to me this last weekend! I felt like a slumber-full, barely awaken Rip Van Winkle. Only I was happy, not sad, to finally wake up to the same beauty of life that I left almost 5 years ago, when I camped last! Finally happy to wake up smelling like smoked meat again!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Funky mood - funky season

Current mood: cranky!
Bacovia was right: fall IS the season for neurotics!

Timing sucks, lately!
I have always loved colds. Colds remind me of my dad. And of very snowy, cold winters back home, when you could not see through the windows, they were so thick with ice. And they make me crave soup, and warm clothes, and dad’s story telling and watercolors… For the first time, this year, I am hating my cold. It could not have come at a worse time, and I want to tell it to go away and come back when I am in the mood for it. If only one could have such understandings with their viruses…
Because of this cold, now, I am not looking forward to a trip I have waited to go on for years! Typically, I am ecstatic about ANY of my trips. There is nothing that makes me happier, makes me smile more, and make the time go faster than the imminent approach of a trip. Any trip. But this one – has been planned and wished for for years: Christmas at Biltmore. Yeah, yeah, I know, all the Scrooges out there will tell me that’s overrated, and it may be, but I love Christmas celebrations. I always think I am not doing a good job of that, and I am fascinated with people’s creativity around this time of the year. Part of it is because I never had them growing up. My Christmases were low key, under wraps, as they were “illegal”.
So, I have saved, and waited, and now finally I am going, and well… all I’d rather do is cuddle up with Mr. Fero and read a good, long, cheesy, girly book and burn my throat drinking lemon tea! Not go out there, and face the world and the chills of Asheville… Not that! Anything BUT that!
This season is killing me, too! Or should I say: weather, because, what is the season, really?! If you look at the trees, it’s still fall, and in some parts, early fall, too. But do you realize that Thanksgiving is here in a WEEK??? And Christmas fasting starts tomorrow, which makes Christmas … 6 weeks away?! Yeah! The Holiday Season, The WINTER Holiday Season is here NOW, so … is it winter?!! I cannot get into the holiday mood, and I cannot start making lists, and buying cards, and buying family gifts because … I still see leaves on trees, and 65 degrees on the thermometer downtown, and I have not worn gloves nor scarves to work yet!!! Barely worn my leather jacket, much less my winter one, too.
But I have scraped frost off of the windshield a couple of times … so … yeah, I am confused. And I don’t like confusion… I don’t like gray. I don’t like this autumn-winter deal, nor this sick-but-gotta-stay-healthy deal either…
I want the stars to align, make up their minds and stop funkying me around !!!
I still miss dad, though. I can hear him say, in his thick accent:
“Funky? What is funky? Honky? Honky-tonk woman? Obla-di, obla-da?”… Are you confused? So was I, when I heard him say this!!
I miss dad. And I want my soup now …

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dirty Thoughts

Note: bear with me ... :-)

Just because the weekend is coming and I just had THE best strawberry wine of my life … or maybe it was my good friend D. and her story about back pain… whatever it was… I just feel extra …silly …tonight.
So here’s a thought for everyone, for the relaxation-ful weekend, and before my bed time.
I am not sure about you gals and guys, but these lyrics from the Squirrel Nut Zippers ring wicked dirty to me:

“Under the sea
Darling it's better
Down where it's wetter
Take it from me … “


Sorry, the young and virgin eyes reading…