Tacos with broccoli, chard, and kidney beans in chipotle-coconut curry sauce

Chard, broccoli and kidney beans in coconut curry sauce

Chard, broccoli and kidney beans in coconut curry sauce

I got an iPhone four years ago. In the time since I’ve developed a nervous habit of checking my e-mail every few minutes. I don’t do it while I’m talking to people, of course, or at a meal or a gathering of any kind, but if I’m waiting on line, walking the dog, trying to write, if I’m actually just trying to check the time, I’ll always check my e-mail, too. It feels sort of hopeful and foolish. Any minute now, somebody is going to tell me they’d like to offer me a big advance to write a novel or make a feature film, and obviously they’re going to do it via e-mail, and it’s going to be totally legitimate, and if I don’t respond immediately I’ll lose the opportunity. Yeah. We got new phones, the other night, and now I get a gentle little chime each time I get a new e-mail. This means I don’t need to check!! This means that I know immediately that I got an important message from staples or toys r us or astrocenter (what the hell is astrocenter? Why are they bothering me?). Well, it feels strange. It’s vaguely disappointing, somehow. I no longer have the feeling that I could be getting good news at any time, because I know I’m not. Now I feel much more foolish than hopeful. And all of this got me thinking about mail, and how nice it used to be to wait for real mail from the mailman, and to write real letters, that required time and thought. And then I started thinking about photos, and how precious they used to be. People used to have special ways to keep photographs, little frames and boxes they would carry their one or two precious pictures in. Now we have phones loaded with snapshots. It used to require time and patience to take a photograph. The process was half skill, half luck in capturing the perfect moment. Now it’s all luck, the camera takes care of all the rest, and we can snap a billion shots a day. We have a much higher chance of capturing a randomly beautiful moment. I’ve been thinking about this quote I scribbled in my notebook a few years ago. It’s from René Claire, a filmmaker and writer who worked at the very beginning of cinema. He wrote essays about this miraculous new art form describing how passionately he felt about the direction it should take. He held it as a great responsibility to make films a certain way that would ensure that cinema lived up to its potential. Here’s the quote…

    In this era, when verbal poetry is losing the charm it exerted on the masses … a new form of poetic expression has arisen and can reach every beating heart on earth … a poetry of the people is there, seeking its way.

It’s easy to feel down and discouraged about the overwhelming barrage of messages and photos and news and information that we receive every single day, whether we like it or not. It’s easy to regret the days when a letter or a photograph was a rare and precious thing. It’s easy to be sad about the bloated, disappointing state of American film. But maybe it’s better to think about this new endless procession of snapshots, which capture an instant, are taken in an instant, and are shared in an instant, as a form of poetic expression available to most, and capable of reaching every beating heart on earth. Equal parts hopeful and foolish.
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We have tons of chard from the farm, which makes me very very happy, because I love chard. I decided to try something different with it, and cook it in a chipotle coconut milk sauce. It turned out really tasty! I added broccoli and kidney beans for substance, and lime and spices for flavor and brightness. We ate this with basmati rice, warm wheat tortillas, and a fresh salad made of avocado, cucumber and tomatoes, but you could eat it just with rice or any other grain you like.

Here’s Photo Jenny by Belle and Sebastian

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Red lentils and kidney beans with zucchini, spinach and rosemary

Red lentils, kidney beans and spinach

Red lentils, kidney beans and spinach

I forgot to buy dish soap at the grocery store, because that’s what I do. So I went to the little store down the block. They carry ultra joy. Well, what do you know? Money can buy happiness. And not very much money, either! It only costs a couple of dollars. I made a joke at the counter about how I was purchasing ultra joy, because it seemed like a funny idea to me. The woman at the register didn’t understand that I was joking, because in normal human conversation you can’t add LOLs and smiley faces. She said, “It works really good.” I thought, I hope so, because I’m feeling a little down and whybotherish. I wonder how that would work? Would you use the soap to wash away all of your doubts and sadnesses? Would happiness float to you in iridescent bubbles? Surely you wouldn’t have to drink it, because it might make you happy, but it would probably make you pretty sick, too. I suppose it would be dangerous if you could buy ultimate elation in a plastic squeeze bottle of lemon-scented liquid soap. It might make us all very lazy. Ultra joy is something you should have to work for, and it should be saved for rare and special occasions. They sell a non-ultra joy, too, as it happens, of the dish soap variety. This seems more reasonable, on a day-to-day basis. You can squeeze out small portion of relative contentment, or tired-but-cheerfulness, or it-could-be-worseness. Maybe it would be nice if something as quotidian as washing dishes held some magical power to make you feel joyous and light-hearted. I suppose it could, if we could muster the energy to enjoy the feeling of warm water and soapy bubbles, if we could understand how fortunate we are to have warm running water in the first place, or food to make our dishes dirty. Maybe the soap is meant as a subtle reminder of all that we should be grateful for. Wouldn’t that be an unusual marketing campaign? Well, I’ve just written a small essay on dish soap, so it’s probably time for me to get on with my day. After all, I’ve got laundry to fold, and the detergent promised me everlasting bliss.

Before I go, I’ll tell you about this dish of red lentils, kidney beans, zucchini and spinach. It’s a little like a dal, but with lots of rosemary instead of curry spices. It’s like a bright green potage, but the kidney beans add a nice texture. It’s simple to make, and doesn’t take much time. You could serve it over rice or pasta, or just with some good crusty bread. I topped mine with grated mozzarella, which melted right in.

Here’s Billy Bragg with The Busy Girl Buys Beauty

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Beet and kidney (bean) pies

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

It’s take your child to work day. The boys are at the shop with David, hopefully not routering their arms or circular sawing their fingers. Take your child to work day. It’s a little odd, when you stop to think about it, which for better or for worse I’ve just done. It seems to imply a certain neatness and regularity to the world that just doesn’t exist, as I see the world. Does every parent have a safe, child-friendly job? Does every parent have bosses and co-workers that will put up with an infestation of restless children? Does every parent have a job they can work at productively whilst entertaining a bored and or curious tyke? Does every parent have a job during school hours? Maybe they’re chefs or professors or rock stars or stage actors, and they work at night. Does every parent have a job at all? 399919_10200595609406883_2047603223_nI’ve just read that the day was invented by Gloria Steinem as Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and was intended to give girls a sense of possibility and purpose. This makes it seem even odder to me, almost as if it was subversively designed to illustrate the messiness of the world. How many children are bundled off to work with their fathers, because their mothers don’t work during the week because they’re home with children. Maybe they work at night or on the weekend so that they can be there to pick up their children after school. Maybe they have a job but its the kind of job many women have at some point in their lives–cooking or cleaning or caring for someone else’s children, and, strangely, this isn’t the kind of job you’d like to share with your own child. Maybe, like many women, you’re not treated with respect at your job, you’re not treated as an equal. A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not. Of course, all of this stopping-to-think-about-it has included some thoughts on my own life, my own work, my own ideas of success or failure and how they don’t quite fit into those of the rest of the world. Any thing you do is considered work if somebody pays you to do it. And the more they pay you, the more successful you are at your job. I’ve been doing a bit of pastry cheffing, and yesterday I made a cake for a restaurant. If the boys had stayed home and helped me with that, they would have been at work with me (and we would have had fun!). Today, I don’t have any commissions for cake, so if the boys stayed home from school and baked a cake with me, we’d be goofing off (and we’d still have fun!). If I sit around writing or cooking or conspiring to make a movie, I’m a shiftless slacker who should go out and get a real job (I know, I know…). If somebody pays me to do those things, I’m a person who has followed my dreams to find success (although I probably still can’t afford health insurance.) Everything is a little different looked at through the prism of parenthood. What seems brave and valuable when you’re a single person with only yourself to care for, seems irresponsible once you have children. We have our own small business. We work seven days a week, one way or another, and the truth is that the boys spend all weekend every weekend at work with David, watching him watch the store while I wait tables. This is life as they know it. We don’t have days off or weekends or paid vacations, and we still can’t afford health insurance. And all summer when they knock about the house with me, cleaning and cooking and keeping themselves happy and creative, waiting impatiently while I finish writing some dumb thing so we can go to the creek, they’re at work with me, whether they know it or not. It’s messy, it doesn’t fit into any tidy pattern of employment, but I think they’re okay with it. I think they’re proud of us, and have a sense of possibility and purpose. I think they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie! It’s ruddy! This was inspired, of course, by beef and kidney pie, or steak and kidney pie. It does have a certain meaty quality to it. It’s roasted beets and mushrooms combined with kidney beans in a saucy sauce of tamari, sage, rosemary, thyme and allspice. If you use vegetable shortening instead of butter in the crust, this would be vegan.

Here’s King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Workingman’s Blues.

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Beet & zucchini tacos with chipotle & queso blanco

Beet and zucchini tacos

Ever since the last time, I’ve been thinking of quotes to use this time. The last time, I chose the quotes at random, and was curious to see how they made connections with each other. This time, I’ve chosen quotes that have been stuck in my head one way or another over the years. And one from the book I’m currently reading. And one from Isaac, which he said while I was typing this up. Do you have quotes that get stuck in your head, and surface at the strangest times?

Mom, make your hand a fist and pretend it’s the world.”- Isaac.

He ain’t God, man.” – Chili Davis, on Dwight Gooden

Hwaet thu ece God !” – King Alfred

Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows
were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully
and gently held small children on the sills.
” – Franz Kafka, The Trial

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her
?” – Shakespeare, Hamlet

It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It’s probably the best drawing I’ve ever done.” – Napoleon Dynamite

The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Educated no, stupid yes,
And when I say stupid I mean stupid fresh
” – The Beastie Boys

And here are some tacos to use up some of the beets and zucchini you got from your CSA/garden!” – Claire
I was excited all day about making (and eating!) this. I bought some queso blanco at the grocery store. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for ages, but it’s a bit of a splurge. It wasn’t universally popular in my family. I like it – it’s mild, and salty. If you have feta, that would work well, too (it goes nicely with the earthy sweetness of the beets.) And, actually, grated jack or sharp cheddar would be tasty in this as well! I thought this turned out really pretty – the beets go so nicely with the dark kidney beans, and they color everything around them, but there are flashes of green here and there to set them off. The flavors were nice – smoky, spicy, sweet. The recipe calls for cooked rice. I definitely recommend basmati or something else with distinct grains – anything else would make the mixture too sticky. Wild rice or black rice might be even better! I just made a big pot of basmati, mixed some in, and left some separate for the boys, who like a higher rice to bean ratio. I think tacos are the most fun to eat! And the quickest and easiest to cook! I have some leftover beet/zuke/bean mixture, and I think it would make a nice bisque, if puréed with some good broth. Will I try it? I don’t know! It’s very hot, still!

Here’s Trenchtown Rock, from Bob Marley. There was a train bridge in New Brunswick, back in the day. A beautiful old train bridge. And somebody had painted in large white letters, “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” I mother flippin love that bridge, that quote, that song…

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Chili with cauliflower & 2 beans

Chili!!

I realized that I’ve been saying some mean things about winter lately. And we’ve had such a pleasant winter, so far! The truth is, I kinda like winter (in the way that a person who was probably a hibernating animal in another life likes winter!) I’d like to stay home all day, cuddled up, reading books, the boys in their pjs, me making complicated baked goods and slow-cooked I-don’t-know-whats! But I work on the weekends, so we never have a day of everyone in their pjs. Here’s something you can make that’s warm and rich and has complex flavors, so it feels like that kind of day, but in a fraction of the time. Oh, yes, and I almost forgot! We ate it with home-made tortilla chips and some grated cheese. Nice.

Here’s Bryon Lee and the Dragonaire’s with Hot Hot Hot.
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