Watch Your Mouth

“Life is a bowl of cherries” is a food idiom I stumbled upon and really like how the delivery of it can give it an ironic flavor. The phrase get’s used when things in life are pleasant.  I choose the phrase because it can be applied to my life but also the life of the world ironically and depending on your state of mind. Life is a bowl of cherries sometimes. It reminds me of a Carl Jung quote “the world into which we are born is brutal, and at the same time divine. Which we think outweighs the other, is a matter of temperament.” There are tragedies occurring as we speak. There are so many overwhelming aspects occurring in our life that sometimes it has to be handled by one’s self and perception. Life is tough but it can also offer you vast amount bliss when it is appreciated but also when it is embraced. “Life is a bowl of cherries” weather it be said ironically or sincerely, the phrase captures a concept of living that I like to be stuck in.  I want to enjoy life but I have also come to realize that in order to feel joy you must experience pain. Although it is our overall individual mind that controls the perception we call “life.” I think.

Who wouldn’t want a bowl of cherries? I put the blog on the back burner for the past couple of weeks, other classes of course, but really I just didn’t know where to take it. I said at the beginning of the semester that I would stop at 14 posts and I would be done, there. Well I’m at 15 posts and I still have some juice left. This semester has been the longest-shortest semester ever, if that makes sense. It felt like it took long to get going, and now that it has picked up some momentum it will end soon. Bittersweet always.

A common theme for the blog besides food was how this next stage in my life was going to affect me. Graduation, searching for employment, and just being a regular person with no big papers to turn in, no surprise quizzes. I am looking forward to it, but why is it taking so long? Over thinking or just being prepared? I don’t know.

This post has a mouth of it’s own. I am not talking about food but somehow our behavior and choices in life are affected by the way you eat. I can’t explain, but food for thought. The Roman philosopher Epictetus suggests to approach life as if it were a banquet. This banquet is one where you  behave cordially with everyone, maybe you’re the guest of honor, and get inspired to make a toast or speech. Banquets are fun! But you also need to know how to behave while attending them. I know I will be choking on my own words somewhere down the line for this post. Oh well, life is a bowl of cherries.

Finals are the next course and I am only hungry for vacation.

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Brain Farts

“To be full of bean” is saying that means to be energized or to have energy. This phrase is new to me because no one ever around me used it, but it makes sense. Beans or legumes are an interesting aspect when it comes to farming or agriculture. The legumes produce nitrogen for the soil. I know little about agriculture and even less about science so me explaining the process of how it produces a vital nutrient for the plants is magic. There are explanations of course and if you are interested you should check it out, but honestly explaining science terms or processes is not what I wanted to be writing about in this blog. And I think that is the problem sometimes when having all this extra energy. There is an uncertainty on where to place it all.

I do have all these ideas and opportunities when I graduate. This why I used the saying “to be full of beans” because I do have all this energy. This pent up energy that doesn’t know where to go. All this goes back to graduation and finding something new to do. It does sound silly and I am making a big deal out of nothing.

I just don’t want it to back fire.

Beans are an interesting food because the bean itself is the seed. So you are eating the seeds. The same applies to corn. What is not eaten is saved for seed in a sense. I mentioned the tepary bean in earlier post but the tepary bean is a legume. I also believe the Mesquite tree and pods are legumes as well.  So even though we are in the heated Sonoran desert with little rainfall there still nutrients being produced in the soil by these certain plants and trees.

I cooked garbanzo beans a few weeks back and I was pretty proud of myself by how it came out and tasted. Just last week my Mom did her rendition of the meal, same ingredients, but it was with her style and technique. My Mom and I both knew that there was going to be a comparison of the two occasions. At least I was going to bring it up after I tasted it.

I don’t know if it’s just my competitive nature or if I just need some kind of leveling of where my cooking stands among others. Some might call that being a jerk but I just got that going for me at the moment. So that morning when I saw the garbanzo beans in the crock pot, I knew what was going to be for dinner. Of course she added carrots and stew meat. But it was some kind of games show scenario going off in my head that morning for sure to see who’s tasted better.

That evening we sat down at the table to eat the stew. Sunday meals are best when things are simple. The time must be carefully enjoyed because we all know what follows a Sunday. That Monday morning is just poking at you in the back of your head and you just need to relax at least for a moment. I poured myself a bowl and started to eat. And it was delicious.

So good that it made me start to remember what mine really tasted like. The garbanzo beans I made were good, but they were not as soft and as easy to bite into as my Moms. That I noticed right away. So easy to be over critical of yourself but it’s what I do. My Mom the modest person she is did not pay attention to what I was saying. That her’s was better and that it was unsettling for me because I had thought mine would taste grand in comparison. She made mine just taste okay. I wanted to be the garbanzo bean king. And it just energizes me to get better at doing something I thought I had conquered. Full of beans or full of shit?

Later I come to find out that my Mom soaked the garbanzo beans overnight before she tossed them in the crock-pot. Very clever and it might be the reason why her’s we’re way more tender than mine. Cooking is an art, and the best artist know how to steal.

Swallowing My Pride

“You are what you eat” is a food saying I have already used but for this particular blog post I felt I should start with it in order to jump into the thought. November is Native American Heritage Month and I felt I should do the term some justice in this blog, but also show my pride. I am Tohono O’odham and I have a rich heritage. Miraculously food is tied into all of that, the future, the past and present. I can still taste the same variety of squash the ancestors planted centuries ago. The taste connects me but there is something more to it than the taste that makes me feels nostalgic.

The first major writing work of mine that got published was actually about traditional foods. I was attending Tohono O’odham Community College and I had a space to plant a small garden. I had never planted before and wanted to try to grow traditional crops. Since I was attending T.O.C.C., I had the resources to help me expand an idea that became this article I wrote and got published in the college’s newsletter.

Traditionally the Tohono O’odham were farmers although agriculture is not as prevalent as it was back in the day. The history of food is still vital to discussing culture. It’s what feeds us.  There are specific seeds that grow well in the region but there are stories behind those seeds that influence the culture. There are seeds that are indigenous to the land but there are also seeds that were introduced to the Tohono O’odham through the contact of outside cultures. These particular seeds grow extremely well in the climate. Seeds like the tepary bean actually thrive on lack of irrigation. Planting was more than source of food for the Tohono O’odham. It was an obligation. It was survival.

Many Native American tribes have a creation or emergence story explaining how things came to be, some having guideline to maintain a balance. The state of well-being all entangled in responsibilities with the earth is the objective. All over there are wild foods growing on the planet that can be harvested by anyone willing. What if it was the only food available? From a human perspective I would say humans need food and there is a nostalgic feeling to feeding your self straight from the earth without paying a grocery attendant or some waiter at Chili’s. The concept of eating has changed in the past century. We’re not starving but we’re not hungry either. There is an experience lost when you just pay money to feed yourself. Maybe there is just a difference between being fed and just trying to survive. Knowing the history of your food might just be enough to fulfill that experience. But in the stories there is usually a reference to the people needing to live off of the land and survive. Food is just a part of who we are. All of us.

The seasons on earth as they change the plants and the availability of certain fruits and other food items that can be found outside the grocery store are ways for a person to stay connected to “mother nature.” I remember as a kid taking the sap from the mesquite tree bark. It has a sweetness resembling a molasses flavor but with an earthy twist. In Tohono O’odham it’s call u:sp but in popular terms it is the sap that trees produce to protect themselves. But as kids we would collect u:sp, I saw it as a treat, like it was candy from the desert. Our parents won’t let us eat sweets but they forgot about the candy that grew on the mesquite trees. It wasn’t an everyday activity and that’s the important thing to know about harvesting wild vegetation from the desert or anywhere is just to know when is the best time. Again location and season of a particular plant will only be available for a certain period in the year. I believe it to be a rite of passage because the person harvesting is connecting to the plant but also with the past and in a way sustaining the future. The knowledge is being passed down; not through any written forms but by just practicing these traditions of the ancestors. Harvesting the same food as the generation did before, it keeps a close relationship to the earth.

The times are changing so fast and I believe that some of these practices such as planting a small garden or harvesting ciolim (cholla buds) to stay grounded in this ongoing relationship to non-human entities. “You are what you eat” applies to the situation perfectly because the food that is being harvested is the same food that kept the people from going hungry centuries ago. If this food didn’t exist, then would I exist? If I no longer harvest and eat it, then do we exist?

Food is the element that throughout time as been this way for people to connect and relate. The sharing of flavors and stories all poured out on the dinner table spilling out closeness for the people. Acknowledging that it is Native American Heritage Month, but also remembering that besides practicing, there also needs to be sharing of knowledge with the people that need and want to know. People connecting though food but also having camaraderie built into the way people tell a story or share a simple piece of knowledge about the food being eaten at the very moment.

I think what makes this all nostalgic is the time of bonding as a whole while simply eating a meal. But to capture it all perfectly can be what might be just the taste of home.

Agriculture in America has been commercialized over the centuries. I believe that at one point in time it was only about the food. I mean the cost and worth was still placed on a crop or animal but it didn’t have to be some dollar currency. The self-sufficient farms run by the community or a large family declined when the men joined the military and left their fields to wither, or left their own fields because they got paid in dollars, in a commercial field where they grew a crop  like cotton. It is a very complex situation but as America grew there became a business aspect that accompanies agriculture. The farm’s produce is really unknown when it gets to a grocery store. So convenient that we have the ability now to buy a pumpkin or squash and never see a seed until the fruit is open. So futuristic but what is the cost of losing the experience of labor or initiative to just to get food?

The commodities program implemented into the United States really shifted native communities because there were new ingredients and unfamiliar things that had to make due. The influence of American culture produced the famous Popover or Fry-bread depending on your stance. I know it as Popover. But lard, grease, flour, and salt are the broad ingredients for making the fried bread. Fry-bread is the taste of making due with what you got but doing it deliciously. I know it is unhealthy but just writing about it has me googling it for images because I know I’m over my annual limit of popovers. But it is Native America Heritage Month.

Granny Smith Vision Pt.2

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

I wanted to change things up for the blog and add some flavor. The previous blog talked about apples and my brother and his daughter. This blog is not just about cartoons and stuffing your face, and so I thought for this blog I would make a dish and share the recipe. Yeah I like that idea although don’t see me as some master of the culinary realm but see me as a dumb fool clueless in the kitchen.

I wanted to keep discussing the use of the word “apple” and how not just apple but all fruits get used as an element to teach or represent some kind of meaning. Even religion has fruit associated with good and evil knowledge.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away or having sour grapes after something unpopular occurs.

This blog recipe I used is not 100% accurate and I think making it sound silly adds mystique for the chef to figure it out on their own. Plus if nobody even tries the recipe, than at least it sounded cool. Recipes are not usually humorous but I’m changing things up.

Pre-heat the oven 375

Ingredients

Granny Smith Apples (peeled and sliced)

Oatmeal (two big ass handfuls)

Flour (two big ass handfuls)

Sugar (two big as handfuls)

Brown Sugar (two big ass handfuls)

Ground Cinnamon (two and half pinches)

Nutmeg (three pinches)

Butter (a few scoops)

1. Butter up the cooking pan by giving it compliments.

2. Fill the buttered-up pan with the apples.

3. In a separate bowl mix everything else to make a top-crust.

    (dry stuff all connected together with butter)

4. Lay the mixture on top of the apples.

5. Place in the oven to bake for about 25-35 mins.

6. Think good thoughts as the crisp forms.

7. Remove from the oven and let rest.

8. Let it cool with confidence.

9. Offer piece or slice to anyone around.

10. Enjoy the core.

Granny Smith Vision Pt.1

Do the choices we make in life define us? I am 25 and by the way time is going, 26 is just around the corner. No big deal, age ain’t nothing but a number. That philosophy works for me, not paying attention to time and how old it tells me I am. But even though the man-made contraptions like time are delusional, things do change around you as you get “older.”

I’ve been attending the U of A for about three years and now I’m close to the end of my undergraduate years here on campus and my entire existence has been associated with just being in school. Being so fixated on finishing that I haven’t thought about what I will want to do besides go to school. My head has been in the clouds in terms of life outside of the campus and classes. It is surreal, talking about life without the U of A because I have gotten accustomed to the way time works here. But when I do finish, what will I do with all this available time?

The food saying of this blog is “The apple of my eye.” I tried to fit this saying into my life and I couldn’t quite relate it to anyone or thing. Although when I think of my brother and his daughter “Elexis,” my niece is the apple of my brother’s eye. We all adore E girl but the love my brother has for Elexis is on another level. She is the apple of his eye most definitely, and the saying is being fully represented in the context of E- girl and her daddy.

Elexis is more than a spitting image of Ronnie, she is a reincarnated Ronnie that is twenty-times more clever and wild. There is a three year difference between my younger brother and me. I remember Ronnie growing up and now seeing Elexis grow too, she and her father share many characteristics that just take me back. I see my niece experiencing things we did and it’s like being young again being reminded about all these old times. So when I see Elexis I see my brother all young experiencing life, but what does my brother see?

Yet what is the apple of my eye? I can’t specify an answer because the choices I have made in my life don’t quite look like apples at the moment. More like apple seeds that need to be planted is what I got. Maybe not such a bad thing but there is a hard truth to where I’m going with this blog. My brother even though younger has come on to territory I might not ever face. The art of raising a child. Not something we all have to do, but to do it and be cherished by your creation is truly a wonderful thing.

I still freak out that my younger brother has a kid. It might be that it just reminds me that I’m getting old. Maybe it’s weird because my little brother is growing up faster than me. Funny how you live life everyday and neglect the fact that one day earlier you were younger. Admitting one’s mortality is not on the top of the to-do list for most people. But if it is something we all must face, I just hope I get to see the apple of my eye or taste the fruits of my labor.  

I am lost in all this getting old talk. Funny in Tohono O’odham the word for elder uncle is Keli. Keli also translates to old man. I may be old but I like to think I am young at heart with an old soul. Now how do you like them apples?

 To be continued……

Slipping On Yolk

Over the weekend I made breakfast. My grandma had made some cemait (tortilla) during the week and she gave us some, so we made breakfast burritos. Saturday mornings is usually a time for me to be asleep. But we were up this morning. I just made eggs and chorizo. This blog came from an egg.

Eggs are in everything. The essential ingredient goes into many recipes. How many ways can you cook and prepare an egg? The only thing I hate about cooking eggs is when you need to crack the shell and you get cracked eggshells in the yolk mixture. It’s very annoying trying to get out eggshells that have fallen into the bowl. It never fails when I cook eggs. I devote about five or ten minutes usually trying to take out eggshells in the bowl.

 “Walking on eggshells” is common food phrase that gets used when times are difficult or uncertain. Maybe a dangerous situation is on the verge. It’s a common saying and it can be applied to life when it gets sketchy.  Especially in college with deadlines and grades. It feels like a thin surface of passing and failing. But what’s a life without pressure?

 I myself have been walking on metaphorical eggshells in my delusional world. But seriously I’m nervous about my future. It might have to do with me not knowing what I’m actually going to do. I have indefinite possibilities. That’s the scary thing about it. When you have an infinity of options and each offer different things. Good and bad. The choice is only my own.

Instead of walking on them you need to eat them. However I do know that eggshells are good for composting so even though they can be a bother, they also can be of help in your garden. I make scrambled eggs usually because it is the easiest. How do you like your eggs? Hopefully cooked.

Breakfast was good this morning, and it usually always is. I have a saying that I tell my family before we eat my eggs. “You get a prize if you get a shell.” I know it sounds mean but I am one bad egg.

When Pigs Cry

These few upcoming blogs I have been trying to write have something to do with the future and my place in it. I saw a friend the other day that I had a class with during my first semester here at the U of A and I was telling him that I was graduating in May. I’ve been saying out loud more often and every chance I get because there is this distant small voice telling me it’s not going to happen. But I’m optimistic and I want to do something else other than hang out in the library and pretend to do work. I want to live.

“What are going to do?” “Are you going to look for a job?”

First two things he said when I told him about May. I have been thinking about getting a job and hearing someone else mention made it more real. Once I graduate what will I do? I need to “bring home the bacon.” Damn loans and other bills I put on the “back-burner” I need to deal with.

I want to share a story that is not mine but is my Mother’s. I asked her if I could tell it on my blog because it has to do with food. My Mom was raised by her Grandmother and she took care of her along with several other of our family members. She was strict but she carried all the care in the world in just her fingertips.

My great Grandmother had a garden, several pets, chickens, and one big pig named “Blondie.” It was my Mom’s uncle Tony who had brought the pig when he was just a baby and my Mom just got attached. Blondie was a semi-celebrity being the only pig in Sells that did tricks on command. The local schools would take class field trips and walk to my great Grandmas’ house on the hill just to see Blondie. A natural performer, Blondie was something special and was more than just a pig to my mom. He was family.

My Mom was 18 years old just graduated from high school and was away for the summer in Tucson. When she finally came home to my Great Grandmother’s house in Sells, she saw stacks of meat freshly cut on the kitchen table. My Mom of course curious asked “where did all this meat come from?” I believe my mom is still traumatized from this one moment. Blondie died of old age and the men of the family wanted to butcher the pig before it went bad. My mom was looking at Blondie cut up like pork chops. They gave all the meat away to family, friends, and neighbors. They had a big feast and invited everybody to eat.

My Mom still talks about this time and always reminds us that she didn’t eat Blondie that day. She was sad, but also disgusted.

My Great Grandmother made sure everybody was fed. She was the provider for everyone including the plants and animals. I lost my Great Grandmother when I was 18 and hearing these old stories about her and my Mom raising pigs and chickens really shocked my feelings on my own time. I get my food at the grocery store a majority of the time. If I was in my Mom’s shoes, I don’t know if I would have eaten Blondie that night.

 My Mom grew up with Blondie, shared moments with that pig. There are a lot of things that my Mom has experienced that I may never, so I can only pretend and ask questions. But then I start to think about the food I eat now. Mainly the meats and poultry I get at the store. Did anybody love this cow? Did someone teach this pig tricks?  Then I start to think about my humanness like even though I didn’t hunt or raise this animal, I still can get it because I’m the superior human able to go to the grocery store, and yes I got my Safeway card to save 0.42 cents.

I have come to a conclusion on how to solve this ethical dilemma. I must raise a pig from birth and then decide if I will eat or pass. It’s the only way. With graduation around the corner, I’m going to need to be bringing home that bacon. Maybe I could be an Animal Cop. That’s a real job right?