Go Roman [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Today we begin the Whole 30. The first time, we did it because Kerri’s system had run amok. The only way to find the culprit of her system’s craziness was to eliminate all the suspects, rebalance her system, and then slowly reintroduce foods. That’s the idea behind the Whole 30. It worked like magic.

This time, Kerri and her nieces are doing it together. They’ve made a pact. I am going along for the ride.

There’s a distinct difference between the days before our first experience and our run up to beginning today. Last time we were desperate. We needed to find something that would help her system. This time, we went full-Roman. We ate everything, even things we normally would not have thought to eat. We’ve made a full-on-food-assault on both our systems. “Since we can’t have wine for a month, I think we should have another glass,” I said…every day last week.

It’s human, isn’t it? To pretend that what you are about to do is nigh-on-impossible, so, the strategy to make it possible is to front-load the rewards. It’s the thought behind Lent. It’s the reason diets fail. It’s the story of “We deserve this…”

We created our own personal Mardi Gras.

I knew we’d given up all pretense the night Kerri looked at me and said, “When was the last time we had a Hostess cupcake?”

“We’ve never had a Hostess cupcake,” I said. “I used to eat them when I was a kid but you and I have never had one.”

“What!” I saw the wild cupcake intention in her eyes. It was late in the evening. “We have to have one!” she exclaimed jumping up. “Hurry! Ann’s is about to close!” Ann owns the local corner market. She carries cupcakes. And wine. And ice. And has a terrific deli. Kerri grabbed my arm. We ran-walked to Ann’s. Roman, Roman, Roman.

None of this would have happened without the looming Whole 30.

It’s not yet 8:00 in the morning, day one, and Kerri’s already asked me, “Do you remember the cupcake?”

Truth: I do. And my second thought? Cupcakes are better with red wine.

Human, human, human.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CUPCAKES

Deflect And Dine [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

It’s true. Never go food shopping when you are hungry. It’s also true – for us – after stocking up the pantry, the last thing we want to do is cook. “How about Thai?” she asks.

“My thought, exactly,” I chirp. It’s a ritual.

We let our supplies dwindle to almost nothing before a resupply. It’s become a game: what can we make with what’s left in the fridge and on the shelves? I’m happy to report that some of our favorite dinner-discoveries have come from this game. Enjoying the dinner-surprise-game also serves as a signal: tomorrow is resupply day.

Of course, sometimes, after the signal, when resupply day arrives in all its glory, we don’t feel like doing a massive shop. “How about Thai?” I ask.

“My thought exactly,” she chirps.

read Kerri’s blog post about NOT COOKING

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Fill The Pot [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It’s food week at the Melange. Well, truth be told, it’s always food week here. When we’re not in our studios we meet in the kitchen and either eat food or talk about eating food. Sometimes – okay – everyday, when I am up in my office working, Kerri sends me a midmorning text: “Are you staaaaarving?” My reply never waivers: “Yes. Yes I am.” Snacks appear and happiness ripples throughout the house.

It’s winter and it’s covid so our circle of experience has shrunk mightily. Kerri injured her foot so our daily winter walks through the frozen tundra are on hiatus. As our recent photographs have betrayed, we are explorers in our own house. Photos of Dogga. Photos of the moon. Clever shots of candles and glasses of wine. And food, food, food.

Because it is winter, the big pot has re-emerged. Soups or spaghetti sauce are often simmering on the stove. During the warm months, the big pot goes on vacation but faithfully returns when the temperatures drop. There are weeks when the big pot never makes it back to the cabinet. It’s a workhorse.

I appreciate the reappearance of the big pot because, in addition to being essential for soups, it evokes stories. It never fails. The pot comes out. The chopping commences. And the stories start to roll. Our big pot has been around for a very long time so it is alive with story. Big pots bring memories of parents and grandparents, holiday meals, Dorothy cooking on the cast iron stove. It evokes remembrance from childhood, steam rising from the pot and fogging the kitchen window. Once, as a boy, I couldn’t breathe and leaned over the big pot. The steam helped.

This week we are excited: we have a new soup to try. Last week we made a simple vegetable soup, a recipe we lifted from 20. The big pot also helps us to dream. We remember a pre-covid world when we had gatherings and dinner parties, when we squeezed people into chairs at the table, elbows negotiating heaping plates of pasta, crusty bread, and wine. Laughter. “It’s the first thing we’re going to do,” Kerri says, “when this is all behind us.” The pot will come out. A vat of sauce will bubble on the stove. Friends will pack into the kitchen, asking, “When do we eat?”

read Kerri’s blogpost about BIG POTS

Taste And Adjust [on Merely A Thought Monday]

In our kitchen, I am the sous chef. Second in command. I chop, slice and dice. Then, I place my colorful preparations in glass bowls, carefully arranged relative to the stove so the chef need only reach to add an ingredient to her magic-making. “What’s first?” I ask. “Onions and garlic,” the chef replies, tying on her apron. I know the answer before I ask but it’s our ritual signal, like the kitchen version of “On your mark,” to the runners at the starting line. The onion steps onto the cutting board.

We love to cook together. I have learned through the many phases of my life that my relationship with food mirrors the relationship I have with life. If I attend to the the palette of tastes and textures that I eat, if I take the time to savor and appreciate my food, I carry that attention into every moment of my day. If I rush through and jam any food-like-object into my mouth, I carry that same inattention into my life. Appreciation, savoring, is mindfulness. Slowing down to plan and fully fill the palette of flavor fosters anticipation. Moving through a grocery store or farmer’s market is a wholly different affair when favorite recipes call.

I did not arrive easily at my understanding of food and life. The first recipes I tried were utter disasters. Don’t ask BK about my inaugural batch of lentil soup. It will send him into waves of horror-laughter. I ate it to prove that my cooking was not so bad but could not hide that my soup nearly killed me. And, I remember the moment that I decided to learn to cook. I remember like it was yesterday the understanding that sent me to the stove: I wanted, perhaps for the first time in my life, to take care of myself. More than that, I wanted to fully taste the richness of being alive and to do it, I had first to stop running. One must stand still to fully taste. To savor, one must stand still with others. “What do you think? Kerri asks, “More salt?”

Experimentation, trial and error, are the only way. Taste and adjust. And, isn’t that a terrific life credo?

In the recent past, each week, we try new recipes with 20. We’ve discovered some incredible flavors, our repertoire is expanding. Soups and chilis and stir fry. Mostly, that we intend to make meals together, that we slow down and enjoy each other’s company en route to a new taste, an ingredient that we can’t pronounce, a spice that is unknown. “This might be a disaster,” we say as steaming bowls of deliciousness hit the table. “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” we say as we click together our spoons and dive in.

read Kerri’s blogpost about EATING WELL

a photo from before the pandemic. we can’t wait for this to end so we might create more memories like this one.

Climb That Mountain [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Once, after sleeping through the sunrise at a rest area, we drove through a Starbucks without stopping at the order kiosk. The kind young woman at the window, after politely telling us that we hadn’t yet ordered, brought us vats of coffee for free. She said we looked like we needed it. And, we did. We needed it.

I suppose we don’t really know what is good for us. That might be the reason we regularly step into the ridiculous and only recognize that it is ridiculous after-the-fact. My favorite part of our folly is the paradox that makes it all possible: we have the spirit of feral cats but were raised to be polite and clean our plates. It’s this inner collision that makes possible each and every attempt at scaling Mt. Pancake.

We’ve yet to summit. But, never fear, the next time all-you-can-eat crosses our fancy, we’ll get out the ropes and pitons, the special forks and belts that loosen-a-notch or two, and we’ll climb that mountain until I collapse in the booth and Kerri glazes over in a pancake-coma. Some nice serving person will gently take our plates and tell us to take our time. “No rush,” they will say, “You look like you need to sit for a while.” It’s a wonder they don’t take our car keys.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PANCAKES

smack-dab. © 2021-2 kerrianddavid.com

Eat And Evolve [on Merely A Thought Monday]

DogDog actually sat still long enough to don antlers and have his picture taken. This is progress. Our Aussie pup rarely sits still and is known for his committed resistance to headwear. He is, however, responsive to the promise of treats and the real story of his antler success is Kerri’s ability to juggle the antlers, the camera and the waving of a treat – all in one balletic gesture. I suspect we are not so different from DogDog: all evolution is probably snack driven.

More than once we’ve made the 45 minute drive to Lake Geneva to buy a single piece of flourless chocolate cake. In pre-Covid times we’d stay awhile and visit the shops or walk part of the path around the lake (it’s a 21 mile loop), but lately, we grab our cake and go. I also want to confess that, in our recent drive to Denver, we went through Lake Geneva and, not only did we buy a piece of cake but also an entire loaf of freshly baked Turkey Red Rustic bread. And a brownie. It was all gone before Kansas. I am certain that decadent cake and warm bread are signs of incremental evolution. We are slightly better people for having indulged our food fantasies. We are slightly bigger, too.

It’s the holidays. I know this because my dog is wearing antlers. I also know it because people are making plans to gather and have meals together. There will be singing and gifts and other events but mostly there will be food. Cookies. Pies. Hams. Yams. Kerri asked Jen for a recipe in our evening Zoom happy hour. Yesterday, the grocery store was packed with enthusiastic shoppers carrying lengthy lists, racing through the aisles, all to hunt and gather the ingredients necessary for evolution to continue.

Sworn enemies find a path to peace when breaking bread together. A community knows it is prosperous when none of its members want for food. The same will be true of the world. Peace and enough to eat are bedfellows. We have a ways to go in our evolution.

When this world really wants to break bread, might I recommend Simple Bakery in Lake Geneva. The Turkey Red Rustic has always brought us great peace and I’m certain the same will be true for the bevy of committed enemies the world round. In the meantime, it’s my turn with the antlers. Kerri has promised me a treat and a sip of Bailey’s Irish Creme if I am good boy and sit still. Let’s just say that DogDog and I share the same sitting-still-for-headwear gene. I love evolution though I fear the photo. I suppose there’s always a price to be paid.

read Kerri’s blog post about EVOLUTION

Prepare To Dine! [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

When I first moved to Wisconsin, Kerri barely let me into the kitchen. One night, Craig and I literally had to remove her from the stove so we could make her dinner. The kitchen was her domain. I knew I was “in” when she “let” me make dinner and didn’t pace behind my preparations. The real score came the night 20 and I made her dinner and she sat at the table, ate snacks and sipped wine. Angels sang. Hell froze over. Dinner was delicious.

Let’s just say that it’s been a process. Mostly, we cook together. I am an excellent sous chef. It gives me great pleasure to chop ingredients and put the readied vegetables in little bowls; Kerri imagines she is hostess of a cooking show. One way or another, we’ve always managed to make our meals into fine dining experiences – or just fun experiences.

The bottom line: we are dedicated eaters.

read Kerri’s blog post about DINNER

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Find A Horizon [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Each morning, Kerri wanders outside to check her tomatoes. It is one of my favorite new rituals. I watch from the window as she steps out beyond the deck to the potting table, hands on hips, and scrutinizes the plants for newcomers. After a careful count she hurries back into the house to tell me the results of her count. Each day yields a new arrival. “There are ten!” she proclaimed this morning. Then, she took out her phone to show me the photos she’d taken. A family portrait of tomatoes. Miracles in the making.

Seasoned gardeners might not experience the same level of enthusiasm, but we newbies are wide-eyed at the little green orbs that show up overnight, at the basil plants spilling out of their pots.

It has already inspired new recipes. I blubbered on Sunday evening when I tasted the basil-and-tomato-saute over pasta. Food-that-makes-you-close-your-eyes-and-slow-down-so-that-you-can-savor-every-last-bit-of-it is high on my list of pleasures-to-be-cultivated.

We are learning. We are trying new things. We are setting up new spaces, rearranging furniture. At the same time, we are cleaning out, pulling bins from the basement. Sorting. Making space. The energy is moving.

In the past few years, our growth and learning has looked and felt like loss. Job losses, dear ones passing, broken wrists. Armor falling to the ground. Layers peeled. There’s nothing like time spent in the wilderness to put a fire beneath curiosity. When the questions are basic, “What do we do now?,” the available options are at the same time infinite and absent. There’s only one thing to be done and that is to keep moving. Find a horizon and walk toward it.

The tomatoes are harbingers. The season of losing layers may, at last, be done. There is now plenty of space for curiosity, for growing things. “What do we do now?” is still a question floating in the air. But, from our point of view, with the wasteland just behind us, we see the yellow buds and tiny green orbs as signaling a harvest to come. Hope. The energy is moving. A daily visit to the potting bench, rubbing basil leaves to enjoy the scent, seems like just the right amount of forward movement.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

Hear The Echo [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Hitting the road double-haiku:

The sign speaks the truth.

In the last moment of life:

Food with family.

My face, too, will fade

But the laughter will remain.

Echoes across time.

read Kerri’s road trip haiku

Eat For Stillness

779. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am exhausted today. I spurned all work and cleaned the studio. I prepared canvases. I stayed away from sharp objects and power tools. I made sure not to cross the street until I looked three times. During days of exhaustion, personal safety is the best I can do.

During my cleaning frenzy I cleared space in the studio. I made space. I created space. I needed space and that meant that things had to go. I made a rule that if I hadn’t touched the book or the tool for a year, I had to get rid of it. I got rid of a lot of stuff! Had you walked by my studio today and mentioned that you liked a painting, it would have gone home with you. I’d have given you two paintings because the spaciousness – the feeling of space – was energizing in my exhaustion.

This evening, Megan shook her finger at me for not taking good care of myself. Yesterday I forgot to eat. It happens when I get focused and busy. It won’t surprise you to learn that lack of food and exhaustion are connected. Making space and eating are both great remedies for my low energy. Megan read to me a passage from a book. The passage was about listening. According to the book listening is about stillness. Inner chatter disrupts listening. Her message was about taking care of myself inside and out. I am not listening to what I need. I am not listening to what my body is telling me. She was prompting me to return to my practice of stillness with a reminder that stillness inside is impossible if I am not caring for myself outside, not eating well, not resting appropriately.

Now that I’ve created spaciousness I intend to regain my stillness. To that end, I’m going in search of some very big, very hot, very yummy food.