Archive for February, 2011

Bingoes of food

Question from a feisty online Scrabble player this morning got me thinking.

“What am I to make of the fact that all your triple-word bonanzas are about food?”

Right off the top of my head, I answered, “I prefer to think of myself as a gourmet, rather than a gourmand. I find food one of the constant delights of life.  Yesterday I was wondering about marshmallow fluff. Have the manufs found a solution to that sticky quality?”

But the true answer goes way beyond glib. I’m still wondering about it.

My first thought was that my mother was a pretty good cook. Of Julia Child’s generation, she lapped up the principles of French cooking and doled out souffles and made roux with abandon.

Then it occurred to me that though I rarely read cookbooks, I like to cook, too. So creative, such variety, every meal pleasured by texture and spice. Thought of a smiling Chinese restauranteuse in St. Cloud who revealed to me the miracle of making sauces.

I love going out to eat! Food and good company are one of my consistently favorite ways to spend time. I will consume almost everything.  Alligator is boring, and I’m not fond of worms, but unagi? How could I ever have lived without it in the decades before sushi invaded these shores?

You’ll find a lot of fruit in my baskets, display bowl, and refrigerator drawers. Pears are my absolute favorite, glaceed, dried, in a salad with walnuts and Gorgonzola and raspberry vinaigrette, as Poire William, but best of all, nearly drinkable, sweet juices dripping off my jaw.

My grandmother always told me there was nothing in the world like good, red meat. Perhaps her father’s butcher shop and grocery had something to do with that view. Anyway, I had developed a taste for roast beef and filet by the time I was 12. I like my poultry dark, duck being my favorite. Shellfish, delightful; lobster in shell or bisque, a treasure. Lately I’ve become more fond of finfish. There’s nothing like a gently treated trout.

Broccoli, which I once adored, became a nightly family dinner, and the ritual killed it for me, even with hollandaise. When I discovered that salad came in a form other then iceberg, and dressing was not limited to Thousand Island, my scope increased immensely.

Do not ask me about cheese. A co-worker and I used to take orders at the office and run down to the food distribution center in Philadelphia on our bicycles. We’d sample things and bring back huge blocks of Gruyere, round Goudas, Port Salut, Stilton, Chevres, Gourmandise in our backpacks and bike racks, 30 or 40 pounds per person, balancing carefully across the trolley tracks.

Back at the office we’d tumble out the booty onto a long oak conference table made from part of a bowling lane. The air would become heavy with mingled scents of fermented milk. As the smell leaked out into corridors, people would realize we were back from the cheese run and assemble singly, in pairs or triples, or as one overawed mob in the conference room, full of guilty pleasure and wholly unprofessional cheer. Biking home with five pounds of cheeses on a dusky winter evening–one of the keenest anticipations I have ever experienced.

What a glory of restaurants, new ones or stalwarts, at least once a week! Travel: pastry, lychees, fried kale, smoked herring and curried goat and hamachi, oh! olives.

Don’t get me started.

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Lessons From Geese

Something a friend sent to me


Fact 1. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.


Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help, and give our help to others.


Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.


Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.


Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help or protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. They then launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.


Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.


Written by Angeles Arrien: Author of The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary.


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