This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Uncover and serve

Another sunny patch.

I cut and stacked wood, all the while mindful that woodburning, which is how this family has heated its dwellings for twenty-seven years, is increasingly frowned upon.

Using a noisy and polluting lawn-mowing device, I shredded the leaves and hay that have been lying heaped about the garden. Then, using seeds acquired from a company owned by a Fortune 500 conglomerate, planted michihli, more beets and kale, white radishes, and three kinds of tomatoes in flats in the greenhouse.

Hung Tzu-ch'eng, writing about 1600, said that "Mountains and forests are scenes of wonder. Once they are frequented by people, they are debased into market-places. Calligraphy and paintings are things of beauty. Once they are craved by people, they are degraded into merchandise."

The trick, unless I hope to move to a desert island (which would, as Hung could point out, immediately devalue the island), is to wok primarily on one's mindfulness, to become, through re-training of my own mind, not a merchandiser nor a buyer of merchandise where Jasper Mountain is concerned. It should be simply there, as it has practically always been, of interest to this short-lived creature but not to be possessed by it.

There is always the hope of extending this non-possession to a wider and wider range of experience.

A life caught in the web created by the merchandizers need not be lived in vain, if one's mind accepts that there are circumstances and actions, and one can accept the one while carrying out the other mindfully.

Example: a supermarket is a dreadful combination of market forces, the use of bright lights, activity, noise, and the arrangement of goods to tempt us into buying more things than we need, more expensive things than we need, and more processed things than we need. Yet we can enter and buy rice, tofu, pok choi, green onions, mung bean sprouts, a zucchini, and a bell pepper, pay for the items, and walk out again, leaving the vast array of very bad items, nutritionally speaking, unbought and unconsumed.

Choices.

Hung says: "To concur with a web of circumstances is to dismiss it, and is like the harmony between flitting butterflies and fluttering flowers. To accord with an event is to nullify it, and is like the perfection of the full moon as round as a basin of water."

A few years ago, I lived briefly in what is known around college campuses as a "quad." For my $240/month I had the exclusive use of a breezeway, a mailbox, a porch light, a locking exterior door, a 12X14' room with a sliding window, curtains and blinds, a table, two long bookshelves on the wall, a bed, two chairs, a nice vanity with a round sink, hot and cold running water, a closet, several drawers in the built-in vanity cabinet, an overhead light, a telephone jack, and three sets of electrical outlets.

Heat, light, power, and water were included in the rent. A lockable interior door led to a corridor with three other such doors, a bathroom, and a small kitchen with four cabinets and two refrigerators, for the shared use of four residents.

I was within walking distance from my job, groceries, laundry, entertainment, and public transportation. Add a bicycle, a few blankets, books, changes of clothes, a laptop with CD player and headset, toothbrush, soap, a clock, and a few dishes and utensils, and I was set.

My eating habits in this environment became so simple that I seldom met my neighbors, as I pretty much used the kitchen only for storage. On my small dining room table stood a rice steamer with a built-in timer, bought new for under $25. With one of these, you can add a few cups of water to the inner tank, and about a cup and a half to the rice dish, pour in a cup of rice, and set the timer for 35 minutes.

After 20 minutes, snap a stem from your pok choi, trim the greens, and dice up the stem. Take about an inch off the end of your tofu and dice that up as well. Throw these, minus the greens, into the steamer. Take about three inches off the end of a small zucchini and dice that up, leaving a bit of the peeling on each chunk. Throw that in. Dice up some bell pepper and do the same.

With five minutes to go, chop some sprouts up a bit, and, with the pok choi greens, and chopped onion greens, throw all in. Add some basil flakes from a spice jar. When the bell rings, uncover and serve.

Have a glass of water with your dinner.

Leftovers can go toward breakfast (instead of oatmeal) or lunch (with or instead of an apple).

This regimen will give you enough calories and nutrients to sustain you reasonably well for a long time...

Monday, March 03, 2003

Diogenes hath no need

Isaac Walton's "Piscator," in the Complete Angler, advises his young friend thus:

Let me tell you, scholar, that Diogenes walked on a day, with his friend, to see a country-fair; where he saw ribbons, and looking-glasses, and nut-crackers, and fiddles, and hobby-horses, and many other gimcracks: and having observed them, and all the other finnimbruns that make a complete country-fair; he said to his friend, "Lord! How many things are there in this world, of which Diogenes hath no need!" And truly it is so, or might be so, with very many who vex and toil themselves to get what they have no need of. Can any man charge God that he hath not given him enough to make his life happy? No, doubtless; for nature is content with a little. And yet you shall hardly meet with a man that complains not of some want; though he, indeed, wants nothing but his will, it may be, nothing but his will of his poor neighbour, for not worshipping, or not flattering him: and thus, when we might be happy and quiet, we create trouble to ourselves.

It's all right to garden and bake, and read, and sing, and nap, and patch clothes, in other words.

The trouble comes in when we get ambitious, as Plato said, for more -- that more which sets us at odds with neighbors and neighboring countries.

I have gone to the greenhouse; found the two flats of lettuce satisfactory, and the peas, and found the beets acceptable, but little else has responded to what heat has come in through the fogged, rain-streaked glass. I have found some unremembered packets of -- yes, still more lettuce -- and corn salad, chard, and some white radishes, and dedicated still more space to the hopeful flats.

Sigh.

And swept the floor, mindful of the importance Sato's monastery gave to tidying up round the buildings and gardens.

Afterwards, baking.

I took up an almost-empty jam jar, added warm water from the tap, a small spoonful of baker's yeast, put the lid on, shook the mix a bit, and removed the lid right away. In experiments of this kind, you don't want pressure building up under that lid. The beasties liked the jam and started multiplying right away. The jar is a sixteen-ounce size, so that's perfect for about pound and half loaf.

In a large mixing bowl, I put about a tablespoonful of salt, and threw in a handful each of miso, wheat germ, and oats. Rooting through the current supply of veggies, I came across a green onion that needed using, diced it small, and added that to the bowl. A dollop of honey and another of molasses, and now, with the salt buried under all that, it won't shock the yeast too much, so the yeast water goes in.

I keep whole-wheat flour in a five-gallon "white bucket" and dole it out with a hand-sized bowl.

After three bowls, I stir, and keep stirring steadily, adding flour, till the batch "rises up off the bowl," which is the expression I always heard for when the lump achieves the right consistency -- cleaning all residual flour off the bowl, into one lump that's not too sticky when touched, yet not too hard to work. At this point I turn the whole thing out onto a chopping block that has been lightly floured, and either shape it into a round loaf, or roll it out and cut a dozen rolls out of it.

No two batches turn out exactly the same.

Earlier in the week, the "extra ingredient" was raisins; this time it was the onion.

I don't really do much kneading, and only have the patience to let the loaf rise once. The bread pan, which is really a large size cookie sheet, or two sheets, to insulate the bottom of the loaf, starts out on the corner of the dining room table nearest the wood stove, then, as I get hungrier, moves onto a trivet on the stove top, then into the oven on "warm." When the loaf is finally tall enough to bake, I simply crank it up to baking heat and check it in a little over half an hour. Much the same for the rolls, which are nothing but little loaves.

Bread this loosely defined can be used to keep a lot of food from going to waste.

The watery whey from tofu or from draining a batch of pasta can be useful here. Got soup stock? Veggie stock? Leftover rice? Breakfast cereal? Try it.

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