Running out of Words (and Time to Make Gluten-Free Almond Cake)

IMG_1241This is a grainy, rain-dappled photo of the Institute. This is the focus of all of my thoughts and energy lately. There are fewer and fewer words left to me. They are falling off the edges to make space for actions, of which I need to commit ever more.

IMG_1222This is the cake I made before things got dire. Almond and orange flower, and actually healthy if you make it without sugar.

IMG_1240This is the first of ten paintings for the installation that opens in three weeks. This is the sense that madness is part of understanding, and maybe it will all work out if I can hold that grace in mind. This is my heart beating in my head, calling out urgency and singing low strength. Wish me luck.

Recipe after the jump…

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Cashew Butter Cookies and Questions About Time

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Times is busy lately. Last week I finally managed to bum rides to the grocery store and the coop, and I was so thrilled to be able to buy ingredients that I maybe overdid it. I stocked up things for at least four different very specific recipes (I did make some allusions to ice cream, and I feel obliged to follow through…duty, you know) and enough staples to whip up sudden inspirations. The trouble at present is that I’m just eking by with the things I actually need to do.

I think I’ve foreseen all the tasks I’ll have to accomplish–fold 1,500 origami boxes, produce ten exhibition worthy abstract drawings, prepare food for 50-100 people for four days–but I forget that every task involves a million subtasks, and each subtask takes an hour or two or eight, and I’ve still only started the fourth drawing and thank god I’ve found help with the boxes and we’ve managed to fold 200 in three days.

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Here’s what I wonder: Is my sense of how time will pass in the future inaccurate or do I just have an ingrained sense of poverty that there’s never enough time in the day? And if I could mellow out, would I find that, sure I’ll have to sacrifice some things (it may be a while before we see that white chocolate mousse tart), but at the end of every day, I had twenty four hours, and I got to live every second of them, and that’s hardly poverty.

For now I am still trying to do everything, even the fun things that I should probably pass up for the responsible things (ahem, ahem, cookies versus PR statements).

Recipe after the jump…

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In Spare Moments (you think about sadness and make tarte aubergine).

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In spare moments, you find yourself running up the hill to Lama House, down the hill to the community room, up the hill to the Institute, down the hill to the main kitchen, up the hill to the library, down the hill to your caravan, giddy through it all. In spare moments, you find yourself occupied by recipes to test, drawings to begin, people to take tea with. In spare moments, you find stillness amidst all the action.

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And in the stillness, you remember. You remember, times were, you weren’t so happy as this. You remember disbelieving in impermanence, your sadness had lasted so long. You remember the struggle to stay convinced, day after day, that even if there was no real and permanent you, this current, temporal you had goodness and worth and something to offer. You remember suffering without respite.

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In spare moments, you slice eggplant and chop parsley and reflect on this conversation you had yesterday. You wondered if the person across the table from you thought maybe you were fudging a bit in describing life these days, your story was so slanted toward contentment. And you realize how goddamn lucky you are that it’s even possible for some one to disbelieve that you know suffering. And you realize you had better say grace, like every minute of the day, because in this life, nothing lasts. Neither sadness, nor joy, neither misery, nor bliss, and you have known them all and you will know them all again.

In spare moments, you whisper gratitude for what is, you nod at fear for what may come, and you say a prayer for those on the other side of the spinning wheel of life.

Recipe after the jump…

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Paper, Perseverance, and Pommes au Tahin (Apples with Tahini)

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My head is full of numbers, hours, and ingredients. I’m planning meals for Rinpoche’s retreat this week. Hopefully I’ll get to snap photos for you whilst it all goes down. I cooked up (no pun intended, but oy, there it is) a new recipe for a gluten-free eggplant tart, and I’m hoping to sneak in a batch of ice cream too.

My art supply crisis turned out splendidly. More than anything, I needed cold-press watercolor paper to start a series of drawings that will make up one part of a larger installation. When Thomas, a.k.a. Mr. Money, told me he could order it online and it would arrive in maybe eight days, I almost started to cry. He saw my face and said, “Je comprends ton angoisse.” I understand your anguish. Two hours later, he came back with a list of every possible art and paper supply store within driving distance. What a guy.

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In the end, we wound up taking a field trip to the last artisanal papery in France, complete with a windmill and all. I left with ten sheets of large format, 400 gram, fine grain paper, and it’s freaking handmade. I also got to see where it was made, from a room-filled with cottony fluff to one hung wall-to-wall with individual sheets up to dry. Not bad for a crisis resolution.

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Pretty much every other minute was spent with my head buried in menu planning and portioning for the inauguration. The day all of the numbers for food quantities were due to the budgeting department, I barely saw daylight and stayed in front of the computer until long past dark. We rewrote the menus three times in one week, and every time I had a new heart attack about how I was going to rearrange my schedule around the inauguration to accomplish all of the cooking in addition to installing the art piece. In the end, we decided to split the menu half between in-house cooking and half between a caterer, to save the head ache of renting an infinitude of ovens, fridges, and freezers we don’t have any place to put. Halle-freaking-lujah.

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I don’t know if this applies to life in general or just to my life lately, but I’ve noticed that if you hold it together and keep your nose to the grindstone, the results can be nigh miraculous. I’ve also noticed that when I start to doubt this fact, it really helps to pause and have a snack to cheer myself up. Lately my favorite snack is an apple cut into slices and munched with an ample portion of tahini, even better if you dress up the sesame purée into a full-on dip. It’s so simple that it hardly counts as a recipe, but for those of you who like numbers, voilà: mix three tablespoons tahini with one teaspoon honey and one teaspoon lemon juice. Snack, chill out, and wait for life to come to its senses.

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How Time Passes: Panic and Chai-spiced Tapioca Pudding

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I had this grand plan to write you a lovely story about the passage of time, of how we don’t expect it, how we know that it is always sliding by, but often we forget until it has already left us behind. And then, erm, I realized that was precisely what was happening to me.

Two weeks ago I’d been in France two weeks. I’d fallen in love with the woods, the people, the life here. I’d gotten into the rhythm of my work and study, even submitted a proposal for an installation piece to bring an interactive, artistic component to our big summer event here: the inauguration of a new Tibetan-Occidental library and research institute. I felt like I’d waded swiftly into the waters of life at the center and all was going well. We had a five day retreat with the spiritual head of the center, Lama Jigme Rinpoche, and I spent those days half cooking fun meals for him at the Lama House and half listening to his teachings in the Grand Tent, as it is fondly known.

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I started helping with the planning aspects of the Lama House kitchen; we’re serving between fifty and two-hundred and fifty special guests for the inauguration in June. I doodled around in the kitchen making cakes for ceremonial offerings, just because, and inventing new recipes out of things left from other meals. I even went to the movies. I rewatched Cloud Atlas, which is kind of a reincarnation tale, kind of based on a book by a Buddhist writer, fairly inspiring in its own Hollywood way, and incredibly beautiful so why not.

And then I looked up and realized that two weeks had passed, and that meant nearly one third of the time I had to create this art piece had passed, and I don’t even have the materials yet. And I realized that one thing about communities that I forget when I’m not in them is how much time they take to process information and requests. And I realized that I probably wouldn’t get my materials for another few days, and then I started to freak out. But what can you do? Make entreaties. Play the damsel-in-distress card just a little to garner aid. Take deep breaths and wait. Make pudding.

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Recipe after the jump…

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