Sunday, October 16, 2011

Secret World

My father is writing a book on Tai Chi. He says to master it, one needs four 'hearts' or 心 (hsin) in Chinese. One has to have:

Patience 意心
Passion 熱心
Perseverance 恆心
Love 愛心

We can apply this wisdom to anything that we want to master. Like legs on a chair, our objective can still stand with some weakness or lacking of one element as the others help buttress, but it can not be solid without all four legs. I don't think I've ever really mastered anything - that's okay, it is after all a life long process. Relationships are no different. Do we often pull away and out when things are difficult and hope that an errant leg of passion would somehow make things better if only temporary? My grandmother terms such hiccups as 小山, meaning 'little mountains'.

I was just in Taiwan spending time with family. There is always something I learn when observing my grandparents' relationship despite (sadly) infrequent and brief visits. Passion has receded into time's wrinkles. Perseverance seems to be born of habit and perhaps even aversion to change. Patience ebbs and flows depending on how much can be tolerated on a particular day. I don't always see love but know it is there; their language of love that has been written over time. Perhaps that's part of the puzzle, perseverance to learn each others' language and patience for its vicissitudes over time. Although I do believe it is possible to have continued passion (even if it does seem romantically idealistic). I think it starts with a solid chair of self and constant awareness and ownership with continued maintenance and refurbishing while the other does the same.

I'm not saying my grandparents' relationship is good or bad, it just is. Who am I to judge? I see only a sliver of a multi-dimensional dance. Each relationship has its secret world that remains hidden from the outsider.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hunger

Shakespeare's prose is redolent of the ache and longing felt with intimacy with just a shell. Close in proximity but so distant in approach. Filling in the emotional lack with sensuality still leaves one hungry.






Venus and Adonis

Now is she in the very list of love,
Her champion mounted for the hot encounter.
All is imaginary she doth prove.
He will not manage her, although he mount her,
          That worse than Tantalus' is her annoy,
          To clip Elysium and to lack her joy.

Even so poor birds, deceived with painted grapes,
Do surfeit by the eye and pine the maw;
Even so she languisheth in her mishaps,
As those poor birds that helpless berries saw.
          The warm effects which she in him finds missing
          She seeks to kindle with continual kissing.

William Shakespeare

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eve's Joy

As promised, Eve's Joy ice cream recipe...

1 1/2 cups of goat milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/3 cup and 3 tbsp of honey
4 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pint of Mission figs
8 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup of cream sherry or port

Halve or quarter figs and soak in port or sherry for 2 hours. Drizzle figs with honey and 3 of the sprigs of rosemary tucked in between the figs. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until honey caramelizes. Cool to room temperature, remove rosemary sprigs, and chop figs very coarsely and set aside.

Bring milk and heavy cream to simmer with 5 rosemary sprigs.  Let sit for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Strain.

Reheat to simmer add and 1/3 cup of honey until dissolved. (Add additional honey if needed to desired sweetness.  Note that frozen foods taste less sweet than at room temperature.)

Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until sugar dissolves.  Slowly drizzle and whisk milk and cream into egg yolk mixture by 1/3 cup at a time until half of milk mixture is incorporated.  Add egg mixture back into milk and cream mixture and cook on medium heat and stirring constantly until instant thermometer reads 170 degrees F or custard coats back of a wooden spoon.  Strain custard into a bowl and chill for at least 3 hours of overnight.

Add custard to ice cream maker and follow manufacture's instructions. During last 5 minutes add figs and syrup from the roasting process.  Transfer to airtight container and freeze at least 3 hours before serving.   Alternative is to save syrup from fig roasting and drizzle on ice cream to serve.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fascination and Figs

I had the pleasure of meeting two new infants by two friends in San Francisco this week.  Giving life is truly a miracle that continues to be awe inspiring.  Observing the little ones taking in the world and collecting new information is undeniably engrossing - reality drama at its best.  It saddens me that as we get older we frivolously lose that sense of wonder because life and its routine become so vapid.   Fortunately we are not left to fate, our reality is only what we believe, therefore one can choose to be in wonderment anytime and all the time!  A Buddhist lama once counseled that the secret of keeping love alive is to act as if you just met your partner for the first time.  So simple yet not so easy.  To behold our partner in the freshness of novel encounters when who they are and everything they did was uniquely them and 'cute' at first blush. Not so simple as we tend towards lackadaisical inertia and become complacent; their sweet laughter, the softness of their belly, and the warmth of their embrace - become invisible.  How do we avoid falling asleep to everyday marvels?  I think by being aware and present; not to take things for granted.  Reminds me of the movie "50 First Dates" in which Henry (Adam Sandler) falls in love with the girl of his dreams Lucy (Drew Barrymore) until he learns she has short term memory and forgets him every time she wakes up the next day.  Well, okay, maybe not to that extreme but you get the idea. ;)   It takes energy to have an attitude of fascination and to stay conscious but it does get easier and can become second nature.  Not only in love but we can bring that sense of joy and gratitude to all of life - to see, feel, hear as if for the first time.



Figs roasted with honey and rosemary.
Eating according to what is in season is a good start to getting a sense of tricking your taste buds into novelty, like a virgin with short term memory, if you will.  Every summer when I have figs there is that newness and unfamiliarity. The initial awe of the rosy erotic flesh when splayed in half and the fleeting surprise of its refreshing grassy flavor and delicate sweetness.  A friend of mine with discerning taste suggested an ice cream with figs and rosemary.  So very wise.

Being the complicated individual that I am, it naturally flows into my ice cream making.  I'll call this one Eve's Joy. Complete recipe in a later post as it is still in creation. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gratitude

"Bosom Bartletts" by me
Media: Shellac, encaustic, india ink
My good friend's iTunes playlist has a song named "Everybody is free to wear sunscreen" which asserts: "Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a way of wishing the past from the disposal--wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it's worth."  Ouch, that's weighty and maybe coming from one inured to disappointing counsel.  Even so, the message is that I should be careful whose advice I buy or take for free.  In a society that puts so much emphasis and money on personal insight and self awareness, are we not missing the levity of life? (Oh wait, I was talking to myself ;-). Tee hee.)  I am emotionally tired of having to be cognisant of my motivation, shadow, projection, transference, blah blah blah.  It is liberating to just BE and not have to cogitate on every thought, word, and deed.  This cavalier freedom does come with responsibility including owning any wrongs, pulling a foot and sometimes a leg out of my mouth, and making amends.  Okay, maybe it's not so liberating after all having to worry about damage control and cleaning up the shit after it hits the fan.  And why am I taking cheap recycled nostalgia from some dude anyway?

Good friends are hard to come by and those who have our best interest at heart is even tougher to find.  As genuinely caring as we intend to be, our advice is always colored by past experiences, prejudices, and fears; it is hard to be logical and completely objective especially when emotions are entrenched.   It takes that rare bird who can step outside their own cage and pain and be part of yours.  At a snail's pace I'm recognizing I have such an ally in my corner.   I am richly blessed. :'-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

Catcher asked me if I felt "safe" when I'm with him.  I puzzled over this question.  Does it mean physical, spiritual, emotional, sexual safety or other? In the broader sense or in the context of a relationship?  (Part of the reason I found the query perplexing is because I feel like we have a non-relationship - it's more of an 'understanding'.)  Safety has many implications so I'm not sure what the question refers to and am still awaiting a reply from my inquirer.

In the mean time, it has been an intellectually stimulating research regarding human needs and motivation.  Dipping back into Psychology 101, I recall Abraham Maslow's concept of hierarchy of needs.  There are deficiency needs,  those that arise due to deprivation (physiological [hunger, thirst, sleep, etc], safety/security/shelter/health, belongingness/love/friendsip, self-esteem/recognition/achievement). Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences. Then there are growth needs - which do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person; what Maslow termed self-actualization. 

Mossy trail to Mt Forgotten Meadows, WA
While exploring Maslow's theory, I unearthed Pandora's box of postulates that seek to explain what motivates us as humans.  The information I found is a nauseating chunk to digest.  Motivational theories included incentive, drive-reduction, need based, cognitive, unconscious, and basic desires theories - just to name a few.  And why would we want to know what motivates us? Well, for one, it is very useful in the business and especially marketing arena. Motivation is also central to game design; without some motivation, a player will lose interest in progressing further.  Unfortunately, the control of motivation is of limited understanding. There are a variety of approaches of motivation training however many critics consider these pseudoscientific at best.   To dive into how to control motivation, one has to understand why many people lack motivation. And down the rabbit hole we go....

So I ponder on what motivates me.  I suppose it depends in what aspect of life.  In terms of relationships (or at present, "understanding"), that has changed over the years as I've become (so I'd like to think) wiser or maybe just more insightful.  Right now, probably sensuality, discovery, and the pleasure of letting go. Free falling does have its evanescent thrill. Emphasis on the adjective.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eve's Aphrodisiac

I must be radiating "hit on me" pheromones - been asked out by two random dudes on my past two hikes.  One guy actually took off his camping pack in order to chase me down the mountain so he can give me his name and re-invite me to join him and his buddy camping at Colchuck Lake.  As tempted as I was, reason and my mother's voice in my head got the better of me.  Okay, so it wasn't either of those - I blame AT&T service lacking data cellular network, preventing me from notifying my in-case-of-emergency contact that I wouldn't be back in town that night because I was going to camp with two possible axe murderers I just met.  Darn technology.

La Figa Project by Tiberio Simone
I wonder if pheromones are stronger when women are of peak child bearing age. Well age aside, I do have this urge to procreate; maybe I'm just mistaking it for being horny!  My so called lover, a.k.a. Catcher Block*, likes that he is excited just being around me.  My love potion number 9 is working after all. ;-)

Aphrodisiac is named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexuality and love. Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and objects have reputation of making sex more attainable and/or desirable.   For example, there is some evidence that a chemical in chocolate called phenylethylamine (PEA) released in the brain may be involved in sexual attraction and arousal.  In Ancient Egypt, lettuce was eaten by the sexually potent God of Chaos as an aphrodisiac.  (Is that why we women eat so much chocolate and salad?)  Other more well known psychoactive aphrodisiacs are alcohol, cannabis, methaqualone, and ecstacy.  Although these substances reduce sexual inhibition thereby increase desire, unfortunately, also kills performance.

In keeping with the old adage that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I have created my version of passion potion.  This is modified from Epicurious' Isabella's Aphrodisiac.  From the land of milk and honey comes Eve's Aphrodisiac.  Now keep in mind I'm an artist, and I'm sensitive about my shit.;-)



Eve's Aphrodisiac

Makes about 2 pints of glorious frozen passion potion.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 1/2 cups goat milk
1/4-1/2 cup honey
4 egg yolks

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1 cup dried figs
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/2-2/3 cup good sherry such as Pedro Ximénez
1 teaspoon vanilla


     Soak figs in sherry and 1 tablespoon of sugar overnight. Drain and coarsely chop in food processor. Add a little of honey to desired sweetness. 
     In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the almonds and sauté until just golden. Remove the almonds and dry on paper towel. Put aside for later.
     In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer and add honey to dissolve. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
     In a stainless steel bowl, or double boiler, whisk the yolks with 2 tablespoons of sugar and salt for 3 minutes, or until pale yellow. Add hot milk slowly while whisking. Place the stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmer water and cook whisking constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the custard from the water and stir in the chilled cream.
     Chill the mixture for at least 30 minute to overnight. 
     Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  Add chopped figs after 10-15 minutes into the process and add almonds the last 5 minutes.  Divide into two pint containers and freeze at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. 
     Scoop generously into a large bowl, top with some toffee crumble, indulge with a few sips of sherry and lots of love. 

As Tiberio of the La Figa Project recommends: Eat well and make love.  

*Catcher Block is a sly journalist playboy (Ewan McGregor) in the flick Down with Love.  Counterpart Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) a feminist book author who instructs women to have sex detached from love like men do.  ;-) Super fun watch.