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Consider This: Poetics

Continuous Cities 4
By Italo Calvino

You reproach me because each of my stories takes you right into
the heart of a city without telling you of the space that stretches
between one city and the other, whether it is covered by seas, or
fields of rye, larch forests, swamps. I will answer you with a story.
In the streets of Cecilia, an illustrious city, I met once a goatherd,
driving a tinkling flock along the walls.
“Man blessed by heaven,” he asked me, stopping, “can you tell
me the name of the city in which we are?”
“May the gods accompany you!” I cried. “How can you fail to
recognize the illustrious city of Cecilia?”
“Bear with me,” that man answered. “I am a wandering herds-
man. Sometimes my goats and I have to pass through cities; but we
are unable to distinguish them. Ask me the names of the grazing
lands, I know them all: the Meadow between the Cliffs, the Green
Slope, the Shadowed Grass. Cities have no name for me: they are
places without leaves, separating one pasture from another, and
where the goats are frightened at street corners and scatter. The dog
and I run to keep the flock together.”
“I am the opposite of you,” I said. “I recognize only cities and
cannot distinguish what is outside them. In uninhabited places each
stone and each clump of grass mingles, in my eyes, with every other
stone and clump.”
Many years have gone by since then; I have known many more
cities and I have crossed continents. One day I was walking among
rows of identical houses; I was lost. I asked a passerby: “May the
immortals protect you, can you tell me where we are?
“In Cecilia, worse luck!” he answered. “We have been wandering
through its streets, my goats and I, for an age, and we cannot find
our way out…”
I recognized him, despite his long white beard; it was the same
herdsman of long before. He was followed by a few, mangy goats,
which did not even stink, they were so reduced to skin-and-bones.
They cropped wastepaper in the rubbish bins.
“That cannot be!” I shouted. “I, too, entered a city, I cannot re-
member when, and since then I have gone on, deeper and deeper
into its streets. But how have I managed to arrive where you say,
when I was in another city, far far away from Cecilia, and I have
not yet left it?”
“The places have mingled,” the goatherd said. “Cecilia is every-
where. Here, once upon a time, there must have been the Meadow
of the Low Sage. My goats recognize the grass on the traffic island.”

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Recipes

Cleanse-Approved Apple Crisp

Last Tuesday I began a 3-week cleanse. What does that mean, you might ask, to which I would respond I can’t eat any:
— dairy
— sugar
— bread
— fruit (except green Granny Smith apples)
— vinegar
— alcohol

The glitch might appear to be the fact that I had yet to celebrate my birthday or Christmas coming round the corner. Being vegetarian amps up the challenge of this cleanse quite a bit. Day one was a stretch- my energy was off in the afternoon and lucidity felt like it was at arm’s length but always moving away. Day two proceeded to be infinitely better because of reframing the cleanse as being “vegan for 3 weeks”. All of a sudden I could figure out how to feed myself. So far it’s been leap years better. The key is prepared food and variety. So below is something yummy and satisfying I made up tonight as an after-dinner treat.

 

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GREEN APPLE CRISP

YIELD: Serves one

– 1 Green apple, diced
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 cup oats
– 1 tablespoon walnuts
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 1/2 tablespoon ginger
– 1 packet of stevia
– 1/2 lime, squeezed

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Pour the green apple into a small oven-safe platter
3. Drizzle olive oil into a saucepan and once heated add the oats, walnuts, cinnamon, ginger, stevia, lime juice. Toast for a few minutes over medium flame until the oats are golden brown in color.
4. Then pour the oat mixture over the apples and stick in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the apples are soft and the oat mixture is browned.
5. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy.

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Lentil Quinoa with Kale

Lentil Quinoa with Kale

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Lentil Quinoa with Kale

I came up with this dish a few weeks ago and found it so yummy that it was my vegetarian contribution to the Thanksgiving meal yesterday. No turkey, no tryptophan, no troubles! What I discovered in making this recipe is how marvelous the kale cooking liquid is. I actually reserved all of it, using some of it in the recipe below, and then freezing the rest for a rainy day. I love the savory green flavor that is a mighty good stand-in for stock. 

1 bunch curly kale, ribs removed, rinsed, chiffonade-cut
6 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 leek, rinsed and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
1/2 cup brown lentils

Plunge the greens into a large pot of boiling salted water, cook them for 10 minutes. Drain the kale into a bowl, reserving 3 cups of the kale cooking water. Drizzle and swirl the olive oil into a skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic and pepper flakes stirring occasionally for 7 minutes or until the leeks have softened. Add the kale and 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid reserved cooking water to the garlic mixture. Cook for 15 minutes. Pour the remaining reserved kale cooking liquid into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the quinoa and lentils into the saucepan. Add the kale and any liquid in the skillet to the lentils and quinoa. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and most of the liquid has cooked out.

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Lentil Quinoa with Kale -0958

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Bangkok Lychee Cocktail

Bangkok Lychee Cocktail

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Bangkok Lychee Cocktail

This drink is totally inspired by one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, VTK. I had a similar cocktail there about a month ago and have been wanting to drink something similar in SF, but to no avail. The closest thing I could find was Poleng’s “Poleng Me” cocktail- a great combo of spicy and sweet. I made a revision to the drink by using the preserving syrup in a can of lychees instead of pureeing lychees to make juice–my thinking is that you still create that kind of juice from breaking down the two lychees by muddling them. If you want the drink hotter, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the mixture to be muddled. Enjoy this cocktail with Thai food or during the summer when light flavors are in fashion.

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (from 6 sprigs)
1/2 cherry bomb pepper, deveined, seeded and thinly sliced
2 lychees plus 1
2 ounces Pear Vodka (Grey Goose or Absolut)
2 ounces Lychee syrup
Muddle the cilantro leaves, pepper, and 2 lychees. Pour the vodka and lychee syrup into a martini shaker. Add the cilantro muddle to the shaker along with the ice. Shake well. Strain the cocktail into a martini glass and add the remaining lychee to the glass for a boozy fruit finish to the drink.

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George, where were you a month ago…

I feel like I could have written this poem a month ago, albeit a sloppier and more windy version. May you enjoy his tight distillation of inner emotional and passionate ravagings.

Denial
by George Herbert

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears,
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse;
My breast was full of fears
And disorder.

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go.
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms.

“As good go anywhere,” they say.
“As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come!
But no hearing.”

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! All day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.

Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
Untuned and unstrung:
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung
Discontented.

O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favors granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rhyme.

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Word on the streets

 

My Tia Berta finally got a dog three years ago. Originally, we thought they would go the route of choosing a West Highland terrier as she had talked about for a while, but instead they got Portia. She is a sweet, classically rambunctious Jack Russell terrier which loves to run circles around the squirrels in my aunt’s backyard reminding them who’s boss. She likes to be scratched behind the ears and closes her eyes, as if relaxing and assenting to the human touch.

After my mom had to put our dog Sandi down, she vowed she would never get another dog and I think to some extent decided to close her heart back up to dogs. I had always been the dog-lover but he won over my mom. Portia had just begun opening my mom back up again to the thought of eventually getting another dog, which is huge. When Sandi was put to sleep, I was in India. He had been my compatriot through some pretty rough times: the dissolution of my parent’s marriage, having my ailing grandmother move into my father’s old bedroom and then eventually pass away. I remember Sandi howled after Tita’s death, as if her spirit was still hovering in the room. Dogs are attuned and acute to the rods and cones of the world while we see in color.

Portia’s missing.

So even though I am at a tradeshow in Chicago, I got a phone call and email from my mom today about her disappearance. Since sleep is already evading me nightly, it made sense to check on Craigslist and see if there are any announcements there. I posted one of my own, on behalf of my aunt in Dallas and the prayer vigil begins. My aunt has gone to the pound often since the Wednesday disappearance and is distraught, as you can well imagine. This is nothing to say of my cousin Miguelito who pined away for years wanting a dog. Visualize what you might feel: my aunt opens the door after she hears the doorbell. The gap at the bottom of the door somehow is large enough for Portia to squeeze out. As she shoots past, my aunt hurtles off the porch and starts running after her, as the small happily wagging tail fades into an ever increasing distance. Since she had just been groomed, she has no tags on her, just her winsome personality.

Can you pray that she would be found? Miracles happen every day and I would entreat this little scrappy dog to bear the heart of a carrier pigeon and find her way home.

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Some Shakespeare to tuck you in

Ah Will, you were ever the romantic! Except for when you were the tragic prophetic voice beaming out of Stratford on Avon. From my readings tonight, I give you this fine nugget, reader, culled from Sonnet 76:

“O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument.
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.”

I find that what pricks my pen seems to be a convergence of the same thing, but viewed from another angle of its prism-like shape. If you leave me a comment with email address, I will send you my latest poem inspired by Jonah. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite- they’re nasty little critters!