Mixing Food with Culture
March 8th, 2013 §
Around the world International Women’s day is celebrated very differently and I find that not only appealing and fitting, realizing that women and cultures are so drastically different. The one common theme is and has always been empowering other women and joining eachother (including the men who support the endeavor) on this glorious journey.
Here are some of the events and observations taking place throughout the world today.
China- Women granted half day off work
Fuji- Talks are happening with young women about the need for strong women characters in literature and the arts.
Turkey- Women spotted with artificial blood protesting domestic violence.
Sudan- hundreds of women and children were released from prison with 4,000 others celebrating freedom.
Egypt- women marching to be a part of the drafting of the new constitution.
Australia- Groups of women gather to talk about who young women can become leaders.
Botswana- Fest Eve brings together women of all walks of life, entrepreneurs, community, business leaders, teachers, farmers and media to commemorate and learn how bonds between women create change.
Mexico-Women’s Fest- A big festival in the center of Mexico City.
Palestine- General Union of Palestinian Women- meet to discuss the future of Palestinian women
Jordan- A Celebration of women through the arts.
Turkey- An assembly of academics, Reflections on Being a women Academia in Turkey.
World Wide- Women on the Bridge, women all over the world joining together on bridges to demonstrate the power of building bridges of peace and development- USA, England, Congo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq and on and on and on
this is where I sit this International Women's Day
January 27th, 2013 §
Surround Yourself with Inspiration, People, Places, Things
I have a knack for surrounding myself with inspiration in terms of places. I have made a point in my life to travel and locate myself physically around the places I need to be at each stage of my life. In that process I have been to some of the most amazing places in the world. A deep intuition and instinct allows me to relocate myself for a day, a week or a year most often to a place I need to be, without even knowing I need to be there.. Most of the journey’s to places don’t happen with premeditation and are often spurred by excuses that in retrospect don’t make much sense. My ability to listen to my instincts and trust them when they tell me it’s time to be somewhere else is something I honestly have never had to work at. Perhaps because we moved around as children often and perhaps because of the grand experience traveling throughout Central America at a young age, I learned the benefits of location as inspiration and the ability we have to change this location whenever we want.
This past summer I left Brooklyn (temporarily originally) and traveled to Missouri for the summer to visit family. While in Missouri I felt the hankering to change my location life. As the months went by I knew Brooklyn was no longer my home. I like New York, I like the people and people I surround myself to and the way that they think is important to me, so I knew New York was still the place, but I craved space and air, without even truly knowing it. I had gotten a new puppy in the spring and this little guy ( Inca) was not going to be a Brooklyn dog, his energy was larger and his place in my life a guide, so with him in mind I got lucky (lucky or seek what you need?) and found a lovely cottage on 6 acres on a river in upstate NY in the. Hudson River valley. For the dogs this has been heaven, and for me, it lead to the realization that I had no idea that this is what I needed until I actually arrived here. I followed my instincts and intuition and did it, not a whole lot more thought was put into it, except in research, making sure I was surrounded by people, places and things that inspired me. The experience up here has given me time and space, something I had no idea I needed in addition to the plethora of opportunity for sustainable food fun. The inspiration comes with sounds of the river, coyotes, trees, stars, nature…..I have time here. Time to think, reflect and time to evolve.
Sometimes an inspiring place can allow for deeper evolution, my house in the woods is doing just that for me, providing me with space and air which allows me to focus on many of the details I have not had time, patience or space to focus on, all while gaining inspiration from the place I chose that suited me perfectly right here and right now!
November 17th, 2012 §
Visionary Thinking -Venice Beach, CA
I lived in Venice Beach when I was born until I was 5 (I think) and I find it fitting that I feel close ties to this artistic and eclectic beach town, both in that I was born there and that I find its visionary thinking to be inspirational. Venice Beach is, I suppose, more certainly known for its circus like board walk and muscle beach, but if one looks past these exaggerated examples of visionary artistry, one can find an extraordinary place filled with ideas and an environment designed to enable them to flourish. Despite it’s quite fascinating history and “story” , the city has been able to maintain a constant niche in creating a place where culture and artistry are displayed on a regular basis. Long a place where famous poets, artists, writers and cultural icons have lived and worked it continues to evolve as life does and attract the same, plus a new modern wave of visionaries in computer and technical fields as well as several green type industries.
I have had to travel to Los Angles often for work over the past 11 years living in NYC and more often than not choose to stay on the coast, regardless of where I need to be in LA. I’d rather be in traffic and come home to the sea than stare at a cement wall in the valley or downtown LA, that’s just my way. I have been staying in Venice a lot lately and I think part of why I keep coming back is that it feels simply like a place I want to be. I feel excited there, inspired and hopeful about people and things. Yes, things. We American are so consumed by things and it’s nice to see a place where the “things” are just more interesting, handmade, personable and with character and personality in the….yes, things! Now certainly I recognize the Venice can be expensive and that is something I would push them to try to work on a bit, in a way, but at the same time, we all need to view things differently as well. Our version of cost is definitely warped, so is that of our needs. One good pair of handmade boots will last you much longer than three or four from China.
The food scene of course is also phenomenal, but again way more visionary than any of the surrounding areas where, let’s face it, things are fancy and expensive and often more of a who’s who in Hollywood, than what is on the plate. When I am in Venice I often feel like I do in Brooklyn in the sense that I have no desire to go to Manhattan and try somewhere new when I have some of the best restaurants right next to me. No fuss, really high-quality, local ingredient driven food, minus all the pretentiousness that many of the “hottest “trending restaurants have. These Venice leaders on the food scene to me are simple artists and visionaries. I am typically in awe when I eat at these establishments for both the artistry of the locations, the attention to details in even the bathrooms, as well as the ingredients and their creative preparations. The majority of these visionary restaurants are on Abbott Kinney, which is one of the most unique 4 block stretches of community I have even seen in the world.
Here is a quick rundown or guide to what I think is the best of the best in Venice
Axe (pronounced Ashay) This place is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is both unpretentious, clean and of course California healthy, the use of ingredients in creative preparations and combinations is pretty mind blowing and the principles they live by are in line with most visionary thinking in the food world today! Greens Marmalade!!
Gjelina My favorite of them all! I think its mainly that I love vegetables and this place always impresses me with their liberal use and show case of heirloom and rare varietals. I get inspired to eat lettuces every time I go there, simple is exquisite here. The wood fired ovens of course make everything awesome! Their pizzas are incredible and the house made charcuteries have a way of making this vegetable lover crave meat! It’s hard to get a seat here so make reservations, you could end up like me sitting next to some stars from Glee. The place is always packed with stars, not because its pretentious, just because is that good! The wine list will allow you to sit there for years discovering, so go with an empty stomach and a designated driver! Communal tables! Oh Don’t forget Gjelina’s take out little sister GTA, opened to give people who cant get a seat or enough a change for more!
Primitivo One of the few wine bars in the city and since I love my wine, I love this place. The food is seasonal, local, global and yet distinctly Mediterranean and Chef Eddy Shin’s self taught story is amazing and an example of people that do it differently. Wines from India, Croatia, Canada, Uruguay and more! A great place to sit and drink wine in a cozy setting.
The Tasting Kitchen From one visionary city to the next a few Portland transplants managed to put this little diddy together in a very short time. A daily changing menu with very few words; eggs, beans, etc; manages to lure people in and they just don’t want to leave. The chef is as innovative as they come, and often is perceives as one of the most spontaneously and comfortable doing it, chefs around. They of course use local seasonal ingredients (who doesn’t right?) but these guys go further butchering their own animals, curing, drying, pickling and even making some cheese. One of the impossible places to get a seat in but worth it so do it! Are you salivating yet? Read this!
I could list like 5-6 more, but truthfully I am hungry and pissed off that I am not in Venice right now!
Its true, visionary thinking can be found all over the world but there is something extraordinary about small communities like Venice that covet the main ingredients for cooking up such a place, it really freedom that allows for this visionary thinking, to be free from old school thinking, free internally really. The practice of giving yourself and others acceptance, non judgment, open mindedness, spiritual encounters, experimentation, and overall creating a great sense of community and an overall appreciation and acceptance of human talent and all that it can achieve.
Venice was once referred to as the “slum of the sea” and there is something profound in that many of the “slums” of our worlds move to create some of the most visionary of all thought!
April 19th, 2012 §
herbacious as always……..
Another Year of Coloring outside the Lines-Successfully
My Head—Plagued by My Own Creativity
I have spoken a great deal about artistry and creativity in many of my past blogs, as this topic is typically heavy on my mind and in my work. I have noted how it took me years to understand that I am an artist and how despite years of not producing an “art form” that was deemed art by society; I had been producing art for my lifetime. My creativity has always been spectacular and many have noticed the unusual mental patterns that allow me to get to this place. No doubt this is one of my most powerful possessions; it is also to a large extent my biggest challenge to understanding reality.
Creativity for many can be both a curse and a blessing, it in many ways shackles you into a life that you cannot escape from. People who are not extremely creative can have bats of creativity and go back to life without it. People who erupt creativity cannot stop and this can be difficult to deal with. But with the right attention and channeling it can be a pretty amazing ride through life. I ponder the creative this month as I not only turn 39 but also am experiencing much more in my life where my creative artistry is put into the public eye for the first time, drawing scrutiny and questions, as well as certainly some admiration. I was asked recently on several occasions “how did I become creative? And “where does my creativity come from?” To be honest I never asked this question to myself before and hadn’t really an answer for anyone that I had put thought into.
So I pondered the question. And realized my head is the location, my mind where my creativity comes from. There are of course several opinions on where creativity comes from, including legends and myths that it is some kind of force of nature or supernatural spirit that comes and goes in all of us. There are those who link creativity to depression and say that little synapses in the brain during depressive states help creativity bloom. And then there are those that link it to lack of fear. And then there are those that say real creativity is for the “crazy”. I think for me it is a bit of all of the opinions in a sense. I think creativity is a way of looking at the world and I am sure that our brains have much to do with it. Some of the creative brains could be what you call super smart, others, perhaps screwed up, and others perhaps blocked or effective by physiological stuff. In any regards, it’s all how we perceive life I think and see things in general that causes creativity. Our minds control the experience and thus create the creativity. I am positive that we all possess the ability to be extremely creative and I think that some of us have been given circumstances that allow for it to be a constant.
I want to focus of course on those that are plagued by their own creativity, shackled by it in a way. Not to say these are miserable people at all, these are people who just can’t turn it off and thus are in constant need to deal with it so as they don’t end up miserable. I think this is me, I know it is me. I think for creative types it is not about the outcome of the result but it is about the process, the mental process I think is the key to it. There is somewhat of a lack of care in regards to judgment that takes place in this process that allows complete freedom of the brain to work without its rigid confinements, which gives an opening for true creativity, which is essentially something brand new. The creative minds are people who like to be challenged and I think have brains that are often dulled and numbed by the mundane. For the truly creative types, the ones that can’t stop, the process is in constant motion. Nothing is simple and that is the true problem for the creative head of many and the challenge, to just stop and have simplicity in the head. This is my greatest challenge in life lately, the need to trun my brain off to not have to be creative.
I was asked recently by a friend at my birthday party…”are you happy tonight?” Instead of answering yes or no, I began to analyze etc. He looked at me like I was a freak and he said, “it is a simple question.” I realized (with embarrassment) that is was a simple question and that I am so connected to my creative part of my brain, I can seldom quickly reach the spot of simplicity that I need to in order to connect with others, which I want to do. The answer I want to give was similar to the expression of a Van Gough painting, but in reality the answer should have been a feeling, simple to understand and state with clarity.
Now I am not saying that the mind of the creative is totally tormented and their/my life sucks! Very much the contrary, with the exception that I think it can be isolating frequently throughout life, for the young and the old creative minds. I could not imagine a life without this creative mind, it has given me more opportunity and growth (feeding the mind even more) that most could never imagine.
Ok back to the real question….. Where does my creativity come from?
One of the first and most profound things I remember feeling as a child was trust in myself. I am sure there are some aspects of this that have much to do with my crazy childhood and lack of adult support system and probably love, but this feeling has been present in all my creativity up until today. An inherent instinct in what to do, how to do it, how to think and a trust in myself in making it all come to be.
Childhood & Children
Children that come from broken homes with lack of love and all kinds of other problems are left somewhat to tend to themselves. Not a terrific way to be raised but not a whole lot of choice around it. I used my childhood to build my imagination and creativity for sure. I spent a great deal of time with myself and my animals, playing and making up games and enjoying life, with minimal input or concern from anyone. My childhood creativity was intense and overwhelming for many. My brothers and I got really good at creative teamwork and had countless ideas for our entertainment, much of which was completely unorthodox. I specifically remember as a child not wanting to emulate the “nay sayers” and asshole adults that were in my life and chose build skills and thinking patterns that were different than their viewpoints.
Furthermore, observing children and their thinking patterns is a large inspiration for my current creativity. It helps me remember when I was a child before I was tainted by society. It helps me look at things differently. I am lucky enough to have 6 little kids in my life, my brother’s children as well as the countless children crossing my path in the cooking classes. This vantage point is priceless for creativity. I learn a great deal from children in general and part of me knows that I have learned even more by not having my own.
Examples of Other Creatives
There were not many of these examples for sure in my life as child. There were a few and I think my father is the best example of this. But today I find a valuable tool for inspiring creativity to be other creative people. There is no mistake when you meet another creative soul, soul to soul, it has one of the most powerful energy pulls one can feel when meeting a new person, for me this energy is invigorating beyond belief and can fuel some of my most creative brainwork. Creative synergy is both powerful and helps with isolation and loneliness issues. The “creative club” is one of the best clubs to be a part of.
This is probably for me the largest contributor to my creativity but I have come to find out is the most dangerous one. Imagination and dreaming can often warp the understanding of true reality, which I think I have a big problem with at times. But, as far as creative juices flowing, this playfulness and imagination are pivotal. First, being able to actually still play as an adult is crucial; more people need to understand this. To play in conversation, to play in reality, to play in the kitchen, play, play play. Second, a vivid imagination & dreaming are needed for exceptional boost to creativity. I have had a vivid imagination since childhood and have kept it to myself most of my life. Somewhat embarrassed by the fact in a way (which I am sure hinders creativity.) I day dream a lot and I daydream about a lot of stupid shit, but all of it inspires my and as long as I can keep reality alive (actual reality) I should be okay.
There is nothing that can give my creativity more longevity than visiting new and amazing places and actually seeing creativity first hand in the simple act of life. As a child living in Central America I first witnessed this power and it will forever be the one thing that gives me continuous energy to draw from. Ever since I have been both attracted to visiting other places but most importantly what I see when I visit is creative energy and the power of place to be creative. I have learned to witness this in my own back yard as well, which took me a long time. It is easy to see creative vibrancy in Peru in the Andes but I can also see it now at Wal-Mart in Missouri, which for me speaks profoundly.
Colors, Shapes & Textures
I am inspired by all “things” and I take “things” very seriously. When we take notice of the colors, shapes and textures of the things around us, we draw inspiration off them. I myself do this on a much more subliminal level than most. Which basically means my mind is constantly taking notice and absorbing the details of everything around me in which to later draw inspiration from. I have even been known to draw inspiration from these details years later, not even really understanding that process. Colors are a big portion of my creative expression and sometimes even the lack there of or the detailing of one. For instance I don’t dress colorfuly yet I typically have one noticeably mark of color on me and many would not notice if asked yet would describe me as colorful. My food tends to be very colorful, vibrant, and filled with texture. I choose color carefully and am inspired by nature using color carefully. Shapes are important to me in my creativity and I draw much inspiration not from the shapes themselves but from the meaning of choosing shapes. For example what shape you choose to cut a vegetable in a dish is an amazing creative expression. Shapes for me send clear cut messages to at to my creativity and their importance is high. Texture is one of those things that seems unimportant when we brush over the topic, yet I think all of us can relate to how important texture is not only in general but in the creative expression category as well. I think one of my favorite feelings of texture that stimulates creative expression is one of freshly shaven legs on freshly laundered sheets, that texture that is felt when lying in bed, rolling through the sheets is soft and silky and induces a sense of comfort that for me can lead to boundless dream and imaginative ideas in my sleep. Or the texture of a soup or a well made noodle, all memorable though evoking textures. Texture is found in all the creative processes and we don’t even know it. For instance, typing this blog, my key board that I am typing on now ( my lap top) is smooth and free flowing and the texture feels good, allowing me to flow in a very different manner than from my desk top. I would say that my writing on my lap top is less controlled and looser and certainly less grammatically correct than on my desk top which has a firmer, more precise texture and therefore I think makes me think more about what my fingers are typing. In the end colors, shapes and textures are pivotal to my creativity and they come in multiple formats all useful and all evoking creativity through feeling.
Passion & Feeling
Certainly one of the most creative producing things in life is passion and feelings. I take this almost too far as I am an extremely feeling person. There are several different types of thinking when it comes to people who feel to much and without getting into the psychology of it all I will say that by feeling things deeply when can gain a large amount of creative inspiration. All of the feelings qualify as part of this, love, hate, joy, nirvana, jealousy and all the rest, When we feel emotions deeply, we can create our art more profoundly. Now I have had my issues with this as feeling things too profoundly is not the best for our daily lives in general, however we know that is certainly can contribute to great art. Balance is key in absorbing creativity from passion and feeling.
Foods & Flavors
Maybe it’s the foodie in me and maybe not, but either way I draw massive amounts of creative inspiration from flavors and food that I eat. Food for me evokes everything that I have listed and more. And it is not just in my food world that I draw inspiration in creativity from food. A lot of my creative thinking in business and relationships sprouts from my relationship with food and its provocative creative expression it induces in me. Food has often provided me with creative expression to feel love more profoundly. Flavors have made me feel anger more profusely and in general food and flavors evoke creativity from within.
Perhaps the oddest and trickiest of all the creative muses I have. Fear, fear is the one I have tried to hide from but is the one I cannot escape and therefore embrace. Fear and my fighting of letting fear control me has allowed me more thought process time that has enabled me to be more creative. My failure to allow fear to rule and guide my life has pushed me to fight it and thus allowed me to think differently, less safe and more creative. My actions are more creative because of my inability to let fear be my leader, despite its power. Fear and the understanding and acceptance of fear and what it means gives creative expression major challenges which essentially leads to greater creativity.
March 5th, 2012 §
My Fear of Freedom Suffocation Conquered Through Restraint -Go Figure…
Sometimes the very lesson we are trying to learn, we already know, but have simply not discovered it fully. There are always signs when we examine in retrospect and for me as laughable and implausible that restraint may be a dominant force in my current life, the signs were there along the way, showing me I was indeed capable of it, restraint that is. I guess in retrospect, there were signs somewhat early on, although certainly not in the first grade when confronted with coloring outside the lines when I told my teacher that I was quite comfortable with my drawings and didn’t desire to color inside the lines, that might have been an ideal time to exercise constraint, but could as well have been pivotal in my creative thinking patterns evolving. I’m talking more so on the moments I may have exercised restraint while creating, without even knowing I was doing so. Certainly my cooking, although drastically improved as of late, is a good example of this, but I want to take what I consider my best use of perfect restraint, my culinary center. The process of designing, building and decorating the center was most certainly my greatest exercise of restraint, subconsciously, which makes me today aware of both my existing grasp on the concept as well as what I know to be a long road of learning to grow this skill and art and use is successfully.
The culinary center was built in the spring of 2010 by my brothers, under my direction and design and with the input and expertise of all of us, including my father from afar. First I’d like to point out that the very essence of working alongside ones family is something I feel very strongly for, especially with my family, who all of us work very well together, respect each other’s onions and in my case we capitalized on each other’s strengths and with this came the beautiful creation that I believe is my best work when it comes to restraint, on many levels.
The layout, color scheme, attention to detail in every nook and cranny was well thought out. I spent a great deal of time putting thought into every angle, every option and everything that would be done in both the office specter and the kitchen specter, including filming and photography. I did all this using instinct, creativity, intelligence and without knowing, restraint.
Using self regulation and restraint in my desgins, communicaitons and over all management of the creaiton of the center, utlimately is what lead to the magnificence. When people walk in there are immediately taken back by the good peaceful, creative energy that abounds the place. They see the attention to detail in everythign and I like to belive that because there was so much love involved it the creaiton, that of my family caring genuinelt aobut another, there is lots of feelings of love lofting through the loft. Certainly my passion for the culinary side of things is evedent and down to the colors a well thought out journey and evolution since my first company, Ger-Nis International. In the end I exercised control over my emotions and thought less aobut my feelings and more about creating a space where others could create their own good feelings and unique expereinces. The place is definatly some of my best work and came quite naturally to me at the time. My passion display, my creativity displayed, my wisdom displated, my logic displayed and my restraint displayed, all making up the sustenance of what is equivovcally Ger-Nis!
January 26th, 2012 §
Big Game, Hunting, Cowboys & Rugged Stuff…………..
Wyoming has a population of 568,000 people covering roughtly 97,000 square miles. The sparsest populated state in the country, and probably one of the most rugged, desolate, and wild places out there. To put the popluation density into perspective for those of you East coasters, Brooklyn has a population of 2.5 million people covering roughtly 97 square miles. The constrast to New York is about as vast as one can get, and to witness Wyoming is to feel this sharp contrast. This feeling exudes, and is one of openess and expansiveness like no other place I have experienced, not even when I was in the middle of the dessert in Jordan. Adaption in Wyoming is a way of life. The horses, for instance, grow a thick coat of fur like I have never seen in the horse world. The moose and elk head for the lowlands in order to avoid walking through 10-20 feet of snow that would basically suffocating them in its deepness. The wolves are out in full force year round. The bears, of course, just sleep through the winter and the people adapt by hunting, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, fly fishing, hiking, and all of the other activities that fit the terraine and allow them to use the land to the best of their ability. Food, shelter, water and everything that is needed to adapt to these powerful climates and changes in geography is evident in not only the wild animals that abound Wyoming, but in the people as well.
When my youngest brother and his family decided to move to Wyoming, I have to admit I was a little shocked. They had been living in New Jersey, working for my fruit and vegetable company. They never adpated well to living there, so I knew they needed to get away, but to move to the middle of nowhere seemed excessive, and with two young kids I was worried. But when I went to visit them in December, I realized the allure. I don’t consider myself a city person by any means but I like accessibility and my love of New York City is because of its accessibility to the world. Brooklyn still has a smaller city feel to it that I enjoy, so Wyoming wasn’t actually a far stretch for me, as I like and have always liked “country” living, having lived it somewhat at various stages of my life. My journey to Wyoming was the most peaceful vacation I have been on, which is amazing considering the brutal weather, terrain and vastness of the country. Minimal, hazy cell reception, slow download and upload speeds on the internet and no really urban life around us. I was “stationed” in Riverton, Wyoming, which is about 3 hours west of Jackson Hole in the flat part of the State (most if Wyoming is flat, but this is very flat). Now most of us are familiar with Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, but the other parts of Wyoming are what I think are the most interesting parts. During the beginning of the vacation we were a bit landlocked as the kids (my niece and nephew) were still in school and their mother working. So my brother and I did typical Wyoming things – we rode horses, shot guns and bows and arrows, and cooked lots of pig that they had raised and butchered. We also spilit wood, picked ice out of the horses’ hooves, and then we ate, slept and woke up the next day and did it again. We drove up to some nearby mountains for sledding next to an old ghost town called Atlantic City. That was spectacular, with no one around, and fresh hills discovered by us and only for us, with not another person in sight. It was a sunny warm day and a decent amount of snow. The sledding was perfect, the kids were happy, and I was relaxed and had easily adapted to the idea of not working, disconnecting and finding my inner youth spirit (by the end of the day I had several bruises!). We concluded by having a homecooked meal in the ghost town on Christmas Eve afternoon of cheese burgers, tator tots, deep fried jalapenos, local BBQ sauce, and of course beer! The talk was of the fresh wolf tracks nearby that fascinated us and terrified the locals. Wolves are not well liked in Wyoming as it turns out.
Christmas was simple and filled with meat and cheese, and despite my ideals about eating tons of vegetables, I adapted to the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere during winter and so the fresh ham, again raised by my brother and butchered by a local, glazed in an amber-brown sugar glaze was perfect. I even got to make up a new recipe for an upside down carmelized vanilla orange- cranberry cast iron cake! It was a lovely Christmas with great people and the simplicity of it all was extremly special.
For New Years, we rented a cabin in the mountains about an hour west of Jackson Hole at a higher elevation and at the top of a pass in snowmobile country. It was remote, isolated and the opposite of Jackson Hole’s tourist destination. There was a restaurant, a bar, a little store, a gas station and a few cabins and rooms. Outside of that, it was all mountains, miles and miles of trails for snowmobiling, and fresh snow continuously coming down while we were there which was amazing. We rode four-whellers around, there was more sledding, and we did sightseeing in the mountains where we saw bald eagles and wolf tracks. We also saw some amazing kite snow boarders and lots of families snowmobiling, and met amazing folks from all around the country who were just out there having fun. For New Year’s Eve we made a nice dinner in our cabin, watched a lot of Moonshiners episodes and drank beer. We went to the local bar at our lodge while the kids watched movies (the bar was literally 50 feet from the cabin!) and we met and spoke to the locals. We learned about hunting bear and wolf and how to cook cowboy beans. Wyoming is a free range state and I learned that this is why it’s known as cowboy country. All the livestock gets to roam free up in the mountains, and essentially all over, and then the ranchers and cowboys round them up. Since so many of the cattle and sheep move up into the mountains they need people on horseback to round them up. I also learned that the dogs do most of the work. There are lots of cowboys who break horses and brand cattle, eating over fires and smelling of those campfires with a hint of leather. We met a guy named Cowboy Bill who spoke at great length about kids not knowing how to braid, that they can play video games but not know a thing about braiding. He spoke about all the leather braiding he did and how he learned it as a child on horses (that is ironically how I learned to braid as well!) I also learned that the Grand Tetons were named after tits, which I thought was quite funny! We visited a town called Crowheart up in the mountains where a Crow Indian and Shoshoni Indian had a duel and the Shoshoni won and ate the Crow’s heart, thus the name. I would love to say that the story goes on and on and that we stayed up all night and danced in the New Year, but honestly I went to bed at about 10 PM! I’m not much of a New Year’s gal, and had been having such a great time that I was simply and wonderfully tired. I thought a lot about what all my friends were doing on New Year’s and knew that so many of them wouldn’t have been able to handle this. It was nothing extravagant – there was no champagne, no dressed up ladies, no perfume smell in the air – just the mountains and the people, talking and having laughs over beer. It was easy for me to adapt to, but I wondered how many people could.
The following day we woke up and showered and went to Jackson Hole for some snowboarding. The drive to Jackson was amazing and I imagine that outside of winter it would be filled with many other animals. As it was we saw elk, buffalo, moose and bald eagles and I’m telling you these sights never get old! The Grand Tetons are an amazing sight and the road we traveled down was right alongside them the entire time. We arrived in Jackson Hole on New Year’s Day. I had never been before and had heard nice things. It was cute, nestled in the mountains, and expensive, filled with things that big cities and rich folks are accustomed to such as fine dining, art and kitschy places like bars with saddle stools. Now don’t get me wring, I like fine dining, I love art and I like kitschy in the right dose, but because I had just come from the other “sector” of Wyoming, it just all seemed fake and like Disneyland plopped in the middle of this great, rugged place. It was filled with people from all over the country and while that part I liked, it also changed it, making it seem less authentic. I had grown fond of the Wymoing I had come to love in the weeks prior. Nevertheless we stayed the night to make our big dreams of snowboarding a reality the next day. With the astronomical costs of snowboaridng and skiing (I have yet to understand how families can afford this!) we spent a better part of the day on the cheaper of the two slopes. With two kids ages 5 and 10, we spent most of the time in the snow face down (I myself had the same problem with the snowboard) and so decided to trade our snowboards in for skis so that I might actually have some enjoyment. After a day (more like 4 hours) we packed up and headed home to the same amazing sights and beautiful views. My journey to Wyoming was ending with only a few days left. I had adapted to the rugged ways quite well and was starting to dread a bit the idea of my hectic life back home, but ultimately I like my life in New York. Wyoming had become a constant nudge, letting me know that I need to have a wild rugged place to go for myself, that it’s a necessary thing for the soul.
On my last day, my brother and his wife had to work but the kids were still off of school so we ventured to the largest hot springs in the world in Thermopolis, Wyoming. 2,575 gallons of hot (135 degree) waters running per minute! Shoshoini Indian flocked to this area beacause of the therepeutic waters and healing properties. Located next to the Wind River today, the area is a public attraction bringing people from all over Wyoming and beyond to soak in the waters. There are even water parks – yes, hot spring water parks – open year round. On the day we went it was crazily warm weather so we were able to swim and play in the outdoor pools surrounded by snow without risking frostbite. Afterwards we went to Hot Springs State Park and hiked, witnessing the colorful minreal rocks and canyons and looked, but unfortunately never saw the big bison heards that roam there. On the journey home through Wind River Canyon, we stopped for a picnic in the snow along the river and listened to the quiet of the canyon. We saw some big cat tracks and enjoyed the warm and cold of it all.
My trip to Wyoming was simply perfect. While seeing my family was the best part, I learned a great deal about myself and my current life, and about people and the world, which is ultimately why I love to travel anywhere. I realized yet again that my ability to adapt allows me to truly enjoy all of my experiences and that no matter where I am, I need to keep adapting and discovering new, rugged wild parts of myself and other places thoughout the world.
December 16th, 2011 §
When Even A Whisk Can’t fix it…………..
Nissa’s Home Kitchen
But A Drink Might! For the last nine year I resided in the same home in Park Slope, it is the only place DI have lived in New York and I don’t really have plans of moving. This month as we talk failure, it’s only fair we take a good look into my kitchen, where a lot of failures have occurred and where most of the personal life failures have been addressed from. I am somewhat lucky to have a large apartment in New York, its rare and I have a yard for Sadie which is also rare, the kitchen, albeit small, was extremely alluring to me from the get go due to its open shelf design. As many of you are aware I love this open shelf way of living in the kitchen and this type of design is one we also implemented into Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center as well. I typically like a few cupboards to hide things but other than that I like everything out in the open, dishes, jars of nuts, seeds, spices etc. (Little secret my clothes closet is the same way!) I like it bright and truthfully kind of like my kitchen a little cluttered and flooded with art form my sister in law. Even Sadie has her own Burro painting that hangs over her food and water dishes in the kitchen. My kitchen, even as small as it is, with an oven that won’t open all the way because of the radiator, is essentially my home and thus a place where failures happened (literally and figuratively) as well as were figured out (literally and figuratively).
Probably my most memorable failure in the kitchen was when I was making my very first meal for a man I quite enjoyed. He was the Ger in Ger-Nis and I remember being so excited to make him dinner, he had not yet experienced the talents of my cooking and I was excited to have him take witness to them. I remember the evening like it was yesterday and it was about 8 ½ years ago to be exact. I was making a dish that was a staple of mine, the dish all my friends and family would have me make for special occasions, fennel, black pepper, and lemon zest crusted tuna with scallops & shrimp in a spicy and herbaceous tomato sauce served over herbed couscous. This was a dish I could do in my sleep and that I had even done will completely intoxicated and there had never been a soul who thought the dish was anything less than perfection, until that evening with the Ger in Ger-Nis! I knew it was going to be a bomb because I was struggling in everything I did, from the hand grinding of the peppercorns to the zesting of the lemons, the searing of the tuna chunk and even my herb ratios were off. I was so stressed out by this failure that it created a ripple effect of problems, anxiety and in the end a shitty dish. I remember the look on his face, the bland look. That look brought up so many feelings of failure and I know then that there was a serious connection to feelings and the way I cook. To this day my friends will still not believe the dish could have been that bad, but because I know the feelings that were a part of it and that at that time especially I had such a lack of control of my feelings that they essentially controlled my cooking. The road has been a long one since then, with many failures that all led me to this path where I have clearly come to recognize that my feelings; need not only to be separate from who I am but also my cooking. This could only been witnessed by experiencing failure and in this kitchen over the next 7 ½ years after the failed seafood stew, failure was inevitable.
In terms of work I cannot tell you how many mornings making coffee dealing with the import business and Israel, failure after failure in business and many crappy cups of coffee made because of the high stress and emotion, many half made breakfasts fed to the dog. This kitchen was a big source of emotions for me a place where many came to surface. The love life was also not out of context when it came to failures in this kitchen, with many upon many upon many phone conversations & arguments (love types) happening simultaneously while trying to cook dinner and all the emotions that I journeyed through were experienced through many failures in the meals. The irony in much of what I am saying is that while all of this was going on I never realized it. It took the conglomerate of failures to get me to change and witness how my emotions dictated all my actions. Like a class action suit brought against me all my failures finally lined up and said enough. And that is where I am today, slowly learning how to separate my emotions from my being both in life and in my cooking. There are ups and downs, a few days ago after a volatile phone conversation I managed to mangle macaroni and cheese, the dish looked how I felt and I laughed and said it was time to give myself a break!
November 15th, 2011 §
My New Favorite Tool in the Kitchen & In Life!
Laid Back California, Teaches Me To Hang Back!
On my most recent trip to LA, I stayed in Santa Monica, directly across the street from where I was born, St John’s Hospital. It was therapeutic in a way as it made me think about the fact that I was began this life at 10 pounds (a little over actually J) and I began my life at the sea, in the warmth and basically surrounded by people who had decided on living a life that was relatively slower than most., This is the beach and this is in essence Santa Monica and I think it’s a lot about who I am as well. Santa Monica is basically the beach of LA and is certainly a bit more laid back, despite it being pretty uppity in general! (Welcome to LA) For years Santa Monica has been home to a diverse crowd, many of Hollywood executives, movie stars, and generally people in the movie & TV business as well as surfers, beach bums and a general folk that if they are going to have to live in LA they are going to live eat the beach. For me this is the epitome of Santa Monica, folks who despite everything want to wake up to the sea, the salty air whether it be cool or hot, sand in their bed sheets and above all the ability to see sunsets without having to travel too far. These folks all have two things in common really despite large socio economic backgrounds: first they are willing to pay a good portion of their income to this “beach bum” life style. Second, they are in essence more laid back than others, they have a patience about them that comes from sun and sand.
This is where things get a little hazy for me, I have lived a large portion of my 38 year old life on the beach, so where is my patience right? Well I have a few ideas on that topic, number one is that the ocean and the sea help me ground myself and allow me to attempt to reach a level of patience that I am only just understanding. The beach has a way of grounding and I think its safe to judge beach towns as more patient than most. Santa Monica is a perfect example of this. Sure it is pretentious (sorry Santa Monica) and it is also a little pompous and bouswazee……but there is a real element of laid back beach patience here that you can only discover if you live there. I not only lived there as a child but also as an adult while working for HerbThyme Farms, I lived there a few years and this is the location I stay always anytime I visit LA. What I love about Santa Monica is that there is a select few of us who understand the layout of the land who can see through the Hollywood, even Hollywood can see through the Hollywood in order to capture the beach patie3nce vibe that exudes through Santa Monica’s soul.
The food scene is no different, of course it is laden with high end places that fall short and don’t deliver, but it is also laden with places that are completely laid back and artistic, just like Santa Monica’s residents have notoriously been. The amazing food scene that is happening there is natural and easy, like beach hair, wavy and salty and perfect. The chefs are utilizing local farms and artisans and the places are becoming smaller and smaller, this is not a club scene is an easy breezy vide that is oh so patient, tables turning in about 3 -4 hours as opposed to 2 and a rooted repeated clientele that can only say, patience is a virtue in Santa Monica! The place screams lets do it different, get on board!
October 9th, 2011 §
Discovery of the Unexpected & It’s Growth
Petra, Jordan and The Arab World
The Temple Mount
My travels take to me to the middle east a great deal and through my business and personal relationships with the Israelis it has up until now been pretty predominantly on the Jewish sectors, with the exception of the business that we did with the Palestinians and the fresh herbs. Although certainly I am like most Israelis amongst Arabs in this Jewish world, it always felt just like that; Arabs living in a Jewish place. Not to say that there are not pockets of places that you felt very much a part of Arab culture and not Jewish, but the overall sentiment and feeling is often that you are in Israel regardless a Jewish controlled state. Not that that is a problem but after traveling there enough and meeting and knowing a great many Arabs, it just feels different. So on this latest trip I got the very unexpected opportunity to delve into the Arab world a bit more and into the actual Arab world and not just the Jewish controlled Arab world and it felt totally different and was completely unexpected both in the reality and in the energy that I felt experiencing it. The unexpected opportunity to experience something different came from the reality that I was traveling not alone and with another American, not my normal Israeli entourage. This allowed for us to have more opportunity to visit places that were just kind of either off limits to or just avoided by Israelis.
First, while visiting Jerusalem and the Old City, which I get to do often and feel that I usually have such amazing tour guides, locals who can help me barter and move me through the mazes with ease, but these folks are Israelis and on this occasion as it was just two of us Americans we took the opportunity to go into the Temple Mount the Eastern Jerusalem section and one of the most important religious sites for both the Jews and the Arabs. The Temple Mount is said to be so holy that “regular” jews should not go, only rabbi’s are allowed and of course soldiers are free to roam during duty! The Islamic controlled Eastern Jerusalem controls this section and has since the 60 day war, but with the overseeing and supervised by the Israeli government, which is why some are adamant that this is the Israelis occupying Palestinian Territory. Tricky business indeed but we wanted to forge through and see for ourselves what was on that other side. The gate to the Temple Mount the Golden Gate (the pillars said to be a gift of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon) Opens up for tourists to pass through only a few hours of each day on select days. On this day we were just in time. The irony is its truly all the same location, the holy lands of all three of these major religions all center around this 50 acre parcel of land really. As we moved through extra security and up a tiny walkway over the wailing wall, through a bridge loaded with battering rams (just sitting there in case) we walk in an into a very immediately different and unexpected place. Amazingly old and filled with Arab men and women, sitting, talking and going about there business. There is not much up there besides the amazing views (some of the best views I have seen from the old city) and the temples and mainly just religious stuff. We walked in an I immediately got swindled out of 20 sheckels! The art of conning the tourist knows no boundaries. They said my dress was too short and I needed to buy this scarf to cover them up. Later I found out that was not true! Oh well. We decided to get a tour guide, to allow us a better feel for where we actually were. I am not a religious person and had no real religious upbrining so I was a bit out of context. Our guide was amazing and we learned a great deal in a very short amount of time. Oh yeah we were ona time constraint as well, due to head back for a meeting in Tel Aviv!
So what we learned first and foremost was that I always seemed to be standing right in the pathway of some divine god who was soon to return! It was a little daunting, I would hate to get in the way of the Messiah coming home. The jews regard the Temple mount “as the location where god chose the Divine presence to rest and it was from there the wold expanded into its present form and where god gathered the dust to create the first man, Adam. During the Second Temple Period it functioned also as an economical center. From that location the word of God will come out to all nations, and that is the site where all prayers are focused. According to Jewish tradition and scripture, the first temple was built by Solomon the son of David in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Jewish tradition maintains it is here the Third and final Temple will also be built. The location is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to Rabbinical law,some aspect of the Divine Presence is still present at the site. It was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.
Among Sunni Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary (Bait-ul-Muqaddas) and the location of Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, the site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam.[ After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637 CE, Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the site. The Dome was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world, after the Kaabah. The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca. The Dome of the Rock currently sits in the middle, occupying or close to the area where the Bible mandates the Holy Temple be rebuilt.
In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site as a Waqf, without interruption. As part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors.
The visit was an exciting one and I learned a great deal more about the regions conflicts and the deep rooted religious history that is at the root of it. There was so much unexpected in this visit from the stand up ladies toilets to the amazing history lesson. The view was magical really and the powerful energy of the place could not go unnoticed.
We got on a plane at 6 a, one morning in Tel Aviv headed for Elat, after a huge ordeal of security, which doesn’t seem justified considering we were flying to Elat, but I’m a pro at this and accepted it. A tour guide picked us up at the airport and transported us to the Jordanian border. There were 3 other folks in our tour. One was a French man and the other two a married couple form Estonia! They were all lovely and we were excited. The tour guide gave us the drill on the border crossing and was pretty serious and I have to admit I was a bit taken back by what we were about to experience. So we handed over our passports and got a bright orange sticker placed on our chests. Our Israel border person gave them back to us and we stood in line to get checked out of Israel. He then pointed to this long walkway between the border, surrounded by barbed wire and seemingly high security. He said walk down that path and one of our guides will meet you on the other side after Jordanian security checks your passports. We did just that and for a split second I couldn’t help but think I believe I have seen someone get shot in a place looks like this in the movies! J But we made it to the other side only to find that our tour guide was not there. We were a bit taken back but “our group” didn’t seem to mind we were in Jordan and they were excited. I however was a little worried as borders are serious places, especially between Israel and Jordan. Our guide finally came and we got checked into Jordan, loaded up in van and on the road to Petra after a short stop in the amazing and clean city of Aqaba on the Red Sea. My first glimpse into this Arab world was fascinating and totally unexpected. I saw many of the typical Arab Kiffiyeh or scarf headdress. Many of the men were wearing long white and other colored cloaks along with that headdress, it was amazing to see. The city was modern and clean and the people were super friendly and nice. As we continued on our two hour drive to Petra through some of the most arid and desolate land I have seen I witnessed camels and donkey sand Bedouins roaming the dessert. We got to talk politics and learn some basic history in the car ride with our tour guide. I learned an amazing amount of information that I had no access to prior. There is so much one learns and absorbs by actually being somewhere. I was floored by my lack of knowledge of history and excited to learn so many amazing tid bits and political facts. This amazing journey was totally unexpected and totally rewarding and by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life!
August 31st, 2011 §
Pondering the Meaning of Family, Hurricanes & Gratitude with Friends
I have lived many of places in my life, all over the USA and a few places abroad. When I moved to Brooklyn nice years ago (yes it’s been that long!) I felt like I had come home. Now it’s not like the people are pouring their hearts and souls out and inviting me in for tea and crumpets each and every day. On the contrary, New Yorkers and Brooklynites, are a bit rash, a bit impatient, direct, and certainly have a bit more assertiveness than the ordinary American. However, they are real and for me that is the one quality that gives Brooklyn and all the neighborhoods throughout all the five boroughs a great sense of community and family. There is something about New York in general that allows for this simultaneous comrodery or family spirit all while allowing for a certain independence or freedom. Maybe it’s the fact that New York is for the most part a transplant city. First the immigrant history and then the transplants. People that live here have roots all over, their families live all over the country and the world for the most part and so they are connected to the idea of the need for family communities right here all while keeping the distant ones alive as well. There are pockets of family communities all over Brooklyn, places where people call home despite no blood relatives living near them. Long and short term friends that listen and support us as we move through life with this New York spirit of creativity and freedom of sorts. It doesn’t matter which community you move through in New York and Brooklyn, you see these family communities alive and thriving. Now we all know that New Yorkers have a bap rap for being cold, abrasive, short and disinterested to the average tourist that visits, but the truth is New Yorkers are busy people and there is less time for tourists in our everyday lives, this is true, but it is also true that New Yorkers are genuine so they are the first to tell you they have no time, they are also ready to help and genuine about it to the tourists as well.
So back to Brooklyn and specifically my neighborhood of Park Slope where I have lived nine years now in the same place on Prospect Park. In Brooklyn as in most family community’s food and family go hand in hand so it’s no wonder that a great part of my Brooklyn family revolves around food, especially for me since I am attracted to it like a magnet! I have become genuine friends with many of the local restaurant owners and those who work at these establishments. The same goes for the food stores, whether it be wine, beer, cheese, or groceries. These folks know parts of me that my blood family doesn’t get to see that often……my habits! Those who know your habits know a real part of you and when we live in communities amongst each other we begin to learn these things. What we eat, when we eat it, what we buy, who we come there with, how much we drink, what we wear etc etc, these things have a way of creating a bond with our community, habits are part of who we are, we also genuinely get to know these folks by frequenting their establishments day after day, so it’s no wonder that these communities begin to take care of one another often times the way families used to. Even down to giving small loans to each other. In most cases food is involved and for me this long tradition of breaking bread together really is important in this mix and I think Americans tend to miss out on this concept often, “families who eat together, stay together” and this goes for community and extended families as well! So I guess the moral of the story is look for family in your community, eat together, grow food together, make food together and support your community family, like Brooklyn does!