Friday, March 25, 2011

Yummish Offertory

Today's meditation focuses on one of the most sacred Yummish rites: The Yummish Offertory. In the Yummish tradition, it is not enough to passively “experience” life. Rather, like those take-a-penny-leave-a-penny trays on the counter at the corner market, we believe life works best when we all contribute to as well as benefit from the experience. 

Each of us is called on to make at least one Yummish Offertory over the course of our lives, an offering particular to our unique talents and strengths (read: Yum). We are each called on to contribute part of our “self” - the collection of experiences and potential you currently perceive as being “you” – to the overall experience of “being.” This contribution can take many forms: poetry, music, skyscrapers, offspring, novels, paintings, films, medical research, education or a space station. The only real restriction on the form these offerings may take is that it must be something intended to outlast the life of “giver.”

Rather than being a selfish act of self-preservation, a true Yummish Offertory is a gift to both those already present and those yet to come. Whether you give the gift of your talent, your eye color, your sense of humor or your recipe for pork roast, your gift of self enriches the experience of others by allowing them to partially sample the experience of being “you,” just as you currently benefit from the offerings of those both present and passed. To refuse to make such an offering is not only selfish, it is the worst kind of self-hatred: self-negation. You have a “voice” and something to “say” to the future and the now. To hold back – out of fear, self-doubt or lack of determination – is an act of violence against yourself and larceny against the future.

It's true that you may not see the immediate effect of your gift upon the world. That does not mean that your contribution is not important, even vital.  It may be that like Emily Dickinson's poetry or Frank Capra's “It's a Wonderful Life,” your gift is destined to be better appreciated by future generations than your contemporaries. It could also be that your gift, though never widely appreciated, like the butterfly whose wing-beat leads to a hurricane, will inspire something that will take the world by storm. As with any gift, it is the recipient, not the giver, who determines it's ultimate employment, and the only gifts ever truly wasted are those that are not given.    

Today's exercise: Offer it up!

Next: A more light-hearted offering. Maybe something about pancakes. Pancakes are yummy. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

YARP: Yummish Advanced Research Projects

The Yummish Council is pleased to announce the creation of a new investigatory branch. The Yummish Advanced Research Project, or YARP dedicated to promoting and furthering the study of all things Yummy. (Sort of a Yummish Inquisition, but more “comfy chair” than racks and thumbscrews.) Be it food, film, fashion or even something that doesn't start with the letter “F,” it is YARP's mission to investigate and report on the latest developments in the field of Yummish endeavor.

For it's premier report, and in honor of the new Yummish field office coming to Albuquerque, NM, YARP offers the following New Mexican-inspired recipe:

Chipotle Pork Roast

What you'll need:
(Feel free to view these spice ratios as a starting point, increasing or decreasing as best suits your Yum.)

Pork shoulder blade roast, bone in*
5 pounds (approximately)
Olive oil, light in flavor**
4 Tbsp
1/4 tsp
Mixed cracked black, white and red pepper
1/4 tsp
Garlic powder
1/8 tsp
Oregano flakes
1/8 tsp
Ground cumin
1/4 tsp
Ground chipotle chile***
4 – 6 Tbsp
Dried chiles de Colorado
2 pods, stems and seeds removed
Bay leaves
4 leaves
2 Tbsp
Red chile salsa****
1/4 cup
1/4 cup

*For boneless cut, use approximately 3 pounds and reduce slow cooking time by 30 – 45 minutes
**Or expeller pressed canola oil
***Our favorite comes from Pojoaque Supermarket, Santa Fe, NM
****Our favorite comes from Rancho de Chimayo, Chimayo, NM

What to do:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Combine salt, cracked pepper, garlic powder, oregano flakes, ground cumin and chipotle.
Coat room temperature roast with olive oil.
Rub roast with spice combination.
Drizzle top and bottom with molasses.
Dried chiles de Colorado

Place seasoned meat in roasting pan.
Add water to bottom of pan.
Add chile pods and bay leaves to water.
Cover tightly with lid or foil.

Roast at 275 degrees for 3 hours
Baste, then cover with loosely tented foil or tipped lid.
Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
Remove from oven and let sit 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Recommended sides: Posole or jalapeno cheese grits.

Shred leftovers for carnitas tacos.

Today's exercise: Get cooking!

Next: To be honest, probably heartburn. ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Of Dogs and Cats*

Sashimi Koneko, concerned about mind control
We've spoken before of the importance of pets in the Yummish life. In today's lesson, we're going to explore the respective merits of the two most popular household pets: dogs and cats.

There are many, many, many practical benefits from bringing a dog into your life. Over centuries, dogs have been engineered by man to be of extraordinary usefulness. Strong, clever, brave and loyal, they have served man as pack animals, body guards, guides, hunters, companions and even dinner. Bred to subservience, dogs are compelled to please their human “masters” and are never so happy as when they have done so.

Cats, on the other hand, are less concerned with garnering the approbation of the clawless, fangless shivering naked apes they've (sometimes grudgingly) allowed to share their space. Cats are not inclined to tote and fetch for the pleasure of man, nor are they concerned with our displeasure at this disinclination. Though expert hunters, trackers, and combatants, cats don't feel compelled to use these skills for anyone's benefit other than their own. Cats improve our lives in only one way: by keeping in check rodents, human egos and similar vectors of disease.  
Sushi Koneko, 2 years ago

The Yummish believe that there are no “Dog People” versus “Cat People,” but rather, like many things, it falls out along a spectrum. We all need unconditional love from time to time, just as we all occasionally need our egos challenged. Our current emotional need (coupled with our current housing situations, to be realistic), determines which is the right pet (or combination thereof) for that time of our lives. Some people may even find themselves sliding back and forth a bit on that spectrum over the course of their lives.

As the Yummish Council is located in the lush, green and yet highly populated San Francisco Bay Area – a prime breeding ground for both rodents and self-important pseudo-intellectual types, we have elected to bring not just one, but two cats into our temple. From our daily care and worship of them over the past two years, as well as through our nightly practice of cat yoga,* we have learned the following ego-diminishing lessons:

Optimism: Owning a cat changes your perspective. It's not just a box half full of cat poo that you have to empty. It's cat poo that's not all over the floor.

Selflessness: Putting the desires of others before your own. While you might enjoy sleeping in on a weekend morning, this selfish act would delay the cats' breakfast by as much as an hour or two, leaving them with no choice but to walk repeatedly across your torso, being sure to plant each of four paws into your full bladder and thus forcing you out of the bed anyway.

Generosity: Unattachment, giving and letting go. You may have thought it was your leather sofa or your memory foam mattress, but will soon find there is greater grace in accepting that they are now the cats' scratching posts.

Forbearance: Patience and forgiveness. There will be furballs in the corners and hairballs in your slippers.

Truthfulness: There is no point in lying to a cat. They don't care what you're saying anyway. Just get that can of food open.  

*Tell me about the rabbits, George.

Today's exercise: Pet something furry.  

Next: YARP: Yummish Advanced Research Projects

**Cat yoga: a feline-guided mental and physical discipline that involves contorting one's body into increasingly challenging positions (catsanas) in order not to disturb the cats sleeping in the center of the bed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Defense of Serpents

In spite of the approaching date, this meditation only tangentially involves St. Patrick himself, the Roman church official best known for his enthusiastic persecution of the native peoples of Ireland for practicing their ancestral faiths and whose death is celebrated annually by getting piss drunk and wearing particularly unflattering shades of green. His feast day is celebrated most enthusiastically in the United States, often by those who share neither the Saint's faith nor heritage and who seem to have conflated him with the leprechaun from the Lucky Charms cereal box.

As the serpent was one of the symbols considered sacred by these uncooperative, non-converting pagans that St. Patrick and his cohorts found so troubling, he is credited with having “driven the snakes out of Ireland.” In truth, these ancient ophiophilists were less “driven out” than “beaten down,” subjugated and killed.* We considered writing a meditation on this and the serpent as a power symbol in the ancient world,** but decided it was more fun to write about reptiles than genocide and religious extremism.

Thus, a few words in praise of the amazing Snake:

    Snakes taste air, feel sound and “see” temperature. They range in size from the diameter of a coin to the length of a killer whale and thrive on six of seven continents.

    Snakes are ectothermic, which is just a fancy way of saying “solar powered.”

    Snakes eat mosquitoes, rats, mice, moles and just about everything else you wouldn't want to see invade your home or yard.

    Though limbless, snakes can crawl, climb, swim, jump and even glide from tree to tree.

    While they are masterful predators, snakes are also extremely metabolically efficient and are able to go days and even months between meals. (Where as we Yummish can barely go an hour without stuffing something tasty into our craw.)

    Because of their extremely flexible lower jaws, snakes can eat things larger in diameter than themselves. (We Yummish are particularly envious of this skill. Imagine being able to eat an entire hot fudge cake in one colossal bite! Yum!)

Today's exercise: Get your slither on!   

Next: Uncertain, though we suspect the answer may be at the bottom of a bottle of Bushmills. Sláinte!

*For a nicely fictionalized account of this story featuring a lot of kick-ass red-haired women, please see “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. (I <3 Morgause.)

**For more information on symbolism in the ancient world, see Joseph Campbell's “Primitive Mythology.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Would You Do For a Klondike Bear?

When you're the largest predator on land, you're not likely to get a lot of sympathy, especially from smaller, more crunchable organisms such as humans. Unlike Pandas, those cuddly balls of furry reproductive ineptitude, Polar Bears don't really come off as “needy” or “helpless,” so much as “huge” and “terrifying.” Much like wolves, sharks, snakes and other predators, we humans have evolved to find such creatures inherently threatening, thus allowing our forefathers to survive to reproductive age and eventually beget all of us.

Most of us, though, no longer face the threat of predation from other species as part of our daily lives. We have developed other worries, like credit ratings and the outcome of hockey games. In fact, for the great majority of us, the greatest threat we face in any given day is posed by other humans, such as drunk drivers, muggers or investment bankers. These days, when we say that “the wolf is at the door,” it is very rarely meant literally.

Like the Polar Bear, humans, too are top predators. As a race, we show a great talent for it, even inventing mechanical devices that allowed us to prey on creatures larger, faster and stronger than ourselves. Over the years, we've become so adept at this mechanized predation, that the only predator who poses a true threat to us any longer is ourselves.

Thus, as the Head of the Top Predator Club, we have the duty – a sort of noblesse oblige -  to be concerned about the fate of the other members. More than that, it is in our own best self interest to do so. That which threatens the Polar Bears is also a threat to us: a rapidly changing environment leading to the loss of habitat sufficient to sustain our numbers.  

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or watching nothing but Fox News, by now you are well aware of the fact of Global Weirding as well as the steps you should be taking to help ameliorate it: driving less, recycling more, investing in sustainable food, power and transportation. Even if you are one of those who doubts the severity and/or cause of recent climate change, ask yourself what harm it would do to take steps to reduce your footprint? Even if you feel that conservation is simply a sign of personal virtue, do you not feel personally compelled to be a virtuous person?

As for the classic question, there is very little I would do for a Klondike Bar, as opposed to Häagen-Dazs, for which there is little I would not do, including walking the one mile round trip to the grocery store.

Today's exercise: Ask yourself, what will you do?

Next: In Defense of Serpents: a meditation on St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spice Up Your Life!*

The Yummish Council will soon meet to address an urgent issue with the infrastructure of the Yummish Test Kitchen. The spice cabinet, it seems, is very nearly full.
One guess where we bought these...

The Council originally tried to address the issue through downsizing, retiring products that had expired or were close to expiring. Two hours, and a handful of rejected soy sauce packets and leaking honey-straws later, we were no closer to getting the cabinet door closed.

After all, why should we settle for only black pepper, when there is white pepper, red pepper, cayenne, chipotle, green chile, ancho chiles, chiles de arbol, chiles de colorado and on and on? Why limit ourselves to white sugar crystals when we can also have brown sugar, confectioner's sugar, turbinado, molasses, maple syrup and agave nectar? Why settle for simple table salt, when there are flavors like cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano, thyme, bay, paprika and so on?

Some flavors, like cinnamon and sugar, seem almost made to go together. Others, like chocolate and balsamic vinegar, may seem like they should be at odds, but, actually complement each other in surprising and unexpectedly delicious ways. And, while there are flavors you might not personally enjoy the combination of, such as a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich on whole wheat bread with mayo,** that doesn't mean that you might not enjoy each of those flavors separately or in different combinations.

Yes, this *is* a repurposed United Colors of Benetton ad!
This is the point in the meditation where we make some clever analogy between flavors and people, droning on about the many yummy flavors that humans come in and the spice that adds to life. However, if you're still reading this crazy blog, we suspect you've probably caught on to the basic rhythm of these things and figure you can fill in the details on your own.

Some flavors we find familiar and comforting, while others are exotic and even challenging. Each, however, has it's role to play, it's place in the spice rack.

Today's exercise: Spice it up!

Next: Updates could be spotty over the next couple of weeks, due to circumstances beyond our control. In the meantime, you can get your blog fix here

Is it wrong that I want these boots?
*Ginger Spice was, hands down, the best Spice Girl, as hers was the only name that actually carried through with the “spice” theme. After all aesthetic unity matters, even in bubblegum pop music.

**Before you “yuck my yum” give it a try. You may be surprised. And, no, it is NOT like a “pickles-and-ice cream” thing. That action is over at MIHH.

Friday, March 4, 2011

March Forth! A Message From the Cocktail Party

Maybe it is the ubiquitous images of protestors gathering across the Middle East. Or maybe it's the warm sunny Northern California weather. Either way, this Spring, The Cocktail Party wants you to March forth!

March forth to meet your neighbors.

March forth to make your streets safer.

March forth in protest of fear, ignorance, hatred and despair.

March forth to make your community closer, stronger and better.

Turn off your television. Close your browser. Take out your earbuds and put your phone away. Get out of your car and let your feet find the sidewalk. It's time to take to the streets.

We've heard enough from those who are too eager to tell us about the issues that divide us and the people, places and things that we should fear. Being informed about the world around you is essential, but don't make the mistake of limiting yourself only to the experiences of others. This Spring, The Cocktail Party invites you experience for yourself the strength, creativity, knowledge and caring of the diverse people that make up your community. Celebrate your power to inspire and be inspired. 

Today's exercise: March forth!

Next: March fifth!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Going to the Boom Boom: The Spring Carnival Season

Saturnalia. Bacchanalia. Intruz. Masopust. Fastelavn. Shrovetide. Apokriés. Vastenavond. Mardi Gras. Carnival!

In the Northern Hemisphere, the bitter darkness of Winter is just beginning to lighten, giving way to the return of the sun and the resurrection of life. Bitter nights warm into bright days and chilling rain is followed by promising shoots of green. Spring is still just a promise, but one that looks increasingly credible.

Time, naturally enough, for a party.

Over the next few weeks as the days lengthen across the northern half of our globe, people will emerge from their wintery cocoons to greet the returning sun... by stripping down to their skivvies, consuming truly heroic quantities of food and alcohol and dancing to pounding drum-heavy music. As far as the Yummish are concerned, there could not be a more appropriate response.    

No matter which cultural costume it may wear, the springtime carnival is about celebrating what it means to be human, on a fundamental level. We gather together to meet and make noise. We're encouraged to eat, drink and be sexy. Humankind has survived one more trip around the sun, one more chilling turn through the cosmos. The winter is fading and we are still here.

Today's exercise: Party on!

Next: March Forth! A message from The Cocktail Party.