Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Winter’s Tale

January 25, 2012

Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, was published in 1983. It has been on my favorite book list ever since. This winter I decided to read it again during the month of January, a perfect time, as the title might hint.

If only for the rush to the dictionary and the thrill of understanding these bell ringing made-up words I would tell you to read this book. If only for the way in which the concrete world/ideas are made light, diaphanous, ridiculous and the meta-physical world is given possibility/real edges I want you to read this book.

Yes, it is a book about romance and tragedy and, I suppose, the triumph of the human spirit which can drive any serious reader to mark the page and put it down and find a nice warm beverage and the op-ed column, but the huge, beautifully articulated paragraphs, the intricately yet sometimes obscurely linked events and folks will bring me back every time. I am in love with Virginia Gamely. I want to feel the cold beauty of somewhere upstate New York.

This book appears to ramble, if you work too hard to keep track of what year it is, who is related to whom, worry too much about Athansor, you will miss the wonder of the moment, which, as i write that I am aware of it’s own ridiculousness. What if we could suspend time? Didn’t we invent it originally? Would we go mad with intention, hold everything at once with senses cratered so deep we could finally stop………our deadening love affair with duality? This book will make you think like that.

I love a good movie…I am grateful no one has tried to make one of this book. I am afraid of the mess that would be made. The book’s possibilities/positions are best left to imagination at it’s first turn, just gathering in the colored strings without much raveling is best.

It will make you take long walks in the snow, glad for the cold, the light, the days off from school. It will make you feel strong, able to take on any momentous task that falls upon your path. Perhaps winter is not the time for hibernation and dreams. The path is never empty.


Winter Treats

January 25, 2012

Oh Butternut!

Who could say what grows under your awkward bulbousness,

that thin exterior the color of an old Barbie doll torso,

that hollow yet hallowed center,

until your flesh was split.

Oh Butternut, who knew you contained the essence

of a star crystallized, as well as the most coveted

liquid in the universe, your fragrance

steeped in centuries of early morning mist.

Oh Butternut, who knew the myriad consorts you might favor

in the name of flavor.

The spicy Italian Sausage with his garlicky breath and Asiago


the sautéed Chanterelle drunk with wine, sly and praising

of your tenderness.

Oh Butternut, only you could tame the narcissistic Gorgonzola,

wrapping him in ravioli, napping him with cream.

You, Blistered Chard, toasted Pine Nut, what a manage a trois you make!

And oh, Butternut, the sacrifice you make,

your blossoms before the fruit, a last splash of eros,

stuffed with black beans, chilies, urfa biber,

as September wanes, turning us back towards summer

as though it might never end.

This is the sauteed Italian Black Kale with toasted Pine Nuts, some baked Chicken chunks and the Most Honorable  Roasted Butternut. I cannot say any more about it. Let us pull up chairs, enjoin our forks and eat.

Warm and Rich Pie for Winter

January 20, 2012

This kind of pie is eaten slowly, small bites, waiting minutes between, because we don’t want it to ever end. Perhaps there is a dollop of fresh whipped cream, taken without sugar and vanilla, because we want the perfect clean foil for the intensity, the majesty, of this pie.

This pie has everything a winter pie deserves and expects. It has crunch, it has a saucy, sweet, southern mouth, and it commands your attention like Elizabeth Taylor in her tiara and pearls. You can’t say no. Even after seconds of mashed potatoes.

This pie is an adaptation of the pecan pie in Joy Of Cooking, the old version. Bruce wanted walnuts, fresh, crunchy, full of fat, walnuts. So we chopped some of them fine, left some chunky for a crunchy top, traded maple syrup and dark corn syrup instead of the light, giving it voodoo status, added my special vanilla that will take your hair down and maybe one layer of clothing off.

We blind baked the pie crust (you remember the crust recipe from last summer?) and then filled and baked at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Don’t over bake. Filling can still be somewhat soft. If the top darkens cover with foil last few minutes. You want it while it is still warm, crunchy top, soft filling, buttery golden crisp crust. Ice cream will deflect it’s perfection. Simple whipped cream….this is an earth tilting closer to the sun kind of moment. Make it last.

Bringing in the New Year

January 13, 2010

This post is part wrap up of the culinary class at our school brunch just before Christmas, thoughts about the new year and Twelfth Night, and special gifts and great ideas.

the last day of school before the holiday break brings our Christmas Brunch, all students come, the meal and festivities are free. We usually serve ham, cinnamon rolls, a huge array of fresh fruits, hot cocoa, milk, and juices. We usually give out mini candy canes to the elementary, and there is a bunch of card giving from the older grades. Our superintendent usually gives out presents to all staff. In the past we have received fuzzy vests or jackets with the school logo. This year we received stadium blankets for those cold football and soccer games. My students usually spend the morning with the kitchen staff cutting up fruit, icing cinnamon rolls and serving on the line. they seem to really enjoy this kind of holiday “work”. Have you noticed that teenagers tend to not want to be placed in a setting where they have to “serve” their peers? This time of year that changes in a big way for most of my class. but they wouldn’t do this every day.

One of my students in Creative Foods gave me some paperwhite bulbs for Christmas. It is really special to receive gifts from teenagers. That doesn’t happen for me very often. I am too tough! Here are the paperwhites! Thank you so much B.G.

One of our last projects for completing the first semester of Culinary Arts is the demonstration benchmark. Each student picks a recipe, works up a shopping list, and then demonstrates the item in front of peers, talking as they work, giving out the recipe, which the students must write down as though they are going to make the item from what they write down. The students add interesting bits of history or culture or family lore that are pertinent to the recipe. They can make almost anything they want: time and cost are the main factors, and the recipe needs a certain level of complication.

Here is one students yummy ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley and basil dip plus his homemade sweet potato and russet potato chips. He did an excellent job using a mandoline and keeping the oil at the correct temperature.

As Twelfth Night approached I did some writing for friends. I like to think of Twelfth Night, the night the Magi came to find baby Jesus, as a time to reflect on how at any given moment we can decide that the world can change for us, or that the world is changing and that we can be part of a new way of being and living. So I channel these prompts or favors, or fortunes, perhaps they are even instructions……I never know. These are printed on colored paper and wrapped with a bit of ribbon. Each friend can pick one. I believe we pick the right one always. Here are a few of the “instructions”….

Expect clarity 2010

Expect greater understanding of yourself and others this year. Relationships will flourish if you simply spend more time with those you treasure. Your color is sky blue. Hike to a mountain lake and jump in to restore your vision. Take a nap under an azure quilt with faith and make a life long friend. when doubt complains be kind.

If confusion follows you around for long buy a sketchbook and draw your feet every day until they walk off the page.

How to live with faith in 2010

Remember that faith is different than dogma and needs no rules or laws to have effect. Faith is best friends with understanding and vision who are waiting to meet you. Your color is pure silver because silver shimmers in the presence of faith. Wear silver rings. Light candles in silver candlesticks. Take believing in what you see and know to a deeper level. Please do not confuse faith with naivety.

You are The serpent in 2010

You are constantly changing to meet the needs of situations and people. This year your work and play involves constancy with your ideals, love and family. You will find that what please you pleases all. Your color is the deep green of moss. Your sound is the wind rushing through the tall douglas fir. Climb the tree and build your dreaming house there. Wisdom will meet you there.

Oh, lucky one! Courage is coming to meet you in 2010. Perhaps you should take that first aid class. You have already prepared yourself by learning how to pray and committing to staying in one place, growing roots. You will become very comfortable with a certain helpful solitude. Please do not confuse this with loneliness for you are far from that malady. You will be attracted to red spray paint and big felt tip pens. Be sure to wear red socks…….and lipstick!

Ride with joy in 2010

This is the year for you to gather all the gratitude you have been feeling and cash it in for the pay off called joy. Joy shows up when your heart is brimming over. This makes you cousin to songbirds and second graders. This is the year for dancing lessons and yellow pillows, scarves and cars. You are younger than you think. Joy is contagious so share it, especially with those who haven’t caught on about gratitude.

so which one would you pick?

Holiday Favorite Things

January 4, 2010

what a gift…..2 weeks of holiday time. I found myself keeping the festivities simple. Bruce and I had a special Christmas day with my sister on the river. we walked the woods, and Monk, our dog, had the best time running the beach and splashing in the water. We had a potluck dinner with the crowning dessert a date/walnut pudding that our mom used to make every Christmas. Then, we raced to the ferry to make it to The Berni family Christmas, more dessert, homemade berry pie, pecan tarts, and an apricot almond tart. We stayed overnight and went to breakfast, then a nice drive home with Grandma and our nephew Sam.

My friend Eddie and i had practiced making these apricot tarts with a thin layer of almond filling underneath. We used a German type of puff pastry, really easy. It takes some time for the dough to rest. We tried California and Mediterranean dried apricots, and canned, as no fresh were available. To soften the dried ones we slowly poached them with some water and sugar. I let one batch go too long and almost candied them. They were intensely sweet and not what we wanted, which was a certain amount of sweet and tart combined. This is one of the tarts with apricots canned with pear juice.

We spent many evenings at home, just being together and talking about the past year and changes we might make in 2010. this last year was so difficult, and frightening with my mom passing away. when a parent passes there is a kind of shock even when it might be expected. When I look back now I don’t know how I endured and stayed present with her at that time. I was so fortunate to have my sister and husband with me.

These are Monk and Jojo. Jojo is teaching Monk about sharing the couch, perhaps becoming a bit more friendly.

On New Years Eve we went to a wedding reception for good friends. Our gift was a tiramisu that could serve about 50-60. I’ve made this before in 4 tiers. It is tricky to put together because there is no cake inside, just the mascarpone filling so the doweling that separates layers needs to be large to sit on the bottom. The cake cannot be left out of refrigeration for too long because it will soften. As you can see I am a bit out of practice with the buttercream pearls, but the fondant roses and hearts turned out sweet.

As usual I will be the last to take down the lights outside. I take some down after twelfth night, and then leave something until February……I love the colored lights in the dark, the cheerful feeling I have coming home. We all need to do the little pleasurable things…..even if it isn’t “done”. Life is so short my friends. Take good care of yourselves and family. This is what we have. This is what we are here for.

A Poem for You

December 14, 2009

It is late Sunday evening and has been snowing now for a few hours, sound is muffled by the enrobe-ment. I’ve put up a few Christmas lights and turned off the rest. I love this kind of darkness. Here’s that poem I wrote for you….

The Christmas Danish

Start with the dough, a croissant style dough

with the elongated ahhh and silent n and t.

The butter has been saved, frozen

last summer when the fat curds tumbled

out sweet and pale from July grasses

the soft-eyed Jersey crunched, on one

of her very best days.

And the flour, some whole grain pastry grown by

a farmer whose wife still uses the bread drawer

in their nineteenth century kitchen, and who

often mills his own just to let it run through his fingers,

the waft of Columbia River minerals rising, the taste

of an ancient craft licked off palm, eager to provide

the crisp, buttery firmament.

Almonds, wicked jewels of tongue, grown far away

from here, in a stillness just over the hills from

where Abraham came to his senses, prayerful

for reconciliation between intuition and grace.

Pounded, sugared, they become the perfume

that draws us close to the ovens heat.

And, long before those apricots were ever tenderly laid

in baskets, mashed and cooked to jam, to then be spread

thick over almonds and the rest, there was one day

in April when, standing on a tall ladder surrounded by

the heady sweetness and bees, pruning the branches

to let all the sunlight in, I gathered handfuls of fragrance

into a jar, so that today, in the kitchen my heart is open.

Olives, Figs, Lemon, Goat Cheese and HomeMade Crackers

November 14, 2009

Last weekend I finally made…..crackers. I have wanted to do this since tasting some at Nell Thorn a while back. I served the crackers with one of my favorite cheeses and a mixture of caramelized onion, green and nicoise olives, figs, and toasted almonds, and a bit of orange peel….the photo shows lemon peel…that’s what I have in the fridge this morning.

the cracker recipe came from 101 cookbooks, a place I go to often to get started with recipes and ideas. In fact, in my work at school when staff asks how to make something I often tell them to just google 101 cookbooks and look for it. I made some crackers with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. I liked brushing them with more extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkling on toppings. I did have to press the sesame seeds in with a rolling pin. I also used the pin to roll the dough out instead of a pasta machine. The pin worked just fine. The recipe does say to stretch the dough out a bit before placing on the baking sheet. One needs to be careful not to handle the dough too much. The first cracker was a bit….tough after baking.

I also want to report that I have purchased the food trays without compartments and have got the china plates washed and am just waiting for the right lunch that can easily be served on real plates!!! for the high school students. My thoughts are that frequent use of real plates might encourage a new level of maturity….kind of like little kids finally getting to sit at the big table for Thanksgiving. I will let you know how this turns out, with pictures.

Here is the photo of my home made crackers, goat cheese, and olive/fig mix.


Skagit River Poetry Project and Festival

September 23, 2009

Dear Friends of the Skagit River Poetry Project and Festival:

It is a sunny May day in LaConner Washington. The streets are filled with excited students from 6 school districts and two colleges, scurrying to get to the next poetry venue on time, so they do not miss: Kurt Lambkin singing poems and playing his Kora, Jimmy Santiago-Baca tells stories and reading poems about inner-city times, Lorna Crozier talking about the writer’s life and how her poems get made, not to mention Sam Green, our Washington State Poet Laureate, coaxing the poem from unsuspecting students.

I’m sure you have your own stories of who you’ve seen and heard, and had memorable conversations with, over the eleven years the Skagit River Poetry Project has been bringing poets to the valley and into our schools. Your children have come home inspired to write, to perform, moved by the life of a poet.

During the 2008-2009 school year the SRP project put poets into five school districts from Concrete to Bellingham, for seventy-five days, with over 10,000 students involved. Poets went into classrooms, were guests at assemblies, reading, talking, teaching. Students listened, read, wrote and dreamed. Perspectives changed. This is magic.

Well, dear friend, all this is in danger of dying.

Many of our fine supporters from years past are having to work under the same economic difficulties as the rest of the nation. School districts, private and state foundations are tightening their budgets. These institutions know how important the SRPP is yet must make cuts. So please, in the last eleven years, if you came home from the Skagit River Poetry Festival invigorated, enlightened, inspired, buzzed about Billy Collins or any other poet, please donate to the project now, today.

The Project and Festival website will be up and running soon, where you can check out current poetry in the school examples and the line up for Festival 2010.

You can send checks, made out to the Skagit River Poetry Project, to:

Attn: David Cram, Financial Officer

LaConner School District

POBOX 2103

LaConner, Wa. 98257

Thank you on behalf of all the students and board members who work so hard to make poetry happen.

Georgia Johnson

Board Member

A Semifreddo for You

September 6, 2009

Coffee Caramel Semifreddo

2 egg whites   and   ½ cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream   and   ¼ cup sugar

½ cup sugar  and   ¼ cup water

1 T. heavy cream

¼ cup of your strongest coffee, or 2 shots espresso, still hot

2 drops vanilla

Start with the caramel/coffee syrup. Place sugar in the pot first, ½ cup in middle of bottom. Add the water in a drizzle around the outer edge of the pot to contain the sugar. Turn on medium heat and allow the sugar to melt into the water, just swirling the pan, no need to stir. About now, take a large bowl that your pot can fit inside and fill ½ full with ice/water for chilling down the syrup.

When the sugar melts, turn up heat to medium high and watch as the syrup starts to bubble. You want to see a continuous mild bubbling, no rising up the pan sides, no furious steam. Leave this cooking, no stirring, for about 4-5 minutes, it will develop a slight golden color. Stop the heat, take off burner, and drizzle in the coffee while mixing. The caramel might gunk up, this is a cooking term, on your utensil. Put the pot back on heat for a minute, stirring vigorously until it all melts back together and is bubbling again. Add the cream and vanilla and whip smooth. Now, take off heat and set pot into that bowl of ice water to chill down for the next step.

Whip the egg whites in a bowl way too large for them, this is the bowl everything will eventually go into, until frothy. Remember the whites must be free of any egg yolk and bowl and whip must be oil free. Oil messes with an egg whites ability to expand and take up the air.

When frothy add the sugar in two batches, whipping furiously until glossy, thick and firm. Set aside, and whip the cream until soft peaks form, add sugar and whip 10 more seconds.

The syrup is cold. Right?

Fold the whipped cream into the egg whites carefully, in two batches. Add the syrup to this mixture in 3 batches, I know it doesn’t look like much to fold, but if you dump it in all at once and try to fold it in the mixture is just too watery and you loose your loft and texture. Have some respect for just what the egg whites can do here.

Place the now mixed semifreddo into a 3 cup, small loaf pan that has been lined with plastic wrap up over the sides. This is the traditional shape of most semifreddos. Freeze this for at least 6 hours, completely solid, yet still delicate and soft. As you can see, I am using my mom’s old tin almond roca can for a form, because I like the wedge shape I will cut pieces into, and…….this was my mom’s tin for baking her date walnut pudding every Christmas when we were kids.

Now, decide what will accompany, compliment, the desert because, frankly, this is a very sweet thing. I don’t care for berries and coffee together in such an intense combo. Chocolate ganache added in some way would be over the top. If you are trying to equate your cooking style with the degree of ardor you have for your guest…..this would be it.

Let’s use peaches or nectarines, just one or two slices, on the side, or artfully draped over the top. Simple. Fantastic. Here’s what we did:

IMG_0102 IMG_0103


The Night Sky Late August

August 28, 2009

just before midnight and a sweet, kind wind moves in from the west. So gentle it belies the fact of rain in the morning. The stars still show, Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper in the northwest. The arm is made up of four stars called the Mizar Zeta. These are my friends who give great comfort in the dark.

E7 A7 B9

Albert King was my grandpa

in the same way I often sit at night

in the cup of Ursa Major,

letting my arms drift out behind me

along the Mizar Zeta stars,

spine stretched out, not taut,

but languorous,

lifted by the way the man’s

voice can move me,

move me

out into the stellar midst

where we dance, really dance, really dance.

There is a science in the tension of string,

there is an art in the brush of a man’s fingers,

the way the man’s fingers move on.

I feel them clasp behind my shoulders

perfectly, releasing

as I raise arms above my head,

then around his neck,

and he makes mudra within

my shining body:

how is it that just three chords

can do that?