Food in Social and Intercultural Interactions!

In the past three months, I’ve attended a Diwali (The Hindi celebration of Light in the Darkness) in my rural Kansas town, thanks for my friends and colleagues from India.  Two days later, I had a wonderful Filipino meal, which included Pancit, stews, and bread.  There I watched as my friends, Karen and Jonathan, parents witnessed their first snowfall, back in November.  All this while, I had the honor of interacting with a wide range of folks.  I learned a little more about them by sharing in their cultural celebrations and the foods of their regions and countries.  It’s my favorite thing to do!  I walk away, a little fuller in my stomach, heart, and mind.  I will chronicle some of the events, here.  The food from the Diwali included curry spices, chick peas, basmati rice, potatoes, chicken, and, in the white bowl, Gulab Jamun, these wonderful little pastry-like rounds soaked in syrup.  This food fed my soul!

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Eating with my friends, who hail from the Philippines, we were treated to pancit, a clear noodle and vegetables dish with lovely flavors of garlic and savory flavors of pork (the preference of our host).  We were also treated to a stew with beef and Lumpia, a spring roll of vegetables and meat.  Yes!  Also the first snow for Karen’s parents!

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Well, it’s been a few weeks since this pleasant evening out on the porch, but I’ve wanted to tell you about it for a while.  We call it, “Happy Hour”.  We each bring food and drink to share.  In addition to the homemade pizzas, cheese, and dessert that I offered, my friends brought cooked carrots, the best Leche de flan from my friend, Karen, who apparently learned to bake this velvety, smooth custard in her home country of the Philippines.  She’s pictured above with her parents’ first snow fall while on a visit to the U.S.  Another friend offered her sweet carrots, and another brought apple cobbler, and we had chicken pot pie.  In such “happy hours”, I’d say the conversation stands as the most important aspect with food bringing up a close second.  I found it interesting that, on this particular occasion, the men sat outside, and the women sat inside.  Hmmmm….I wonder why this happened. more-party-goers.jpg

For an appetizer, I made my own type of Bourisin cheese by draining whole-milk, Greek style yogurt in a hanging cheese cloth.  I added my own blend of dehydrated vegetables for a tangy cheese spread.  One of my favorite things to do is make pizza dough and have all the trimmings of vegetables, meats, cheeses, sauces (marinara and pesto are my favorite sauces to have available), and attendees make their own pizzas.  We have a great time.  Here are some of the offerings for this lovely October evening: 1) My “Boursin” cheese nestled in a clay pot, 2) Baked pizza with pesto, and 3) Leche de Flanimg_3742[1]img_3744[1]

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A Beautiful Young Lady

On September 27, 1981, a lovely little girl came into this world in last hour of the day.  We called her Riki Lee.  She was extraordinary in so many ways.  A natural leader, Riki was often called, “bossy”, because the world isn’t used to girls who lead naturally.  She went through school as a popular girl who gathered her peers at the house, or where ever young people gathered.

Riki tried everything, once.  She played bass guitar in a band and tried her hand at skating boarding.  She competed on the swim team, and did well.  She played basketball, and was the high score-maker that year.  What ever she tried, she did well.  Riki worked as a waitress during high school, and came to love food and cooking.

At the age of 22, Riki married her childhood sweetheart, Jonathan.  They had been best friends since the age of 12!  In their 14 years of marriage, they had three lovely children.  Riki worked as the director of nutrition for a school where she and her family live.  Riki made friends quickly, and she was known as “Mama Bear” to her large group of friends she lovingly called, “The Village”.   The Village gathered every Wednesday for Riki’s famous “taco bar”.  She was known as a bread-maker and a cook of extraordinary talent.  She was known for her homemade noodles, too.  Her sons said they’d never find someone who cooks better that “Mom”.

It would take pages and pages to talk about Riki’s extraordinary life, and it was cut too short.  On December 18, 2015 at 10:05 p.m., our son-in-law called to tell us Riki had a heart attack (She was 34), we jumped in the car and drove 9 hours through the night to get to her.  She was on life supports.  When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, The Village was in the waiting room of the intensive/critical care unit of the hospital.  There were about 8 couples waiting.  The men were openly weeping, and the women had the most frightened looks on their faces.  “What was happening to their beloved ‘Mamma Bear’?  I could feel such great love for our daughter in that room.

Riki had been on heart medication for the past 11 years.  Because of a switch in insurance, she had to change cardiologists.  The new doctor said, “You’re on strong medicine.  Let’s take you off of it and see how you do.”  Needless to say, that was a reckless call on the doc’s part.

Riki took her last breath New Year’s morning.  So many things run through one’s mind as one witnesses the last breath of a child in a similar setting as the first breath is taken…in a hospital.  The next dreadful step was to tell the children, ages 7, 11, and 12, that their mother was gone.  Watching their little hearts break was excruciating!

Riki loved life, and she loved people.  She was a wonderful mother, and a loving daughter to her parents and to her brother, Stevie.  When we think of her, we think of this smile:

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And this ornery streak:

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When my sister passed at the age of 60, I read the words of Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, “On Children” to give my mother some comfort.  Now, I read the words and find some comfort in them, too.   If you ever get the chance, listen to the poem as brought to music by a Capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock.  They bring an exquisite meaning to the words.

On Children by Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

We keep the memory of Riki in our hearts.  We can hear her voice.  We can hear her laughter.  May she watch over her children, and may she rest in peace.  Here is love to your, our beautiful daughter.

 

The Love Language of Food

Remember Gary Chapman’s book about the love languages?  I see truths in it.  Chapman’s premise centers on ways a couple demonstrate love to one another: words of affirmation, quality time, gift-giving, acts of service, and physical touch.  Actually, this communication and service go beyond couples in a committed relationship.  I think one can demonstrate loving language to any one.  Of course, there may be parts that are off limits.  For example, I have a co-worker that gives me vegetables from his garden, but I can’t imagine that we’ll ever exchange hugs!

So why is my featured photo a cauliflower steak?  I think I share the love language of cooking with my spouse.  We certainly share the desire to eat tasty and creative foods.  Cooking together, I suppose, falls into the love languages of “quality time” and “acts of service”.  Our meals together seem to be an affectionate time of the day, so I share our delicious meal tonight: grilled salmon, cauliflower steak, and rice with my ginger-soy-shallots-quince sauce.

First, I made a marinade for the salmon.  In the bottom of a rectangle glass cake pan, I added:

2 tablespoons (28g) sesame oil, 1 tablespoon (14g) grated ginger, 1 teaspoon (4g) garlic powder, grated pepper, 3 Tablespoons (42g) soy sauce, and a splash of teriyaki sauce to assure browning.  Mix it in the glass cake pan.  Then add salmon skin side up.  Smear the salmon in the marinade, and then repeat on the skin side.  Grill on the skin side down, with the grill lid closed, until  it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. (63 C) taken on the thickest part of the flesh.

I cook my rice in a rice cooker, and we usually put start it in the morning, and it stays warm until we’re ready to use it.  For the rice, I made a sauce.  We have a quince tree in the front yard.  It produces about six pieces of fruit on a good year.  Quince, related to apples, adorns a yard quite beautifully.  It blooms a lovely pink blossom in the spring, and turns a pale yellow in the fall.  The quince tree protects itself from predators with long thorns, which make harvesting the fruit a bit perilous.  My harvest take today was one piece of fruit.  Here’s the tree in the spring.

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The fruit packs a wallop in pectin, so it’s prized for thickening jams.  The one tiny, little fruit added pectin to thicken my sauce, and a sort of glutamate  flavor enhancer.  Here’s my recipe for the rice sauce.  I’m not going to call it a gravy, because it’s not heavy.  It’s a light sauce.

2 cloves garlic, 2 TBS (28g) sesame oil, 2 chopped green onions (set one chopped green onion aside for the final garnish), 2 TBS (28g) chopped ginger, 1 peeled and grated quince. (If you don’t have a quince, grate a half small apple), and 3 TBS (42g) soy sauce .  Cook all ingredients until it begins to thicken.  Add 1 cup (.23 kg) water.  Continue to simmer until thickened.

Rice topping

As featured in the header, the cauliflower was cooked in butter with some added salt and pepper.  Now it’s time to eat!

Salmon and the C steak

We usually eat our Asian-inspired rice dishes with chop sticks.  Here’s the rice.  To finish it, I sprinkled it with the chopped green onion and toasted sesame seeds.  We added a nice white wine, and watched Robin Hood with Russell Crowe (old movie).  Voilà!

Rice with my topping

Thank you for reading!

Loss and Grieving

Loss of a loved one garners emotions that hurt to the very core of who you are.  Humans experience such emotions, because we have the power to love.  We lost our lovely daughter nearly three years ago, and the deep pain never goes away.  We just learn to live with it.  Our daughter, Riki, married her childhood sweetheart.  They had been together since they were 12, and it was a life long love story until her death at the age of 34.  She left behind three bright and lovely children, and the love of her life, Jonathan, and her brother, Stevie, and her parents.

My observation is that people don’t always know what to say when a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance are grieving.  My suggestion is that you ask about it.  Ask about the well-being of the one who is grieving.  Give a loving pat, hug, touch, or anything that establishes a physical presence.  I cannot imagine anyone, in the throes of grief, who would not appreciate such a gesture.  It is a most generous gesture, and it takes nothing from you.

Also, I can tell you what not to say: “Life goes on.”  Not sure why anyone would say such a non-affectionate, heartless thing.  As the news got around about our daughter, several people said that to me.  Okay, I get it.  They simply did not know what to say.  Then, I think, say nothing at all.  Other phrases that I’ve heard, “Aren’t you over it yet?”It boggles my mind.

I can say, here, that grief is not a linear process.  One simply learns a new way of life with its emotional ups and downs while missing the loved one.  Our daughter was extraordinary, and we see it in her children.  She was on this earth, as their mother, just enough to instill her joy for life, her curiosity, and her acerbic wit!  We miss you so very much, Riki.  I’m not posting pictures of her family since the children are young, and Jonathan needs his privacy.

Now, are you wondering why there is a dog in my featured photo.  That’s our Scottish Terrier, Fiona.  She’s in our back yard, and please notice, she is under the watchful eye of St. Francis, patron saint of animals.

Fiona came to us 13 1/2 years ago.  Her parents, Skye and Shamus, and her brother, Tavish, lived with their humans, Jeff and Jo.  We shared furbaby sitting with Jeff and Jo.  We lost daddy, Shamus, in April 2017, mom, Skye, April 2018, and two days ago, Tavish went over the “Rainbow Bridge”.  Loss is never easy, even when it’s our family “pets”.  Our furkids are such a deep part of our lives, especially when those animals belonged to our children.  Here’s Tavish, Fiona’s brother:

Upclose Tavvie

Most people who have dogs or cats know that they are important members of the family.  I have read that children who are experiencing hardship, in any form, are better able to cope if they have a close relationship to a family pet.  I tend to think that dogs are the better choice.  I find that cats are a little too independent to be affectionate when there are high emotions in the home.

Our love of Scottish Terriers began when we bought one for Stevie when he was in 7th grade.  Beth, was affectionate and sweet.  We lost her to heart failure when she was eight.  We had found an abandoned cat, Skippy, who was two weeks old.  Bethy raised that cat with all the parental chores of the “whelping nest”. Here they are:

beth and skippy They were inseparable, and when Bethy died, Skippy screamed while looking for her, for weeks.  Their favorite past time was watching the world go by at the front window when they were not outside.  I have several pictures of the two, and the only thing that changed was the weather!

Skip and Beth at window

Sometimes, Skippy and Bethy even allowed the tabby, Clovis, to share their window-watching space.  Notice the snow.

three at window

We still have Fiona.  Skippy, Beth, and Fiona’s family are gone now.  We know that 13 1/2 is old for a canine, so we dread the day.  Our furkids continue to help us through our grieving for Riki, for which we are grateful.  Here’s Fiona and our sheep dog, Jitsu.  They’re watching it rain from the deck, Fiona looking woolly and in need of a Scottie trim.

J and F

Thank you for reading.

Hummus and Flatbread

I am passing the week with my 82 years old brother in law (Bill) who is in treatment for cancer.  While he does not want to be “taken care of”, I cannot help but want to cook, though I am not surrounded by the things in my own kitchen.   Fortunately, Bill and his late wife stock a well-used kitchen, as far as cooking utensils are concerned.  The ingredients in the kitchen are rather dated, so I am pleased to explore the groceries of Southern California (SoCal).  My focus turns on nutrient-rich foods served in small courses, more like appetizers.  My husband and Bill’s late, Hawaiian, mother would call them “poo-poos”.  Now before you snicker, Islanders serve “Poo-Poo Platters” much the same way Spaniards serve “tapas”, in other words, small bites.

Lucky for me, I once worked with an Egyptian woman who taught me her version of hummus, and it continues to be my favorite hummus, to this day.  My first challenge is that Bill declared to me that he “dislikes” hummus and chick peas.  I said, “Fine, then I’ll make it for us!”.  So, I will let you know how I make hummus and flat bread.

I like to cook with fresh ingredients.  No, I did not grow my own garbanzo beans, but I do purchase about 10 ounces of the dried beans.  I cook those in boiling water which as been generously salted until they are soft.  Once those are cooked and cooled, I am ready to proceed.  Oh, yes!   I don’t like the high price of tahini, or sesame paste, so I make my own.

Tahini:

1/2 cup raw sesame seeds.  Put them in a small, dry skillet and heat them, stirring often, until they are brown and toasted.  Notice in the photo, what “browned” sesame seeds look like.

Once the seeds are toasted, cool them.  The next step is to grinds the toasted sesame seeds.  I have a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for spices, seeds, and other things I need to grind.  I do not grind coffee in this grinder.

When the ground seeds resemble a paste, add olive oil to support a thick paste consistency.  Again, notice the tahini in my pictures.

Hummus:

Blend – 1-2 cups soft garbanzo beans (chick peas), 4 gloves of garlic, 1/4 to 1/2 Tahini, Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, the juice of half a lemon, and plenty of olive oil.  Blend until you have a nice consistency, to your taste.  ( I hope I remembered all the ingredients!)

Spread the hummus in a walled plate or wide glass pan.  Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle smoked paprika on top.  I like to decorate the middle with a few, set aside, beans for garnish.  Serve with flat bread.

The whole presentation of hummus and flat bread

Flatbread:

I just use a simple bread recipe of flour, yeast, a little sugar, salt, and a little oil.  Make a good dough, and let it rise for a bit (1/2 hour).

Form the dough in small rounds, about the size of a golf ball.  Roll out and cook on a hot griddle.  Cook on one side, and when you flip it to cook on the other side, a nice bubble will form.  Then you can call it a “pita”!.  I like to cut the round flat bread into fourths.

Serve with the hummus , which is high in fiber, protein, and good fats, with the olive oil.  The garlic is good for you, too.

Oh, I should tell you that Bill, who earlier said he dislike hummus, had three servings of his “small” bites!  Turns out he loves homemade hummus!  Things are always better when we make them from scratch!  I should mention that Bill likes herring in sour cream, so we served the hummus and flat bread with a side of herring in sour cream, to take from many cultures today.  The color of the food would have looked better on a darker-colored plate, but I made do with what I had.

On the plate

Enjoy, and thank you for reading.

A day in the lives of refugee and other immigrant families settling into new cultures

In this text, I have borrowed from myself.  I was attempting to write a white paper to help educators better understand the students in their classrooms.  I think it’s always best to back up and start at the beginning to understand a journey.

Why do people emigrate?  That is, what makes a family leave its own country and venture into an unknown land, in many cases, across oceans?  In most cases, this movement is considered a “Forced Migration”, which is displacement because of persecution, armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, natural or environmental disaster, famine, ineffectual government, or lack of financial opportunities (Baker, 2014; Goetz, & Rupasingha, 2007).  Often times, the process of migrating is dangerous and may take up to 10 years with many stops along the way (Salgado de Snyder, 2007).  Humans have always migrated, and it, likely, never will stop because of constant changes in governments and other political policies, food supplies, societal mainstream notions, and religious views.

For the past 25 years, immigrants of all statuses, have been part of my daily life living in Southwest, Kansas, both professionally and personally.  I’ve worked with Southeast Asian and African refugees.  I’ve worked with immigrants from all of the Americas (Meso, Central, South and North (I call them economic refugees), and with immigrants who come with professional careers from India, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, China, Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, Canada, and different parts of Europe.  It is an enriching experience to learn from those who come from other backgrounds.

All the immigrants who have come to Kansas in the past 30 years have one thing in common. They’ve come to the United States to seek better ways of lives.  Lives without conflict and strife.  Lives filled with hopes for their futures.  While their stories of how they arrived on the shores or across the borders into the U.S. vary, there are common denominators in the challenges of which they face.  The greatest challenge, possibly, is that of acculturation.  That is, fitting into a new land, learning the folkways and mores of the people, and understanding how their own cultures either blend or clash with the “mainstream”.  They do all this while trying to learn a livelihood for their families’ survival and hoping to move to a place of thriving in their lives.   There are many struggles and challenges of acculturating to new lives in new cultures. Granted, the Canadians with whom I’ve worked don’t have as many challenges because of a common language and European ancestry as the U.S. mainstream. However, the most obviously “different” immigrants do have challenges. For example, these are some of the question and comments that I hear along the way:

  • How and where do our children go to school?
  • Is there a place for me to learn English?
  • Where do we get an identification and address immigration status?
  • What are rules for driving a car?
  • Where do we get the foods of our traditions?
  • What are the rules for schools regarding age of entry, immunizations, school readiness?
  • Where do we find child care provider for our children?
  • Where do we find a doctor?
  • Is there public transportation?
  • Are we safe to walk to where we need to go?
  • “We are starting all over, and I need to purchase items for my home, again, and I don’t know anybody, so I have to make new friends, too.”

 

The United States is heading toward a demographic where there will be no one majority of population by the year 2040 (World Bank).  My observation is that this notion strikes fear in people.

After nearly 30 years of living, working, and playing alongside the immigrants who have come these past three decades, my observation is that they have not come to colonize these lands and the mainstream.  They (immigrants) have come for better lives for their children.  Historically, most are the victims of colonization on their lands of origins.  If you get the opportunity, hear their stories, share their foods, understand their laughter, and most importantly, empathize with the fears that pushed them out of their home soils.

Thank you for reading.