Awakening the Senses

Illustration by Aileen Torres

We all need to food to live. But those who love food understand its power–not just to feed the human machine but to awaken the senses. And when the senses are awake, then the soul is alive.

That may sound like mystical mumbo jumbo to some people, but food can have a transformative power that is visible in the moment, as long as you’re aware enough to see.

I was on lunch break recently at Pho 75, a hole-in-the-wall foodie-haven Vietnamese noodle place. It has cafeteria-style seating, and I happened to sit two elongated tables away from someone who caught my attention. It wasn’t that she was loud; she had the looks of a mousy girl. What struck me about her was the obvious enjoyment she was having with her food. She had ordered a large bowl of pho, and she was slurping the noodles, squirting sriracha and sipping the broth with total attention. She had the glow of pleasure on her face and a constant smile that was constrained only by the fact that she was consistently putting food into her mouth. It was a solitary joy, as if there were nothing else in the universe but her and what was in front of her. And in that universe lied a sense of discovery, the thrill, the delight of something new, or perhaps a constant love renewed again and again with each contact.

If you’ve ever cooked for yourself and viewed it as something greater than merely putting food in your stomach, or if you’ve ever cooked as an act of sharing, as opposed to obligation, then you, too, understand this transformative power. The attention that you give to the practical art of creation–that is love, that is care. In the complexity of our lives, this should be the common thread; elemental, radical and essential. Pure love, pure joy.

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Recipe: Andouille Brunch

Andouille, Kale and Tofu (Photo by Aileen Torres)

A happy Sunday to all my readers! I’m puttering around the old homestead, listening to Hank Williams and The Drifters to get me in the mood for some spring cleaning.

Ingredients:

2 Andouille links, sliced on the bias
1 Roma tomato, cubed
3 handfuls of kale, minced in food processor
1 small block of tufu, cubed
2 eggs, scrambled
Asiago to taste, crumbled

Heat up olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the tomato, kale and Andouille for 5-10 min. Stir in the tofu, eggs and Asiago and cook for about another 3 min. Turn of heat, let sit, and serve.

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Recipe: Kale and Oysters

Kale and Oysters (Photo by Aileen Torres)

Turned up Etta James last night and chilled out with this light and savory dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Small can of oysters
Half bag of kale, stems removed
1 Roma tomato
Fish sauce to taste (you can substitute with salt)

Heat up olive or canola oil in medium sauce pan. Add kale, tomato and fish sauce. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 20 min., or until kale wilts. Add oysters, cover and cook for another 4 minutes.

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Saturday Lunch

Chicken and Lima Beans (Photo by Aileen Torres)

I was planning to get sushi for lunch, but decided to cook at home instead to get some chores done simultaneously. This is a very simple dish; elemental and hearty. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 chicken thighs, deboned, deskinned and cubed
a handful or so of lima beans
pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a small skillet. Drop in the chicken and lima beans, and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Recipe: Coconut Mocha

Coconut Mocha (Photo by Aileen Torres)

Happy weekend to all my readers. The sun’s shining here, and it’s gorgeous. I wish you all a lovely, restful couple of days.

Here’s something simple, wonderful, decadent and somewhat healthy, all in one cup (coconut is known for its health benefits). I recommend using a mild-medium roast coffee, so as not to fight with the other ingredients. The cocoa powder really brings out the flavor of the coconut milk.

Ingredients:

coffee (I use a hazelnut blend here)
coconut milk (I strongly recommend Chef’s Choice, a Thai brand)
1 packet of cocoa powder

Brew the coffee, and pour desired amount into a cup. Add coconut milk to taste, and stir in the cocoa, preferably with a mini whisk. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Carrots, Chorizo and Tofu

Chorizo, Carrots and Tofu (Photo by Aileen Torres)

Here’s a quick, yummy and fairly healthy recipe I created one weeknight. Use as many carrots as you want. Their sweet earthiness will be balanced by the tartness of lemon juice and the savoriness of chorizo.

Ingredients:

1 bag of carrots, minced with a food processor
2 chorizo sausages (I recommend the D’Artagnan brand), sliced on the bias
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed
1/2 lemon, juiced
patisse (Thai fish sauce) to taste (you can substitute with salt or soy sauce)
pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a large skillet. After the carrots have been through a food processor, place them in the skillet, add the chorizo, and cook on low to medium heat. The carrots will release their water, which will mix with the juice being released from the chorizo. Let cook until the sauce evaporates (about 15-20 min.). Add the tofu, lemon juice, patisse and pepper, stir and turn off the heat.

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Book Review: Keith Richards’ Life

Keith Richards LifeIf you know of Keith Richards, you’ve got to be surprised that he’s made it to the age of 69. Not without a whole mess of bumps and bruises, but nonetheless still fairly in tact and still a working musician. The man is one tough and lucky cat, and he’s lived a colorful life, to say the least–the epitome of rock star excess. Relationships with models, check. Rampant drug abuse, check. Trashing hotel rooms, check. A penchant for carrying blades and shooters, check.

Richards is in rambling, storyteller mode in Life, which includes tidbits of interviews from those close to him, except for one glaring omission: Mick Jagger, the other half of the Glimmer Twins. Maybe Jagger didn’t want to be interviewed, or maybe  Richards didn’t want him interviewed, so the story’s one-sided when it comes to the description of their relationship, which has become contentious over time. But lead vocalists tend to get the lion’s share of attention anyway, so let’s give Richards his due.

In addition to stories of relationships, songs and albums, and guitar tips, his memoir recounts his crazy, dope-fueled behavior. He rationalizes not dying of an overdose by his attention to the amount of drugs he took, the rationing he conducted, like managing parts of a machine. As he puts it, it gave him energy to work  and minimized the need for sleep. He stayed awake for eight days once before getting knocked out.

Richards understands that he became a parody of himself at a certain point. The public expected over-the-top behavior from him, and he kept delivering. But strip away the rock star antics and what you see is a man who loves the beauty and the mystery of music, as all great artists do. “The enthusiasm, the spirit, the soul, whatever you want to call it, where’s the microphone for that?” he asks. Richards’ dedication to that numinous, elusive quality continues to light his fire.

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