Monthly Archives: August 2010

Drive-By Metta

I don’t even pretend to be Buddhist. But, when my friend, Barbara, spoke at church recently she passed on this interesting concept that she’d learned through the folks at the Great Vow Zen monastery. “Drive-by Metta.”

Metta seems to have been defined to varying degrees of intricacy, but it seems to boil down to a meditative practice of some sort. In her talk, Barbara expressed her own version of Metta and put the idea out there that “loving kindness” can be practiced throughout the day and in many situations. I know I’m really over simplifying it here, but the very basic idea stuck with me. When in line at the grocery store, I try to not grumble and count the items in the person’s basket ahead of me. So what if they have twelve items instead of ten? Maybe their day was just a lot worse than mine was, and what good would it do anyone if I said something, really?

Seriously, dude...chill out already.

In my case I think of it as simply “letting it go and not getting caught up in anger when someone does something entirely stupid and dangerous on the road” meditation. It’s a new practice for me, but I’ve needed it a couple of days in a row now. Why is it that someone would travel so close to my bumper, pass me on a curvy dangerous road waving a signal that I wasn’t going the speed limit, just to get on the guy’s bumper ahead of mine? Then, after passing me and tailing the guy ahead of me, the real slow poke I was following at a safe distance, he turned off onto a side road. Less than thirty seconds after the dangerous pass. I don’t get it. I guess I haven’t mastered the concept since I’m still perplexed and even caring about this incident more than twenty-four hours later.

I’m trying to incorporate the “drive-by metta” practice into my driving. When someone else pulled another stupid move today, I said to myself, “Let it go..not my problem…” I can’t even quite remember exactly what it is he did, so I suppose that’s progress.

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Leftovers

I’m not a huge fan of leftovers. I think it comes down to the fact that, with three older brothers, we simply didn’t have them very often. Anything not eaten wasn’t eaten for a reason, usually the “yuck” factor. I recall having leftover spaghetti, but my mom would cut up hotdogs, mix them in and make a baked casserole out of it.

As a food professional, she also had exacting standards about how long anything stayed in the refrigerator. Things didn’t sit around gathering mold. It wasn’t until the last year or so that I have become comfortable with the notion of leftovers let alone actually eating them.

And, it’s been in the last couple of months that I’ve been able to open someone else’s leftovers (usually Bill’s, not just anybody’s) and eat them. Last night, I went to my writing group and didn’t share dinner at Spicy Talk, the new Chinese restaurant in Redmond. Everyone else went for dinner and brought back several small packages of leftovers. I decided to give them a try for lunch, and wasn’t at all grossed out by opening up “someone else’s food.” I know–it’s a strange food hang-up, but I’m getting over it. It might have had something to do with the fact that I love Dan-Dan noodles. My lips are still buzzin’.

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“C” is for Cookie

A pretty standard pool at Holiday Inn.

Growing up a Navy brat has its disadvantages. One of them being that my dad was never stationed close to Montana where his and my mother’s families lived. Most of my aunts and uncles lived in Montana, and all our family reunions have been in Montana. As a consequence, our family vacations involved getting into the car and driving to…you got it…Montana. We’d drive at a determined clip that would require the least number of pit-stops and hotel stays. And, we always, always, always, stayed at a “Holiday Inn.” The smell of chlorinated indoor pools conjure up summer in a big way for me.

Once in Montana, we divided our time between my mom’s family and my dad’s family. Dad’s folks lived in Billings and Mom’s lived in a place most people have never heard of, a tiny town called Roberts that is close to Red Lodge. I know there was some intermixing of families, but I can’t recall them all that clearly. This post, however, was urged by a summertime craving that has kicked in big time for me. And I know it’s related to my Herbert family visits in Roberts.

My grandma owned and operated the Robert’s cafe. It was a homey place with a long counter lined with red leather and chrome stools that seated my generation in one fell swoop–there are thirteen of us. (If you are family and happen to read this, correct me if I’m wrong!) Across from the stools were several booths made of fir, I think, and thin barely bottom-relieving cushions. Were there dear antlers on the end of the booths as coat hooks? I can’t remember, but they wouldn’t have been out of place.

The kitchen was straight back from the front door, and there was an open sort of extra space to the right and behind the main counter wall that was used for family meals and storage. I don’t know where my parents slept, and I think my brothers slept in the garage. I do, however, remember where I slept. And this brings me to my craving.

My grandma was a down-home cook. I have her recipes compiled in a book and they go something like this:

“Chocolate Cream Pie”
Make a vanilla custard. Add 3-4 tablespoons cocoa.

Plain and simple...rolled and flattened. No rolling pins or fancy shapes.

She didn’t need to be told how to make a vanilla custard, she just did it. Her food was simple and unencumbered by capers, truffles or exotic spices. She had a daily special which came with a dessert. The dessert was ice cream and a cookie, your choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and your choice of cookie. She may have had a greater repertoire of cookies than I recall, but I only remember two kinds–chocolate chip and sugar.

When I was younger, I slept in the room off of the kitchen in a crib. I slept in that damn thing until I got too big and had to sleep with my knees up to my chest. I think I might have been eight or nine before I began sleeping somewhere else on our visits. Right above the crib was a shelf. On the shelf were several green (red? green and red?) coffee cans filled with…you got it…cookies! The secret to why I wasn’t so upset at being crammed into that crib was the perks that came with the spot. An unlimited supply of cookies just feet above me.

My grandma didn’t just bake a dozen or so cookies at a time, either. In my memory there were always thousands of cookies, but I’m sure it was more like ‘several dozen.’ The chocolate chip cookies were good,but they were not my favorite. It wasn’t hard to stand up in the crib, reach into a coffee can filled with cookies and snatch a couple. Or a dozen. I don’t know how many cookies I snitched as a child, but I probably didn’t fool my grandma. She never called me on it, but I do remember getting to help her make a few batches during our visits. The craving that seems to sweep down on me every year is for the sugar cookies. And, it always seems to come in the summer time. Like, right NOW. It’s linked with memories and nostalgia, but it is always sugar cookie time in the summer for me.

Cookie presses. My mom had one with four hearts in a circle.

Her recipe was simple. No rolling on the counter and using cutters for this busy woman. The dough is made, made into little balls, and then flattened. I can’t remember if she used a glass to press them flat. My mom had a set of cookie stamps that she used to make them, and I’ve since purchased a set of my own. Whether they are plain flat or intricately patterned, they taste the same.

Oh, and since you’re going to ask anyway:
Grandma Herbert’s Sugar Cookies

1 Cup Margarine
1 Cup Shortening
1 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup powdered sugar

Cream the above.

Beat in:
3 tsp vanilla
1tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Roll into 1″ balls and flatten with glass or cookie press dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees F until done. Makes a lot.

We’re having a reunion next year…in Montana. I’ll be bringing some cookies.

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