Monday, August 22, 2011

Holey Buckets!

I used to say holy buckets! and thought it was like holy cats! or a clean sub for holy sh**! but I'm starting to think about HOLES in the bucket. And I like that metaphor.

I can't help noticing that a lot of people are talking about 'no time', 'no energy', 'no money'...I have a guy who works at the Hacienda who is a great, creative, well read technical director of a theater department at a big University. He can do anything. Build anything. Fix anything. Rewire anything. And yet I hear him talk about how he "didn't go to college, so I'll never get ahead..." and "I loved Santa Fe but I didn't think I'd ever earn enough money to live there..." and "I've always earned my age, and I always will. "

He's not as Eyeore as all that sounds, but my ears prick when I hear someone cutting their feet off because they have decided that they won't be able to walk the yellow brick road, so why bother. Carving your own road blocks is a full time job and a huge waste of energy. And it's not about manifesting money, that's a bucket without a bottom as far as I'm concerned. It's about CREATING THE LIFE YOU WANT. Do we even know what that is? If you don't want to live in Santa Fe, that's fine. But if you do but can't ever see how you'd manage? That's a dark fruitless yearning. Where does that come from? I investigate.

I often see people tying their own nooses. I've done it a ton. I've set bear traps for myself, dug holes I couldn't get out of, bought my ticket for the ride on the sinking boat. But I stopped. I sat down, reassessed and cut the fat. Shut down all the chatter in my head and externally. And really looked--- REALLY at what I could do without.  I know the feeling of coming to the end of the month and having $5 until payday. And. It. Sucks. (and why I prefer to make my own money and improv my finances, paychecks and me? Not since 1995)

But I had to call myself out and find the holes in my bucket. Some are small and repairable, like---um, spending $300 a month on WINE. Stop it. (or, in my case, slow it down...) Or maybe weaning off the friends and family who drain the crap out of you. Or turning off the news feed because it makes you insane. And guess what? none of this feels like a sacrifice. 

Giving up grain the first couple weeks was a little sketchy but not nearly as Trainspotting as I thought it would be. The upside is that I have fewer cravings in general which has rolled into less dairy (to melt on the beautiful crust of something) less late night nibblies, fewer 3pm comas, more big piles of veggies grilled, pureed, steamed, raw---and a ton of sustainable energy that I can use for things that I like to do--
like shagging the gardener and making fences out of old branches.

The upsides are plentiful for the other things I cut to. Less really is more. Picture yourself cutting the sandbags off your balloon and soaring. We have been so programmed in our society to think about what we need to get, gain, have---that we don't even stop to think about what we could get rid of. And oddly, that is so much more rewarding.

I don't have any money! Says the guy with an iPhone, wi-fi, a new Macbook Pro, a $5/day coffee habit, a new car payment and $150 cableTV bill. 

"I'm so exhausted!" says she who fuels her body with crackers, snackies, junk, sugar and caffeine.

"I don't have time for ...(going back to school, learning another language, Tango lessons, volunteering, pottery classes, travel)" says the one with a three hour a day TV fanny.

I say check yo self. You might be surprised.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No substitutions.

For years I pleaded with customers in my restaurant to not substitute. No changes. Don't recook my ideas. No I will not put the lavender sauce from the halibut on your steak. Gross. Thankfully we didn't have too many whiner diners.

But now I'm looking for a substitute in my own life. For a most beloved, cherished friend.


Namely, bread. My bread. A couple years ago at the Hacienda I started making artisan bread. From one recipe in one book. We clicked. And I was soon known up here for my fennel and lavender organic whole grain crusty loaves. (there isn't a bakery for 50 miles so things like this make a big splash) then Jamie Oliver and his ease and Italian ideas showed me how to make thin, wafer crisp pizza crust. Then someone built that big giant fired pizza oven in my back yard. I had arrived!

And so it seemed had my belly.

Now, I'll admit this isn't the fault of recent bread prep. Back in the restaurant days there were many a night that dinner WAS a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou. OH and maybe some melty stinky cheese. My love affair was very French at the time and it filled a yearning and seemed good reward for a long day's work. Any chefs reading this know that we can have terrible eating habits. Pressed for time and often in close reach of carbs on the go...and well, it can be a career that  is driven by late nights of libations---and stress, also gut busters. But sometimes all that cooking kills appetite. You just need fuel. And that's pasta. Bread. Those roasted garlic mashed potatoes or the gorgonzola grits.  Sometime around 2003 I gained 30 pounds. Ack! At 36. And well, that was 8 years ago. Clearly, it is mine. But I don't have to keep anything I don't want. So let's see what else we can do.

But I retired from the resto biz. I have access to acres of greens from dandelion to sweet potato vines. I grow my own chickens for meat and eggs. I live in farm country and am a member of a really great CSA. I run my own little farmette.  feel great, don't get me wrong. Energy is strong and sustainable through the day. No crap out 3pm coma. No hardly any PMS. Rarely if ever get colds, skin clear, and my seasonal allergies are only rotten in May. And they go untreated by OTC drugs much to the frustration of my friend Sandy. But that stuff makes me feel funny. As does restaurant food, anything in a box or from a drive thru. I'm all natural, baby. But I still felt like a jug. An olive jug. Turkish.

Is it because I still found myself rolling out yet another version of my dough? Black sesame and flax flatbread with fresh mozzarella and heirloom okra and tomato oil. Rosemary and arugula pizza with cracked black pepper and shaved parmesan. I think it is. I'm addicted.

So since I'm not a dieter and I think all that South Beach, Atkins is too extreme and not sustainable for most folks, and full of a lot of crap that isn't real food. I was happy to find this book Primal Blueprint from Mark Sisson. The cookbook is laid out well, has really creative ideas for that hopeless, HOW AM I GONNA GET OFF PASTA panic (use zucchini with the mandoline) and other Whiner Diner bargaining. I'll just have it this once. And his blog started it all and it's FULL o' good science and myth debunking wisdom. Which I like. I gotta know the WHY. I like to know why grain isn't our friend. Isn't it the staff of life? Amor es el pan de la vida and all that? I know why corn is bad for cows, but I don't know why wheat is not working for me. They are both grains by the way. For those of you thinking it's veg. It's a sugary fattening grain. That's why they give it to cows. To fatten them up. So why would you be any different? But these NEVER diets do nothing but create craving and cheating. The prohibition model never works. you have to change your taste buds and your habits or you'll always be that guy who went to rehab but who can't stop talking about how he'd love to burn one right now. It's annoying.

It's a little heartbreaking. The goodbye to wheat. I don't eat any other carbs...some squash and maybe a weekly quinoa, but I think my carb cravings were sated by BREAD. It's been 10 days. I'm not gonna lie. It's kinda hard. But looking for distraction this week from a tragedy that I can't talk about right now because I'm not ready...I started making bread substitutes. I don't own a scale but I've lost two inches off my waist, so I might be on to something. I sort of feel like one grain craves another. And not having bread (crack) in there has quelled the wine crave (a little) and since bread likes cheese so much, knocking off one ignores the other. I have a little fresh mozz every OTHER day. I'm surprised at how many ridiculous combinations of foods I ate the first few days trying to 'satisfy' the hole on my bread plate. I seem to be past that a little. So here's my spinach pumpkin seed "bread" stuffed with my neighboring farms veg. English cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, beets and yes, mozz. So it's not just 'carb free' as the beets and tomatoes and even the seeds have traces. But too much depriving makes Jack fall off the wagon. I'll keep you posted. This was delicious, wonderfully textured and satisfying. Way more than the bloat and crash and weird tongue feel of a sandwich. Soy flour btw was used just to bind with the egg to give some holdable form. There are 8 gr of carb in 1/4 cup so this coming in at 4? No problem. And keeping it under 30 for weight can add up quickly. Again, it's about changing your palate.

Frozen organic spinach drained and sauteed beet tops, mixed with one org. egg, 1/4 cup of  raw pumpkin seeds (ground in coffee mill), 1/8 cup of SOY flour, salt, pepper, cumin. Make patties and crisp in olive oil in a pan. Press down hard to thin about 2 min on each side. Stuff with your choice of grilled veg and good quality meat. No need for condiments as the veg are plenty moist. Serve with roasted cauliflower, which in it's nutty perfection is a perfect sub for chips or fries.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

L'arte di non fare niente

The art of doing nothing. For the love of Italy, I am very bad at this mantra.

I have to sit on my hands, cut my wings, zip it, walk away, do a lot of counting to 10. And I know better. I know that oft times there is nothing that I can do which will change the sitch. For the better anyway. I'm accustomed to putting gas on the firepit but diffusing things has not been my bomb squad. But I'm trying to leave that behind with the childish, impish youth and naivete of ---43.

Sometimes you have to work with what is right in front of you. Our creative DIY resource, event planner and It Girl for the Hacienda writes about how her practical (and for the record dashingly handsome) boyfriend says The Simplest Answer is Often the Best One...and as a homesteader, entrepreneur and city chica turned farm gal? I gotta work with what is. Not with what was supposed to be. Not even really what I wanted and almost never what I imagined. (I can credit 'better than my imagination' ONCE exactly, in a word, France)

So when the river keeper in my town and knower of all things water told me to DO NOTHING about the spring that had popped up in my yard...I was happy. Namely because I've been trying for 2 weeks to get someone to tell me what I should do. **And for the record if you have a job title with the words WATER MANAGEMENT in it, you should know what to do with ground water**, so yes. Natural phenom. What is a private resident to do? Dig a $5000 hole? yea, no. Don't worry about it, he said. It's not near your house. So yay!

I was free. It's not my big fat responsibility to change/help/pay for everything. Who knew?

Years as a self trained chef and restaurateur gave me improv skills to mimic the second city comedy troupe. Cake not cooked in the middle? It's a souffle. Tomatoes too soft for salsa? It's gazpacho. Wine turned rancid? Make sangria.

These are life skills we can all benefit from. Cuz the only way to get through some of these more silly times? Make lemonade. Kegs full.

So here's todays Hacienda Improv. The pork belly I was curing for bacon has had too much time in it's salt crust and the air. So may I introduce to you, my first prosciutto/pancetta. It's all in how you look at it.
Sometimes you have to cover one eye, dim the lights and change the soundtrack--but hey, what is life if not a little bit of theater? La dolce vita may not be "realistic" but I for one am sick of that word. Aren't you? Here's to fantasy.