Seat of the Pants Cooking

Marc Bittman has made an art and career out of what I’ve long called “seat of the pants” cooking.  I have a small library of cookbooks (each one has to earn its keep on the single shelf devoted to such compendiums) and use them not infrequently. But much of the time, I take what I have and make dinner.  The upside to SOTP cooking is that it’s everchanging. The downside is when I hit it out of the park, which is also not infrequently, I never remember to write it down. (Marc Bittman does.)

I did write down last night’s ingredients. I began with some cherry tomatoes that were going to wrinkle if I didn’t use them soon and a leftover slice of raw salmon that might have filled the tummy of a very hungry kitten. I sauteed the salmon in some olive oil and butter and removed it from the pan just short of doneness.  I crushed the cherry tomatoes and tossed them in the pan.

While they cooked, I diced a few spears of yellow pepper and added them. Playing hide and seek with the fridge I finished up a jar of Greek olives, thinly sliced a few sun dried tomatoes, got out some capers but decided against them, splashed in some white wine and the juice of a lemon, seasoned it all with some S&P and crushed oregano and let it simmer while the water boiled for the pasta.           I added back the salmon and warmed it up before serving.

Writing this now I realize that we were supposed to have snow peas as well but I forgot to serve them. That’s not SOTP cooking just my addled brain. Were I to make this for company I’d use more salmon and some really hearty pasta from the little Italian store near-by.  Bon appetit!

Dr. Scholl’s to the Rescue

Off-label use of certain medications isn’t standard practice but when a medication developed for one condition also remedies another, it can be a boon to its sufferers. Rogaine was developed to treat hypertension and found fame as a hair growth formula.  This drawer in the curio cabinet is devoted to the very broad topic of Head to Toe. So stay with me, here while I go off-label.

For years I’ve done battle with the adhesive-backed felt circles that are supposed to keep my chair legs from scratching our wood floors.  They never stay in place.  They flip over and leave pernicious gum residue on my floors.  They are undependable and when I need them, I can never find them.

Last week I’d had it with these charlatans.  What else could I use that was soft and cushiony on one side and adhesive on the reverse?  Rummaging in our hall closet for inspiration I came upon our box labeled “toes and tummy.”  I grouped those two together for the alliterative fun and because I didn’t have enough of either to fill an entire box.  The “toe” side of the box held the solution: Dr. Scholl’s moleskin patches.

Soft on one side adhesive on the other, could they do the trick?  You betcha.  I cut out a circle slightly larger than the circumference of my chair legs, adhered the patch to the wood and voila! Easy to apply, easy on the wallet, and so far they have worked quite well.  I also cut up a thicker adhesive-backed heel protector (the kind you form to the inside of your shoe) to see how that would work.  Just as well and a bit sturdier.

On an off-label roll, I adhered a moleskin strip to the inside of a hair clasp that always slips off my hair. It worked. One product, two off-label and oppsing solutions (It girps! It slides!) And there you have it. Dr. Scholl’s treats more than corns, calluses and bunions, none of which I even have.

 

 

 

Kaleidescopic

Kaleidescopes are pure infinite ever-changing visual magic. I adore them. My sisters gave me a kaleidescope for my 40th birthday that still brings me, and now my granddaughter Oliva, utter joy.  For my 60th birthday, Martin gave me a side-lit handheld kaleidescope made by Mark Reynolds. He found it at Nelly Bly, the world’s biggest, best, and most magical kaleidescope emporium. Every October they hold a keleidescope festival where kaleidefans meet the artists who make them and attend workshops to make one of their own.  One of these days……..

I’ve done something totally new and untried. Until today.  A video set to music. The music is from Andrew Weil & Kimba Arem’s Vibrational Sound Healing. Track #2, Sky of Night. The CD was a birthday gift from my sister, Lisa, some years back. Birthdays, kaleidescopes and music. What could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niçoise Salad: Simple and Delicious

I enjoyed my first Salade Niçoise in Cannes at Nellie’s table. Nellie was a legend in my childhood.  My grandparents first met her in Birmigham, AL in the late 40’s or early 50’s. Nellie, a former Miss Paris, had come to America as a coat model which somehow included a stop in Birmingham. On their first trip to Paris, my grandparents looked her up and took her to dinner. They learned more about this delightful Jewish Frenchwoman that evening. At the time she worked in a perfumier on the Place de la Concorde. Nellie married later in life.  “When she was young,” my grandfather told me, “the eligible Frenchmen were fighting. And after the war, well…” I never thought to ask how she, her mother and her brother survived the war in Paris, evading capture by the Nazis. Eventually Nellie met and married M. Grillot. By the time I met her, he was no longer alive.

When my dad was in the service in France he and my mom met Nellie. As the story goes, she babysat me so he and my mom could have a weekend away. More than two decades later, I was studying in France and made my way to Cannes where my mother told me Nellie had an aprtment. I had written to her at a Paris address but never heard back. It was late afternoon when my friend and I climbed the stairs to Nellie’s apartment and rang the bell.

It took more than a few minutes for her to make the time jump and understand that I was not my mother. That I was the “bébé” twenty years hence. She embraced me warmly, then my friend and insisted we stay for dinner and return for lunch the following afternoon. She was delightful. She was beautiful, smart and throughout the evening she would look at me and say as if not quite believing it, “Mais tu est le bébé?” Her chihuahua, Titine, had been trained to understand commands in Yiddish. Espé, her longtime housekeeper and companion served us my first Salade Niçoise. Here is a version I love to serve. And when I do, I think of this wonderful woman with delight. Here is Nellie’s sangria recipe saved from that visit in 1975.

photo credit: “French: Salade nicoise” by Katrin Gilger is licensed underCC BY-SA 2.0

 

From left to right: my grandmother Estelle, , my grandfather Abe, Nellie

 

HeartMath

HeartMath offers the possibility of neutralizing emotional reactions in the moment, reducing the impact of stress and recognizing what drains our energy and what renews it. I first heard about it a few years back during the Sedona Film Festival. I didn’t see the film but it stayed on my radar for a while.

From the HeartMath website: For more than 25 years, HeartMath Institute has been researching the heart-brain connection and learning how the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health. HeartMath helps you tap into the power and intelligence of your heart – your heart’s intuition – which awakens you to the best version of yourself.

That last phrase “best version of yourself” seems more than a bit overused by now, but the rest of it continues to intrigue me. Could it be true that the heart is the real generator that speaks to the brain and not the other way around?  What is my heart’s intelligence and what does that even mean?

When a teacher in my yoga studio offered a four-week workshop      I signed up. Patti gave us a lot of information during our 90-minute Zoom session. What struck home was this sentence: “The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.” Read that again.  And again if you want.  The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.  To me that means that my brain can’t change my feelings. I can’t intellectiualize myself into or out of a mood or emotional state. As I understand it so far, I can develop a sense of what my energies are creating within me and how to modify/amplify them for my benefit.

“HeartMath gives us a choice point and techniques to go from depletion to renewal.” Energy in HeartMath lingo is not seen as good or bad but as replenishing or depleting. I loved that, taking the judgment out of what emotional/energetic state we are in. The ultimate goal is to be able to bring ourselves into a state of “coherence” in which the heart and the brain are “synchronous.”

After identifying situations that left us feeling depleted by worry, anger, frustration, resentment et al and how we dealt with them, we next listed situations that brought us feelings of ease. Our breath was focussed on the heart. This didn’t feel like meditating as much as it felt like getting to know a part of my body in a new way.  Lo and behold, a few breaths in there was sadness beneath the energy-depleters of worry and anxiety. That was a surprise and a useful piece of information.

Next we focussed on feeling the sensation of ease within our bodies. My energy renewing situations? Being in nature, playing with my granddaughters Olivia and Leah, painting!  The feelings I wrote down were free, excited, alive, present, adventurous. Focusing on those feelings while I breathed was certainly renewing.  And that was our homework for the week: With each breath, draw in the feeling of inner ease. No images, no words, simply shift attention to the area of my heart, breathe and notice.

Stay tuned!