cooking


Bayless cover

I bought Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico because it was the highest-rated Mexican cookbook on Amazon. It was part of an effort to build a great cookbook library and to create a food culture for my family. It was also to turn my wife, Reanna, on to Mexican food. I grew up in southern California and love Mexican food. She grew up in Vancouver, BC, and never developed a taste for it. My limited sampling of Canadian Mexican food made it clear why: It was not very good.

Because I imagined referring to this book for several decades, I almost bought the second-highest rated book because the cover was so much better, but I realized that both images were probably on dust covers, which I hate and throw away immediately. I stuck with the Bayless’s book.

I am so glad I did. Everything I’ve cooked out of this book so far has been very, very good. Surprisingly good. This food tastes like fine dining–nothing fast-food about it. My wife has had “food-gasms” on several occasions and agreed that we would have been happy to have paid top dollar at a restaurant for what we just ate.

I’m a good prep cook, an OK cook cook, and not much of a real chef. I love that I can follow these recipes exactly and produce inspiring food. I also believe that going through this book is teaching me how to cook. I’m learning the architecture of the cuisine–the staples, the flavors, the dishes, the variations. I can imagine eventually being able to stock our fridge intuitively and improvise great food from whatever we have. What more can you ask for in a cookbook?

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I am a few weeks past halfway through my 38th year, conveniently marked by my brother Damian’s birthday, and the start of my spring term. Here’s an update on how my intentions for the year are coming along.

1. Add new knowledge to the field of social psychology: I have just finished (I hope) crunching numbers for my honors thesis, and I can say that I have helped produce some new evidence, at least. It is not as sexy as I had hoped, but I have learned a whole lot about the process of psychology research, and that is the main point, as my advisor keeps reminding me.

2. Break my habit of scratching and picking my skin, including biting my lip: I have made some progress here, using a technique Reanna told me about: snapping myself with a hair band around my wrist whenever I had the urge to touch myself. My success varies clearly with my stress level. It requires mindfulness. Another insight/confusion: picking and lip biting, I can tell, are pure stress responses, but the scratching I think is more than that. I seem to be an itchier than normal person. A dermatologist told me that it was the “notoriously harsh” hand-made soap I have been using. I accepted that explanation until I realized on my ride home that he had been wrong. I only use soap on a few key areas. By his reasoning my armpits should be itchier than most of me, and they are not. Any ideas?

3. Celibacy: This has been no problem. I have not been tested, however; no one that I am aware of has wanted to have sex with me. When I first told Grace about this one, she said, “You are going to learn a lot from doing that, but you know, now that you are committed, you will immediately meet someone who will make it very challenging.” Well, not yet.

4. Dance every day, working on 1) musicality 2) vocabulary 3) style: This is going pretty well, though some days my dancing is just a token, so I could say I did. I had a big breakthrough in musicality on my fast dancing at Seattle Balboa Festival in February. The choreography I have been working on with Karly has been helping my working vocabulary. And the main reason I decided to take ballet is to improve my poise and lines. It is easy for me to get into an I-could-be-doing-so-much-more/better state. There is a guy who started in the same beginning class that I did in Eugene who really dove in and is now a rock-star dancer in Portland, winning national competitions. But I still give myself a thumbs up on this one.

5. Finish bachelor’s degree: Yes. I am on track to graduate with honors on June 13, 2009.

6. Get accepted into a couples and family therapy graduate program: Yes. I start in the University of Oregon’s CFT masters program on September 29 (happy birthday to me!), 2009. I’m very excited.

7. Maintain this blog: I have a lot more ideas for posts than actual posts, but I am pretty happy with NME so far. It has been a consistent source of inspiration for me. I get about 20 clicks a day, on average, which seems pretty respectable. The lowest I go is three (two of which are my ever-hopeful-for-a-post Mom, I just discovered), and my peak was 62 on March 31, the day after I posted the guide to my sidebar. I wonder who you all are.

8. Meditate every day: Yes. Sometimes just a few minutes, but yes.

9. Produce a record with David Waingarten: This is not going to happen this year, which I’m sad about. I love this guy’s voice and songwriting. He also makes movies, though, and that’s what he did with his time and money this year. The movie looks good, though. Here’s a preview: This Is Now

10. Record an EP with my band, Abandon Ship: This project is not on schedule, partly because of #12, below, and partly because of how much work an honors thesis is, on top of an internship and classes. I am working on it , but it will almost certainly not be done by my birthday.

11. See healthcare provider each month until all my body concerns are resolved: Yes, I have been doing this. I’ve seen a dermatologist, an orthopedist, a urologist, and two chiropractors. I’m disappointed with the results, so far. I seem to be collecting concerns faster than I am resolving them. Hmm… That makes it seem like I am on my last legs. I am quite healthy, overall, actually.

12. Set up a slick system of musical collaboration over the internet and use it regularly: This has come together much slower than I anticipated, but I have every reason to believe I will be up and running by early May. I can hardly wait.

13. Shift my schedule three hours earlier for at least one term: In bed by 11 pm: I’m very happy with this one, so far. I have not pulled it off perfectly for a term straight—my dance schedule conflicts somewhat with it—but I’d say 90% of the time I’m in bed by 11:30, at least, and that means I’m waking up naturally before my alarm 90% of the time. I love it!

14. Sing out every day: I have not been doing this as I had hoped. I am still inspired to sing out like my friend Zen Zenith, but I have not been working on it with any regularity.

15. Take African dance classes: Yes, I have taken two classes from master dancer Alseny Yansane, and they were awesome. Unfortunately, I have been having this low back pain that has kept me from dancing with that extreme athleticism. When my back stops hurting, I will go back.

16. Write at least one song per month: Nope. I have not written even one complete song. Ouch.

17. Make at least one of each item in Maya’s cookbook: Yummm. I have made four of 19 recipes: Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes, Super Hero Granola, Corn Chowder, and Maya’s Tomato soup. They were all excellent except I burned the granola.

I am stuffed full of three giant, thick, crusty whole wheat and buttermilk pancakes, made from a recipe in the little zine, The House of Plenty Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Good Eating from Damian and Maya’s Joshua Tree Kitchen, by my sister in law, Maya, AKA Flavorgirl. They were, as promised, the best pancakes I have ever tasted, and I consider myself a pancake connoisseur.

Over New Years, I revisited my goals for the year and, deciding they were still pretty solid, made no changes. Here is my first addition: This year I will make at least one of each item in Maya’s cookbook. I’m excited to begin. I need a little food-shakeup. I love the food that I make, but I’ve been making it all for a long time. I can’t think of a better place to start. Maya is an excellent, creative cook. Funny, too: “As you may have noticed I almost never use regular sugar. But in this recipe, it works best. You can, of course, use sucanat if you are even more die-hard than me, but somehow I doubt that you are.” And she’s right, possibly unless you are, or are related to, Nicole Martin.