Monday, January 15, 2018

Leaving for Peru

I LEAVE FOR PERU FOR 5 WEEKS, TWO TRIPS INTO THE JUNGLE WITH GUESTS, TOMORROW. SO TONIGHT WAS A NIGHT TO CLEan out the fridge. My wife/ex-wife Chepa is here with her two new beautiful kids, Alexa and Sierra. A friend, Corrina is here, My daughter in law Sarah is here with her two kids, Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my two older sons, Italo and Marco will be here soon. My daughter Madeleina and her boyfriend Adrian are here as well. What that means is I had to cook to a lot of different palates and I was determined to do it with what I had, rather than buying more that would rot while I am in Peru. So the MenU:
Romaine salad with baby tomatoes and vinagrette;
Cucumber salad with lime
Then: Thick sliced pork chops baked with saurkraut. Topped with a fantastic homemade gravy.
White rice with garlic.
Yellow rice.
Manicotti with three cheeses and two sauces;
Burritos from last night with pulled pork, chicken, avacodo, spicy black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, good cheddar and a couple of things I am forgetting;
Prime rib sauteed to medium rare with onions and mushrooms and a touch of red wine;
Roast chicken in Lemon sauce;
Everyone has eaten but me. There is nothing left of the seven pounds of meat and two pots of rice or manicotti or burritos.
I guess that leaves me with the rocky road ice cream.
I'm down with that.
The fridge is nearly cleaned. Time to go to Peru and have a fantastic adventure. See you all in 5 weeks. Stay strong.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Easiest Recipe in the World. HA!

Easiest recipe in the world. HA! So my daughter, Madeleina, and her friend Adrian brought home some fantastic soft tortillas.
"Dad, if you don't want to cook tonight, let's just have tortillas, okay?"
"Ok, Madeleina, no sweat."
I was lying, of course. While I had some of the ingredients, I needed a few, so hopped to the store for fresh cilantro, chicken thighs, a fat pork chop with the bone in. Came home, opened a can of good black beans, then put minced onion and garlic in olive oil in a small pot. When ready I added diced Roma tomatoes, then added the beans. 20 minutes later I added chopped cilantro, achiote, white vinegar. Turned down heat, let simmer for an hour.
While that started, I washed and dried the chicken thighs, rubbed them down in garlic and olive oil, then seasoned with cracked black pepper and pink sea salt. Put in to bake at 325 (last 20 minutes raise to 390 to get crisp skin).
Started rice with garlic and olive oil, added water when ready, and salt, then added Jasmine rice when all was boiling.
Put on a small fry pan, high heat. Washed the chop, dried it, floured it, seasoned it with a bit of olive oil and pepper, seared it, then tossed the pan into the oven next to the chicken pan.
Cooked ingredients on, I chopped tomato, onion, cilantro and then mixed in the juice of three good limes with a bit of salt and pepp and a touch of garlic to make my pico de gallo.
When that was done I set it aside, added achiote (to make yellow rice) and smoked paprika from Peru to the rice, then resealed.
I got a good avocado, cleaned and sliced it.
I opened a container of sour cream,
I shredded part of a bar of good sharp cheddar cheese, our preference around here.
An hour later, everything done and cooling, I turned one of the burners--electric stove, so flat glass top-- on high, and one by one heated the soft tortillas on it, turning them once or twice. Burned three fingers, but browned those tortillas just right. Was looking at 20 minutes of cleaning that glass top in the morning.
Set out a baking dish. In each tortilla I put either some chicken or pulled pork, a bit of black beans, a bit of rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado, then shredded cheese.
Rolled them up, one by one. Tossed them into a 325 oven. While they were in there I made nice salad and plated it on the three plates.
Mdeleina came in from an apparent nap just as I was pulling out the tortillas.
"They look great, dad! All you need is a little sauce on top and they're done. Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"
Ha. I didn't say a word. She'll be a mom some day and I will tap her on her shoulder from the great beyond and say: "Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"

Friday, January 12, 2018

A primer on the self-applicatio of Sapo or Kambo

A primer on the self-application of Sapo. Same would apply for Kambo, except that you would drink water beforehand and mix the medicine with water and not spit.
Prior to starting, get two grocery bags, double them up and line them with paper towels to use in case you vomit. A bucket will do as well.
Get a glass of room temperature water and keep it nearby.
Have a friend nearby to help you to the bathroom or to keep your head straight in case you black out. If you black out with your neck in a bad position and then suddenly vomit, you will find your self choking. Best to have a friend keep an eye on you.
Take the stick and put it on a hard, flat surface.
Wash your mouth out with water after cleaning with a tooth brush. We want clear saliva, not old spit.
Get a good knife with a hard blade--a steak knife will bend and cause you to lose sapo medicine, while a hard blade will all you to chip the medicine into the saliva cleanly
Pick a corner of the stick that is free from medicine. Put a bit of saliva on your finger and place it on that clear spot. If no clear spot, place it on the medicine, but not more than the size of your pinky nail.
Wait a moment, then begin to loosen up the medicine beneath the saliva. The medicine is deeper than it looks, so you can go deeper than you think.
Work the medicine into the saliva gently, chopping it up, making sure the material is bump/clump free. When done properly it should have the texture of moist wasabi mustard.
Take your tamishi vine and light one end of it. Hold the lighter to it until it is fully red at the tip. If need be yu can suck the other end of the tamishi like smoking a cigarette to get it evenly hot, You do not want any uneven coloring on the tip
When it is bright red, apply to your upper left or right bicep. Hold for about 1 second, then pull away.Until you know the strength of this particular stick you should start with one burn You can do more tomorrow, but you cannot undo it once you apply, so caution is the word, always.
Scrape off the burned skin to make it a clean wound.
Double check the medicine for moistness--dry is not good, so if you need a bit more saliva, add it.
Apply the medicine to the wound with the tip of your knife, covering the wound entirely.
Put the knife down and put the stick out of reach of anyone who might enter the room,
You will begin to flush after 15 seconds
At about one minute your head will heat up, your heart rate increase, your pulse will increase.
The increase will continue for 8-10 minutes.
If need be, get on your hands and knees.
If, at any point your head feels very hot, pour a bit of the water over it and gently rub it into your scalp and temples to lower your temperature.
At about the 8 minute mark you will feel your stomach cramping and might vomit or need to evacuate. If you need to go to the bathroom you should have a friend help you. You might think you can walk the few steps but a lot of people feint and fall and that can be dangerous.
At about the 11 or 12 minute mark you will have peaked and will feel your heart rate slowing.
At 14-17 minutes the acute period of the medicine is done.
Carefully wipe the medicine from your arm to prevent you from scratching it and then wiping your eye--which really hurts.
The ordeal over, you might need to rest for a little while--some people need an hour or two, some people are raring to go almost immediately--or you might need water for dehydration, or a lime for electrolytes, or an orange for quickly available sugar. Have all three on hand for each experience.
NOTE: Some people wind up with what we call a frog face: Soft tissue under the eyes and the lips swollen badly. This will vanish within an hour in most cases, though now and then it can last a day. It is nothing to be frightened of: it is an indication that so many toxins have been released for removal that your kidneys are backed up and the toxins take short term residence in soft tissue. It is generally the face, but can also be the genitals, under your arms, etc. It will disappear as those toxins get flushed.
In the aftermath of the experience, you might discover that your urine is orange or green or smells like you had two pounds of asparagus last night. Your bowel movement might be particularly black and different in consistency than normal. Again, do not worry about this: It's just the toxins being flushed, and things will soon return to normal.
Make certain that your stick is dry--no trace of the saliva left--before putting it away. Keep in cool dark place, wrapped in newspaper. Always keep out of the range of children, who might see the shiny medicine as something sugary and lick it,, or simply touch it and get some on their fingers which then might get transferred to their eyes.
Never serve to a pregnant woman as sapo/kambo can cause abortions.
Never serve to a lactating woman as the medicine OR the toxins being released by the medicine for elimination might end up in the milk used for breastfeeding.
Never serve to someone or take yourself when high on other drugs, though few prescription drugs present a problem.
Doing sapo when drunk will kick your ass in a huge way. Don't test it.
Always err on the side of caution. You can do more tomorrow. You cannot do less once it has been applied.

Friday, January 05, 2018

2018 Trips to the Jungle

Ladies and Gents, Adventurers of All Ages!
Okay all you people who want a bit of adventure in your lives: Here are the dates for my trips to the Amazon this year. I have a few slots open for January; several open for February, and have just started booking June and July. The trips are kept small, purposefully as I don't really like large groups. So 12 is the limit. Here is the pitch. Take a swing. Just might be an important event in your life.
January 2017
Saturday, Jan 20, through the morning of Monday, Jan 29
February 2017
Saturday Feb, 3, through the morning of Monday, Feb 12
June 2017
Saturday, June 16, through the morning of Monday, June 25
July 2017
Saturday, July 7, through the morning of Monday, July 16
Looking for a dozen intrepid seekers for each of the Jaunts. Looking for people who want to see and be in deep Amazon jungle; people who want to experience ayahuasca and the Matses’ medicines Sapo and Nu-nu in their natural settings; people who don’t mind dirt under their fingernails if they get it because they were walking in high canopy jungle or in a primordial swamp or collecting wild foods or even making clay pots. I’m looking for people who want to collect the medicines they’ll use and watch their preparation, people who would rather participate than observe and be served. I want a small group of curious people, humans interested in their personal growth, in the spirit world, in the Northwest Amazon as it is today but may not be tomorrow. I want people who see bathing in the beautiful Aucayacu river as an opportunity, not as a poor substitute for a hot shower; people who view the chance to eat a few local magic mushrooms while traveling overnight on a flat-bottomed river boat on the Amazon as a once in a lifetime thrill, and see night canoeing in dugouts while searching for medicine frogs a rare and wonderful opportunity. In other words, I want anyone who sees living as a bit of a risk but one worth taking.
And if you join, my team—which will outnumber the guests—and the medicines and the jungle and the rivers and I will all work our collective asses off to give you something you’ll hold onto for a very long time. The medicines will astound you, the people will thrill you, the jungle will amaze you. So what are you waiting for? Drop me a line at or head over to the website for more info, photos, and an idea of the trip itinerary and costs.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lentils for the New Year

Friend of mine asked me for my lentil recipe. Here it is:
Its 11:32 PM. This is my last official act of 2017. But you are worth it, and I just did this sleep-thinking three times, so I might as well type it out.

    Rince about a pound of lentils two or three times. Can be quick. Just check there are no stones, etc.
Put two big tablespoons of garlic, chopped, in olive oil in a saute pan or small pot, and heat, Add a diced onion--any flavor, color. I like sweet red, but thats just preference. When the onion is translucent, fill pot with three quarts of water, bring on the heat, get it boiling. When it is boiling put in salt and pepper and lentils and stir, Let it boil for about 45 minutes or an hour, add three diced roma tomatoes, some cumin, some tumeric, maybe a bay leaf, bring down to a simmer. They are ready some time between 1 hour and 20 minutes and 2 hours, depending on how old they were to start. You will know it when the flavor sears your tongue like a good kiss. Finish with some freshly chopped cilantro if you can.
   Happy New Year, 2017 is done.

2017: Thats a Wrap!

Well, well, well...;Just got up from an aggregate 8 hours laying down last night (out of 14). Later than I've gotten up in years!!! But what a relief after the insomnia of the past couple of weeks!!! And not only that: I put a whole beef brisket on at 2:37 AM (oven at 250) for a friend who occasionally feeds the homeless, with today being one of the days he was doing that. Got up again at 4:50 AM to put some broth in the pan and cover it tightly with foil, then was up at 8:40 to check on it. It was good, but needed another couple of hours. So I went back to reading papers on the computer (while hoping I would get another urge to lie down to sleep) when Mike called to say that the weather was making the roads too bad for him to drive the 30 miles to my house to pick up the brisket, and would I mind just keeping it and eating it? I don't mind. Don't mind at all having a beautiful brisket ready at noon for an early dinner tonight on New Year's Eve. There is going to be plenty, so if you are a nice human, please come over and we'll be glad to share our table with you. Happy New Year, Everybody!!!!!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Just another food post

Another boring food post. Skip it if you're on a diet. It got cold here. I mean cold for Joshua, Texas if you only wear shorts and short sleeve cotton shirts. So after a couple of weeks of eating fantastic food, but food that does not make you fat, the cold triggered something in me. So a couple of days ago I made fried calamari. Then two nights ago I got the urge for mac and cheese. In this house that meant rigatoni. A base of bacon and country ham, garlic, celery,onions and tomatoes. Set aside when done. Add good cheddar, spicy havarti, swiss and parmesan. Plus milk to make sauce. Add the bacon/garlic mix to the cheese sauce. Pour over rigatoni. Top with butter cooked breadcrumbs and asiago cheese, then bake till top is brown and cheese is bubbling and your mouth is watering from the smell. Had that with a veggie melange of cauliflower, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato, garlic, olive oil, scallions. Nice.
Last night I was gonna make sliders. Tiny burgers on tiny buns. Of course I got to the store and saw nice fresh minced pork and switched to meatloaf in my head: I had all the other ingredients at home except the pork, so that was easy. And, since we'd had bacon--thick sliced and diced--in the mac and cheese, I skipped that. "We'll have that with a salad" I told myself, like a drunk saying, "I think I'll just start with one"--something I know about--but then got home and found four baking potatoes that I sliced very thin, boiled, covered with a good morney sauce and baked to make potaoes au gratin, about 50 calories a bite.
Justification for all that indulgence? For two weeks I've not slept more than 4 hours a night, some nights none. While sitting at my desk waiting for sleep to come I've fallen over onto the floor probably 4 times nightly, once dislocating two fingers and badly bruising my right hand. Extreme pain for days now. Then my back went out--something that does not happen to me, damnit--and it hurts to walk or stand. So I am in pain 24/7 for days now. Cannot take much ibuprofin since it's bad for my freaking kidneys, and so I'm stuck hurting. Hard to be a fun guy when everything is sharp pain. I do no know how much courage people who are in chronic pain for years must have to continue going forward despite that pain. I am amazed at their courage. This will get better. Right now it's not good. But I am strong and will fight back and kick some ass and feel like myself again soon. I feel my Irish getting up. Meanwhile, we're having the leftover meatloaf and potatoes au gratin with seared spinach in garlic tonight. Enjoy, everybody. It's nearly the end of 2017!

Crazy Peru

A person recently posted in an ex-pat community board that after having lived in Peru for several years, she thinks Peruvians are missing something mentally or emotionally that prevents them from living successfully in the Western world. I begged to differ.
Here was my response:

I think the idea that people should be able to adapt and function in the "real world" is what is off in the initial poster's comment. Peru has its own reality, and that is as legitimate as any other reality. When you marry in Amazonia, for instance, your wife picks your lover for you. Sounds crazy but it's not at all crazy: She will pick some cousin or aunt from a part of the family to which she, your wife is indebted, and you, without knowing it, will be the peace symbol, Very effective, very functional. If you refuse the lover you will be forever accused of cheating on your wife. Why? Because it is a given that a man will cheat on his wife in order to have more babies with new blood that will keep the tribe strong. Not cheating, therefore, becomes a sign of weakness. In Iquitos there are now several grocery stores. Yet most locals shy away from them, preferring to shop in the insanely busy markets. Sounds crazy. Again, it's not: The markets are where you bump into a dozen of your friends daily, so they represent the social hub of the city. You might shop more efficiently at a supermarket, but you would miss the key social event of the day. These are just two examples out of hundreds where a Westerner might see a more efficient way of doing things and cannot understand why the locals do not choose to do those things. To the Peruvian, it's we Westerners who are lost because we have no sense of family, of community. We've given it all away in our search for efficiency. Having spent parts of every year there since 1984, and a few full years there in the late 1990s, I think they have the much healthier lifestyle.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


I think one of the genuine disconnects politicians have from the general public is the definition of middle class. While most of us working folk think that anyone working to pay their own way, even if that includes second hand clothes, an old jalopy, and a leaky roof are middle class, listening to politicians, they imagine the middle class are people making somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 a year. For those of us in the $20,000--$60,000 income bracket those other people are rich or upper middle class, but not middle class. To Trump and McConnell, people who can afford membership to Mar a Lago are middle class, and the type of people they want to help. That is a huge disconnect from the reality in which most of us live.