Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lately, I've been attaching all kinds of meaning to food. I think it ties in with how my family (extended too) has been popping up in my thoughts so often recently.

I've been longing for Thanksgiving and Yule--they mean being with my family, going to see everyone and have good times with them and amazing food. Those on my dad's side of the family can whip up a feast, especially when we all get together; I remember fondly two turkeys deep-fried in peanut oil (amazingly tender, not greasy) at my Aunt T.'s and Aunt B.'s *real* bleu cheese dressing--real Roquefort!--with hot wings.

And even though Grandma R. (mom's side) can come up with some crazy ideas (such as the failed cheesy-poofs-on-green-bean-casserole experiment, think dry styrofoam) she still has the Best Apple Pie Ever award as far as we're concerned. The holiday hams are always amazing as well.

It's also fun at Christmas/Yule when Grandpa R. sets up the cookie assembly line :) We make all kinds, especially Reindeer Cookies with pretzel antlers, raisin eyes, and little red-hot noses. There's always too many cookies, so we're set well into the New Year with leftovers; everyone gets a tin or box-full when they leave.

Speaking of Yule, we're going South again this year! ^^ We went to North Carolina last time to visit Grandma and Grandpa P. and all the rest of Dad's side--what a trip! Driving down through the flat lands of Illinois and Indiana with a full moon shining overhead; hills and then mountains as we pass through Ohio into Kentucky and West Virginia... after the holiday celebrations in Asheville, we went out and drove all the way to the coast to the Outer Banks (OBX!), where we saw ocean and sand and touristy places mostly closed for the winter. We even had seafood (very good, mind you) at a place called Dirty Dick's! (And yes, we have t-shirts.) The whole trip was nice; I'm so excited to go again this year.

I want to pile in the car with my family and the dog and go see everyone. I want to go to the farm and take a day to re-explore everything--find cats hiding amongst hay bales in the barn, go out to the woods where the creek bed runs, climb around the junk piles on the hillside, say "heeeey-ya" softly to the horses so I don't spook them.

I want to go visit Aunt T.'s place again--oh, but their Weimie (Weimeraner) is gone. They have a new puppy from what I hear though. Go ride in my uncle's Thing (it's a car, he restored it himself) ^^ and see the cousins; bet they're even taller now.
I want to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins.
Go everywhere.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Correct action. Contrast this with orthodoxy, which is correct thought or belief.
At least within ADF (www.adf.org, a modern Druid group in which I am currently a member) the difference between the two is explained in a religious context. From what I have read/heard, Pagans back in the day were more concerned with orthopraxy: you do the ritual like it's supposed to be done, and the crops grow, the sun shines, and the Gods and ancestors are happy. It wasn't until the spread of Christianity a few hundred years after its beginning that orthodoxy began to be the cool new thing: so long as you have correct belief, God and Jesus love you and you'll make it to Heaven. Even within Christianity, the debate between faith vs. action has been going on ever since the Lutheran reformation; I intend to focus on how "right" and "correct" actions or thoughts go with religions of any stripe, particularly the Pagan ones.

Somehow I think you can't have one without the other: whether you want to argue that acting correctly will lead to thinking correctly or vice versa, it seems that one who acts correctly would know why they do it that way (and even if they don't, there must be some impetus for them to do what they do). But this can't be the case! Let's put this into context: For many years of my childhood, I went to church with my family and acted along with the service. I was even an altar kid at the end, and still I didn't feel like it was the right thing for me to do because I didn't believe in it.
On the other hand, you'd think that right belief leads to right action, yet this is also false; there are plenty of cases where folks say they're of a certain faith, yet don't go to church/service/ritual/whatever. Then do they really believe, or is it just a convenient thing to say and not to do also?

And I admit I have a bug up my butt when it comes to what one is "supposed" to do. Call me lazy, procrastinator, airhead, or what have you, but I'm not much for dogma and prescribed ways of doing things. Granted, when one is starting out it's nice to have examples for things; it's also good to learn what one can based on what has been going on for however long (hundreds or thousands of years, depending). But there comes a point when something like religion becomes intensely personal, and therefore unique to each individual. Members of a given faith may share big ideas, but even below the levels of denomination--even within a traditional Wiccan coven--each person will perceive things differently, have different thoughts and opinions, and therefore believe differently than anyone else.
How, then, to people see fit to say to someone, "Oh gods! You're doing it wrong!!!" when the particular details of that person's life and faith are not known?

True, there are many things to be said for tradition and keeping the faith. I grew up diet Catholic (Anglican Episcopalian) and I'm dating a Jew--tradition can be very important for feeling a connection to one's ancestors, be they of blood or of spirit. And it's a very intense and personal experience to know where you came from and how things came to be. But even ancestry becomes very personal; one may be of German descent and share the ways of those many tribes who lived in Central Europe back in the day (like from the Bronze Age), but get closer to the present and certain families form and grow and join and disappear; wars are won and lost, farms are replaced with factories and the world changes. Religions also change, the faces of the Gods as we know them are very different than those of the Gods known to Saxons and Vandals and Brythonic tribes.

I learn what I can, when I can--I strive to live up to my own label of "informed eclectic" (even though I'm not all that eclectic), since the "plug-and-play" style of ritual doesn't jive with me and the Gods I associate with. Even so, I don't always act on what I learn and I don't change what I've come to believe just so it fits with some "ideal" of the religion as it was however long ago. Everything goes through my filter(s) and things evolve. Belief isn't a lot of words set in stone: it's a natural process and survival of the fittest plays a huge part. They grow and change and die and even are reborn sometimes. They are remembered and forgotton, honored and despised or just ignored.

I guess that's all I have to say.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unintentionally vegan, still delicious

Yesterday's stew was a blazing success, at least in my mind. I was aiming for something hearty, simple, and not traif (which is odd, since my Jewish boyfriend isn't a fan of soups aside from chili); as a result, I came up with this.
If you want to try it, feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, and if you want it more soupy, just add more stock or water as it cooks. With the herbs and dark, rich stock, it does rather resemble beef stew (pity I hadn't any onions).

Veggie Stew with Brown Rice and Lentils

Made in a small rice-cooker, which I find is basically a slow-cooker with two settings: hot and keep warm. In went:
1 small yam, skin and all, in a large dice
Five or six crimini mushrooms, quartered (they were the same price as the buttons, but I find them more flavorful)
A couple heaping tablespoons of dry green lentils
One can (14.5 oz.) of whole tomatoes, chunked up (add the juice too)
A dozen or so chopped baby carrots
A rice-cooker-cupful of brown rice (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
Enough veggie stock to fill the pot
1 bay leaf
Lots of dry thyme, about a half tablespoon
Big pinch of dry sage
1 teaspoon dry rosemary, crushed between fingers
1 teaspoon dry parsley

Set it to "cook" and stir occasionally as everything warms up. Once it's been bubbling for a half-hour, set to "warm" and let the rice and lentils soak up the rest of the broth (about 20 minutes). Stir the now thick stew, and smile when a random housemate comments on how nice it smells. Serve up a bowl and enjoy hot; save the rest for a rainy day.

Guess what I get to have for lunch today. ^^

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

skunks don't change their stripes

It's hard to keep the cat away from the gerbil cage.

We've been trying to train him, but with Genki living in my apartment and I a college student, he does spend much of the day sans people. So far, we've had some good feedback with my cheapo Ikea squirtbottle (which I love, along with the huge--I mean huge--three dollar umbrella!) though I try to balance that with positive feedback as well. Funny how I'm trying to be a good "mom" here, when I spend much of the time flinging him onto the bed and calling him a stinky skunk... no trust me, he's not fixed, so he sprays. Thanks to all the gods that he sprays only in the litter box and that box is in a closet with a door! Though his stripes are rather handsome.
Here is the skunk in my window at the old place:

He's a big frame, but skinny. Silly guy can even be a lap-cat(!) when he feels so inclined.

Like now. :)

Though I didn't think I'd be skipping rapier tonight to start a blog; I have the search engine all set to find resources for my bioremediation paper, but a video on today's post in Food Wishes (www.foodwishes.blogspot.com) made me ache for something I've been craving a long time now: handmade, homemade, everything-from-scratch real food. Sometimes I still wonder why I haven't gone to culinary school (in the end I thought saving threatened and polluted ecosystems outweighed the work involved in professional foodery) since I'm addicted to food in its many incarnations. I have a vast list of recipes to try someday, along with a sizeable stash of spices and ingredients that just need the right time and inspiration to really make something awesome.

I wonder if this yearning for homemade bread reflects something deeper, or if I'm just a helpless foodie caught with desire and disappointment. But I will make stew tomorrow! (Still deciding whether it wants sour cream, but we'll see; my rice-cooker will see some use yet.)