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I was thinking about how much I love Pema Chodron, David Whyte, Buddhadarma magazine, anything India or Hindu or yoga related, my energy healing school… why don’t I just join a religious order someday?

I can’t speak for someday. I may hit a yoga retreat or an ashram or visit a Christian religious order just to clean up or get new clarity. I want to visit (almost) every place of worship with every loved one who will invite me, from the Hindu temple with Vidya for puja back to Christchurch in Rugby or Epiphany with my mom. Maybe I’ll take the Art of Living course for my birthday.Maybe I’ll go back to work for some difficult, bureaucratic, profitless agency that lets me help people and stresses me with the hardships of our clientele and staff.

But I could not just walk away permanently. I realized that I love this world, and that is why the answer is no. Spiritual practice must not be something that just sits off to the side waiting for an acceptable time. It is where the rubber hits the road– when someone pisses me off, when I am afraid, when I am celebrating, when there is injustice, mendacity, thoughtlessness, hurt, waste, pain, violence whether in words between family or warfare between nations– that tests what I believe and what I am growing to be.

My Tassajara would be a bed and breakfast where travelers can find family meals from my own garden and welcome and comfort. My 29 Palms is the beach at my Mom and Dad and Grammy’s house, Kim’s back patio looking out over the little lake, or Station Camp in Big South Fork, until such time as we can afford that second home in West Virginia near Granny’s house. I find so much to be grateful for each day, I just have to remember to see it and be grateful.

I don’t need a retreat. I need to be mindful. I can find a walking meditation counting flowers as cars roar by on the smelly city street that is the way to and from my child’s school. I know wine shrinks your brain but ‘this is the blood shed for thee’, and I love to taste it and cook with it. I can find a meditative joy in cooking mindfully, trying to nourish my family with healthy food, swimming upstream against the food industry. I can find a meditation in cleaning and organizing and FitTV. There is so much music to enjoy on YouTube or alternative radio or someday when we have a babysitter again in clubs.

I have about ten vocations… for one of them I might learn Buddhist counseling methods– just read a wonderful article about that in Buddhadarma magazine. I’d love to do that with a fat helping of Jungian study in San Francisco and Kabbalah from the School of Healing Arts in Nashville. I don’t have answers any more than anyone else does… and the answers are right within us, within our values and hopes and need and dreams. And this is our life, our kingdom come.

I love this world. Some parts of it hurt– people do nasty crappy things here in LA, as I know they do everywhere (though maybe not quite so often or willingly!). I think about losses and griefs. I screw up, judge, feel anxious, get irritated. I struggle with giving up unhealthy behaviors– all legal, but not healthy. Travel has forced me over and over again to reframe in a way that has been hard but good for me. How I handle these is constant opportunity for meditation without abandoning daily life. Spirituality can be a retreat, an abandonment of real life… I will never retreat. Meet me right here.

In that spirit, with my usual dedication to reverence and irreverence, here’s one of my theme songs. Stop right here if you don’t like ugly words.

The Bill O’Reilly Dance Remix used to give me a much needed laugh and relief from tension when I was working at the library. Okay, we don’t live in Darfur or anything, but outside of that… simple daily things were so hard I cannot describe it. F* it! I can’t do it! What a joy to have Bill express how I felt so eloquently every single day. I laughed my head off no matter how many times I watched it.

Now the video still gives me great joy– Kim R. just posted it on her fb page this morning and I’ve watched it about five times already and will probably watch it five more. But now the line that speaks to me is F* it! We’ll do it live!

Doing it live…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2YDq6FkVE

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Every time I make and offer my child my AWESOME fudgy delixous bananna muffins my little girl says you mean *pumpkin* muffins?

Is she trying to tell me something?

My husband bought me a gigantic can of pumpkin, far exceeding expectations. Alas, I haven’t been able to grow a single pumpkin in my gardens, EVER.

Vegan with a Vengeance has a to die for pumpkin muffin.

Vegan with A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Vegan with A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Vegan Cupcakes take Over the World has a pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake recipe I haven’t had a chance to try yet.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

So baby and I are off to see the pumpkin wizard. If I– okay if we– make ’em she better damn well eat ’em.

Macaroni and ‘cheeze’ (yummy, yummy vegan sauce from fatfreevegan.com) with peas in and baked with french fried onions on top, black eyed peas (so darn good cooked with a little onion and some salt and pepper), cabbage sauteed with very finely chopped onion in vegan butter with a bit of lemon juice salt and pepper,  corn bread, and– oh my gosh these were sooo good, way better than they should have been– pumpkin pie brownies from the PPK, each decorated with nine chocolate chips for our new year.

Oh. Man. These aren’t fit to eat. You better not have any.

My husband has no sweet tooth– his favorite dessert is seconds or thirds– but he finished his and the baby’s too. That is unprecedented. I can’t remember him doing that ever, in our life together. He likes dark chocolate, and I get him the expensive stuff, and he eats, like, one square per day. And once in a while he’ll have an ice cream sandwich with the baby. And that’s the extent of it.

Wait. One time when we were dating and watching Chocolat, between us we finished off a whole pan– all eight of my awesome huge apple dumplings.

But never since.

I think part of the reason they (the brownies, the dumplings are another story) were so good was that I made my own pumpkin puree. I had promised my stepson pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner, and then the one my husband bought frozen came out of the box really scary looking… This year, for the second year in a row my attempt to grow pumpkins in the garden so my baby could pick her own was a miserable failure. But I still had two small sugar pumpkins I’d bought at Halloween but hadn’t decorated (hoping Daddy would cut one with the baby but I am telling you, the season was passing us by even then! I cut two white pumpkins into skulls with black glitter eye sockets and mouths, but that was it), they weren’t looking or smelling bad yet, so I cut ’em, scraped out the seeds, roasted ’em and scraped the yummy bits away from the peel and pureed in the food processor.

My improvised vegan pumpkin pie was, well, okay, pretty yummy, but, well, just okay. My stepson ate three pieces which made me feel better but… you know. He has my terrible sweet tooth, in fact his is worse than mine. And I am just thankful I didn’t renege on my promise. Food is serious stuff, at my house. It is absolutely a currency or language of love for me anyway, and now it is one of the few remaining ways I can reach out to my two teenagers.

So some times you improvise and it is okay, sometimes it’s stellar, sometimes it would have been better if you hadn’t… But I think the fresh homemade pumpkin puree is what put these brownies over the top. They were just–ooooh, too good!

It was all so tasty. I’m right proud of myself– simple and country (cept for those decadent pumpkin brownies!), but healthy and elegant too.  Yum, yum, yum!  Another New Year’s Resolution:  Keep working on adding soul food flavor and Southern fried satisfaction to vegan meals. Mmm. Mmm.

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