Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tea life

Tea as life
life as tea
flowing, creative, energy

What is you
what is me
merges on the path of tea

~Nicole Raisin Stern, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

teapots 47, 48, 49 & 50 plus summer thrills

One of my favorite geeky computer things to do is to compare and contrast the summer temperatures here in Tucson to those of Monterey, where I lived from July 2003-May 2005 and then again from October 2005-May 2006 (as well as from 1988-1990).

On my desktop, I have two temperature widgets for comparison that show sun, cloud, snow, rain, and fog icons with the temperature in numbers underneath. I usually keep the widgets on farenheit, but take a look at the celsius temperatures now and then for fun.

Right now, my Tucson widget tells me it is 99° at 9pm with the almost full moon visible in a clear dark sky. Meanwhile, in Monterey, there are clouds or fog (can't tell from the widget which it is--maybe both!) and the temperature is 69°!

Who knows why I enjoy doing this as much as I do, but I do. It makes me smile and laugh. Maybe it's heat delirium.

The six-day forecast in the Tucson widget shows six bright yellow sun icons for each of the next five days (plus today) with the temperatures of 108°, 106°, 107°, 109°, 108°, and 108° through Tuesday. In contrast, the Monterey widget shows a sun icon with a cloud on top of it for four out of the six days with temperatures of 86°, 74°, 77°, 73°, 75°, and 74°.

Of course, I don't need to see the Tucson widget at all to know when it is bright and hot outside. My body senses the heat. The heat changes my appetite. I eat less in the morning, almost nothing in the day, drink mostly water and tea until late afternoon when I finally feel a little hungry for a salad or a bowl of beans & rice. At night, I eat very little or nothing and I am up at dawn. It feels cool now in the dark of night. I sip water and listen to Yuki panting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

teapots 45 and 46

What I like best is just doing the practice, the practice of painting and drawing the teapots. Shows, sales, framing, collecting, even posting to blog and flickr--that's all extra. Being with the teapot, the paint, the tea, the light streaming in, the changing conditions as I paint--that's the heart of the practice. Being and doing combine. When I do the practice, I am the paint, the teapot, the tea, the paper.

That said, here are teapots no. 45 and 46 of my 2nd set of 100 teapots.

* * * * *

I've been enjoying the following piece on art, healing, and creativity that I watched from a video clip of last year's retreat for women at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico. I've transcribed the part that speaks to me most, words spoken by Joan Halifax Roshi of Upaya.

Healing is the practice of art
It's painting, it's praying with
It's learning how to touch
It's learning how to write poetry--
to write out your heart

Learning to move beautifully in our lives
Bringing beauty to [your?] story of the world,
Bringing it forward

There's so much ugliness...
Let's love it
Let's love up this life
Let's let the creative come forward...

~ Roshi Joan Halifax

This year's retreat takes place at Upaya from July 11-15: In the Shelter of Each Other Women's Retreat: Women and Altruism--Compassion, Shadow, and Power.

I would love to go and I am fine not going. I know how to create retreat conditions for myself when I cannot actually go on retreat.

Yes, let's bring it forward.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer Suite Sponsor Soiree Slide Show (Ssssss)

I made a slide show from the photos I took on Saturday night at Casa Libre en la Solana during their Second Annual Summer Suite Sponsor Soirée. Casa Libre en la Solana is a non-profit writer's retreat in Tucson in an 1890s adobe right off of eclectic Fourth Avenue. Anyone can donate to Casa Libre en la Solana in support of their mission -- offering writers and scholars a place to write. To see the captions, mouse (or track pad) over the slides. If the slide show is too small or not functioning smoothly, click on the slide show to view it at the slideshow website.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday and other thoughts

This morning I slept in until 6:30. I wanted to sleep even later because of my late night last night, but at this time of year, if you wake up too late, you cannot go out walking with a dog at all. Dogs don't wear straw sun hats or dog shoes to protect their paws from the hot summer pavement.

After watering my sunflowers, feeding Yuki and Jesse, and letting Jesse roam outside a bit, Yuki and I set out for our walk. I stashed some coffee money in Yuki's leash pocket and off we went, into the quiet streets of my neighborhood, out into the sweet heat of early morning Tucson.

Near the University we saw Michael with Bernard, his little dog that has a face like the Grinch. I think Bernard is related to the bulldog, but more compact and without jowls. Michael, Bernard, Yuki, and I walked swiftly towards campus and coffee, with little Bernard setting the pace.

We got coffee at Espresso Art Café. I wanted to drink my coffee out of a ceramic cup rather than from a to-go paper cup, so I sat under an umbrella at a sidewalk table with Yuki to drink my americano. Michael took his coffee in a to-go cup and he and Bernard walked over to campus. The café owner said that Yuki looked like a Japanese Spitz. "He has a Japanese name," I said, "Yuki!"

I asked the owner of Espresso Art Café where he was from originally; was his English accent Turkish? Greek? From where, I wondered. He said "Romania", which instantly made me think of Andrei Codrescu's voice and his humorous NPR essays on life in America. I asked him whether he'd ever seen the documentary, Road Scholar (1993), about Codrescu's trip through quirky America as a newly licensed driver and an American immigrant. He said he hadn't, but that he saw Codrescu on PBS just a few days ago. He brought some water out for Yuki in a plastic dish.

Done with my americano, we headed over to the lawn by the Arizona State Museum. The grass is so nice and cool in there and Yuki likes to sniff at the bases of the date palms and olive trees. I thought I'd let Yuki run around in the shadows of the olive tree area. But, a large group of around 25-30 people were in a circle near the roses with a leader standing in the center saying something, and I wanted to see. I wasn't close enough yet to hear the language being spoken, but from their faces and clothing, I thought they could be Chinese, maybe the Falun Gong group I have seen doing exercises in the same area.

I could hear a low chanting beginning as we got closer to the circle, then something else that I said to myself must be "speaking in tongues". During the time they chanted and spoke those sounds, I listened as unobtrusively as I could, leading Yuki around to sniff trees, close enough to hear, but far enough so as not to intrude. Yes, that must be speaking in tongues. In a flash, I remembered one of my Korean friends from MIIS who told me of her joy in learning to speak in tongues with her church.

When the circle of people began to form a line and walk onto the main sidewalk, I walked Yuki in their general direction in order to hear what language they were speaking. Ahh, they were speaking Korean. I asked a woman who they were and what they were doing. She said they were from a church and I saw hangyul (Korean letters) on some of the name tags that they wore. She added that they were walking through the campus praying for the safety of the university. "Oh", I said, and we both smiled. A few people turned to admire Yuki with those familiar oooh and ahhh sounds I've heard often over the years I've walked with Yuki.

* * *

Yesterday before the Soirée, which was a lot of fun, by the way, I read an article from The New Yorker I'd received that afternoon via email from another MIIS friend. The article is mainly about the language spoken by a group of people in the Amazon, the Pirahã, and the American linguist who has been studying their language and culture for 25 years, Dan Everett. The Pirahã "have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for “all,” “each,” “every,” “most,” or “few”—terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition" (p. 2).

The big claim is that the "Pirahã displays no evidence of recursion, a linguistic operation that consists of inserting one phrase inside another of the same type, as when a speaker combines discrete thoughts (“the man is walking down the street,” “the man is wearing a top hat”) into a single sentence (“The man who is wearing a top hat is walking down the street”). Noam Chomsky, the influential linguistic theorist, has recently revised his theory of universal grammar, arguing that recursion is the cornerstone of all languages, and is possible because of a uniquely human cognitive ability" (p. 2).

Here's the link to the entire article, published on April 16, 2007. It's a long read, but quite intriguing about the language of a tribe in the Amazon.

"...the tribe embodies a living-in-the-present ethos so powerful that it has affected every aspect of the people’s lives. Committed to an existence in which only observable experience is real, the Pirahã do not think, or speak, in abstractions" (p. 10).

* * * *

I read the article.
The article was interesting.
The article was long.
The article was about recursion.
Were Dick and Jane Pirahã?
And Spot, too?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Casa Libre en La Solana

This Saturday evening, June 23rd, is the Second Annual "Suite Sponsor Soirée" at Casa Libre en La Solana in Tucson. Five pieces of my art will be showing and for sale along with several other local artists' work. There will be poetry readings, live music, an art show, a raffle, an art auction, some yummy refreshments, and more. All for a good cause--to raise money for Casa Libre, the Southwest's only year-round retreat offering writers a place to write. So, if you are reading this and live in Tucson, come hear some excellent poets read from their work, enjoy live music, take a dip in the pool and jacuzzi (in case you're not hot enough already), and buy some local art. See you there!

Casa Libre en La Solana
228 N. 4th Avenue
Tucson, Arizona :)


$15 advance/$20 at the door

* * *
Here are Casa's fliers for the event--printed with detail from my painting Kameanji. The top picture shows three fliers lined up as a tryptich. Kameanji is one of my paintings for sale at the Soirée.
**Click**on pictures for a larger view.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Light, heat, sun, bright

Yesterday morning I got up with the sun as usual, between 5:15 and 5:30, sleeping with only a sheet over me. It's that time of year. Sheet weather, lizard and sandal weather. Don't leave home without your water weather. Take your hat with you weather. No need for a reminder in this kind of weather. In summer, hat & water are my fifth and sixth appendages.

Now I find more lizard tails and feathers in my house, but I don't like finding dead gekkos. Gekkos seem rarer and more vulnerable than the lizards, maybe because of their tanslucent pink skin. I praise Jesse for her hunting skill, but not with gekkos. With gekkos she gets only a stare from me. Then I repeat her name three times: "Jesse-Jesse-Jesse" like my mother did when I got into mischief as a child ("Nicole-Nicole-Nicole"), but I always laughed and smiled when my mom said that--and went on my merry way. I think Jesse does the same, she knows that I love her even though she hunts gekkos. She's just being her perfectly wonderful cat self.

* * * * *

In my neighborhood, we began berm forming for the trees and plants that we will plant on the street in front of my house. The ground is extremely hard to dig. Yesterday morning, we worked from 7am to 9am (too hot after that) and removed many large rocks of pure kaliche, like cement. The way the berms are formed will allow the natural rains (the monsoons--when they come) to water all the trees and plants without runoff to the street.

* * *

Summers in Tucson are like winters in the Arctic. If you like the snow, you enjoy being out in it for short periods of time, longer than that is too much to endure. Same in Tucson, the Sonoran Desert Bioregion. Those who cannot stand the heat leave. The rest of us... well, we take our cues from the animals. We find strips of shade when out walking in daylight, take siestas as much as possible, drink lots of water, always wear a hat, and enjoy the early mornings and anytime after the sun goes down. I love summertime. It's fun to talk about the heat even when it is so obvious; my friends and I always talk about the heat and about how dry it is. We commiserate about how cold the public buildings are kept in summer, like the University libraries and any large grocery store, which means you freeze inside unless you bring along a sweater or long sleeve shirt.

Last Friday, I went up to Mt. Lemmon with some friends and we talked about the heat and water and napping the whole way up. What else is there in Tucson to talk about in summer? Everything slows down, tens of thousands of snowbirds and most of the 37,000 UA students have left, and those of us who stay enjoy less traffic on the streets and a less crowded Downtown-UA-Arts District-4th Av area. I love bicycling around with less traffic.

Last week over tea with a friend at Seven Cups, we both mentioned that summer is our favorite time here for all the reasons I mentioned: slower, less people, we like the heat, napping, hats. Tucsonans' summer greetings commonly have some weather talk built into it, it's just what you do when you live in such an extreme climate. And now that we're into 100 plus degree temperatures everyday (37.77ºC plus), I've been hearing more of the "M" word in conversations. For example, "...when the monsoons come" or "I can't wait 'til the monsoons come", "Ahhh, it'll be good when the monsoons are here", etc.

Yes, the monsoons...but, I can wait. We haven't had that wonderful build up of intense dry heat yet, day after day after day of 102, 104, 109 degree heat, blue blue skies, and no clouds in sight. The cactus haven't puckered yet, I haven't walked in enough shade strips yet or felt enough of the relief difference makes once outside in the sunshine after being inside an overly air-conditioned building. The saguaros still need more sunshine for the coronas to bloom. The monsoons will come as the saguaro fruit ripens.

I love the heat and I'm glad so many people leave Tucson in the summer for their green grassy humid watery worlds (and I love green grassy watery worlds in a green grassy watery world environment--just not here in the desert).
We're happily thriving here.

* * * * * * *

My sunflowers seem to be taking the heat well, too. I water them morning and evening, or else they'd be brown and shriveled by now.

In between napping, bicycling in the heat, and enjoying potfuls of tea at Seven Cups, I drink cool bubbly mineral water with lime. Agua gaseosa con lima.

A cool afternoon meal.

Sheets dry in 5-10 minutes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

teapot no. 44

I painted teapot no. 44 this afternoon with acrylics on a piece of Walgreen's drawing paper. I stayed indoors in the relative cool of my house while the sun was baking the world outside (105ºF/41ºC). I wanted to paint with acrylics despite being completely out of white. To have some white in the picture, I decided to leave white space around everything. When I had almost finished, a titanium white tube appeared in my box of paints where I had previously looked and looked. So, I used some white at the end to touch up my white spaces and to soften some of the colors.

For the past few days I have been wondering whether making abstract art is something I will ever do. What is "abstract" anyway? Is something abstract when it gets farther away from realistic or representational, like that telephone game we play as children? I tend to draw and paint things that I see in front of me, or see in my imagination, and that are easily recognizable as an object even when not everyone can name the object. Some artists create feeling states with shapes, colors, and textures. The viewer may feel something in the paintings that I make, but the story in the drawing is usually the predominant feature. I'm not going to try to be abstract, especially since I don't really know what that means, but I am interested in experimenting.

The model for this painting was a watercolor of a teapot I painted several weeks ago (teapot no. 35) in my moleskine watercolor journal using a photograph of a teapot I liked on flickr. I added the round window with the stand of prickly pear and a mountain view. Here they are together:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Elixir II

Just finished painting Elixir II, one of my dream dwelling places I could easily live in. There's a vegetable garden, rice fields with a scarecrow (and crows), a red gate (torii), koinobori (flying fish kites) for Yuki, Jesse, and I, geta (Japanese wooden sandals), a lagoon leading out to the ocean (that could be me on the little boat out there), mountains with tall pine trees, and a thatch roofed house with sliding wooden and paper doors. There's no cactus, but nothing's perfect... I painted a scene similar to this before, a color copy of which can be seen here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Elixir I & teapots 41-43

Last night I started "Elixir I", one of five pieces that will be displayed (and which I hope will sell) at the Summer Suite Soirée at Casa Libre en La Solana on the 23rd of June. I have already matted and framed three of the pieces and will begin working on "Elixir II" tonight. I'm counting Elixir I as teapot no. 41 in my 2nd set of 100 teapots, this zen-like exercise that has taken on a life of its own.

What Elixir I looked like in progress this morning as I continued painting.

A close up of detail in Elixir I.

This is the finished piece.

* * * * *

And here are teapots 41, 42, and 43.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Meals I had this week and my food story

Dinner: a bowl of Anasazi beans (from Native Seeds/SEARCH here in Tucson) with cilantro, cumin, black pepper, jalapeño and tomato salsa, sea salt, red onion, lime juice, garlic, and melted sharp cheddar cheese; and a salad of romaine lettuce, sunflower sprouts, sliced radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil; Gerolsteiner mineral water with lime.

Lunch: slices of fresh mozarrella, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, sunflower sprouts, kalamata olives, red onion, black pepper, a little salt, oregano, and olive oil; and a plate of toasted whole wheat pita bread with Earth Balance spread.

Lunch: farfalle pasta with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, sea salt, and a little grated parmesan. The salad is composed of red leaf lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, red onion, carrots, tomato, apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

Snack: a plain bowl of brown rice eaten with my hands! Simple and yummy.

Afternoon tea: white peony tea and a small bowl of eda mame.

Snack: plain yoghurt with raw almonds and dried cranberries, a pear, and a cup of oolong tea.

Breakfast: Soba noodles mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil and sprinkled with black sesame seeds and sliced green onion.

Afternoon snack: Raw piñones, dried cranberries, dried apricots, raw almonds, sun.

Breakfast: Amaranth flake cereal (from a box) in soymilk with dried cranberries.

Tohono O'odham Pink Beans soaking (from Native Seeds/SEARCH here in Tucson). I soak all the beans I eat for at least 8 hours, then drain their soaking water and replace with fresh water before cooking. I like having a big pot of beans in the fridge; they make an easy meal heated up in a pot with the addition of some chopped vegetables, spices, salsa, melted cheese, and fresh tortillas.

This dinner meal was a bowl of Hopi Purple String/Rio Zape Beans (from Native Seeds/SEARCH here in Tucson) with cilantro, melted sharp cheddar cheese, red onion, salsa, cumin, and garlic; a green chile tamale* topped with cilantro and red jalapeño hot sauce, and my favorite hot weather beverage: sparkling mineral water with lime.

*Note: Tamale is an anglocized form of tamal. In Spanish, the singular form is tamal and the plural is tamales. For example/por ejemplo: Comí un tamal anoche (I ate a "tamale" last night). A mi me gustan mucho los tamales, son muy ricos (I love tamales, they are delicious).

A typical favorite breakfast meal (clockwise from upper left): stir-fried bok choy with garlic, sea salt, and pepper; tsukemono (Japanese style daikon radish pickles); salmon; yin zhen "silver needle" white tea; kim to eat wrapped around the rice (kim is Korean nori seasoned with sesame oil & salt. Yuki & Jesse also enjoy kim); rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds; miso soup with wakame seaweed, a drop of toasted sesame oil, bonito flakes, and sliced green onion. I make variations of this meal to eat at any time of day, eating raw or cooked tofu instead of, or in addition to, the fish (depends on how much protein I feel I need at the time), and with steamed greens, a small grated cabbage salad, or a seaweed & cucumber salad. Sometimes eda mame, sometimes natto, sometimes only rice, miso soup, and pickles; or soba instead of rice, and sometimes only rice with green tea!

* * * * * * *

My Food Story (short version):

I used to eat according to my ethnic culture and region. Now I eat rice.

* * * * * * *

My Food Story (long version, still-in-progress):

In 1979, I learned how to cook from my friend, Elliott Yamamoto, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Elliott was a second-generation Japanese-American (nisei) born and raised in Hawaii. 1979 was the year I first moved away from my family and Illinois to attend Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff. From Elliott, I learned the macrobiotic way of chopping vegetables, rotating the vegetables and cutting on a diagonal. Once a week or so, we got together to cook and eat what we made. Thus began my almost 30-year Japanese-y way of cooking.

During the week, I often ate dinner at a hippy, vegetarian co-op restaurant in Flagstaff that made a dish I loved called "Tofu Clouds". Tofu Clouds was a mandala of stir-fried vegetables and tofu surrounded by rings of fluffy brown rice and alfalfa sprouts. The servers all had dread locks or long long hair and wore colorful homemade hippy clothes and patchouli. Tofu Clouds came with miso soup and seaweed, and they offered condiments to sprinkle on your food like gomashio (crushed sesame seeds with sea salt), nutritional yeast, tamari, seaweed sprinkles, and Spike. After sampling the offerings at NAU then tasting the delicious meals at the vegetarian restaurant, I bought a restaurant punch card worth $50 that entitled me to 20 meals.

I much preferred the atmosphere of the restaurant with its whole grain meals and heavy wooden tables that you shared with co-op friends, over the bustling NAU cafeteria with its bland potatoes, salad bar, pasta, pizza, and cheesy beans. I needed more than just the salads I could eat at the university cafeteria and Elliott showed me how to prepare simple whole meals, even in a dorm room. I made brown rice and steamed vegetables with tofu, seaweed, and miso soup and started munching on brown rice cakes and sheets of nori for snacks. I liked learning to cook healthy foods by cooking with Elliott. I didn't pay much attention to the complexities of Macrobiotic philosophy, though I did read some books by Michio Kushi, George Ohsawa, and others.

Macrobiotic philosophy suggests specific times of day that are best to eat certain foods (according to the way foods grow naturally) and categorizes foods as Yin or Yang. I don't follow the macrobiotic philosophy. I follow what tastes and feels good to me. Anyway, chocolate mousse is not macrobiotic; I couldn't possibly follow a way of eating that does not incorporate an occasional yummy morsel of chocolate :).

Later, during my time in Japan (1985-1988), I continued to explore simple traditional Japanese foods, adding new ingredients and foods such as: natto (fermented soy beans), mochi (pounded glutinous rice), additional seaweeds, umeboshi (salted pickled plums), shiso (a delicate leaf herb), kimpira gobo (a grated carrot and burdock dish), Japanese squash (kabocha), osoba and udon (buckwheat and wheat noodles), mugicha (barley "tea" drunk in summer), and green tea (ocha!). I learned to cook tasty dishes from my Japanese friends and from co-workers at the natural foods shop in Kyoto where I worked part-time. I've been eating meals consisting of mainly Japanese foods for most of my life now. But it wasn't always that way.

* * * * * * *

In Chicago, where I lived from 0-18, my mom always cooked for us. My mom was--and still is--a really good cook of the kinds of Midwestern and Jewish foods I grew up on. I'm sure I inherited much of the artful way I prepare and arrange meals from my mom. At home, we always ate meals as a family around the kitchen table: my mom, dad, and two sisters. Our dinners lasted over an hour (often much longer) and included eating, talking, laughing, and story-telling. We usually ate a meat dish (including chicken and fish), a cooked vegetable, rye bread, sometimes a baked potato, and always a salad. I loved everything my mom made, except for asparagus which I still don't eat unless it is served to me by an unknowing friend, is disguised under some tasty dressing, or I feel like challenging my taste buds.

In the summer when I went to a ranch camp in Arizona for two months from age 6-17, I had no choice but to eat the white bread they served. We made little dough balls from the Wonder Bread, but I never considered that real bread; it was just camp bread. I liked the corn tortillas we ate at camp (it was Arizona!) and I loved the famous "mystery meat" whose origins were just that. One summer, I eagerly tried "rocky mountain oysters" (we branded cattle and rode in rodeos on a 40,000 acre ranch camp) and several times enjoyed rattlesnake cooked over an open fire while on horse pack trips.

During the holidays back in Chicago, I helped my mom and sisters make kreplach (dumplings), stuffed cabbage, matzoh ball soup, charoses (apple-nut-wine mixture for Passover), and latkes (potato pancakes). On a daily basis, meals were my mom's domain; my "job" (along with my sisters and my dad) was to eat. With a mom that cooked, I really had no need or desire to cook anything more complicated for myself than scrambled eggs, toasted rye bread, and challah. I could also make "fried" matzoh (which is not really fried, but "fried" is the translation from the Yiddish of matzoh brie) and I could put together a cream cheese & black olive sandwich or a bagel with cream cheese when I wanted it. Our refrigerator always had such items as Kosher dills, beet borscht, gefilte fish, beet colored horse radish, spinach borscht with lemon juice, and corned beef for sandwiches. These are some of the foods I grew up on.

As a child, my mom made our school sandwiches on challah (Jewish egg bread), rye bread, pumpernickel, or cracked wheat bread. We ate lukschen kugel (Jewish noodle cake), kishke (a kind of orange colored snake-like tube of mashed vegetables and wheat), brisket, lots of vegetables, fruit, chicken, beef, and salads. My mom always kept a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table and I ate fruit for snacks everyday. We never had any fried foods and I can't remember ever trying a doughnut until maybe 18 or 19 years old. Being from the Midwest, we always had delicious sweet corn in the summers that I husked in front of our house from a nearby farm and the fruit was fresh and ripe. Healthy, delicious food was abundant.

However, I didn't thrive exclusively on homemade Jewish foods and healthy Midwestern fruits and vegetables. With my 10 cents a week allowance, I satisfied my sweet tooth. I delighted in my secret bicycle trips to Alpine Pharmacy to buy myself a Butterfinger, a Three Musketeers', or a Nestle's Crunch bar. I also ate little containers of marble sundaes in the school cafeteria and chased after the Good Humor truck when it came into the neighborhood. When I could successfully convince my mom at the grocery store, she bought Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs besides the requisite (and boring) Kellogg's Cornflakes and Rice Krispies. And a few times, the cashier had already rung up the HOHOs I'd hidden under other items in the cart and the bagger had already bagged 'em up before my mom caught on.

At home, we also consumed American staples like Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, Lipton and Campbell's soups, Jello brand gelatin, and Kraft Macaroni 'N Cheese. On nights my parents went to the theatre, my sisters and I got to eat Swenson's TV dinners, which we thought were simply magical and wonderful treats.

Some of the kitchen "flavor" I remember most in Wilmette, was the kosher salami with Hebrew written on it, always hanging from a string in the kitchen. In the bread box I could always find rye bread, bagels, pumpernickel, or challah, and on the shelf always a box or two of matzoh, which I ate as a snack. A favorite treat was crunchy baked kichel from a Jewish bakery on Devon in Chicago. And on many Sunday mornings, we ate lox & bagels with several kinds of smoked fish after we came home from temple Sunday School. As for dining out, we frequently ate in Chicago's Chinatown and at nice European/continental restaurants in the city, but not Japanese. Not until I met Elliott and then six years later went to Japan on my bicycle trip.

In the meantime, at 16 or 17, my friends and I had decided to become vegetarians and to eat whole natural foods (except for on the holidays) without knowing exactly how to prepare these foods. In one of our classes at New Trier, we had all read Frances Moore Lappé's book, Diet For A Small Planet, and were rethinking our consumption habits. So my last couple of years in Illinois were my vegetarian dabbling years.

Once I got to Flagstaff after high school (1979), I was primed to incorporate a different way of eating. Exploring new ways to eat healthy was easy in Flagstaff since there was no place to buy lox & bagels and nobody seemed to know of matzoh ball soup or kreplach.

Perhaps it was Francis Moore Lappé's book that planted the Japanese-y natural foods seed in me, perhaps it was cooking with Elliott and eating at the local hippy veggie restaurant/co-op. Whatever it was, I consider all of it a blessing. The bagels, the seaweed, the mom who cooked, all of it.

* * * * *

ENjoy more of my food photos and drawings HERE.

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