Summer-time culinary ecstasy

Published July 11, 2011 by wildleek

I love cooking in the summer. I love giving in to the heat, saying, “You win,” letting the sound of popping oil fill the tiny kitchen of my soul.

Right now, my real-life kitchen is brimming with abundance. It is wood-paneled and tiny, small enough to bump the hips of its two inhabitants. It feels even smaller when it bursts with green, like today. One day after market, a speckled blue stock pot, shelled peas: simmering paradise. Food in winter is nourishment; in summer, food is celebration.

In the heat, moisture rises frmom a skillet full of vegetables and it lingers in the room, a fragrant ghost. It fogs the windows, condenses on the wine bottle, sticks to my skin. It makes me aware of my body, every fleshy inch of it. The heat loosens my muscles, makes them easy.

Last summer, at the height of harvest, a friend and I improvised a meal together in an idyllic kitchen deep in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula. We were house- and dog-sitting for another of her friends, in what turned out to be our separate but shared vision of the cosmic Home.

It was perfect: squat and sprawling with hardwood floors and stone counters, the house itself surrounded by out-buildings and exuberant vegetable gardens. We spent a late afternoon picking peas, green beans, and basil, and swatting away biting flies. The owner’s dogs sat on the porch and watched us, panting.

As we picked handfuls of cherry tomatoes to eat outside, we talked about our senses. The pungency of the herb garden. The dense warmth of tomato skin. The way our bones could settle into chairs across from the fireplace inside every evening, if we lived in this place.

Afterward, we brought our bounty and the dogs into the kitchen, opened two summer beers, and began preparing what would remain my favorite summer meal.

Pizza with Garden Vegetable Sauce

1. Prepare your pizza crust. Pre-made is fine, but I make the following recipe:
Mix 2 c. spelt flour, 1-1/2 tsp. active yeast, 1 tsp. baking powder. Add 1 tsp. honey, 1 TBSP olive oil, and 2/3 c. warm water. Knead, let rise.

2. In a food processor combine: green beans, peas, onion, garlic, olive oil, and feta cheese. To taste. This will be your sauce, so do enough to cover your pizza crust.

3. Roll out pizza dough, if making your own.

4. Top pizza crust with green-veg mixture.

5. Add more feta cheese and tomato slices.

6. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or per instructions on store-bought crust.


Fragments of language

Published May 23, 2011 by wildleek

Mondays need poems like Fridays need wine. Two short ones.

Morning Song

Morning is
desires for nothing
but what
can be held
in the hard white
case of ribs.

Record Keeper

I am keeping a tally here,
a long one in a leather-bound journal,
keeping a tally of things I’ve seen.
Each rare bird and each common one,
each fat bee hovering around
the swollen centers of peonies
and poppies, each time you say,
“honey” and “love,” each time
we eat olives, drink tea, which kinds,
each sticky, breezy summer morning
and the winters walking through the woods,
heavy boots shattering the fragile frosty ground,
each kiss and cloud and cicada summer.
And if anyone finds this, if anyone
reads this, if anyone says, yes, this,
this is the thing to recreate, this, you, us
if anyone.

The thing about depression…

Published May 22, 2011 by wildleek

The thing about depression is my life is pretty fabulous right now. I’m busy and successful and I have free time which I get to fill with wonderful things.

And then I pull a dish out of the cupboard (I even did dishes! That’s how Not Depressed I am.) and, oh, look, that one has a big blob of salad dressing that I totally didn’t wash off OH GOD I SUCK AT EVERYTHING I SHOULD JUST RUN OUT IN FRONT OF AN SUV.

That’s the thing about depression. I’ve been in deep, bellowing, life-consuming depressions, the ones where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I’ve had those depressions. And they suck.

And then there’s just Depression. The all-the-time, doesn’t-go-away, even-when-I’m-happy-I’m-depressed depressions. I removed an allergen from my diet about one and a half years ago and a lot of the acute depression went away. I remember driving to work one day shortly after the change and becoming suddenly very paranoid because, holy cow, I felt so happy. No reason. Nothing had happened to make me feel happy. I just did. I was just happy. And it was such a huge change. Which is awesome.

But that’s not the whole of it. The other night, I was getting stuff together for my booth at the farmer’s market, and I reached for a book to stick in the crate I was taking along and noticed its spine was looser than it should be. It was a binding method I had learned only a few months ago, so I’m still fairly new to it, and this particular book was one of my first ones in that style. And the binding was a little loose. This makes perfect sense. I was inexperienced. Of course the product wasn’t flawless.

Yeah. Tell that to Depression. So, I sat on the floor had a panic attack.

That night, I had experienced no other stress. I was feeling totally ready and confident about the market. I was excited. I do good work and I know it. Yet.

That’s the worst thing about depression for me. The out-of-the-blue-ness of it, the way there’s no build, no escalation. The way happy can flip over and be suicidal in the space of a moment. In the space of a dirty dish.

The thing about depression is having no control.

“French struggle to replace Strauss-Kahn”

Published May 18, 2011 by wildleek

The headline this morning.

Philosophers spend their entire academic and professional careers haunted by dilemmas. A train full of children. Throwing one on the tracks could save the rest. You know the kind. And we are told to struggle with this. It is a struggle to decide who lives and who dies; the many or the few.

Yet, it is hardly a pause in breathing, a moment before taking a sip of morning coffee, to decide to throw a woman before the train. Surely, the victim of sexual assault in the case of Strauss-Kahn has suffered–we are told blithely by our media–of course she has, but the real struggle, the important suffering is that of a nation without a leader. What are they to do now that their candidate is being investigated on these charges?

The French struggle to replace Strauss-Kahn.

Of course they do. You know who else struggles?

Women who have been raped.

Women who have been abused, assaulted, called liars, kept silent for fear of judgment and retaliation.

Women who are unable to change their clothes because being undressed is now terrifying.

Women who are told to force a smile afterward so as not to upset their friends.

Women who are told smiling means it really wasn’t rape.

Women who trusted.

Women who have been told to consider the gravity of their accusation, to consider the impact radius of such an accusation on such a powerful and, apparently, fragile man.

Consider, women, consider until the statute of limitations has passed, or until you have convinced yourself that you are probably a liar or an exaggerator or a whore for allowing yourself to be raped.

Consider the man.

Consider your country.

Consider France.

Linda Hogan

Published March 22, 2011 by wildleek

The local university hosts the Indigenous Earth Issues Summit on Friday. It is a twelve-hour conference on environmental activism, featuring speakers, writers, musicians, and local activists.

Linda Hogan is the keynote speaker. If you haven’t read her work, you should.

Following is small excerpt from the essay, “What Holds the Water, What Holds the Light” from the book Dwellings:

“The water jar was a reminder of how water and earth love each other the way they do, meeting at night, at the shore, being friends together, dissolving into each other, in the give and take that is where grace comes from” (46).

Hello, I love you, can I read you a poem?

Published March 19, 2011 by wildleek

At an open-mic the other night, an elderly woman from Austria read two chapters from a book she is working on. It is about her grandmother who was a young woman during the First and Second World Wars.

She writes of her great-grandmother, dying slowly of edema brought on by heart complications, before a brief reunion with one of her daughters. The imagery struck me and, as we are closing in on National Poetry Writing Month, it seemed an apt time to try writing again myself.

We liked the idea of believing, so we did

How nice to sleep on
clean linens,
you said, and the world
a curled fawn in leaves,

and the strobe
of bomb blasts,
a crumbling
projector screen
of buildings
and sky,

and the pale plane
of your cheek
dipping like the moon
drawn down to my hand

and a cigarette
dampened and Chopin

and the red river Rhine
through these bodies,
the scent
of sulphur and
ash and–

I will be leading my first-ever real poetry reading on April 29 at a place called “The Joy Center.” I might have a hard time selecting poems that aren’t too depressing. I don’t do “joy” very well in my writing, but we shall see.

But you need both to live, right? The Yin and the Yang, the dark and the light. I can wallow in gloom and grief but am able to come alive in joy. We are all able. And to live in only one district of the circle is to always be half when we long to be full.