My Cookbook Addiction

 

I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.

My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes for mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.

The shelves of cookbooks shown above are in my kitchen/dining area, and I have another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I even borrow cookbooks from the library to read!

When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!

I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.

Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!

Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!

So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.

Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company. Several of my books date back to the 30s, but most of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.

I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. I can’t tell you how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! Someday I’ll post the Shrimp Creole from that book that I make often.

I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!

Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.

The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.

As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find low-fat books, low-carb books, vegetarian/vegan books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.

Even though I still buy new cookbooks, like those by Martha Stewart and Mark Bittman, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading them like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for cooking.

Now I’m anxious to go find a new one to try for you!

A hui hou!

Your Best Year Is Coming Up!

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Tonight at midnight, it will become 2010. I’ve never believed in making resolutions for the New Year. What I like to do instead is set goals, both long-term and short-term. These are usually in several categories.

My favorite book for this is Your Best Year Yet! by Jinny S. Ditzler. It’s just a little paperback that asks ten questions “for making the next twelve months your most successful ever.” I’ve used it for the past ten years or longer, not only for myself but for my students.

This book can be used in any area of your life, from income to relationships to self-esteem. One reason I love this book is that it starts out with looking at what you accomplished over the past year. This acknowledges the positive aspects of your life rather than just those things that didn’t work out.

We may think we know what we want for our life, but until it is written down with a bit of structure and planning, it goes nowhere. We cannot leave our life up to chance.

At the end of just a few hours you end up with a one-page summary of your plan for the next year. They become your own words of wisdom for the year. This kind of exercise can help to change your life from merely “good” to “great!” That’s something we all deserve!

May you create joy and abundance in all things this next year!

I’m off to work on my own 2010 goals!

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! (Happy New Year!)

The Black Madonna

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

I have been collecting representations of the Black Madonna for many years. I’m not quite sure what my attraction is, but I suspect it’s because she’s not the untouched virginal White Madonna we often think of at this time of year. The Black Madonna has been through the fires of experience and has survived, each time stronger than ever. I have photographs of paintings, sculptures, icons, and more.

The Black Madonna is a national symbol in Poland, with Polish Catholics making the pilgrimage as often as possible to see her. The story of how she came to be known as the Black Madonna can be found here. A list of countries where the various Black Madonnas can be found is here.

There is a beautiful essay online by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox written in 2006. I highly recommend that article to you. He talks about the “Return of the Black Madonna” as being a sign of our times. The conclusion to the article is here.

Of all the female religious icons, the Black Madonna is my favorite, and of those I favor the Virgen de Guadalupe (Spanish for the Virgin of Guadalupe). Most of my collection is of her. I even have a mouse pad with her picture on it, although someone once asked if I didn’t think it was sacrilegious to be running a mouse over her.

I love to light rose-scented candles labeled “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” that are very popular with the Mexican population. When I lived in Tucson, I kept one burning on the altar in my entryway at all times. What a warm welcome the smell of roses gave each time I walked in my door.

The photo above is a painting that hangs by my front door of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I also have a huge platter with her image painted on it, that even Kaimana seems to love!

 

There are several books available if you are interested in reading more about the Black Madonna. Three exceptionally good books of all the ones I own are:

1) Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, by China Galland
2) Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment among Mexican-American Women by Jeanette Rodriquez
3) Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson.

If you are interested in having one of these, click on the Amazon.com ad on the right. Not only will you be getting a good book to enrich your life, but you will be helping to support this web site.

A hui hou!

The Gardener Within


Remember the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” It takes more than just showers to have beautiful flowers in May – or June or July or any month. It also takes digging and planting, nurturing and patience, faith and prayer.

My maternal grandfather was a strong typical “type A” personality, but when he worked in his garden, he was calm, happy and peaceful. His special joy was in finding many varieties of iris. He would drive all over Southern Illinois in search of new iris plants. Studies have shown that in a similar way, Alzheimer’s patients who are placed in a garden all day are no longer violent.

I don’t plan on collecting iris, but I’ve thought about the many varieties of daylily or hibiscus available. I’m trying a little of each to see which ones grow best here. It’s hard to decide – so maybe I’ll collect both!

Even when I lived on my sailboat for five years, I had hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes and pots of aloe plants for sunburn and wounds. I needed that bit of plant material to make me feel like I had a garden. Various cultures around the world have special tales about the healing power of plants on all levels.

Some of my favorite times as a small girl were spent in a special cherry tree in the back yard of a parsonage. We only lived there a couple years, but as long as we did, I would climb up onto a high limb and read. As a lonely child, it was my way to escape. Many of us have had spiritual experiences with trees, but we don’t discuss them for fear of sounding silly. We rarely talk about the spiritual aspects of gardening, until someone of like mind brings up the subject.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I talk to my plants. I haven’t really heard them talk back, although they do respond by growing and producing. I used to think people who talked to their animal pets were weird, too!

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Today, I live on an acre of a’a in Hawai`i. A`a is lumpy, rocky lava that blew out of the depths of our volcano. The only way to plant something is to move aside the rocks and dump in a bag of soil, which filters down after a rain or watering and I need to add more soil. Still, there are nutrients in the greedy porous lava. Plants do grow, with a lot of prayer and patience.

Peter and Eileen Caddy were founders of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. They moved to a barren plot on the northernmost tip of Scotland, a place where nothing should have grown. Yet they made it work, through meditation and conversations with the nature spirits and “devas” – the angels of each plant. They claimed to receive gardening advice from those beings.

No matter what we may believe about all that, their results were incredible. I hope for the same results in my lava. Here in this little corner of the Big Island, I suppose it takes calling on Madam Pele, our volcano goddess – or maybe calling on the menehune.

I believe that if you are open to it, the process of gardening will tell you everything you need to know about life. There is a definite spirit of cooperation and communication between plants and humans. It is easy to see how we cultivate ourselves when we cultivate a garden. The idea is to relate to all living things as if they can understand, because they can! It is a living prayer.

Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardens and gardeners. He carries a shovel in one hand and a book in the other. He gave up his life as a prince of Ireland to live as a monk on the edge of a forest in France. Many people came to him for his healing through herbs and flowers. His reputation grew and ultimately, he built his own monastery that featured his healing plants.

Being There with Peter Sellars is a wonderful old movie. It is the story of a man who started out as sort of an idiot child who learned to garden, and could speak of nothing but gardening. Through a minor accident, he was brought into a home where he gradually worked his way up to international significance with only his gardening remarks. Everyone thought that his words were profound, and they became metaphors for everything from politics to world finance to love.

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Please leave a comment and tell me what spiritual experiences have you had with plants.