August 31st, 2011 §
Pondering the Meaning of Family, Earthquakes, Hurricanes & Gratitude
As I write this month’s blog, an earthquake has just happened, a hurricane has just past through and a lot of feelings about family and friends have been stirred up at the same time. Events in life, events of mine and events of others have caused me to ponder what family means and within that thought comes the questions of friends as family. The idea of family and friends and the meaning thereof is a topic frequently pondered in many lights throughout our lives. Not only coming to terms with who is blood related and what that means to be part of an immediate family, continuously over time but the idea of an extended family or a community as a family and what that actually entails for each of us. How do we covet these relationships feed them, decipher them, understand them and let them ebb and flow as they are intended to is the difficult part. I’m no scientist or genealogist but I know that much of what we believe when it comes to family is based on our experiences and the message our society sends to us, especially when we are young. I as many know have a somewhat unique family story, one of a very small immediate family due to circumstances beyond my control. For most of my life my immediate blood family has been my father and my three brothers, nothing for the most part. All of us are close and all of us see family not as blood but as a connection we share through our dedication and loyalty to some really freaking cool people. This immediate family is growing as my brothers gain wives and as they began to have children, and in addition our family grows as we continue to meet and add amazing people to our “family” spectrum or people we encounter throughout life and who we share with others we care about. A ”family” in the end can surprise you, those who are there for you truly in the end may not be the folks that society deems are supposed to be there and the lessons and gifts we may need to learn in life or share may be with those who we thought we would interact with least. As usual my blog is helpful for me in feeding and finding more depth to my own soul, this process for me in my life often interacts with food and when it comes to family and friend’s food is large centerpiece, not only in my life but within the lives of people in general throughout the world. Life lately is moving and evolving in a good direction for me, this is typical as I think I expend a good amount of effort making sure I move forward and not backwards in life, discovering rather than dwelling. Sure life continues to offer challenges and I continue to figure out how to move through them. Recently in my life I have gotten to witness quite a bit of controversy within the families of friends, this witness has created a significant amount of gratitude for my own “family pocket “ and even more gratitude for what I deem as healthy beliefs on family and what it means to me. It’s always a bit controversial to talk about what family means as society, especially our American society, has a lot to say about it and even a lot more judgment of those who don’t play by the American family drum. I know firsthand about this pressure from society to live as a family unit as society dictates. Politics today are laden with those telling us what a family should be and who we should love and I think society is paying attention and getting a bit uncomfortable with the conventional and perhaps maybe be showing even a bit of signage towards deciding for themselves what family means to them. My life for many years gave me societal pressure for my own family decisions and my life with my own “unconventional” family”
When we speak of sustenance (the overall concept of this blog-feeding myself) we have to think about family and friends and how we are fed by their love, their support and their honesty and genuine care. What does this really mean than for biological blood family and does action and content mean more than biology and blood? It’s a tough question for me because I feel this “blood connection” with my brothers, however I also feel like that “blood connection” is really about content and experience more than it is blood. I believe wholeheartedly that what makes my bond with my brothers so strong is how over the years we have continued to get to know one another as we have grown and changed and through our experiencing life together while simultaneously giving a shit about who we are and what makes us tick as the individuals we are. We connected wholeheartedly and with openness. Our continuous support for each other has grown our bond into what I believe is a unbreakable carbon like bond based on respect of the adults we are today and the experiences we have shared together, throughout a life time. I am sure that blood doesn’t dictate family and it has taken me years to be content with this opinion. As a child of 11 years I discovered that blood family doesn’t necessarily always support in the most caring and respectful manner. Upon my parents bitter divorce many of my mother’s family members kind of just abandoned us because we were supporters of our father and wanted to live with him versus our mother. My youngest brother was four years old at the time and the oldest of us 12 years and we had prior to this event, typical American blood families, holidays, birthdays, $20 from grandma in the mail, cousins playing together, but I wouldn’t have described us all as actually close or bonded and in retrospect I don’t think they truly understood who “we” kids were and thus it seemed all too easy for all to just forget about us. Now I’m comfortable with that fact as holidays and birthday cards don’t a family make, but the appearance of a family is a powerful thing, especially in our society. But for me the appearance is the problem with today’s family and society in general. Families need sustenance, they need to be fed and cared for continuously and with deep open love. . I severed ties with my mother at age 12 and it was actually much easier than one would think and although the world made me feel many things in regards to that act, I finally years ago maybe at about 30 came to true terms with my act at 12 years old and was confident I had made the right decision and today remain confident still. My mother although blood and although I grew in her womb, was not my family when times got tough for her, nor did she every really figure out how to be our family even years after, nor has she even come close today. The real meat of this story is certainly severe but the truth is we don’t get to choose our relatives but we do get to chose our families and I chose not to choose my mother to be in mine. Now that’s a long story and only part of my point here so as my normal choppy writing style goes, we are moving on. When my father took us to Central America I began to discover the value of “family” in a different light, non blood folk and community as “family”. Strangers cared for us in a way that was deep and meaningful. New Friends were made in all spectrums of life a few of which I have made for life and although one would think that a girl without a mother is a sad thing, I was gifted many remarkable woman all throughout my life, who not only led me down a path of positivity but they genuinely cared and put stake in helping me become the woman I was destined to become and therefore I can give credit to a few amazing women for helping me achieve greater meaning to who I am. These women guided me to become me without any doubt, without any judgment. They were filled with words of wisdom and certainly this didn’t mean they agreed with everything I did, they supported fully with love, respect and non judgment and to these women (you know who you are) thank you for my womanhood and my strength. These woman were and are my family, they are the mothers I chose.
Friends and family are not always there when we want them to be, not more than just a few of them anyhow. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Each person in our life has a particular relationship to us and it changes and evolves as life does and on occasion it leaves us for good. Again what is important is to always be learning from the many challenging relationships we have. I have had some relationships that I thought would last a lifetime but ended abruptly in the last five years, but I have learned that it takes nothing away from what was. Even our “family” blood or relative or whatever, won’t always be there for us. We all have our own crap going on and sometimes its difficult to see really what is happening in others. Our energies don’t always match up. A friend of mine who has encountered some serious setbacks in life lately was disappointed in his family for not being there for him and not understanding him better. It’s a difficult position for me as I have a hard time understanding why humans can’t be there for their fellow humans, however I have learned that it’s just their shit. We can love and be connected and there are just times we don’t match up to those we care about and those who care about us. What’s important in this case is that we live as we intend with conviction, we should expect the most and give people a break when they can’t deliver it. Paying attention to the fact that as we grow into adults, life becomes a bit more complicated. When we are children, we need food, water, shelter and love given to us, and as adults we typically have to seek it out and create it. It’s not easy but it’s crucial to having sustenance in our lives.
As we grow into adults, we have the tendency to grow further apart from people we cared about and were cared for as children, this is true not only for our “blood” family but our extended families as well and this is when we begin to grow roots into community as family and this notion is a bit more foreign to Americans, but it is a notion that we need to indulge in pondering about more, especially if we want to feed our lives with nourishing sustenance. Community family made of the friends and family and community in which we live are intended to help nourish us, especially if we work on creating these family environments for each other. As I mentioned earlier a friend of mine who has been experiencing some life struggles as of lately has also been learning the hard lesson of family and “friends” not being there for you unconditionally when you need them most. But I revel in the fact that in my community of “friends & family” here I Brooklyn, we have embraced him as well as my own family and all shown him that what you need is always there. I take pride in my Brooklyn community for being “family” oriented in a way they is inclusive to those that live here. I think its easier for New Yorkers to embrace this concept since so many of us our transplants.
So much of my “family” surrounds food and I am happy for that fact. Food is a communal family oriented experience and around the world over, they embrace food, community and family at the same time. Americans need to do this more. We need to build families that are not about blood but that are about love and respect for each other, helping one another when we need it and teaching one another what we know. Above all accepting all without judgment event when we can’t understand them of what they have been through.
Family for me is my heart so for all of you in my family, with earthquake and hurricane force I show deep and sincere gratitude for all you provide for me and my “family” blood has nothing on this special worldly gift of community!
July 29th, 2011 §
A Quest for Food Purity Which Lead to the Discovery of Spirit Authenticity
in myself & in others………..
I took a trip this summer with the intent of finding authenticity, my destination was Italy and specifically the Lingurian Coast, or as some are familiar with it as, the Italian Riviera. My desire to visit Italy was not the average choice as far as destination goes. As most venture solely into Tuscany seeking the richest and most robust red wines, others seek Pizza in Roma and then of course most salivate for Piedmont, rich and cheesy pastas. I sought out Linguria and the Italian Riviera for my two great loves; the ocean and fresh herbs. I was seeking the authentic in life and not necessarily in the way people make food, but their spirit towards life and how food continues to play a major role in their everyday peace and contentment, something I am working at incorporating more in my own life; making it more authentic that is regardless of what is happening in it and regardless of what I am doing in the moment. As most of my followers friends and creditors know, times have been tough and I am constantly trying to move ahead in life professionally while still trying to grow and evolve as a person and learn and absorb the lessons and that are constantly being put in front of me. My journey to Italy was a bit impromptu and out of left field as so many of my actions and certainly trips are, but I accomplished what I set out to do and then some. Finding authentic inspiration and refreshed and renewed energy to keep moving forward during difficult times was my main focus. My secondary focus was to discover another part of the world and a new culture I had yet to experience. Italy was the solution and when I took to google out to plan the trip, I of course couldn’t get my mind set off the water (the beach bum in me prevents me from venturing to far from the sea) and in the discovery process I learned about the rich herb culture on the Lingurian coast. I instantly fell in love before even going, as for me an area set on cliffs and rocks and vibrant blue seas that is renowned for food and culture revolving around basil and pesto, seemed to be the ideal magical location for my own inner authentic search and inspirational journey.
I took all my points from all my traveling in the past years and spent them all on a ticket and hotels and mapped out my journey, trying to get as much of the coast, the herb culture and variety of people as possible. The trip began in Genoa, Italy, home to the famous Genovese basil. The idealic Italian city filled with narrow streets and tall buildings with its beautiful Romanesque-Renaissance architecture and medieval yet modern feel engulfs you. You walk through the mazes of pathways between the buildings dark with hints of bright sunlight at the top feeling as if you will never find your way out, yet this relatively small city, seems to always spit you out into one of its landmark promenades or fountain squares. This was my first experience with Italians in Italy and at first I was a little taken back, I have to admit. They were quick, assertive and pretty much could care less about me, that is except a few really old men who proposed marriage and babies! Their slightly abrasive and disinterested attitude made it difficult for me to find the courage to ask questions and seek out the city’s best food and culture experiences in the short time I had stationed there (24 hours). I found myself put off by this a little and will admit my first few meals in Italy were highly disappointing. But as all thing sI do and experience and I think in traveling I feel it even more, there is something to be learned and absorbed from that disappointment and lack of understanding. So I did what I usually do and pushed myself to a point of uncomfortableness vowing that despite the major language barrier I was facing that I was going to find their authentic and my own in the short time I was there! I began to think of Italians kind of like New Yorkers, busy, set in their ways and moving, when they did stop they were friendly and lovely as can be, my mind and energy opened and my experience became greater. I learned that shutting down for me is not an option, to keep seeking the answers or in this case a good meal.
As I traveled down the coast to Rapallo, Portofino, Comolgi, and then to Cinque Terre, I was blown away by the sweeping and breathtaking beauty of the sea but also equally blown away by the lives the Italian Riviera folk lead. A world where no to go cups exist, a world that shuts down for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day and a world where firework shows go on for over 8 hours at a time and 4 days straight. I discovered a passion that I don’t typically see in my everyday life and a passion I know exists in me. I discovered a loyalty within the selves of people, meaning they were loyal to themselves, not looking about what could be or what might be, but a quintessential concentration on what is. And often times that what is, has been around for centuries and generations. I had read a lot in the past few years on how Italy is losing many of its traditions to the lure of the big city, television, video games and the new and vast interconnectedness of the world. And I certainly saw this a bit along the coast and specifically in Genoa, but I also took notice to the simplicity in which most lived, and the celebration of what they had not what they wanted to get or achieve. A greater focus on attention to detail the monumental HERE AND NOW acclamation just simple exists here and through that I think people are able to have a richer food culture and culture in general.
The countless people I met time and time again were passionate and filled with knowledge about their food and culture. Their vibrancy of detail of the historical journey both their peoples and food have been on, was inconceivable to me and beyond anything I had ever heard recited and I have always been in awe of cultures who are so engulfed and knowledgeable of the details of their history. The Italians were amazing as their history and their food was one. I began to understand the allure of Italy when it comes to food and food culture and I began to understand how despite my not being Italian I was very much authentic in spirit just like the Italians and I began for the first time to understand that I am a bit of an outsider not coming from a culture with this rich of authenticity of spirit when it comes to food and food culture, but I can continue to seek out the authentic spirit wherever I go and it will continue to seek me out, as it did and happened in Italy and with this cooperation of spirits we can connect ourselves to many cultures as the world is pushing us all to do and perhaps we can convince each other to keep moving in the direction of authenticity in all we do regardless of what we do and regardless of who and where we are. I myself know that I want my authentic spirit to shine brightly in the work I do, the person I am and for certain the food I create and I want all the authentic spirit I encounter on my journey to be present in it all as well. So certainly these days my authentic spirit shines brightly with the influences of my Italian Riviera journey and those who I encountered along the way and my cooking will never be the same again.
Thank you Italy for the journey & the discovery!
June 28th, 2011 §
Get Me Outta That Box, Come Inside & Get to Know Me
What You See is What You Get Only if We See Eye to Eye
As we grow into these smart sophisticated adults and merge through the traffic of life we have this unequivocal impulse to place people in a box, based on our own observations. We lend ourselves to be the experts of people as if to say we never heard of researchers living with the guerillas for years and devoting their entire lives to understanding another being or animal. Somehow, we as layman humans tend to figure that we just simply know more in than Jane Goodall in a relatively short time, sometimes milliseconds, without doing any of the research or observation that can take a lifetime and even then be proven wrong. We pass judgment, some innocent and some calculating, all judgments are really not allowing us to live to a greater potential either in our own minds or better yet in the minds of others. This boxing in, assuming you know everything about a person in a relatively short time based on limited and specific experiences creates a pinball effect of choices, thoughts and they way we pass our judgment of others onto others and certainly dictates quite a bit of our actions towards others. What is it about human beings (myself included) that makes us think we know people immediately? And why am I no different with my own judgment both towards myself and towards others? How do we either get out of the box or invite others in, for the sake of honestly knowing each other?
I talk often about how much I believe honesty is the real key to success in the maneuvering through our personal personas and getting into the nitty gritty of the who we are inside, kind of questions. For this sector of judgment I find the “cure” to be one in the same. Getting honest with one’s self about the true judgment we place on others and being even perhaps more honest with the judgment we put upon ourselves, even if the judgment is that we don’t need help. It’s important to spend some time in life thinking about judgment, both how we judge others, how they judge us and what it all means. Now I try not to take judgment too personally, yet I believe the judgment we feel coming from others has a way of dipping into our subconscious and it’s an important realization, that of understanding the subconscious ways judgment affects us internally and how it lends itself to our own judgment of others.
There are a few happenings that spurred my recent thoughts of judgment. The first and most important to this rant was that I had being seeing a man who had this assumption and judgment of me that seemed so far from who I am. He had never really come across a woman like me, independent to and extreme, free thinking to almost crazy and so much free will and curiosity I seemed both too good to be true and possibly insane. He also assumed that I was this rich spoiled woman, I’m not really sure exactly where this hailed from or why he chose to see it that way despite my honesty about my income, my debt, and my ever difficult world of owning two businesses and that life is never what it appears to be. He came to this notion in a limited amount of time with a limited amount of experiences that would show him this. I grew frustrated with the guy and his mounting comments about me traveling quite a bit through the world, and having nice things and more importantly having the ability to control my job. He on the other hand seemed to struggle a bit in his own career and life, always bitching about paying his rent and how he couldn’t afford to travel, yet he really wanted to. He didn’t see the reality that was before him in regards to my being rich or poor, he saw only what he wanted to see based on some relatively common assumptions that are never taken further than the surface. One big thing he latched on to was as a business owner I get to make my own schedule; not that-I work over 70 hours a week, probably more if you count thinking about work 100% of the time and despite the fact I make my own schedule I must get up and work each and every day, I must show up when others don’t and I must always put the work ahead of my own fun. An example of this is that I had tickets to the Taste of The Greenmarket Gala event the other night and I was so excited, but I was stuck here while a film crew was finishing up filming late and never made it to the event. Sure I could have made one of my employees stay, but instead I gave the tickets to those employees and did what I needed to do. The man also hinted at the fact that I must be rich and spoiled due to the amount of travel I have done in the past 10 years globally. Now I will say this is and has been the greatest perk of my job and businesses, however he has little understanding of the trade off and the choice we make. I choose to have the life of travel; I do whatever I can and must do as this is for me, food for my soul. He never latched on to the fact that I have missed countless opportunities for friendships and local events, missed weddings of my friends and families, got kicked out of the co-op for never being around, missed out on knowing my own neighborhood let alone state. And probably most important is that my love and devotion to travel and the fact that my job took me all over the world, left me content with being alone as I always traveled alone for the most part, work dictated and paid for it and most of the people I knew, couldn’t afford to travel, of couldn’t get time off to travel. So many of my years were spent traveling through amazing parts of the world either alone or with strangers and sometimes with new friends made along the way, but mostly just alone. Countless dinners alone, countless drinks alone, countless swims alone, countless everything alone. This aloneness has come at a price of excessive neediness and excessive independence, it sways back and forth. Nonetheless that is the jist of his assumptions about my travel. He spent a lot of time judging me instead of appreciating my rarity. Now the strange part of his assumptions or judgment is the life he envisioned me living as a child, this is the part I realized that my own attitude and way of looking at and approaching life is really what dictated and lead him to his judgment and this realization was what spurred all this judgment thinking (this blog) in the first place and I’ll get into that a bit later.
For most who know me, my childhood story is a fascinating one, certainly countless books and movies could be made of my family’s story; Flight & Fight For Family Freedom as my father always called it! But in general my story is one of a sweet J southern California girl , horses, dogs, cats, goats, divorce, kidnapping and Central America and of course a little bit of Minnesota as well. I am in love with my story, my childhood and all the experiences that it blessed me with, the lessons it taught me that I am still making sense of and above all, I am aware that my experiences are what has made me the lady I am. The rarity this man didn’t spend the time to actually see. I talk about my childhood quite a bit and realized through this man that the way in which I speak about it is one that leads him to believe I was a rich spoiled girl too. I talk often about the horses I had as a little girl, I had up to 20 at one time, I talk about the big houses we had with all the land (40 acres at one place outside of Los Angeles), and I talk about driving through Mexico and El Salvador, down into Honduras and Nicaragua. Camping on the beach under coconut trees, playing in the surf, eating amazing tropical fruits. Swimming in volcanoes and brining our Nicaragua dogs with us when we moved to Costa Rica. I talk of living on the beach in Costa Rica, in a Plantation overlooking Managua with bougainvillea and mango trees rampant, swimming eating and having the best time ever. I speak about it all with such richness in speech; I realized out of the blue one day this could be the issue; this could be what he is latching on to. He kept telling me stories about his youth and poverty and how hard life was for him as a child and when I tried to empathize, he assumed I couldn’t because of my “rich” upbringing.
I seldom tell the story of how poor we were in the way that sheds a negative light on our story, our experience and makes the listener come out of it feeling sorry for us all, I don’t know if this has been a mistake or not as far as other casting judgment. I rarely talk about the absurdity in which my father got and found the horses; he literally found one on the side of the road, he adopted some from the pound, he traded things for them and all sorts of things. What was always most important to my memory is that he made what he wanted to happen, he was and still is the most positive person I know. I certainly never talk about the extreme poverty we lived in Central America and how we had diarrhea the entire drive down to Nicaragua (1 month) and about 6 months after that as well until we finally became immune to the water and environment. Rarely is my depiction of us kids with worms hanging from our asses, or staff infections oozing form craters in our legs and arms, ring worm ( I believe) from touching stray dogs, mosquito bites from head to toe (giant mosquitoes) , scorpions pricks and thinking we would die, and yes even machete wounds. I don’t often emphasize the difficulty that it was to be children and not speak Spanish and not be able to communicate with others. No I seldom mention these parts; I talk about the coffee plantation we lived in as if it was out of Casa Blanca…….but in reality is was a rundown place, beautiful at one time but not our time! But for me and my brothers this place was majestic and our time in Central America and our story is gorgeous to me. All of the above mentioned stories I know are crucial experiences to what has made me and my brothers the amazing and unique people we are today. The diarrhea dissipates, the staff heals up (after shots from my father in our tight little children asses of course), and mosquito bites clear up. I know form my story that the good stuff was all of it packed into what is our story and my positivity to the story and who we are today because of it for me means it was RICH, rich in all of the important aspects of life.
I believe that what this man and what many see in me is my uncanny ability to see the real “sustenance” (pun intended) and indeed that can appear to be a life of riches and in that regard he is correct as are the others as they cast their judgment, after all we cannot possibly know everything about everyone all in one swoop. I am rich and I have had a rich life it you look at riches as positivity and growth as I do. You see my true personality is one of optimism, learning, growing and positivity. This way of thinking is I supposed in part is and was created as a form of a protectionism mechanism and probably not until recently was I able to make sense of it and use it to improve. That’s the thing about protection mechanisms, they are there to protect you and mine have a habit of lifting themselves when I am capable enough to remedy the initial problem. In this case, being mature enough to make sense of my life.
This judgment is really no different in my cooking and culinary profession either. I think outside the box and I am positive beyond belief. There to experience it all and with a strong belief that it is all relatively easy if you remain positive. There are those who doubt the skills of self taught cooks, but we are all really self taught in the end and true richness in life and in cooking is not what we actually put on the plate, as that is completely open to interpretation, but the entire process or journey. My advice to all in the kitchen is to get the hell out of the box immediately and stop judging others. I vow to do the same, especially with that lady who is the girlfriend of the NY guy who I won’t name……J
So I guess the whole point of this is that we as humans must really learn to be open to one another and understand we are all at different stages and on different paths but our makeup is the same. Now in the case of this man and myself, the real problem was that he was stuck in negativity and used money and riches as his gauge for success, a match not even close to being adequate for me, the truth is that this man never got to experience what was really the richness of Nissa, something far greater than money, travel and horses………
Animal Whisperer (Specialty-Ozark Animals)
May 19th, 2011 §
I have always been a bit “different” from the “norm”, since I was a child this has been my truth. As a child there was a feeling of greatness that came with feeling more than ordinary. As I aged the feeling of being more than ordinary started to feel less special and more awkward. This is my story on how I moved through the journey to my life quest…… A quest beyond the limits of the ordinary. As I move through life in my 30’s and before I know it into my 40’s I find life is always moving in circular movement, back to my intuitive and knowing self ultimately. The lessons are coming full force and full circle these days and my memories or shall I say intuitive feelings from childhood are popping up each and every day. These memories or intuitive feelings are unique to me in that they are not, I remember riding that red bike, or I remember that pony I had or what I got for Christmas. The intuitive feeling I am having often these days are of a completely different nature. I remember the feeling of exhilaration racing through my heart while riding that red bike (actually the memory was on a big wheel J), I not only remember the pony, but I remember laying in the stall with the fist little baby pony we had, touching her soft little hooves and looking into her eyes with her long eyelashes…..and feeling great, deep and unconditional love for the first time outside of my family. I remember the feeling of responsibility and the pure instinct of I being her caregiver and I remember the feeling that I would not let her down. I have often wondered why my memories of childhood, early childhood that is were so lacking and I think probably because they were too intense for my brain at that time, these days the intuitive feelings and a connect the dots type feeling flood my head, in a good way. My memories are shooting back and I am beginning to have a clearer and distinct vision of who I was at almost every age and who I am now is responding to those memories as I often need the reminder to move closer back home, to my intuitive self. I was a very instinctual and intuitive child, I’m not so sure even my parents understood this side of me even then and certainly my mother had no clue, my father probably did but he was distracted by so much in life back then to pay too much attention to things that were this deep. As I aged I lost my grip on my intuitive nature, not as much as most do and did but I can see in retrospect where I lost it and why. Most if happened after adolescence.
I believe I was lucky going through puberty as a child in Central America in some ways, yes there were times like the time when my father brought me to a mall in San Jose Costa Rica and tried to tell the ladies in his awful Spanish about how his niňa needed a “brazeero, or how crappy it felt to not be able to swim in the ocean with my brothers on the days when I was….menstruating and how there were not many people I could talk too about all of that girl stuff! But back to the part that was about how lucky I was being an adolescent in Central America, I missed out on all the bullshit that the typical American teen goes through and I find that time of life to be pivotal in the sense of hanging onto your intuitive nature and even your innocence in a sense. My life in those days was about, waking up, doing our own laundry, feeding ourselves, going to the beach, doing (maybe) a little schoolwork and pretty much just having fun; snorkeling, hiking, discovering, swimming, fishing, climbing trees, eating tropical fruits and learning and discovering a new culture each and every day. What was important for us were the basics, nothing more, nothing less. I never got to experience the life of a teenager in the US, I got back to the US and attending high school as a sophomore and by then I think I was “slow” to catch on to all of it. Baffled by all that was important, clothes, music, who’s cool and pretty much nothing important I chose to move into sports and kept pretty much out of trouble and out of influence of anything like the others were going through. Didn’t really have boyfriends and thought most of the bickering, back stabbing and the rest of the topics most common in the realm of the girls was quite stupid. I had many friends and most my friends were scattered through all realms of the high school hierarchy, I was voted class clown and I believe that is how I managed through the process, with humor as my answer to a lack of understanding of what was really happening. My instincts and intuitive nature were dissipating at this point and I was starting to like everybody else, look to society for the answers that used to be filled by my intuitive self, now certainly I think I fought the urge hard but in retrospect, I could have done much better. College was the same for me, a bit more losing of myself, but certainly not even close to the way others around me lost themselves through that shuffle. I continued to make unique choices in my life in high school and college, choices that I didn’t know were part of my quest that would continue to take me beyond the limits of ordinary. So certainly there were major intuitive forces at play, but I certainly was not connecting with them as wholey as I should have been. As I moved past college and into a “regular life” I was still making unique choices and as I moved into adult life I began to have some doubts in my abilities, mainly I believe now because I was exposed to naysayers, non believers and well ordinary people who could not think about a journey past that and therefore couldn’t fathom someone who could.
I belive one of my main struggles of my late twenties and early thirties was this fight to hand onto the belief in the completeness of who I was and that my abilities were infinite. I mean I could always feel this power within myself but the forces of this world they are strong and powerful and there is always someone trying, even unconsciously to disconnect those on the quest past ordinary. I have been a fighter since early one, those who know me are laughing for sure at this very minute as my words are for sure an UNDERSTATMENT, but truth be told at least part of my fight has been trying to keep a solid lockdown grip on my intuitive self in a world created by man and marketing wants to take it from me. As I have aged this idea of being comfortable in your own skin has started to take shape in my own life and beliefs and what it means to me is really coming home to that intuitive self again, not having to hold onto it and knowing how to hold onto it in those important moments as life does and will present to me! Today I have a complete belief in myself and my abilities and a deep understanding of how that belief plays out in the world in which I live in. I understand what I need to do to continue to hold onto that closeness with my instincts and intuitive self and I know how to monitor myself and I know that by continuing to be positive about life and all that it entails is partly how I can hold onto my intuitive self. Another part is to continue to do as I have since I was a child and that is to dream big. Lack of big dreaming is not a problem I ever had, since I was little big dreaming has been a way of life for me and I to this day believe in every single one of my dreams and in a weird way all have come true and those that have not are still pending and will happen.
There are many people out there (most are not aware of it) that HATE the dreamers of the world and those on a quest beyond the limits of ordinary. I guess the irony is that I have always to some extent felt sorry for those folks and not angry as much, but it has been painful having so many of them around me and it has been quite a struggle for me, in some ways it would have been easier to hate and move away from those who didn’t understand me, but I am grateful for trying to deal with them in and as part of my life and my journey. It is quite an impossible feat to shed one’s life of all the doubters and in many cases there are important lessons to be learned both ways. I do believe that it is the self doubt in people that causes them to be negative disbelievers in others. I was listening to the radio recently and heard the head coach of the NY Jets speaking, Rex Ryan and he was basically talking about how life and the field are the same to him, he puts all passion into it and there are in his life many, many doubters, haters and naysayers, as a dyslexic kid he faced a life where he always felt different, he was probably different in general but I see the point of the negative in his description, anyhow through it all he says he overcame all of it by continuing to learn from the mistakes he made, being genuine and honest (which to me means being connected to one’s self) and by being passionate at everything. I’m not a football person (although my first haircut did occur by my brother and tin snips, while my father was watching eight televisions with simultaneous football games instead of watching my brother and I) but hearing the Jets coach was a reminder to me that there are so many teachers in life and we just have to be open and listen. Lately like my memories of childhood instinct bursting back, instances of teachers coming into my life in all forms are rampant.
Like the story of Alex Stupak, which came across my facebook page just as many things do, but this one struck a cord with me and was in a way a teacher or a reminder of how living with passion and living a quest beyond the limits of ordinary is not easy and comes with many road blocks but it is important to keep connected to your source for your own decision of what being passionate means and for your own decision of what path that entails and basically that means saying fuck you to all naysayers and the doubters. And by fuck you I basically mean remembering that their opinions don’t matter and most of the time the doubters and the naysayers are those who are not on the quest beyond the limits of ordinary and it is a fear of the extraordinary that is the real issue at hand. The story of Alex was a great one and I am so glad to have come across this story and hope to one day meet him and say thanks. His story is unique as he was already on the quest beyond the limits of ordinary in the minds of the world, but in his mind and in his heart he was not so he moved and shifted his life until he was and that to me is amazing and a great source of inspiration.
Shedding my own life of doubters has been more difficult as I have gotten older and especially since I have begin to rely on others in business and general commerce. I have gone through bouts of trying to convince others of what was inside of me and I’m not proud of those times but I have learned a great deal from those times and my quest beyond the journey of ordinary feels more rewarding knowing all that I have learned along the way. I feel good that in the end I have been able to hang on to my intuitive self and my instincts. I have of recent begin to remove the clutter from my life both physically and mentally and it has given me new power and that has given me greater access to a more advanced set of teachers and influences as well as a greater recognition of the happiness I already have in me. Reach beyond the ordinary, it’s not complicated.
Begin to move towards happiness and it will begin to move towards you!
April 22nd, 2011 §
Love & Loving Friendships
This is the Real Food I’ve Been Missing Out On
We measure sustenance by its source of strength and nourishment providing the backbone of existence be it tangibly in the form of food or drink or those harder to measure entities such as love. I gave my blog this name for one very important reason. Although it’s about food, it’s really about something greater- that is, feeding my soul. The blog has always been designed to showcase food and culture and its very “exciting” and ever changing, evolving role in life. It acts as an outlet for me to share what’s going on inside of me, as a means of understanding myself and my placement in this world a little better. Food and its culture have been so deeply rooted in me both personally and professionally since childhood- despite my absent awareness of that fact at the time. My blog has given me the ability to equate food with life in a greater capacity which, I believe, applies to us all.
Food is ultimately life. This month houses my birthday, April 10th, and I turned 38 years old. I’m closer to the present, closer to the future, than ever before. This month’s blog reflects this birthday timing and takes a deeper look at me and my life than ever before. It exposes many parts of my personality and feelings that breach the food blog norm. I find that it’s all relevant, though, in that this is ultimately where my love of food and food culture comes from- how different people experience life in their different ways all, with the same make-up- of hunger, thirst, humor, insecurity, fear, fearlessness, and, above all, the need to love and be loved and have loving relationships in our lives.
I’ve hit a point in life where time bucked heads with some heavy issues, forcing me to make some major life changing decisions. It’s funny because, despite the fact that life has given me a lot of crazy challenges in the last 6 months, I don’t feel too crazed by any of it, at least not anymore. Certainly there were moments when fear took over me, but in the end I realized it was just life asking me to take a step back, evaluate where I have been and what I have done and what I have learned from all of it thus far. It then asked me what I have enjoyed so far versus what I have disliked. Mostly it asked me to take a deep look at what I disliked and what was the real truth of it all, which way is really ahead for me. What I found was a clear direction for my future. I knew I had to make a decision that wouldn’t make others so happy and, although that weighed heavily on me for some time, I chose to move forward with more precision and energy than before, more clarity, passion, and ultimately with more clarity regarding who I was and who I’d like to be. Plenty of challenges arise from this, one being the people around you. Not everyone you know is always on board with the same ideas that drive you. The choice is one I hadn’t realized is quite simple. Feed yourself the sustenance you need to thrive, move forward to attain a deeper, more fulfilling life, and within it, happiness. That kind of sustenance is not often the kind that others want to feed you. As a 38 year old woman I realized that I knew how to feed myself. I simply let life bring me down paths that were not geared toward my final direction. In food terms you could say I ate a bunch of junk for far too long and despite my healthy diet, my body and mind bore the brunt of this. Now I strongly believe that every moment before this one was valuable, but that does not mean I didn’t make mistakes or poor judgments. I think it simply means that I took the harder route to learn my lessons, which is pretty typical for me.
I think the main point of this month’s blog is that I know one thing; I need to fuel and fulfill my life with real sustenance. That not only means that I have to make professional choices that are strictly and innately about my heart & soul passions but that my personal life must be at the epicenter of my “food source” or sustenance. Love & loving friendships have not been rare for me, but they have been complicated. Like everyone else I carry “baggage” from childhood that I am still learning how to sort out and repack and unpack! What’s important to note is that getting so caught up in work and what you think has meaning is just another way to forget about yourself inside. With that said, in chimes that old adage that you can’t love someone until you love yourself, and there’s a reason it still comes up throughout the history of mankind. It is true for maintaining love and loving friendships, but where I have seen this adage challenged is through children. We will talk more about that in my kids in the kitchen section. But inevitably for the last 6 to 8 years I have focused so much on my company and what others needed form me in regards to my company that I neglected the work I needed to do within myself for my personal relationships. The result I believe was a very professional centric way of relating to people that was unbalanced and opposed to a kind, loving way of a more intimate style of relating. What does that mean?
In a nutshell, I was “behind the crowd” in all of my relationships, having a hard time relating to others on an intimate basis. My personal relationships were never as important as the customer or the vendor. I justified that by telling myself about how the little farmer so far away needed me to make a subsistence living. The truth of it all was that I was no sustainable solution for the farmer if I neglected myself. Friendships were strained by quite a bit of new “issues” I was facing- everything from friends wanting to borrow money to friends not understanding my level of stress and ultimately friends not truly understanding the world I was involved with work wise. It made it difficult way to relate with anyone on top of being so absorbed with my own thing with very little time to devote to others. I wasn’t the best friend I could have been to a lot of people. I may have been a good friend to Ger-Nis but at a cost, for sure. Many of the relationships that I neglected were ones that required more from me than I could give, and I often thought it was unfair to ask more from me, on some occasions annoying. I wanted others to be there for me as I was for them, but no one really understood my new world. Most the friends I had were still going out every night having a good time while I was making million dollar deals and having to teach myself EVERYTHING about business on a grand scale for the first time. I also made the big mistake of hiring many of my friends, thinking this would be a way in which I could connect with them. As it turns out, it made things worse for most of them. The real and strong friendships I had were indeed able to withstand this pressure, but there were some that were just lost for good, including the loss of a 17 year friendship that was quite devastating along with another that also hurt a great deal. In retrospect I was going through so many changes both personally and professionally that I couldn’t keep my head on straight long enough nor get it together fast enough to salvage many relationships. I sit today, knowing I could have behaved differently and perhaps then the failed friendships would still exist or perhaps they would not, but I know that had I chosen to feed myself sustenance, nourishing important personal relationships instead of thinking my journey work wise was all important. I probably would have been happier on my journey. Again, no regrets. I see it for the lessons that I’ve learned, and it is never too late to learn lessons!
Not only were regular friendships hard for me to hold on to but keeping an intimate love relationship was also hard, let alone meeting others that could match my mind, speed, and energy, let alone creative spirit needs. This is perhaps the most troubling part of lost love and loving friendships problems I have had. I’m a lady of very distinct opposites when it comes to love and work. Work wise I’m strong, aggressive, clear, determined, and confident. When it comes to love (and of course when it comes to scaling hills for love, getting stuck in deadbeat valley doesn’t really help matters but is inevitable) I am insecure, awkward, passive, unclear, confused, and not at all confident. But I have been told that I am extremely intimidating to men, as I don’t need their help or support. I have been told that demands I make on intimate relationships with men are quite heavy. I ask for the one thing men find it hard to give, what one of my past loves called “the inside demand”. It’s the most intimate requests to ask of anyone- what you’re made of, what’s inside, how you came to be the person you are. Anything less is just too superficial for me. I tend to be drawn to creative types, especially musicians, and I find it fascinating to discover where inside of them the music comes from.
In general my creative depth is one that I rarely see mirrored in others, but typically musicians and artists reflect this creativity and it fascinates me. I am slowly discovering others in the food world with this same creative edge, and it is kind of exciting. I had an Israeli man in my life for a while who was very “superficial” about feelings but a very deep guy. One day he said to me, “I’m scared that I don’t have enough inside of me for your liking”. I think this exemplifies the pressure I put on men to share their most intimate selves. I am what they call TOO DEMANDING OF A HUMAN BEING. I get that from my father, and I am learning to find the right balance of expectations in order to have better, longer lasting, deeper relationships, basically relationships that nourish the soul. I found one man who was perfect for me in this way who understood this need of mine to know his insides and he wanted to know mine- a solid and deep connection that epitomized everything I needed and had to give to another. But like many men in my life the timing was DEAD wrong. He had already made commitments he felt he couldn’t break, but really in retrospect I think he was just too weak of a man for me. Regardless I think he is the one that got away. As a strong lady I have a very hard time finding loves that have a strong character, foundation, spine- loves that can tolerate the depth of life’s truths.
The dwelling is done. Good news is that I know now that it’s time for me to start to place importance on relationships and loving friendships. It’s time to let sustenance lead the way, through healthy eating and living, as well as mentally. As Maya Angelou taught me through her book at age 18, “once you know better you do better!” I want to do better for myself this time around. I want to have love and loving relationships in my life. Healthy and giving in both ways……..and certainly for me all the sustenance I give to myself through food or love, from this point forward shall be meaningful! Look out world!
March 17th, 2011 §
A Fresh Start
Finding clarity in a moment that’s ripe for new beginnings, changes, and twists
This is where the excitement begins
I fear death like everyone else but less and less it seems these days. I fly quite a bit around the world on planes, and I often (I believe others do as well) believe it will crash in which compels thoughts about death. I don’t think of death much outside those times, but, as I travel at least 25 times a year via plane, it’s actually more frequent than most, I imagine….. The point being that in the moment the turbulence hits, and you are sure you are “hitting the land” you quickly review your life, your family, friends, loved ones, and my dog Sadie appears in my thoughts too.
We try in just a few simple seconds to sum up our lives and do what I believe we assume “god” does- justify our existence as a good one or a bad one by our actions, our contributions, the way we loved, the kind of friends we were, how we treated ourselves, the entire gambit of derivatives to this basically mathematical equation. Did I live as I intended? My answer has typically been yes to all of it. With a new pocket of turbulence added to my thoughts over the past year that I spend all my time working and none of it focusing on real, deep, and intimate relationships which I actually crave the older I get. The older I get, the deeper I crave these relationships to be, yes I’m one of those folks who believes the older we get the deeper our relationships needs to be- to be even more honest, with more substance, and more rewarding. This includes not only to our romantic and familiar relationships with simple ones from our butcher, the beautician, our mechanic, and all of the gambits of people in our lives. As I have been considering these angles in life more and more lately when confronting death on planes, it has really made an impression on me each time I “survive” my near death experience. (That is how it always feels… yes, I am dramatic- as most who know me are aware.) I, like the rest of the planet, fear death to some extent, but I have made a remarkable and, I believe, very deep connection to death and life recently that helps me remove fear of death from the equation, and, therefore, it has helped remove an even bigger problem- fear of life. Up until the exact moment you really believe you are going to die or could die, we fear death and grip onto that fear tight like the handlebar of a fast moving bike. But the moment when we really believe we are actually and sincerely going to die, the fear is released and there is a peace that arrives. The fear dissipates. In letting go of the fear of losing everything and the inability to control everything, I finally find peace in the moment before death in the shadow where what will happen will happen, and, thus, I have this perfect moment of clarity that the moment is ripe for a new beginning, change, or twist where the excitement of my life will begin.
The words “a fresh start,” by nature, indicate some sort of trouble. After all, there is no rational explanation for the desire for a fresh start without the feeling that something is off kilter. Perhaps the Aries in me is also drawn to these new beginnings. Perhaps it’s the fact I believe complacency is the devil. Perhaps it’s because of my massive yearning to experience as much as possible on this planet and make clear contributions to the improvement of life experience in existence rather than simply just taking up space and time within it. Either way I sit at this moment, having returned from some world travels, Holland (Amsterdam and the various countryside of Holland), Germany (Berlin), and Israel (Tel Aviv), my travels were specific to this new and latest dilemma of what to do next. Berlin and my time there was the catalyst for my personal revolution of sorts. Its creative energy, clean lines, and orderly environment were the perfect place to capture the essence of my realization that change needed to occur for obvious and not so obvious reasons, some discovered at that time and some still had yet to be discovered.
Often in life when one is a decision maker, whether it be for their family, a company, or a country… something shifts. Changes are made that forcefully move us to the place inside ourselves which enable us to, first, recognize the need for change and, two, to seek out the best possible avenues for the deliverance of that change. This is the moment that for me, any non movement or stagnation is the same as death. I have spent very little time stagnating in my own life, and, although I have come to lead my own company, sometimes it is hard to decipher stagnation from stability, causing me to find myself tricked a time or two lately. I believe this is the first admittance of my mistake, not understanding the difference between the two, which of course seems so obvious, especially as I write it, but life in the trenches can appear to be murkier and shinier than the reality. My vision has been impaired, my path was not far off course, but my vision was just simply blurred….by what I am not sure, possible lack of deep relationships that allow us the different perspectives regarding our realities, perhaps by my workaholic nature and not stepping back to take care of myself the same way I have taken care of my company and others in my life, or perhaps I simply was somewhat naïve and somewhat ignorant as we all are sometimes. Nonetheless I found myself at this moment both professionally with Ger-Nis and personally with Nissa J experiencing major heartbreak over my lack of understanding of what to do next. Of course without stagnation as a viable option, a fresh start was my only real choice. I could have, I suppose, have ran away, which has been a big contender for me since youth. As long as I ran to somewhere exotic, I typically felt it was justified. But, I guess, as I have gotten older I have learned, grown, or evolved enough, to know that running forever, too, is stagnating, despite its apparent mobility…………….a bit more exciting but equal to it.
In order to achieve this fresh start, I had to first examine what that actually means. A fresh start is not a doing anything over, but, rather, refreshing your angle on life from a different starting point. It meant that I had to acknowledge, not only how I came to be where I stood at that moment in time, but all that I now carry with me because of that journey. This is the moment where the acknowledgement of our strengths helps provide the perfect platform for a fresh start. Without this part of the process present, confusion and denial can cloud the path a great deal. But I had done my work certain that my new starting point had given me ample tools by which to gauge which path I chose for my future. Some may say that fresh starts and second chances beget failures but when one truly examines “the fresh start” as a fresh start, it is actually deeply rooted in wisdom gained through adaptability. Without recognizing the need for a fresh start, blindness reigns, and, by blindness, I mean massive confusion and an overall cluelessness regarding growth and progression. As I sat in Berlin and pondered the fact that in a relatively short period of time these people were able to create one thriving city full of a distinct culture and progress with one fresh starting point, I knew that my path too was in need.
A fresh start- a true fresh start- is ultimately the acceptance of what actually is and a true openness to what can and will be. This is where I finally bring it back to my crashing plane phobia which eventually enabled me to understand what this feeling inside of me was actually a new peace. It was me letting go of everything for the first time ever in combination with believing in myself for the first time ever. We live in a world where the word failure (especially the USA) is synonymous with shame and inability. This failure is shunned and like a live puppy being sent in the mail far, far away from us (this did happen recently L in our country where we rarely, if ever, acknowledge and share feelings with each other. Sharing feelings with most Americans is like walking around in public in your undergarments- “exposing simply way too much.” I have never been a believer that this method of sheltering each other from the incredible complications of life will help any of us. Failures and challenges need to be discussed openly in society, our governments, families, friends, lovers, enemies, and everyone really in order to achieve real and positive growth. I had forgotten about this belief in my business life which eventually translated into an overcompensation of it in my personal life or a complete lack of it. I became “just like everyone else” in business and that was never what I sought out to do. My fresh start was what eventually came to symbolize this discussion again both in my personal life and with my business and my business associates.
Interestingly enough as I have been moving through this process between realizing the need for a fresh start and the actually beginning of it- so too have many peoples of the world. Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans and soon to the Japanese will begin this journey after the devastation on their Island. Each of us realizing our own “failures” in our past with what made us complacent and accepting of what we knew was not right, all of us pushed to change and move to a fresh start by pivotal events and all of us inspired by fellow inhabitants of society speaking openly, protesting vigorously, and demanding change all with the lack of fear as if we were at that stage that occurs just before dying where you are simply at peace with that fact and have the focus you need for this great task ahead……………..CHANGE.
As Americans we forget that we too have a democracy and a way of life we need to fight for, and, of course, our lives are very much different for those of the Libyans and Egyptians who have been stifled for so long, but it’s important to understand the relevance of it all; democracy & freedom should have no limits over how much we deserve, we keep going, and, as we make many new fresh starts, each time we begin our journey with more tools, more knowledge, more comrades, and more peace.
A fresh start is ultimately like a hot shower and a clean pair of underwear after a dirty leg of a journey, you will eventually need another if you are on a long journey. I know I am on that long journey, what about you??
January 6th, 2011 §
A Personally Healthy and Globally Sane Way of Eating & Living
A Documented Food Journey for 2011!
In my 37 years of life on earth, I have consistently made very few resolutions for the New Year. This is not because I don’t have things to improve upon or reasons to change and grow but mainly because I am not one to believe in the pressure that we end up putting on ourselves when we pretend our lives will change on this one day. The truth is I think who we are is a lifelong process and the major changes that come into our lives that create BIG changes in us just sort of happen. So this year the irony of it all is that some major shifts have occurred in some aspects of my thinking regarding to my own well-being and lifestyle that sort of just happened this time of year, thus corresponding to the New Year, aligning with the stars perfectly for me to spin into a New Year’s resolution of some sort. In addition, for the sake of making sure I can discipline myself as I need to for these new life changes, I decided my blog would be a perfect way to document it and hold myself responsible for either succeeding or being human- either way I am content with sharing this journey!
So what is it? What can be so profound that I need to write about it, chronicle it, and create somewhat of a resolution for the first time ever? Food…….. It’s about food. Now unlike many folks that I know, my “foodie-ness” is not overly crazed. I don’t revel and melt when I taste the best something nor do I look at food as just a way of fueling my body. I have a healthy balance of mind when it comes to food; I enjoy it a great deal but tend not to be fanatical about it one way or another. I am however attracted to the cultural side of food and most certainly the agricultural side which has led to my methods of cooking, recipe writing, and my overall food philosophies. I have spent so much of the last six years building my business and concentrating on the small growers we support around the world that I certainly have forgotten about taking good care of myself. After the first three years of building Ger-Nis I had gained a lot of weight. The stressful times (personally and professionally) kind of took me over and all my healthy and natural tendencies were thrown out the window. Now I have to admit, I don’t have a big sweet tooth- with the exception of desserts at Applewood! I’m not a fan whatsoever of processed foods- never have been. I have loved fruits and vegetables and for many years and have pretty much eaten only naturally raised, hormone/antibiotic/free range meats and certainly sustainably caught fish. I support restaurants that follow this ideology as well.
In general, my food life does not appear to be one that needs too much tweaking. The reality is I had never eaten breakfast for most of my adult life; I starved myself all day long for many years and just ate huge dinners and drank lots of wine (a crutch!). I traveled a lot over the last six years of my life and indulged, quite a bit everywhere I went. Two and half years ago, I said enough was enough. I was sick and tired of being fat and had exhausted my blame on Ger-Nis and its stresses. It was quite simple in the end- my eating habits, starving all day, gorging at night, and not moving my ass was the only problem I had. Now I had been doing yoga weekly most of the past ten years of my life at this point off and on. I bit the bullet two and a half years ago and joined a gym close to my house, and, although I had been active my entire life and an athlete through my youth with a naturally decent metabolism, age had certainly caught up with me. Not interestingly enough, quite a few amazing things happened to me because of that one small move I made in September of 2008. That gym, Park Slope Food Collective, doesn’t exist these days. I liked (and still like) the idea that you could pay per session, and I was not going to fool myself in thinking I didn’t need a person to tell me what to do. I am not, as I have mentioned, an extremely disciplined person so the idea of personal trainers was perfect. As a single lady with no family and, thus, no money pouring out of my bank account, my budget allowed for it. What happened next really changed my life. I eventually was paired with a trainer, Jason Quick (http://www.quickboxing.com/ ) and discovered kickboxing and boxing. It was the first time in a very long time I had enjoyed using my body for sport. My natural aggressiveness and my body’s natural power and strength were really made for the sport- especially boxing.
Kickboxing has not come as naturally to me, but when I lived in Israel I trained with Eran Bert at a professional fighting school where he really taught me the basics of kickboxing and showed me that my body was indeed capable of doing it. I was also introduced to Brazilian Jui Jitsu while with Eran (www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC0nkiEDXPk ), and it became a small part of my regimen also influenced by my friendship with Josh Skyer. What I realized by just simply moving my body was that not only physically was I beginning to get into amazing shape, but I was learning so many important life lessons and making lifelong friendships. These three men influenced my life in profound ways that have not only warped my body into better shape but my mind as well. Thus appears another gentle reminder by the world about how nothing is really separate after all.
So all this sounds great right? What the hell am I talking about making life changes now? What happened next is that my pattern of behavior wasn’t altered enough- perhaps I wasn’t ready for the entire change. I opened the Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center in the spring of 2010. I moved our offices, remodeled, and designed a space and took on a heck of a lot of new work. I hired an entirely new staff and had to end some seriously important relationships in my life. Basically stress, depression, and lack of time became my deterrents for a healthy me. One thing is certain- having a kitchen in our office (the culinary center) certainly helps with my still difficult issue with eating breakfast and starving myself throughout the work day. In the end, I cut way back on my daily workouts with Jason, boxing and kickboxing, I stopped with Jui Jitsu (that’s another story), and I began to do a lot of late night eating and drinking. So yes, I gained some weight back and am not happy about it. The good news is that my eating is still the same, I love fruits and vegetables, I don’t eat any processed foods, and I still don’t eat mass produced meats and chicken!
What happened next involved my IPAD, Mark Bittman and an overnight realization to move to the next level in taking care of myself, and it just happened to have happened a few weeks ago making it all ripe for the pairing of my new simple changes and 2011……thus brings us to Food Matters, A Personally Healthy and Globally Sane Way of Eating and Living, A Documented Food Journey for 2011.
So the first thing that happened is I got sick and tired of being fat again and started to work out regularly (sorry Jason for the time off!). I decided that nothing at work was more important that my own health and well-being and decided that I had to from this point forward keep this ideology ahead of all else. It was time for me to let Ger-Nis live as an adult. It doesn’t need me to breathe for it anymore, so like a parent watching her child go off to college I released Ger-Nis into the world. I am still here for it, but Ger-Nis will no longer consume me in 2011!
Second thing that happened is that as I am in love with my IPAD like Oprah. One night surfing the web in bed, I ran across Mark Bittman’s new book ‘Food Matters.’ Now I don’t know who Mark Bittman is- or at least didn’t until recently. That’s the big joke here, how sheltered I am sometimes. But I have to admit, not knowing who he is makes the story even better I think. I paid the $$, downloaded the book to my IPAD, and began to read. Less than 36 hours later I was done with the book which is a record all in itself as most books lose my interest quickly. His book is, in a very little nutshell, about eating healthier for oneself and the planet; eating less animal products and more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and eliminating all processed foods from one’s diet. He had me from the very beginning as he referenced Micheal Pollan (who is my favorite author and who I would love to have speak at the ), and he simply reiterates what I know, what I feel, and how I genuinely live day to day.
He speaks about the ill effects that mass production of corn, cattle, and chickens, and again reiterates a lifestyle choice that is healthier for the planet and all of us. Really, honestly, there is nothing new to all of this for me except my state of mind. Somehow I knew at that particular moment I could do more than I was doing, that I still had further to go, and that I now required a new discipline in life that I was ready for. Again the connection between working out regularly and letting Ger-Nis go is one in the same as I needed to make a conscious decision to do better for my own eating habits and “practice what I preach” a lot more. My hindrances are simple. I just needed consistency to be a part of it all. So here we go, 2011…. the year I vow to eat an “almost vegan” diet with zero processed foods and incorporate more whole grains, eat breakfast, and drink more water! The exciting part is that I know this will create a whole new process for me- learning to cook with new items, being creative in the kitchen again (we all get lazy), and creating not just fueling. What I liked about Mark’s book and his ideals is that he wasn’t overly strict. He was reasonable with his diet conditions out of self awareness- self aware that he loved white bread, self aware that he wanted to drink red wine, self aware that he would eat butter sometimes, and self aware that he needed cream in his coffee.
I have been eating and living this way for the past two weeks, and it has been easy. The fact is that I just needed some attention and focus placed on me and my health. I hope to lose about 20 pounds in the next four months, and since I am working out vigorously I assume this is accomplishable! I have created a new section on the blog where I will document the journey, the recipes, the ups, the downs, and, yes, the WEIGH INS! I have concocted a little method so I don’t reveal my exact weight (I am a lady and we hate to divulge this sort of thing). So Micheal Pollan and Mark Bittman, thank you, thank you for giving me a simple life lesson at a time when it was needed. The best to all of you in 2011, and don’t be too hard on yourselves. Life is a journey, and it takes forever to get to the end!
December 16th, 2010 §
A Very Wal-Mart Holiday
Finding Balance in a World Off Kilter………..
First off, one million apologies. I am sure many of my dedicated readers have been feeling a little off kilter themselves considering the tardiness of this month’s blog !!! But, seriously, I do apologize. I vowed to myself- however bit slightly- that I would turn in my blogs on time. The problem with being the boss is that you can change the rules any time you feel like it- so yes, I lack bit of discipline but am working on it!
Ok so Wal-Mart and Nissa? For many of those who know me this is certainly an odd pairing, more than odd. I typically despise everything about Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart model of business, yet every year around the holiday times, Wal-Mart comes into my life and teaches me a valuable lesson about balance, typically at a time when I could most use it. This is especially since right around the holiday time my life becomes lop-sided, just like the world is at times. My schedule tends to be a full one, but no matter what I always want to take on more, I guess, in a way this is a type of gluttony really (which makes me cringe). Wal-Mart, which isn’t exactly a stranger to gluttony, seems to have a way of showing me that I need a new focus and balance in my life, one with a little less gluttony.
My brother Olof and his wife Jenny live in Fair Grove, Missouri, and Fair Grove is basically in the middle of nowhere, central USA. I have been traveling there for the Thanksgiving holiday each year for the last four years. It’s been a great treat- not only do I get to see my brother and his family (Jenny, Leif, Svea & Ivin) but I get to go “country” for a weekend and move from the busy hustle and bustle city of New York to a very small town feel.
Fair Grove is certainly small with a population of 1200 people, but it is located about 20 miles outside of Springfield, Missouri- Missouri’s third largest and home of Brad Pitt FYI! Springfield is a city of about 157,630 residents versus Brooklyn which houses approximately 2.5 million (and NYC which houses 8.4 million). With that said, my standards even Springfield is miniscule in comparison. Each year for Thanksgiving the same ritual occurs- the whole family comes and fetches me from the airport; we drive straight to Wal-Mart to buy all of our groceries for not only our Thanksgiving but our “weekend with Nissa” in general. Many of the town’s residents, who know me by now, ask, “Why do you go to Wal-Mart? We have a few better grocery stores in Springfield, even a few organic ones…” But the reality is that the area is somewhat limited, and Wal-Mart carries the majority of the items that are hard to find in the others. In addition, the foot traffic in Wal-Mart (there are about 5 in Springfield alone) ensures that the produce moves quickly and therefore is much fresher. It’s an odd feeling to be in the middle of the country where farms used to reign free and not have access to fresh produce…
Thus, we come back to my notion of balance. I have to be open to the fact that wherever we are in life at any particular time, we must look at all possibilities as options, even some that we wouldn’t imagine we would take (i.e. shopping at Wal-Mart). This simple, little concept I encounter around the culmination of each year shifts my perspective on life a little bit. I come home from my Wal-Mart experience with a new understanding of balance, one which enables me to be open to doing things I do not normally do and accepting things that I do not normally accept. My perspective broadens encompassing a greater understanding of the fact that I do not have all the answers and that the answers vary depending on the day, the location, and the frame of mind I am in (and that this applies to others as well). So my typical hardcore views about Wal-Mart become more balanced when I understand that the country as a whole does not live as we do in NYC and that they do not have access to all we have here. I am still a believer in trying to attain fresher produce and more local ingredients for all of our country and its inhabitants, but my more realistic viewpoint emerges allowing me to see reality more clearly and, therefore, be able to accomplish more for myself and others.
November 10th, 2010 §
Change: Growth: Realization
Sustainable Personal Growth
This month, as most months, there is a lot happening. Most importantly, I find quite a bit happening inside my head… my psyche and in between my intellect and my emotions, what is exactly happening? Change, Growth and many realizations are happening to me this month on a very profound and articulate level. We talk a lot about sustainable growth in our company, on our website and throughout our business. We speak about the need for steady, precise growth that considers the well being of those around us, including our environment and planet. WE believe that all of this sustainability of growth is what will keep us surviving on more than a subsistence basis for the long run. I believe this is necessary in our personal life and growth as well and I believe the two are running parallel for me in my life lately, making a different bit of sense as the tow side, business and personal move along the same parallel lines. Thus sustainable growth in the personal realm is the overall theme here. I have grown as of late, as a cook, a business woman and a person. There are times in life where we go through these spurts of growth, some more profound than other times, there is something about the timing of life when everything simply begins to “click”. (Like my favorite Hebrew expression..Ha simon nafal, which translates to “the coin click” or the moment you make an understanding of clarity in an situation) Of course as we assume, what is currently happening in our lives during the times of change, growth, and realizations make a big difference as does our own mental state and past changes, growth spurts and realizations. Not all growth spurts are totally positive and not all growth spurts move us towards a sustainable personal growth, but for me these days of growth, I feel are most definitely moving me to a new realm of sustainable growth. Perhaps this is part of my age, growing up and recalling feeling comfortable in adulthood, shedding my ties with my youth and coming to grips with all that my past has influenced me to be while being stable in the notion that as an intellectual adult I am in control of most of it. As I have stated, a lot is happening in my life and for sure many folks who read this blog and are a part of my life or some recent experiences in my life or in my business will surely think this is “all about them” or “influenced by them” or better yet, “because of them”. But the truth is all of that is true and none of that is true. Basically we are all just little ants….as I was reminded by a drawing sent to me by my niece Svea, living in a world comprised of millions of other little ants, on our own we are nothing, but yet it is really all we ultimately know.
So how does all of this correlate to food you may ask since this is a food & culture blog? Well I can answer that in two parts: one, it’s my blog so on some level I can do what I want, which I enjoy (which is why many literary people are not happy with blogs in general, they tend to be more diary than substance but I believe the substance is also in all of it, less defined by standards). And second, as I grow sustainably in my personal life I see my cooking and my food interest and knowledge really come into its own. I not only feel I am a better cook, but I feel I am more efficient, healthier, and overall more conscientious while still remaining true to flavor & substance. I also believe my understanding of food culture is much greater and thus I have a deeper respect for food in general and certainly the people who produce it, that is partly due to my job and partly due to my growth and my better understanding of the connections real and true connections within the entire food system.
My life had become cluttered recently, stressed and many things in my life were over bearing and not balanced enough. I think my cooking had been similar for a while, too many items, too many things undercooked and over cooked, potent flavors overwhelming the others, vinegar for example and lemon. I love these items but they can be very powerful if over used and I believe now I spent years over using them and have only now learned to use them subtly and gently. My life like my cooking has needed to concentrate on a simpler plate, more balance, more focus on the purity flavors of the ingredients. Simpler, healthier and focused more on technique but still whopingly creative, this is my cooking style today. The most difficult part I think in cooking and in life is learning when to let go…it is certainly easier for me to do in the kitchen and many can tell you this is my mastery in the kitchen, although I think I have no learned a better balance, it’s no longer such a free style as it is done with conviction and is distinctly me. Personally I am trying to improve in this same realm. Less feeling, more conviction. Much progress has been made lately in this realm with some specific incidents and issues in both my business and my personal life.
Fear is something I have never felt in the kitchen under any circumstances. We laugh about this as we are deciding what classes to teach as I will volunteer myself to teach a class on thing I have no clue on, knowing I will be capable and I will learn it, this has been my personality since I was a child and in most everything I did, I did without fear. My personal life and dealing with people (personally or in business) has been the one place where fear runs deep…I am lucky as for whatever reason it doesn’t control me, but I feel it so profoundly. But life lately has given me this new sustainable growth in this realm, so as to be able to begin to deal with this fear in a healthier manner, using my mind, my very capable mind in conjunction with a clear(er) understanding of what my feelings are, instead of feelings overwhelming me, fear overwhelming me and I react like a person vomiting. Now I can see some of my co-workers laughing here as I still do my fair share of vomiting up feelings on any given day, but the truth is, today my feelings and my fear are not only more in check than ever but I can tell that this latest growth spurt will catapult me past the point where I can go backwards. From here out it will only get better, as I imagine my cooking will as well.
For whatever reason life has given me this recent awakening of sorts and as life so often accomplishes it came at a time when I was not only ready for it but needed it, life has forced me personally and in business to refocus on the next stages of life and the personal skills required to achieve greater things both mentally, physically and financially. The lessons of these latest days are realizations of a new clarity of what I actually want in my life and for myself. The lesson is of the ability to create my own dismissal of the fear that ordinarily may hinder me from achieving the exact success I want. Whether the fear is personal insecurities, external factors causing monetary stresses, business related issues and whether I know what the correct answers are or simply “other people’s mental junk”, I have learned to focus on finding out what is real before I react.
It’s basically time to take the next stage of life more seriously and like a good student place focus, detailed focus on what it takes to be the person we want to become, the same goes for cooking. What do I want to achieve as a human being, what are my personal goals and how do I attain them, what do I want to be surrounded by and what do I not want to be surrounded by on a daily basis. I have to take control of all of this, just as others should, I have to take responsibility for my own junk I give to others and notice when they give me theirs.
Being a healthy individual who makes healthy choices for my community and planet is important to me and I have begun to really define what this means to me, even though it seems simple. I am lucky I am a woman with few food issues, I don’t battle what I should or should not eat due to the fact that I will get fat or thin, and I do not exercise as a means to get skinny. Contrary I believe in eating what I want I moderation and in a healthy manner and with ingredients that are real, organic, sustainable and fair-trade. I exercise as a means to staying fit, enjoying myself and alleviating stress. I over indulge on occasion and do not beat myself up about it too much. It’s funny but as I age I feel better and better and with each year that passes me really do believe I am growing more and more sustainable as a human being and it makes me proud. I am more and more accepting of myself for who I am. I see my flaws and I see my highlights, with a large amount of clarity, I sometimes fail to make changes I want to make quick enough but trust that they will come and hope that the friends and family I have will continue to support me through those times.
So as I babble my way through another blog, this one inspired by recent growth and an inspiring trip to San Francisco, I remind all of us out there one really important fact: letting go of fear is a useful tool, both in and out of the kitchen. Bon Appétit in life & food!
October 7th, 2010 §
Fair Trade Month-Social & Personal Responsibility
This month, I find myself in a state of anticipation moving ahead in a positive direction. I can feel I’m on the verge of a fresh shot of empowerment, not only for my own personal life and my company, but in my philosophies about the world in general. Freshly back in Brooklyn after traveling throughout Peru to see organic Fair Trade growers, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. To top it all off, October is Fair Trade Month, which gives us a little extra push to continue to educate ourselves and our communities as well as our customers on the Ger-Nis fruit & vegetable side of things.
As I have mentioned, I believe many times in my blog, I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to do the travels that I do. Meeting the people and engaging in the cultures from all over the world, is both a luxury and a learning experience. It’s no secret that life at the head of a rapidly growing company can be a lonely one– my work hours are long and my stress level high– the intrinsic perishable nature of fresh produce adds urgency to the job that is truly like no other. There are definitely times that I feel lonely and wish I had a “bigger” life outside of work, but then I travel and see the lives of others throughout the world and I am reminded of the bigger picture: not only do I have social responsibility but I have a personal one to and for myself, and it is important that I am living my life trying to make a difference in the lives that I touch.
All that being said, since I was a little girl living in Nicaragua, I’ve been amazed to see people living in poverty as some of the happiest and mentally sane people I have ever met. I am still to this day in awe of the happiness that can exude from the energies of people I meet all over the world, people who have nothing, people who work harder than anything I have ever seen, living real & true happiness. Now, of course, with poverty comes many intense and real problems. These are the problems in which I feel a real responsibility to acknowledge in both my company and my personal beliefs. I am in a position and have been in a position where I can literally participate in the movement to make a difference and it is important to me that I do not forget this responsibility.
The Fair Trade movement seems like it would just be a given in our world, as practices like fair pricing, fair labor conditions, direct trading options, transparent & democratic organizations, community development & give back programs, and environmental sustainability just seem to make sense, it just doesn’t seem to be sane that we would have to fight for these topics to be a real part of our lives both here in the USA and abroad. We battle everyday at making these relatively simple concepts become a part of our reality and a reality in the produce world. We cannot say that it is an easy process, in fact I joke a lot when people tell me how wonderful my job is as they see my traveling, that most of what I do each day is fighting for money for the growers.
Here is an example; we are in the midst of selling organic blueberries these days from Holland. There is a massive blueberry shortage and some of our growers in Holland just happen to have some, so we began to sell them. We had a customer– a wholesale broker– buy a few pallets and claim that they were no good, and that they were going to give us PAS (price after sale) which basically means we will sell them and whatever we get back minus what we want to take we will give you, this is a relatively common practice and a nightmare for growers. We said no. We refuse to let the grower suffer by not having any guidelines. The customer refused to give the shipment back and claimed that they were going to give us a “fair” price. The word fair seems obvious to me, but the sad part is that it is one of those words that in reality is extremely vague and extremely open to interpretation. Despite the fact that Fair Trade has strict regulations and certifying, the overall execution of Fair Trade still lacks the real Fairness that is truly necessary. My trip to Peru was another eye opener and reminder of this. To see and speak and eat with the people gives us a better idea of their true reality. In the world of mangoes, the market is falling and falling the organic pricing structures are barely above conventional prices and mango growers are struggling more than ever. There are many myths about why… some preach over-supply, some preach too many organics (is that possible really to have too many organics?) but the reality is that the price to the end user the person at the grocery store has continued to rise, yet the prices to the growers, continues to decrease year after year, to a point where it is almost impossible to compete selling a Fair Trade mango.
When you get the opportunity to sit and hear the stories of the growers, whether they are organic mango growers in Peru or upstate apple growers in NY, the plight of the farmer is sacred one as far as I am concerned. We are so disconnected from our food source these days that it is crucial for us to understand our own social responsibility. For me, my job and my business gives me direct access everyday to the opportunity to contribute to making a difference to the lives of many in the agricultural world and the plant. I take my own social and personal responsibility on the subject very seriously and am positive that more and more people will continue to jump on this bandwagon and help make a difference.
Learn more about FAIR TRADE and what it means and learn where you can make a difference and a positive social impact on the lives of many more than just you and your immediate surroundings!