Monday, February 23, 2009

i couldn't have done anything else.

sun in the wild grasses, n. sask river valley, edmonton, jan 09

snow on old blossoms, n. sask river valley, edmonton, jan 09

Gentle Hour (mp3) -- Yo La Tengo (off Dark Was the Night, which is an excellent compilation & you should obtain it)

This song is sumptuous & lightfilled & hopeful, it is the colour of gold in these photographs, it is winter sundown & I want to live in it, lovelovelove like warm burrow in the snow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

kitchen language

iced-cherries in the cold, belgravia, dec. 23, 2008.

kitchen language

heard your voice again, babusya,
as i woke in winter lightlessness;
you crept like sticky apricot footsteps
on the cobbled linoleum, bare feet
slipping warm into the morning.

how i once grew in the thick stirrings
of your kasha accent, the butter-on-toast
of your kitchen language; it came through
the cracks in a krashanka, nourishing yolk
on hungry ears.

been three years now, but you are still
singing to me. i hear you move between
the shifting frequencies of memory,
trailing apron strings, your lilt still a morsel
of sweet almonds & milk –

do you remember the taste of it?
or is it something like the food we eat
in dreams?

but i cook now, baba. i roast beets & scoop
onions into the pan, stain my fingers rosy
& pinch the leaves of sour cabbage. i pile
the bowls high & swear psha krev when i
i slice my finger, sing

your songs to the girl with the accordion,
whisper them coyly to my lover’s ears –

i’ve set a place for you on the poppy-seed
dishes, & i can say these words back to you
now, scatter them like kernels of buckwheat
flung to the frost & the soft blue dirt
of the horizon:

i’ll bake them well into myself, drip
them like honeyed amber onto the plates of
others – alive in me so that i might still
feed you, living now in the whole
earth’s mouth.

Friday, February 06, 2009

pomegranates & pine nuts.

pomegranate, arwen's windowsill, montréal, dec. 7, 2008
Recipe time, because I am starting to fear that cooking is becoming obsolete. Lately, when I spy on everyone's groceries in the check-out line, I increasingly numbers of packaged noodles & frozen pizzas & microwaveable dinners & deli meat... I worry that cooking skills are being lost, or even worse , that they were never transmitted in the first place, with all this oven-dial-turning & microwave-button-pushing.
I am so grateful for being taught to cook by my mother & my grandmother, who let me stir stew & put homemade pyrohy in the water & sing to the cookie batter when I was three years old, who let me help cut things up as soon as I was dextrous enough to be trusted with a knife, who nourished me so well & helped me to appreciate freshly made, unprocessed food.
There are so many issues here -- I think loss of cooking can also lead to lack of respect for food, because one is less engaged in the process of creating it. When things are processed, I think we are less likely to be conscious of the source(s) of our food & what it took (in human labour, the energy of the earth, the workings of the market) to get here to us. This can lead to seeing food as less significant, more disposable. If things are easier to consume (all convenient & pre-packaged & the like), as well, we tend to consume even more, more freely, & without a second thought. & there just seems to be too much mindless consumption already.
Being in the north last year, I witnessed attitudes to food that struck me deeply. Understanding the hunter-gatherer approach to eating has really reinforced for me the respect I've always had for food, but wasn't always able to articulate. The combination of a harsh climate mixed with cultural ideologies stressing the connection of humans to animals & to the earth as a whole made people very aware of where their food came from and their responsibility to consume with care & respect. Sharing food was also of paramount importance, & I was honoured to be given meat (even though I am a vegetarian) because I understood its significance. I also respected the manner in which the animal was treated, in spirit & body; people were very much conscious of the fact that in order for them to eat, & live, other things had to die. Both animal and plant lives were seen as sacred, & that eating anything was a gift. & I find that really profound to remember now, when eating, that these deaths are necessary to sustain a life, & that it is so important to be thankful.
We have so much here. It also destroys me to think of how there is more than enough food to eat on this planet, & yet so many people have so little. Part of the reason for this is the extreme levels of North American consumption of meat & processed foods. Energy & land could go to provide vegetables & grains for far more people -- according to trophic levels, it takes ten times the vegetable matter to feed animals being raised for meat than it would to feed the same number of people a vegetarian diet.
So all of this just makes me very happy to buy fresh vegetables, because that is truly a luxury, & all of this also reminds me that cooking is not a chore, it is an experience that I am lucky to have. It makes me want to share food even more, have more impromptu dinner parties & partake in more kitchen socials where everyone cooks together & learns new recipes & then shares what they have created.
This recipe was first prepared by a friend at one of his infamous tea/delicious-food parties. I think pomegranate season is waning, but you can save it for next autumn when they are abundant once more.
* * *

Pine Nut Pomegranate Pilaf


Some olive oil
1 onion, chopped
½ cup pearl barley
½ cup wild rice
2 cups of veggie broth
The seeds of one pomegranate
½ - ¾ cup of pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp lemon zest, or lemon juice (or a tbsp of each)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Heat the olive oil in a good-sized pot and then sauté the onion until nice & translucent. Then add the barley and rice, and stir about for a few seconds before adding broth and bringing it to a gentle boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the wild rice and barley are tender, and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 45 – 50 minutes).

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts carefully in a small, dry pan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly! They should be golden and fragrant in less than 5 minutes.
Let them cool in a small bowl.

De-seed the pomegranate, zest the lemon and chop the parsley while you are waiting for the rice and barley to cook.

Once the rice and barley are tender, add the pomegranate seeds, lemon zest, pine nuts and parsley. Stir well, and cook a little more if there’s still a bit of broth left unabsorbed. Give it a fork-fluffing, and serve!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

gratuitous waxwinging.

birdfruit, waxwings, belgravia, edmonton, jan. 24/09

perching waxwings, same tree, same place, same day.

This is such joyfulness, such brilliant languageplay. Besot my soul, indeed.
Here it is, with the original Russian alongside.

Where The Waxwings Used To Dwell

Where the waxwings used to dwell,
Where the pine trees softly swayed,
A flock of airy momentwills
Flew around and flew away.
Where the pine trees softly whooshed
Where the warblewings sang out
A flock of airy momentwills
Flew around and flew about.
In wild and shadowy disarray
Among the ghosts of bygone days,
Wheeled and tintinnabulated.
A flock of airy momentwills
A flock of airy momentwills!
You're warblewingish and beguilish,
You besot my soul like strumming,
Like a wave invade my heart!
Go on, ringing warblewings,
Long live airy momentwills!