Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thinking About Frida Kahlo Today...

I’ve been thinking about Frida Kahlo a lot lately.  When I think of strong women she is one of the first that come to my mind.  Everyone’s got a quick opinion about Frida.  A lot of people are put off by the surrealistic and gruesome folk art she produced; it’s not exactly living room art – but who aspires to that?  Certainly her work is a feminist statement on the unflinching depiction of the female form and experience, especially her own experience. Some question her politics – she was very active in the communist party in Mexico during the 50’s.  It’s difficult for me to judge someone on their politics when I did not grow up in their country during their time and experience what was happening within their society, so I leave that alone.  Of course there is the uni-brow, God; I love that uni-brow! That is a true statement that says “I am who I am right now in front of you take it or leave it!”  Frida has always been a MAJOR fashion icon to me.  I can stare at photographs of her endlessly.  The color, the hair, the flowers, dress, shawl, jewelry she had it all going on perfectly – seamlessly all at once.  Very few women can or should ever attempt to carry off what was so effortless for Frida.  It may have been the only thing that was effortless for her.
Frida has been described as: "…one of history's grand divas…a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker, bi-sexual that hobbled about her bohemian barrio in lavish indigenous dress and threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda, Nelson Rockefeller, and her on-again, off-again husband, muralist Diego Rivera."

Some of my favorite Frida quotes:

When asked why she painted so many self portraits:
"Because I am so often alone....because I am the subject I know best." “I was born a bitch, I was born a painter.”
On living her life crippled:
"I suffered two grave accidents in my life…One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego."
It is said that on the day after her death, mourners gathered at the crematorium to witness her cremation.  Frida Kahlo knew how to give her fans one last unforgettable goodbye. As the cries of her admirers filled the room, the sudden blast of heat from the open incinerator doors caused her body to bolt upright. Her hair, now on fire from the flames, blazed around her head like a halo. Frida's lips seemed to break into a seductive grin just as the doors closed.
Her last diary entry read: "I hope the end is joyful - and I hope never to return - Frida.”
Some people don’t “get” Frida Kahlo; I absolutely get her and love her from her wild emotional gut wrenching art to her wonderful fashion sense and of course that uni-brow!

My thoughts today,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Collective Consciousness

No matter what political party you align yourself with or even if you abstain from politics altogether, there is a collective consciousness, the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which link our community and unite our society.   There is a combined coherence in the consciousness of any group. 
After the Arizona shootings, I watched and listened.  It took a while for me to still my own thoughts and words.   I had to escape Facebook and its banal droning on with snippets of thought spewing out like water from a faucet.  Words, words and more words, I am even adding to them right now I suppose, but I hope to strike a different tone.
The conversational tone of our society is off the charts.  It is not news that American politics have become so hate filled, but I think it is the collective consciousness that has a lot to do with it.  It is not so much the virulent rhetoric that comes to mind when thinking of our society and how we attack each other over politics, but by far the most disturbing trait is our acceptance of it.  Our collective consciousness has evolved into an egotistical nightmare in which sides are drawn and each army is certain their position is on the morally correct spot.   Arguing politics is one of the most egotistical activities that one can pursue- that absolute feeling of “I’m Right!” is a dangerous place to be.  That’s my ego run rampant.
Listening is an activity seldom practiced.  Listening requires humility – we as a whole are short on that right now.  Listening also requires that you do not try to think up a perfect comeback retort while your opponent is on a talking point.  Actually, listening requires that you not think of the other person as an “opponent” at all.  What if we each thought of the other person as ourselves?  That might serve as a start toward the re-growth of civility again.  What if we listened to try to uncover what the underlying differences in our beliefs are?
I had to get real quiet after this violent incident that was carried out by a mentally ill person.  There will always be mentally ill people that act out.  There will always be terrorists, rebels, anarchists and murderers seeking to serve their own purpose.  We should not as a collectively conscious society unlock all of the doors and invite them in for tea.  Words and actions on all sides of our political debates have consequences.  The current levels of anger, bigotry and yes vitriol are like open gates to the mentally ill and deranged that lie in wait for such opportunities.  We have ratcheted up the level of acceptance to violence and hatred.  After incidents like this we are left with tragedy, confusion and people on the defensive for whatever “Brand” of politics they practice.
What if… as a society we began to boycott ugly politics? What if we shunned those that used the “Brand” of ugly politics as their marketing tool?  What if we no longer accepted this type of political atmosphere, this level of bigotry and hatred?  Do you think we are too far gone for that?  Do you think we are too far gone to listen to the people we think of as different from ourselves and not pass judgment – or is that just too difficult for human beings? 
  •  If you are feeling sad and helpless then you are perhaps not too far gone for discussion and growth.
  •  If you are feeling disgust then you are poised for growth. 
  • If you are silent and thoughtful then you are practicing growth.
  •  If you are on the defensive and pointing fingers then you may be too far gone to ever get the spiritual lesson here or the next time. You are part of the problem.  I understand that, my ego gets the best of me too and sometimes I am so sure that I have all the answers. 

My thoughts today,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trouble is no trouble...

Our kitty Trouble has been very ill.  It turns out she had a mass cell tumor on her spleen and we had it removed.  We have all been busy here tending to her care and feeding.  After her surgery she came home to us with this strange feeding tube that protrudes from her neck and allows us to feed her while she recovers.  We put her special high calorie food into the blender with water and basically make a chicken milkshake and use large syringes to push her meal through the tube and into her tummy.  We are doing this 4 times a day right now and it is a lot like having a new baby around with the scheduled feedings.

It is amazing how much love we pour into our pets.  I found it tragic when presented with the choice of whether to operate or simply put her to sleep.  We really could not afford this type of expense right now.  On the day I had decided that we should put her to sleep she seemed to totally rebound.  She was perky and full of her usual sense of humor.  Playing on the computer, talking (well - you know) and running up and down the stairs.  I just thought that no one in their right mind would put a pet down that was acting like this.  So off I went to the vet and I charged it.  I had just met my goal of paying off my credit cards and I went and charged this surgery without even really being sure of what was ailing her.  It was not cheap.  But it is done and all we can do now is nurse her back to health and the doctor feels encouraged that because all of the spleen was removed and that other tissue samples did not show immediate signs of cancer that she should recover nicely.  I hope so.  After all of this I love her even more.  Trouble is no trouble...she is expensive, but no trouble at all.

My thoughts today,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Abgusht Party for a New Year!

Happy New Year to all!!!!
We decided to celebrate this New Year with an Abgusht party.  Ab is Farsi and translates to water (in this case broth) gusht translates to meat.  Abgusht is a traditional working man’s type of meal, the type of thing we would think of as a farmers meal – heavy, carb and protein loaded, fuel up type of meal that might be served at mid-day.  For my husband’s family of first generation Iranians that came to this country about 30 years ago this has become a delicacy evoking a lot of memories of home. Over the years Abgusht parties have been a “Drop everything, come as you are we’re making Abgusht so get over here now!” type of thing.  Our party was a planned New Year Day event but in the past I have seen people leave weddings, their Saturday chores, pool parties you name it to show up and have Abgusht. 

This meal is cooked in a huge pot filled with 6 or 7 lamb shanks, tomatoes, potatoes, 2 or 3 different types of beans lots of onion and garlic.  We simmer the pot for about 4 hours the night before and then simmer it again the next day.  When all the meat is tender and falls off the bones everything is separated from the broth.  The meat potato and beans mixture gets mashed and becomes something like mashed potatoes.  This “gusht” or paste mixture is served along side lavash, pita or other types of bread with a pile of sabzi (mixture of fresh herbs) and a variety of pickles or torshi.  The broth is served in a separate bowl and the whole taste sensation is amazing!  Our guys like to pile on pickled garlic and onions – this always means there will be little kissing later and for sure Matt sleeps in the spare bedroom! 

For me the best part of the Abgusht party is the mashing.  Such a large pot means that this activity is best done on the kitchen floor, so we spread out towels and set the pot down.  Of course everyone is very opinionated and feels that theirs is the perfect mashing technique that is called for in this situation and so it always attracts the whole group, there is lots of laughter and with the added cocktails, it makes for a great time and it gets everyone involved.
I have a recipe below that serves 6; we make a much larger pot as we end up having between 15 and 20 people at these events.  This is a great rainy Saturday evening type of dinner that is good to cook when you are home and can let it stew for a good long time.  Have fun and give this a try.

Abgusht (Persian Lamb Shank Stew with Meat Paste)
2 pounds lamb shank and 1-pound lamb breast
2 large onions quartered
6 cups water
1 can white canellie beans
1 can chick peas or garbonzo beans
1-teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
4 peeled tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 whole Limou-omanie* pierced or ¼ cup lemon juice

In a large pot, place the meat onion and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add the turmeric, salt & Pepper – cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours over a low heat. 

Add the potatoes, all the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon and the lemon juice and let simmer for another 30 minutes over low heat.

Remove all of the stew ingredients from the pot using a slotted spoon.  Reserve the broth on the side. Remove all the meat from the bones.  Mash the meat and the veggie - potato mixture to make a paste that has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season this to taste with salt & pepper and serve on a platter.

Serve the broth in a bowl along side of the gusht. Set your table with a mixture of Sabzi – fresh herbs: mint, watercress, scallions, tarragon, raddishes and basil – I also add cilantro.  I’ll have to do a post on Sabzi soon to properly introduce you.  You could just serve it with fresh greens such as a good head of lettuce and lots of pickles.  Enjoy this and be proud of yourself that you tried something new!

*Limou-omani are dried limes that you can find in a Persian market but if you have no Persian or International market near you, you can use fresh lemon juice, that works just as well.

 Happy New Year to you all!