My featured image illustrates the loveliness of our daughter, Riki. We lost her, nearly six years ago, to a stroke at the young age of 34 years. She would have been 40 on September 27. She had lived with atrial fibrillation for 11 years, and a new doctor took her off her medicine “to see how she’d do!” I had later read that taking someone off this particular heart medicine could lead to stroke. The new cardiologist simply listed Riki as a “non-compliant patient” to avoid any law suit. Left behind were three young children, a husband, and a loving family to ponder, “why?”
Riki was a leader. She exercised her voice to support and advocate for those who did not have a voice. She was a devoted daughter, sister, mother, spouse, and friend. She loved her work as a school nutrition administrator. Riki was full of energy, and she loved innovation in meal preparation and addressing life’s challenges. Some called her, “bossy,” because strong women scare those who do not have the confidence to put themselves “out there!” She worked hard, played hard, and loved hard, and that’s what made Riki unique and beautiful.
If my daughter learned anything from me, it was to gather friends and family to socialize around stories, laughter, music, and food. I learned even more from her about the stewarship of great friends. She hosted her “village” every Wednesday for a “taco bar.” She loved to cook, and she cooked fabulously. Her friends loved all that Riki was. One of Riki’s dear friends, Danika, began a tradition of making Riki neck garlands out of the peppers from the garden. A few years back when “the village” was celebrating Riki’s birthday, I was gifted with the chili necklace. I dehydrated the hot monsters, and I use the pepper flakes, very sparingly, in recipes calling for some heat. About a week ago, Danika did it again! She sent a chili garland! The chilies are bright and lovely, and the flakes proved to be quite potent! Behold, the color! I call the chili flakes, “Danika’s Chili Blend,” or simply, “Danika.”
Today, Riki’s boys work for Danika, Riki’s best friend, in the kitchen, at a local pub/restaurant. The 18 year old just started college, and the 17 year old is a senior in high school.
What we know is that she was a beautiful, unique, loving, and thoughtful person. Most of all, Riki loved her children and her spouse, Jonathan. They miss her dearly. We were lucky enough to get a visit from Jonathan and Sam, Riki’s only daughter, this past weekend. The “boys” have jobs, so were not able to make the trip. We honored Riki with meals around the table, as was her practice, and stories of her life.
While we tend toward daily thinking about our time on earth with Riki, we rejoice in that we see her so heavily in her children. While I know that our son-in-law will likely find love again, we see her influence in him, too, and we know that he keeps Riki in his heart.
We will celebrate her birthday this evening with one of her favorite dishes: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. One of the most lovely things is that she and her brother, Stevie, had a very close and loving relationship. He will likely celebrate his sister with a fire and tobacco blessings (from our Indigenous teachings). I look forward to the pictures that he sends when he has a fire. Come to think of it, we will have a fire, too.
My featured image is one I took from a car as I was about to board an airplane from Los Angeles International Airport. At one time, the Mid-century structure was used as a restaurant and remains a symbol of the airport. I like the “Atomic Age” design, which the light poles further establish.
My topic today explores a framework that we can employ in our learning processes of one another. National Geographic Society uses this framework to help people understand the concepts of geographical inquiry. The Society calls it a, “Learning Framework.” I adapted NGS’s framework for teaching self-awareness, which greatly improves how we interact with those who we see different than ourselves. I call it, “A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others.”
Did you know there are people who do not recognize that they have a culture? This continues to be a heavy subject in my teaching. Teaching cultural awareness required that I create/adapt this framework. Usually, I present this in a table for easy usage. Here, I present the framework in narrative form. The framework focuses on three elements: Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge each with three subheadings.
A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others
Curiosity: Engage in an on-going process of learning about yourself, about others around you, and about the environments (spaces) you and they inhabit.
Responsibility: Have concern and care for the well-being of other people, their journeys, and their experiences.
Empowerment: Understand your unique lived experience. Developing shared experiences builds self-confidence in social interactions. Empower others by internalizing that “different” is not bad or threatening. State your opinions and listen to others.
Observation: Create a framework for knowing through the “mental” gathering of data, which informs our daily behavior and interactions. Are you able to observe without judgement?
Communication: Use language and media that speaks to truth, historical uses of words, and implications of wording in spoken language, writing, visual, and audio media. Apply this mindset to advancing learning about self and others.
Relationships: Collaborate across disciplines to advance understanding. Listen to re-state the main points and to find common ground. Above all, build and value your relationships, which dissolve the lines of difference.
Understand the Human Journey: No two humans have the same journey. Share the story of your journey. Listen to the story of another person’s journey. All humans develop their preferences, their ways of knowing, and their observations of others depending on their journeys. Do some humans have an advantage over others based on their journeys?
Understand the Interconnected Human Systems and their Dynamic Forces: Seek and internalize frameworks of information to discern between truth and convenience. Discern the quantities, patterns, rhythms, and symmetry in human systems. How are they unique, and how are they related? How do they change over time?
Acknowledge and Celebrate Human Difference: The social construction of hierarchies, class, and race historically benefit some groups and put others at a disadvantage. We can build relationships across these social barriers to see one another as individually contributing to the social fabric of humanity. Celebrate this.
This may not be the answer to every little thing in human interactions, but I do believe that it can be a start in our interpersonal relationships with those from cultures different than you own. Yes! Every human has a culture! Simply put, our cultures come from our knowledge and beliefs systems. Culture comes from our patterns of behavior learned from childhood, our language, our symbols and institutions. Culture is created, learned, and shared. Thrown together, the definition of “culture” seems to challenge people. To some, “culture” might seem an abstract concept mostly because some do not think about what constitutes “culture”
Sit down and think about your own patterns of behavior. Where did they originate? Human difference is a marvel. Celebrate it.
As COVID restrictions begin to ease a bit, we appear to be interacting more often and frequently, without masks. I hope we are not being premature in our ease. I read a quick headline today that said that our isolation for the past 20 months may have taken a toll on our cognitive functions. I think we shall see more on that as we continue to examine the far reaching effects of a pandemic in contemporary times.
I must admit that I have ramped up my interactions across the dining table, both at home and with friends. One of the great opportunities of working at a university gives me the privilege of working with students from a variety of backgrounds, countries, geographies, and traditions.
My “featured image” demonstrates the diversity of my interactions that include dining. Enoch, a city planner, and Elfadil, a soil scientist, hail from Africa: Ghana and Sudan, respectively. These two brilliant young men prepared a feast for hubby and me. Each dish featured chicken, and one dish feature the addition of goat.
When Enoch comes to our house for dinner, he often treats us to Jollof Rice. He gets the spice blend from his home country, blended by women who specialize. He shared a nice pint sized jar with me. The best I can do is taste and try to decide what’s in it.
I taste the seasoning mix, and then write down what I think: crushed chicken bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, onion flakes, chili flakes, black pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. While I am certain that the “spices” contain other ingredients, this is what I think I know, for now.
Let me tell you about the stews, which our hosts served with rice, which they prepared with cardamom pods floating in the water during the cooking process. First the gentlemen offered a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber served without dressing. I forget that a salad does not need any type of dressing to be satisfying. Then the stews…
First of all, I love that they offered hot tea with the meal in small glasses. It made the evening so elegant yet simple. We ate around the coffee table in the small, student apartment, which was a celebration of its own.
Both Enoch and Elfadil shared their recipes:
Enoch’s goat and chicken stew:
Brown goat chunks and chicken thighs in garlic, ginger, hot pepper, onion, tomatoes, black pepper and Jollof rice spices. Blend vegetables. Sauté the vegetables, then blend them. Add water. Simmer for the afternoon preceding dinner time. Serve with fragrant rice.
Elfadil’s chicken stew:
Fry onion, add salt, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, curry, mix all together. Add garlic. Add cut chicken to mix. Put lid on and simmer. “Wait for the magic to happen!” (My quote, not Elfadil’s) After cooked, add tomato sauce and let cook for 5 minutes and add garlic. Replace lid for 5-10 minutes before serving. It simmers into a rich thick stew.
Enoch’s goat and chicken, pictured above, is the redder sauce of the two. Both stews tasted warmly rich with the combination of spices most aromatic to the senses. We ate heartily!
I had a geography student live with us five years ago while she gathered data. We lived in another part of the state at the time, and I worked for the same university in another research position. Anyway, when the student returned to campus, and I had to be there, she cooked for me in her tiny, student apartment. She was from China. ” Kathy Su” prepared a feast of meats: beef, chicken, and lamb. She roasted all the meats separately in her tiny oven. She flavored the meats with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oils. Each meat added its own flavor profile to the similar ingredients. Kathy chopped the meats and then put them back in the oven to finish cooking to tender morsels with crispy edges. She served a big dish of steamed rice, and we enjoyed the meats, which were “finished” with chopped green onions! I wish I had pictures, but I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Once again, simple ingredients for a sublime dining experience.
Next time, more flavors from the kitchen. Thank you for reading me!
This week I am part of a conference called, Cambio de Colores, Change of Colors. The conference focuses on the Latinx diaspora. I presented on topics of adaptive and culturally relevant practices theory and youth development identity. My focus for my workshops in this conference was on Indigenous peoples in the Native diaspora of the United States. The topic idea of this blog came from one of the plenary speakers, Dr. Maribel Alvarez, whose topic was food ways of, mostly, Latinx peoples, but I thought it certainly generalized to me and my Native identity, as it does to other identities. The speaker said, “We [often] use food as a tool to find common ground.” She added, “Sharing food is one of our greatest secular rituals.” Brilliant! That has been my practice since I began my active life in the Kitchen.
My work in the garden this week gave me much to write after having spent much time in the kitchen this week. My featured image today shows the six-lined racerunner (lizard) running through the vegetable and herb garden. It proved to be nice company. Now, I back up to two weeks ago when my neighbor shared oyster mushrooms. She, apparently, enjoys the bounties of a friend who grows these beautiful fungi, so she shares her abundance with me! I so love the umami that edible fungi add to food dishes, so I prepare something immediately when my neighbor shares, and there remains some to preserve for future use.
For the rice noodle soup, I began by chopping the lovely mushrooms, and adding onions, garlic, celery to sauté in butter and sesame oil. When all was fragrant, I added peas and carrots. While I cooked the mushrooms and veggies, I soaked the rice noodles in warm water. Once all the veggies were smelling most fragrant, I added two cups of vegetable broth. (You can use any type of broth. I just happened to have the vegetable broth in the freezer that I prepared from a windfall of veggies. I let the veggies and broth come to a simmer, and then I added the softened rice noodles. I added soy sauce and let it simmer for one minute, or so. It made a lovely evening meal. To finish my preparation with the mushrooms, I sautéed the remaining mushrooms in butter and put them in the freezer so that I have them for the next meal that calls for mushrooms, such as marinara sauce or in macaroni and cheese, or what ever dish calls for mushrooms.
Well, I wonder if your garden is beginning to produce herbs and vegetables. I am not sure why, but I seem to over plant basil. This year I have giant basil. I took a trip to a community garden plot that went in the ground about two weeks before I planted the one in my yard. This garden, planted by colleagues as a learning opportunity for urban students, is crazy with herbs, squash, and peppers. I picked basil, spearmint, cilantro, and parsley along with a few strawberries (eaten on site!) and three zucchini.
Basil and mint come from the same family of square-stemmed plants. Others in the mint family include thyme, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, and marjoram, to name a few. I began preparations with the mint. I made mint pesto. I thought it would pair well with lamb. Think of preparing the traditional basil pesto.
I took five big hands full of mint. For recipes like this, I rarely measure or weigh the ingredients, so these are estimates for Mint Pesto:
Three packed hands full of fresh mint, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, harissa (combination of peppers), garlic, olive oil, small amount of lemon juice, and two small hands full of mixed, raw nuts (almond, walnut, hazelnut, pistachio, and cashew). Be sure to omit any nut if you have a concern about allergens. I like using raw pumpkin (pepitas) seeds for pesto. Use what ever you have on hand. Blend until smooth and aromatic.
The pesto blended into a beautiful sauce easily frozen to later thaw in the vibrant color it had before freezing.
With the abundance of cilantro and parsley, I made chimichurri sauce, popular in Uruguay and Argentina. The delightfully green sauce pairs well with grilled meats. I like it on fish and shrimp tacos. Actually, it’s so fragrant as I blend it, I can’t help but take a spoon full just like that! I have changed the recipe a bit from what I hear is the authentic recipe from Argentinian ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I like to substitute with sherry vinegar)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (In addition to the parsley, I also added about the same in cilantro)
3-5 cloves of garlic (for this batch, I used a combination of onion sprouts and wild garlic, pictured below)
2 small red chilies (I was out of red chilies, so I used 1/2 teaspoon of harissa, which combines chilies with peppers)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper (That is in my harissa)
Now, after I made my Chimichurri, I learned that one does not process in a blender. Oops! I did! Instead, I should have chopped everything and let it sit in the oil and vinegar for a few hours to bring out the flavors. I will do that next time. Here is my finished product, though I will do it “right” the next time. I am told that those in Argentina use it for basting, rather than marinating, as the meat is on the grill. It can be used to finish the meat just before serving. Again, I like it on fish or shrimp tacos. Chimichurri freezes very well and retains its bright green color when thawed. Thaw it in the refrigerator about three hours ahead of intended use.
Farmers markets offer great variety in seasonal vegetables and fruits, if you do not have your own garden. The asparagus in my garden was planted last year, so I did not get any sort of a crop this year. Hopefully next year. Our farmers’ market yielded great asparagus this year. I’ve been playing with it in my pasta recipes. As I play around with different iterations of a recipe for asparagus-based pasta, perhaps this may interest you.
Chop onions, garlic, flowering chives, mushrooms (thawed from the frozen oyster mushrooms previously prepared), a tiny zucchini, for this recipe. I think one can be quite creative in making this.
I start with chopped bacon or ham as my base for flavor. Then I add the veggies. Then I add seasonings including my prepared pesto. Once all the veggies are added and have cooked for a short while, I add a half cup of white wine and cover for a short simmer. Then I added parmesan cheese and cream. Allow to thicken, then serve. It goes well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. I served the sauce with rotini, this time.
Finally, I leave you with one more of my dishes from the bounty of the garden, already over flowing with basil. Caprese salad appears in a few iterations. Its simplicity makes it a lovely, fresh salad. I like mine ever better when I make the cheese myself. With temperatures hovering in the high 90s (Fahrenheit), I opted not to stand over a steaming kettle of whey and cheese solids. The grocery maintains a nice stock of fresh mozzarella. Large tomatoes are not setting in the garden, either, so this comes from the produce section.
Simple ingredients: Sliced tomato, sliced mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Look at the size of my basil leaves!
After I arrange my three ingredients (cheese, tomato, and basil leaves) on the plate. I mix a dressing of my prepared pesto with some balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Then, I drizzle the dressing over the salad. I find it to be a heavy salad when eaten prior to a meat-based dish. I tend to have a caprese salad with a lighter or vegetarian pasta-based main course. The gigantic size of my basil leaves hides the other two slices of tomato and cheese.
I hope we found common ground with one another through sharing recipes. My next entry will focus more on sharing such meals with friends and family.
I work at a university with a leadership studies college. The school invites varying faculty, staff, and administration to talk about personal priorities and interests. As I always say, the more we know about one another, the more that the lines of separation fade. I love this notion of inviting people to talk about themselves. It becomes the living libraries favored by many communities. Here is one of my stories.
My father used to tell me, “Know something about everything and everything about something, and you will always be able to find common ground with another person.” I have a penchant for music, literature, geography, history, art, language, biology, architecture, travel, navigation in air travel, and people. Curiosity was the most important thing to my father. He taught me to be curious, always! Actually, I think my varied interests greatly inform my work in intercultural development, or helping humans find common ground with one another. It’s what I live. It’s what I love. I like to begin my classes, workshops, and presentations with a land acknowledgment:
My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley in Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute).
In Kansas, I live and work on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations, including the Kaw, the Osage, and the Pawnee. Kansas is currently home to the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Iowa, and the Sac and Fox Nations.
I am grateful to these Nations.
Please remember these truths.
It can be quite enlightening to research and discover what Indigenous Nation occupied the land on which you live, work, and play. We can think about:
Who granted the land?
Who held the land previously?
What was the U.S. Homestead Act of May 1862? Who was given land, and who was removed from said land?
So, I begin all my teaching with this acknowledgment. I am honored and obligated to my ancestors to do it.
Next in my processes of teaching, I acknowledge myself and my identities. Here are a few of the things with which I identify:
•Native (Ohkay Owingeh/Diné/ Uncompahgré) •Human Ecologist/Geographer •National Geographic Society Explorer •Social Researcher •Banjo player •Mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, writer… •King Alfonso X enthusiast, the original pluralist! •Blogger •Craftsperson •Nature enthusiast.
I could also say, I’m a mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, and writer.
Embedded in each of these identities that I share with you denotes aspects of my of my culture. However, the most challenging part of working to educate students, especially those from a dominant identity (Anglo-European descent) about culture is that they possess a culture. Many of my students tell me, “I don’t really have a culture. I’m just an American.” That just tells me that they have not thought about their identities.
Each of us, if we think about it, has several identifying factors that contributes to our cultural identity. You have the same sets of identities – each with sets of verbiage, practices, and thought processes that are part of your culture.
Certainly, our environments influence our patterns of behavior, our ways of knowing, our ways of living. I grew up in a mountain environment, as pictured here. We learn certain behaviors to thrive in mountain valleys, which can be different than the tallgrass prairie where I live now. In humans’ cultural practices, we learn, adapt, and adopt, often maintaining our foundational family and community systems.
Prairie or mountains: both are beautiful, and we adapt and adopt the cultural aspects of each geography.
Speaking of geography, I grew up in a household where National Geographic magazine was honored as much as the family bible. My father read them from cover to cover. My brothers saw them as anatomy lessons. I vowed to visit all the places imaginable. My work with National Geographic Society, as an explorer, put me in company with the likes of Maria Mitchell, noted astronomer in the 19th Century, Munazza Alam, 21st century astrophysicist searching for Earth’s twin, Harriet Chalmers Adams, journalists in the French trenches of World War 1, and notably, traveled to Africa to see Haile Selassie’s coronation as emperor of Ethiopia. Of course, everyone knows the names of Edmund Hillary, Jacques Couteau, and Alexander Graham Bell as NGS explorers, but I encourage you to seek out the females who made great strides in the name of discovery. Being a NGS explorer is the greatest way I can honor my father’s love of knowledge.
Two of the great products of my NGS funding was developing introductory course in geography for females of color, now in its fifth year, also thanks to our Center for Engagement and Community Development’s incentive grants, I was able to study the women in the African diaspora in rural SW Kansas, which became a chapter in a book recently published. Here’s a picture of the book. My chapter covers the women of the African Diaspora now settled in Southwest Kansas. It tells of the brave women, displaced from their countries by war, worked in the beef packing plants while raising families and navigating health care, educational, and faith systems.
If you have read previous blog entries of mine, you would know that I greatly esteem George Washington Carver, the great genius in botany, invention, music, art, and philosophy.
Carver had a small homestead in Beeler, Kansas. As a child, his slave owners near Diamond, Missouri actually saw his genius in plant pathology. He came to Kansas, finished high school, and applied and was accepted into Highland college until he showed up. Carver was denied a college education in Kansas, because of teh color of his skin.
He found his academic home, first at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Only being allowed to study the fine arts, his art teacher took great interest in his botanical illustration. She connected Carver to her biologist husband who was teaching at what is now Iowa State University. Carver received is Master’s degree there where his brilliance was duly noted by Henry Ford, who had invited him to work since Carver had created rubber out of golden rod. Thomas Edison tried to recruit him as an inventor since Carver was noted as a great inventor, having patents on wood stains made from peanuts and sweet potatoes. Alas, he went to work at Tuskegee “Normal” Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, because it was there that he’d “do the most good.” Carver taught chemistry, botany, and other biology at Tuskegee until his death. I found this picture on the internet with Carver’s rules to live by: “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.”
Once a year, I pay homage to King Alfonso X, who ruled Castile-Leon (now Spain) in the 13th Century. Here are a few facts about the “Learned King.”
He ruled from1252 – 1284 13th C. Medieval – Father of Castilian language, which we now call Spanish. During his time, his language was Galician-Portuguese, also called “Romance”
420 songs, poems, and commissioned 3 dimensional pieces as a way to teach morality to his subjects.
He had just missed being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor because he was “too learned!” according to the Pope of the Catholic Church at the time. I wrote a blog better examining the King last November. No doubt, I will write another about the king in the coming fall.
I like learning about different species in the animal world. I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo in Southwest Kansas. If you want to learn more about a subject, teach it! I was able to handle lots of cool animals. Here I am with a goshawk.
Finally, exploring my Indigenous roots remains an important part of my identity. I still practice the food, the songs, and the rituals of my grandmothers. The fire featured as my main image illustrates one of those practices of cleansing with smoke. I am born for the Ohkay Owingeh and the Dine and born to the Uncompahgre Ute. I have DNA ties to the Athabascan, Alaskan Native. My people, called the San Juan Pueblo by Spanish colonizers of what is now New Mexico. Spaniard plopped right on the Village at the confluence of the Chama and the Rio Grande Rivers. Our villages straddled the rivers, so there was much struggle to keep our culture, our food ways, and our identities as The People of the Strong Land. You can see a stature of our great leader, Popay, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Despite the push toward erasure, we are still here!
My family remains the most important, my children, grandchildren, spouse, parents, siblings, and extended family, natural and adopted, as I call my dear friends. Find what makes you happy, and develop curiosity about an array of subjects. For me, I can only think knowledge is the best brain food.
My featured image comes from the lovely and great bush of peonies in my front yard. I love how the stamen of the flower form in the shape of a ragged heart nested among the petals.
You may be thinking that “self-care” does not happen in the kitchen. I know a few people who do not feel a sense of healing Zen in the kitchen. I do. I love the act of creativity, and I like being creative, even in the kitchen. I have written about happy [food] accidents, and so I share a few more.
While not a kitchen discovery, I have long enjoyed interactive food preparation, too. Still observing a “Covid Bubble,” in terms of those with whom we interact closely, we enjoyed a small group of friends who came to dinner this past weekend. The menu consisted of my sourdough (used for many loaves of bread), for pizzas, and their toppings. I did cut up some veggies, and our friends brought a variety of toppings, too.
After a short lesson on rolling out the dough, we each prepared our “crusts.” Once they were rolled out, we threw them on a hot grill to set the dough, which helps guard against shrinkage. Grilling the pizza dough also gives it an added smoked flavor. Grilling only takes about one minute on each side. Then the dough is ready for its toppings.
As a foundation, I made tomato-based sauce and offered my homemade pesto, which makes for great pizza sauce. Also, I had baked garlic swimming in olive oil as another spread for the
Here is a great shot of Dale and me standing by pizzas waiting for oven space. And another of the beautiful ladies creating their own pizzas. Photo credit SLA.
Actually, anyone can make an instant pizza party. You can get ready-made pizza crusts, or pita and Naan breads in the store serve as pizza crusts quite nicely. Actually, making pizza dough from scratch can be whipped up in your mixer. Use 2 pounds (0.907kg) and 20 ounces (566.99g) liquid. I like to use half water and half beer), 3 tablespoons (42.52g) yeast, 2 teaspoons salt, and 3 tablespoons of oil). Mix well, and knead on a floured surface. Let rise, and roll out into pizza crusts. I like to “set” the rolled out dough on the grill. You can do the same on a griddle. It just sets the dough so that it does not shrink after you add the toppings.
Make a red sauce similar to a spaghetti sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Use salt and pepper to taste, and throw in some basil. The sauces are easy to acquire, and you can make up your own. Remember, gather friends and be creative.
We love breakfast, and we try to make it special. I like to experiment with different types of foods to go with our chosen hot beverage of coffee or tea. I like “Dalgona” whipped coffee, or we have espresso topped with whipped foam sweetened with a little coconut sugar, which gives it a rich flavor, like brown sugar. When I lived in a community rich with African refugees, I loved shopping in their “sundries” store. When I shopped there, Sarai (the lovely woman who worked with the store owner, Adam), would treat me to their tea. She used “Keteapa” from the Kenyan Tea Packers, a rich black tea. Sarai brewed the tea with honey, cinnamon stick, cloves, fennel seeds, and cardamom seeds. Once it brewed, she added cream or half and half. Delicious! The other day, I had baked sourdough bread, and I wanted to have a healthy breakfast that included the bread. I came up with the idea of one cup of peanut butter, plus a half cup local honey, and two tablespoons of a mixture called “trilogy.” Actually, you can prepare “trilogy” yourself. Take even amounts of flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. I like to put this mix in my bread making for added fiber.
So, I mixed the trilogy into the cup of peanut butter and half cup of honey. I spread the mixture on toasted sourdough bread. We fell in love with it instantly. It saves well, and goes well with a nice cup of “Sarai’s tea!”
I am always interested in favorite meals for people. Often, our favorite meals consist of those that provide ease of preparation with maximum flavor profiles. Often, we base those favorite meals on regional and cultural preferences. I have my favorite “grandma” meals, which certainly demonstrates our Indigenous culture and mountain regional influences with frybread, cooked beans with steamed/dried sweet corn, and mutton (I use lamb, however). I do have many favorite meals, and this one can be as simple or as complicated as one wishes.
Actually, when I do not have beef steak, I like to use grilled salmon or a grilled piece of chicken. The point, for someone who eats animal protein, is to have your protein with a nice, green salad. I like my salads with a great variety of greens and other veggies. Occasionally, I like to add grapes, raisins, or cranberries. With a great crop of dandelions in my yard, greens from the yard even adds a nice flavor profile. Some find dandelion greens to be bitter, but with all the other flavors in the salad, any sort of bitterness disappears. Before I toss the salad with a balsamic dressing with a hint of creamy dressing, which I think helps to emulsify the oils and acids of the vinaigrette. After I toss the salad, I add a final bit of dry roasted sunflower seeds or some nuts.
While I put the final touches on the salad, my protein is in the final stages on the grill. On the two pictures, you see the dandelion greens prominent on the left side and the finished product on the right side. I do not treat my lawn with chemicals, so my greens provide a nutritious crunch to my salads. Make sure you know whether or not your greens are safe for consumption. Prepare your protein to taste. Usually, I like my beef a little more rare that pictured.
That’s all I have today. Thank you for reading. I hope you have peace and comfort where ever you are.
My featured image was painted by one of my best friends and favorite artists, Carole Geier. Her Ribbon Dancer comes later in the narrative, too. I’ve featured her art previously on my blog. It relates to this blog entry as it features a contemplative woman, which may describe me and the main character in the short story of which I will review.
Before I was a geographer and human scientist, I was an English major. It seemed a likely choice given my interest in literature. My love for music also drove my work in public radio. Like comparative analyses that we do in literature, I like to do the same with music.
Toni Cade Bambara, who was active in the 1960s and 1970s as a writer, film-maker, social activist, and college professor, wrote some fabulous short stories. I like that her writing used great rhythms in the narratives. Gorilla, My Love stands out for me, so I share this review that I wrote for Bambara’s narrative about Harlem through the eyes of the young “Hazel.” The story addresses many experiences of the young African American female, including her views of social injustices. This short story brilliantly illustrates a gifted young female, who, for many reasons, does not get her due respect from society.
My commentary is rather dense, so I will break it up with photos that may or may not connect to my narrative.
Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara
Critics writing about Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “Gorilla, My Love” agree that her use of language promotes positive images about black urban life, and teaches important lessons without becoming preachy. Ruth Burks, Elliott Butler-Evans, Klaus Ensslen and Madhu Dubey point to no weaknesses in Bambara’s story. Rather the weaknesses lie in their criticism because of detachment from Bambara’s characters’ culture, misuse of words, and faulty interpretation of the text. The critics, rightly, cite Bambara’s use of a young female as a brilliant tool to give the story the ability to address social injustices without heavy-handed didacticism (Dubey 19), but they show disconnectedness with the writer’s culture, for example, by not recognizing the difference between street-wise and precocious when describing Bambara’s main character, Hazel. Each espouses strong opinions about a culture that perhaps none truly understands. The four critics each agree that Bambara’s language received heavy influence from the music of black Americans. They don’t; however, appear to know what elements in the music Bambara imitates when she writes. For instance, they use terms interchangeably, like jazz and Negro spiritual, when explaining the rhythm of Bambara’s story. The faulty criticism, however, does not lessen the strength of Bambara’s tale because the overall tone of the critics’ ideas stayed supportive.
Burks, Butler-Evans, Ensslen and Dubey each cite Bambara’s use of Black urban vernacular as a successful way to give readers a realistic picture of a black child’s life in her neighborhood and community. Elliott Butler-Evans describes Hazel’s speech patterns and delivery as a “restricted linguistic code of Black urban life” (94). His narrow vision doesn’t consider that some of Hazel’s verbal expressions come from immature language development and have nothing to do with her ethnicity. For instance, she uses the term “scary” for scared. She contracts the demand, “let me” to “lemme.” She calls Big Brood’s Spaulding basketball or baseball glove a “Spaudeen” (Prescott 676). She uses incorrect placement of a possessive in, “And I’m flingin’ the kid in front of me’s popcorn” (Prescott 677). While many might point to Hazel’s dialect as “the language of lazy or under-educated Americans,” that illustrates the dominant dialect in the United States. For example, she uses contractions of words heard in everyday speech: cause for because, musta for must have, and most noticeable, she leaves the –ing sound off many words like grabbing, flinging, something and throwing. African-American vernacular does not claim exclusivity to these terms. Bambara mixes the black vernacular with the immature child’s linguistic skills to address social issues through the eyes of innocence.
None of the critics’ main points appear to be original since they mostly agreed that Bambara’s strengths lie in her use of language. No opinions strongly oppose each other. The critics strayed when they stated their opinions without support from the text, cultural insights, or background. Klaus Ensslen attributes to Hazel, supposedly between the ages of eight and 12, the power of profound insight. For instance, Ensslen notes that Hazel’s term for Brandy’s friend, Thunderbuns, refers to “the borrowed or relegated thunder of her authority” (48). This shows detachment to the culture of youth and to the mind of a precocious girl. Hazel attributes to Brandy and Thunderbuns slothful, animal features to show inferiority to her own energetic, intelligent self. Hazel likes to pop empty potato chip bags so that “the matron come trottin down the aisle with her chunky self” (Prescott 676). Later Hazel reminds the reader that Thunderbuns “do not play and do not smile” (Prescott 677). Hazel does not possess the idea that the name, Thunderbuns, comes from the thunder of borrowed authority. In her youth, she attacks physical elements of the two adults with less-than-authoritative airs by condescending to them and by using names that describe their physical appearances. This instance illustrates Hazel’s youthful intelligence.
As if to say that a young, black girl could only get her intelligence from the streets, Dubey and Burks refer to Hazel as “streetwise.” The term streetwise usually refers to one with enhanced survival skills from living in the streets, which does not appear to be Bambara’s intention for her young character. Hazel does not come from the streets. She lives surrounded by a close-knit, loving family, which does not usually describe a child with street smarts. Hazel reads maps, asserts herself to protect her loved-ones, shows self-confidence in her knowledge, and asks intelligent questions. By reading maps, not a usual skill of a pre-pubescent child, she directs the pecan-gathering trip. She protects Big Brood in the park and protects the money from bullies by putting it in her shoe (Prescott 676). She asks for ticket reimbursement from the theater manager claiming false advertisement, which is good insight for a preteen. Her questions, apparently, threaten teachers since she often hears that they are out of line. Hazel expresses confidence in her consummate knowledge of things by proclaiming, “When in reality I am the smartest kid P.S. 186 ever had in its whole lifetime and you can ax anybody” (Prescott 678). Burks and Dubey wrongly assume that Hazel gains her intelligence from the streets, which further shows a misunderstanding of her youth and the culture.
The four critics of record hit the mark with their highlighting Bambara’s strengths in language use. Each takes a different approach, however. Burks sees the story as having more anger, sadness and negative points. Her notion of “incongruity of language” (50) sheds a dark light on Hunca Bubba’s not waiting for Hazel to grow up to marry him. The conflict of the story does not lie in Hazel’s misunderstanding with her uncle’s false marriage proposal. It lay in her friction with the theater manager and the school. Hazel’s experiencing disappointment with a family who loves her does not need to be ranked with the injustices of false advertising to children and teachers who ignore a precocious child because she’s black. The family offers support to a disappointed child, but the schools and theater are less likely to show empathy. Perhaps Klaus Ensslen meant to say the same thing when he noted that Bambara used “family and friends as a social backdrop” (44). Incongruity of Language describes the conflict with those outside the family, and that language shows differences from the dominant culture, as Butler-Evans charges. It seems more likely that Bambara wanted to emphasize conflict of blacks with the dominant culture rather than conflict within the family, which would be a less positive approach.
Ensslen, Dubey and Butler-Evans look at Bambara’s short story with optimism toward Bambara’s linguistic genius. Butler-Evans and Dubey agree that Hazel’s vernacular paints her as a cultural insider and note that her speech is accessible even to those outside the culture. It has reach outside the culture. How else would Bambara make her political statements? Hazel’s voice lends credibility to the story with her view on social injustices. Told by an older person, the same views would be construed as observations made by an under-educated, embittered and angry adult: “…grownups playin’ change-up and turnin’ you round every which way so bad. And don’t even say they sorry” (Prescott 680). This supports Dubey’s claim that, “Hazel’s voice functions as the sharpest linguistic weapon allowing Bambara to attack social issues without heavy-handed didacticism”(19). Ensslen called Bambara’s “didactic impulse” usable lessons in a committed life(41). This strength and the multi-layered use of language in Bambara’s short story stand out as the hallmark of “Gorilla, My Love,” according to Burks, Butler-Evans, Dubey and Ensslen, but the points missed with Hazel’s linguistic voice parallel the critics’ misunderstanding of the elements that make Bambara’s writing emulate jazz.
Burks and Ensslen refer to the music of Black Americans when describing Bambara’s written cadences, but they appear to be unsure of the elements that make it jazz. In referring to the rhythm and musicality of Bambara’s story, Ensslen notes that her improvisational use of oral forms of expression owes much to the black music especially to the bebop of the postwar decades, as she herself acknowledged” (42). He alludes to an interview in which she credits bebop jazz musicians Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for her literary voice. Ensslen merely alludes to one of the strongest elements of Bambara’s story, perhaps, because he doesn’t fully understand how “Gorilla, My Love” truly parallels an improvisational jazz piece. Consider Parker and Gillespie’s tune, “Night in Tunisia.” The tune, played by their jazz quartet, begins with the string bass introducing the theme, which is then joined by Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet, which takes the lead while being accompanied by Parker’s alto saxophone, the bass and drums (recording). The introduction in “Tunisia” parallels Hazel’s opening “That was the year Hunca Bubba changed his name.” Both introduce a theme. The quartet broadens its theme within several bars and measures, so does Hazel name the characters to set the story’s stage. Staying in the same musical key, Charlie Parker departs from the main theme to improvise his musical self-expression the same way Hazel uses an image in the photograph, one of many sub-themes, as a springboard to relay her story about an experience at the Washington Theater. In the jazz piece, Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet overtakes a slight nod to the theme with a second improvisation. Gillespie’s improvisation parallels Hazel’s story within her story, Big Brood up on the cross, because it represents additional expression influenced by the original theme. At the end of Gillespie’s ad-libbing, the remainder of the quartet rejoins him with the original theme like Hazel who brings her two stories, the theater and crucifixion, to an end with her yelling, “Shut is off.” If Ensslen understood jazz improvisation, he may have been more successful in connecting Bambara’s strong sense of rhythm and pace with jazz improvisation.
Ruth Burks makes a similar mistake by lumping all black music into one category to describe Bambara’s cadence. Burks likens the tempo of Bambara’s story to Negro Spirituals, which is incorrect. Burks declares that the plaintive voice of spirituals permeated “Gorilla, My Love.” Consider the spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The song opens with a slow-moving theme followed by a sorrowful response, “Comin’ for to carry me home.” The song continues with call and response, short statement with repetitious reply, through to the end (Quick 184). Unlike jazz, no one leaves the theme to improvise another musical interlude or uses the theme as a launching pad to tell a story within the story. Bambara’s “Gorilla, My Love” possesses very little elements of the Negro Spiritual. In contrast to the spiritual, Gorilla moves quickly as several vignettes unfold within the story. The energy is high since it’s told from a young, precocious girl’s point of view. Quick beat and high energy hardly describe Negro spirituals with their slow cadences and, often, melancholy themes. Burks’ allusion to, “constant repetition” (49), connotes jazz improvisation, but she describes Bambara’s pace as Negro spiritual because of unfamiliarity with jazz and with Bambara’s influences. The mistakes still don’t detract from the over all positive tone of the criticism, however.
The four critics, Burks, Butler-Evans, Dubey and Ensslen, all in all, like Bambara’s writing. They agree that her use of language promotes positive images about black urban life while teaching life’s important lessons without proselytizing. They find no weaknesses, but their own lack of knowledge, regarding black culture, weakens their interpretation of the story through misuse of words. The critics’ own stereotyping of the black culture becomes evident when they don’t recognize the difference between street-wise and precocious when describing Bambara’s main character, Hazel. Butler-Evans confuses black linguistic patterns with the speech skills of a preteen. Ensslen gives Hazel’s coping mechanism of name calling an adult’s scrutiny by charging her with deeper thought than one her age may practice. Dubey and Burks miss the mark by equating Hazel’s intelligence to the survival skills of a child from the streets. Finally, the four critics each agree that Bambara’s language received heavy influences from the music of black Americans. They don’t, however, appear to know what elements in the music Bambara imitates when she writes. The intent of the critics appears supportive of Bambara’s message, but faulty interpretation of the text lessens their credibility.
So, find the short story by Bambera. then find Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” or one of Charlie Parker’s upbeat Jazz pieces, and experience the rhythms for yourself. I find it most pleasurable.
Our friends joke about having a, “Covid bubble.” The Covid bubble contains a very small group of people who practice physical distancing, keep very serious sanitizing routines, and have little public exposure. We maintain a Covid bubble with a few friends. Since we still have to eat, often we choose to eat together…at a distance.
A few weeks ago, I had to travel to present a documentary in which I was involved. Humanities Kansas pays chosen speakers to talk about their projects. While I did not make the film, I was, somewhat, involved with its production. Strangers in Town. The film chronicles immigrants in a rural community and their positive impact on communities. Watch it and see what you think.
While I was in the area, we stayed with our good friends Mark and Kathy. The rest of the “Covid Bubble, ” Bob and Adrian, showed up for happy hour. Bob, an avid hunter, brought his smoked duck to the small gathering. Mark, another avid hunter, added elk smoked sausage. Adrian and Kathy added cheeses and crackers, and, voilà! We added gin and tonics to the menu for a lovely meal and great conversation. Here’s Bob with the duck:
He says the best way to smoke a duck:
Brine the duck in 1 cup (200g) brown sugar, 1 cup (273g) salt in 1 gallon (3.785 litres) for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, drain the duck. Pat dry, and place in smoker until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees (68.33 Celsius). Cool and serve. The smoked duck and elk sausage offer nice changes in meats on a charcuterie board.
The next morning, Kathy served a wonderful breakfast of egg, bacon, and cheese on a multi-grain bagel. That delicious meal serves as my featured image for this blog. One of the many things I love about my friends is that we all like to cook/bake, and we all like to eat.
In this time of Covid, we work quite diligently at make our meals special. I know that I write on this subject quite often, but I cannot emphasize this enough. Find those moments where you can derive special pleasures even out of the most mundane things. That concept surely plays a key role in sound mental health during isolating and challenging times.
Weeks later, we took a special trip with Mark and Kathy. We drove to their second home in Western New York where lakes were frozen hard enough to land small aircraft and support hundreds of ice fisher persons. Of course, one cannot be near a lake and not partake in good things that come from water. We like to eat at a little place called, Guppy’s. They specialize in the bounties of lake, ocean, and sea waters. The evening we ate there, I had the mussels steamed in a delicate wine, garlic, and butter sauce. Come to think of it, one could steam an old shoe in white wine, garlic, and butter, and it would likely be yummy. I digress. The mussels in their sauce came with a side of linguine and a glass of chardonnay, naked, not aged in oak barrels, a specialty of a nearby vineyard.
I should mention that the community posted 124 inches of snow had fallen since the beginning of winter. The frozen lake and all its charms were just one of the highlights. We traveled to Lake Erie one of the days. It had large snow cliffs where the waves had lapped up against the shore only to freeze in the process. Mark took this lovely picture of Kathy standing on one of the snow cliffs. It looked surreal at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Later, Kathy and I trekked out onto the lake close to her house. I wore my vintage grizzly bear coat, popular in the 1970s, which protected me from the elements quite well.
We spent Valentines Day with our Kathy and Mark at this auspicious lake cottage, so we decided to prepare a loving meal of lobsters, baked potatoes, drawn butter, and asparagus. We ate like queens and kings and washed it all down with, again, the local chardonnay. I loved it. I like a meal that makes me work hard for the sweet morsels of meat hidden behind an exoskeleton. Crusty bread made its way from Kansas to Western New York, so we had that, too.
Back home again, we arrived just a few days after freezing temperatures had dipped well below zero (-15F). Our neighbors dripped the kitchen faucet for us, so we came home to a cozy house feeling lucky that no pipes had burst. We found the four bird feeders and heated water dish quite empty with only a block of feed, meant for deer, as the only remaining food for our yard visitors. They flocked back to the yard once feeders and waters dishes filled.
Remembering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work toward equity and justice, makes me think of family, so my featured image today is one of a memorable sisters’ trip. We visited the U.S. Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As I remember, the chapel, pictured behind us, closed for five years for restorations. We took this shot in 2017, so those repairs should be finished in another few years.
Today, I offer my reflection offered before a wreath laying ceremony, done virtually, at the bust on Dr. King on the campus of Kansas State University. Dr. King spoke at the university shortly before his untimely death at the hands of an assassin. I share this with you.
Please reflect with me.
As we prepare to lay wreaths at the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his words, “The ultimate measure of persons is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
One can hardly acknowledge King’s work toward social Justice and equity without remembering his words of our past and thinking, “Why does this struggle continue today?” Or asking, “Have we learned nothing?”
However, we see hope when, as Amanda Gorman put it, “a skinny little Black girl” steps to the Inauguration podium, and, as Dr. King did, tugs at the conscience of a Nation by telling us that, “the norms and notions of what Just Is, is not always Jus-tice!”
Let us reflect on those eloquent words while we remember Dr. King’s letters from the Birmingham Jail: Lodged, there for “parading without a permit.” For it was not legal for Black Folk to participate in public demonstrations, an exercise NOT for a people deemed “unworthy” or “un-deserving.”
He said, “Injustice is here in Birmingham, if the Negro man cannot exercise his first amendment rights in acts of peaceful assembly demonstrating for change with non-violence.”
Dr. King noted, “They protested for the Negro brothers and sisters smothering in airtight cages of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.” They demonstrated for equity and justice. They were not insurrectionists, putting their feet on desks in hallowed halls and placing their knees upon the throat of democracy where, We. Could. No Longer. Breathe.
Dr. King emphasized, “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must transcend our, so-called, race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. This means we must develop a world perspective and tear down the walls of separation and hatred to seek common ground and to dissolve hierarchies.”
Further he encouraged for us to, “Rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the hills of creative protest!” “Humans are put on this earth to serve one another, and it must transcend class and privilege.”
Dr. King possessed a deep hope that the world could be a better place for his children and for our children.
May Kansas State University as a community defined by pluralism find the common ground to stand together against darkness and hate to find light and love.
As we close our gathering today, I ask that you greet, even virtually, those around you with your own word or action that communicate peace. “Every effort we make to connect is meaningful.”
So be it…
Thank you for reading my blog. Enjoy this piece of art painted by my talented friend, Carole Geier.
I think that my hibiscus has made more than one appearance in my featured image, but I can’t help sharing pictures with you. I took this photo last week when it had 11 blossoms on its branches. I keep it pruned into a sort of topiary. It appeared to be content when it was on the patio. Now it seems to have what it needs in the living room.
In the Northern Hemisphere around the 39th parallel in the Midwest, the throes of a rather mild winter offer us opportunities to be outside. With more activity, comes the desire for comfort foods. I am glad to share a few simple recipes for some lovely meals.
Some time in December, I made mashed potatoes with some leftover whipping cream from holiday desserts. It made all the difference in the world! I boiled some russet potatoes. I save the starchy and salty water for making bread. I will tell that in another post.
Once I drain the potatoes, I pour the cream over the potatoes and put the lid back on so that the cream is heated. I take three to five minutes for this step. Then I remove the lid and mash the potatoes with a little added pepper and a little salt to taste. When you use the whipping cream, you do not need to add butter, as with many mashed potatoes recipes. It goes well with meat loaf.
After years of watching my mother make meat loaf, I borrowed some of her techniques. She used oatmeal in place of crackers, as many people use. Here’s my recipe:
1 (45g) pound ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons (19.5g) Oat flour
Fresh onion, minced (to taste)
Seasoned salt (your choice) and pepper
Worschestishire sauce (to taste)
Ketchup and a small amount of mustard
Bake in a hot oven. I use a two-piece meatloaf pan that has holes in it to drain away the grease into another part of the pan. This makes the meat loaf nice and solid, not to mention less greasy. During the last 10 – 15 minutes of baking, I pour a ketchup/brown sugar mixture, which bakes into a tasty glaze.
I served the meat loaf and mashed potatoes with my giardiniera pickle mix from the garden last summer.
I do love reading cook books and magazines. I cannot say that I follow the directions of the recipes exactly, but I do love the suggestions. Then I cook it how I want or with the ingredients that I do have. For example, I found this recipe for pasta with peas and mint. I did not have mint, so I used one of my 40 frozen jars of pesto from the garden last summer. Basil and mint are in the same family, so that is what I had. Also, I did not have the 2 cups of parmesan as the recipe called for. Instead, I melted graded pepper jack cheese in the simmering cream as I awaited the pasta (shells) to finish cooking. When the shells reached the al dente stage, I tossed the frozen peas in the water (before I saved two ladles full for the creaming of the dish) for one minute. Then I drained the shells and peas into the creamy, cheesy, béchamel. The final result reminded me of the chicken alfredo that the grandchildren had prepared for us.
Perhaps I present a backward way of giving you this recipe. I did sauté onions, garlic, and bacon bits in oil before adding the cream and the cheese. This gave it a base to begin the melt. Anyway, it went well with a crisp chardonnay. My carbon steel wok works the best for preparing sauces. The sweet, from the peas, and the creamy savory of this meal satisfied our appetites while serving as a warm comfort food.
Finally, another one of our comfort meals centers on rice. We love different types of fried rice for breakfast. It tends to be a great way to use rice from other meals. We have a rice cooker, which keeps the rice at just the right temperature for two to three days. It never lasts that long since we love rice.
For this particular breakfast, I had a few mushrooms and part of a red pepper and one grilled chicken thigh that needed to be used. I like to begin by sautéing, in sesame oil, what ever vegetables and protein that I will use for the rice. Then I add at least two eggs and cook until almost finished. Then I add the rice. After everything is thoroughly blended, I add a little soy sauce and some chili sauce. Blend again. I sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on before I serve it.
It went quite well with whipped instant coffee and milk.
We make breakfast special, because it sets the tone of the day. Since the weather is cold, and we cannot sit on the front patio, we sit at our dining room table situated by a large picture window. Today, we had 14 species of wonderful birds at the feeders that I counted within a 15-minute time span.