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.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dinner tonight: Sopa de Mariscos

Well, it is chilly and sort of rainy here in bucolic Joshua, Texas. Did really good research on a piece due for the paper tomorrow and had my daughter Madeleina take photos for it. I love when she comes with me on location and shoots. She's good and getting better: Knows how to frame a photo for best commercial use, can frame it for the cover, knowing the paper's name is going across the top and that she'll lose the top quarter of the image.
Yesterday's locales were a couple of bars and bingo parlors that will have to stop allowing smoking on premises come Mar. 12. Today was the day to outline the article--maybe 1,200 words or so--and mull over follow up questions. I came up with some good ones.
Then it was time to get to the store to pick up something for dinner and a bunch fresh apples and limes and such. So I'm making Sopa de Mariscos, Peruvian jungle style. It's a tomato seafood soup with pasta.
Since I cannot get all the ingredients I want fresh unless I drive all over Fort Worth, I settled on a good quality bag of frozen mixed seafood: Shrimp, calamari, mussels. Then I bought half a pound of fresh shrimp and a pound of crayfish to add freshness to it.
So I'll start with minced garlic in olive oil, add finely diced celery, onion, and scallions. When garlic is going brown and the onions are getting see-through, I'll add 5 diced Roma tomatoes and some sea salt, a bit of crushed red pepper, and fresh ground black pepper.
Once those flavors marry properly, I'll add two large cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup and about a pint of good organic vegetable stock.
While that heats up, I'll peel and de-vein the shrimp, then toss the shells into a pot that is otherwise empty on high heat to scald them The shells will turn bright red when scalded. Then I'll toss in the onion ends, the scallion ends, the tomato ends, the celery ends and add about a pint of water. Put that on high and let it reduce in about 20 minutes down to a cup or so. Pour that essence into the soup.
Add the frozen and fresh mariscos (which means mixed seafood) and stir that up after lowering the temp on the soup.
Ten minutes later I'll add some angel hair, raw--because it will cook so quickly--a minced head of cilantro, and then season to make sure it's got a bit of a bite.
Side dish that I will start before i even attack the soup? Spaghetti squash. Halve it, eliminate the seeds, score it length wise. Dab butter on it so that the butter will fall into the empty cavity-halves as it melts, then bake for about 30 minutes at 335. Or so.
I'll pull that and scrape out the squash meat with a big spoon. It will come out looking like spaghetti. That will go into a saute pan that has garlic and olive oil and a large diced red pepper in it. Stir it around. Add seasoning as you like. Its really good squash.
And that is it. That's the meal. The soup is rich and the squash is so good you will want to eat it slowly so you don't finish it too fast. Enjoy. And if anyone is hungry and nearby, we'll be having that at about 6:30.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This world does not revolve around me. This world would not notice if I disappeared tomorrow, with the exception of my family and friends. So why do get the urge to post nonsense that most of you won't care about, didn't need to know, and which will not make your lives any richer? I don't know. I struggle with that. I just hope my stories and food stuff has a slightly larger meaning that the words I use to tell them. I hope there is something people get from my silly stories that they can apply on their way to where? Enlightenment? Being dead? Oh hell, who knows. Anyway, here goes.
I do not do many public ceremonies at my house. I will serve sapo and nu-nu, two medicines that come from the Matses indigenous of the Peru/Brazil borderland on the Galvez, Upper Yavari, Blanco, and Choba rivers. The nu-nu is a snuiff, very harsh, that immensely improves your vision for some hours. Sapo is the secretion of a frog that is burned into the subcutaneous layers of your skin--generally upper arm--which is full of bioactive peptides and turns out to be a fantastic medicine for a lot of illnesses: It basically resets your body function, from your heart beat to your kidney and liver functions.
Of course, not many people come to me for treatments because the medicines are very painful to do--though short term at about 15-20 minutes--before the benefits kick in. Enough. I've written about these medicines in my books, all over my blog, and in dozens of magazines worldwide. They are not the point of this story. This story is about a man who got in touch with me and wanted to do the medicines. I told him if he was sure, and if he wasn't crazy when I met him, I'd serve him small doses to introduce him to the medicines. If he did them well, I could go with a slightly larger dose the next time.
Over the course of several emails and a telephone call, it finally occurs to him to ask the price. I tell him $150 for the session. He didn't appear to blink or choke at that figure, but I still felt compelled to explain. "The price is high for two reasons," i said. "First off, I pay exorbitantly for the best quality medicines from my Matses friends. More importantly is that when people say they will be here at 9 AM, I scramble to clean the house, the kitchen from last night, vacuum the dog's hair from the living room rug before the client arrives. But," I said, "most people show up at 10. Then they want an hour's worth of stories from me about the medicines and the Matses and the Amazon jungle. Then they do the first medicine, the sapo, and when they are done in 15 minutes, they need to rest for an hour. Then they want more stories about the nu-nu, and thats another 30 minutes and then I serve them and then they need to rest for an hour while I cut fresh fruit for them, clean up the bathroom where they puked on the side of the toilet. And then they leave at 4 PM. That's why I charge a lot of money."
"Why?" he asked, having missed an entire speil.
"Because if you stretch a two hour session into 7 hours, my day is shot. Someone has to pay me for that. Hell, It's not even $25 an hour!"
"I'm not that guy," he explained. "I'm the guy in your driveway at 8:30 AM, sitting in my car till you are ready, and then I'm gone by 11 AM."
"Cool," I said. "For those people, I charge $120 the second time and if they can do it again, I drop the price to $100 a session. And when they come often enough to be friends, there is no charge at all."
Needless to say, he did not show at 8:30 AM--and he only lives 25 minutes from my house. He didn't show at 9 or 10 and by 11:30 I was writing him a note saying he could reschedule, but that he'd have to pay for the missed session and the new session in cash before we began. Why didn't he come? I don't know. Cold feet? Fear? I wrote him several times asking if he was okay--I know that people get into fender-benders that can take hours to clear up--and I would have been fine with that, but he never responded, even to cancel and tell me to go to hell, even now, a full 34 hours after he was scheduled to be in my driveway.
So with the day shot, I decided to try my hand at apple cider. I never, for some reason I can't think of, tried it. So I went to the store and bought 10 kilos of organic honeycrisp apples, brought 'em home, washed and cut them, then tossed them into a pot of spring water. I made a gallon and a half and it's damned good. Spent $24.90 on the apples and $5 on the spring water, so it came out about 4 times what organic Apple Cider costs. That's okay, right?
In the evening I made lime chicken and then the whole family showed up unexpectedly and ate it all, including all the rice and veggies and I was happy but did not get to eat.
So tonight I'm gonna eat. I am in the middle of making stuffed manicotti (stuffed with parmesan, ricotta, fresh mozarella, basil, salt and cracked black pepper) that I will bake on a bed of tomato sauce (currently on the stove), then top with tomato sauce, parmesan and fresh mozarella for the last 15 minutes of baking. I'll be serving that with sauteed spinach with garlic and olive oil. I tossed a couple of chicken thighs in the oven--well seasoned--in case I get the urge for meat. Or if the family shows up.
Or maybe, just maybe, my client went into a little coma, wakes up, and arrives at 9 PM tonight, just 36 hours late, and needs a bite to eat.
Eat healthy, everybody.

What about Removing Illness and Protecting Yorself?

A friend who has taken my sapo course told me that she sometimes felt completely dragged down by the negative energy or illnesses that she was removing from people during the work. She asked how to protect herself. I told her this story from my late teacher Bertha Grove, a Southern Ute medicine woman. In the early morning at the end of a peyote ceremony, Bertha sucked a sickness out of a young man, A couple of hours later she called me and my sister Pat, who was at the ceremony with me. over for a private talk. She said: "Did you see what I did in there?" We said we did. She said: "Now I sucked that illness right out of that boy. But that illness has the same will to live as you and I do. So the first thing it wanted to do was jump into me. Now when you suck out an illness you've very vulnerable. But you can't let that happen. So you get a good wad of spit in your throat and keep it there and put your spirit into it so that nothing can pass it. That protects you. At the same time, you can't just toss that sickness on the ground or it will grab something or someone else. And maybe that sickness showed up as what that boy had in his body, but it might show up as something else in someone else. So you have to get rid of it. Me? I wrap it up in a heavy gauze and send it off to a planet that has never had life and never will have life. A place so cold that that sickness cannot move, it's just frozen there, harmless forever.
Now other people have other places they put it, but you have to put it where it can do no harm. And you have to pay complete attention when you are removing that sickness or it will find its way into you. It might even kill you. So pay attention and don't let it get in you or on you." 
That was about it. Years later I was introduced to what I call the Red Room, a place where doctors of a different sort can take negative energy and transform it into positive energy. And that's where I put illness and negativity that I remove from people. But damn, once in a while I forget and every time I forget I get sick as a dog. So you be as careful as Bertha said to be when you are healing people. Illness, negativity, other things are just as full of life and the will to live as you and I are. They do not just disappear and they do not go willingly. They put up a fight, every time.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Is Ayahuasca political?

Someone on a facebook page posed the question of whether ayahuasca was political. Someone responded that they had friends who have been drinking ayahuasca for 15 years and remain alt-right. That led to a spirited and stupid conversation which sort of eventually forced me to jump in, briefly. Here was what I added to the conversation:
I think from a political standpoint, the politics of the right are basically, "i got mine baby, you go get your own." They are the politics of fear--fear that you won't have enough, can't get your fair share, etc. I'm talking politics here. The politics of the left are more like: "Hey, if you're hungry, I can share. I don't have much, but I can do with half of what I have." It is the politics of generosity. When you drink ayahuasca, you realize that operating out of fear has no value, and so you tend to transform your fear to fearlessness--and come to realize that you will always have enough, no matter how much you share. So you sort of automatically move to the left, politically, and become a sharer, rather than a rightest hoarder. So yeah, ayahuasca is definitely political that way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thinking About Chicken

So I don't mean to bore anybody with more food posts but sometimes they are important. Today, for instance, I bought 3-half chicken breasts. Air cooled, organic, no Cadillac grill but nearly. And I was thinking I'd just sear them good and brown in a bit of olive oil, and when they were done I'd toss them in a low oven, maybe 275 degrees, while I took pan juices and added fresh garlic--organic, from my friend Arbol, the last of it--half a diced red onion, a bunch of trimmed and diced scallions, diced and par boiled zucchini and yellow squash, par boiled tiny florets of broccoli and cauliflower, and finally, diced roma tomatoes. When that was all good with sea salt and cracked black pepper, I'd toss in the chicken, let the flavors marry a bit, then put some fine balsamic reduction in there for a finishing flavor. Slice the breasts, serve with the veggies over Jasmine rice.
But then I got to thinking: It's cold. Maybe I should make chicken parmesan. Or what about a light pasta with diced chicken pieces in a homemade pesto? Or saute the chicken breasts and add the juice of fresh oranges with garlic and onion? Or make a mushroom cream sauce for the chicken as I have some good mushrooms here. Or do chicken breast and pear slices with balsamic? Or do some chicken with some shrimp I have and add thyme and rosemary and a bit of dark beer that's been sitting in the ice box for a few weeks? Or stuff the chicken breasts with blue cheese and spinach and put a mushroom sauce over that?
Where I am going with this is two places: One is that no matter how humble the key ingredient is, you've got dozens of ways to work with it if you have good veggies and a few spices in your home. The second thing is this: If your brain is going as fast as mine just thinking about what you are going to cook, then you're probably crazy and will not get a good night's sleep because you cannot turn that stuff off. I will be thinking about 40 other things I could have done at 2 AM when I am wide awake and wishing I was sleeping. Thanks for the brain, universe. Can you tell me where the "OFF" switch is?
I hope you are all eating well tonight.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Go tell aunt rosie...

I've got an objection here. Forget politics. Forget South American Medicine. This is an objection in general. My daughter, Madeleina, begin studying flute in the 6th grade. Now my wife Chepa's daughter, Sierra (we've been separated for 17 years) is studying the flute. And both Madeleina and Sierra learn the song: Go Tell Aunt Rosie early on. But now I'm upset. The lyric goes: "Go tell aunt Rosie, go tell aunt Rosie, go tell aunt Rosie, the old grey mare is dead." I do not doubt the death, as people have been singing about it since I took accordian lessons in 1956, at least, but I object to the idea of the song. Obviously, aunt Rosie cannot go see her old gray mare. So she's incapacitated somehow. Might be physical, might be Alzheimers, might be something else, but for whatever reason she cannot go see her old gray mare. But if she cannot go see the horse, why would you celebrate telling her that her favorite horse is dead? Why don't you tell her that the horse is healthy, playful, wild, or whatever. What good does telling your infirm aunt that her favorite horse died do? Nothing. It's just cruel. So stop singing that song. Leave Aunt Rosie alone. She has enough problems without you sticking it to her. That's what I'm thinking about tonight.