Monday, August 30, 2010

popping in

The show is opening in just 3 days. Tomorrow we are driving up to F town to hang the paintings. There is just so much going on in my current life, inside and out. I think me and painting have entered into a new and potentially explosive relationship which I find hard to put in words at present.

Tomorrow is also KDM's birthday and we're going to have a little party for him on Friday. So right now I'm doing what I have neglected doing for weeks and weeks: housekeeping. I admit this is neither my hobby nor forte. I do it because, in Pioneer Woman's words, I have issues. I have an inferiority complex in all things practical and domestic. That reality came to me in various forms and circumstances as late as in my thirties, and I have been over-correcting ever since. But, that is just another long story which I won't get into. When I say "over-correcting," that does not mean that I became diligent and adept in these things, it means an agonizing, guilt-ridden kind of self-denial. And, I won't get into that either, not just yet.

So, if you would pardon me, I'm getting back to the chores so when folks turn up for the little party, they will have an easier time finding place to set their foot.

Oh, by the way, I watched Part III and IV of Lonesome Dove yesterday. I think I love Westerns. Robert Duvall rocks. Next on my movie roster is Therese. I went in the movie store looking for Tender Mercies (starring, ahem, Robert Duvall) under T, saw Therese in stead.

And it's raining! It's raining!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recipes! Recipes! - paying my debt and some

This has got to be my lucky day. Ever been in an emergency, like, you owe someone a recipe but you can't find the one you painstakingly measured and typed out a couple of years ago for a friend but mysteriously disappeared out of your hard drive, and now you don't know what measurements to mete out to satisfy the need of another dear but take-no-prisoner kind of friend...? Well, I tell you, miracle happens, I mean when you need ideas badly, memory begins to clear a path on its own through the undergrowth inside your tired skull full of mush, uh, I mean, paint and turpentine fume. Eventually the light turns on and you know if you'd just weed through the hundreds of old emails there's a very good chance that you find it.

So, here it is, or, they are:

Recipe for Everyday Fried Rice
-fresh chili peppers or chili powder may be added to the recipe if you like it spicy.

What you need:
  • 4-5 cups of cooked rice (Asian Jasmine rice preferred)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • Cavender's Greek seasoning (optional)
  • 3-5 (or other amount depending on quantity of veggie & rice) tablespoons vegetable or other cooking oil
  • assorted vegetables: cabbage, bell pepper cut into thin strips, chopped onions, bean sprouts, green peas, etc., about 1 cup each or some.
  • 1 cup of diced ham, or 2 strips cooked bacon, chopped; shrimps are excellent as substitute or combined with any of the meats.
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 teasp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
  •  Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok or large skillet on high, cook eggs till set or slightly golden. Transfer to board or plate, chop or break into small pieces, set aside.
  • Put more (3-5 tbsp) oil in wok, heat on high
  • Drop in all veggies of choice, cook on high, keep stirring until all veggies are tender (if use green peas, add after other veggies are cooked for about 2min.), add chopped ham or bacon. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  • Add cooked rice, stir and blend well with veggies
  • Add cooked eggs, blend well.
  • Add salt & pepper, soy sauce, sugar to taste
  • Add 2-3 tbsp water if rice is sticking to wok too much
  • Add chopped green onion and blend well just before turning off the heat.
Recipe for Everyday Fried Noodles (Chow Mien)
- procedure similar to that of fried rice - combine cooked noodles with cooked meats & assorted vegetables, season with salt, pepper, Cavender's seasoning, soy sauce, and a little sugar. Chili pepper or powder may be added to taste.

What you need:
  • 1/2 lb Angel hair or egg noodles (use up to 1lb of noodles for more people)
  •  3-5 tbsp cooking oil (adjust according to amount of noodles and veggies cooked)
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  •  2 cloves of fresh garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder), chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger root
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • assorted vegetables: onion, bell pepper, celery, cabbage, carrots, all cut into about 2" strips or shreds to go along with shape of noodles.
  • meat of choice: cooked chicken, ham, or cooked lean pork, cut into strips; shrimps are excellent as substitute or combined with any of the meats.
  • heat oil in wok or deep skillet on high, till very hot
  • roast garlic and ginger in oil, don't let burn (if use garlic powder, omit this step)
  • drop in all the chopped veggies, stir-fry till all is tender (carrots take longer time to cook so may be cooked 3 minutes before adding other veggies)
  • at this point, cook noodles as instructed on package (if noodles are cooked before veggies are done, keep noodles from sticking by adding oil or butter)
  • drop in meat of choice, stir and blend well, cook 1 more minute
  • add cooked noodles
  • add soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar to taste (garlic powder too, if used)
  • stir and blend well
  • add some water if noodles stick to wok too much
  • add chopped green onion just before turning off heat

Recipe for Ma Po Tofu 麻婆豆腐
-Tofu is made of soybeans in a curd form, resembling cheese in appearance, available in soft, firm, or extra-firm, at Wal-mart. This dish is best served slightly salty and spicy, with enough thickened broth to top plain rice.

What you need:
  • 1 pound (or square) of soft or firm Tofu
  • 3/4 cup of ground pork
  • 1 can of chicken stock
  • 4-5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Chinese cooking wine (optional)
  • 2 tsp corn starch (mixed with 2 tbsp water)
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • cut Tofu into 1/2" thick, 1" squares, blanch in very hot water, drain, set aside
  • heat oil on high in wok or deep pan
  • cook ground pork in hot oil, stir rapidly till just cooked through (don't overcook)
  • add garlic, salt & pepper, chili powder, soy sauce, cooking wine,
  • add tofu to the pan or wok, stir carefully to keep tofu from breaking too much, blend with meat and seasonings
  • add chicken stock, stir gently so tofu set in stock evenly, bring to a boil
  • turn heat to low, cover, let simmer (slightly steadily bubbly) for at least 30-40 minutes; check and stir every ten minutes; add a little water if liquid is reduced too fast (since tofu doesn't have any taste in itself, it depends on this simmering to soak up the flavor in the meat and stock; the longer, the better, up to an hour. I usually cook tofu before I make other dishes for this reason.)
  • uncover during the last 5 minutes of simmering, at this point the liquid should be reduced to about half and thickened.
  • just before finishing, turn up heat, add cornstarch/water mixture, pour evenly around the wok or pan, stir as the cornstarch dissolves and thickens the whole thing.
  • Stir in chopped green onion, turn off heat, serve immediately.
 AS a general rule, don't let one or any missing ingredient keep you from cooking up any of these. Think about it, and think easily: to make any of these dishes, the essentials are the title ingredient, namely, rice, noodles and Tofu, plus oil and seasonings (in the case of rice, you've got to have eggs, no eggs, no fried rice), whip them up in a sizzling wok, throw in chopped green onions and you are ready to go. Drizzle with soy sauce if you like. That's just an extreme scenario if you are so unfortunate as to find yourself sans any protein or veggie here listed.

A more specifi rule: don't tell me that you don't like Tofu.

que pasa?

I have just finished another flower painting, this after promising myself I won't do another painting until the show is over. I feel my energy zapped out of me but still had to come here to ventilate in words just to feel normal. What's going on: suddenly painting has somehow assumed a dangerous allure, so much so that I have a sensation that with each painting I'm putting myself on the line?

Excavating Memory

I must have been 8 or 9, on that day. I couldn’t go to school. Mom and Dad both worked. After taking the IV needle out of my wrist, Mom, a nurse herself, must have felt it was okay to leave me home alone. We lived in a village, the seat of a commune. Crime was rare. Judging by my memory of the sun, it could well have been late spring.  I’m pretty sure that I had a quilt over me. The lining may even have smelled Lysol, which, having limited means to hygiene, Mom used in washings to disinfect linens.

I lay in bed, feeling well enough to survey the surroundings with my eyes. Even at a time and place as primitive as the rural commune in a remote northern Chinese province, I had an acute awareness that it was unusually quiet, as if I could hear the air moving and the day rotating silently. The sun came in a window either across or above where I lay, steadily dialing across a wall, white-washed now turned-ivory yellow. It was a light white and broad with a suddenness of a flood but did not dazzle. In fact, the wall seemed to have so totally absorbed the sun's brightness it let on no reflection or sheen. Unprompted, I had the startled realization that the unusual silence had its origin in the sun’s generosity. No color or sound stands out in my remembrance, just a salient and unmistakable awakening rising from a murky child consciousness: if this moment could stop and stand still, I would be happy forever.

If my memories are not faulty, intentionally or not, it was the same day (I’m certain that same week, or whatever duration of a period) when a skeleton-like stray kitten appeared through the window and made herself at home on a plate of scrambled eggs Mom had left me (back then, eggs were equivalent to chicken soup for the sickly.Chicken, or, eggs? Go figure.), and feasted to the satiety of her emaciated little body. The cat stayed on, got fat on pig lungs and livers and eventually laid many a litter of kittens over the years until we got ready to bid farewell to the commune in search of a city life where Dad thought I and little sister would get a better chance at education. It didn’t want anything to do with the uprooting move. A chapter of my life had gone hidden with her shadowy protesting withdrawal.

I never had the tool, or word, to unwrap what had happened to me on that day, or what I had awakened to. I often try to reproduce the memory, that sun, that wall, the silent dialing of one across the other...It has always been ghostly but the feeling of happiness is always more real than anything else I remember growing up.

Drive-by Noting

  • After more than a decade of painting, I'm properly falling in love with it. Just now. Yeah, I know, it's unbelievable.
  • What would I do if I didn't have the Friday morning Happy Hour? Are there any words to describe what it is like to be in the One and True Presence?
  • I heard His whisper this morning.
  • In between sessions of frantic painting, I managed to see a couple of Robert Duvall movies. Apostle, absolutely unforgettable,and the first two parts of Lonesome Dove. I think I'm having a crush on the old guy.
  • Gotta paint flowers. Nothing quite like flowers to get me going. Flowers send trembles to my hand, the one holding the brush.
  • I like many artists, respect many, am trigued by some. My lists include the likes of Andy Warhol (not Salvador Dali, no Ma'am, no Sir.) But those who touch me, in a deep, wordless sense, are few, very few. Among these are Giorgio Morandi. Fairfield Porter and Josef Albers are also firmly seated; the younger Sean Scully understands resistance and mystery, a Romantic seeking structure, like myself. What these people have in common, beside their mastery of the craft, is a hidden, hardly noticeable sense of humility, a tacit cognizance of The Other.
  • If I may say I have favorites among the Gospel stories, no doubt the one of the meeting of Jesus and Nathanael tops them all. The whole thing reads like a belle weather, a bliss (very bad analogies but ones I could think of in a pinch). No one talks like Jesus. What He says about Nathanael flattens the notions of Jesus as a human preacher, a social worker, a liberal, even a private and personal shrink. His is the voice of the Rabbi, the Teacher, the Master, the Author, and the Lord. My Lord.
  • Besides, whenever I come to the passage, I can never help the feeling that, the Lord is really talking about KDM, my husband. "There is no duplicity in him." Dead on.