A Cocktail for Spring

Spring’s the time for celebrating freshness, vivid bright flavors and colors. Tender baby vegetables make their long-awaited appearance, new leafy greens invite you to make big salads strewn with torn herbs. In terms of fruit, though, citrus still rules the day.

I created this cocktail to celebrate the bounty of spring, while using fruit that’s available year-round.

Persephone’s Promise

For one cocktail. This recipe can easily be multiplied and served by the pitcher!

3/4 ounce thyme simple syrup

1 0z Meyer lemon juice

2 oz gin (I used Counter Gin from Seattle distillery Batch 206, but any mid-to-top-shelf gin will do)

Meyer lemon twist

2 big thyme sprigs

Make thyme simple syrup: In a small heavy saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add a handful of fresh thyme (6-8 nice big sprigs). Simmer five minutes, then let steep (at least 30 minutes and up to an hour). Strain out thyme and pour into a clean jar. This syrup will keep, refrigerated, for a couple of months. You can use it in sodas and desserts as well as cocktails.

Muddle one thyme sprig with ice in jar or cocktail shaker; add gin, juice, and syrup and shake. Strain into a tumbler or highball glass over ice (preferably a single big ice cube). Garnish with the Meyer lemon zest and thyme sprig. For a refreshing cocktail to drink all day, add a splash of soda.

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Bus is Best

I am so tired of cars. They are horribly polluting. They uglify the city and make it less walkable. They are always breaking, necessitating expensive repairs. When you’re sitting in traffic in a car, all you can do is seethe as you feel your finite time on earth being sucked away. Cars are symptomatic of a cynical individualism that privileges convenience over community need. Cars are dangerous and noisy.

While public transit certainly isn’t perfect, it offers many, many advantages over cars.

Here are some things you get to do on public transit that you don’t get to do while driving a car:

1. Sleep.

2. Read a book.

3. Write a poem.

4. Listen to a guy whistle like a bird.

5. Talk to strangers.

6. Surreptitiously draw people.

7. Text.

8. Watch a woman spinning yarn on a drop spindle.

9. Stare out the window.

10. Get a compliment from the bus driver.

11. Close your eyes and daydream.

12. Make little clay figurines.

13. Be wasted.

14. Spy on people in their cars.

And the list goes on… what’s your favorite bus activity?

bus portraits

bus portraits

 

hand practice.

hand practice.

 

Your Peasant’s Pledge

I’ve been thinking, lately, of courtly love, the romanticization of unrequited passion, of sacrifice and self-effacement and the willingness to die for the beloved. The concept of courtly love is convoluted and contradictory: Chaste but erotically charged, illicit yet noble.

What would be its inverse?

I wrote this poem from the perspective of a peasant girl who serves as a knight’s consolation prize when he’s rejected by his Lady. The peasant’s love for him is entirely uncomplicated: She has no time in her busy life of manual labor and communal endeavor to entertain elevated notions of romance. Jealousy is foreign to her. Her intimacy with others in no way compromises or diminishes her love for the knight.

I wrote from her perspective because it was her I related to most at the time: But I’ve also been the cruel Lady who scorns the deepest proffered expressions of devotion, and the brokenhearted knight who finds that all his demonstrations of loyalty and adoration and in vain.

Without further ado, I submit, for your consideration, this (sorta corny, but DEAL WITH IT) meditation on timeless themes through a Medievally lense:

Your Peasant’s Pledge

When she tires of you, come to me.
When your rough beard, sweat-stiffened tunic and animal stink offends,
I’ll receive you gladly: I stink too.
See, my hands are coarse with labor, my hair wild, the skin of my face sun-smitten
My body bears the marks of the toil that signifies my station.

Her crimson hair’s long and slick with sweet fragrance, set with rich combs,
Her daily work, the cultivation of delicacy.
She occupies herself in plucking the lute’s stings, composing a pining song of love
Embroidering silks with your name ensconced in roses,
Plumbing eternal mysteries in various tongues,
Teaching herself to wonder further. She gazes through glasses to view the stars,
And inscribes the ones that shine brightest with seething desire.

Me, I ease bitches in whelp, guiding pups through slippery muck
To blind encounter with the world. I reap, and thresh, and brew
I sweep and mend and milk and tend. My world is soil, the smell of beasts
My keenest pleasure, a cold draught and a hearty sup in a low smoke-clouded room
Amidst squalling dirt-smudged little ones, squealing sows’ brood
Ruddy-faced, big-bellied men of good cheer and limitless thirst.

In expanse of echoing hours, she waits for you, on cushions of ermine and velvet,
Impatient for your oft-imagined return:
When her head’s thrown back to show her soft white throat, her thoughts are of you.
High stone chambers’ coldness gives distinction to your fiery striving,
And she longs to be crushed in your hot embrace, to see herself submerged
And obliterated in the force of your fierce beauty.

But when you come, weather-scorched from your questing, reeking and thin
She’ll like as not turn aside in disgust: Your person can’t match your ghost,
And though all your passion and might and endeavor’s to glorify her, to tell
Of her beauty, her majesty, her splendor—she still may not be pleased.
When you proffer the bloody violet heart of a dragon slain in her name,
She’ll show her teeth in revulsion, demand that you get it away,
Lest it soil her white raiment. Though all the while, as you slept on stony ground
Ate poor rotten rations, let saddle rub raw tender flesh, the vision of her face in delight
Was the sole good you sought, the honey that sweetened your hardship
And animated your every movement.

When she turns you away, broken and soul-sore, come to me: I’ll give you succor.
My days are filled with brisk industry that yields scant space for high fantasy.
At eve’s fall, I’m weary and eager for simple sweet rest—
But I’ll always have spare vigor to warm you. I’ll share my bed with this man or another,
But my love for you’s no less for that.
Your touch is meat to me, your face the glowing moon.
I’ll hear your stories with honest awe, take joy in our base bodies’ union.
Though your heart’s song is for another, I welcome your use of me,
Invite your divided caress: A peasant has no time for torment, and no honor to save.

P.S. I wrote this while drinking scotch on the patio of the ridiculously-named-but-still-really-great bar 9 Million in Unmarked Bills in Fremont while ogling nubile revelers in their skimpy finery.

 

 

Clean Fridge Curry

I cleaned my fridge the other day, deeply. Somehow I’d managed to retain a head of purple cabbage for… six months or so? Although I generally give my fridge’s innards a good weekly wipe-down, there were some items that I’d neglected, thinking I’d use them “some other time.” I contemplated tossing the cabbage, but it seemed basically sound. I reflected on the many places and times in which food scarcity was (is) the rule: In those contexts, to throw away food (however marginal) would be unthinkable. Plus, I routinely get food out of dumpsters – so why wouldn’t I eat an old head of cabbage from my own fridge?

My friend was coming over, and had requested a meal of “wet juicy toothsome vegetables.” I knew just what to do (this friend, by the way, is not picky.) I sliced the legacy cabbage, discarding a few leaves on which ominous dark spots had bloomed. I also used a golden beet, some cherry tomatoes, a couple of carrots, a few mini bell peppers, kale, ginger, and garlic. If you have extra vegetables, this is a great (and very flexible) way to use them:

Clean Fridge Curry

Whatever vegetables you need to use (1-3 pounds, I guess?)

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 inch piece of ginger, minced

2t ground cumin

2t ground coriander

1t crushed red pepper

2T olive oil

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

3/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (optional. I mean, all of it’s optional. This is an improv dish above all else.)

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the spices. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the other vegetables, ginger, and garlic (I added mine all at once and it worked out fine. This is easy, quick comfort food, so don’t fret too much about the order in which you add things). Saute for a 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender but firm(ish), adding a little water if needed. Add the lemon juice, coconut milk, cilantro, and a squirt of Sriracha, if desired. Serve with rice or bread or potatoes or pasta or whatever you want. I had mine with peanut butter toast (something I’d never tried before that turned out to be an inspired combination. It will happen again), and for breakfast the next day with more PB toast and a fried egg.

 

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healthy breakfast with barely evident curry (i promise it’s there)

 

Jolie Laide Landscape

There’s something about an industrial landscape. If you really look, its juxtapositions are exhilarating: jarring colors, jutting linear shapes against clouds’ softness, the insistent proliferation of plant and animal life amidst the hardness of metal and concrete.

I’m drawn to these places, their challenging beauty, their liminalality (who do they belong to? Where do they fit into the life of the city?). I feel lucky to live right next to a working shipyard, an oasis of unapologetic scruffiness hemmed in on all sides by the explosive gentrification overtaking Seattle.

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persistence

 

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12th truck

 

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spore

 

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flap

 

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random glory

 

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propeller grass

 

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secret garden

 

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wise watcher

 

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unlikely lushness

 

 

 

on horsetails, clan of the cave bear, and technology’s timelessness

When horsetail ferns make their appearance in spring, I always think of Clan of the Cave Bear, which I first read when I was ten, and have re-read many times since. It’s the story of a little homo sapiens girl orphaned in an earthquake and taken in by a band of Neanderthals, who raise her as one of their own.

The romantic premise of the story certainly had something to do with its fascination: Ayla, the protagonist (after whom, incidentally, my dog is named) is a strong and compelling heroine. Her struggle to belong in spite of her status as an outsider, her beauty and bravery and cleverness, her defiance of tradition to become “The Woman Who Hunts,” is captivating and relateable.

What really got me interested in the book, though, was Jean M. Auel’s vivid descriptions of the Clan’s culture and everyday life. The way they gathered food, hunted, cooked, made clothing, and communicated with one another was an endless source of fascination and inspiration to my childhood self. The book is filled with detailed descriptions of the Clan’s everyday activities: women boiling water in woven grass vessels using heated rocks, roasting birds wrapped in wet grasses by burying them in a pit of coals, stripping the tough outer layer of roots away with their teeth to reach the tender, nutritious middle. Iza, Ayla’s adoptive mother, is the Clan’s medicine woman, who cares for the health of her community and passes her knowledge on to her daughter. She makes infusions, poultices, and plasters from plants to treat common ailments, fashions splints out of bark, sets bones, cleans wounds.

In a mechanized world in which alienation from the creation of what we use is the norm, the notion of making things myself, using what I could find in nature, was highly appealing to me. I loved to pick berries to eat, simmer willow bark into an analgesic tea, smoosh up horsetail ferns to make “shampoo.”

Now that I’m older, I view Clan of the Cave Bear (and all the books in Auel’s “Earth’s Children” series) as a fable, not of the purity of primitive existence, but of the human drive for progress and expansion. After all, Ayla’s heroism lay in her rejection of the Clan’s custom-bound narrowness, as well as in her improbable prolificness as an innovator: She domesticated the dog, the horse, and the cat, invented the bra and the sewing needle, and figured out how to use iron and flint to make fire. It’s a story of posthumanity’s paleolithic origins.

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