Looking at Fusion Cuisine

In August I had a little going away party for the daughter of my BFF. It was a sad day and a happy one too. Kind of a fusion of emotions. I was very happy that she has secured a new job that pays her tons more than what she was making in Michigan. She was able to purchase her dream house. She will be near her aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of this is extreme good fortune. The sad part is that she is moving away. Her mother will now be far far away from her. This will be hard on both of them. It was a fusion kind of event. That meant only one thing – fusion cuisine. In this case I made my Jewish grandmother’s version of Mexican enchiladas. Yes, you read that correctly. So to be clear my grandmother did not in any way, shape or form keep a kosher house. So I present her recipe for Enchiladas:
white or yellow corn tortillas
Velveeta cheese
Sweet onion
black olives
Hormel chili no beans

Place several cubes of Velveeta and a sprinkling of chopped onion and black olives on a tortilla and roll. Place into a glass baking dish with the loose end on the bottom. A heavy butter knife can be used to weigh down the enchiladas to prevent them from unrolling. Heat the chili and pour over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle sliced black olives and additional Velveeta on the top. Bake ~ 30 minutes at 350° F until cheese is melted.

To humor Sparky and treat my guests, I also did a chicken version with green enchilada sauce with cheese, chicken, green pepper and onion inside.

We had additional toppings of black olives, sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes from the garden, green peppers, cilantro, onion, mild salsa, salsa verde, tortilla chips, and a little extra chili. Everyone was able to customize their meal and I do believe all were satisfied!

Just like life, my grandmother’s version of enchiladas combined a little of what she grew up with and a little from what she experienced away from the bosom of her family. The end result is a little messy looking but is still delicious. There are so many variations on a theme. We live our lives making choices. Some people agonize over every little thing and others dash headlong into the future. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way as long as we each savor what we put on our plates.

Looking for the Song

The forest speaks to all who listen there
Calliope of scattered birds take flight
The treetops sway in time with swirling leaves
The wind shakes down the nuts that bounce off bark
And adds a note to Autumn’s final song
The tapping rain percussion plays a tune
With creak of chestnut’s rotted branches fall
A crunch of leaves as doe and fawn walk on
The howling wind pulls at my heart and mind
To pay attention to the forest’s tune
Amid the melody and harmony
There moans the ancient pine that calls my name

I was hiking in the woods with Sparky and my friend saintvi. The wind was blowing so hard that the trees appeared to be performing some sort of ecstatic dance. The tall pines were especially in motion. They didn’t just sway. They were swirling and sweeping then bending in a cambré not unlike ballet dancers. They were singing as they moved. It was an eerie creaking and grinding sound. At first the only thing I could hear was the fierce wind. Once we were in the trees there was a sense of silence that was soon replaced by the appreciation of the sounds of the trees and leaves. When was the last time you really listened to the world around you?

This is blank verse – a poem with unrhymed lines written in iambic pentameter, that is 10 syllables with the even numbered syllables bearing the accent.

Looking Between the Covers

First off this is not about sex, a bed, or linens. I want to discuss books. Books have been a little bit of an obsession in this household. Sparky has become a reading fiend. I have not felt inclined to become competitive. The last time I was in a book reading competition, I killed it. The English teacher had to invent new levels for me. I ended up a “phoenix” which was four or five levels above what she had initially determined to be the top tier – “eagle”. Anyway, Sparky has been not only reading physical books but listening to audio books. Although I can see the attraction, I have a problem considering audio books as having been read. Nevertheless, I have been reading some of the books Sparky has brought home from the library. (Since he works there it isn’t out of his way to check them out or return them.) So far I’ve been intrigued and disappointed, sometimes within the same book.

After reading the entirety of the book “Baking with Kafka” by Tom Gauld I realized that I am not as smart as I thought or as quick to recognize British humor. I did read the whole thing which is a testament to my need for closure. I kept thinking that the next page would tickle me or be in some way amusing. Hope springs eternal. At least until you close the back cover and think, “I’ll never get that time back.” I felt the same when I started reading “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. The difference being that about 20 pages in I was howling with laughter and had to stop to wipe the tears from my eyes.

Having a little trepidation about another of his book selections, I steeled myself and seeing as it was a thin book figured it wouldn’t be so bad. After 2 pages I was confused. Was it just me or did this book just make no sense whatsoever? I continued to read and become progressively less happy about reading the book. I must be a glutton for punishment so I finished the book. I felt as if I were having a mental collapse. The circular logic, the repetitive thoughts, the nonsensical obsessions conspired to make me doubt my own sanity. Fra Keeler by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi was a painful experience. My husband thought it was “interesting” and “fascinating”. I suppose there is some merit in the writing since she won lots of awards for this novel. It was not my cup of tea.

I did enjoy a couple others, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. It kept me engaged and I wanted to see how things were going to come out… I won’t spoil it with details but I did like it. Then there was the book “One Hundred Favorite Folktales” which is a compilation of 100 stories from around the world. I liked that there were themes linking continents and countries. It was fun to see the variations of the stories. Over all the Russian folk tales were more brutal and the German ones a little scary while the Norwegian stories seemed to favor a gentler touch. Calmkate recommended “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C. A. Fletcher and it was a good one. I was engrossed and managed to read it in 2 days. I guess that’s the sign of a really good book! Then I tackled “Boy Swallows Universe” by Trent Dalton and though it was a grittier story I did enjoy it. I’m thinking the Australian authors might just become favorites…

What’s on your nightstand?

Looking to Keep My Distance

CalmKate posted a challenge for Friday Fun to discuss social distancing. This has become a point of contention along with mask wearing. Yes we are all very tired of keeping our friends and family at arm’s length. I even read an article about “COVID Fatigue” that basically said people were exhibiting willful absentmindedness about wearing masks and keeping their physical distance from strangers. For myself, it is hard to give up family gatherings, holiday celebrations, and travel. Still I will persevere in an effort to stay healthy and to keep others healthy too.

How can love flourish at arm’s length
Where distance reduces love’s strength
Six feet apart we fix our place
There is no calm as chaos reigns
Shadow of kindness still remains
Dares to enter personal space
Through smiling eyes and hidden lips
With gesture sweet COVID eclipse
And show each a measure of grace

This is a Nove Otto. It is a form created by Scott Alcorn. This poem is a 9 line poem with 8 syllables per line and a rhyme scheme of aacbbcddc. It is a new form for me but I kind of like it. Of course with any poem with a limited number of rhymes, it is important to choose your rhyme carefully!

Looking for Laughter

Today would have been my Father’s 88th birthday. The sting of his death is gone. Now I’m just a little nostalgic. The thing I miss most is the sound of him laughing. I’ve written about his laugh before. The thing is, his laugh was missing for the last couple of years before he passed. He was so very weary and weak. The pain from the neuralgia and the toll dialysis took on him meant that all his available energy went to just staying alive. He loved slap stick comedy in general and Jerry Lewis movies specifically. He would tell jokes and I provided him YEARS of hilarity as I pondered “How do you get down from an elephant?” I get tickled reading old Garfield comics, watching most animated movies (Monsters, Inc still puts me in stitches in parts) and thinking about some of the truly ridiculous moments in my life. What makes you laugh?

So in honor of his birthday I wrote the following prose poem:
The funny thing is, I can’t recall the sound of my father’s voice, but his laugh is still echoing in my mind. I can hear it, see his face, see his shoulders shaking, his mouth open with a roar and a gasp. There has been a dearth of laughter lately. Laughing is a kind of communion with the creator. I’m convinced God has a wicked sense of humor. How else can you explain elbows and dimples, caterpillars and butterflies, flamingo knees and kangaroo pouches? I want to think that God laughs when someone farts or releases a really magnificent belch. I want to believe. There is divine amusement when seeing a funny movie, watching babies take the first taste of ice cream, seeing that regal cat miss the mark jumping from chair to bed. The sound of God laughing is all around us in the falling rain, the crunch of dry leaves, the sparkle of ice in winter sun. I can hear laughter when the crow calls, a donkey brays, and when we sing all off-key in church. I bet He has a good chuckle when I sing in the shower. Today I’m looking for laughter. I’ll strain to hear the whisper as my dad has a good laugh with the angels and when I hear it I’ll join in.

Looking at the Stillness

Today at 11:00 AM I will stand still. My eyes will close and I will remember that many lives were lost. Although I will remain motionless for a moment, there are so many that will never stir again. The dead are unmoving, unfeeling, unremembered by most of those now living. Today is a holiday that has been reimagined. The original reason for the day has been relegated to the history books (Armistice Day). We call today Veterans’ Day and have expanded the scope to honor all who served. Still I think about “the war to end all wars” and the lives laid down in defense of freedom.

According to the internet “At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ended. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.” Since that time there have been other wars fought. Some were quick conflicts that have faded from memory (Invasion of Granada) and others were full on wars that took years of fighting and a similarly high number of casualties.

So in honor of the sacrifices, I will be still, still as death. I will maintain one full minute of stillness. I hope you will join me for a single moment to honor the memories of all the soldiers and civilians that were destroyed or their lives turned upside down in war.
As a bonus this is exactly will fulfill CalmKate’s challenge for “still”!

Looking at Inaction

My dreams take substance and seem real
Your hands and touch are all I feel
Satin sheets slide upon my bed
It is a vision in my head

The echo of your voice remains
Your haunting words my mind retains
The prophecy of what you said
It is a vision in my head

Fighting to breathe I bit my tongue
I pulled the trigger, shot the gun
My freedom won in crimson red
It is a vision in my head

The taste of metal on the tongue
Returns the memory of one
No longer here he is long dead
It is a vision in my head

I was reading an opinion piece about abusive relationships. There was an undercurrent that hummed – if it was so bad, just leave. It really came off as victim shaming. It is very easy to say that someone should “just leave” but when there is no where to go it becomes very problematic. Add the controlling aspect of many abusive situations – no access to money, transportation, or even communication with family – it makes leaving nearly impossible. If that weren’t enough there are children and pets to consider as well. The victim may not be willing to leave them behind. The victim believes that they are the buffer between the abuser and the children. Then there is the hope, desperate and often unrealistic, that with time and patience and love, that they can change the abuser into a kind and loving person.

The poem is a kyrielle which is a 4 stanza poem with a strict syllable count of 8 per line. The rhyme is aabB, ccbB, ddbB, eebB where the last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the following stanzas. It is written in rhyming couplets… And no, I am not in an abusive relationship. Unless you consider moving the soap dispenser from the left to the right of the bathroom sink randomly as abuse.

Looking Lost

Humans want to belong. Even the introverts want to be a part of something outside themselves. That’s why we make friends, join clubs, gather for worship, and cling to the familial unit even when it is dysfunctional. The worst feeling for anyone is that of abandonment. Being abandoned is the twist of the knife of loneliness. It is devastating both physically and psychologically.

I can still remember the feeling. A coldness creeping around my heart and icy fingers squeezing all the air out of my lungs. I fought the tears but they leaked from my eyes anyway. I had been dropped off at the YWCA for a summer camp. My parents had each thought that the other had gone to pick me up. So there I sat on the steps as all the workers and camp counselors left for the day. I didn’t have any idea where a phone could even be found. Even if I’d found a phone booth, I had no money. One of the ladies leaving asked me if my parents were on their way to get me. With tears in my eyes, I shrugged. She suggested I walk the 4 blocks to the McDonald’s and see if they could call my home. Those 4 blocks were the longest distance ever. I was lucky. The manager allowed me to use their phone. I called home. Chaos erupted. My father assured me he was on his way to the YWCA to get me. I hung up and then walked the 4 blocks back. I was sitting out front waiting when my father drove up. For me that feeling of abandonment was temporary. It lasted less than 2 hours. But I still remember it clearly 55 years later.

I can only imagine the trauma of the children separated from their families, parents, siblings. Yes I’m talking about the children held at the border, and the children placed in foster care, and all the children left home alone by parents with addictions. I’m talking about the children who become parents to their younger siblings because they have to grow up at the age of 9 when their single mother is in jail for prostitution and can’t make bail. They have been abandoned. Abandoned by the very people who are supposed to be taking care of them and keeping them safe. Abandoned by society as well. The eligibility for public assistance is becoming more and more stringent. The ones that suffer most are the children. They are abandoned twice and I can only imagine the terror and helplessness as the icy fingers squeeze the air from their lungs and the blood from their hearts and the tears from their eyes. I lose sleep over this.

Looking at the Next Four Years

This year has been one of hit after hit. Our country has been fractured by political divisiveness, racial tensions, public protests, and violence. I suppose that all that has been present for many years and has been simmering under a fragile veneer of civility. Yesterday’s election was a turning point.

Cast my ballot I dare not
Look to see results
The outcome I care not
To know what insults
Scientific minds know
The experiment designs
Will either show
Success or failure
In the grand scheme
Of democratic rule a
Successful dream
Or nightmare wakes
When common values peak
Or subside to chaos in
What the elected seek
To promote for us

Looking for Ice Cream

I’ve never been a rabid fan of frozen treats. This is mostly due to dental sensitivity. It was exacerbated by having my jaw surgically broken and realigned resulting in a fair amount of metal implanted. If you have had any metal plates, screws, or surgical wire you will know how easily it conducts cold. The cold is drawn into your bones and causes a deep down ache that lasts for a long time – even after you have warmed up on the outside. Now, it seems downright unAmerican to state that one does not like ice cream. Far be it from me to be unpatriotic in regards to ice cream. I’ve been eating some sort of frozen treat every Sunday at the familial get together. This is to say I have a small bowl and can mostly swallow it without having to chew. I’ve developed a technique of eating ice cream sandwiches that involves sucking the melting vanilla from between the outer chocolate cookies thus avoiding having to sink my teeth into anything cold.

The issue is that I generally don’t get to decide what flavor is purchased. A little while ago Sparky decided that we should invest in some frozen treats to share. So we bought Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches. They were not served and instead we had the option of drumsticks or traditional ice cream sandwiches. The next week and the week after that saw a variety of individually wrapped treats offered but no Neapolitan sandwiches. I was a little concerned that they were buried in the freezer and getting freezer burn. So we investigated. They were gone. Seems Sparky’s dad really liked them… When we went back to get more the store was completely sold out.

This led to a decision to purchase some fake ice cream for Sparky’s mother who due to medical complications from her pancreatic cancer surgery cannot have ANY dairy products. She loves ice cream but was making due with popsicles. We looked over the flavors and decided on frozen cashew milk with sea salt caramel. She decide to give it a try. (She had been avoiding it because it was “too expensive” and she was afraid to spend the money and then be disappointed.) Long story short, she loved it. So that worked out.

After all the drama of COVID and a suspension of ice cream Sundays due to the cold weather making sitting outside uncomfortable, I decided that we should have some in our freezer. It is a nice treat even when the weather is cool. Sparky reluctantly agreed. He wanted to dictate the kind we got. He does not like anything with Oreos in it. So no cookies n cream. He also is not a fan of mint, or marshmallow. Add cotton candy, bubblegum, tutti frutti, and a variety of neon colored and fake fruit flavors to his list of unacceptable types. The ice cream that I don’t like are peanut butter/peanuts in the ice cream, anything with coconut, and I’m not sold on walnuts. Of course I didn’t get my favorite because I’ve never seen it in the grocery – Rum Raisin. I selected sea salt fudge brownie. Sparky was relieved. So as we head into the last stretch of Autumn days before we start getting to snow suits and wool sweater weather, we are having a small bowl of ice cream to treat ourselves…

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?